Born December 8, 2010 at 4:57am
7 lbs, 5 oz…and perfect.
#2 is #2 no more. Now he’s baby N—a living, breathing, tiny little person who takes up his own space in the world. We are both healthy and settled back at home, adjusting to our new life together as a family of four (plus dog.)
So how did it all happen? Despite my fears he’d make an early debut and catch me unprepared, I made it to my scheduled 40-week OB visit with #2 safely inside. The appointment revealed I was 3-4cm dilated and partially effaced, and #2’s estimated weight was a very respectable—and push-out-able—7 pounds, 9 oz. So much for the 10 lb jumbo baby they’d predicted. I wondered if it was bad luck to indulge in a milkshake on the way home from the OB’s office.
An ultrasound showed us #2 was in a great position, low in my pelvis with his head down. I’d been losing pieces of my mucous plug (ick) all week and was starting to feel contractions. J, my OB and I decided to schedule an induction if things hadn’t progressed any farther by Tuesday. Having a guaranteed end-date made me feel less restless; J was thrilled to be able to schedule conference calls around our hospital admission time. The plan was in place.
With my mom in town and briefed on E’s daily routine, including a practice run to and from preschool, it was just a matter of staying sane and waiting. My contractions became more consistent, and by Tuesday morning I wasn’t sure which would come first, our late-night scheduled induction or #2 himself.
I finally put my to-do list to bed, with a mere 7 items left on it—impressive, all things considered. Compared to my last child-free hours before E was born, the day before #2 was pretty uneventful. I took E to school, got a manicure/pedicure with Mom, baked the now-traditional granola with E in the afternoon, and double-checked the infant car seat. My one wish came true—I was able to put E to bed myself Tuesday night, and explain that J and I were going to the hospital to get her baby brother and that Grandma would be there when she woke up. She took it pretty well (better than I did, actually, since I was fighting back tears of nostalgia as I rocked her to sleep for the last time as an only child.)
The house was dark and quiet when we left for the hospital. By the time we checked in at labor and delivery and then waited in the lobby for an hour to be called in, my contractions were just under ten minutes apart and getting stronger. Looks like we were all on the same page: Tonight was the night, with or without medical intervention.
Because I knew what to expect, the admission process didn’t seem as scary as it had with E: threadbare hospital gown, a million intake questions, an IV. They hooked me up to fetal monitors so they could keep an eye on #2; my racing heart was calmed, a little, by listening to the rhythmic thump of his heartbeat.
I labored on my own without Pitocin for a while. “How did the delivery go with your first?” the nurse asked, presumably to get an idea of how this one might play out. “I dilated really fast,” I warned her. “From 4 to 9 in less than an hour.” So fast, in fact, that J had been downstairs eating in the cafeteria and my OB was nowhere to be found when I hit 10 and needed to be raced down the hall at warp speed into the delivery room (both managed to make it in time, but barely.)
“Mm-hmmm,” the nurse said, clicking away at the computer.
At 4cm and about to get the Pitocin to move things along, I decided to get an epidural. As I described in an earlier post, I wrestled with the possibility of trying a different approach to the birthing process than I had with E, but by the time D-Day came I’d made my decision. What I wanted more than anything was to be as calm and peaceful as possible when I brought my son into the world. I owed it to him, and to J and E, to be the best mom and wife I could be in the coming weeks—a potentially traumatic delivery, physically or emotionally, just didn’t feel like the right choice. As one sage mommy blogger put it, going through unmedicated active labor meant you’d experienced natural labor whether you eventually opted for an epidural or not.
Go to hospital. Have healthy baby. Come home. My original birth plan. They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I knew myself, and I knew what worked. For me, that meant anesthesia—the sooner, the better.
From my experience with E, I knew getting an epidural at a busy hospital is not like ordering pizza from Dominos, 30 minutes or it’s free. It took two and a half excruciating, blindingly painful hours with nonstop contractions for anesthesia to reach me last time. There was NO WAY I was going through that again. When I hit a level of pain I felt was about as much as I wanted to feel, I asked for it—even though I felt a little bit like a prima donna, even though I felt I was stronger than the “princess protocol” I was asking for.
The epidural was a new experience for me; I was in too much agony with E to remember a thing about actually getting it. To keep myself from freaking out about the needle in my spine, and leaping off the bed in fear, I took deep breaths and pictured E dancing her chicken dance on the living room rug. Luckily, the anesthesiologist was used to skittish women and explained exactly what he was doing every step of the way (this will feel cold, this will pinch, this is going to hurt, this is sticky) which helped a lot. And once it was in, I finally felt ready to push out that baby. Perhaps it was just a placebo effect, but knowing my pain was under control made me—for the first time in months—relax.
Epidural in place, contractions 2-3 minutes apart. The OB resident came in to break my water. She performed her exam, and looked confused. “Did your water break before you came in to the hospital?” she asked. Not that I knew of, I replied.
“Well, I can’t find your bag of waters…it’s already gone.” She explored further, and proclaimed a slow leak, like a pinprick in a balloon, had released most of my amniotic fluid without my even realizing it. #2 was farther on his way into the world than any of us had realized.
After that—and now it’s 3am—we were left alone, in a freezing cold room, for over an hour. Because #2’s heart rate kept falling, I had to lie uncomfortably on my right side. J, who had requested a blanket and pillow hours ago to take a quick nap before things got rolling, was curled up in a chair, dozing and shivering. I began to wonder if they’d forgotten about us. Were the three of us going to rot in this room forever, be forced to deliver our own baby like on one of those Discovery channel specials?
Then I felt something. Despite the epidural, I began to feel incredible pressure way down low. I’m not a doctor or a midwife, and I’d only done this once before, but I was pretty sure I knew what that was. #2’s head. Trying to escape. And fast.
I searched frantically for the call button and after what seemed like ages, the nurse reappeared. I told her about the pressure. She looked skeptical. “Do you feel like you need to push?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied, frustrated at not being taken seriously. Not to mention being freezing cold and annoyed we’d been abandoned during our hour of need.
“Don’t,” she said.
Another race down an endless hallway to the delivery room at 10cm dilated, plus some frantic calls to my OB, who was no doubt anticipating a few more hours of sleep before his services were needed. Despite the early hour, he showed up in good spirits, chatting about an episode of “Modern Family” and the latest NFL win between shouts of Push! His small talk and jokes put me at ease; everything was normal. Everything was going to be fine.
And miraculously, it was fine. Better than fine, in fact—the whole thing was over (and I sincerely apologize here to all the women who have much more grueling, and therefore interesting, birth stories than mine) in less than 20 minutes. Everyone who claimed second babies popped right out turned out to be right, in #2’s case—five pushes and he was out, white and slimy and wailing at the top of his newly formed lungs. He was not, as I’d hoped, born with a vanilla cupcake in his hand—but his sweet face, tiny fingers, and overall adorable-ness more than made up for it.
The things about my hospital stay I remembered from E’s birth two and half years ago were mostly positive: the delicious fruit juice blend they served whenever you asked for it, warm chocolate chip cookies and milk every day at 3pm, the pure bliss of a shower (even a weak, institutional shower) after several ick-filled labor/delivery hours. I’d conveniently forgotten about some of the less pleasant things—the pain and soreness, the rigors of breastfeeding, insanely swollen ankles I’d been so proud to keep slender during the pregnancy itself, and uncontrollable post-delivery itching (epidural still a million percent worth it, though.)
My super-fast delivery was a blessing, but that didn’t mean I got to escape the post-partum roller coaster that carries you from baby-incubator to a woman recovering from the staggering emotional and physical ordeal of bringing a child into the world. I guess that’s why everyone says you “forget” childbirth—the milk-and-cookie association goes a lot farther toward wanting to have more children!
But all in all, the anticipation of N’s birth was way worse than the actual event. It was way scarier waiting for it to happen. Once I was in the moment, it all got easier (or at least, it’s far too late to get out of it, so I figured I should grit my teeth and make the best of it…)And then at the end, there was this baby—this cute, cuddly, helpless baby I actually got to take home with me! The world’s greatest party favor.
Baby N. Nine months of forgetting about him, ignoring him because I was too busy chasing his big sister, failing to connect the idea of him with the growing bulge in my belly—and here he was. Alive, healthy, real. Mine.
J and I, E and N, and not-often-mentioned but still beloved Tucker the dog. This birth story is about Baby N and his entry into the world—but it’s also another kind of birth story. The birth of a new kind of mom, and a new kind of dad. The birth of a big sister. The birth of a baby brother. We are forever changed by N’s arrival. We’ve experienced another miracle. We’ve been given another child to raise and protect and love like crazy. And through the haze of nonstop feedings, extreme sleep deprivation, and negotiating the very rough waters of a two-year-old whose world just got turned upside down, one thing is clear. We’re a family. And we are blessed.
Welcome to the world, baby boy—there’s so much I want to show you…
Visit Jenny’s personal blog at www.karmacontinued.com