I tend to be in pre-labor for a very long time. By the beginning of September I was have at least a couple of contractions every day. Never enough to be consistent, just enough to remind me that I was so close to being done, but not quite there. My mantra was always “not until the 23rd” since that was when my mom was coming into town. I always had backup plans running though my head, but I always told myself “not until the 23rd.”
It was a very long, long month, but finally September 23rd came. It was a pretty typical Wednesday, and I was pretty busy getting last minute things ready for my mom to come. I got the girls off to school, went to the store with Clark, picked up an air mattress, and did lots and lots of laundry. I was busy and moving (and exhausted) most of the day, but I did start having more regular contractions. Nothing too big, but definitely something every 20 – 30 minutes. I picked up Elsie early from school so we could drive all the way to the airport to get my mom. I had a few contractions while driving, but nothing too big. Mostly they were just very annoying. We finally got her and made it back home.
Once at home, I was done. I was very tired and very sore from everything happening all day. I put some dinner in the oven and zoned out on the couch while my mom was swarmed with kids. The girls kept asking me if I was going to the hospital yet since Grandma was here. Alan came home, we had dinner, and put the kids to bed. I went over our regular schedule with my mom, made sure she knew where everything was and how it all worked, wrote a list of all the things I still needed to add to our hospital bag, and finally went to bed. I lamented to Alan that I was so sore and hurting, but I was still pregnant and didn’t know when it would end. He reminded me that since my mom was here, all I had to do was sit and watch Netflix and crochet or do whatever I wanted until the baby came.
2am I woke up. I went to the bathroom and had an energy bar that I kept next to my bed for when I woke up in the middle of the night hungry. I laid back down to get to sleep when the contractions start to hit. Right from the start, they were INTENSE. I got my timer going on my phone and timed them for a little while. Laying down wasn’t working anymore and I sat on the edge of the bed. With all of my other spontaneous labors, my water broke before we went to the hospital. I kept waiting for it to break, even willing for it to pop so I could be 100% sure that it was time to go. It never did, and by 3am with contractions every 2 -3 minutes I couldn’t take it anymore. I woke Alan up and told him we needed to go. His first response was “well, has your water broken yet?” He mumbled something about how he knew how much I wanted this to be done with and he didn’t want me to have to be sent home. I firmly told him I didn’t care and that we needed to go NOW. He finally got up and we scrambled around gathering up last minute things. I woke up my mom and told her we were leaving and we’d let her know what was going on.
The drive over was awful and the contractions were hard. At least there was almost no one else on the road that early in the morning. By 4am we made it to the hospital and started the long walk to the labor and delivery floor. We first ran into a security guard who looked at me very nervously as he walked with us, but then came across a nurse going back the same way who took us the rest of the way. I stubbornly refused to ride in a wheelchair. I guess I was still worried about being sent home, and thought walking would help things move along. Looking back, it was pretty dumb to say no, and the walk was really difficult and slow. I would have to stop every 20 feet or so for a contraction, lean against the wall and beg for Alan to push on my back. He was struggling carrying all of our bags and pillows, and I think a few times had to balance everything and use his elbows for counter pressure on my back. Finally we made it to the floor and to the front desk. After trying to answer questions and signing in, we got into a triage room.
Somehow I got undressed and into the hospital gown. The nurse kept pestering me with lots of questions trying to figure out if my water had broken or not. I mentioned something about there definitely being more activity down there happening, but I wasn’t sure if my water was leaking or not. She kept bugging me about times and such while I was clenching and holding on during contractions, and I wanted to yell at her “just do the dang test already and get your answer!!” She finally did the Amnisure test, which came back negative for my water breaking. Once the test was done she could check my dilation; I was at a 6 and the water bag was bulging. She immediately worked on getting me admitted and starting an IV. I was Group B Strep positive with all of my pregnancies, and she was worried that I might not have time to get the full dose before the baby was born. They offered me a robe and a wheelchair to get to the Labor and Delivery room, the latter of which I again stubbornly refused. The walk down the hall was short, but difficult with contractions.
We get to the room around 5am, Alan finally unloaded all of our stuff, and I used the bathroom one last time. I crawled in bed, laid on my side, gripped on to the guardrails, and just waited for the contractions to come. I had already told them about not wanting an epidural or pain relief. The nurse said something about trying different positions if I wanted to, but I grunted something about just wanting to lay still. At some point I realized clenching up during each contraction was counterproductive, so I did my best to “relax” into each contraction. Turns out my “relaxing” into the contractions meant closing my eyes and moaning deeply through each one. I still desperately needed Alan to press on my back during each wave. I vaguely remember thinking it must be uncomfortable for him to reach me having to lean over the bed like he was, but then the next contraction came and I didn’t care anymore how he was feeling.
Technically I had an OB team of three doctors (one attending and two residents), but I really only saw my doctor throughout the pregnancy. I think I saw the other two once or twice, just enough to know who they were. Turned out one of the residents was at the hospital on call, so he came in to see me. They called my regular doctor too, and since she is a Family Doctor and I was probably one of her only pregnant patients, she got up and came to the hospital at 5am. She looked tired, and I think I apologized for waking her up, but then had another contraction and stopped caring. She told me I was doing great all on my own. I think I said something about it being too late for any pain medication now, and she started to say something to the contrary, but I grunted or groaned, and she shut up about it.
I could feel baby moving down with each contraction. I felt sick, asked for a bag, and threw up during one of the contractions. That has got to be one of the worst things ever… After that I said something about it shouldn’t be too much longer since throwing up means it’s close to the end. At one point they tried to get the second robe off of me, and I wasn’t too happy about that since it meant I had to move. They talked about breaking my water, but needed to be ready because baby would be born soon after that. The nurse called for a delivery team and people started coming into the room. The resident would be catching, with his attending next to him. My doctor was on one side, with the nurse on the other. Alan stood somewhat helplessly near my head and just sort of held on to me. Several more contractions, baby moved lower and lower, and I said I needed to push. The resident broke my water, and they tried to move me into position (which I was not happy about). My doctor and nurse held my legs and tried to get me to grab them too, but I didn’t want to. I held onto Alan’s hand, and someone else’s hand (another nurse?) on the other side instead.
I started pushing, and my deep moans turned into She-Hulk calls. My doctor and nurse kept shaking my legs telling me to relax them and push down. Breathing was difficult during contractions, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe while they were happening. I just remember them saying “take a breath, relax your legs, curl around your baby”. At one point during the pushing I remember yelling “why aren’t you out yet??” Finally, with one last effort, she came shooting out at 5:45am. Alan described it later as “well, it kind of looked like you exploded a little…” I pushed for maybe 5 minutes, but it felt like a lot longer. They told me to open my eyes, pulled baby up, rubbed her a little, and put her on me. I think one of the first things I said was “She has hair!!” I was more worried than I want to admit that she would be a bald baby. My doctor asked me her name. I looked at Alan, and told everyone that this is Hannah. Alan cut the cord, and we just looked at her for a little bit.
Since she came out so fast and didn’t spend a lot of time being squeezed by the birth canal, they wanted to take her and rub her down good and get her squawking and breathing deep. I told them they could go ahead and weigh and measure and get a diaper on her. Alan went over to be with Hannah and my doctor while the resident and attending worked on me. The placenta was still coming out and they were giving me shots of Pitocin to help everything contract. He asked me to push a little, and I think I told him to “give me a break, I just pushed out a baby”. I had a little bit of a tear that needed to be repaired, but I told him to wait until I was holding Hannah before working on it. With 9lbs 5oz, 22in of baby laying back on me, I finally let them finish up.
After everything was done, the crowd started leaving the room. Hannah settled in on me and started nursing like a champ. The nurse staff changed and a new one came in to help clean everything up. Alan finally got a chance to hold Hannah, and I felt a huge rush of emotions fall out of me. I looked at him holding her and choked out “it’s finally over. This whole pregnancy is finally over. “
This year had been one of the hardest of my life. Antepartum Depression came out of nowhere, and was nothing like I had ever experienced before. I feel like I should have recognized the symptoms earlier – I suddenly stopped doing everything I used to enjoy. I stopped running, I stopped blogging, I stopped crocheting, I stopped sewing, and I even stopped reading books. I was more exhausted than I had ever been. I was angry all the time. The kids were completely overwhelming. It wasn’t until I was over halfway through and struggling every day just to do the basic things that I realized that it was not normal to feel this way and finally talked to my doctor.
I started getting help. I saw a therapist. I opened up to some close friends. Alan drove us across the country to my parents’ house so the kids and I could stay with them for a month during the summer to take some pressure off of me. I cut out foods that were acting as triggers. I tried to get enough sunlight and sleep. I did everything I could do just to survive; just to hang on until delivery and hope that it would all get better.
In that one moment when I looked at Alan holding Hannah—that little baby that I had struggled for so long to get here—an overwhelming sense of relief coursed through me. Suddenly, I felt lighter. Like I had just taken a deep breath after being underwater for so long. I have tried to hold on to that feeling, and it has only increased the further away from delivery I get.
It was for that one moment, that one breath, that I knew I needed to have a natural delivery again. I needed to feel everything, to conquer this pregnancy, to see it through all the way to the end. I needed to have that raw, real experience to be able to rise above it. I look at Hannah every day and I know she was meant for our family. I don’t know why it was so hard to get her here and I am relieved that her pregnancy is over, but I am so glad that Hannah is in our lives.