Somehow we make it to the hospital. Right on time. Grab the bags, my pillow, and waddle my way through the sliding doors to our designated area. We’re greeted by a friendly nurse who smiles and says, “Are you Renee? ”
I burst into tears.
All the waiting, the pain, the possibility of a change of plans, the hunger, the exhaustion, the nervous energy, the pain– it all comes out my tear ducts and onto this poor innocent stranger’s question.
“Yes….sniff, sniff…..I’m Renee. I’m here for a c-section with Dr. Q. but I don’t know what’s going on now. I wanted a Vback….I’m 42 weeks pregnant…….but now might be having contractions. Or Braxton Hicks. I don’t know. My stomach keeps tightening and hurting every few minutes. But I’m scheduled for surgery. Maybe it’s all in my head. I don’t know. Is everyone waiting on me? Sorry there was some traffic. I don’t know……”
She’s so nice. So understanding. “Well why don’t we hook you up to the monitor and see if you’re having contractions and then go from there.”
Good. She knows what to do. I can stop thinking now. Rest a bit.
Lie on the table with monitors strapped across my belly. Steve’s right there, holding my hand. 1O minutes pass. 15. The pain comes and goes. Comes and goes.
The nice nurse returns and checks all the paper that the machine has spit out over the last 15 minutes. “Yep my dear. You are having contractions. Now let’s see if you’re dilated.”
What?? This is for real? Not all in my head? I could actually be dilated now? After all this? All the trying? All the scheduling and rescheduling? The negotiations with Dr. Q?? Now what? If I am dilated do they let me try to go naturally? Or do I have to stick with the c-section schedule and plan? Will I mess everyone’s day up? Is this really happening? Is God giving me this gift? This natural birth? Dare I hope for it???
She checks me out and has a perplexed look on her face. “I don’t know if you’re dilated, honey. Need another opinion.” She leaves the room to find another nurse.
Ok Renee. Pull yourself together. This is all in God’s hands. Whatever He wants me to do, I will do. And I will be ok with it. If I am dilated at all, I will see if they’ll let me try to labor on my own. If not, the c-section is already planned. It’s all good. God, please guide me and be with me throughout all these decisions. Bring my baby out safely.
I talk my feelings over with Steve and he agrees. It’s all going to be ok.
Nurse #2 walks in and checks me. It takes a bit of time.
“Well, I guess you’re dilated. To one. Barely.”
“So what does that mean? Can I try for my VBAC?”, eyes all lit up.
“Well we’ve got to talk to your midwife and Dr. Q and see what they say. It’s up to them.” They leave the room.
Steve and I stare at each other incredulously. After 42 weeks of nothing, we might actually have a chance at the birth we’ve been hoping for. Of all times. Hours before our scheduled surgery. And that’s when the feelings of “this baby’s a girl” begin. Only a girl would pull a stunt like this. Her own timeline. Her own way. Stubborn little princess. Gosh, I love her!
Nurses return, along with Dr. Q. and immediately I am a nervous. He’s a great doctor and has always made me feel comfortable, but doctors in general, no matter who they are, make me feel like a little kid. I never can say what I really want to say. Get thoughts all jumbled up and end up babbling silly or forgetting things I had meant to discuss. Just the way it is.
Dr. Q calmly lays out the options. He’s willing to let me try to labor naturally. But I have to be monitored continually. And if too much time ends up passing, then it’ll be a c-section for sure.
Yes! Yes! I can do that. Great!! Sign me up now! Where do I go?
Labor and delivery- that’s where.
We settle into a room that seriously looks like a fancy hotel with just a few medical contraptions scattered about. There’s a small couch, a glider chair, hardwood floors, soothing paint colors of green and brown, low lights for dimming, curtains for privacy, and even a TV with a channel devoted to nature scenes and New Agey, spa music. And the view! I get an exterior room and can see the mountains and I feel so lucky, so elated! I actually do feel a bit like I’m in a hotel on vacation. No sterile operating room with bright lights, just this quiet space with me, Steve, and an occasional nurse. Feelings of excitement and anticipation take over and I forget about the contractions. God is going to let me have this gift! This experience that I’ve always wanted. What a wonderful surprise!
My midwife Kristen arrives and we talk about the turn of events. She’s so happy for me. We’re about the same age, and she’s even pregnant with her third. 4 months along. Her other two were natural homebirths, so I know she’ll be such an encourager during this time. We make a few necessary phone calls and texts, telling our family and friends the change of plans. They were all expecting a baby at this point- wanting to hear the answer….boy or girl!…….but they will have to wait a little longer.
I get into my comfy pink nightgown. The one mom bought me before Bailey was born. Her special gift to make me feel beautiful and girly while in the hospital. I remember her telling me how Grandmom had done the same for her when she was pregnant with me – “You need something just for you. All the gifts are for baby, but this is for you.” Oh how I love my mama.
I turn the TV to the nature channel and immediately fall in love with all the relaxing music. I am probably the only person who intentionally listens to low-key elevator music for the peace it brings.
I sit in the big bed and look at Steve and we both just think “now what?” What do we do now? After all these months, all these plans, all these decisions…..now what? We wait. That’s what. Just wait some more. 42 weeks and counting…..
The contractions are about 7 minutes apart, lasting about 30 seconds each. Still painful, but not excruciating. I decide to get out of bed and walk around. I remember learning how bed is the worst place to be while laboring. Up and moving- that helps it progress along more quickly.
So we venture out of our little hotel room and roam the hallways of the labor and delivery wing. I must be the only woman doing the “walk while in labor” thing because we pass no one but nurses and doctors. The halls are shaped like a “U” with a little breezeway that gets lots of distant mountain views. I walk that “U” over and over again. Nothing unique to look at. Just the obligatory watercolor paintings of mother and child, the black-and-white photographs of mamas clutching their newborns in those first moments of life. I enjoy those pictures the most. Think of what it will feel like to hold my little one for those first few moments. No needed waiting period to sew my stomach back up. No grogginess while the drugs wear off. No being away from the baby while I lie prostrate on an exam table. I get more and more excited.
30 minutes pass. We return to our room and I lay in bed again. It’s been a little over an hour since I was admitted to L&D. Kristen checks me again and I’m still just dilated one centimeter. It’s ok though. It’s still early. About 10 am.
We go on another little 30 minute walk. And over the next few hours that becomes the magic number. 30. Every part of the next day is divided into 30 minute intervals. Walk 30 minutes. Go lay in bed for 30 minutes. Sit on the exercise ball for 30 minutes. Pace the room for 30 minutes. Repeat. 30, 30, 30.
The contractions are closer, every 5 minutes. The pain more intense. Around 1 in the afternoon my brother calls on the phone. I’m in the midst of pacing the room. We chat for a couple of minutes- about the baby, how things have changed, how happy I am to have this chance. Laughter.
“So this is what having a baby’s like? I thought it was suppose to hurt, you don’t sound like you’re in any pain,” he says.
No sooner do I hear those words and I double over. Ohhhhhhhh!!!! Hold the phone out for Steve to grab. Clutch the sink, close my eyes, hunch over. Breathe. Just breathe. This will pass. This will pass. This will pass. Breathe. Stand up.
“What Kyle? What did you say?” I ask, not quite getting the humor of the situation. I say good-bye. No more phone for now. Just walk and pain, walk and pain.
Mom comes around 2. She brings Bailey and Grandmom. Bailey is in all yellow and white. Sunny colors on my sunny girl. I am so happy to see her. She is more pretty and sweet-smelling than I had remembered. She looks out the windows at the mountains, then finds one of the privacy curtains to play in. Wraps herself up over and over. I laugh. Another contraction. Ok, I need people to leave now. No Bailey. No one else. Just me, Steve, and Mom.
The room clears outs and Kristen decides to check me again. I am so excited. Surely with all the walking, all the time that’s passed, the more frequent contractions, I must be 5 or 6 by now. At least.
I’m only a 3. If that.
What?? A 3?? How can that be? Contraction……..close eyes, hear nothing, grab the bed handles, let out a little moan, breathe………Ok, I’m back. So only a 3??
Kristen suggests we give it another hour and then break my water if no more progression.
“Surely I’ll progress more? Right? I mean, it’s been almost 12 hours and these contractions are so much closer now. Down to 4 minutes. It’ll happen right?”
We give Steve a break, let him go grab some food. He won’t eat in front of me now, knowing I’ll want a bite of whatever he’s having, and he’s got to be starving. Mom and I make another trip around the hallway. I grip the railings on the wall when the pain is too much and she rubs my back. Tears start to come God, this hurts so much! Please ease this pain. Please be with me. Oh I need you so much right now! Mom keeps rubbing.
The hour passes so slowly. Kristen checks again and still no progress.
“How can this be? It’s getting more intense and closer together? How am I not dilating??” I feel like something’s wrong. Like I’m a failure. My body is a failure.
“It’s just the way it is sometimes,” answers Kristen in her ever so calm voice. “Let’s break your water and see if that speeds things along.
She explains how the pain will increase even more with my water being broken. There won’t be a cushion between the baby’s head and my pelvic bone. “More pain?? Is that possible?” I innocently think to myself.
She breaks my water and discovers there’s a good bit of meconium. The baby has had a bowel movement and it’s all floating around in the amniotic fluid. It’s not too dangerous, but something to be aware of. Kristen explains that the more time that elapses, the more chance there will be of the baby ingesting the meconium, which could definitely be harmful to the baby’s lungs. For now, we’re ok. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and Kristen will check me in another 2 hours. 5 pm. There should definitely be more progress by then.
More intense is right. The pain is so strong. I try walking some more, but it’s too much. I just need to lie in bed and rest between contractions. Every 3-4 minutes. I grab the railings for support when the pain comes. I try to remember to breathe. I am pretty sure I’m at the moaning, groaning stage of it all. At least that’s what Steve tells me. In the moment I remember nothing of what’s going on. Just that I’m holding these rails so tightly and that I’m breathing. And it hurts. Oh it hurts so much. And I’m thirsty. I’m painfully thirsty. Such dry mouth. Such a heavy tongue. I ask for water over and over. And over and over I’m told no, can’t have any. Just in case we have to have a c-section, I can’t have any fluids.
I whine. “But it’s been like 15 hours. I’m really thirsty. Just a little bit.”
But Kristen and the nurses hold firm. Nothing.
So pain and thirst and now exhaustion. So very, very tired. Feels like a million years ago that I woke up with that “tightening” feeling. That we made that drive to the hospital. That we checked in and I cried to the nurse. That I was admitted into labor and delivery. Into the hotel room. Not so much a hotel room anymore. Just a dim, quiet room with a huge clock whose ticking torments me. The pain growing every minute, but no baby still.
I am in the midst of it all and it’s all just a blur. Tightening, pain, thirst, tears, moaning, clutching, breathing, no thinking……..repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Why did I not drink gallon after gallon around midnight? Right before my cut-off time? Why did I stay up so late tidying the apartment? I am beating myself up for all the choices I made the night before. The night before my supposed morning c-section. Didn’t know all that drink and sleep would be so important. Oh how I crave it now! I just want a big glass of water and to curl up in bed and go to sleep and have all this horrible pain stop. Stop! Stop!!
Somehow the two hours drag by and Kristen is there checking me again. She waits until the contraction ends and I relax a little. I know I must be dilated more now. There is no way those last two hours passed with no progress. I must be opening up. I have to be. I can feel it. Every slow and painful contraction of me opening up. Every single centimeter of pain.
She furrows her brows and frowns. “You’re still just a 3.”
I lose it. Crying and crying and crying. All of this and nothing. Nothing but never-ending thirst, never-ending hurt, and every single bone and muscle in my body is worn out, dog tired. How is this possible? I just cry and cry. Contractions give me breaks between the tears. But as soon as the pain ends and I’m breathing normally again, it’s more crying.
Steve looks so helpless and I can tell he hates to see me like this and not be able to help. I look to my mom and she gives a weak smile.
“What do I do now?” I ask. So defeated.
“Let’s give you another hour and see where you are,” says Kristen. “If you still haven’t progressed, we might need to consider a c-section.”
No! No! No! Not after all of this! That’s the last thing I want after everything that’s happened. You can do this Renee! You can do it! Get out of this bed and get moving!
I am determined to have this baby naturally. I do not want another surgery. Another drug-induced delay between my baby’s first breathe and the moment I feel her in my arms. I know this baby is a girl. I can feel it and just know. Months of uncertainty and boy dreams and girl dreams and boy predictions from most everyone I know, and in this moment I know I’m having a girl. No ultra-sound could be more clear. And I’m having this girl naturally, without a scalpel, without the drugs.
I push myself up out of bed, grab Steve’s arm, and make my way to the door. Another million laps around the U. I will walk this baby out of my belly.
Walk. Contraction. Tears. Walk. Contraction. Tears. Walk. Contraction. Tears.
It’s time, it’s time! Check me again Kristen! I didn’t lay in that bed one second. I’m progressing….it’s happening. I know it is! She checks.
“Still a 3.”
No break-down this time. Just a blank, questioning look. What now? How long can I keep walking? How long can I go without something to drink? How long before I am truly worn-out? How can I deal with this pain any more? No, seriously. This pain. I don’t think I can bear it one more minute!
Steve and I talk. Mom joins in. I’m not ready to give up. My body might be, but not my will. Dr. Q stops by. The lights are low and it feels much later than six o’clock. I’m at about 15 hours of labor and about a 700,000 on the pain scale. When will this end?
Dr. Q. doesn’t want me to go much longer. He’s a little concern about the lack of progress and my exhaustion and the meconium. Me too. But I don’t want to give up. Not yet. We compromise. We decide I get one more hour. If I’m still at a 3 then, then it’s time. And I know what that means.
I decide to stay in bed this time. That last hour of walking really wore me out. I let the New Age music seep in, keeps the lights so, so low, and grip those bed rails like I’m going down on the Titanic. Every 90 seconds, 2 minutes now. I barely can recover from one contraction before another begins.
It’s all running together, the contraction and the 90 seconds of relief, when all of a sudden the nurse comes in and checks the machine. I’ve been on wireless monitors the whole time I’ve been in L & D. A requirement for vbacs. The nurse says something to Kristen who gets up out of her chair and together they look at something on the screen and start fumbling with buttons and my monitors. They tell me to roll to my left side. Something is not right. Kristen puts an oxygen mask over my face. I try to breathe normally. In a far-off, vague way I feel scared. But in the here-and-now, I’m just so tired. Feeling frightened requires more energy than I’ve got right now.
There’s some beeping on the machine. More quick and quiet instructions and questions and answers. Steve has stepped back now to give Kristen and the nurse more room. But I can still see his face in the dim light and he looks worried. Don’t know where mom is. A few minutes pass. I think I’m crying now. From the pain or from this new scare, I can’t tell. The moments creep.
“Ok, the heartbeat’s back up” says the nurse, and the room exhales.
I didn’t even know the heartbeat had been down. Kristen explains that the baby must have been in a position that caused it’s heartbeat to drop to a dangerous level, but that everything was ok now. I am relieved. And I’m done. If I haven’t progressed any at this point, I’m done. Give me the surgery, get my baby out.
We have 10 more minutes before the hour is up, but I don’t care. I ask Kristen to check me now. Her answer will either be the encouragement I need to keep up this labor, or it will be the word that sends me to the O.R.