At 7:30am on September 29th I called the hospital as directed. Was there going to be room for me? I was in the headspace, the bags were packed, we were going to have this kid. But then, the charge nurse replied, “We are full. We will call you in about 90 minutes and give you an update on when to come in.” Wait. I was ready. Now what? Literally wait?
So my getting up at 5:30 am to take a shower, do a final check of the bags, have a cup of coffee and a healthy last breakfast were for nothing? I could have definitely used that extra two hours sleep! So I decided to take a nap. And when I didn’t hear back from the nurses after that 90 minutes, I called them back when we reached hour 3. Do I come in now? Well… no. There are still no beds. Don’t call us, we will call you.
So I got up and made myself busy. I cleaned the kitchen, then baked cookies, then sat around and waited some more. At that point of the evening, it was Friday night and the Cougs were playing a night game. At least for Ben he got to watch some of our alma mater’s game! And then at half time we got the call. “Can you come in now?” After waiting all day, it was 9:30pm when they finally found a bed for us. So we reluctantly loaded up the car, and headed to the hospital. My reluctance was now that I wanted a full night sleep to tackle what we would be dealing with. One last full night of “peaceful” sleep. Precious sleep.
On our way in, we stopped for coffee to ensure that Ben would be functioning through the night. And then we arrived. Contrary to every possible Hollywood style labor, we didn’t go rushing in to the hospital ready to push, we went in calmly as possible, ready for the unknown… other than we are having this baby. Ready to be induced.
Once we got me checked in, gowned up, examined, and consulted, we had a plan to induce. I was nowhere near far enough along to make this easy, and Tater Tot was perfectly content to keep baking. So we began to dose me with misoprostol to induce labor, knowing this would likely be a long night. Strapped with monitors, I was now in for the long haul. All night we kept watch, waiting for signs of change, and no change came. Another dose, and then another. Soon enough the sun was rising, and it was Saturday, with still no change. Ben went home for a quick shower and reset, and my best friend Beka brought the necessary provisions for a long day of sitting and doing no-laboring, just more waiting and walking the halls with me and my mobile monitors hoping for things to progress on their own. With magazines and munchies in hand we waited, walked, hung out with my labor nurse Nicole (who was instantly more friend than nurse) and laughed and laughed giving my fetal monitor bumps in the readings from my laughter, more than Tater Tot’s contractions. As the day progressed, we made it through another shift change, and my night nurse was back on for another night with me, trying to get him moving. At nearly 24 hours, 9:30pm rolled around. I was fast asleep, finally relaxed, feeling intent that nothing was going to happen… when it did.
My water broke. Out of a dead sleep, I was startled awake from the flooding that began happening with an “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!”, startling Ben as he watched football or some crappy TV movie, and my panic ensued. It just kept coming and my last vestiges of vanity disappeared. I hustled to the bathroom, leaving puddles in my wake. By the time I got back to the bed full panic overtook me. This was real. Things were happening. My body began to shake violently from nerves, alligator tears began to flow freely… as freely as the water that was STILL coming out of me. It was everything, and nothing, like I had been told.
For the next three hours the contractions came in full force. For the whole of my pregnancy I had been determined to not get an epidural. I was tough, I could take it. Until I couldn’t. About midnight I called my nurse needing the epidural. It was just too much. As someone who was did timbersports in college, wielded axes and saws, traveled, sustained back injury and come through it, I was crumpled over in tears and genuinely afraid of the pain. Sweet relief came through me with the epidural and I was able to nap on and off as the nurse dosed me with pitocin to keep everything moving along. At this stage I also was getting loaded up with bags of fluid. Not knowing that this would create bigger issues with me later on down the line post birth.
the rest of the night passed mostly without incident as contractions continued, my anxieties and pain eased and we rode it all out. As Sunday morning came around, the sun started to come up, and we made it to another shift change. Nicole, our day time nurse from the day before was back. Before she left the day before we both agreed that we would request each other when she came in the next day. We built a report, and I was comfortable with her, like she was a friend. By now we had spilled all of our lives dealings to each other, I wanted her in my corner. And I got her. Her fierce determination, caring, and spunk helped me through in ways I didn’t know I needed.
When she walked in, we were ready. At the start of her shift, I was fully dilated, ready to push. Nearly a day and a half after arriving at the hospital things were a go. At each stage it became all the more real. And equally surreal. I was having a baby. But he wasn’t ready to come out.
For 6 and half hours I pushed. But was I really pushing hard enough? He wasn’t progressing. He was turned funny. Kind of stuck. Physically turning him, Nicole tried to position him to make an easier entrance into the world. But he wasn’t dropping. She made the decision to reduce my epidural so I would feel things a little more. Apparently they dosed me up so hard on the meds that I wasn’t doing enough work to get the baby out. When it wore off, it was hell. Sheer hell. We reduced it too much. Delirium set in, my anxiety was back in full force, I was panicking, crying, absolutely melting down with fear – was he going to come out, what do we do?! It was approaching the point of no return, and through the labor I had also developed a fever, with everyone beginning to worry about the baby, too. It was over 14 hours since my water broke, it was time to make some decisions.
First of all, I needed more meds, so the anesthesiologist returned and we opted to vacuum assist the baby with his delivery. The whole other worry with vac assist is that if it didn’t work, I was told I would be rushed into emergency for a c-section. This did nothing to help calm me down. Nicole did everything she could to explain to me the process. It would happen fast. The doctor would come in to perform the vacuum, there would be a NICU nurse in the room since I was a high risk pregnancy with my gestational diabetes, Nicole would be there, two more nurses would be on hand to assist, and there were gowns ready for Ben to go with me to the surgery theater if we needed to make a hasty exit.
This was it.
In everyone came, not that I remember all of their faces. I was screaming, terrified, ready, and horrified that something could go wrong. As we began, I pushed, the doctor pulled, and in a horrifying sound and feeling, there was a pop! The vacuum had come off his head. I didn’t realize what a horror scene it was, but Ben saw it all. Blood was everywhere, spraying and covering the doctor’s face. They reattached it, and we kept going – there was no turning back and I was determined like I had never been before. It became the most primal moment of my existence as I screamed, pushed, dug in, and basically blacked out from everything around me. Everyone was blurry, everything was hazy.
And then, instantly, he was there. At 1:16pm on October 1st, our lives changed. Immediately they put him on my chest. I cried. Ben cried and kissed my forehead. I think. I know we both cried and stared at this strawberry blonde headed little creature with dark steel blue eyes and a little dimpled chin. Everything else melted away.
The doctor’s did their work on me, finalizing the necessary things, stitching me up in two places I tore, checking the baby while he was still on me and letting me savor what I could of those moments with my little family. An hour later, or so it seemed, the nurses and doctor returned to check on him, and on me again. He was fine. I was euphoric.
Our decision to keep our delivery room quiet and just between Ben and I was a deeply personal one, which I am beyond thankful I stuck to. As vanity melted away, I wanted to make sure that it was a moment for us, not for the world, or even our families. We are our own family and it was important for us to rely on one another, share in this moment, and be at peace with this life shift. No audience required. Thankfully our families understood, or at least said they did when the first grandbaby was on his way. And it would remain just us until we got home and everyone flocked to us a few days later. Our only visitor was Beka, my person, my other rock, my other life partner and best friend. A few hours later, as the day began to fade away, she peeked her head into the door, and burst into tears. As I had been with her when my god-daughter was born, she was there for me through it all. How lucky for us.
Later we were moved from labor and delivery to the mother-baby wing to rest, eat, and recuperate. We rested, watched TV, and I was tended to by more nurses through the night to ensure we were on the mend. With every visit, and nurse assist came another question of “What is his name?”. We still had no answer, tossing around the ideas of Harrison and Emmett with no hope for a conclusion. Until finally, over 24 hours later, Emmett was officially named. We tested both names, but the longer we held him, got to know him, look at him, Harrison faded away and Emmett became Emmett.
After 4 and a half days in the hospital we were finally allowed to go home. It was a struggle to prove that the complications from my extended delivery wouldn’t impede our chances to go home. By then, the four walls of our room had started to close in and I was determined to be in my space, with my little family. My one challenge, peeing. I passed muster to get out of there, go home and start our new lives as a family of four (Yes, Huck the dog counts.). And we did. When we arrived back at home in the dark of the night, it was foreign, odd, and somehow the same as it had always been. We were home.
Our story does not end there though. It is where we make a transition to another story – mine. Through this whole process I have come to realize that there are two sides to every birth story – the baby’s and the mother’s. Because of my extended delivery, physical complications arose that have challenged me every step of the way in my recovery. Because of those, it ended up requiring more doctor’s visits for myself than we had for Emmett, adding to the other rollercoaster of emotional and mental hurdles that come standard with this instantaneous life shift into motherhood. That is a story for another day. But it is a story that needs to be told.
We are 3 and a half weeks in to a radical shift in our lives, and while sleep deprived and humbled by this new path, I have loved this creature, this boy, my son, along the way. And the love I have for my husband has grown immeasurably with his steadfastness, reassurance, and love in a way I had never known possible.
How lucky am I?