This is a birth story. It is detailed. I talk about things like dilation and membranes having things done to them. I thought long and hard about sharing this, thinking maybe it was TMI. But then I thought that I started this blog to share my adventures in home-making-pursuits and nothing is quite as home-made as a baby. Feel free to not read any further if childbirth is not your thing. It is kind of like a bad car wreck, though. Hard to not look.
Friday felt different. I woke up re-energized and positive (Thursday had not been my most happy day). Months ago I told JM I thought the baby was going to be born on 7/14 but because I was so, so, SO, so wrong with Scarlett I knew that my predictive powers left a lot to be imagined. With that in mind, I tried not to get too psyched up or to think much would really happen or be determined at the doctor’s appointment that afternoon. But I did tell JM that if the baby didn’t come on Saturday that I would be really sad and disappointed (I know, it doesn’t make sense but that’s just how I feel at the end of a pregnancy, apparently – so ready to be done with it). I was prepared to be, yet again, wrong but still simultaneously hoped I was right. And because I was feeling something I couldn’t name or put my finger on I thought maybe, juuuuust maybe, I was just about done with being pregnant.
Scarlett and I spent an hour or so outside just piddling around. I basically watched her galivant around the yard and explore life. I was too tired to do much other than sit/stand and observe her, and she was fine with that.
While we were outside we picked some zucchini that was ready and added it to our stockpile in the fridge. I felt energized enough to finally make it all into bread so with Scarlett’s help (i.e. her playing with wooden spoons and spilling the dog food everywhere) I got four loaves baked.
Before I knew it, it was time to head to the doctor’s office. I sliced up half a loaf and brought it with me feeling slightly silly for bringing my OBGYN baked goods but figured, at the same time, it never hurts to butter somebody up who is planning to deliver your child.
When we finally got to see Dr. Cobb he checked me out and I was unsurprised to see I had only dilated .5cm, up to 2.5 and was still roughly 60% effaced. I asked him to strip my membranes (he did the same procedure the day before I went into labor with Scarlett) which he did. I asked him about it and he said that he thinks there is some correlation to stripping membranes and bringing on labor but it’s not guranateed. The good thing is though, he said, is that it’s not harmful. We set up an appointment for the following Thursday with a potential plan to induce on Friday (the 20th).
After we left the office I mulled over how I felt about induction and how I thought I might feel about it in a week. I figured I would probably be more than ready to be induced and that I had already fought a tough battle when I was pregnant with Scarlett, that I had already experienced the, “Honey, it’s time” moment, that I was just done being pregnant, done being tough, and I was ready to just be done.
When we got home we put Scarlett down for a nap and lay in our bed and watched a Vincent Lombardi special. I wasn’t feeling great – I had been feeling crampy since we left the doctor’s office but I thought it was because of my pelvic exam. I didn’t think too much of it but also felt like something was up. Not wanting to cry wolf I tried to make light of it to myself and to JM.
When Scarlett woke up we headed to Mark and Mary Elizabeth’s house for dinner. Mary is expecting their first baby and so she and I talked about pregnancy and labor and all that kind of stuff. I had contractions, on and off, the whole time we were at their house but they weren’t exactly regular or too terribly strong – I kept chalking it up to the pelvic exam. But then their bird dog, Rain, came over and curled up next to me on the couch and slept which was odd – Rain had never shown any interest in me in the past and had barely let me pet her before. I asked her if she was trying to tell me something but she kept on sleeping. For dinner their friend Justin fixed some wild turkey which was so delicious I told him it might kick me into labor.
And then, before we knew it, it was 9:30 and time to get Scarlett home. She had been fussy throughout the day and I was glad she had been calm at their house. We got her home, gave her a bottle and put her to bed – well, JM did all that. I just wasn’t feeling good – my stomach was bothering me. I did manage to walk around and pick up Scarlett’s toys, very painfully, one at a time. I started a load of her diapers because I was suspecting I was in labor and wanted to have them clean and ready to go for Mark and Mary. And, finally, I fell into bed out of defeat – I just knew I couldn’t push myself to do the things I wanted to do before I went to bed.
But then Scarlett woke up screaming. I was so frustrated – I hate feeling bad when Scarlett is having a weird phase. The last thing I want to do is feel sick when she’s suppose to be asleep. After trying to calm her down for a good 15 minutes I realized she was absolutely inconsolable – nothing helped. I changed her diaper, gave her a bottle, stuffed her full of ibuprofin, tried to hold her, put Mickey Mouse on. Nothing worked. She just sobbed and sobbed on the floor. Finally, JM came out and took over and I limped to bed, exhausted and weary.
I knew that if I was truly in labor that my contractions would wake me up so I figured that would be the ultimate test as to whether I was really in labor or not. I slept like a log. So, when Scarlett woke up, again, at 3am I figured everything had been a false alarm and that I had just been in pain from the exam. This time Scarlett fell back to sleep fairly quickly….on the living room floor.
I, of course, couldn’t go to sleep. Damn pregnancy insomnia. So I piddled around on the computer, watching tv for a few hours. I emailed Crystal and told her how I needed to take some gas-x which I did – I told her I didn’t feel quite right but wasn’t having contractions, just gas. And then about 5:30 I decided to try to fall back asleep on the couch – I didn’t want to leave Scarlett on the floor alone. I closed my eyes and 5 or 10 minutes later felt a strong contraction. Ten minutes after I felt another one so I boo-hooed my way into our bedroom and lay on the bed. ”James, I hurt. Something’s wrong. Maybe there’s not enough fluid around the baby anymore and that’s why it hurts. Something is wrong but I don’t think I’m in labor.” He offered to call the hospital to talk to a nurse but while he was looking up the information another contraction hit and it was intense. ”I’m calling Mark and Mary to get them to come over here. I’m just going to bring you in – something is obviously going on.”
I piddled around the house trying to mentally put together what needed to be done but was so wiped out from the lack of sleep and feeling bad and fear of something being wrong that I couldn’t concentrate much. We grabbed the hospital bag and camera, just in case, and when Mark and Mary got there we headed out about 6:30.
The morning was so pretty – it’s been a long time since I’ve been out and about around dawn so it was a good distraction from the worry of either something being wrong or the though of nothing actually going on with me and the nurses thinking I was a drama queen for having a little bit of gas pain. I got wheeled up to L&D (labor & delivery) and was apologetic to the woman who wheeled me – “I’m sorry if I’m not really in labor and made you wheel me all this way.” She laughed and said not to worry about it. And then, before I knew it, I was totally naked and putting on one of those flattering hospital gowns.
I climbed into the bed and then was beyond thrilled to see nurse Dana walk in – she had been the one to deliver Scarlett and had been so amazing and wonderful. Her two older kids are in science club so I had seen her a few times at banquets and around town since Scarlett was born, but I had totally forgotten that maybe I would get lucky and get to have her as my nurse again. I re-hashed the night before to her and then she examined me. “Well, your bag of waters is bulging.” ”What does that means?” JM responded, “That’s good – it means it’s trying to break.” And then she said, “And you’re 7 cm.” I was dumbfounded. ”Wait. So, I’m in labor?” ”Yep.” ”So….I’m having this baby today??” ”Yes, honey.”
She asked me about pain medication and I tried to not get too emotional. We talked about how it wasn’t too late to get an epidural but once I got past 8.5 that it would be. I sucked it up and said, “I’ll try to go without it.” And after the nurses admired my “Oh Cabana Boy” toe nail polish (validation!!!) and foot tattoos, they left us alone for a while and monitored my contractions from the nurse station. Because everything happened so quickly and I was so tired, a lot of the details and timeline are already fuzzy.
My contractions were different from the ones I had with Scarlett – those hit me like waves and washed over me. These ones felt like jagged metal hitting me. I guess I was experiencing some back labor. After a few tough ones I folded and asked JM to get the nurse so I could have an epidural. I knew there was no prize for doing it au-natural and was so tired of being in pain. I knew that there would be no long term affects on Pookie, that I could have pain relief and be proud. But when Dana checked she said, “Honey, you’re at 9cm.” ”Aw, fuuuuuuuck. Sorry for the f-bomb…” (I recently read a blog posts written by a preacher about how sometimes preachers just need to cuss, too. I figure if any occassion calls for the f-bomb, child birth is it).
And then I knew it was up to me to end it. I tried to stay calm through the contractions but they were tough. Dana had left so in the midst of a terrible one I yelled for JM to get her. She checked me again and I was up to 9.5 so Dr. Cobb came in and broke my water. A few contractions later and it was time to push. I knew I had to give it my all – last time I beat around the bush and held back, not wanting to push. I didn’t want to push this time, either, but was rational enough to make myself anyway. I was at zero station and the baby was starting to turn with each push which was giving my back pain a little relief. With Scarlett I was surprised that they wanted me to push for 10 seconds – it seemed impossible. This time I knew that was what had to be done so although nobody counted outloud, I mentally counted. Sometimes I’d make it to 7 before I had to quit, sometimes to 3, and sometimes I’d make it all the way to 10 and beyond. I could tell how fruitful those big pushes were and that encouraged me to try to keep doing them – when I was pushing good and strong everyone cheered me on which just helped me keep going. And then, as the baby’s head descended further, I realized I had forgotten to ask for the local anesthetic. ”Oh, shit, I don’t have a local” I yelled out. I think JM was the only one who got what I meant, but it was too late by that point anyway. Looking back, that makes me laugh – I don’t know why. A strong contraction hit and I pushed as hard as I could but it wasn’t much and the pain was so intense that I almost totally lost it – they had to calm me down to keep me from hyperventilating. And then, a few minutes later, another hit and I got it together and gave a good push. At the end of it they said they thought the baby would be born on the next contraction. That calmed me down, gave me a mental finish line, and gave me the motivation I needed to give it my all. Of course the minutes until the next contraction seemed to drag – I was ready to be done, ready to give it one good push, ready for the terrible pain to hit me once more and then be done. Laying there knowing I still had the biggest hurdle to overcome was terrifying – I knew what I was in for and knew what had to be done. As I felt the contraction starting I bared down, pushed, and screamed to holy hell and back – it felt like I pushed for a full minute with every single ounce of my strength.
I honestly don’t know what exactly transpired because I was so wrapped up in my own pain. I heard them say, “You did it!” and then I heard the baby crying. Just like with Scarlett, I didn’t care, in that moment, about anything other than myself. I feel like labor is a mentally (and physically) traumatic experience for a woman. I felt like I had survived something, that I was safe, and that I was done. It was something that I had to recover from – that in those moments I didn’t respond how Hallmark and movies would have me believe that most women do – with extreme joy and glowing calmness. Instead, I tried to catch my breath and downshift, mentally, to a place where I felt I was ok. I heard Jm say, “It’s another girl!” and while I can say I was surprised, I wasn’t shocked. I finally opened my eyes to watch him cut the cord (he didn’t get to do that with Scarlett). The rubbed little Ada a little but almost immediately plopped her naked and gooey onto my own naked chest.
After they finished cleaning up a tad they left the three of us alone for a few hours – Saturday was a busy day for them apparently. I honestly feel like I was still in some form of shock and although I was happy to hold Ada, I wasn’t feeling much emotionally. There were no tears or feelings of madly intense love – not an overwhelming sense of it, not an “irrational” sense of it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I wasn’t happy or thrilled or any of those things. It was just very, very surreal. I said to her, “You’re pretty cute….but have you met Scarlett? She’s hilarious!” I guess when you have a second child you can’t help but compare the feelings of love that you’ve developed for the older child over the past few years to the love you feel for a child you just met. It’s not that I didn’t love Ada, it’s just that it was the beginning of a relationship, a similar relationship to the one I’ve had with Scarlett for 18 months. Scarlett has a history in my soul, Ada is just starting to scratch at my cave walls (with her mammoth-length fingernails). But what’s wonderful about a second child is that I now have the knowledge of how much my love will develop over the years. I can look at her and see that love in the future. I can grasp how the memories I’m making of her as a teeny wheeny little angel are going to unfold as who she is unfolds and stretches and makes itself known. She’s only been on this planet for 48 hours but my feelings for her have already expanded by at least 48 times. And while I still feel lingering loyalty towards Scarlett and feel terrible for how sensitive she’s been since we’ve come home with Ada, I know that Scarlett will get use to the new addition and that one day they will be best friends. I know that having them 18 months apart and them both being girls is going to be a huge blessing – that in the long run it will hopefully help them become very, very close and able to support and love one another. And I am beyond thrilled that I have not one, but two members of my badass Girl Scout Troop already accounted for. I can’t wait to take my girls on some adventures and show them how to be strong and brave and beautiful just by being who they were created to be and nothing else.