(special thanks to Eamon for staying asleep long enough for Kate to write this.)
It started with the contractions…that happened about two weeks beforehand…and then stopped. Faithful readers of this blog know that my control issues meant that we had scheduled an induction for Monday, December 29, though no one (not even the doctors) thought that we would make it that long.
Sunday, December 28, I was still pregnant, and so we prepared that evening for “the event.” Nesta, our dog, went to my parents’ house since we had no idea how long the induction would take (I had heard horror stories of 30 hour labors), and our hospital bags were all packed and ready.
Monday morning dawned. I had managed to sleep (knowing that it might be the last time for awhile), though Aaron tossed and turned. I woke up at 5:00AM on the dot, even though my alarm wasn’t set to go off for another 45 minutes, and went ahead and got up because I knew there was no way I would be able to go back to sleep. I puttered around the house, doing last minute cleaning things, and then woke Aaron up at 6:00 so that we could be at the hospital (which is about a 7 miles and 20 minutes away—thank you traffic) by 7:00AM.
The ride was uneventful, completely unlike the movies since I wasn’t actually, you know, in labor. Aaron dropped me off at the front so that I could check in while he parked the car. They took me to a back room to fill out my information, while Aaron went straight up to the labor and delivery unit. Afterwards, I waited for him in the lobby, and there were several confused minutes where Aaron and our labor and delivery nurse were perplexed as to how the husband had managed to show up for the induction but the wife was MIA.
After they went on a retrieval mission to the lobby and took me upstairs, we settled into our room. Our nurse, Felicia, was awesome—very bright eyed and bushy-tailed for 7:00 AM. The labor and delivery room was huge, and we had it all to ourselves (though once we had the baby, I saw why it needed to be so big, since there were a lot of people who suddenly turned up).
Felicia hooked me up to all the machines—the monitors, the IV, etc.. She heartily recommended an epidural, and I went ahead and signed the papers, though I said that I was going to try to do without one. She just smiled.
Before starting the Pitocin, she checked my cervix one more time. I was still about 90% effaced and 2-3 cm dilated—exactly where I had been for the last 2 weeks. She started the pitocin at about 7:30.
My parents arrived at about 8:00, there to provide moral and mental support, which was very nice of them. As it turned out, we ended up needing their help, so it worked out well.
By 9:00, I was having some pretty heavy contractions that were about 3-4 minutes apart. Dr. Lockhart, our OBGYN, came and checked me. I was still only 2-3 cm dilated, but he assured me that I would have the baby by dinner and then he broke my water. I breathed a sigh of relief, because I knew that once my water broke, the hospital had a rule that I would give birth within 24 hours, whether naturally or by c-section, due to risk of infection. We would have a baby soon, whether the induction worked or not.
Breaking my water increased the contractions exponentially. They started coming every 2 minutes, then every minute and a half, and they were lasting about 45 seconds—which meant that I only had about 45 seconds between contractions to catch my breath. The contractions themselves were incredibly intense and painful, and when Felicia checked and said that I was still only about 3 cm dilated, I broke down.
“I’m ready for an epidural now,” I hissed between contractions.
My mother said, “Oh, Kate, are you sure? You still have a long way to go.”
“That’s nice,” I said, my teeth gritted. “Get the anesthesiologist. He can come back and do it again later if he needs to.”
There were 2 other women ahead of my in line to get epidurals (they figured it out earlier than I did), but he showed up about 20 minutes later. Probably the most painful part of my pregnancy was being shifted from my back to a sitting position—during a contraction. Aaron held my shoulders down and I tried very hard not to move while the anesthesiologist used all his various needles, since I knew that if he missed bad things could happen. I stayed still, and he didn’t miss, and within minutes everything was better again.
I could still feel the contractions after that, but instead of them feeling like someone was wringing out my stomach like a sponge, I just felt like my upper abdomen was making a fist (I couldn’t feel anything in my lower abdomen). I was now able to talk (sort of) and text through the contractions, which were now coming about every 3-4 minutes (the epidural slowed them down, and thank God for that).
Aaron went for lunch about 11:15, when I was still about 3 cm, but by the time he came back around noon, I was already 5 cm.
This entire time, our little baby had been driving Felicia crazy because, as usual, the baby hated the heartbeat monitor and kept moving away from it. Now, however, not only was the baby moving around, but also the heartbeat kept dropping after the contractions. It’s supposed to drop during the contractions, but rise right back up—it was taking a little too long to get back up to normal. The doctor had gone back to his practice to see some patients (it was only about 5 minutes down the road), and Felicia was a little perplexed as to whether it was serious enough to call him back.
About 12:45, my mother suggested that Felicia check my cervix again, though it had only been about an hour since she had checked it, and even though she didn’t expect to find a change, Felicia did it just to have something to do. To her surprise—I was fully dilated! It happened that quickly.
“Um, are you ready to start pushing?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Sure.” Epidurals are nice.
“Okay, well, wait and let me call the doctor. If you feel like you really have to push, call me and we’ll start, but try to hold off if you can.”
“All right,” I said, and texted all my friends to let them know I was about to start pushing. I finally shut my phone off after that and told everyone else in the room that they were to do the same.
The doctor came about 15 minutes later and we started pushing. It was, um, interesting. Like I said, I couldn’t feel anything from my lower abdomen down, so I had no idea whether I was pushing enough. Felicia was a great coach, counting and talking me through the pushes. Meanwhile, Aaron and my mother had to hold up my legs during each push because I couldn’t feel them at all. My dad kind of stood to one side (behind me, away from the grossness, and I don’t blame him a bit), and took pictures (without the flash, thankfully, so as not to disturb anybody).
I pushed about 3 times. The baby’s heartbeat still wasn’t bouncing back as well as it should after pushing.
“Hmm,” said Dr. Lockhart. He’s terribly grandfatherly, and was very calm the entire time. “I think we will get the baby out very soon.” He said I was doing a great job, but would I mind if we used a little bit of suction to get the baby out faster?
“Um, that’s fine,” I said. He was, after all, the doctor, though I think he would have done it no matter my response.
He got out the vacuum, and I pushed about 3 more times and pop! out came the baby. The pushing had been intense, and even though I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down, I was a little out of breath from pushing as hard as I could anyway. Felicia said I did a great job, better than most women, even the ones who haven’t had an epidural and can feel what they’re doing; I don’t know whether that was true, but it made me feel good at the time.
“It’s a boy!” declared Dr. Lockhart. “And he’s big!”
They immediately put the baby on my chest and the first thing I thought was—good gracious, he had blue eyes! I had no preconceptions about almost anything else, except that I really thought he would have my brown eyes. My next thought was, “Oh my God, why isn’t he crying?” The baby just looked around in shock, and then Dr. Lockhart cleaned out his little mouth and oh my goodness, the crying began.
At this point, the nurses came and took the baby away to clean him off. The neonatologist examined him, too—apparently Dr. Lockhart had called in the neonatologist at some point (I was busy pushing and didn’t notice). My mom later told me that they don’t usually do that, and that Dr. Lockhart must have been kind of worried to do so, even though he never showed it.
Dr. Lockhart then gave me the other news. “You’ve torn,” he said, in his grandfatherly way, rather like discussing the rain that might ruin a picnic. “Quite a bit actually. I have to stitch you up now.”
But his manner suggested that it was nothing to worry about, and anyway, I couldn’t feel anything thanks to the wonderful epidural. It wasn’t until he was stitching longer than it took me to push out the baby that I began to be concerned.
“Oh, it will hurt,” he said. “For awhile. I’m very sorry. It’s a third degree tear. It was his shoulders that did it. They are very big.”
Third degree? I assumed this was like murder, and third degree was as bad as it could get (I later learned that it is bad, but there is a fourth degree tear, and that is horrible).
Anyway, after they cleaned him off and I was done being stitched up, they brought Eamon back to me for a little while so that I could hold him. He was very awake and alert. He was immediately soothed by the sound of my voice and knew Aaron’s voice right away, too (Aaron would read to us almost every night, usually a John Hodgman selection, and it really paid off because Eamon couldn’t stop turning towards his daddy’s voice).
Then they took Eamon away to the nursery, and Aaron went with. My parents went home as well, and I was by myself when Felicia finally came to tell me that Eamon had been 8 pounds, 14.9 oz—he missed being 9 pounds by only 1.1 ounces. He was 21 inches long and doing great in the nursery. I later learned from Aaron that his Apgar scores were an 8 and a 9 (out of 10), which is very good.
We had to stay in the hospital for two more nights. Aaron stayed with me the first, and my mom the second. Eamon came to visit often, whenever he was hungry, and a very nice night nurse named Denise showed us how to breastfeed (neither of us had a clue what we were doing at first). We brought him home on Wednesday at about noon, and did the best that we could (there were a lot of “ums” and confused looks at each other) until my mom showed up about two hours later, and Aaron’s parents about three hours later, and explained to us how to actually take care of a baby.
But that’s another story.