All week – longer – I was having “symptoms” of impending labor, but nothing would come of it. I knew from my doula that second babies were like that, so I just decided to be patient. This patience was made easier by the fact that I was terrified to give birth again from pretty much the moment of conception. When I got pregnant with Walter, I knew from the beginning he’d come early. I had a feeling my entire pregnancy, and I was right. With little Rex, I had no idea when he would come. For all I knew, he could be two weeks late instead of one week early. As it turns out, I cooked him exactly the same amount of time that I cooked Walter: one day shy of precisely nine months.
Once the weather reports started coming in that a snow/ice storm would arrive on Friday, David started predicting that that would be the day I would have baby boy #2. He knew he’d have to drive to the hospital in harrowing conditions, and he told everyone that the whole week. On Thursday I met my mother for lunch and to exchange Walter so he could have a night with his Nini. After that I met my friend Sophia for a walk to a coffee shop at the High Museum for a latte. I was hoping a walk would stimulate the baby to come, plus it was a very pretty, but cold, day.
Thursday night I had several contractions in the middle of the night, and I thought upon waking that I would have to tell Dave not even to bother going in to work that day. But, I didn’t have any more once I woke up, so I thought it was another no-go day. I lounged around with the kitty, staying warm, and spent some time with the jigsaw puzzle we got for Christmas. Dave luckily had a short day due to the storm, and he went to go pick up Walter from my mom’s. Walter had been sick all night and day, so shortly before they arrived home around 4:30pm, I was at the grocery store getting sick-kid supplies. The self-check-out attendant asked me if I was going to have a baby soon, and I said, “Any day! My due date is in five days!” I had no idea that in reality he would be out seven hours later.
I got home and fed Walter some chicken soup that David made. We sat and watched TV and tended to the sick boy, who after some soup, ginger ale, and Pediasure made a somewhat miraculous recovery. As I sat on the couch with him, I started having really random contractions around 5pm. Every time one came (and they weren’t bad or long) I would say, “Dave, there’s another,” and he would look at me with excitement. The way things had been starting and stopping for days just like this, I didn’t believe anything was really going to happen, especially since they were ranging from 6 to 45 minutes apart and lasting for about 30 seconds.
I decided to take a bath to see if that would ramp things up or slow things down. My doula said that and a big glass of water would be good to evaluate labor. I had a couple contractions when I first got in the tub, but then nothing for a while. I got out and told Dave I was going to go lie down for a minute to get some rest, around 8pm. Starting then, I had one contraction every ten minutes. Lying on my side, holding my belly, I decided to tell my baby, “You can come now; we can do this” which I repeated throughout each contraction like a meditation. I was tired of fearing birth and figured I just needed to get it over with. I was also pretty much sleeping in between each contraction. It was a nice 30 minutes.
At the end of the third contraction like this, I heard and felt a “POP” inside of my uterus. I thought to myself, “Hm, was that my water breaking?”. I hoped it was because otherwise that sound would be a bit terrifying. With Walter, my water hadn’t broken until the L&D nurse broke it for me while I was pushing, so I had no idea what it was like. I hurried out of the bed (well, as fast as I could at 9 months pregnant), wondering if water would stream out of me. I felt a little bit come out and went to check it out in the bathroom. Nothing too much happened, but peeing on myself is not one of my pregnancy symptoms, so I called my doula to ask her about it. I was sitting on the bed cross legged, and she said to lay down for ten minutes. If when I sit back up again it drips or flows out, that’s my water. After the call, I stood up to change underwear, and a lot came out. I texted her back and then called Dave into the room to tell him what had happened. He got super excited and finished packing his hospital bag. I hadn’t had another contraction since my water breaking, so I told him he didn’t need to call his mom to set the Walter plan in motion. I wanted labor to truly start because I felt it might slow down if we started any action plans too early. I didn’t want anyone watching me, waiting for another contraction that may or may not come. However, I did call my midwife group to tell them what had happened. They weren’t concerned about me coming in right away because my fluid was clear, but the weather was getting worse outside. I said I’d come in probably sooner rather than later, since the hospital was 30 minutes away. I didn’t feel too bad yet, but I was thinking the sooner we got the drive out of the way, the better.
My contractions took a break while I had made all my calls, but they started again soon after, and were much more intense than before my water had broken. I wasn’t timing them, but to me they seemed to come every couple of minutes and not last very long. Soon enough though, I had one or two with pressure, and I thought to myself, “Oh my! That happened fast!” So I called David back to the room and said, “You need to get Walter to bed now, and call your mom to get here.” His dad ended up coming with her, which at first I didn’t want, but it turned out to be a blessing that he was there to stay with Walter, because Mimi came with us to the hospital.
Getting Walter ready for bed during labor!
By the time we got Walter in bed (and I sang him two sunshine songs in between my contractions), I was really ready to go. Mimi asked if we wanted her to ride with us. At this point, I was a little worried about having the baby in the car, because I was definitely feeling pressure during some contractions, so I said yes. We all climbed in, walking through slippery ice in the carport, around 9:30pm. During the drive my contractions kept up. They were short and intense. Mimi would ask me how I was doing or hand me water when I asked for it, and David was busy driving through the slush and sleet. I kept telling him to drive slowly and carefully, because to me he seemed to drive fast and swerve around other slower cars. At one especially long light, both my husband and my MIL wanted to run the red light, but I kept telling them they didn’t need to. We got to the hospital around 10:10 and slowly walked in over the ice.
David helped me the entire way to L&D registration, which was good cause we stopped a couple times, and I leaned on him during contractions. I signed in and would lean my head on the desk during a contraction. They took me to triage, where, to be honest, the nurse was rather rough and completely unaware of me as an individual person. They did two tests to check to see if my water broke (because I guess the leaking for an hour and the first test weren’t enough), and she actually said to me, “We’ll check to see if your water did break otherwise we’ll send you home to labor some more.” This was spoken to a woman who had just driven 30 minutes in an ice storm and who was, as it turns out, an hour from delivery. I told her there was no way this wasn’t real labor, but I don’t think she heard me. She then strapped me in to monitor the baby’s heartbeat during contractions and had me lie down. When I asked her if I could sit up during the 20 minutes of monitoring, she said no, to which I should have fought harder because lying down during contractions without drugs is awful. I wonder if that might have been why I had back labor later. I would squeeze Dave’s hand super tight trying to get through the pain. This was the only time labor was really bad.
She checked my progress and told me I was 3-4 centimeters and 70% effaced, which surprised me. I thought I’d at least be around 6cm. I’m pretty sure that because she so roughly checked my dilation that I closed up a bit, which happened to me last time I was in labor (even though the nurse had been nice about it then). But we’ll never know because I never had the chance to get checked again before Rex came out.
We went in to the labor room and dealt with the lights. I was also hot at this point so I took off my sweater. I asked for a glass of ice water and was told the nurse would have to get approval from my midwife before I got anything. I said, “No, I need some water now,” and David got me some as soon as he could. We put the back of the bed up so I could try to lean against it during contractions, as my doula had suggested during our meeting the week before, but it wasn’t a position that really worked for me. My doula hadn’t been able to make it to the hospital due to the snow, so when Jan, my OB/GYN MIL, mentioned that she was going to go, I asked her if she would stay. At that point I honestly didn’t really trust the staff at North Fulton, because they seemed to be ignoring me and the true state I was in. I thought the baby was going to come fast, and I wanted someone there I trusted to catch the baby. I trusted my midwife, but she hadn’t shown up yet, and the nurse, Vick, didn’t seem in a hurry to grab her. In fact, she kept asking me intake questions during my contractions, and there was no way I could answer her. At this point I was deep in my contractions, and I heard Dave have to either answer for me or tell her that she would have to ask later. She even continued bustling about the room doing gosh-knows-what, and I wanted to yell at her to leave and give me some privacy. The only thing I can fathom for her attitude is that I wasn’t screaming and crying; in fact, I barely made any noise at all. One of the only things I said the whole time was “Ugh labor is hard work!”
This labor was very different from my first in that I wanted to be touched by Dave this time. Even just his hand on my shoulder was soothing. Last time I think I felt self-conscious when people touched me. This time I didn’t feel that way at all. I had some serious back pain during my last half hour of contractions before pushing, which Dave and Jan tried to help by massaging, but that made it hurt worse. If they touched my back around the pain, that did help, but I could barely get out any instructions to them. I had no idea how long or close together my contractions were and no one was telling me, even if they were timing them (I had been told in triage that they were three minutes apart lasting one minute, but Dave said he thought I was making them slow down because of how I was being treated in there).
The only position I really liked was facing Dave, holding my arms around his neck. I could dangle in between contractions and the gravity and support I felt from him got me through during. I stood up for a little while doing this, but soon that was too much height, so I squatted on the edge of the bed being basically held up by him. He and Jan would say things to me that really helped my mindset. Jan once said, “Don’t fight them, let the contractions do the work,” which I really think helped me move forward. Many times I considered an epidural. I even asked Jan if I should at one point, and her response was “You’re doing great” which annoyed me, but she probably recognized that it wasn’t going to be long until the baby got there.
I thought of a few things such as getting in to the shower (which seemed way too far away) or sitting on the toilet because I felt the urge to poo. But I knew from my previous labor that that feeling is usually because the baby is getting ready to join you on the outside. And honestly I didn’t want the intensity of sitting like that again. It was when I sat on the toilet with Walter that I felt fear and the labor kinda went out of control (i.e. the doctor started leading the show instead of me). So I just thought to myself, “I’m going to try to poo here, and if it comes out, if whatever comes out, so be it. I’m trying to get a baby out of me.”
It wasn’t really that long after I was squatting on the bed, holding on to my husband, going with the flow, that I started to bear down. My body totally took over and knew exactly what it was doing. I said, “I think I was pushing on that one” and Jan said, “I saw that”. The nurse came in around then, and Dave tried to tell her I was pushing, but she basically ignored him. Jan then reiterated the sentiment, and the nurse said, “OK, the midwife is coming down. I’ll let her know so that she can come check her.” I believe she left the room at this point, and during my next contraction I really beared down. It was probably one of two or three big pushes I made to get my little boy out.
Jan went to the door to tell the nurses to really get in there, and then came back to me to tell me not to push and to breathe through the next contraction. But I think my body listened to her, and I didn’t really have a big urge to push. I certainly, this time, felt the “ring of fire” that everyone describes as the baby sits in the birth canal. I think this brief calmness helped me to go slow and not to tear like I did last time.
After that I continued pushing regardless of who was in the room. I knew Jan would be able to catch him if no one else got there in time, but I did sense when a bunch of people rushed in all at once. I was still wearing the “underwear” they give you in triage, which is very stretchy mesh, and the nurses were having an interesting time trying to remove them to catch the baby. I pushed when my body told me to push, and his head came out. I had another brief break, then pushed again and heard the word “shoulders”, so I believe the midwife had to turn him a bit to ease him out, but out he came! I was still wrapped up in David’s arms, and he later told me that I was pushing my belly against him, and he could literally feel the baby move down inside me with contractions and pushing. Once the baby came out they had me sit back and hold him to me. His cord was short and everything was covered in various bodily fluids, but it was a miraculous feeling to hold another sweet, warm, slippery baby of mine to my stomach. It was less than three hours after my water had broken and about an hour after we arrived at the hospital.
This birth was healing in many ways. I’ve never felt closer to my husband. I felt like we went through that together and that I couldn’t have done it without him. He literally held me through one of the most profound experiences of my life. And even though my first birth went pretty much as I wanted, I had this lingering fear from the pushing stages. After Rex, I feel only exhilaration when I look back at his birth. Despite the hospital scenery and regulations, I gave birth the way I wanted to. I conquered my fears… even though labor was so short I don’t think I could have done it any other way (i.e. with medication).
Oh Rex, how your father, brother, and I love you. You are a light in our lives and oh so welcome already!