My magical number is 38. I officially gave birth to daughter number two exactly 38 weeks after she was conceived and the exact same gestational age as daughter number one. It is not lost on me how lucky this makes me in the realm of pregnant women. I had a phone call today from the research study I'm participating in checking up on me in the "final weeks" of my pregnancy. It totally hit me that if things had not gone how they did I theoretically could STILL be pregnant with almost an entire week looming ahead of me before my due date. UGH! But, I'm skipping ahead...
The final week of pregnancy was the worst in terms of up's and down's for me. You see, I am a control freak. Yes, me, the most impatient woman on the planet, is also a control freak. (You probably already know this, right?) Well, knowing that the first time around I had my baby at 38 weeks, I was pretty convinced I was going to have a repeat with this pregnancy if not by sheer will alone. I had a doctor appointment on Tuesday - my second check - and I was really anticipating him telling me that things had progressed way further and that delivery was impending. Like any minute. After all, I'd had that really big scare when I thought I was going to have her on MY birthday and all those contractions were sure to have done something, right? Well, I was about 1/2 a centimeter further dilated and about 5% more effaced. What? That's IT? Are ya kidding me? I had a panicked flash of the possibility of going past my anticipated 38 week mark and asked if I could schedule a date to be induced at 39 weeks. Luckily, because this wasn't my first baby, that was totally do-able. So, the ultimate drop-dead, I'll never have to wait a day longer, induction date was set - for Feb 9th. It wasn't ideal, but at least it was something I could control and count on... After the doctor I headed out for a girl's night with some old friends which was a blast but even after the internal check I had zero contractions going on and I kept obsessing about it. See, this is not how things were supposed to be going!
Wednesday was totally uneventful other than the discomfort and overall miserable existence that all women at 37 1/2 weeks of pregnancy feel. And if I'm being honest - judging from friends sharing this journey with me - I know it could have been much worse in comparison. But, I was uncomfortable and I didn't want to endure another day. Not one single day.
Thursday was the day I had pinned all my hopes on - the day of my prenatal massage with a doula who was advertised as being able to induce labor at will. I should have known it would be too good to be true but I was a fool and placed it as my Plan A - hanging all my hopes on getting a fabulous massage and then having a baby that night or the next day. I walked into the spa and my girl came out to greet me and - just my luck - she was 32 weeks pregnant herself and thus could not use the aromatherapy needed for what I wanted without putting both of us into labor. So, yes, I got a great massage - on my side instead of on my stomach with a special massage table which I had also anticipated - and was sent home with some aromatherapy and two pressure points identified so I could try to induce labor - do it yourself style. Really?! I know me and the hubby are big DIY'ers but this took the cake. I had this little vial of not-so-pleasant smelling oil that I carried to the movie with me since it worked out that big sister was hanging with her BFF so me and the hubby took full advantage of what could be our last night out for a while. I kept taking whiffs of the concoction and then did the accupressure - or what I hoped was the accupressure - when I got home. I went to bed with smelly oil rubbed on my big belly and the beginnings of bruises on my shins and my feet from my accupressure attempt. Knowing that plan A might just be a bust, I implemented Plan B early - herbs to induce contractions - and took my first dose before bed. Did I wake up in the night in full blow labor ready to head to the hospital? No. And let me tell you, I was so pissed when I woke up and actually had to go into work on Friday. See, this was not in the plan. Thursday night I was supposed to go into labor and there would never be any way I would be at work on Friday. Instead, I took three more doses of my herbs and worked all day on Friday with MAYBE a random contraction here or there but nothing significant to report. I was pissed. I hate it when I cannot control a situation - any situation, this one included! We went for Mexican food and I ate spicy - at this point I was desperate!
Saturday morning I woke up with still nothing happening. I got big sister off to tumbling and was hanging out on Facebook and trying not to scream in frustration about the fact that I was now officially 38 weeks pregnant with no delivery in sight. Plans A and B were a bust and I was trying to figure out a way to lift my girth into hubby's jacked up truck - that I haven't ridden in for many months because it was impossible to get into with my condition - so we could go four-wheeling hoping that would work as a pathetic Plan C. At about 10:30 AM, sitting at my kitchen table I had a contraction. Nothing major, just a contraction that felt like any other I'd been having for weeks. Nothing painful, no intake of breath, nothing. I was pissed, yet again. But then, about ten minutes later, I had another one. I told myself not to get my hopes up but I did anyway. I sat there, playing on Facebook when I should have been writing my novel, and waited for another one knowing full well that it might not come. But you know what? Another one came... and for the next hour I had contraction after contraction about every 10 minutes. I calmly told hubby about an hour into it that I thought I might be in labor - since of course I didn't want to jinx it by getting all excited about it. An hour later, they were more like seven minutes apart and I started to let myself get a little excited and thought "maybe I better figure out where big sister is going if this is really it" and called my brother to launch the plans in case it was really the big show. Of course my bags and big sister's bags were all packed - had been for days.
At 12:30, they got closer together - like four minutes now - and I told hubby it was time to go. He was a little disconcerted because apparently he thought there should have been more fanfare than me sitting on the couch making little notes on a post-it note pad every few minutes and knitting to keep my mind distracted from what was happening and hoping like hell it was the real deal. He started panicking and grabbing bags and freaking out and I calmly coordinated everything that needed to happen to get us all swiftly out the door and on the way to the hospital after dropping big sister off to spend the rest of the day and night with her cousins. I remember on the drive thinking "what if this isn't it?" and started thinking how horrid it would be if this was in fact a false alarm. Yes, I was having contractions every four minutes but I wasn't in any pain and shouldn't I be in pain at this point? I voiced my concern and how mad I would be if this wasn't it to hubby who of course said all the right things and calmed me - whether they were true or not, it still worked.
We arrived at the hospital and we must both have been thinking that there was a chance they would send us home because we both decided not to take anything in with us except my purse. Since I was pre-registered there wasn't much to do to check in and minutes later I was in a room getting hooked up to monitors as an observation patient. Now remember, I've been in labor now for two full hours and then some with the drive. So when the nurse finally checked me - after I politely let her know that I had already been dilated to a 4 1/2 on Tuesday - I was dismayed to hear that I had pretty much done nothing as far as dilating any further. Still a 4+ and about 80% effaced. My hopes of staying were dying a slow painful death but I tried to stay positive while fielding calls from my sister who was in charge of when and who to notify in the event we were staying. Who knows how long we'd been there when finally I asked whether we were staying. The nurse said it looked like we were but she had to verify it with the doctor.
At this point, it all seemed so surreal still. I'm not in any real pain - yes, a contraction is something you can feel and it is a bit uncomfortable but still nothing I would term as painful. I got my IV started - the nurse did a piss-poor job and I had blood all over the sheets and couldn't use my hand afterwards until I complained and got a half-assed re-do on the tape job. And my parents had arrived to wait things out with us after getting word that we were officially staying. I'm a private person and I had made it well known that no one would be allowed to witness the actual birth or anything remotely related to it (not to mention the still very strict visitor restrictions in place at the hospital) so my siblings and others in the family continued to go about their business of a typical Saturday (and watched Facebook for hubby's postings to keep them updated I'm sure!) But, Mom was bound and determined that she and my Dad would be there, so they were and had to leave the room about every 20 minutes when the nurses came in and had to do things.
Next up - the epidural... I'll be honest. I had been toying with the thoughts of seeing how long it would take before I had actual pain before asking for drugs. (I blame a blog I read where the woman decided to have a natural child birth the second time around and touted it as an awesome experience.) At this point, I was already dilated to a 5+ which is more than halfway there and still nothing actually painful. But then, I had a doosey of a contraction that went off the charts according to my Mom who could actually see the monitor. (Don't get me started on how annoying this control freak thought it was that she COULDN'T SEE THE MONITOR from my position on the bed!) That one I felt and it hurt. So, when the nurse came in with some kind of bag of fluid to hang on my IV pole I promptly asked how long before I could get my epidural. She informed me that all I needed was to have this entire bag of IV fluids in me before they could do it. At that moment, I had another painful contraction and I made her be very, very specific on how long that would take. To which she responded, "not long". I asked for further clarification - I need quality answers to appease my control freak nature after all. "Does that mean 10 minutes or 30 minutes?" She assured me it would only be about 10 minutes and left the room before I could mutter under my breath things I really hoped she couldn't hear because they were mean and implied I'd kick her ass if she was lying. (What was I thinking - I'm a super wuss and I needed my drugs!)
Ten minutes later, my favorite guy walked in with a cart full of horrors - or so hubby told me later - to give me my epidural. I vaguely remember him being good looking but that could have just been the endorphins kicking in that promised I wouldn't have to feel any more pain in a few minutes because of THAT GUY that just walked in the door. My parents shuffled out as he walked in and blissful numbness followed about a half hour later - about the time that hubby related to my parents the details of how long the needle was that I'd just had inserted into my spinal column. Probably could have lived the rest of my life not knowing those details but oh well.
After that, things calmed down and I just kind of laid there on the bed with heavy legs and numb toes. At one point I had a bit of clausterphobia because I couldn't feel or move my feet - another control freak issue I'm guessing - but Mom (who did I mention is a nurse who takes care of antepartum moms and babies at a different hospital?) assured me that was normal. She was a better nurse than my own labor and delivery nurse was. Luckily, that was quickly remedied with a shift change at 3:00 when I got an awesome nurse who catered to my need for specific answers and knowledge without having to be prompted and who I was very happy with. Good ridance to the piss-poor IV insterter with the vague answers!
I found out my doctor was not on call and thus one of his partners was going to be taking care of my delivery. On the one hand, I now had to immediately feel comfortable with a total stranger who would be seeing me in a light only my husband really ever did and be okay with it. But, I had heard nothing but great things about this doctor from several close friends who were patients and I wasn't disappointed. He breezed in, introduced himself and then checked me to see how things were progressing. Only about a 6 still but he assured me it would only be a couple of hours and inserted an internal heart monitor to monitor the baby which broke my water. Cool - at least I was past the potential of ruining furniture with that happening!
Next up - a catheter to drain my bladder since I now cannot walk to the restroom on my own legs. And, no biggie since I'm numb from the waist down. Except I wasn't completely numb it turns out when she started to prep and I could feel it and it was painful. I could tell it caught my nurse off guard when I said "OUCH" and she had to clarify that I could feel that. Um, yeah, I felt that! So, I got to see the semi-attractive anethesiologist for another dose of epidural with instructions from my nurse to keep pinching my lower belly and call her when I could no longer feel it. I should have seen this as the omen it was... I finally was numb enough for the catheter which went in without a hitch. Second time's the charm I guess.
This is the point in the process where there's really not much to do but wait. And it was about then that hubby and dad decided they were hungry and were just going to 'run to the cafeteria' - on the other side of the very large hospital - and grab a bite to eat. Never mind that I had been reduced to HFCS-flavored ice chips having failed to eat a proper meal myself before arriving at the hospital, I did not want him to miss the birth and control freak came blasting to the surface insisting he not go. Luckily, the doctor appeared and after a check assured him they had plenty of time. Things had started to go much slower and while he thought we'd "be there" by now, we weren't. So, the guys left and Mom and I hung out. Yes, they made it back in time which kind of pissed me off because then I couldn't be justified in not wanting him to leave and left me only feeling jealous that they'd actually gotten to eat a meal. The rest of the waiting game was spent entertaining family visitors who had come from a couple of hours drive away to visit me assuming I still had a couple of weeks left before delivery and had to go home. After they left, having dispensed gifts from that branch of the family tree, things got a little exciting.
All of a sudden, I could feel a contraction - and it hurt like hell. WTF? I have an epidural so I don't have to feel those, right?!? I panicked and remembered I had a little magic button that I could push to get extra dose of epidural which I promptly scrambled to find and push - with the hand that only halfway worked because of the half-assed tape job on my IV. Next contraction hit and I COULD STILL FEEL IT and IT STILL HURT! I pressed the call light for the nurse who came rushing in and checked me and said I was complete. Wait, what does that mean? Oh God, you're kidding, time to push? I'm so not ready for that!! And why can I feel my contractions now? I don't remember being able to feel it last time! My parents had been ushered out when the nurse arrived and it was just me and hubby and all sorts of bustling around. My nurse called the anesthesiologist to bring me another dose of extra kick for my epidural and then there was a moment of just me and hubby and the stuffed animal big sister sent in her stead and made me promise to have with me when her little sister was born because she couldn't be there and then I was crying because big sister wasn't there and I was scared and hadn't really prepared for this part. Hubby helped me pull myself together and then the bustling was underway again with the doctor arriving and the nurse preping the sterile table and lights coming out of the ceiling like something out of Star Trek while the comfortable bed I'd been lying in magically transformed into some contraption with stirrups that now looked more like a mideval torture device. And now I have to push because it hurts and I can't help it and can I push? I remember the doctor telling me to wait and me looking up like "are you kidding me?" and seeing him and the nurse scrambling to get him into scrubs with his hands up in the familiar pose from TV indicating he was sterile and ready to go so I cut him some slack but it REALLY HURT not to push! Then a new guy walked in and he was the new anesthesiologist and the nurse said I don't think we need you and I said, YES WE DO because I don't want to feel when she is born like I can feel this now! So, he stepped up to the bed on my left side and reached across my body to insert a large syringe of liquid into my epidural port at my right shoulder while hubby held my right hand and the doctor said "OK, on the next one push."
And the contraction hit and I pushed and I could feel everything and I screamed - at the top of my lungs. The only coherent words I remember were "I DON'T WANT TO FEEL THIS!!" and then just screaming and crying and then I needed a breath and I heard the doctor say "the head is out - one more good push" and I was still in the throws of the contraction - and the pain - and my lungs were full again and I was pushing and screaming and then it was over and the baby was out and the anesthesiologist pulled his arm away...
Yes, one contraction. Two pushes. And then a baby. And about 5 minutes later - just in time for the doctor to stitch me up - I was numb from the additional dose of epidural. And couldn't walk for several hours.
Little sister was born at 6:41pm on January 30th weighing 6 pounds 14 onces and measuring 21 inches long. She is amazing and tiny (or ginormous compared to my friend's baby who is still in the NICU) and beautiful. And I don't even blame her for all the pain because it slowly faded and I am recovering even better than I remember from the first time around. What an amazing thing - to bring another living creature into the world who now will grow and become an individual who will probably make me crazy as her mother and will amaze me every day like her big sister does.
We've been home for a week now and adjusting to sleepless nights and feeding every 3-4 hours and diapers and all the other things that come with a newborn. Big sister got to meet her about 15 hours after she was born at the hospital because she waited just long enough to be born for them to lift the visitor restrictions allowing siblings under 14 to visist just as we were transfered to a room from labor and delivery. I guess that alone made the wait worth it, in retrospect anyway. Little sister and I are both Aquarius and thus both stubborn... what a ride it will be!