The next morning, Andrew and I were up by 5 am. Andrew went out to take care of the animals, which had to be done before we could leave. I showered and dressed. Then, I cooked some eggs and toast for breakfast. Andrew came back into the house as I was sitting down to eat my breakfast. He started washing eggs.
“We have another errand to run before the induction.” he told me. We already had one errand to run before heading to the hospital. Andrew and the kids had picked all the carrots, and they needed to be taken to the food pantry in town. Tuesdays are the big distribution day, so, that’s the day Andrew always drops off any fresh produce he has to donate. Now, apparently, there was a second errand.
“What’s that?” I asked suspiciously.
“Weeeeeeeeell, I caught that opossum that’s been up on the porch stealing the dogs’ food. We need to take it down the road and let it go.”
“Ugh. Really?!? Opossums smell so bad, and we’re already running late. Can’t you just let Midnight have it? He’d have so much fun. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about it!”
Midnight has some sort of problem with opossums. We don’t know why, but he harbors a serious grudge against these little critters. Of course, Andrew knew I wasn’t serious…at least, not completely serious. Well, maybe I was serious, but I knew he’d say no. Opossums are actually beneficial creatures to have around…just not if they’re stealing dog food.
Andrew laughed, “No, we can’t give it to Midnight! That wouldn’t be right. I don’t want to kill it…I just want it someplace it won’t steal our dog food.”
“Oh, fine!” I said, annoyed.
So it was that we had to find a spot down our little road where we could perform the “release” portion of my husband’s “catch and release” opossum program before the birth of our fifth baby. Only in my life do these things happen! This was already shaping up to be a unique story. But, I had no idea how much drama was yet to come.
After all of our pre-induction stops, we finally made it to the hospital, but we were a little bit late. The nurse was ready and waiting on us. She handed me my stylish gown to wear during labor. I got changed, then into the bed I climbed. The nurse hooked me up to the monitors. When she finished, she put in my IV to start my first dose of antibiotics. I was Group B Strep positive, so I had to have at least two doses of these IV antibiotics at least four hours apart.
Now, my doctor and I have played this game before (I’ve been GBS positive with my last 3 pregnancies). I have a history of fairly fast labors. My second baby only took 5 hours to make her appearance. The boys took right around 4 hours each…one was a little more, one was a little less. We planned to have one dose complete, and the second dose at least started before my doctor even began the induction. So, I knew I had a few hours to wait around while the antibiotics were going.
Meanwhile, our baby had decided to play a game of her own called “run away from the pesky monitor”. Every time the nurse found the heartbeat, Baby would run away again. The nurse decided, in a bit of arrogance, that Baby would be in a certain place. Clearly, Baby was not there. But, despite the evidence, the nurse refused to try the monitor anywhere else. This, of course, let to much annoyance for her, and constant interruptions to us, since she was continually having to come in to readjust the monitor. The reasons many people seek to avoid continuous fetal monitoring were about to become more obvious.
Soon after I was all wired in, the monitors showed that the baby’s heart rate had dropped significantly. I was having some mild contractions, but I couldn’t even feel them. Remember, nothing had been done yet to start the induction. The contractions I was having were just the same Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d been having for months. We were even still waiting to start the antibiotics.
Our nurse came in, and started trying to find the baby’s heart rate…again. She didn’t seem too worried, at first. But then, when she did find it, it was only 50 beats per minute…far too slow! That started a panic. My nurse patted me on the arm and said, “Looks like you’re gettin’ a c-section, Honey!” She put the oxygen on me and had me rolling back and forth, trying to get the baby back into a good position. There were nurses flying around the room, and the hospital staff OB came in. Everyone in the room seemed ready to whisk me off to the OR for an emergency c-section. Andrew and I are still trying to decide if the drop in heart rate was real, or if it was an artifact of an arrogant nurse and an ill-placed monitor. Whatever the case, we were scared! We were praying like we’d never prayed before that our sweet baby would make it into this world.
By the time my doctor arrived a few minutes later, the baby’s heart rate was back to normal. He looked at the tape from the monitor, and decided it had nothing to do with the mild contraction in question. The drop had started before the contraction had started. The baby’s heart rate had been just fine up until that point, and by that time, it was strong and steady again. There was no reason to rush off into surgery. The best course of action, he believed, would be to continue monitoring for a few hours. If everything continued to be fine, we would start the induction as planned. However, if it happened again, we would need to consider a c-section. He seemed to think it was necessary to talk us out of surgery. I had never been more thankful for a non-reactionary doctor with a steady head on his shoulders!
We had to wait for the antibiotics anyway, so it wasn’t that big of a deal to wait. But now, we were nervously obsessing over every sound coming out of that monitor. Andrew sat and watched every blip the monitors recorded. Every time I got up to use the rest room, that nurse was back in my room before I even got done to make sure the monitors were hooked back up immediately. All this time, Baby’s heart rate was doing fine. It was nice and strong…140 when resting, and about 160 when active. But, Baby decided running away from the monitor was no longer entertaining enough. Now, Baby has declared war on the monitor…kicking and punching the spot where the monitor is strapped around my belly. When a contraction would hit while Baby was already wiggling, the fight was on! Baby’s heart rate would go up to 180, and the contraction monitor would go crazy with all the kicking it received! I decided it was safe to say that Baby was handling everything just fine.
Around 12:45, the doctor came back in to start on the induction. He had the nurse start a slow dose of Pitocin along with the second dose of antibiotics to make the contractions I was already having get a little stronger and more regular. Baby was still up fairly high (probably because I had been strapped to a bed all morning), and he didn’t want to break my water yet because of the risk of a cord prolapse. So, the nurse started the IV with what she called a “whiff” of Pitocin.
The Pitocin drip was so slow that it didn’t do a whole lot. I still wasn’t really feeling the contractions very much. The doctor returned an hour later to break my water. The nurse later informed us that he had broken my water at 1:46 pm. That’s when things started to get exciting again. The doctor told us that I should get into active labor within an hour or so. He would be in his office until 3:00. After that, he would be back by to check in and see how things were progressing. He expected, given my past history, to have a baby around 5 or 6 pm. “But,” he tells me, “if you start feeling anything strange, especially if you feel like you need to poop, before then, let the nurse know, and we’ll check on you a little sooner.” He said I could have an epidural any time. We told him I was going to try to go without it this time. He kind of chuckled and said, “Brave woman!”
The contractions became strong and regular very fast. Andrew kept trying to talk to me, and make me laugh. I was already hurting pretty badly, and he was trying to distract me from it. But, I was not in the mood! At first, I as able to manage a weak smile or two. Then, I just started to ignore him…all I could concentrate on was the contractions and the impending birth of my baby. Eventually, he realized I needed him to be quiet and just be there for me. He stood next to the bed and held my hands through the contractions.
About half an hour later, I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. Now, I had read all about the emotional signposts of labor. I was clearly feeling a lot of self-doubt (which I knew indicates transition), but it had only been half an hour. There was no way I was that far along…I thought. My last two labors had taken right around four hours. In my mind, I still had at least 3 hours before the birth of our baby!
I told Andrew several times that I couldn’t do it. I needed the epidural. He just said, “Yes you can, yes you can.” He was very encouraging, but he was afraid we still had a few hours before birth as well.
“Get the nurse to get me an epidural!” I said finally.
Andrew proposed a compromise. “The nurse will be back in here soon to check you. Wait until then to see about the epidural. If you aren’t very far along yet, perhaps the epidural would be best. But maybe you’re almost there. If you are, you can do it without one.”
I grumpily told him, “You’re just trying to make me wait until it’s too late!” But, reluctantly, I said, “Fine. I need to pee anyway. Help me get to the restroom.” So, Andrew helped me out of bed and to the restroom. When I got there, I realized that I did not, in fact, need to “pee”! I told Andrew. He ran to the door to advise the nurse, “She feels like she has to ‘go’!”
The nurse replied, rather nonchalantly, “Okay. I’ll come check her.”
Andrew helped me back from the restroom while the nurse took her time getting into my room. We had to stop twice because the contractions were coming so fast. I was much more comfortable taking them while standing and leaning on Andrew. I didn’t want to get back in that bed. As I got to the bed, another contraction hit, and I sank down on my knees while I waited for it to pass.
The nurse finally wandered into my room quite lackadaisically. I managed to get back into the bed. None of us really thought I could possibly be very far along yet. It had only been a little over half an hour. But, as she checked, her eyes got as big as saucers. “Ummmm…she’s a 7 and a half, and just stretched to an 8!”
She practically ran to the door, stuck her head out and called, “She’s an 8!” to another nurse at the nurse’s station right outside the door. We heard the other nurse say, “Wow! That was fast.”
Then, she set about preparing my room for imminent delivery. I tried to tell my nurse that it was time for an epidural. She stopped, and looked at me, and said, “Ain’t gonna happen! There’s not enough time. You’ve just got five more contractions.” She resumed running around the room getting everything ready.
I started to feel the need to push.
With the next contraction, I announced, “I have to push.”
“NO YOU DON’T!” the nurse stated rather emphatically. “If baby comes on its own, fine. But don’t help yet! Just give me five more contractions. PLEASE!” She ran to the door of the room, then ran back in.
On the next contraction, I told her that I had to push, I couldn’t stop it anymore. The nurse gave me the least helpful advice ever, “Just breathe through it,” she said, “just breathe. Don’t push yet. The doctor isn’t here.” A wave of more panicked nurses flooded into the room.
By the next contraction, I was screaming from the effort of trying not to push. The nurses had set off all the blinking lights in the entire hospital. My room was crawling with nurses. The staff OB wandered in again. Apparently no one had time to fill her in, and she was wondering what all the screaming was about. I couldn’t hold back the pushing anymore, my body just took over. It wasn’t physically possible to stop it. I could feel the baby crowning. Birth was imminent. My nurse had her hand on the baby’s head. She practically yelled at the staff OB, “Get your gloves on!!!”
Just as the staff OB was reaching for some gloves, my doctor ran into the room, leap-frogging over a couple of nurses who where close to the doorway. The nurse said, “Your gloves are right there. She’s crowning.” They switched places just in time for the next contraction. I finally got to push. The baby’s head was delivered immediately. I started to push again to birth the body, but the shoulders hung up a little. Everyone was a little confused. The doctor realized my legs were still down from trying not to push, and said, “Her legs! Get her legs up!” Andrew and the nurse helped me get into the proper position. One more push, and our new daughter was born at 2:52 pm…after one hour and six minutes worth of active labor.
They laid her on my chest. I held her while I delivered the placenta. Andrew and I were overjoyed.
The doctor took a deep breath, looked around and said, “Now that’s what we call a precipitous delivery!”
The nurse said, “You still owe me one contraction, by the way!” Everybody laughed.
I held our baby girl on my chest for quite a while. Eventually, Andrew and the nurse took her to the other side of the room to weigh her and clean her off a little. She tipped the scales at 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and she was 21 inches long. Andrew calls her his “itsy bitsy giant.”
After the doctor finished sewing me up, everyone left us alone to bond as a new family. Our little girl nursed like a tiny expert.
We asked the doctor, when he made his rounds the next day, how on earth he made it from his office so quickly. We were figuring he must have already been back in the hospital for some reason. But, he gave us a sheepish grin and said, “Lots of unsafe driving! I didn’t use the brakes much. I set a new record. Apparently, I can make it here from my office in three minutes.”
The doctor discharged us that evening. We took our sweet new baby girl home. Her brothers and sisters love their new baby sister already. Her youngest brother may be a little excessively affectionate. He wants to give her kisses every time he sees or hears her.
We are now home, learning to be a family of seven. It was a wild ride, but we’re so happy to have our new baby girl with us at last!