All along, I had been holding onto a small seed of doubt that this might not happen on Monday, May 23, but this was the last confirmation I needed. We got home, I repacked my hospital bag, set my alarm, and went to bed, desperately praying for a good night’s sleep.
The night started off to a good start, but somewhere in the middle, Bea woke up and I, too, was up for the remainder. Once again, MG’s birth came flashing back to me, where I spent the night before in the hospital and nary a wink of sleep. This of course set me up for a very long day of labor, barely able to stay on top of my fatigue. I knew this time around that it would be important to rest, even if I couldn’t sleep, whenever possible and conserve energy.
All too early our alarms went off. I showered while N made us a simple breakfast and spent some time in prayer. My mom got up to see us off and I felt myself bobbing around in a full spectrum of emotions, the heaviest one being fear. I dreaded the labor and spent the entire car ride focusing on changing my mental state.
My meditation seemed to work. By the time we arrived, I felt ready, albeit a bit apprehensive. N was fulfilling his duty as my encouraging support. He kept me focused on the positive, reminding me why we were doing this and that we had already crossed something scary off our list–the hour drive to the hospital. He was right, we no longer needed to worry about that one.
There is something comforting I find about hospitals that I’ve come to appreciate more deeply each time. Unbounded by time or holidays, they’re always there for you. There’s always someone waiting by the phone for your call, just like they don’t turn you away no matter how inconsequential your problem seems. They will be there for you at the darkest corner of 3am or the most normal hour of 11am. For the most sacred hours of bringing my babies into the world, I like hospitals. They are sterile and medicinal minded, but in a way I find comforting.
We parked in the garage and calmly walked up to the fourth floor to sign the paperwork. This was definitely not how I had spent the last nine months envisioning the start of labor, but it sure beat doing those things with contractions.
Finally, arm-banded and with our luggage trailing behind us, we were taken directly to our room (another bonus–we skipped right over triage). In it, I saw the tub waiting for us and I felt a sense of peace in the preparation of a “planned” labor.
We met our attending nurse. She was young, kind, had three girls with gorgeous names, and all three by natural birth. Fate smiled upon us.
I changed into the hospital gown, she began placing the IV, and I went through the motions of answering more questions and signing more paperwork. In between procedures, I closed my eyes and tried to rest as much as possible. I feared it would be, much like MG’s labor, a long day. To keep things lighthearted, N asked everyone to place bets on what time the baby would be born. I happened to choose the latest time of 7pm. I couldn’t have been more thankful to ultimately be wrong!
I held onto a sense of peace but felt anxiety nibbling away at me. When I looked in the mirror, I saw flat eyes staring back at me. It felt strange to think this was supposed to be one of the happiest days of our lives, but in order to get there, I had to go through some of the worst pain of my life. On top of that, this pregnancy had been consistently plagued by anxiety and fears. I related to what a friend confided in me when she said very poignantly, “I felt a growing fear with each pregnancy. Why would God allow me to have three healthy babies?”
After acquainting myself with so many friends’ losses this year, it felt unfair that this was my story, not theirs. I also didn’t precede this pregnancy with a miscarriage. In my sometimes, “give and take” relationship with God, I felt I hadn’t paid my due yet, therefore not guaranteeing a good end to this story. I’m all too quick to categorize these things: I have bad morning sickness but an easy breastfeeding relationship; I had a hard labor with MG, but an easy one to follow; I have big babies, but easy newborns. It all boils down to a justice scales view of God I fall back on sometimes and it always comes out at the biggest intersections of my life.
Right at 9am, my doctor entered the room. I was so relived to see her, knowing she would be the one bringing my baby into the world. Even though we planned it this way, it was another prayer answered and another box checked.
She checked me at 3cm and was able to stretch that to 4, But she was discouraged to find I was only 40% effaced and my cervix was still pretty high. In fact, she said something like, “Well surely you haven’t regressed since your appointment?! You did go walking this weekend, right?” There they went again with the walking thing. I knew it would be a battle to completely efface but I needed the baby to drop down and help me out. I hoped that when Dr. B broke my water, this would be the encouragement she needed.
Just a few minutes after 9am, my water was manually broken and labor officially began. Thankfully the fluid was nice and clear but they still wanted me to stay about twenty more minutes in the bed to be monitored before I could start moving around. It was just beginning and I was already annoyed with all the questions and their belts around me and their fingers on me. The nurse again encouraged me by saying, “since you’re handling this so well, I know you will be a good candidate for natural birth.”
I found the frequent monitoring bothersome but comforting. I didn’t like watching the clock all morning, especially believing it would be a long day, and wondering if the passing hours would leave me with a sense of failure. But at the same time, it was nice to know my baby was safe and was responding well to the interventions. I’d spent the last nine months wondering when, how, IF we would make it here and now here we were. Another (huge) box to check.
As soon as my twenty minutes were up, it was time to get moving. My doula and I had been in communication for the past 24 hours and she told me to text her as soon as I wanted or needed her there. Before I summoned her, I decided I wanted things to pick up first. Though it is usually not true, I often imagine others’ impatience with me and knew that if she came too soon, I would be putting too much pressure on myself to meet time limits. So donning my fashionable hospital garments, N and I set out on our final mission to truly walk that baby out.
The maternity ward was shaped like a football and mercifully bigger than the hospital hallways I’d spent doing the same for MG. Still, I felt annoyed and somewhat conscientious that there were workers on our floor laying carpet (I’m sure the feelings were mutual) and it only took a few laps before the nurses we regularly passed began commentating our progress (another annoyance of mine, but one that, admittedly, cannot be avoided).
In the wee hours of the morning, I had told N he had two jobs for the day: support me and communicate to our families. He excelled at both. (not easy to do both during the final hours either). He kept me distracted and engaged as we walked and looked for any signs of encouragement he could offer such as, “Your belly is already looking smaller.”
After an hour of walking, we were summoned back to the room to be monitored. This time I bounced on the medicine ball during my twenty minutes, hoping to keep her on the clock. The blue belt didn’t pick up any contractions during this time and the nurse asked me if I had felt any. I admitted that I was feeling a bit crampy, but didn’t have anything definitive I could give her. She assured me this was okay, for now at least, and once again I was thankful we had chosen this hospital to have our final two births in, as my first experience with this felt entirely different, in a negative way.
It was about this time I sent a text to my doula saying, “we need you now”. If things didn’t pick up soon, I would need some ideas and if they did, I wanted her to be here.
Up until her arrival, I had been snacking a little and drinking a lot. Around 10:30, I remember thinking food no longer sounded good and also thinking that was a good sign. She got there about 11:00 and I told N to go get some lunch from the cafeteria, not knowing when he would have the opportunity to do it again.
When Julie arrived, we chatted for a bit, getting caught up on the details up to that point. I told her I had just starting bleeding a bit and hoped that was a good sign things were progressing. I’d also felt two noticeable contractions since eleven and hoped they would pick up speed. Secretly, N and I had one more box we wanted to check: to be able to eat dinner as a family with (all of) our girls. I reasoned that if Sibby came by 3pm, this wish could potentially become a reality.
While N disappeared, Julie and I walked some more at a quick clip. It was only a few football rounds before I admitted I was feeling contractions. To my surprise, she began timing them and registered them every 3-4 minutes. I was greatly encouraged. When she asked me to describe them, I said unfortunately, they are mostly in my back, but remembering how Bea’s contractions started that way but moved to the front before they became painful, I hoped this labor would follow suit.
Somewhere around noon, we all reconvened in the room as I was monitored again. They were able to catch a few contractions on the blue belt, but not to the intensity I seemed to be feeling them. The nurse reassured me that this didn’t matter, as she would at least have something to tell the doctor, and progress is progress.
Things began to shift soon after. I had to breathe through the contractions that were coming and began leaning on N for support. Noticing things were picking up speed, I asked if they could start getting the tub ready so I could get in when I needed to. They agreed but asked if they could check me first. The sweet nurse tried really hard to frame it in a positive, “well you are four to five centimeters, BUT you are about 80% effaced. When the doctor first checked you this morning she could barely find your cervix but now you are very soft and low.” N visibly grimaced at this news (discouraged that I had only dilated maybe one more centimeter since 9am) and I let it go in one ear and out the other. Things were getting serious for me, pain wise, and I was starting to tune everyone out. My doula added in, “that’s great! As soon as you are fully effaced, it will go really quickly from there.”
Right before we left the room, N asked our doula, “Do I need to start timing the contractions now?”
“I think we’re beyond that point”, she smiled knowingly.
To be continued…