Express Delivery

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!


Waiting game

So far, all three of our kids have come out taking after Chris more than they take after me. Over time, Maddux has transformed from a purple coneheaded alien (obviously something she got from her Daddy’s side, my purple-themed given name notwithstanding) into a stunning blue-eyed beauty, which she clearly inherited from yours truly. But the boys are still all Chris, from Thomas’ greenish eyes and sturdy build to James’ entire head and seriously weird OCD issues. And Maddux’ predilection toward early-morning craft projects involving butter pawprints on the hardwood and toothpaste in the toilet tank are certainly not a trait she inherited from moi. (For one thing, I don’t dig early-morning anything.)

And Henry is apparently following in his father’s footsteps as well. As of Monday, we’ve officially passed the 38-week mark, meaning my little oven-bun has both his big brothers’ gestational times beat and is fast-approaching his sister’s 39 and 4. And, although 38 weeks is not technically late, your 38 is my 40, so it’s certainly not punctual, either. Thus, I’m going to have to assume Henry got his internal clock from his daddy.  (Have you heard of island time? Well, there’s a similar thing I like to call “Chris time.” Take however many minutes he estimates he’s going to be and triple it. It’s kind of the same concept as “Chris dollars.”)

I went in on Monday for a 38-week induction assessment. Unfortunately, it was the day after Christmas and apparently quite a lot of other women had ignored complications over the holiday, so L&D was full to bursting and my doctor sent me home. Now, even though he suggested the induction way back in the summertime, he keeps forgetting that it was his own suggestion and backpedaling on it, so I was surprised when he said, “Call back this afternoon and see if some beds have cleared out. We may be able to induce you then.”

Well, the beds had not cleared out, so I went in Tuesday morning, at least partially if not fully expecting (my slight skepticism based on this doctor’s history of flip-flopping) that I’d be induced.

This is where I should mention that I’ve been having contractions about 10-15 minutes apart since last Thursday night. Crampy, tight, un-sleep-through-able contractions that make me feel like whatever I ate earlier is going to come out one way or another. So not only was I really freaking out about having a baby on an icy mountaintop, I was also delirious from having slept in 8-minute increments for five nights in a row. In fact, I actually got completely disoriented trying to find my way to the elevators in the same hospital where, over the last several years, I’ve spent a week on bedrest, delivered two children, and taken three children for croup attacks, RSV, well-preemie visits and a broken wrist.

Imagine my disappointment when my OB — in complete contrast to the day before, when he was ready to induce but for the lack of beds — told me that since I was only 1 cm dilated, he was not comfortable inducing because if the baby wasn’t ready, I might end up with a C-section. Apparently, he had forgotten about the day before, when he told me he thought I would be one of those women who never got beyond 1 cm until active labor (you know, like I’ve been telling him for the past nine months based on all three of my other deliveries). So home I went, and last night either the contractions stopped while I slept or I was just so utterly exhausted that I managed to sleep through them. I guess six solid days and nights of false labor will do that to a person.

After last night, I’m pretty positive this kid is going to take after Chris. All the stars and planets had aligned perfectly for a stereotypically inconvenient and chaotic Phillips-baby birth. I’d been contracting for the better part of a week and sent home from not one but two induction assessments. My membranes had been swept. We live on a mountaintop. And the sky was dumping several inches of snow on our mountain’s steep, windy road (which never seems to be plowed when we need desperately to get someplace quickly). Did I mention James’ labor took one hour and Thomas’ took four? And that, because this time I have the added bonus of being Strep B positive, I will ideally need six hours of antibiotics before the baby is born? And that there are no babysitters in town except the one who doesn’t have a car?

If Henry had wanted to follow James’ precedent of making Daddy miss the delivery, or Thomas’ benchmark of being too late arriving at L&D for even so much as a bag of IV meds, he would most certainly have come last night (unless there’s some impending 7.5 earthquake or missile attack to which only my child is privy). And yet, he did not.

Clearly, we have yet another kid who is all Daddy.

P.S. If you see a crazy pregnant lady jumping on a trampoline in the snow tonight, equipped with a beer helmet full of castor oil and a plate of habaneros, don’t judge.

Under Pressure

There’s so much pressure this week! First off, now that we are 35 weeks along, it is impossible to dance around the fact that the baby could come any day (although, given my current level of agility and immense girth, it’s highly unlikely that I’m capable of dancing around anything). Currently, the bambino has been baking for about 60 hours longer than his brother James did. So yeah. The clock is ticking.

Because I am still holding out for a pair of skid-proof socks that do NOT prominently feature hot-pink cows on the toes, my hospital bag is not yet entirely packed. Also, there is the issue of baby clothes, which are currently housed in the back of our storage room somewhere. (Did I mention that our storage room is wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling random crap? And that I have all the agility of a beached manatee?) Also not ready: Single stroller, swing, bottles, pump and place to keep the baby clothes once I’ve successfully hurled my big self over the mountain of junk to retrieve them.

But I’m off subject here. I’m talking about pressure today. And if you think that being behind on baby preparations is pressure, you clearly don’t have a giant baby head pressing down like a friggin’ jackhammer on your pelvic floor right now.

Yes, it is definitely the third trimester. And almost certainly the last few weeks, if previous experience is anything to go on.  Which is OK by me, because waking up to intense pelvic pressure caused by huge contractions doesn’t make me feel all natural and beautiful and womanly like people tell you pregnancy will be.  Also, if I feel the urgent — nay, excruciating — need to visit the toilet, the payoff for waddling all the way to the bathroom on my near-disintegrated hips should be a good, long pee, not a false alarm. (Seriously, kiddo, bladder pranks are not that amusing.)

I’m assuming that the baby hasn’t dropped, since I’m still carrying high and my babies don’t drop until I’m nearly in labor (uh-oh …), but it sure feels like there’s a toddler sitting on my tailbone and squeezing my bladder for giggles. Add to that some really wicked Braxton-Hicks contractions (not the kind that feel like a blood pressure cuff, but rather the kind that feel rather like live disembowelment), and I’m definitely not seeing the baby come after New Year. As if we ever thought he would!

So, I guess I’d better work on those hospital socks and baby clothes.

And here are my 35-week belly pics. Yes, those are obliques on a 35-weeks-pregnant mom of three. I am as shocked as you are, and also highly recommend Keith at World Gym!