My due date was November 29. On November 30, I went in for my 40-week OB appointment, where I was 2cm and, uh, had my membranes scraped. Possibly this is too much information, so sorry about that. At any rate, I felt pretty weird on Thursday morning (Dec. 1) and thought it was conceivable that my water had broken. You might be wondering how I could be unsure, particularly as television always shows the water breaking as a huge unmistakable gush, but it doesn’t have to be. Just trust me, it’s possible not to realize it.
At any rate, I had a non-stress test scheduled for that day, so I figured I’d just have them check it when I got there. I was kind of hopeful that they’d say, “My goodness, you are 8 cm! You have to stay!” but I didn’t expect it, particularly given the amount of no-pain I was in. (Well, other than the sciatica, round ligament pain, and various other pregnancy ailments. No contractions, though.) So it was no surprise when they told me my water had not broken and I could go home. But I had a nice quiet nap while I was non-stressfully tested, so that was something at least.
Then on Friday, Dec. 2, I still felt really weird. Just… weird. No contractions, no concrete signs of labor, but if I were a cat I would have been fluffing up my birthing nest, or whatever it is cats do when they’re about to give birth. I don’t really know, so I probably should have picked a different analogy. After school I took the kids to buy Christmas outfits/kill the afternoon, and then we went home and had some sort of leftovers or something for dinner. And then I started to feel twinges. Contractions? Maybe? Sort of on the regular? We put the kids to bed, and I informed Andrew that I was having twinges about five minutes apart.
I called the doctor, and she said not to come in until they were two minutes apart. Now, two minutes is only three minutes less than five minutes, and three minutes is not a long time! So it seemed quite possible to us that we’d be at two minutes in an hour or two. I realize it doesn’t work like that, but that’s how it felt anyway. Since we were planning for the kids to stay with Andrew’s parents while I was in the hospital, and they live an hour away, we decided to ask them to drive up while it was still early enough to reasonably do so. That way they could just stay the night and I wouldn’t have to wake my niece up in the middle of the night to come babysit and it would just in general be easier for everyone except my in-laws.
So naturally, a half hour after they left their house, my contractions dwindled and then stopped. They were pretty much gone when the grandparents arrived. It was too late for them to drive home, though, so they stayed over anyway and said they would take the kids home with them in the morning regardless of what was happening on the baby front. We gave them our bed and Andrew and I settled down in the living room.
Somewhere around 1am, Nora woke up crying for me, so I relocated to the recliner in the kids’ room. Then, around 3am a contraction woke me up. “This is really it now,” I thought, foreshadowingly. After I woke Andrew we went in to tell his parents, who had requested that we wake them if we left in the night. “We’re going to the hospital,” we said. Then Andrew asked me how far apart the contractions were, and since I wasn’t really sure he suggested we time them before we actually left.
“Good idea,” I said. So I lay back down on the couch to time them and woke up four hours later. “I think that wasn’t actually it,” I told Andrew.
Andrew’s parents made good on their promise to take the children away in the morning, and I still felt pretty weird, so I parked myself on the couch after breakfast and mainlined episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on the Wii. The sporadic twinges reappeared, but I could never be certain they were actually contractions. We went for a walk around 11am, and halfway through, I had a contraction that was a for-real, I-mean-it contraction, no question. And I thought again that maybe my water broke. Water-breakage was confirmed when we got home, so I checked in with the doctor then re-parked myself on the couch for a few more episodes of Grey’s.
Meanwhile, Andrew started nesting. In the grand tradition of husbands/fathers having to do SOMETHING, he bustled around the house attending to various chores. Some (packing the hospital bag) more pressing than others (cleaning the coffee maker). After about an hour of this, he came into the living room with a thoughtful expression, gazed around critically and said, “I want to rearrange the this room.” Now by this point, my contractions were quite unmistakable, and about 5-7 minutes apart. I was most definitely in labor. So I asked if he could possibly hold off on rearranging the living room furniture until at least the next day.
At any rate, I labored along on the couch for about two and a half hours and then decided that 4 minutes apart was damn well close enough, and we went to the hospital. That was at 2:30. In the car, I breathed and silently fretted about how in the heck I was going to walk to L&D which is on the third floor, and also would I have to wait while Andrew parked? I had no experience with this, as I went to the emergency room when Jack was born since it was the middle of the night, and Nora was induced, so I wasn’t in labor yet when I arrived. I did not want to labor by myself in the lobby of the hospital, but knew I couldn’t possibly make it to L&D all alone. But do you know what hospitals have? Wheelchairs! I forgot they have wheelchairs! I tell you, I was never so relieved to see a wheelchair.
The front desk person wheeled me up to L&D while Andrew parked the car. (I didn’t have to walk from the garage either! Those hospitals. So considerate.) By the time Andrew got to my room, I was already gowned and being helped into bed. A quick check followed, revealing me to be at five centimeters or so, and the contractions were ramping up. With both Jack and Nora, I tried hypnobirthing, and made it to six centimeters with each of them before getting an epidural. But the critical thing was that Nora was born twenty minutes after I got the epidural. Since six centimeters seems to be my breaking point, and since I was worried that I might miss my window, and since I was hoping for a repeat of Nora’s quick birth, I decided to ask for the epidural right away. In the meantime, I used my hypnobirthing mp3 file and concentrated on staying relaxed. In order to do so, through every contraction I found myself making a low guttural “Unnnnggghhhhhhhh” sound. I never did that before, but it helped immensely.
At this point, my concept of time failed. The anesthesiologist came, and I seemed like getting the epidural took fifteen or twenty minutes, but Andrew assures me it was less than five. All I know is that I had to sit up without moving lest I become permanently paralyzed for a very very long time. Also I couldn’t say “Unnnnngggghhhhhh.” Well, I probably could have, but I didn’t. Once the epidural kicked in, though, I was very happy and chatty and about forty minutes later I had to push. This was twice as long after the epidural as with Nora, but I don’t think I’ll complain. Especially since Ann Marie was born at 4:27 pm, which was 87 minutes after getting hooked up to monitors. I took all the credit for this, citing my skillful relaxation techniques and general wesomeness. All the nurses were very impressed. Heck, even the people I was wheeled by in the waiting area on the way in said, “Wow, that was fast!” when I was wheeled back out again.
And then? After that incredibly easy and practically painless birth? I got Ann Marie, the easiest, sleepiest, snuggliest, most contented baby in existence. I realize that her being so easy is at least partially due to my own experience and lack of anxiety about every little thing; for example, I do not spend my days hovering over her wondering if I should hold her, put her down, feed her, change her, talk to her, leave her alone, etc. But it certainly helps that she is happy all the time. True, sometimes she goes “Eh! Eh! Eh!” if she’s really hungry, but mostly she just hangs out. She likes to be held, but I just hold her, so that’s fine. Man, if only I could go back in time five years and convince my new Mom self that newborns are easy! Relax, already!
Another thing that helps enormously is that I seem to have escaped any PPD this time. I am just happy! So happy to have this sweet little snuggly baby girl living with us. And it feels like she’s always been here.