My mom and I sat at lunch last Friday discussing our plans for the rest of the day. We agreed that I should cut Toby's hair that afternoon, and probably just do Matt's as well that evening so I wouldn't have to worry about that after the baby was born...if he was ever born. There had been almost no contractions that day and no sign of any changes, so I bathed Toby to remove the dried bits of food in his hair and sent him to the kitchen where everything was set for his haircut. "Go sit down in your booster seat," I told him, "Mommy will be right there and we'll cut your hair." I drained the tub and decided to use the bathroom one more time.
I was shocked and disoriented when my water broke (thankfully, in a very convenient place!) "What in the world was that?! I know my bladder doesn't hold that much. Oh!....Oh!!!! I know what that is!" So I opened the door and yelled for my mom like a little kid. "Mom!....Mom!! Mom!!!" And she came running as I said, "My water broke!"
You have to understand a little background in order to fully feel the gravity of this moment for me. With Emma I had gone from zero labor to delivering a baby in exactly one hour after they broke my water in the hospital. It was so hard and fast that I have been ever paranoid after that that if my water should spontaneously break at home I might not have enough time to get to the hospital before delivery. For weeks I had been saying, "The only real emergency would be if my water broke. We'd really have to hurry then, but that isn't very likely."
My mom's first words were the same as mine, "Oh!...Oh!!!...Who should I call first?" Fortunately, I had anticipated both of our minds being adrenaline fogged in such a scenario and had posted a list of numbers on the fridge and the order in which they should be called. Mom got busy calling my neighbor while I tried to figure out how to appropriately dress myself with this new development. Then I found my cell phone and called Matt. He was working at a blood drive 40 minutes from home and over an hour from the hospital. He didn't answer the first call (apparently because he was pulling a needle out of someone's arm--like that's any excuse). But he did pick up after my second frantic attempt. I was sure I didn't have time to use complete sentences so I just said, "Water broke. Going to hospital. Please come. NOW."
"Are you serious?" he first asked, but I think he quickly realized that I wouldn't call him at work with that message just for kicks, so he didn't wait for me to answer. "OK, I'll leave now," he said quickly. My neighbor arrived and took over the phone calls while Mom and I dashed out the door. Poor Toby never got that haircut he'd been promised, and he clearly didn't understand as well as the girls what was going on, but that explanation would have to wait.
I sat on a pile of towels, navigating my Mom to the hospital. We drove quickly, but began to ease up as we neared the hospital with no real contractions setting in. I called Matt again to let him know he probably had plenty of time. At the hospital my mom could have dropped me at the front entrance, but I didn't want to be left to wait while she parked the car. We headed for the parking garage instead, and I waddled through the garage holding a large bath towel between my legs. Mom and I were both laughing as the passing drivers stared. "Just smile and act confident," I advised, and so we did. In the hospital doors we grabbed the first wheelchair, and I felt much less ridiculous riding on a towel than walking with one between my legs.
The labor and delivery staff first sent me to a triage room, but after a few minutes of my sitting on a soaked towel they realized that there really wasn't any question as to whether the water had broken and decided to just get me settled in a room. I began to relax and let the reality of the situation sink in as I changed to a hospital gown and settled in a bed. I was hooked to monitors and signed papers. Matt arrived just as the nurse was getting my IV set up. My contractions were light and far between so Matt and I walked the halls for an hour to see if it would speed things up. "So was everyone at your work excited when you left?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said, "I didn't wait to see their faces." Back in our quiet room he remarked, "The longer we sit and wait here, the sillier I feel for having rushed all the way here."
"Well, we just didn't know," I replied, "and I'm glad you're here."
At 5:45, just over four hours after the breaking, we agreed to let the nurse-midwife add some pitocin to my IV to help speed up the labor. It didn't take much to put me into a regular labor pattern. We started the quiet music and I began to try to focus my attention, but our nurse seemed a little oblivious. She turned on the florescent lights and jabbered loudly. By the 7:00pm shift change I was very ready for a different nurse. The new nurse was in training to be a nurse midwife. She immediately dimmed the lights and put a lavender scented candle on a warmer. She talked only when necessary in a hushed low voice, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. She helped me settle on a large exercise ball with Matt sitting behind me. I rocked and breathed and leaned back into Matt, and though it was painful I felt safe and in control of the process.
Around 8:00 the nurse asked if I would like to get into a warm tub. I was surprised since I'd never been allowed to do that in labor before. She said the monitors would work fine in the water, and it felt wonderful even with the extremely intense contractions that were coming now. On the fourth contraction in the tub I said I needed to push. I was shaking when they helped me back to bed. "Well, you're only 6 centimeters," the midwife said. Generally an OB will tell you not to push until you're at 10cms, but the midwife listened when I said, "That's what they told me five minutes before I delivered my last two babies." She quickly donned her delivery gear and prepped the room.
"How do you want to do this?" she asked me, and I nearly couldn't believe my ears. I had been forced to deliver my last four babies while on my back in bed, but the midwife let me stay in control this time. I chose an unconventional position for sure, but she was flexible. No one yelled at me when to push or when not to push. Matt put in some different music I had selected and with the next contraction the midwife checked me again. "Is she complete?" the nurse asked.
"Baby's here," the midwife said quietly. And out he came with what seemed very little effort. "Look, he's holding his cord," the midwife cooed. Matt cut the cord while the baby squawked softly. They placed him on my chest then and left him there for a full hour, something again that I had never had before. Little Elijah Gabriel Eby immediately calmed when placed on my skin. He peeped his eyes open and quietly looked around. We talked to him, and after a while he nursed. Normally after birth I'm being stitched up while someone is weighing and measuring my screaming baby, but this time no stitches were required and my baby was snuggled happily next to me.
"Well," I smiled at Matt, "that was such an easy delivery I think we could have a few more if they'll all be that easy."
Matt laughed and asked the nurse, "How often do you hear that in the delivery room?"
Praise God with us for the safe, timely, and relatively easy arrival of Elijah Gabriel Eby. He has been warmly welcomed by his siblings and amazes me with his quiet, alert, and peaceful spirit. But those remarks will have to wait until another blog post. I have a hungry baby to feed.