She was such a special baby, such a timely gift.
I guess since this isn’t titled “A pregnancy story” or “The life of the mom and dad story” I’ll start as close to her birth day as I can.
Our little Hopey was due on January 1. She was our first baby and we were ecstatic about having her! At a mid-December appointment, our doctor predicted that we would have her by Christmas. I was already dilated at least two to three centimeters.
I was feeling great and if I experienced any Braxton-Hicks contractions I wasn’t aware of them. We were busy with Christmas preparations, Paul’s responsibilities at the church, and my piano teaching.
Christmas was on a Tuesday that year and several things had been planned for the days right before the big holiday. Some friends were having a Christmas party on Saturday night. A man had planned a special Christmas service on Sunday afternoon for the inmates at the local juvenile justice center, and my brother and his family were going to be in town. My sister was also coming in from a few hours away and would be staying with us.
On Friday, a friend and I went to Target to do some Christmas shopping. While there something abnormal happened which I would later realize was what they call “losing the mucus plug.” Lovely. Right before the Christmas party on Saturday, we dropped by Barnes and Noble to pick up some other gifts. (Seriously, Christmas is a great season for staying active and doing things to help you go into labor.) = ) While there, I began to feel quite poorly and felt a great, sudden need to use the restroom. It seemed to go away, but when we got to the party, I knew I wasn’t quite myself. After sitting down on the couch, I did not want to move. Usually the independent one, I was quite content to have Paul get my food and refill my drinks. I started to notice that every so often I would feel really bad. So I asked my sister on one of those occasions what time it was. When it happened again, I would ask her again. It didn’t take long to realize that the “bad feeling” was happening every fifteen minutes. Later, I would realize, duh, the contractions were beginning. That was around six pm on Saturday night.
We went home when the party was done and stayed up late. I was wrapping Christmas presents for bus kids and Paul was assembling some nightstands I had just bought. I kept careful track of how often the contractions came. They worked down to seven or eight minutes apart, but never felt unbearable. When all our work was finished we went to bed.
In the morning, the contractions were still there. But as they weren’t really that hard to take, we got up, got ready and went to church. I was definitely walking different. My pastor’s wife took one look at me and said, “Are you in labor?”
“I don’t really know.” I answered. “Maybe?” Ah, first round ignorance. I just didn’t think it was that big of a deal since the pain was not that bad.
I played the piano for the church service noticing that every now and then it did take some extra concentration if it was during a contraction.
We ate lunch at my parents house with all the family. I remember walking in the door and my brother saying, “Hi, Labor Lady!” It was decided that my sister would play for the service at the justice center.
This was great for me, because I still hadn’t found the perfect Christmas gift for Paul yet. So where did my sister-in-law and I take off to? The mall! I happen to be a very picky shopper so we literally walked through every department store of the mall. I found the right gift and then headed to Walmart. Of course it was crowded, we had to park very far away, and once again, did quite the walking regimen.
By now I knew I was in labor. I didn’t know if it would be it for sure, but the contractions were regular and a little more painful.
We went back to my parent’s house to switch cars and people. Paul and I and my sister headed back to our house. At this point, my sister had a movie she wanted us to watch, so we did. It was horrible. There we were on the couch and my contractions were consistently every six to seven minutes. Sometimes I would look up at the ceiling or breathe really hard through one of them and Paul and Laurie would look over at me and ask, “Are you okay?”
After it passed I would look back at them and say, “Yup.”
This went on until the end of the movie (for which we all rejoiced). = )
I decided that I would go to bed. If I could fall asleep, then there was obviously no reason to go to the hospital, but if the pain kept me up, then we would go from there. We made sure the right phone numbers were on the refrigerator and headed to bed.
At about 1:05 AM I realized the contractions were too painful to sleep through. I told Paul that I was going to get up and call the hospital. The contractions were five minutes apart so the hospital told us to come in.
I remember having a great quandary over what to where to the hospital to have a baby. I didn’t want to go out in my pajamas, but it seemed silly to get dressed. I ended up wearing some of Paul’s basketball shorts and his Duke sweatshirt.
My sister came with us. We were all very excited. I kept wondering if this was really it.
We arrived at the hospital around 2:30 am. The people did not take us seriously at all. They nonchalantly called for someone to wheel me up to the maternity floor. That guy wasn’t the greatest; he laughed at us and said, “If you were going to have a baby tonight, she’d be cursing.”
I don’t remember too much about the first little bit of being there. I think I was only dilated to four centimeters. Thankfully we had an older nurse who thought it’d be great for us to walk around a bit. So we walked around the floor while the contractions continued. Once they were too bad to continue walking, we went back to the room. Again, I don’t remember too much; only asking for a ball to sit on, trying it and realizing it would never work for a short girl like me; and being very hot. Paul and my sister would take a washcloth and wet it with cool water to put on my forehead or neck. This felt amazing.
For some reason, I climbed up on a loveseat and kind of leaned my arms and torso over the armrest while kneeling on the seat. The pain was very bad. I rocked back and forth a little bit trying to do different things with my breathing to just stay in control and not give in to the pain. It was kind of like a zone. I knew other people were there, but still felt all by myself.
The next time the nurse checked me I was at nine centimeters! We all cheered. Apparently, the weird rocking on the loveseat experience had been “transition.”
From there I stayed on the bed.
Again, the exact details here are a little sketchy. I think the nurse asked if I wanted to try to push. Of course, I did and she gave me this long explanation of what to do. I was excited as everything I had heard was that labor was bad but pushing was good.
Well let me tell you, not for this girl. I tried pushing a few times and stopped. That was not for me. To this day, I hate the pushing part!
Through all of this, my water had yet to break. They said they would call the doctor to come break my water. Then we found out that our doctor would not be there, he was out of town.
This didn’t seem like a big deal. A doctor’s a doctor, right? We’re pretty laid back.
I remember somewhere around five or six in the morning telling Paul that he needed to pray for me. I’d been doing pretty good, but was beginning to lose my trust in God. Why is this taking so long? It really hurts!
When the doctor walked into the room, a new wave of confidence was given.
He broke my water, which I thought was pretty cool. If nothing else, childbirth is a feast for curiosity.
I started trying to push again and was miserably unsuccessful. Let’s just say I push like I’m trying to play a trumpet or something and all the force does not go to the right place. And no, another explanation of how to properly do it will not be helpful, thank you.
The doctor gave the nurse a look and she told me they were going to do something to numb it because he was going to cut.
For some strange reason, this bothered me not at all. I don’t remember feeling any pain until recovery.
A few more pushes and there she was. (I have to say that the moment when the baby comes out is really cool! I thought for sure that that part would hurt quite badly, but for me it really didn’t.)
In just a moment, there was a beautiful red and purple skinned, dark-headed screaming baby on my chest.
“Hi! Oh, you’re so beautiful!!” I said to her over and over again.
I looked up with tears in my eyes at Paul and saw his first proud daddy smile.
She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Happy can’t even describe how we felt.
They took her and cleaned her up all while Paul followed and watched.
I remember being sewn up and not even caring. (Whatever they did to numb me worked really good!)
When they brought her back to nurse, it was so precious. She latched on beautifully and I watched in amazement at what was happening.
She was six pounds even and nineteen and a half inches long. Such a little peanut. An absolutely perfect little peanut to me.
One funny memory from after delivery is when the nurse informed me that I needed to get up and try to use the restroom. I looked at her like she was crazy and thought, “Hello, I just had a baby! I don’t need to get up and do anything!”
But sadly, I discovered, that yes, I did have to do something. And from there the pain and annoyance of recovery began.
We spent the first Christmas of our married life in the hospital. It was great. Everyone was being so sweet, bringing us gifts and miniature trees. All the while I was thinking, We just got the best Christmas present of all! Nothing can top this.
We held our sweet little Hopey and tried to take in all that she was. I was so surprised by how many faces and expressions and noises she already made. I had never been around a newborn before.
She was such a sweet baby, nursing and sleeping so well.
All the pain of delivery didn’t seem to matter anymore. I was thankful and surprised to have gotten through without any medication. While it certainly isn’t for everyone, setting myself up for it to be really bad and trying to breathe and concentrate through the pain seemed to do the trick for me.
I will say that recovering from the episiotomy was very painful and unpleasant. To this day I have no idea how many stitches I had. I didn’t want to know and didn’t ask.
Also, unexpectedly painful were the contractions that returned with nursing during the first week. I was totally caught off guard by this and a little mad that no one had told me about it.
The whole experience was only about half as bad as I had prepared for. Someone had let me borrow some Lamaze magazines and much of what I had read in there was helpful for ideas on how to breathe through contractions and for the overall “You were made to do this!” mentality. It wouldn’t be true to say that I followed it completely and I think that some women have a lot harder time than I do, but overall what I read was helpful.
I remember the week after we had settled back down at home my sister-in-law sitting down and saying something like, “So tell me the birth story.” As I talked it out for the first time, I realized just how special it was and how special it was to be able to share it with someone else.
Even as I’ve written this I realize how many details I’ve already forgotten. But at least what I still remember and what was really important about those hours is recorded here. I can’t wait to write out Sophia’s! Hers was quite the whirlwind.