I promise not to make this account a graphic one to protect the sensibilities of the handful of readers who might object to too much information. Perhaps another time I’ll record some of the grittier information with ample warning. I don’t know why, but we women just seem to love those details. Also, I know this post is long, and don’t blame you if you skim through it. I’ll try to highlight the most amusing sections so the racing eye doesn’t miss the best parts!
The last conversation Bill and I had on Sunday night had him remarking that this pregnancy seemed to be ending worse than any of the others. While I did agree that I was very uncomfortable, I didn’t think that it was any worse than any of the other times. I just think we forget those things. At least I try to forget them. That night, I told myself and Bill that it was almost over – a week more or less. I just didn’t realize how much less.
As per usual, I woke up around 230 am needing to go to the bathroom. I happened to have a pretty strong Braxton-Hicks contraction at that time. There was nothing particularly unusual about this, but the contraction did seem stronger than most. An hour later, the scenario was repeated, and I paused to consider my “birth plan” wherein my water breaks in the early morning hours while using the toilet. Alas, this was not to be the case.
My morning progressed much like most mornings, even though it was a federal holiday and both Bill’s school and the public schools were closed. Bill left, hoping to get an upcoming assignment finished, and I did an abbreviated school day with my crew, knowing that the neighborhood would be jumping by lunchtime and getting anything done after noon was a lost cause.
Bill actually came home in short order; his classroom was locked. It was just as well. I continued having pretty strong, but irregular in frequency and duration, contractions throughout the whole morning and into the afternoon. For me, this was classic pre/early labor. With my first labor, I suffered like this for two full days before I had my son. With the others, it was shorter, but not “short” – a night and a day, perhaps. So, I knew the baby was coming, I just couldn’t be sure exactly when. I thought I was in for a long night and guessed the baby would come the next day in the early morning hours.
I tasked Bill with monitoring the kids, and I did my best to rest. I napped. I took a bath. Thank goodness I had put ribs in the crockpot first thing in the morning, and I had dough for rolls waiting in the fridge. I really took it easy.
Fritz had an orthodontist appointment that afternoon at 4 pm. Bill was loitering in the front, watching Pete on his tricycle and waiting for Fritz to get ready. Our next door neighbors were out, and Bill told them I was in early labor. I came out, and there was some discussion about which neighbors were likely to be available to watch the kids and when. I was still thinking that everything was going to be happening later – in the middle of the night or the next day.
When Bill and Fritz came home, we had dinner, but I was really getting uncomfortable. We tried to time the contractions, but they were sometimes 8 minutes apart, sometimes 5. Sometimes they lasted for a minute and a half, but sometimes only for 40 seconds. And although my back was beginning to get a little achy, it wasn’t my usual back labor, so I felt that it was still very early in labor. I left dinner before anyone else was done to take a bath, but I asked Bill to see about setting up the labor pool the midwife had brought over the week before. I knew that being able to fully immerse my body in hot water would really help. He asked me where I preferred the pool, and I said in our bedroom, if the hoses would reach. They had to go from the hookup at the washing machine in the basement up to the second floor.
He got to work running two hoses up the staircases and setting up the inflatable pool. By this point it was around 630 pm, I was out of my bathtub, and we decided to get the kids washed up and in PJs despite the early hour. I really, really thought that perhaps I would just labor in the pool for a while and do my best to relax. I would be fine, even if I were alone, until the kids’ 8 pm bedtime. Around 7 pm, we said bedtime prayers, and I suggested the kids watch a movie to keep them occupied until bedtime. This was a popular idea. Bill called the midwife and asked her to come over – maybe in about an hour. She said she’d be there in a half hour. I suggested to Bill that we ask our neighbor’s daughter (almost 12 years old) to sit with the kids until the movie was over.
But FIRST, I wanted that pool filled. He went to the basement to turn the water on, and I went to the bedroom to hold the handle on the nozzle. The water started pouring in, and after a minute was nice and hot. But the pressure at the nozzle was too great for the old hose and suddenly a hole burst about 18 inches from the end. Water went everywhere in the bedroom in the few seconds it took me to crimp the hose and gain control of the spray. Bill, unaware of situation, was coming up the stairs. I called to him and he entered the disaster scene briefly before learning that I needed the water turned off. When he returned, he stood there in eye-blinking shock while I laughed so hard I could barely stand up. It was another minute before he understood that the hose had a hole. He actually assumed his blond-at-birth wife had lost control of the hose and allowed the water to spray at will. Nice, huh?
He got towels, and we began mopping up the floors, the antique desk, the laptop, the schoolbooks and the walls while water dripped on us from the ceiling. The various artwork in the area was left to dry on its own, and miraculously, The Whiskey Rebellion, which is nicely framed but, being a canvas print, is not behind glass, seemed to have been spared a drenching. Patton seems to be none the worse for his bath.
Just then the phone rang, and it was our neighbors across the way offering to take our kids in. God is so good, and our neighbors are such a blessing. Bill went to escort the children across the road, with movie in hand, and along the way let the midwife into the house. Momentarily distracted by The Great Flood, my contractions weren’t too bad, but now that the crisis had passed, I was really starting to feel them again and this time they were definitely in my back. My midwife had brought over a TENS unit, and when she came up to my room, I was in the middle of trying to figure out how to attach it. She helped me with that, and then we decided to see how far I had to go: I was 7 cm. The baby was still a little high, but I couldn’t believe I was that far along and only beginning to have significant back pain.
And then…things stalled. An hour later, I was in the pool, relaxed most of the time, and having only moderately strong contractions. The midwife checked, and I was still at 7 cm. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed nonetheless. The midwife suggested breaking my water, and although I am normally reluctant to do that, it was approaching 9 pm and I didn’t want to be doing this all night. It took about 10 or 15 minutes for the contractions to begin to pick up. It was back labor, but between the hot water and pressure applied by Bill and the midwife, it wasn’t too bad, and I was able to relax between contractions.
I was almost, but not quite fully dilated, and I seemed to stall again. I ended up getting out of the pool and trying a few different positions for what seemed like forever before I got to the pushing stage. And that stage, too, seemed to take a long time – it was certainly longer and more painful than with any of my other children. The midwife said she was a little sideways, and when I found out her weight – 8 pounds 12 ounces – I realized that her size probably contributed to my difficulty as well.
But all is well that ends well. Like my two other daughters born with no drugs to numb the pain, I was not at all interested in holding the child responsible for such agony. But everybody always insists that you do it, and it’s good, because my pain begins to recede immediately as my motherly love kicks in.
She was born a little after 10 pm, so those last phases really didn’t take as much time as they seemed to while I lived through them. Bill retrieved the sleeping children from another neighbor’s house (they were moved next door at bedtime), and the midwife cleaned up and did paperwork.
It was after midnight before she was ready to leave. Her final instructions to Bill included how to administer drugs in the unlikely event I were bleeding to death and what paperwork he would need to bring with him to the emergency room just in case. My poor husband! Exhausted, but terrified of the possibility of waking up to a dead wife (and having to care for 6 kids all by himself!), he vowed to not sleep at all that night. I’m quite certain he was kicking himself for not having installed that baby car seat yet in the van, and what if she needed emergency treatment? Fortunately, I felt well, and suggested that he set his watch alarm to go off every hour, and he could make sure I was still alive. Of course, we all made it through just fine.
And that is Mary’s birth story. I hope to do a post on home birth, and also on things I did differently this pregnancy, and if I think they helped at all. But those will wait for another time. This post took three or four days to write – life with a newborn. We’re getting through these dizzy days one at a time.