This baby certainly kept me guessing!
I spent most of this pregnancy feeling very blessed and excited about having another baby. I had a sense of peace and contentment that I hadn’t had with my other pregnancies. I’m not sure what it says about me that it took my FOURTH child to feel this way. Hah! They say motherhood is a built-in instinct, and I think that’s true, but it doesn’t mean it comes easily. Apparently, it took me three children before I started to feel like a “pro.” (and now that the fourth one is here, I feel like I have no idea what I am doing all over again!)
We decided to NOT find out the baby’s sex, which wasn’t that hard once we got past the 20 week ultrasound. It actually ended up being a lot of fun not knowing, and, if God gives us more children in the future, we will not find out again.
So yeah, all was sunshine and butterflies for the first two trimesters.
Then the third trimester hit and knocked me on my “ars.”
My back started to give me a lot of trouble and made it hard to do simple things like sweeping the floor or doing the dishes. The show must go on, of course, and I would make myself clean every other day or so. By the time I was done, I could barely walk and there were usually tears involved. At night I had sciatica on one side so bad that walking to the bathroom became a challenge. In the morning it would take me about 15 minutes before I could limp along enough to get breakfast ready. Trying to take care of the kids was difficult and I felt bad that I couldn’t be “mom” like usual.
Around 38 weeks my hips started to hurt at night. At first it would only be one side at a time and I could just roll over. By 39 weeks it was both sides. Ahhhhh!!!! I knew it was just the relaxin (sp?) hormone loosening up my hips for birth, and I wanted to be nice and loose… but good grief! I was totally ready to cry “Uncle!” and wave the white flag.
I know most women, when left alone, do not go into labor before 40 weeks. It’s normal and healthy. The 40 week due date is a farce and should just be ignored. For most of the pregnancy I was very good about disregarding my due date of April 14. I figured it would happen sometime after 40 weeks, but before 41- and I was totally fine with this… until I hit 38 weeks. With all the pain I was in, I started to get impatient. I started to imagine that maybe…just maybe… this time I would go into labor early. Hey! It could happen, right?
Really big mistake. Once you allow yourself to think that way, it’s all over. The days drag on and on and you make yourself batty. By 39 weeks, I was ready to be DONE. By 40 weeks, I was going crazy and all peace was gone.
I woke up around midnight on my due date and was having contractions. They weren’t the Braxton hicks contractions I had been having… they were lower down and had a downward pressure to them. I timed them at about 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each, and painless. Given Mariana’s rapid birth, we had agreed that we would go to the hospital as soon as I started having contractions. We didn’t want to have the baby on the side of the highway….
We called my mom and she came over to take care of the kids, and off we went. I stopped to pee at a gas station and snapped a picture of myself grinning happily in the mirror. Silly me. I was very excited! That should have been enough to clue me in that it wasn’t time….
To make the story of a very long night short, we stayed the night on the monitors and left in the morning because nothing was happening. The contractions never turned into anything significant, and both of us felt strongly that we needed to leave before interventions started to be suggested.
That was Sunday. For the next few days, I had periods of contractions just like the one before. A few times I thought *maybe* it was time… but each time things stopped. We had made up our mind that we were no longer concerned about having the baby on the highway- getting to the hospital too early was more of a concern. I REALLY hate those dumb monitors….
By Thursday I was a mess. A crying, sobbing mess. Josh ended up taking a half day off because he was concerned about me. I took a walk that evening and felt a little better.
Movin’ On Down
On Friday, we took a family trip to Chuck E. Cheese (Josh took off the whole day) because the kids had been cooped up in the house all week with their crazy mother. While we were there, the fire alarm went off and it took them a long time to fix it. The horrible noise was so loud and the flashing lights made me feel anxious, so we eventually went and stood outside. When we went back in, I distinctly felt the baby move down a little and I could feel her head hitting my pubic bone. I was so excited!!!!! I had hope that maybe that night would be the night.
Letting it go…
I woke up Saturday feeling disappointed and depressed. No labor. No baby. Just more stupid contractions.
Josh thought I should go out and do something to take my mind off being pregnant. I happily agreed. First, I got my hair cut (basically just a trim with a few longer layers added in), then I went and walked around Belk for a while. After that I went to return some shoes to Kmart. The young cashier asked me when I was due, and when I told her “Six days ago,” she got this funny look on her face and said, “Well, I’ll hurry up then!” It made me laugh because she obviously thought the baby was going to fall out on the floor right there.
At noon I went to get a pedicure. The only time I ever do this is when I am pregnant, and I had already gone once, so going a second time was a treat! I had picked out a pretty pink color and was feeling relaxed sitting in the chair. About halfway through- when they were just about done trimming and buffing my nails- I had this sudden, totally out-of-nowhere urgent need to go to the bathroom. Like, RIGHT NOW. I was so embarrassed! She was trying to dry my feet off and I was trying to get out of the chair. It was like the waddle of shame to the bathroom. I barely made it to the toilet before my insides pretty much just exploded. As horrified as I was (it was going to be completely obvious what occurred…the place isn’t very big), I was excited. Diarrhea is sign of impending labor!
I finished my business and then quickly told the lady (wish I knew her name) that my stomach was upset and I had to go. She just smiled and said she understood (and didn’t charge me). I got in the van, drove about a mile down the road, and made an emergency stop at DQ to continue my “business.” Then I high-tailed it for home.
For the rest of the evening I felt crampy. I had a lot of pressure in my pelvic area too, all of which made me happy. I was sure I was going to go into labor that night.
When we went to bed, Josh put on a sermon from audiosancto.com about suffering. To my horror,the first 3 or 4 minutes were a detailed explanation of how the priest’s father was a farmer and used to have to perform c-sections on ewe’s who in distress. My heart sunk and I felt like this was sign that I needed to accept that I would have a c-section. Yes… I was that hormonal and temperamental. Or maybe just mental….
I woke up at 1am with no significant contractions. I couldn’t sleep because my hips were killing me, so I got up. I tried to pray a bit- might have prayed a rosary- but it didn’t make me go to sleep. I decided to write a blog entry and just get all my thoughts out. Needless to say, it wasn’t a happy one! I had decided that a c-section was inevitable. I cried for a while, trying to accept reality. I finally went back to bed around 430am.
We had decided to go to Mass in Birmingham because the Mass near us was unavailable. I was feeling very “birthy,” but just ignored it. I was so tired of thinking such-and-such a feeling was labor and didn’t want to deal with it anymore. I was having real contractions (as I had been for a week) and felt lots of pressure, but nothing that seemed to intensify. I still had no mucus plug or bloody show, so I figured everything going on was just more of the same.
I was very uncomfortable during Mass. I couldn’t sit back and the pews were too close together to sit forward. The baby was so low that I had to spread my legs, so I used Mariana’s blanket to cover me. My left leg felt like it was swelling and… well… I was miserable. About halfway through Mass I noticed the contractions felt a little more intense. I dismissed it.
There was a reception afterwards for the kids who had made their First Communions and we had planned on staying to visit with some friends of ours that we don’t get to see very often. I somehow had lost track of Josh and my two oldest kids and was walking around looking for them when I suddenly had the thought, “We need to go.” I didn’t want to say anything to anyone, however, because I didn’t want to end up wrong again.
After I found my family, I sat down and tried to hold a conversation, but couldn’t concentrate. The contractions weren’t terribly close- maybe 15 minutes apart- but they were starting to feel regular and more intense. My friend is a natural birth nut like myself and I suspected that she knew something was up. I found out later that she went to my husband and said, “What are going to do with her? I think she’s in labor.”
I could talk through the contractions, but they were distracting so I couldn’t really hold a meaningful conversation. I felt spacey and indecisive. Josh kept suggesting that we leave and it was irritating me. I didn’t know if I wanted to leave and go all the way back home, or if I wanted to hang out a bit to see if things were going to progress.
Finally, I decided that I wanted to go home. Or, rather, to my parent’s house, since that had been the plan. We were supposed to go over there for an early dinner and then go to benediction at the Shrine. I figured that the contractions would stop or peter out if I was there and it wasn’t the real thing.
I didn’t want Josh to tell anyone about how I was feeling, but I failed to mention that to him. The first thing he did when we walked in was tell my mom. She was excited and started asking me how I was feeling and what the contraction were like. Then she had my sister time them. After about an hour I was getting irritated again. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. In fact, I didn’t want to talk.
The contractions were getting to the point that I *could* talk during them, but really, really didn’t want to. I mean, if it was absolutely necessary, I could answer short questions, but I couldn’t talk talk. You know what I mean. I decided it was time to go to the hospital. At the time, I was thinking that I just wanted to get away from my kids because they were driving me crazy.
Sam was very sad that we were leaving and saying good-bye to him and his big, teary eyes about killed me. I cried in the car about it. Then I cried about the possibility that I could end up being wrong and it might not be labor and I was going to feel dumb. Then I cried thinking about the NST and CST that I had scheduled for the following two days and how we’d have to schedule the c-section. Sounds like a lot of crying, but really it all happened in about 10 minutes. Hormones!!!
On the way to the hospital, the contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart. At one point, I had one 8 minutes apart and I started to panic and think that they were going to die out. But they didn’t. They were requiring concentration to get through, although they weren’t hurting too badly. At some point I started to sing (to myself, very quietly) the Rob Thomas song, “Little Wonders,” which was one of the songs I had my mp3 list for Sam’s birth. I only knew a few lines, so I just sang those.
We parked outside the hospital and called them. We wanted to see if they thought we should come in or just walk around a bit, given that the contractions were still 5 minutes apart. I made Josh call outside so I couldn’t hear him because I didn’t want to hear what they said. He came back in and told me that my doctor was on call and she was going to call us back. I immediately felt a flood of relief that my OB was there… and then I had a big contraction… followed 3 minutes later by another one… and another one three minutes after that.
Dr. Straughn called and said to come on in J. So we parked in the women’s parking deck and went upstairs. It was around 5:30pm.
We were greeted by a very happy nurse (so different from our experience a week prior!) and shown into a nice birthing room. The nurse assigned to us- Nancy- was a natural birth nurse and she was fantastic. I was so, so happy! She hooked me up to the monitors, which I knew I had to do for at least 20 minutes per hospital protocol. She placed them higher up than the last time I had them, and they were much more comfortable. Then she went to check my cervix.
I was so afraid I was going to be closed still.
But I wasn’t! She said I was a stretchy 5cm and 70% effaced! I cried happily and thanked her for the good news! I couldn’t believe it! I WAS in labor and I was half way there.
Josh told my mom and she said she was going to come and bring the kids. I thought that might not be a good idea since things could still take a while- after all, my contractions were still manageable. However, I didn’t say anything. I just concentrated on breathing through the contractions. As they became more intense, I tried to picture Christ during His passion and offer up the pain (which was moderate at this point).
After about 45 or so minutes on the monitors, things were starting to hurt a bit and I was ready to be allowed off. Nancy checked me again and I was 6cm with a bulging bag of water. I was excited, but a little scared… after 6 comes 7… transition. This was at 7:12 (I looked at the clock). She unhooked me and I tried walking around the room to find a comfortable place to labor, but nothing really worked. It wasn’t long- maybe a few minutes- before the contractions were starting to really hurt and I was vocalizing through them. I remember kneeling on the floor and leaning over the end of the bed, starting to shake. I told Josh I was close to transition… I could feel it. It was so weird to be so mentally clear this time, knowing everything that was happening.
I climbed up onto the bed and grabbed into the back of it, which was raised up in a sitting position. I knelt there and hung on through the contractions. Within a few minutes, I was yelling. No doubt about it, I was in transition and it was horrible. I was screaming and crying. During the short pauses I would beg God to help me. At one point I remembered my prayer intentions and was able to quickly say the names of the people I was praying for.
Transition only lasted 5-10 minutes. I stayed in the same position was my body started to push. For some reason, I thought I should try to wait, so I tried “blowing the candle out.” Nancy checked me and I heard her say I was complete. This was like the green flag for me and I let loose. I pushed with everything in me. I felt my water explode everywhere and I remember saying, “Uh oh!” I don’t know why… I think maybe because I knew the baby was coming next. Josh thought it was funny.
All I can say is that the baby crowned right after that and it hurt like nothing I have ever felt. Worse than Mariana. I screamed and screamed and yelled for God. The poor nursing student in the room, who had never seen a natural birth before, was probably traumatized. I mean, they call it the ring of fire, but I don’t think that is good enough. It was like the ring of the ninth circle of Hell. It was… hell. It hurt so bad that I couldn’t tell what was going on. I didn’t know if she was close to coming out or what. At one point I did feel her head go back a up a bit and I remember thinking, “Oh heck, no!” and pushing like a crazy woman to bring her back down.
I remember feeling the nurse stick her fingers or something in me, but it didn’t bother me. Her head came out, but I didn’t know it right away. In fact, I don’t think I realized it until her body came out. Josh said her head came out slowly- first the forehead, then the eyes, then the rest. I do remember hearing a suction sound and being confused by that.
(the reason it hurt so bad was that she came out in anterior position instead of turning or spinning like she was supposed to… the nurse turned her to help her out, which is what I felt) (the suction sound was the nurse sucking out the baby’s mouth while they waited for me to push her body out)
And then I just knelt there for a few minutes, relieved that it was over. Or at least the hardest part was over. Relieved that… he? Or she? At first I heard someone refer to it as “he,” but then-
“It’s a girl!”
… relieved that SHE was out. From the start of transition to having her out was about 20 minutes- and that was pretty much the only time I felt real pain. Not too shabby! (although the pain I did feel was horrific and I’d rather forget about it)
I had a sort of… I don’t know what you’d call it… vindication maybe… because her head was 14”- the same size as Sam’s head. You know, the head that was just too big for me to birth? The head that “couldn’t” fit through my pelvis and therefore resulted in a c-section. Yeah. Her head fit just fine- and I didn’t tear AT ALL. So there. I knew I could have birthed Sam and that his head was not the problem. Hah! Double Hah!!
I finally turned around and sat on one butt cheek because it was way too uncomfortable to sit down on my full tush. I had thrown off my nightgown (MY nightgown- I didn’t wear a hospital gown) right after she came out so I was all ready for skin-to-skin time. She was so beautiful and awake and the towels were nice and warm. Neither one of us was ready to nurse yet, so I just held her. Josh snapped a picture and I love it, even if I look like I just gave birth (!). After about 5 minutes I was ready to be done with the placenta, so they cut the cord and took Gemma to the side for weighing. I pushed out the placenta. My OB- who missed the birth- was there to catch it… haha. Then she checked for tears, declared me to be tear-free, and rushed off to another birth.
I got an ice pack, so I was able to sit. They gave Gemma back to me and I nursed her. My mom and the kids came in and I was so happy they were there. It made it even more special. The kids were so excited! They could only stay for a few minutes and it was hard to say good-bye to them because they were sad to leave. We bribed them with the surprise back packs I had made for them at home, and that helped.
Those awesome hormones (and the pain meds that I HAPPILY accept after birth) kicked in and I felt like I was on cloud nine. The pregnancy was OVER. The birth was OVER. And I had a beautiful new daughter in my arms, all cuddled up against my chest. All night long I kept waking up and thanking God over and over again for blessing me with so much.
We went home Tuesday afternoon. The rest of the week was very difficult because of breastfeeding problems and hormones. It turns out that baby number four is just as hard to get used to as babies 1, 2, and 3 for that first week or so. As I write this now, we are two weeks post partum. We are still having some up’s and down’s (uterine infection AGAIN… blah), but overall, I’d say it’s going okay. I know it’s going to stay crazy-ish for another couple weeks, but then it will all settle down. We will find a new normal and move on as a family of 6…until it’s time to become a family of 7 J