warning next- it is long....
On the Sunday night (Jan 30th,) before Meryl was born, I was awake with what I thought was insomnia, wasting time on the internet and timing contractions that I thought might amount to something more in the next day or two. They were not strong and though some were close together, others were as far apart as 15 minutes. I was thinking of it as "practice," because I had not been doing my bradley as much as I had with DD2.
Finally, around 3am, I was feeling bored, but still not tired and I decided to ask DH to come out to the living room with me- DD1 was sick and vomiting and he had been up with her just a few minutes before anyway. I was secretly planning to somehow charm him into cutting my hair- I had been waiting for a few weeks and wanted it to be done before the birth. He got out of bed a little reluctantly, asking if this was real labor, and I was embarrassed to tell him that no, I didn't think so, that really I just wanted his company and asked if we could "practice" together.
After sitting and talking and then timing a few contractions, we were a little confused because though they were not strong or consistent, they had been going on for so long. I decided to call my mom to get her opinion. She and I chatted through one or two contractions, with no sense of urgency, and she had the same impression that we did- that maybe I would have the baby on the next day, but she suggested that we get ready to go so that I didn't relive the experience of my own birth, when she had waited too long to leave, and I was nearly born in the car. We laughed at the story and at the end of the conversation, I had a contraction that I needed to concentrate through, I handed the phone to DH and with the first impression that this was "the real thing," he said good bye to her and we decided to get ready to go to the hospital.
We had originally planned on calling our landlord and lady to stay with the girls if we needed to go to the hospital during the night, but she was out of town for the week and we didn't know how well he would handle the girls alone, so we had asked another friend if she would be able to help out. We called her, but she had also been up all night with a vomiting son and asked if we could, after all, call our landlord. DH called him, but he didn't answer the phone and after trying a few more times, I said "hm..I am getting the idea that we need to get going, you go ring the bell and I'll put a few last things in the bag and let DD1 know that we are getting ready to leave."
I realize now, that I was in transition at that point. As I got things together, my legs were shaking like jelly and my teeth were clacking together. I thought that I was cold because we had a few windows open to air out the smell from steaming carpets earlier in the day (DD1 had complained that the smell was what was making her sick)....I put on warmer clothes and some socks. Where was my mind??
DH went downstairs to ring the bell and I went into DD1, who was awake in bed looking awfully pale and pitiful- I felt terrible about leaving her. While we were talking, I had a contraction so strong that I had to lean first against the wall and then on her bed. She was looking a little worried so I tried to be scientific and straightforward and said "Oh! this is a contraction, like we have talked about...I have to go into the bathroom now." I made my way to the bathroom, where, without thinking, I took off my pants and underwear and sat on the toilet. When the contraction was over, I looked at my pants on the floor and thought "Oh my! I am going to have the baby!" and "Oh my! My landlord is coming and I have no pants on!" and "Oh my! We have to get to the hospital!"
But, as I bent over to pick them up, another contraction came and I felt her head moving right down through me. It was amazing- I could feel it well enough to know just where her head was, but it didn't hurt at all. I realized that I was about to catch her by myself, so I grabbed a towel to put on the floor and yelled to DD1 that she needed to run for DH. Poor DD1 said "I can't, my legs are too tired." and I yelled, "You really-really have to, b/c I am having the baby! Right now! In the bathroom!" I knew that would impress her because we had read a birth story together about a mother giving birth in her bathroom and she had talked about it for days after. So, as she told my mom later, she ran on her fastest legs "into the cold night" yelling "Papapaaaa! Mama is having the baby!!!!" She loves her hero part of the story, and she really was.
DH had the phone in his hand, ready to call for the ambulance when he came into the bathroom and I told him to put the phone down. He said something like "just wait one second" (when he had gone downstairs, things were still feeling fairly relaxed.) And I said "What! I need your two hands under me now!- She is coming right now!" So he ran and handed the phone to our landlord who was just knocking on the door, ran back in and put more towels on the floor, and then.. her head came out. I don't think that I even pushed (though DH says that i did a little,) I was feeling amazed that it was happening so easily b/c I had pushed so hard with DD2, but i was also a little worried that it was so easy b/c she was going to be small (she was 7.5lbs, but oh, what a gorgeous head she has for birthing!). At first I was confused and even had to ask DH to look and make sure that her head was out. He reassured me that it was, looked for the cord, said that everything was OK and that I should push the body out. But still, after another contraction, i had no urge to push. So, on the following contraction, he coached me to breath and then "puussh!" her body out. That was the only push that I remember, and it was more intense than delivering the head.
She was born around 4:14am- maybe 20 min. after I had my first "real" contraction.
All that time, DD1 was watching from the hallway in front of the bathroom, and while I was pushing she said "Mama! I am going to throw up!" I couldn't do a thing from where I was. She vomited right where she stood, and then, she looked up and started to call for DD2 "Wake up! Wake up! Meryl is here! Come quick!" It was so sad and so sweet.
We wrapped a few towels around Meryl, she was a little ashy around the nose and mouth and there had been meconium in the water- she was breathing, but not looking very ready to be in the world. She let out a little cry as we suctioned her nose and mouth, but then we didn't know what to do- we thought that she was OK, but felt a little worried about her color and b/c she wouldn't nurse.
In the mean time, DD1 was flitting around in a feverish and nervous twitter, talking fast to the landlord. DD2 was wide eyed, excited, and ready to start her new duties as "big sister", she was all around me and really wanted to hold the baby and touch the cord. DH was cleaning the hallway mess and making a lot of phone calls, (we even called my mom back and left her in total shock.) Our landlord was sitting in the dining room, looking into the bathroom, smiling from ear to ear with happiness. We have given him the title "honorary grandfather," he really looked as proud as if it were his own.
I was feeling a burst of happiness and confusion as I stood/squatted in the bathroom. I could not sit down because it felt really strange and gross and i could not lay down b/c i didn't have enough room or a place that was clean or soft enough. I was holding the baby and had the cord and some afterbirth mucus stuff hanging down, no pants on or towel around me, and I was trying to assure myself that it was OK to be so natural with my 60some yr old landlord grinning at me. I was also trying to be cheerful and strong for the girls- I had often wished that i could have a home birth with the whole family there (i didn't feel comfortable b/c my first was a c/s and we lived a little too far from a hospital,) but this scenario was different than my imagination. We were not prepared and I was unsure about her coloring. I really-really wanted her to be OK, and I felt like she was too, but I needed reassurance and direction about what to do next.
The ambulance got to our house really fast, but that is as much as I can say for their competency (though they were really nice)- they came in with a flurry and were very relieved to see that they didn't have to help with the actual birth. At first they couldn't find a clamp for the cord, but after what seemed like a lot of confusion, they cut the cord and weighed her and....still let me stand there, over my towels, waiting for the placenta. Now, I wonder why someone didn't make a bed for me, I think that being in a more comfortable position would have given me rest and time enough to better assess how Meryl was doing, and maybe she would have even nursed or I would have delivered the placenta on my own.
Instead, DH was trying to settle the girls in with our landlord and searching for clothes for the baby and me- he and one medic were yelling questions out to me from the bedroom, but not hearing my answers that everything was in the hospital bag. DH never did find a nightgown for me to wear and the workers never did bring the glass of water that i asked several times for. Eventually, they said that we needed to get ready to go to the hospital- I thought that we were going because I hadn't delivered the placenta, but really we were going because they thought that Meryl's breathing was off- she was still a little dusky around the mouth.
While DH finished getting the girls settled, they asked if I could walk down the stairs. At first I said yes, but with the cord hanging down (still nothing around me,) and my legs feeling shaky, I said that I would need help. At the time, I was ashamed that I had to say no, but when I think of it now, I can't believe how unprofessional and in a haze they seemed to be. They also asked me to climb up onto the stretcher in the ambulance alone (it was lifted off of the floor pretty high,) and later, they called us at the hospital to find out the phone number of our landlord b/c they had forgotten their medical bag at our house!?
In the ambulance, DH had to sit in the front and I was laying in the back, holding Meryl while they tickled her feet and blew oxygen from a little tube around her nose. In between trying to push when I felt a contraction, I was making jokes and feeling upbeat and excited about my new baby. I was hoping that I could deliver the placenta on the way and that we would be able to go right home from the hospital, I was still clueless that they were worried about the baby (even with the tickling and oxygen.) But suddenly we stopped and they said that the baby ambulance had met us half way, and that they needed to take her (I now know that we had been waiting for the baby ambulance at our house, but they decided that it was taking too long.) I started to argue with them and tell them that she hadn't even nursed yet.....DH convinced them to let him come back to talk to me/translate for me, and I still argued, but they took her in the other ambulance.
They said that we would be together again as soon as we were at the hospital, but of course, at the hospital they said that she had to go for a check up while I delivered the placenta. And after I had delivered the placenta, they said that I had to wait a half hour- they found some pants for me and ordered a wheel chair. When I got downstairs, they said that I couldn't hold her or try to nurse because "she had just fallen asleep." I tried to be reasonable and give a firm "Thanks for your help, but I think I'll hold her anyway" but when they insisted, I turned into a bit of a gorilla. Of course I "lost" the argument and had to wait for another half hour or so. It was an impossibly long long wait, sitting right by our new girl who was looking perfectly healthy and beautiful, but not being able to hold her.
And then......one problem seemed to find another and this drama played itself out over the week that we had to stay. Eventually, i figured out the system and they gave me nurses who were more laid back, I got Meryl moved to a place by a window, and learned to put my energy into just "being with" her in the strongest ways that i could without always having her next to my skin. But it was always a little bit of a struggle- in the first hour they said that she had had trouble breathing and needed a rest, then they said that she had low sugar, which apparently, every doctor and nurse has an individual idea about how to treat and own criteria for identifying "stable", and then they were worried that she was getting jaundiced (she was a little yellow, but fine.)
During that week, DH's sister, who had offered to come with their dad to watch the girls, decided that she was having such a nice time skiing that his dad (who never watched his own kids when they were small, or cooked, or rinsed a simple glass in the sink....) should be able to handle sick DD1 and lonely DD2 and then, a few days later, sick DD2 and lonely DD1, all by himself. So, everyday, DH had to run between the hospital, home (where he was still cooking and cleaning everything,) and unbelievably enough, one day, work.
Physically, i was doing great- no tear, no pain, and not even bad after pains, but I was exhausted from the constant translation, and reasoning, and from sitting all day in Meryl's little corner and then running down to nurse her all through the night. Twice, I had the nightmare that they had called to tell me that she was awake and that I had fallen back asleep- both times I jumped up and ran down (the ICU was in another wing of the hospital,) to find her asleep and the nurses confused to see me.
After a few days and a few failed theories about why she might have a problem regulating her sugar, we figured out that she probably didn't even have a problem, and the doctors had to admit that maybe we were right. After they are born, they test all babies sugar one time- when they tested Meryl, her sugar was low, but she also had times when it was high- if they had tested her an hour earlier or later or if she had nursed first......we don't know....I also have the idea that maybe my other two also had "low sugar"- they both nursed a lot, maybe they were just self regulating. And, amazingly enough, on the last day, when Meryl was finally "allowed" to nurse and sleep on her own schedule...her numbers held fine.
But, I tried to use my sitting-waiting time to clear my mind and it worked, I came out of the hospital feeling really good- in love with my three beautiful girls and DH and ready to start the new living. Which is where we are now....Meryl is an amazing baby- she rarely cries, she sleeps well, she lets her sisters over-love her, and she is darned cute too. On the ride home from the hospital, she looked so cozy between her two sisters in the backseat, each holding one of her tiny hands while she slept- and that is how it has been since- she is a perfect fit.