It was Monday morning and I was still pregnant. I woke up, decided I would have to be induced in a week or two, and determined to go on with the business of living until then.
I started the laundry, put a roast in the crockpot, and read to the boys. I cleaned out all the random baby items I’d been storing in Finn’s crib. In a moment of insanity, I stood next to the bed and whispered to my belly, “See? I cleaned out your bed. It’s really all ready for you here now. You can come whenever you want.”
Two hours later, my water broke.
Andrew had taken Sam to art class and the children who weren’t napping were playing on the iPad in the living room. I’d been in bed watching TV when I heard the “pop.” I quickly texted Andrew: It’s Baby Day!
I called my neighbor and she came running over right away, even before she put her shoes on. I cried and giggled and hugged her neck. She managed to help me find my “last minute hospital packing” list on my phone and began gathering things while I sat and stared. Andrew arrived shortly afterward, finished the packing, and we headed to the hospital.
Andrew dropped me off at the door and went to park. I remember it feeling very surreal to take an elevator ride alone. And it felt even stranger to mosey up to the nurses’ station and announce calmly, “I’m here to have a baby.”
Once I was settled into my new digs (Room #7 for Baby #7!) and had my heplock in my arm, we began the waiting. I was contracting some but not much. I wasn’t dilated that far. But my last baby came in 8 hours, so we weren’t too worried.
This time, however, progress was much slower.
My doula sent me to take a shower, which sometimes helps get things going. I had Andrew turn on the playlist I’d labeled “power pushing” while I worked through the contractions in the shower. I giggled a little at the bizarre playlist I’d created sometime while under the influence of medication. Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and, oh, wait, some Jars of Clay or Needtobreathe would randomly spill out of my phone’s speaker.
No matter how bizarre the playlist, I squatted and swayed and contracted until I was shriveled up and tired of being wet. I went back to my bed to pace and squat while my cheering squad looked on.
Then Andrew and I did laps around L & D. I’d make it one time around before I’d have to grab the side rails for another contraction. Andrew pressed on my back, lifted me up out of squats, and held me together.
By midnight, my contractions were incredibly painful (I’d lost most of the amniotic fluid that acts as padding) but I was only dilated to 5 cm. I decided to rest for a bit, even though lying down during a contraction was torture.
An hour or so later, my dad came into the room, along with Meme and my sisters. He held my hand through some contractions and prayed over me. I know he would have rather cut off his arm than sit and watch any of his kids be in pain, but I was grateful for the familiar touch of his big strong hand. A girl is never too old to hold her daddy’s hand, right?
My contractions continued to get more painful and by the time my family and the cheering squad left, I was exhausted. There aren’t any pictures of the next few hours, and that’s probably a good thing. Because it got ugly. I got ugly. I cried and I prayed and I begged somebody to help me figure out how to manage the pain.
I’ve done this before. I knew I needed to just fall over the cliff, let the pain happen, and figure out how to cope. But I couldn’t.
I was SO tired. I couldn’t find a way to rest in between contractions. I couldn’t lie in the bed and contract, it made me crazy. But trying to get my big ol’ self out of the bed in time to deal with the contractions became impossible. My only relief came from listening to my “Peaceful Pushing” playlist. I could pray and worship and cry at will.
As always, Andrew was my rock. With every contraction, I’d squat down and he would help me up.
At 5 am, I was frustrated and terrified. When the nurse announced I’d only progressed to 7 cm, I panicked. I looked into Andrew’s eyes and said, “I think I’m done. I think I need some relief. I cannot go any further.”
Now, I know sometimes that when a woman says that, it means she’s in transition and it’s all over. That was not me. I knew things were still moving slow and that, for whatever reason, I could not relax enough to make progress. But I also knew that I was nearing hysterical levels and to keep trying to make that happen was only going to get harder.
My nurse was excellent. She told me that I could change my mind right up until the last minute, but because all the anesthesiologists were going to head to surgery soon, she’d need to get moving on the epidural right away. She promised to come back and check with me shortly.
Andrew looked in my eyes and could see how tired I was. He told me whatever I wanted was fine. I said I wanted to at least keep that option open. So at 7 am, I signed the paperwork and told the nurse I still wasn’t sure, but go ahead and call somebody.
Or maybe I yelled it, who knows.
This is the part where the room became a swirling mass of activity and God was merciful. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to ask for that epidural. It was shift change, so my nurse needed to give report to a new nurse. The anesthesiologist was headed for surgery. And my OB was getting ready to do some surgeries as well. Everybody needed to hurry.
Thanks to my quick-thinking nurse, the Candy Man arrived with the happy drugs in five minutes, which you all know is a medical miracle. He spoke quickly at me and said, “I gotta do it now, honey, or never.”
Another contraction rendered me insensible, but I managed to squeak out, “Do it.”
Andrew and the doula were asked to leave, so my poor nurse had to give report to the new nurse while forcing a bag of fluid in me (remember all I’d had was a heplock, no fluids) and assisting the Candyman. Plus, she was stuck with a now completely hysterical pregnant woman, who was terrified at being alone, terrified of every contraction, and begging anybody within earshot to make it stop.
I’m not proud of it, but that’s what it was. I was utterly undone.
She calmly held me still, the drugs happened, and I was rolled over to wait for relief. Which came. Sort of…
There was a hot spot where the epidural wasn’t working. More yelling and begging ensued. But apparently what part of the epidural that was working had relaxed me enough that someone noticed I was fully dilated and it was time to push. They were all prepared to ignore me and get it over with.
I flat refused to push until they fixed that wretched spot.
My new nurse heard my pleas and gave me the magic bolus that shut me up so everyone else could do their job.
Relief and warmth spreading over me, I laid my head back and closed my eyes while what felt like 50 people came in and out of the room, trays were laid out, lights were aimed, and gowns were donned.
I opened my eyes to a quiet audience, waiting for me to do something.
I laid my head back and shut my eyes. Maybe I’ll do it later…
Sadly, nobody else was on my timetable and at the next contraction, they insisted I push. It took me awhile to get the hang of the pushing again with all the numbness, but I was not complaining one bit. My contractions spaced out with the epidural, which I loved because I could close my eyes and sleep.
The rest of the room? Not so patient. At some point, one of the pediatric nurses sniffed indignantly and said, “if she’d ever push it out…”
I believe someone shot her a dirty look. I hope it wasn’t me.
I honestly didn’t push that long. Thirty minutes, I think. But everyone else was tired of waiting, so it felt interminable. They had stuff to do. I’d dragged this mess on for 18 hours and the entire world was impatient to meet Finn.
And then we did.
He reached for me and I reached for him.
And then, because you know I do it with every kid, I cried.
There was nobody else in the world at that moment but Finn, Andrew, and me.
No more than two minutes after Finn was born, Andrew’s phone rang. It was his best friend, calling to wish him a happy birthday. I didn’t look at him, but I could hear the grin on his face around the words, “I just got the best birthday present ever… a son!”
Welcome to our world, Finnley Jack. You were worth the wait.
*pictures courtesy of Allison Lewis. Her version of this story is much prettier…
*last picture courtesy of my friend Carrie.