For weeks, we’ve been expecting to have our little guy any day. First, at a day shy of 36 weeks, I went into Labour & Delivery with crampy feelings in my abdomen measuring about five minutes apart. Turns out that the flu can also give a person painful abdominal cramps. Oops.
Then, the Thursday before Christmas, I began contracting regularly at 10-minute intervals. The contractions were uncomfortable, but not particularly painful. I went to bed, figuring the contractions would stop. They didn’t. And they were just strong enough to wake me up every 10 minutes for the entire night.
The minute my obstetrician took out his wheel and gave me a January 9th due date, I joked, “See you Christmas Eve.” And now it looked as if my prediction was going to be borne out.
But apparently, for some fetuses, making people bite their nails in anticipation of your arrival is more fun than arriving at an incredibly inconvenient time, and Henry is clearly one of those babies. Christmas Eve came and went with plenty of regular contractions, but no progress. Ditto for Christmas Day, despite my prediction that the wee one would make his entrance once the turkey was in the oven.
Back in the summertime, during an early appointment when my OB went over my labor history, the topic of my rather early and precipitous labors came up. James came at 35 weeks after an hour of labor. Thomas came at 38 weeks after four hours. Since Henry was to be a winter baby and we live on a mountain, our doctor suggested planning an induction for 38 weeks, and I happily agreed. The last thing I want to do is deliver in the car on the side of a snowy road. Without an epidural.
Boxing Day (Dec. 26, for non-Canadians) was the 38-week mark, but as my pregnancy progressed and I hit 34 weeks with no dilation — completely usual for me — my OB backpedaled on induction.
“You know, every pregnancy is different,” he told me at my 35-week checkup. “I think you may go overdue on this one.”
I delivered Maddux, my first and latest baby, three days before her due date. I was totally going to have this kid in a snowbank on the shoulder of Summit Road.
But by my 37-week appointment, my doc had flipped again. This time, I was 1 cm dilated, soft and with the baby very low. I was also Strep B positive, which means that, ideally, four hours of antibiotics need to be administered before baby is born to prevent complications like encephalitis. So now an induction assessment was scheduled for 8 a.m. the day after Christmas.
I made it to the appointment with baby still in utero and a labor bag packed. Two hours later, we were home with no baby. L&D was chock-a-block full of people with serious medical issues that needed immediate attention and if I had gone into labor that day, I would have been in another ward without delivery beds.
“Call later today,” my OB said. “L&D has a very fast turnover rate. Maybe you can still get your induction this afternoon.”
No such luck. Another assessment was set for the 27th. And at that assessment, everything was exactly the same as it had been the day before. Because I wasn’t “making progress,” I went home. Again.
“If you start having regular contractions closer together than 10 minutes apart, go into Labour & Delivery,” my doc told me. I nearly cried. My still-regular contractions progressed nightly to 8 minutes apart while I tried to sleep, so that would mean hiring a babysitter every night until delivery. I mentally replaced the “10” with a “5.”
On Wednesday the 28th, my contractions changed shortly after I put the kids to bed (of course). They were now four minutes apart and breathtaking. We threw the still-pajama-clad kids in the car and Chris dropped me at the hospital on his way to pick up the babysitter (yes, the only babysitter available that night was the carless one! Surely I was about to deliver!).
But after an hour of walking, there was no progress. Since I had been contracting for seven full days and was only getting sleep between contractions, I was sent home with some sleeping pills. Overnight, the contractions spread back out again.
Clearly, Henry was waiting for New Year’s Eve so he could be an anniversary baby. And I didn’t even care.
The 29th passed with no event (other than the unremitting contractions). I went to the gym, thinking a nice block of cardio would bounce the baby out, or at least effect cervical change before my next OB appointment on Jan. 2. Nada. The contractions remained like a constant background noise, not really interfering with day-to-day life (other than sleeping) but impossible to ignore.
Finally, yesterday, the contractions began to grow a bit stronger and more painful. As I put the children to bed, they remained 10 minutes apart. I washed the dishes. Still 10 minutes apart. Watched some “Project Runway.” Still 10 minutes apart.
Giving up on my contractions ever amounting to anything, I propped my enormously pregnant self on a mountain of pillows and practiced my hypnobirthing, still hitting the contraction timer on my iPhone with each “surge” (oddly, surges don’t feel any nicer or more natural than contractions — sorry, hypnobirthing inventors).
By the end of my hypno session, around 12:30 a.m., the contractions were six minutes apart and painful. I paged Chris on the intercom.
“Hey, honey, my contractions are six minutes apart and they’re really uncomfortable. I think we should go into the hospital now,” I said. Then another one hit. I tapped my phone and realized this one was closer to 4 and a half minutes and hurt like a beast.
“All right, but I’m going to drive down the hill and pick up the babysitter first,” Chris said, clearly forgetting that one time I went from not being in labor to popping out a baby in an hour’s span. I tried to say, “The hell you are,” but unfortunately for me it came out sounding like this: “AAAAGHHHHHHHHHithurtsithurtsithurtsAGGHHHH!” so off he went.
Luckily, Chris has some epic teleportation abilities and made it there and back in 18 minutes (or five horrendous contractions, by my clock). By this time, they were closer to two minutes apart and Chris had to pretty much carry me up the stairs and heave me into the car.
Despite my theoretical awesomeness at hypnobirthing in the comfort of my own room while not in labor, I’m better at hypno than at birthing. I’m pretty sure Chris’ ears were not functional after the ensuing car ride. Luckily, Chris made it to the hospital in three contractions. I don’t ever want him to tell me how fast he was driving. Some things are best left alone.
As he wheeled me into L&D, I distinctly remember yelling, “If anyone tells me I’m still at a 2 I’m gonna strangle some people!”
The nurse checked me and told me I was at a 2/3 (throwing the 3 in there purely to mollify me, I’m sure).
“Are you (beep) kidding me?” I screamed, but she was safely out of my strangling radius.
The contractions continued at 2 minutes apart for what seemed like two hours but what apparently was actually only 15 minutes. I begged her to check me again so I could get an epidural, but she refused and said she would check in an hour. All the while, her neck remained utterly elusive.
Finally, some scream or another came from my mouth about incredible pressure in my tailbone — and that, ladies who labor quickly, is apparently the magic phrase. She begrudgingly checked me 45 minutes ahead of schedule and I was at a 5 (15 minutes after being a 2 and therefore not in “true labor”). They then hooked up the IV antibiotics (apparently the nonstop screaming did not convince them that I was in “true labor” until the rapid dilation I predicted did, indeed, occur) and wheeled me into a delivery room, where a wonderful anesthetist jammed a needle in my spine, for which I thanked him profusely.
I’m pretty fuzzy on the time, but I think we rolled into the hospital around 1:20 and I got my much-desired epidural around 2-something. For a while — in a Phillips delivery first — I was actually able to rest and have a rational conversation with my husband (although perhaps “rational” is a stretch, as I’d been given a shot of Demerol after measuring at 2 cm in a smart defensive move by the potential strangle-ee, and I don’t handle narcotics very well).
Sometime after 3, the numbing effect of the epidural failed to cover the intense feelings of pressure one tends to get before a baby blasts forth into the world. My doctor had told me to let the nurses know when I started feeling pressure, so let them know I did. Probably — although I don’t recollect thanks to the Demerol — by yelling things about strangling. (So much for my peaceful hypnobirth, right?)
Now, ordinarily, the pushing stage is when I completely destroy my larynx. But hooray for epidurals and fourth babies.
In all of two contractions, we went from “Let’s try to push now” to “Now stop pushing,” some squeaky baby sounds, and a “Look down!”
And just like that, there was Henry — my sweet little bundle of last-baby goodness!
Let it be noted that, in the middle of my very short pushing phase, the OB said something to the effect of, “Oh, he’s occiput posterior.”
Once you’ve heard those words in labor once (or two other times, in my case), you won’t forget them, because they mean they mean your baby is facing outward rather than in and that you are probably experiencing back labor, a super-special fun kind of labor wherein the baby’s spine grinds against your spine, causing you unbearable, crippling pain such as you have never known. (Most people feel labor in their backs at some point, but I can assure you based on Thomas’ birth that back pain in labor is nowhere near the same thing as back labor. I did that entire birth without pain meds or talk of manually asphyxiating passersby.)
I’m going to use the back labor to justify any strangling-related statements that may have been made before I was given pain medication.
Anyhow, the doctor easily turned Henry around before I finished pushing, and he entered the world at 3:32 a.m., all pink and wiggly and adorable and measuring in at 19 inches long and a diminutive 7 pounds, 1 ounce (but gaining weight after birth instead of losing it). He spent his first day eating, filling diapers and trying to remove every shred of skin from his face with overgrown talons a sideshow act would envy. (I’m working on filing them down surreptitiously as I feed him.)
He’s not terribly fussy, is easy to feed, snuggly and soft, and is generally making up pretty well for the excruciating back labor, the eight days and nights of nonstop contractions, the insanity of my non-induction and subsequent moving-violation-necessitating, almost-epidural-missing three-hour labor and delivery, and most annoyingly, making his schedule-conscious mommy wait, and wait, and wait, and stress, and wait some more.
And in the end, our anniversary — or New Year’s Eve, or whatever you want to call it — is not a terribly inconvenient birthday. We’re just happy that our little Henry is finally here!