Even though my due date wasn’t until October 7th, it was pretty common knowledge that I was gunning to deliver as close to the beginning of my two weeks off of work as possible. I wanted to have as much time to snuggle and bond with my new baby before getting back to my regular grind. I had said the ideal for me would be to go into labour on Friday afternoon and have the baby Friday night/Saturday morning and that’s pretty much what happened, just one day early, and not at all in the way I expected.
Thursday afternoon I had an appointment with my obgyn, and in accordance with my plans & wishes she swept my membranes to hopefully start things moving a little. At that point I was about 2.5 cm dilated but not at all effaced, so she felt confident I would probably have the baby after the weekend. She warned me I might have spotting, cramping and increased discharge after the sweep, and after I got home I did notice some light cramping but nothing else, so I just got on with my day.
I’m going to interrupt myself here to talk about moses baskets. Or rather, moses basket STANDS. When Gwen was a newborn she slept in a beautiful cradle a family friend gave us, that I laboriously painted a lovely pale grey with blue & yellow flowers. I was so excited to pull it out of the storage room for our new baby to use, but when we brought it into the house… it doesn’t fit anymore. We have replaced & rearranged the furniture and now the cradle doesn’t work in any of the places where we used to put it. It basically only fits smack-dab in the middle of the living room, which is less than convenient.
Once I realized the cradle was a wash I started scrambling to try to figure out where on earth we could put the baby to sleep. Obviously we already had the crib set up in the shared bedroom, but we don’t want to put the baby in there at night yet because it would be too disruptive to Gwen’s sleep. So I started thinking: our old stroller has a beautiful bassinet, which I loved using with Gwen, but I really feel like we aren’t going to use that stroller very much this time? I feel like we will be using the Ergo more, especially once I’m back at work. So why not use the bassinet at home in a stand instead of as a stroller attachment? I did some research and found that this is entirely possible and even found an affordable stand that would be suitable.
Of course I came up with this plan like… a week and a half ago so I didn’t want to order the stand online and risk it not arriving before the baby. It was available locally in a few different stores but I thought I’d try to find it on craigslist first. As luck would have it there was someone downtown selling a stand in the colour I wanted for a decent price, but as luck WOULDN’T have it the person was like… the biggest flake. They only responded to my initial email and I was never able to make arrangements to actually purchase the item! Pretty ironic for someone who puts “SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY” in their craigslist listings…
Sym’s dad offered to pick the stand up for me at Babies’R’Us on Saturday since he’d be in the neighborhood, but while I was trying to get the craigslist flakes to reply to me they sold out of it at that location! So on Thursday morning I started calling around to some of the local baby stores and was able to find it (again, in the right colour bc that is important?). Unfortunately it wasn’t in stock at the location closest to me, but they offered to have it transferred in and I would be able to pick it up after the weekend. Perfect, I thought, because I’m probably not having the baby until after the weekend. However, later in the afternoon I got a call from the store, letting me know their driver had made a second trip to transfer items, and wouldn’t you know it, they had the stand already! Even better! I let them know I would be coming by to pick it up after I finished work.
So while all this was going on, I was continuing to have mild cramping. I completely brushed it off and as soon as I finished work I woke up Taylor so he could come with me to pick up the all-important moses basket stand. The store is about a 20 minute walk from our house, and we were in a little rush so we popped Gwen in the stroller and headed out. Just before we left I mentioned my mild cramps, which by this point had become pretty regular, to Taylor and joked “what if I’m in labour, haha, so funny!” We walked about two blocks and I said to him “… but maybe I am in labour? This could be labour.” He was like “should we really be out RUNNING ERRANDS right now? like do you need to go to the hospital???” but I figured if it was true labour walking around would help it to progress, and if it was false labour walking around would stop it, so I made the decision to keep going. I did download a contraction timer app to my phone on the fly though, and timed each cramp, or rather contraction bc lbr, I WAS IN LABOUR, the whole way to and from the store.
Once we were almost home I let Taylor know that yes, I was pretty sure this was true labour, as the contractions by this point were oh, three minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds and increasing in strength. I was still able to easily walk & breathe through them, so I texted Sym’s dad to come to the house at 7:30 so we could give Gwen dinner and her bath, and put her to bed like usual before going to the hospital. I also needed to PACK MY STUPID HOSPITAL BAG, because if you recall I had not done that yet, although fortunately that morning I had made a comprehensive list of what to pack. I made Gwen’s dinner and gathered everything into my suitcase while Taylor quickly walked the dogs and also started panicking. At once point he dropped everything and was like “I NEED TO WASH THE DISHES, GWEN HAS NO CLEAN CUPS” and started filling the sink and splashing water all over. I kept telling him to calm down, it was fine, and even if I was gonna have the baby it wouldn’t be for hours because look. He was pretty worked up and I really had to tell him to SNAP OUT OF IT because his stress was stressing me out, and no one needs that.
We got to the hospital a little before 8pm (all according to my plan, because they lock all the doors at 8 except for the emergency entrance, which is on the front of the building and we live right behind the building so it’s faster for me to go in the back entrance) and headed to maternity. They put me in the assessment room to check my and the baby’s vitals and then send me to wander the halls for an hour to see if my contractions would continue or stop (nevermind that I had just been out walking around for two hours…). This was very boring because I had to stay in the maternity ward and it’s literally just three hallways with nothing to see, so Taylor and I walked back and forth and up and down. My contractions continued to increase in strength to the point where I could no longer walk through them and would have to stop, so after about 45-50 minutes I went back to the assessment room to get checked again.
At this point I was just 4cm dilated so the nurse told me that the doctor wanted me to walk around for another hour. Argh! I kind of hoped they would just send me home so I could walk around the neighborhood instead since the boredom was too much, but before I went to start my second walkabout she checked the baby’s heart rate and said “NEW PLAN, you’re staying here and we need to monitor your baby’s heart because it’s beating too fast” They strapped all the external monitors to my belly to track the heart rate and my contractions, and also started an IV to give me fluids because one possible cause of an elevated heart rate in an unborn baby is dehydration. We (the nurse and I) also told Taylor that yes, it was time to go home and get my bag because I would not be going home from the hospital that night.
After an hour of IV fluids and monitoring, the baby’s heart rate was still elevated, so they moved me from assessment into a LDR (labour-delivery-recovery) room because it was time to start moving things along. Taylor wasn’t back yet and I was having trouble with my contractions because the positions that made them most bearable were incompatible with the external monitors, so I called him like “WHERE ARE YOU WHERE ARE YOU COME BACK RIGHT NOW.” As it turned out Gwen (who had not gone to sleep when we left and had been in and out of bed all evening heard his voice and wouldn’t go back down until he tucked her back in, so I can’t really fault him for taking too long.
I think it was at this point that the obgyn on call came in to talk to me about interventions. I was still only 5cm dilated and the baby’s heart rate was still way too high. It’s called fetal tachycardia guys, it sounds really scary, and they pretty much only let it go on for 80 minutes before they are like LET’S HAVE A BABY. It had been an hour already with no change other than the heart rate also decelerating more than it should during contractions, which is also bad. So just like.. all bad things, and no clue as to the cause. Remember at 5 o’clock when I was joking “haha, maybe I’m in labour?” Not so funny when you’re looking down the barrel of an emergency c section.
Taylor finally got back and was told everything that was going on, and then my water was broken to try to speed up my labour a bit more. This next part was horrible, each contraction let out another huge gush of amniotic fluid until I was basically lying in a hideous swamp. I kept wanting to flip onto all fours but again, that position wasn’t conducive to monitoring the baby’s heart so between each contraction I’d have to lie back down in a squelch of rapidly cooling liquid. It was so gross and uncomfortable and by that point it was pretty much a given I wasn’t going to be delivering vaginally so like… WHY MUST THIS TORMENT CONTINUE? I was so scared, so afraid of having surgery and so worried about my baby.
Next they asked me (with Taylor’s help) to take off my jewelry. I remember thinking how funny that I made it through my whole pregnancy without having to stop wearing my wedding ring only to have to take it off now, for this. I was given some gnarly liquid to drink to neutralize my stomach acid and then I guess it was time to go to the operating room? I am a little fuzzy on the details now and I’m not sure what time this was at, because I was a) in massive pain from my still-continuing contractions, and b) basically in a blind panic of fear and worry. The moved me from my horrible swamp-bed onto a gurney and rolled me down to the operating room. It’s actually on the same floor as the maternity ward, like basically right outside it, which is very thoughtful and convenient since I was howling the entire way. At some point Taylor was peeled off so he could go get dressed in his stylish scrubs, booties, hairnet and mask, while I continued into the room to get a spinal anaesthetic. This is pretty similar to getting an epidural while in labour, in that it’s really hard to do because you have to sit very very very still through your contractions while they put a needle in your spine.
For the spinal I was sitting up on the edge of the operating table (I think) which is a weird thing to be on because they are a lot narrower than you would think. Like it makes sense that the whole surgical team needs to be able to easily get very close to you but at the same time you feel like you are gonna fall off, at least until your body goes all numb and then who cares. Anyway I was holding hands with the obgyn during the spinal, and I cried a lot about how afraid I was for my baby while she reassured me everything would be ok.
After the spinal was done I was laid back down on the table, and once I was numb from the ribs down they started doing the rest of the prep, I assume stuff like draping and scrubbing and other such things? Oh and inserting a catheter, I didn’t even realize I had one until well after the whole thing was over. Who knows. Things get suuuuuuuuper fuzzy and confused at this point. They put up a big curtain that angled back over my head so all I could see was blue fabric and the edge of one of those crazy huge operating room lights that was above me. Taylor was finally allowed in and he sat by my head while I cried and shook (the anaesthetic makes you all shivery and my arms and head were like vibrating) and then I guess I had surgery.
Having a c section was pretty much the weirdest experience of my entire life. I had only had surgery once before, my breast reduction, which was done under a general anaesthetic. For this not only was I wide(ish) awake, but I could still feel everything except for any pain. So all the weird pulling and tugging and pressure of things being taken out of my body in a way that they would not normally come out? WHAT THE HELL. It was so strange. The actual part where they cut you open and take the baby out is only about 10 minutes, and they talked to us throughout about the baby, stuff like “here’s the head, look at all that hair!” and “such big shoulders!” but with a significant enough gap between those two statements that I think for a minute I just had a baby’s head like… sticking out… of my lower abdomen. Which is freaky to think about.
At 12:13 am on Friday, September 30th the baby was delivered. They asked Taylor to stand and look so he could announce whether it was a boy or a girl, and then baby was whisked over to the little cot to be checked out but the pediatric team to make sure everything was ok; at this point there was still no explanation for the tachycardia and spoiler alert, there never will be because no cause was every determined. COOL. Taylor got to go over and cut the umbilical cord and he said the placenta was there in a plastic bag, all steamy, which is supremely gross but I guess why wouldn’t it be steamy? The insides of bodies are hot.
Once they determined the baby was healthy I was able to do skin-to-skin until my arms got too tired. My fingers were starting to feel all pins-and -needles-y, plus my arm and shoulder muscles were exhausted from the shaking, which hadn’t completely subsided yet, so Taylor took over baby holding duties (also doodies because he got pooped on). Meanwhile on the other side of the curtain my body was being put back together. At one point I heard someone say “I’m going to externalize the uterus now” which was another weird thing to hear. I guess they take it out to sew it up, then put it back inside before sewing up all your muscle and skin layers? I have watched enough of veterinary surgery videos to get the gist, haha.
Eventually Taylor and the baby were taken back to my LDR room to wait for me, and once I was all stitched up they moved me off the operating table onto a gurney and I was taken to surgical recovery. They covered me in about fifty heated blankets, plus one that was like inflated with warm air, to keep me cozy and toasty while I waited for the anaesthetic to wear off. This was the second-weirdest experience of my life; you can’t go back to your room and see your baby until you can move your legs, bend your knees and wiggle your toes, so they ask you a lot “can you move your legs? can you bend your knees? can you wiggle your toes?” Whenever they asked I would try my hardest because I was basically desperate to get back to my baby, so I would be thinking to myself MOVE, DAMMIT, MOVE!!! but I couldn’t make them move. Finally though, after they asked and I tried and failed I said “no, I can’t move them” and the nurse was like “… what’s that then?” and my legs were totally moving all over the place! But like… I couldn’t feel them moving, I couldn’t feel myself make them moving. It was truly bizarre. After that I was moving them as much as I could, with the idea in my head the more they moved, the faster the anaesthetic would wear off, and the sooner I could get back to my baby! idk if that is truly how it works but after two hours in recovery I was allowed to leave.
I was wheeled on my gurney back to the maternity ward and after kicking Taylor out of my bed where he was doing skin-to-skin with the baby I was moved back into it and was finally able to hold my baby again! By this time it was about 3am and Taylor, who worked Wednesday night and only slept a few hours Thursday afternoon before going through what was a very stressful experience for him as well, was exhausted, so he asked if I minded if he went to sleep. I said of course not so after wrestling with the terrible pull-out chair, then getting not one but two nurses to help, then getting an all-new pull-out chair altogether because the original one was broken, he fell asleep and I stayed up and just held my baby for hours and hours until I started drifting off. Eventually I needed to go to sleep myself so I called a nurse to swaddle and put the baby to bed in the little cot, but even then I fell asleep holding onto the railing of the cot and woke up for every little squeak, every little sneeze, every little sound.
I have a lot more things I want to write about, like my feelings about having an emergency c section after two fairly easy & uncomplicated vaginal deliveries (the obgyn said I had a “proven pelvis” haha) but this post is already long as hell so that can wait for another day. Instead here is a selfie I took at 3am after I got back to the room, wearing the same hospital gown I put on at 8pm and had surgery in four hours later and holding my brand-newborn infant son.
Nicholas Albert Laramie, you are so loved. Welcome to the world.