We’re exactly one week away from celebrating Cricket’s FIRST birthday, which is completely unfathomable to me. The next week (or so) will definitely be spent centered around Cricket and the wonderful year she’s given us, and to get things started, I figure it’s only appropriate to share how things actually got started…
Once you have a baby, you realize that every birth story is beautiful and amazing, no matter how it happens. Before I had Emma Vance, truthfully, I didn’t have the ability to see this. Afterwards, though, there’s this wonderful gift of wisdom that allows us to see birth for what it really is — the genesis of motherhood, not just the story of nine-months-later.
I had ideas and plans and visions of how my birth with E.V. would go: no interventions, unmedicated, at home at least until my water broke, calm/cool/collected the whole way through. A diagnosis of preeclampsia at my 40-week appointment totally derailed those hopes and dreams, and we were in the hospital for a week with two failed inductions, threats of c-section (every hour on the hour), a last-attempt water broken, a misreading on how dilated I was, a painfully botched and ineffective epidural, a baby in the NICU, lots of blood loss and passing out on my way to the recovery room… Let’s just say that God had His own idea about how things would go, and He did NOT ask my opinion, haha!
Throughout my pregnancy with Cricket, I was determined to be more flexible with my birth plan. My goal was to avoid a c-section (and thus the recovery time), but other than that, I figured that I had already been through it all! Since I had already read the natural birthing books in preparation for Emma Vance’s big debut, I didn’t feel the need to re-prepare for a birthing experience I most likely wouldn’t have again. I figured that however Cricket was going to get into this world was out of my hands, so I focused on other things (like the nursery!).
Emma Vance was four days late, and because of my preeclampsia, she was pretty much evicted from my belly. (She probably would’ve hung out there for another week if we had been able to let her!) I assumed that Cricket would be late as well, and so Ryan planned his travel schedule for work accordingly. However, at 38 weeks I randomly lost my mucus plug while Ryan was out of town, and in a panic I called my OB. The nurse advised I go on bed rest to help slow down what seemed to be imminent labor so that Ryan could get home. I was still not really having contractions, so Ryan and I talked hourly, memorized flight schedules and analyzed routes home. He made it through his entire trip successfully without having to hop an emergency plane home, but when he came back and I was able to be checked without fear of hastening labor while Ryan was gone, the doctor said that despite my only being at three centimeters, the baby would “definitely be early.” That any-day-now mentality made for the WORST two weeks ever (since Ryan was still traveling off and on!), but I made it to 40 weeks without any other issues. (And, yes, it really was my mucus plug that I lost; you can go without it for weeks! Eew.)
At 40 weeks, Ryan’s travel schedule (because work required him to be gone up until Cricket’s birth and then almost the entire first month of her life) and the doctor’s on-call schedule lined up on only one day — Cricket’s actual due date! I agreed to go in voluntarily, even though I didn’t want to be induced, and the doctor agreed to start by simply breaking my water.
The night before Cricket was born, I wish I had gotten an amazing last night’s sleep. (Especially looking back at the pictures — MAN, do I look tired, haha!) However, Emma Vance woke up around 11 throwing up; she had caught a stomach bug, which made for an exhausting few hours before we were supposed to make our way to the hospital. Go figure! A mother’s job is never done, not even right before she becomes a mom AGAIN!
The morning of Cricket’s due date, March 22nd, I awoke at the crack of dawn to get all of the last-minute things ready around the house. The doctor told us they would call us in around 6 a.m., and I wanted to be ready. And I was. However, the maternity ward was apparently very busy, and since I was going in voluntarily, I was pushed to the bottom of the list. We weren’t called in until noon, and it was a few more hours before we were settled, had eaten lunch and were ready to get things started. (While we waited, we visited with one of our dear friends who had gone into natural labor early. It was crazy to see her in the hospital at the same time as us! In fact, her little boy was born only two hours before Cricket; they share a birthday! What are the chances of that happening?!?) The plan was to avoid pitocin if possible; although I had low expectations for an interventionless birth, I knew from my experience with E.V. that pitocin didn’t do much for my body’s ability to contract. I had an IV port in my hand (for emergencies and because they assumed eventually I’d need something to help labor along), but other than that, I was footloose and fancy free (and unmedicated) when the doctor finally came in to greet me. I was still sitting pretty at three centimeters (the same as I had been for the past few weeks) when she broke my water at 3 p.m., beginning the baby countdown…a slooooow countdown.
When they broke my water with Emma Vance, I went into true labor immediately. With Cricket, however, I had intermittent, mild contractions for almost five hours afterwards. My little bug was just taking her time, and since the contractions weren’t too terrible, I just relaxed when possible. As the clock crept toward nighttime, the midwife encouraged me to walk around and sit on a birthing ball to help get things moving along.
I was trying not to get checked too often, so at 8:15 the midwife came in to see how far along I was for the first time since the doctor’s initial check. A quick exam and she declared that I had not progressed at all, that I was literally still at three centimeters, and that we’d have to do some pitocin. I sighed, a little defeated but not upset. She snapped her gloves off and turned toward the hospital nurse, giving her instructions to get the pitocin drip in the works. She patted my knee and left the room.
I knew I was about to get hooked up to a million different machines (which was the bane of my existence with E.V.’s birth), so I told the hospital nurse that I wanted to use the restroom one last time while she prepped everything. I walked to the bathroom, sat down, and instantaneously began feeling the worst pain of my entire life. Seriously, the. worst. ever. — like so bad that if you think you’re in the worst pain ever but can, oh, I don’t know…breathe or talk or move, then it’s clearly not as bad of pains as I was having. ;) It was shocking how quickly the real contractions started and how intense they were. I couldn’t even stand up because I was in so much pain! Although my contractions were literally back-to-back from the very start, there was a brief moment in time where I was able to muster up the strength to walk two steps to the sink, but then I was stuck there, on my feet, gripping onto the vessel for dear life. (Glamorous, right?) The pain was so unbearable that to get through the contractions, I would literally flail about, and at one point Ryan was holding his arms over the porcelain so that I wouldn’t hit my head on it! I was screaming (of course), and the hospital nurse was puttering about in the room, prepping everything for pitocin. I’m sure she thought I was faking it; only two minutes earlier I had been laughing with the midwife and carefree.
As soon as Ryan realized that I was no longer in control of myself, he called to the nurse for an epidural. Since I had received one with E.V. (as ineffective as it was), I was expecting to have one with Cricket as well. The nurse brushed him off, and after a few more minutes of pain and panic, Ryan anxiously inquired from the bathroom, “How’s that epidural was coming along?”
We received a snarky, lazy response that the nurse “couldn’t order the epidural until I got back to the bed.” What?!? That would’ve been nice to know AS SOON AS WE ASKED FOR ONE. That jerk. Ryan yelled (because the nurse was too inattentive to even enter the bathroom to check on me or speak to us) to her that I wasn’t able to get to the bed because I was so rigid. I literally wasn’t in control of my own body; the contractions had taken over. She clearly thought my complaints and wailing were overly-dramatic because her response was along the lines of “well, tough.” In that moment I wanted to tear her head off; actually, throughout my entire birth I wanted to tear her head off, as I do still to this day, a year later!
By some act of God Ryan was able to basically carry me to the hospital bed, where he begged her to finally get the epidural. However, I was so tense from the pain that I couldn’t sit or lie down, and she refused to call for the anesthesiologist until I did so because technically I wasn’t in the bed, I was six inches away from it. I wanted to murder her. Calling upon every ounce of control and strength left in me during the milliseconds I had between contractions, I literally inched myself back until my butt was barely touching the bed, at which time Ryan yelled at her to call for the medicine. Instead of jumping into action, she lazily walked around the bed and began to hook up an IV to my port, and with simultaneous screams of fury, Ryan and I berated her. I DON’T WANT PITOCIN!!! NO PITOCIN! With an attitude, she shot back as us that she wasn’t giving me pitocin (even though that’s what she’d been working on preparing the whole time), that she was putting fluid into my IV and that I had to have an entire bag of fluid run in through my IV before she could call for the epidural. Excuse me — what?!? Now I’m a pretty sane person (no jokes, okay?? ;) ), and I have never, ever felt more anger toward a person before or since dealing with the incompetency of our nurse in that moment. Once again, why, WHY, WHHHHHYYY didn’t you tell me that the FIRST time I asked for an epidural?!? I could have killed her. Probably literally.
Since the nurse was so uncaring and lacking empathy and painfully slow, Ryan was frustrated and panicking. “My wife is in pain, and she needs the epidural NOW. Call for the anesthesiologist NOW.” The nurse looked at him, lazily continuing with hooking up the bag of fluid, and condescendingly responded, “Sir, there are women in this hospital who are in labor without epidurals 24 hours a day. She’ll be fine.” And then she rolled her eyes. To Ryan’s face.
Poor, sweet Ryan had had enough at that moment in time. He lost it. LOST IT. Through gritted teeth he snarled, “Listen, don’t EVER roll your eyes at me again. EVER. This is our birth, our experience, and your attitude is NOT acceptable.” Of course, while this whole dramatic scene is going on, I’m writhing in pain, begging for a moment of relief because the contractions are unbearable and without reprieve between them. The whole idea of relaxing during a contraction so that the baby can descend was ludicrous in that moment; instead, I was bearing my nails into Ryan’s arms, throwing my head against his chest to relieve some of the pain, my legs as stiff as could be holding me vertical against my will. The pain was so indescribable and overwhelming that I litearlly bit Ryan at one point. Yikes.
The nurse thankfully left the room at that moment. I continued on laboring, and somewhere a few minutes into our being alone, I could feel pressure and I began panicking internally. Oh, no! No, no, no, no! Not now! Not yet! Not before the epidural! Not without the doctor, any doctor! My internal dialogue couldn’t stay contained any longer, and I doubled over, literally clenching my knees, and screamed at the top of my lungs. Ryan freaked out, not knowing what was going on. “THE BABY’S COMING! THE BABY’S COMING!” I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed. (The poor people in the rooms surrounding us!) I was certain that I was going to plop out a kid right then and there, no nurses, no nothing, and poor, scarred Ryan would have to catch his child from hitting the floor. He apparently had the same thought and fear, too, and so he began screaming for help at the top of his lungs also.
The first person on the scene was some sweet, young intern who literally opened the door, went pale-faced and wide-eyed in terror and turned around, leaving without a word. Within seconds our midwife and half a dozen nurses burst into our room (including our jerk of a nurse) and sprung into action, routinely preparing tools and tables for birth. The midwife was trying to calm me down as I screamed at her that the baby was coming, that I was (no exaggeration) holding the baby in, and she tried to convince me that it wasn’t imminent, that we had some time, and that I had to — at all costs — lay down on the hospital bed so she could see how far along I was. My muscles were so rigid from pain that I literally could not lower myself down, so I fell backwards (no joking) into the bed at an angle and didn’t move or adjust until after Cricket was in my arms.
As the midwife pulled up my gown to check me, surrounded by nurses slowly prepping for a “normal” birth, her eyes grew wide. “Everyone! Stop everything you’re doing! This baby is coming RIGHT NOW!” Duh. That’s what I’ve been saying. Why would I lie about something like that?!? I didn’t want to push without my actual doctor present because my plan was to have an episiotomy, and God was gracious enough to grant my wishes. At the moment where I thought I could certainly stand no more pain, my doctor burst into the room, walked into gloves being held out for each of her hands, heard my request for an episiotomy, said, “Yes, ma’am, just hold that baby in for one more second!” as she grabbed her scalpel. (My children are both giant-headed, so episiotomy for the win!) As my doctor was working to grant my request, I looked up and saw the awful nurse standing next to me, ready to help as I was about to bring my precious child into the world. The strangest thing about my entire birthing experience was that as out-of-control as I was of my own body and actions, there was always this tiny, calm, completely aware piece of me hanging around inside my head quietly. However, seeing that terrible nurse’s face caused that quiet piece of me to come rushing out with full clarity and force. I glared at her straight in the eye and lashed out at her, “You didn’t believe me! You didn’t believe I was about to have this baby. I don’t ever want to see your face again!” With a look of shock, the nurse backed away from the bed and left the room, never to be seen of again.;)
After a few quick cuts, it was time to get Cricket out of my tummy and into the world! Literally three pushes and my sweet Cricket was out! There has never been more relief and joy felt in a single moment. Truly. She was beautiful and perfect and healthy, and I could not have been happier to have my precious little girl in my arms! Cricket was born at 9:06 p.m. on March 22, 2014. That means that I went from inactive labor at three centimeters to having a child in my arms within 45 minutes! No wonder it was so intense and painful!!!
With E.V., I was over-prepared for an unmedicated, natural birth, and quite the opposite happened. With Cricket, I prepared zero for an intervention-less birth, but when all was said and done, I finally got my original wish! After the fact, my doctor asked me which way I preferred (epidural or not), and I couldn’t give her a clear answer. With an epidural, the challenge was endurance; without it, the challenge was intensity. The better question would’ve been if I’d preferred slow and exhausting or fast and agonizing…and although I’m not sure which I’d choose, since Ryan ended up with tooth and nail marks on his arms, I *think* he’d vote for the epidural experience, haha!
I can’t believe that a whole year has already come and gone since being in that hospital, holding that tiny baby for the first time. Cricket has given us such earnest happiness in our lives and has truly made our family feel alive and full. For Cricket’s first birthday party, we’re celebrating with a spring-themed party centered around a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world like a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers.” because it so appropriately reflects our joy-filled little Cricket and her entrance into this great, big world.