The date was set. We had a plan. I was to check into the hospital on February 8th at 9:00pm. The doctor was going to insert a “wafer” that would soften my cervix overnight. On February 9th at 7:00am the doctor would start the Pitocin and by dinner the baby would be born. Textbook. A Plan. We all know how much I love my plans. A plan is safe, it is comforting, it provides the illusion of control.
At 9:00pm David and I arrived at the hospital only to find out that they didn’t have room for us. Yes, like Mary and Joseph there was no room at the inn and we were left to wander the city waiting to hear if an empty manger was available. At 11:45pm the hospital called the house to tell us to come on in, they had space. By the time the nurses had us checked in, the IV administered, orders given by the doctor and the “wafer” inserted it was 3:00am. The pain started quickly. First, it was a sharp throbbing in my IV. I have tiny wrists, tiny veins, and although these things don’t make me look any better in a bikini, they do prevent me from being a very good recipient of an IV. Then the burning started. The “you’ve got to be kidding me, my cervix is on fire” kind of burning. David snored and I tossed and moaned in discomfort.
At 6:00am the day nurse arrived and quickly ascertained that the IV was not functioning properly and was about to “blow out”. She removed the IV and the relief I felt was so immediate I seriously considered french kissing the nurse. She removed the “wafer” and the burning slowly faded. Things were looking up. The Pitocin would come and then shortly after that the epidural and then nap time for Beth. Again, THE PLAN. We had a PLAN.
The Pitocin began and the contractions that I had been having for weeks returned but with more regularity. FINALLY, I could tell I was making progress. David and I chatted in between, called friends, checked Facebook and joked with the nurses. At 10:00am the doctor arrived, checked my cervix and announced that I was only 3cm dilated. I still had a long road ahead of me. She said I had 30 more minutes before she would approve the epidural. The ramifications of that decision could not have been forseen by anyone.
The contractions got stronger, more painful and more frequent. I quickly went from uncomfortable to cussing. By 10:20am I was begging for the epidural. The anesthesiologist was quickly dispatched and in my room. However, the pain, the pressure, the mind-blowing pain was blocking everything else out. Tears were streaming down my face and I was using every breathing technique I learned in every Yoga class I have ever taken. I was pleading for it to stop. The nurse (Kendra, to whom I will forever be indebted) and David held my hands, rubbed my shoulders and told me to not stop breathing. And the epidural? Well, they couldn’t get it in. This is not a surprise (for those horrified at reading this) because I had the same problem with Lucy and Max. I have small joints – even in my back. After what seemed like an eternity, and multiple tries between contractions, and me dropping the f-word like I use it everyday, the epidural was in. My body flooded with medication I felt instant relief. I breathed deeply and told David I just couldn’t do it any longer. I was exhausted. My body worn out. I didn’t have it in me. Kendra checked my cervix again – I was fully dilated and ready to push. The epidural came too late. I dilated 7cm in thirty minutes.
The doctor was called and we waited. The pressure and the instinct to push getting more acute by the second I finally declared that I could wait no longer. Doctor or not I was pushing. My spirits lifted because I knew this was the short part. I had pushed for twenty minutes with Lucy, less with Max. I knew that the end was so close. In the meantime, the epidural only dulled the pain but did not erase it. Unlike my previous deliveries I could still feel everything. I pushed. Nothing. I pushed again. Nothing. I pushed a third time. Nothing. Now, keep in mind that by this time Lucy had crowned and Max was out. The pain and pressure gaining in intensity. The doctor arrived and I continued to push. However, nothing seemed to be happening and I was getting tired. Finally, I could feel her crown. The pushing came closer together and I became focused on getting her out. The doctor, trying to pace me so I wouldn’t wear out, told me to “let the baby do all the work” but I was at the end of my rope. I wanted this baby out and I wanted her out now. In what I can only describe as instinctive I screamed “I NEED TO GET HER OUT! I NEED TO GET HER OUT NOW!” In one motion I pushed hard off the stir-ups pushing my head back against the wall and I felt Harper enter the world with a chorus of shouts and the soft crying of a newborn.
Harper was born at 12:30 on the nose. And although it felt like an eternity to me I pushed for less than thirty minutes. Harper, like her older sister, also suffering with breathing issues was quickly taken to the nursery to clear her lungs of fluid, but not before I had a chance to hold her and recognize the tiny little spirit that had been living within.
Although this was not the birthing experience I had PLANNED it seemed appropriate that my last birth experience should be done with a certain amount of flair and finality. David felt far more a part of the birthing experience and later described that he felt “more in the moment”. As he held his baby girl and quietly cried and giggled at her perfection I was happy he could share in the emotion that I alone was able to experience the previous two times.
As God has a way of doing, I’m recovering faster and feel better than I have after either of my previous births. I’ve had less pain, less swelling, less everything. I feel fantastic and outside of some simple Motrin I have been able to come home and pick up where I left off. I love this little girl and am so glad that this part of our life experiences together is behind us.