I was overdue. Three days to be exact. Nothing crazy but it felt like a lifetime. This was my third baby and the first two had come early, so this was by far the most pregnant and uncomfortable I had ever been.
Around 38 weeks I’d packed up my family and moved us all into my sister’s apartment. She lives minutes from the hospital we planned on delivering in and after my last baby came breathtakingly fast I was terrified of being at home, thirty minutes away, when labor started. We moved in on a friday night and stayed the entire weekend, taking long walks, watching tv, expecting labor to begin at any minute. It never did. I had a check up the following Monday and my midwife informed me I was nowhere near delivery. There was no progress, no dilation and the baby was about as high up as it could possibly be. Awesome.
Back at the apartment, teary eyed and defeated, I packed everything back up. I deflated the air mattress, threw all our bags back in my car and moved back home. Apparently, this wasn’t happening. I’d resigned myself to the fact that I may never give birth. This was just my life now. Perpetual pregnancy. I know it isn’t logical, but I can’t explain the mindset of a woman that pregnant, you just go batshit crazy.
Fast forward to 40 weeks + 3 days and there we were, still at home, putting our two boys to bed and generally trying to not think about how goddamned pregnant I still was. Ignoring well meaning texts and phone calls from concerned friends and relatives asking (kindly if but constantly) if anything was happening yet. As they say, a watched pot doesn’t boil, and I’ll sure as hell be the first one to let you know when it does.
Anyway, the boys were asleep and we’d just put ourselves to bed when I started feeling some light contractions. It was hard to tell if this was the real thing since last time my water broke and there was no doubt that the fast and furious contractions I was feeling then were the real deal. But this was a lot more ambiguous. No water breaking, no bleeding, just some uncomfortable contractions. Just to be safe I asked Josh to start timing them. They were coming pretty regularly at 10 minutes apart and this time they hurt. They definitely weren’t the braxton hicks I’d been having for months. But still, this could be false labor or it could stall out, so we waited another half an hour or so until they started coming about 8 minutes apart. That’s when I started to panic a little. I had been terrified about this birth since the minute the pregnancy test was positive. Having had two pretty awful labor and delivery experiences before with both of my sons I was sure this one was going to go awry as well. Neither of my boys had been breathing at birth (for varying reasons), they both had needed resuscitated upon delivery and my second son was even taken by ambulance to the NICU at another hospital before I’d even gotten to look at his little face. And while they both ended up being fine in the long run, I was so afraid of everything that could go wrong. In fact I was convinced everything would go wrong.
I started crying immediately and telling my husband, Josh, how scared I was and maybe we should just wake the boys up and we should all go over to my sister’s for the night just in case this was really it. He agreed and we quickly loaded the kids and bags into the car. I’d called Abby to let her know we were coming over and that I was having some questionable contractions that may or may not be anything. We started the thirty minute drive over. About half way there things had intensified dramatically and I was no longer unsure if this was “it”. This was definitely it. We called Abby again and asked if she and her partner Jeff could meet us outside when we got there and we could just drop the boys off with them and go straight to the hospital. We called the midwife on duty, and knowing my history of fast deliveries asked her to meet us there asap. I was so, so relieved when the hospital finally came into view and baby was still safely inside. I had been terrified the entire pregnancy that when the time came I’d be too far away and I’d have to give birth in the car. The first of my fears was checked off the list and so far, so good.
We checked in and I was met by the most incredibly understanding and accommodating hospital staff imaginable. At the last minute, mere days before I actually delivered, I’d typed up a birth plan, essentially a wish list of how my birth might go if things actually went the way they were supposed to for once and packed it in our hospital bag along with everything else. I’d considered not even doing one at all since things had gone so far off track with my last two deliveries that it seemed almost foolhardy. But Josh dug it out once we arrived and everyone read it over and really tried their best to honor all of my requests the entire time we were there. The things I had asked for were; an epidural if possible (my first labor the epidural didn’t take and my second labor progressed too quickly to even attempt one), no unnecessary interventions and the opportunity to if at all possible, receive my baby immediately following delivery. I asked that we delay cord clamping or weighing the baby and have him or her placed on my chest for immediate skin to skin contact and feeding. It was a long shot, no doubt about it. To think I could have any of this, let alone all of this happen given my past experiences, but there was no harm in trying, right?
I told them I had a history of lightening fast deliveries and they were on it, calling anesthesia immediately and getting my IV fluids started as quickly as possible. But here was the other thing, I’d tested positive for Group B Strep in the standard third trimester screening. GBS, if you’re not familiar with it, is a normal bacterial present in lots of people all the time and is generally harmless and of no concern. Unfortunately, the one time being a carrier of this particular bacteria can be worrisome is when you’re pregnant. That’s because it can be passed to the baby during delivery and cause serious complications if the baby contracts it. To combat this the standard procedure is to administer antibiotics to the mother at the onset of labor. If mom can receive a course of antibiotics for at least four hours before baby is born, then you’re all good. But, if labor progresses too quickly and baby comes before mom has gotten the full dose then they have to treat the baby with antibiotics instead. And from what my midwife told me they do it right away after baby is born and they generally have to take them to the nursery for the treatment. Meaning, if my labor didn’t last at least four hours after the antibiotics were started, this baby, like the two before it, would need to be taken away from me right after birth. I was positive that this was inevitable. My last labor and delivery took place over the course of three hours start to finish and typically each subsequent baby comes quicker than the last. I was already 5 centimeters dilated. But, they started the antibiotics and we all collectively crossed our fingers for a miracle. Somehow we needed this baby to stay inside longer than both the others ever had. I was pretty sure we were doomed. Meanwhile though, the midwife showed up, our birth photographer walked in and the anesthesiologist came in to give me the epidural. Check, check and check. I’d worried so much in all the months leading up to this delivery. I worried my midwife wouldn’t make it in time and I’d have to settle for whatever stranger doctor was on call. I’d worried our photographer would be too late and everything would go down before she even made it to the hospital. But most of all I had really hoped there would be time to get an epidural. And here we were. Three more fears crossed off the list. Don’t get me wrong, I still had plenty to be nervous about, in fact I was questioning whether even having a photographer there at all was a good idea considering how the last two deliveries had gone. But we’d known this was our last baby, and if not now then when? We would never have a chance to document this experience again if we didn’t try this time and so she was here, for better or for worse.
I was elated once the epidural kicked in. It was so different from what I’d expected. I’d thought I’d be completely numb, but happily I could still feel pressure and was able to move my legs. Suddenly the pain was gone. GONE! I totally get the hype now. I started to relax a little after the pain began to subside and Josh and the midwife and our photographer Lauren and I were all able to talk and even crack some jokes and generally pass the time pleasantly. It was like night and day from my last two labors and I just kept saying over and over again, is this real? Like is this really happening right now? How is this labor? The midwife said to let her know when and if I started to feel the need to push, we both expected it would happen quickly and before the four hours were up, but my water hadn’t broken and we hoped the epidural might slow things down a bit. She said she wasn’t going to check me again until I thought I needed to push or the four hours were up, whichever came first. So we just waited. And slowly, miraculously, the hours passed. One, then two, then three and finally, unbelievably, four. And right as we hit the four hour mark, I felt the need to push. I don’t know if I had been mentally willing my labor to slow down until we hit the four hour mark or if it was just an incredible coincidence, but here we were. My midwife checked me and sure enough I was fully dilated and then, as if right on cue, my water broke. She just shook her head in disbelief and we knew it was time to get this party started.
That’s when the pushing began. Things had been going so well, so incredibly well, we were bound to hit a speed bump somewhere. Pushing was our speed bump. I pushed and pushed and pushed some more but I was making minimal progress at best. Tired and frustrated I continued to push and over an hour later our midwife started to get concerned about some heart decelerations in the baby and my lack of progress.
Here it is, I thought, this is where it’s all going to go wrong. And the panic started to set in. She called in the OB on duty to assess the situation and at this point things become a bit of a blur. The epidural had worn off for the most part and they were pushing more meds in to try and alleviate some of the pain. The doctor came in and examined me and had me push a few times. He quickly determined our dear little baby was actually quite big and indeed quite stuck. This had been a blessing and a curse. This baby being stuck meant I did not give birth in the car. This baby being stuck meant I’d had time for an epidural and time for my antibiotics. But now it also meant I likely couldn’t do this on my own, it also meant the vacuum. The doctor explained the vacuum procedure to me, but really I didn’t hear a word he said. I just wanted this baby out now. I was all about the interventions at this point. I just needed to be done and I did not want a c-section after we’d gotten this far. So he placed the vacuum on the crown of our baby’s head and while I pushed, he pulled. We did a few pushes and made a little progress but I was desperate for them to tell me it was over and that the baby would be okay. I kept asking if we were done, if the baby was almost out and he kept trying to distract me with small talk while we progressed bit by bit, contraction by contraction.
At one point (and I can laugh at this now) he asked me if we had names picked out for the baby. I remember mumbling a yes, but that was about all I could muster at the time. When I didn’t offer up our names he laughed and said, “Well, I think you should name it Gigantor!” At which point I began to sob hysterically. Folks, a word of advice here. Do not, under any circumstances, point out to a lady in that predicament, with legs spread and a vacuum on her unborn child’s head, just how enormous said child is while it still needs to come OUT. After that he promised me he’d get it out on the next push.
That’s when it happened.
With one last desperate push, all the pain and the pressure was gone. I was light as a feather as I watched my baby’s body being lifted into the air. Tears clouded my eyes and I fell back in relief as the doctor announced to the room, “It’s a girl!” I was stunned. I looked at Josh in disbelief and watched the tears begin to stream down his smiling face. “No, no, no!” I said. Not because I wasn’t happy but because I just could not believe it. I still don’t quite believe it sometimes. I remember thinking, “He said it’s a girl, he can’t take it back now.” After all this time, after two sons and a long and difficult pregnancy. After spending nights worried about how this is my last baby, boy or girl, this was our last. I had been so afraid I might never have a daughter and now here she was. She was real. SHE.
It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best moment of my life. Because we had waited to find out the gender and the surprise was so worth all those months of waiting and speculation. Because we already had two perfect boys at home. Because I was overdue and tired. Because the labor had been long and difficult and trying. Because this was our last.
Because finally, after everything, we had our daughter.
And she was breathing! She was healthy. The miracle of it all shifted into view and I cried tears of joy and relief and utter astonishment. They put her right on my chest like I had dreamed about so many times before and I got to look right into her eyes and feel her soft skin against my own. She was perfect. She was everything. I didn’t know how much I needed her until she was here.
My daughter, our daughter, forever.
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