Once upon a time, there was a little girl who dreamed of someday having a lively home full of children. There were both girls and boys in the mix, running colorful through the yard with plastic toys and bubbles and collected “nature” to show their mother.
Then a long while later that little girl grew up, and the children that were so familiar to her yet so inscrutable began to show up. First the boy, a force of nature with a passionate soul and an endless imagination. Then three years later a little brother, full of precious smiles and an eagerness to watch and learn and do. And then, a sister…
It was familiar territory at first. My pregnancy with Little Miss wasn’t too difficult, just as my pregnancies with her brothers were pretty smooth sailing, too. There were the usual symptoms–restless legs and frequent hunger and sleepless nights–but all in all, being pregnant was more of an incidental to busy life with two boys at home.
However, I fervently hoped the finish line would be different. With boy #2, I was twelve days overdue and finally went into labor the night before I was scheduled for an induction. My hope was that Little Miss wouldn’t be that late (it gets quite uncomfortable and nerve-wracking). Also, I wanted to labor at home instead of being confined to quarters in a tiny hospital room.
She was due March 19, and after New Year’s I was in a flurry to get things done before her arrival. March came and I began to get nervous she’d come early! What if I didn’t have time to finish my projects? Worse yet, what if she came before my anniversary date and we had to postpone it??! Eric said we could do the date with her, but I felt that having a needy baby along for the ride would somehow change the tone a bit.
When my 39 week appointment proved there was no need to check into the hospital just yet, I felt like I’d been given a “get out of jail free” card. We dropped off the boys at my parents’ house and had a happy-go-lucky weekend staycation eating out, seeing Emma, and doing an escape room. It was perfect.
“And now she can come,” I thought. “Any time.”
Then I waited. And waited. And that week the far-off corona virus suddenly got real. The restaurant and the movie theater and the escape room we’d just been to closed their doors. And suddenly I very much wanted to have my baby and be home safe with her.
Forty weeks arrived with no baby, but no concerns from my doctor, either. I drove home from that Thursday appointment and tried to remain calm. I wasn’t, very. Well, sometimes I was, and then things would turn on a dime and I’d be a weepy mess. Eric would suggest ordering a pizza, and thus I’d find strength to wait another day.
The days ticked by til the following Wednesday. That afternoon, I had hopeful, regular contractions, 15-20 minutes apart. My mom came over to spend the night, and I went to bed fully expecting to wake up in the wee hours and head to the hospital. But morning came and the contractions left. I had had a sleepless night and no baby to show for it. My spirits were at an all-time low.
Little did I know that that would be my last day of waiting!
My mom decided to take the boys home with her just in case, and prescribed a walk in the spring air to lift my spirits. Eric and I took her advice and headed to a wooded trail to enjoy the glorious weather.
About halfway through the walk I had the unsurprising urge to go to the bathroom. There were a couple of public, city-run buildings at the trail head, but because of the corona virus, no one would let me come in to use the bathroom. Suddenly I felt very sympathetic to Mary the mother of Jesus, full term, in labor, and looking for a little respite. But there was “no room in the inn” for us pregnant ladies.
So home we went, and when we got there I found that my contractions were picking up again. Eric disappeared into the basement to work on school stuff (he’s a teacher, so he’s doing distance learning these days). I grabbed a glass of red raspberry leaf tea, heated up some leftover pizza, and settled onto the couch to watch Survivor and time contractions.
If labor got “real serious” I planned to call Eric upstairs to help me through the pain and maybe give me a foot massage. The contractions were painful, but usually I’d just rock and moan a bit until they went away. When I updated my mom she suggested I call the hospital to ask when I should come in. I still wasn’t sure if this was real labor yet, but I gave the hospital a call. They said to come in if my contractions were 5-7 minutes apart, in spite of aggressive hydration, a warm bath, or lying down for half an hour.
Eric had come upstairs to check on me, and he suggested I try lying down while he got a bath ready. I chugged some Vitamin Water and went to bed. The contractions were about 7-15 minutes apart, and when one rolled over me I found it was helpful to sing a stanza of “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.”
After awhile I decided I’d go ahead and get in the bath, as I’ve heard that’s quite nice for pain management. Eric had gone back downstairs for a faculty meeting. The warm water did feel good. At one point I remember a contraction coming and I started to sing “O the Deep, Deep Love” again–and promptly realised I was past that stage. There would be no more singing for me!
Suddenly contractions jumped from about 10 minutes apart to 7, then almost instantly to 5 or 4! I felt like something had switched and I had a swift sense of urgency. Eric was upstairs and I said “Please tell me you are done with school stuff!” He assured me he was, and I told him we needed to leave for the hospital.
We started rushing around the house doing last minute things…he took out the trash, fed the cat, I double-checked my suitcase and popped some bruised bananas in the freezer. I called out to Eric a couple of times to hurry. I’m sure that was helpful.
Finally I hobbled out to the car, left a message with the hospital that we were on our way, and texted my neighbor who was going to feed our cat while we were gone. Eric came out with the suitcases and I again urged him to hurry. By then I was considering whether or not we’d make the 25-minute drive to the hospital before baby arrived. I had a sense that we could just make it on time, so I gave Eric the helpful advice to drive safely.
It was about 7:00 by then, and we had smooth sailing down the nearly empty highway (thanks, corona virus). I noticed the long, unmown grass and didn’t think it looked like a good place to have a baby. I was making stereotypical pregnant-woman-in-labor sounds like you get in the movies, and in between contractions reassuring Eric and myself that I still “thought we could make it.”
We slid into the emergency room parking garage and made a beeline for the elevator. As we entered the ER I noticed two hospital personnel at a table outside, whom I rightly presumed were there to question us about the corona virus. But I wasn’t about to stop. The receptionist told us she’d call a nurse and asked if I needed a wheelchair. I turned and grabbed one from the lineup and sat down immediately. I had a sense of relief, feeling like once I was in that wheelchair I’d done my part. Now it was time to hand things over to the doctor and nurses.
By this time the personnel from outside had come in to ask us if we had fevers, had traveled recently, etc. They took our temperatures and I think I told them mine might be a bit elevated at the moment. A nurse from labor and delivery appeared and quickly conducted us to the elevator and up to our floor. There was no need to tell the nurses that rushed to the scene that I was about to give birth; I think I spoke for myself using groanings too deep for words.
Next I was on the bed and a nurse said I was fully dilated. No surprise there. I knew my regular doctor couldn’t attend–she was off that week–but they didn’t even call the on-call doctor from her practice. Instead they pulled in the OB who was currently on the floor, who seemed quite cheerful and happy to help. I felt my water break during a contraction and said something along the lines of “That was it, wasn’t it?”
Then I told the room at large that I would like to push, and was quickly assured “You can! You can!”
So I did.
But the pushing part is always where I wish I had more presence of mind. With both my boys and this girl, I got flustered because I felt like there were so many instructions coming my way: “Relax your legs!” “Grab your legs behind your knees!” “Bear down while holding your breath!” “Okay good, but this time hold your breath!” “Let your legs relax!”
It was the same set of instructions as last time, but caught in the moment it was just too much to process. Next time perhaps I will repeat these to myself in the days leading up to labor!
After the first or second pushing session they said they could see the top of her head, and I felt it. The doctor told me that if I could get to my happy place I could probably have the baby in the next good push or two.
“My happy place,” I thought. “That’s a good idea.” And I had a happy place I’d picked out, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was. I think the doctor asked if I’d like to watch her come out, but that was too much on top of all the instructions I was trying to follow, so I shook my head, closed my eyes, and just felt instead.
“She’s coming out!” They said.
“I know, I can feel her. I know.” I knew when she had left my body, and I strained for a look. It was 7:44, less than half an hour since we arrived at the hospital.
Little Miss wasn’t crying, and it seemed like ages before they passed her up to me. I’m sure it wasn’t that long, though–the doctor waited for the cord to stop pulsing before Eric cut it, and a nurse was wiping her face or something, I think. I was patient, and then next thing I knew I had her. She was so precious and perfect, and I was so happy I’d gone through all this again.
I didn’t care what happened after that. I could feel things gushing and squirting, and my princess peed on me…the placenta came out…there were two stitches. But at that point my job was simply to hold my baby, so I did.
Eventually they took her to the other side of the room for evaluation, and Eric went with her. I had the shakes by then, so I just lay back and rested and filled out some release forms that were a moot point, since I’d already delivered.
When they brought my baby back I nursed her, and finally everyone left the room and it was just us. We had to stay in the room for an hour while they monitored my vitals, and then we’d head to a recovery room for the remainder of our stay. We turned off the lights and took naps while we waited, since by then it was about 9:00.
When a nurse came to move us I went to the restroom but then passed out (thankfully I managed to sit down in the wheelchair first). This meant we had to stay in the room for an additional hour, which was unfortunate because we were quite eager to call it a night. At last we got transferred to our new room, met our new nurses, and settled in.
After our exciting arrival, the rest of our hospital stay was uneventful. We slept, ate, watched a few movies, snuggled our newborn. Other than the fact that we couldn’t have visitors, the corona virus didn’t really change anything noticeably. We left just after lunch on Saturday, and after a good nap in my own bed I got up and cooked dinner. Which sounds rough but actually wasn’t, considering our two boys were still at my parents’ house! They came home the next day to meet their new sister, and we’ve been figuring out this whole three-kids-at-home thing ever since!
Upon reflection, I’d say this was my easiest birth yet, and definitely the most exciting. I got to labor at home just like I wanted to, although I had no idea how scary fast she’d come at the end. The last weeks leading up to labor were the hardest yet; I was the most emotionally spent. The postpartum period so far has been about the same, maybe a little better because I knew what to expect and because Eric has been home (even though he’s working, it’s comforting to know he can come up from the basement to rescue me if need be!)
I’ve also been reflecting more on natural birth this time around. My first two births were natural, too (or semi-natural, because of induction), but then I was thinking a bit more about what I didn’t want–how I didn’t want a needle, or the increased likelihood of complications.
This time I’ve thought more about all the things you do experience and feel when you go epidural free. It’s very interesting to go through the whole birthing process in such a time-honoured way, getting to read and follow my body’s cues, feeling and responding to every sensation. There are some places where I wish I’d responded differently or been more composed, but even that experience of being out of control was valuable for me. It’s interesting because for a lot of women who have natural births, one thing they point to is that they love having more control over the experience. But I think for me, natural birth makes me more checked in to the process, but less in control.
So there you have it: another baby, and our home just got livelier(:
If you’re expecting your own little one, you might find The Mama Natural Birth Course very helpful. It’s the #1 bestselling online childbirth course. You can also get free week-by-week pregnancy updates by signing up here.
Blog posts for my pregnant readers:
20 Moms Share How They Managed Labor without an Epidural – Lots of great tips here! Of course, for this birth I barely used any of the pain management items I’d planned! I’d packed a soothing CD, essential oils and a diffuser, a heating pack–and they stayed in my suitcase because little girl came so fast!
How to Write a Minimalist Birth Plan – Whether you’re going natural or not, it’s helpful to write out your birth wishes ahead of time. Of course, this is another thing that stayed in my suitcase because there just wasn’t time to share it with the nurses and doctor! So we just told them as we went along(: