Oh, this is soooo long. I thought about cutting it down, but then I decided I don’t care that it’s long because I want to remember it all. So here it is, in all its verbose glory.
On Saturday April 13 I was exactly 41 weeks pregnant. My midwife had me come in for a full biophysical profile to make sure the baby was still doing okay and to plan our course of action. After an ultrasound, a non-stress test, and a quick internal exam, we knew that baby was healthy and happy, but that my fluid levels were a little low. Since I was already dilated to 4, she figured all we’d have to do is break my water to kick labor into gear. She made some calls to the hospital and before we left, I had an appointment scheduled for an induction at 3 PM on Monday.
We then headed to Whole Foods to buy evening primrose oil and clary sage oil because–supposedly–those help induce labor. I knew that if I hadn’t had the baby within 24 hours of breaking my water, we’d have to resort to more drastic measures to get her out. I was terrified of the possibility of Pitocin and all the other interventions that would probably follow, and was determined to do everything in my power to move labor along quickly and naturally. I downed the primrose oil and had David rub the clary sage on my ankles where labor-inducing acupressure points are.
It didn’t seem to do much. I was discouraged.
On Sunday we went to church, where everyone was surprised to see us because wasn’t I supposed to have had that baby already? “You’re still pregnant!” was the exclamation of the day. No, really? I wanted to snap at people. I hadn’t noticed. Thanks for letting me know! It was a long day that involved far too few contractions for my liking.
I had, however, noticed some yellowish-brown stuff on my maxi pad (remember how I’d been wearing them because I thought I was wetting my pants all the time?) and hoped that maybe it was my mucus plug and maybe something productive was happening. I went to bed anxious and nervous and disappointed and sad and exhausted, but I slept pretty well, all things considered.
Monday morning was like any other day. We got up, ate breakfast, and David went to work. I got Mila dressed for the day and turned on an episode of “Yo Gabba Gabba” so I could shower. When I got undressed, though, I noticed a lot more of that colored discharge. Enough that I started to feel uneasy. Something wasn’t right.
And that’s when I realized I hadn’t felt the baby move all morning.
Given how active she’d always been, that realization terrified me. Trying to remain calm and rational, I decided to go ahead with my shower, thinking I would try to get her to move around while I got clean. After ten minutes of washing my hair and practically punching my own belly, she still wasn’t responding and I was sobbing.
I hurriedly dried off and threw some clothes on, then, choking back the tears, grabbed my phone and called my midwife. I explained the situation–the baby wasn’t moving and I had that weird discharge–and they told me to go to the hospital immediately. I started crying again. “I can’t! My husband is at work and I have a toddler! I’ll get there as soon as I can but I just don’t know how fast that will be!” They said do the best I could and someone would meet me there.
Next I called David. “You need to come home right now,” I told him. “Okay. I’m on my way,” he said, and we hung up. Then I called my friend Sarah. “I have to go to the hospital. Can you please come take Mila?” She told me she’d be there as soon as she could get her kids in the car. Finally I called my parents. No answer. I left the worst message ever–“I think there’s something wrong with the baby, we’re going to the hospital, I’ll keep you updated.” Just saying the words made me sick. I began pacing and poking at my belly, begging the baby to please just move, just a little bit.
It was about 9:30 AM. By now Mila’s show had ended, and she noticed that something wasn’t right. “Mama sad?” she asked. I tried to quell the rising hysteria and be calm for her. “Mama is scared, honey. But it will be okay.” “Mama scared?” she repeated, and I could see she was frightened. “Yes, baby. Mama is scared.” And then–thank God–I had a flash of inspiration. “Let’s say a prayer. Will you come say a prayer with me?” We sat together on the couch and said a simple prayer: “Heavenly Father, please let the baby be okay. Please let her move so we know she’s okay. Help Daddy to get here fast and safe. Let the baby be okay.” As soon as we finished, she was visibly calmer, I was able to stop crying, and there was a knock at the door.
I explained to Sarah what was happening and gave her my sister-in-law Emily’s number, since Emily had already planned to watch Mila that afternoon while I was at the hospital. (Thank goodness we’d already made arrangements for her and just had to alter them slightly. And thank goodness for friends who are willing to help at a moment’s notice.) David pulled up just then and heard me explaining the situation, and I could see the fear in his face. We gave Sarah the car seat, told Mila that she was going to go play with Ella and Kate for a while, grabbed my purse and sped to the hospital. So much for enjoying my last day alone with my girl.
While David drove, I kept shaking my belly and pleading for the baby to just move. I was bawling; David was trying to calm me down and drive as fast as he safely could. Luckily, we live close to the hospital, and were there within minutes. Even better, I felt a tiny flutter just as we got on the freeway. She was there! She was moving! There was still hope!
By 10 AM we were hurrying into the ER and were greeted with the standard “So you think you’re in labor!” questions. I quickly explained the situation, and the nurse’s demeanor changed immediately. “I’ll call OB and have them send someone down to get you. Go get your wristbands at that window there,” she instructed.
The lady checking us in directed her questions to David. “Is she feeling the urge to bear down?” she asked. “No,” I quickly told her, “if I’m in labor, I’m not very far along.” And then the baby moved again. And again. There are no words for how relieved I felt. It was going to be okay.
Finally we got to triage, where the nurse recognized my name. “Aren’t you scheduled to be induced today?” she asked. “Yep, that’s me!” I laughed. I was like a totally different person now that I knew the baby was at least alive. And when they hooked me up to various monitors and I heard that blessed little heartbeat, I could have died of happiness.
Then, to my surprise, the nurse asked about my contractions. All this time, as the monitors clearly indicated, I’d been having fairly regular contractions without even knowing it. They weren’t painful at all and I’d been too distracted to even notice them. I’d been having irregular contractions for weeks, so I’m not surprised that I could ignore them so easily. Once I did notice them, however, I realized that they were getting stronger. I was in triage for about an hour, answering questions and having a sweet student nurse try to put my IV in (I was positive for group B strep and needed antibiotics), during which time I went from not even knowing I was having contractions to having to stop and pay attention to them each time.
While I was dealing with nurses and IVs and monitors and such, David was making phone calls and sending texts to make sure everyone knew a) the baby was fine and b) we weren’t leaving the hospital because c) evidently I was in labor.
Around 11 AM we were moved into a private room where we could be alone and process everything together. The baby was alive! And her heartbeat was strong! And she was going to be born soon! Hooray! Remembering how long I’d pushed with Mila and how tired I’d been, I suggested we get some lunch because who knew when we’d get to eat again. David went and got us some sandwiches at the hospital cafeteria and I called my mom.
I’d felt terrible for leaving such a scary message, especially since when she heard it, she had immediately grabbed her bag and jumped in the car to drive the three hours to be with me. She was halfway here and quite relieved to hear that the baby and I were both doing fine. I munched on my sandwich and bounced on a birthing ball in between contractions. During contractions, I had to stand up and lean on a table or the bed and sway my hips back and forth, but I could still talk (most of the time) so I figured I still had a while. After the morning’s panic, I was feeling pretty good about life in general. And that sandwich was fantastic.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to finish it. The nurse came in and wanted to check my progress; I was only at a 7, but it was very difficult to lay down and hold still while she checked. I was back on my feet as soon as I could move again.
By that point the contractions were only a minute or two apart, and starting to feel almost violent. I leaned across the bed with David on the opposite side, holding his hands and pulling on them during contractions. At some point I started leaking amniotic fluid, which was gross but there wasn’t really anything to be done for it, so I kept leaning and swaying and rocking and pulling. It was the only thing that was remotely comfortable, but my legs were getting tired and I knew I couldn’t keep doing it forever.
I think that’s about when my midwife showed up and they started getting things ready for a baby to be born. Already? I thought. I mean, yes, I was clearly in the middle of some serious labor, but surely I wasn’t as far along as that?
When I was able to catch my breath for a second, I announced that I needed to rest my legs. The nurses helped me climb into the bed and kneel against the head, which they raised to upright. It was perfect. I was able to pull on the bed during contractions and rest against it between them, and was still in the position that felt most comfortable. Maybe because I was well rested, and maybe because it all went so fast, I was keenly aware of everything going on. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so present in my own body.
And then it got really hard. I went from feeling confident and capable to feeling exhausted and weak and very ready to be done. The pain through my lower belly and hip flexors was fierce, and it was increasingly difficult to relax through contractions, even though I knew when I fought them it hurt so much worse. Eventually my water broke in earnest, making a massive mess all over the bed, and still the contractions came, sharp and strong. Just when I whimpered to David, “It hurts!” I felt the baby’s head move down. There was a sudden intense pressure and I couldn’t help it; with the next contraction I pushed, almost involuntarily and as hard as I could.
It felt wonderful to be actively doing something! With each push, I could feel her move down as my body stretched to let her through. Then as the contraction eased up, she’d move up just a bit and there was less pressure. Then contract! Push! Progress! Relax. Rest. Breathe. I’m still in awe of how powerful and strong I felt as I pushed. I couldn’t help yelling each time; my voice was hoarse afterward. (At the time, I’d have described it as roaring, but that sounds weird even if it is more accurate.) Then in between pushes, I felt so peaceful and serene and almost sleepy, like I could rest there on the back of that hospital bed forever. But the resting never lasted long. Within minutes, I could tell she was nearly out. With Amelia, I didn’t recall feeling that “ring of fire” people talk about, but this time I sure did. I even thought, “Huh. So that’s what that feels like. Ring of fire is a pretty accurate description.” Like I said, I was strangely lucid the whole time.
After only six or seven pushes, her head finally emerged. I kept pushing with each contraction; it took a few more to get the rest of her to budge. She had such a big barrel chest and I think her shoulder was at a weird angle, but before too long, there she was, all purple and slimy and enormous and beautiful. The official time of birth was 1:19.
My midwife placed her next to me on the bed as the nurses carefully helped me roll onto my back so I could hold her. The cord was very short, so we had to be cautious about how we moved her until the placenta came out. She squawked and mewed but didn’t really cry until they started wiping both of us down. We were such a huge mess, the two of us, but I didn’t even care. My sweet girl was in my arms, healthy and happy and nursing away like we’d been doing it for ages.
They let us rest together for nearly an hour before bathing and weighing and measuring her. It was lovely. Showering felt pretty lovely too, though, and I was so grateful when we were both clean and snuggling again. Her Apgar score was 8/9, she weighed 9 pounds 12 ounces, and was 20 1/2 inches long. I asked David what we should call her. “I’m thinking Margot,” he said, and I agreed.
It still baffles me how quickly it all happened. I went from panicking and sobbing and firmly convinced they’d have to cut her lifeless body out of me, to calmly eating a sandwich and chatting on the phone like it was no big deal, to pushing out a healthy nearly ten pound baby in less than three hours. It was crazy. And amazing. And miraculous. And perfect. Just like her.