I thought I had an idea what to expect this time around. I thought I was prepared. Just goes to show you, kids will always find a way to flip the script on you, to catch you off guard and make you feel like a complete rookie of a parent, even when you’ve been doing it for years.
I’d been in false labor for weeks. I would have a few hours here and there where I’d have contractions spaced regularly apart, usually every fifteen minutes or so. But they wouldn’t be very strong and would eventually taper off. In between, I’d get occasional very strong contractions with no regularity or pattern to them.
My pelvis, hips and lower back were killing me. I was exhausted, uncomfortable and quite irritable. Basically, I was feeling very done.
On Friday the 20th, I woke up very suddenly at 5am with a very strong feeling of just knowing we would be having a baby that day or the next. I was just so sure, without any good reason why. Within minutes, contractions started. They continued every thirty minutes, like clockwork. We had made a plan with my dad that he would drive to Boise on Sunday and stay with us that week so there would be someone there with the kids when Zach and I went to the hospital. Given my strong feeling of impending birth and the regular contractions, though, I called him up and asked him to come that day. He already had all his bags packed and waiting and was soon on the road.
All day long, I had contractions every thirty minutes, some stronger than others. I alternated resting and walking around to try to get things going faster. The day went by, my dad arrived, but still no change. I finally decided to go to bed for the night and at midnight the contractions abruptly stopped.
On Saturday, I woke up and was officially thirty-nine weeks pregnant (which is when the other three were all born). I was also officially not in labor, but determined to change that. Zach and I went grocery shopping and to the hardware store, hoping all the walking (okay, very slow waddling) would get things going. I had some very strong contractions (I swear I thought my water was going to break in the Winco parking lot) and got a lot of concerned remarks from passers-by, but no pattern of labor emerged.
That night we made burritos for dinner. When I first started my three day labor with Eleanor, we went to the hospital and were told to go for a walk and see if I progressed at all. While we were out walking, we stopped and got burritos. Similarly, when my water broke with Alden, we had just been discussing dinner plans and I was quite hungry. Knowing they wouldn’t let me eat at the hospital because I was a VBAC, I had Zach make me a quick burrito out of the leftovers in the fridge. I thoroughly enjoyed it between contractions in the car on our way to the hospital. So, Zach and I decided that the tradition of burritos was what was missing here to make this baby arrive.
I went to bed Saturday night still pregnant with no start to labor.
I tossed and turned until about 1am Sunday morning when I suddenly got hit by a very intense contraction. About eight minutes later, I had another one. Five minutes after that, another. Then three minutes. Then every one or two minutes. It felt like “go time.” These contractions were really intense, and rapidly coming closer together. Zach got up and jumped in the shower to help wake himself up, then threw together the last of our things in the hospital bag. After waking up my dad to tell him it was time, we headed to the hospital. On the ride there I was still having strong contractions, but they weren’t quite so close together. A couple more in the parking lot. When we arrived at the OB triage desk, I cheerfully told the nice lady there, “We would like to have a baby, please!” But when we got in and the nurse checked me, I was only at 2.5 centimeters and, after two more contractions, they completely stopped. They asked if I would like to labor there for awhile and see if I progressed, but I opted to just go home and try to get some rest. I was exhausted and feeling utterly defeated.
After a few hours of sleep, I spent the day intermittently having very strong contractions, but no pattern of labor. I mostly hung out alone in the bedroom while Zach and my dad took care of the kids. I didn’t want to concern the kids by having them see me go through the really strong contractions, or be stared at all day. By early afternoon I was fed up (and super cranky), and decided I wanted to walk around a bit to try to inspire labor. Holding Zach’s arm, we waddled laps around the backyard together. A couple of contractions. Right about 3pm, Zach’s sister called him to check in and he stepped aside to talk to her. While that was happening, I had another contraction and POP! My water broke! (I had been wearing rubber flip-flops for days in preparation for that but, wouldn’t you know it, when it actually happened I was wearing my sneakers, which got soaked. Because of course I was).
I hollered at Zach, “My water just broke!” and he quickly got off the phone and helped me get into a shower to clean up while he grabbed all our stuff. I yelled to Ellie and Zoey, “It’s time to have a baby!” I was so relieved that things were finally happening!
We headed to the hospital and halfway there I made a comment about how the contractions hadn’t really increased in intensity or pain level after my water broke (the way they had with Alden) so that was good. They were coming every couple minutes, with about the same intensity they had been all day. A couple minutes later, however, I was singing a very different tune. It had a lot of swear words in it and begging to be there already get me out of this car!!!!
By the time we parked and got out of the car, the contractions were less than a minute apart and incredibly intense. Trying to walk from the parking lot into the hospital was nearly impossible. I would only get about a foot or two before another contraction would hit and it was all I could do to just hang onto Zach and ride it out. A concerned hospital visitor went running into the lobby and came back with a hospital employee with a wheelchair. That had us moving much quicker, although I still had to make them stop every minute or so and let me stand up and hold onto Zach when each contraction hit. Trying to sit through them was unbearable.
There were no cheerful, witty remarks at OB triage this time. In fact, I don’t think we even stopped at the desk. They saw (and heard) me coming and just opened the doors and directed us straight into a room. The nurse checked me and announced I was dilated to a five and I began crying with relief. I was so worried they were going to tell me that all these painful contractions weren’t doing anything, much like my labor with Alden. I made it known right away that I wanted an epidural STAT because these contractions were crazy painful. Instead of the pain in my cervix that I had been expecting, it felt like my pubic bone in front was being broken in half by intense, unbelievable pressure.
Within ten minutes of arriving at triage, they had me in the delivery room and checked my again. I was now at a seven. The contractions were so strong I had progressed two centimeters in ten minutes. I felt weak, woozy and a bit nauseous. I asked them to check my blood sugar because I was sure it must be low, causing me to feel that way. It was 111, perfectly fine. It was just the incredible intensity of my labor – after several exhausting days without enough sleep – that had me feeling this way. I kept asking about the epidural in between contractions. I was on my knees backwards on the bed, leaning against the elevated head of the bed. More like collapsing against it. I have never felt so close to fainting from pure exhaustion. I had a wonderful nurse named Jennifer who would offer me sips of apple juice in between monitoring me and the baby. I swear those sips are what sustained me with enough energy to make it through.
Ten minutes after arriving in the delivery room, they checked me again. I was now at nine centimeters and almost fully effaced. Again, I begged for an epidural. They were waiting on the lab results of my platelet count to make sure it was safe to give me one. I was progressing so fast, I wasn’t sure the results would be in before the baby arrived. I was also progressing too fast for my doctor to get there on time (she was attending her own child’s baptism). Other doctors from my provider’s team arrived. They were very nice, but their names and faces are all a blur to me. I was barely aware of Zach’s presence, other than the reassurance that came with knowing he was there by my side. All that existed was the baby and the pain.
The anesthesia CRNA finally arrived. It was too late for an epidural, she said, because it probably wouldn’t take effect until after baby was born. What they could do instead was an intrathecal – a single shot of the same epidural medications that would take effect quicker. The catch is that it would wear off after about ninety minutes, so baby better arrive before then. As that seemed like a given at this point, we went ahead with it. How I held still through a contraction while she administered the shot in my spine, I will never know.
The intrathecal was much slower to take effect than I hoped. I remember instant relief with my epidurals with Eleanor and Alden. This was more of a slow, gradual climb upwards from my feet, that seemed to take ten or fifteen minutes. And even then, it was only on my left side that I was beginning to feel a lessening of pain. Zach and the nurse helped to roll me onto my right side to try to increase the effect on that side, but that turned out to be dangerous for the baby. Her heart rate immediately dropped to sixty.
It was Sunday, April 22nd. The one day I had hoped the baby wouldn’t be born. Nineteen years earlier on that day, my niece – my sister’s first baby – died on that day. She was only fifteen days old and had spent her entire two weeks on life support in the NICU. All day, I had been overwhelmed with thoughts of sweet Sadie. When we had first gone to OB triage at 3am and they sent us walking the halls, we suddenly found ourselves approaching the NICU. I immediately turned around. I couldn’t bear thinking about babies in the NICU. Not that day. When my baby’s heart rate dropped, the fear overwhelmed me. I burst into tears and sobbed to the nurses, explaining that my baby niece died on this day and they had to make sure my baby was okay. The fear that she wouldn’t be was unbearable.
We soon found that, as long as I stayed on my left side, my baby’s heart rate would stay at a low but acceptable level (just over 100 beats per minute). This, of course, meant that the anesthesia never fully took affect on the right side. It did, at least, reduce the pain to wear it was just barely tolerable, especially when I weighed baby’s well-being in the balance.
Very soon after the anesthesia, I was fully dilated. They had me labor just a bit longer until I was fully effaced and then it was time for baby to arrive. I was nervous about feeling baby crowning and coming out – something I hadn’t ever experienced with the other three. I was sure it was going to hurt even worse than the contractions, but I told myself “It only took seven minutes to push Alden out. You can do anything for seven minutes. And then it will all be done and over and your baby will be safe and here.” Well, I don’t know if it was seven minutes, but it certainly wasn’t much longer than that, and it didn’t really hurt any worse than it already had been. Zach told me he could see our baby’s head and after two more pushes I felt an amazing sense of relief – both physical and mental – as baby’s shoulders pushed through and she was out. At 6:23pm she was born, just three short hours after my water had broken.
Zach announced, “It’s a girl!” and they laid her on my belly. I felt completely amazed as I looked at her. Despite feeling so disconnected from the life growing inside me during that long, difficult pregnancy, I immediately felt like I knew her, like she was exactly who I’d been waiting for all those long months. And I immediately knew her name was Dinah.
After the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Zach cut the cord and I was able to pull her fully up onto my chest. Of all my babies, this was the only birth were I had any awareness of the cord or of delivering the placenta.
Once on my chest, it took Dinah only a minute or two to latch and begin nursing. She seemed to know exactly what to do. Zach, meanwhile, had called my mom and put her on speakerphone so she could be a part of the arrival of her grand-daughter.
The next couple hours were a blur of my dad and our older three arriving to meet their new baby sister, followed quickly by Zach’s parents and his sister and her husband and four kids and then the transfer to the post-partum room. There was so much joy and love filling up that delivery room that it seemed it could barely contain it. We called Zach’s youngest sister, Whitney, and told her she had a new niece named Dinah Whitney, which made her cry and I swear I could feel the love, all the way from California.
Dinah, you arrived into this world surrounded by love and I promise you, you will grow up the same way. It was a difficult road to get you here, but you are so very, very worth it all and more. You complete our family so perfectly and I could not be happier.