I had a lot of anxiety surrounding the date of Caleb's birth. To be honest, I didn't worry much about the catastrophic push-baby-out-of-tiny-hole-in-body issue, but I really did worry (a lot) about the date of said pushing.
Baby's due date was January 7, 2014. The date was determined by ultrasounds at 5 and 9 weeks. My super smart OB picked the 7th after seeing both ultrasounds. My high-risk maternal fetal medicine doctor accidentally recorded January 4th as my due date, and at some point during the pregnancy, told me that the baby was measuring two weeks ahead of their recorded due date -- or 2.5 weeks ahead of my actual due date. To me, this meant the baby could easily arrive before Christmas!
As I often do, I assumed I had some control over the date of his arrival, and I determined for a number of reasons that somewhere between Dec 27-29, 2013 would be the perfect timeframe for Mr. Baby to make his grand entrance. I hoped, I prayed, I researched, I texted my sister, and I channeled every respectable Old Wife I could find and applied her natural labor induction method tales to my personal life. Boy did I!
With a lot less histrionics than I felt at the time, I can tell you now that my efforts failed and we entered the New Year 2014 with no baby. And in my family, entering the new year also meant running the Family Birthday Gauntlet. My nephew's birthday is January 3rd, mine is January 4th, and my father- AND sister-in-law share a birthday of January 5th. For some reason that can only be explained by true Mama-to-Be hormones, it was of D-I-R-E importance to me that my baby be born on his "own" birthday (nevermind the billions of other people we have yet to meet that are born on the same day...). I wanted him to have his own special day and not to have to share with anyone. My husband assured me that it would not be totally lame for the rest of his life if our son had to share his birthday with *gasp* his MOM, but I could not be convinced not to worry about this at the back of my mind, minimum. And of course text my sister about it hourly.
Miraculously, we made it to January 6th with no labor. So of course, I immediately transitioned from nail-biting anxiety that he might have share his birthday to nail-biting anxiety that he would never come naturally and I would to be induced by the wicked witch, Pitocin.
In the background you must understand that I have watched some, ahem, documentaries, and seen some real-life situations that have not necessarily painted pitocin in the most favorable of lights. I wanted to try for a med-free delivery, and I knew that pitocin causes more painful contractions, increasing the likelihood of needing pain meds. I knew that pain meds can slow down contractions, requiring the use of more pitocin. And I have all kinds of latent fears that pitocin will make bonding with my baby less organic. I had hopes of trying to let my body just do its thing and naturally bring the baby into this world without interventions. Once we passed the birthday gauntlet, I began to despair completely and think that, though it be January 6th with no baby in sight, soon it would be January 13th with no baby in sight and I'd be checking in at the hospital the night before my induction date.
Backing up to January 6th again....
In the middle of the night my phone started ringing. My already-lacking sleep was disturbed in the wee hours to respond to an emergency at work, and I was never able to get back to sleep afterward. I headed into the office well before 8am, feeling terrible and worrying about the fallout ahead of me from the midnight emergency, as well as the violent stomach plague that was spreading around my office. I did some early-morning damage control and bought some bleach to start scouring the office bathroom and kitchen to protect my 9-month pregnant self (and the others, yeah, I really care about them).
Feeling incredibly low, I headed to my weekly checkup at the OB around 11:30am. Remarkably, as I sat in the office for about 30 minutes waiting my turn, I witnessed a fellow patient in labor for the first time in all my millions of visits to the practice. It was intense and a little bit intimidating. The lady seemed to be in a lot of pain, followed by 5 or 6 minutes of completely normal existence. (On the way out she and I and her husband got stuck waiting for the ONE elevator that was going down -- all the others were out of order and would only go up! Torture.)
Once I finally got my turn to talk to the doctor, she asked me if I was experiencing this or that or the other from her list of signs of early labor, and I could confidently say no to every single thing. Ultimately she checked my cervix and found that it was 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced (how do I remember these numbers?? math was... impossible...), and Baby was at -2 station. She said, "Your water could break at any moment."
And with that declaration, and my already feeling awful and sleep-deprived, and my extreme panic about the violent stomach plague overtaking my office, I decided to throw in the towel and go straight home for the day, rather than saving that towel for my staff to clean up after my water hypothetically broke in the office rolly chair. I would just go home, get some rest to make up for the night before, and most likely head back to the office the next day.
* * *
Husband got home in the late afternoon, a couple of hours after me. He decided to help me take my mind off my anxieties, so we hung out together, got some dinner out, and did some mall-walking. The evening got extremely cold and windy, so we headed home and said hi to his sister and her husband (in whose basement we temporarily live), and wound up watching the first hour or so of a pretty weird movie wherein Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds switch bodies.
To make that film experience even more bizarre than it already was, I had started to feel contractions that were actually noticeable, painful, and seemed to be fairly frequent. After an hour or so, we headed down to our room to try and get some rest. It was between 10 and 11pm at this point. My husband was sick, so he took some nighttime cold meds and promptly dozed off. I was sure that my contractions would peter out shortly, being a first-time mom with no prior early labor signs, but I decided to start recording the contractions anyway while I got ready for bed. To my surprise, they were on average 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart.
Surprised, but playing it cool, I decided to climb into bed and try to go to sleep. A few minutes after snuggling in on my left side, a shockingly painful contraction paralyzed my body and forced me to cry out involuntarily. After a bit of trying to reposition myself, I realized that for the moment, laying down in bed was making the contractions more painful, so I got up and went to the living room and tried to relax between my exercise ball and yoga mat I'd placed on the floor with a bed pillow. Still, I was really waiting for the regular contractions to peter out and come-again-another-day.
A couple of hours passed (extremely fast!), and my contraction timer app was letting me know that my contractions weren't petering out, but were instead coming more quickly with an average of 3 minutes between contractions that were lasting at least a minute long. I tried to rouse my extremely drowsy husband and he helped me called my doctor to ask for some direction. After talking to me and the hubs for a few minutes, she told me I could go on in to the hospital to get checked. I want to say it was around 1 am this point, but I can't really remember.
We'd already packed ourselves a couple of hospital bags, but we threw in a few last-minutes items, gave the car several minutes to warm up (it was the coldest night of the year, breaking records below zero!), and got bundled up in our warmest gear. At this point the contractions were stopping me in mid-step, so I had to stop and stabilize myself against the wall, floor, or countertop just depending on where I was at the moment.
I want to be able to explain for people what the contractions felt like for inquiring minds that might want to know, but the words escape me. It didn't really feel like cramping or squeezing, and I wouldn't really describe it as pressure (this is what people used to say to describe "labor" to me). I guess the best thing I can say is that it was a tight, sharp, radiating pain through my body and my mind, starting in my abdomen and low back and expanding outward and down into my upper thighs. It was completely unlike the intriguing but non-painful Braxton Hicks I'd been experiencing for a couple of weeks. And this thing definitely had a life of its own, in that I couldn't really slow it down or speed it up -- my first glimpse of the reality that I was not at all in control of the process.
The car ride was definitely something I'd like to forget, as it seemed like the extreme temperatures rendered the shock absorbers non-existent and the pain I was in made every familiar bump and dip seem like an excruciating torment.
When we got to the hospital we pulled up right alongside another couple who were arriving with a woman in labor. She got to the nurses' station just ahead of us, and I overheard that she was a second-time mom and she declared that she wanted to start pushing while they were still checking her in -- hardcore! Once they attended to her -- with a very intentionally calm sense of urgency -- it was finally my turn to be checked and find out if we got to stay and be admitted, or if they were going to send us home.
Stay tuned for part 2! I have to go feed my crying baby now...
(here's Part 2)
(here's Part 3)