Quick! To the Batmobile! (Our Birth Story)

First of all, I want to shout a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who kept us in prayer as we prepared for the birth our little one. There is no question that God answered those prayers. He allowed us to have a little bit of adventure as we welcomed our new son...but He never let us go! Here's our tale, in brief, for those of you who love to read birth stories as much as I do...

You'd think that after 5 full-term pregnancies I'd be an expert at labor and that the answer to the age old question of "When do I go to the hospital?" would be a relatively easy one. Unfortunately, life is seldom so simple and in the early morning hours of November 4th, I found myself lying in bed asking that question and wondering whether or not I should wake up the Chief.

There's a general rule of thumb for knowing when to go in to the hospital called the "411 method" and it goes something like this: Contractions 4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for at least one hour. I can't say that I've ever strictly used it but it's a good guideline for knowing when the event is imminent and to cancel dinner reservations. My contractions were not like that. They were very, very strange and I didn't know what to make of them. I awakened to a sharp pain but it was unlike anything I was expecting. None of the subsequent contractions were longer than 15 seconds and all were less than 2 minutes apart. "They do hurt...but do they hurt enough? Why are they so short? Maybe it isn't a contraction. Maybe it's horrible food poisoning." I lay there for a few of them and then got up, determined to find out what the problem was.

The intensity continued to increase but they still remained only about 15 seconds long. I could walk through them with some difficulty but 15 seconds doesn't throw much of a crimp in any journey. Should I wake him or not?  "Honey, it's time."  Better safe than sorry, right? "Should I call Mom and Dad?" he asks. "Sure." I think I'm sure, anyway.

Only about 1/2 an hour had passed since I was awakened by the first pains but still I hurried around the house preparing to leave. Where are those tennis shoes? Suddenly, I felt strong contractions, a POP and a gush and knew that I did not have time to tie those shoes. On went the ugly baby blue Crocs and I renewed my preparations with a rising panic and a fervent vocal prayer: "Please Jesus, get me to the hospital on time. Please. Please." 

After my water breaks (and it always does), labor goes very quickly. I knew from experience that I had, at most, 45 minutes before the baby would be born. The hospital ride would be about 25-30 minutes. No time to wait for our babysitters. We had hoped not to wake any of the children but the Professor was called upon in time of need and grandma and grandpa arrived to find us long gone. It turned out to be a very good thing that we hadn't waited for them.

The car ride was one that I hope to never experience the like of again.  (Cue Knight Rider theme song.) I am so grateful that traffic was minimal in those dark morning hours. I am also grateful that my husband had the good sense to break a number of traffic laws (prudently and safely, of course) along the way. I hadn't been paying much attention to the time up to that point. I knew we were rushing around in the 4:00am hour somewhere but didn't note the minutes. In the car, it was easy to see the time and we were cruising along the empty highway at 5:00am. The contractions were decidedly longer and very much consistent with the final stretch of active labor. I could feel the pressure of the baby and I knew that in a very short time I would be in transition. I have never had more than 5 transitional contractions (usually just 3) once they begin but they are doozies since most of my dilating occurs in that short time (going from 2 or 3cm to 10cm in 45 minutes following a water break). I have never had to push more than 3 times to deliver. Have I mentioned that I was becoming a bit anxious that we wouldn't make it?

The Chief called ahead to the ER so that they would be ready for us and wouldn't stop us to fill out paperwork. "Please bring a wheelchair...baby is coming." The car trip ended up only taking about 20 minutes and progress was going more quickly than I had estimated. I felt like laughing when I saw the number of staff ready to greet us at the door and thanked God for my husband's excellent professional connections in the medical community!

The ride in the wheelchair seemed awfully long. My legs were shaking so badly from the pressure that I felt a little silly... like a pumpkin shaped jumping bean. I was trying not to make any horrible pain-related noises in the halls and just tried to pray. "Jesus... Jesus... Jesus." The nurse deftly deflected the paper-gatherers as we rolled through the halls. "No time," she said, "She's been here before...let's get to this baby first." I was so very grateful when we pulled into an oh-so-familar birthing suite room. My midwife arrived immediately (bless her heart) and measured me at 6 cm. Transitional contractions began...and at 5:24, just 8 minutes after arriving at the hospital, the baby was delivered.

I wish I could tell you that I was the picture of calm and grace. In reality, I yelled my head off during those few minutes and had great trouble collecting myself following delivery. I know that I am blessed to have short labors but the degree of intensity is definitely higher for that brief period. My easiest labor (ha ha) with the smoothest recovery was 4 hours long. The shorter they get, the more violent the actual labor feels and the more shell-shocked I feel afterwards. I happily admit that, overall, it was lovely to have the baby so quickly! "It's over! He's here!" is what every laboring woman longs to say. And the baby is placed in arms...well, what's labor pain compared to that joy?

The short labor was a little harder on the baby. The descent was so rapid that the normal "squeezing" of the lungs did not happen and they were filled with fluid. Baby got a lousy APGAR score (4.5) and a "Code Pink" call to the neonatal resuscitation crew. The nurse told me that it is common for very rapid labors to be rough on the babies. But the rapid descent was also a blessing since it prevented him from taking in the meconium that had gotten into the amniotic fluid. Thankfully, he recovered quickly with no ill-effects.

There was so much that could have gone wrong that day. So many points at which things could have gone differently and changed the course of events. What if I had stopped to tie my shoes? And waited 2 more minutes to wake up the Chief? What if we had waited for our sitters? What if my baby would have been born in the car and needed that neonatal team...but they weren't there?

Do you ever wonder if God hears the prayers you offer for bloggers across the miles? You don't have to wonder anymore. He heard you.

In times past, with longer labors, my husband has been able to lead me through prayer. I remember all those times and treasure them. This time, there was no room for a verbal Hail Mary but I do remember calling on the name of the Lord in my panic and pain. I heard my husband say, "Don't worry. He's here. He's with you." Those words brought great clarity to me in that moment. I was able to focus on them and was greatly comforted. It was the super-condensed version of labors past but his words reached my ears and my heart and renewed me in faith and hope. I am so grateful.

One slightly comical blessing of the day was that the decision of whether to get an epidural was (once again) removed from my hands! Remember this discussion? It looks like it will continue to be my lot to walk straight through that pain even when I wish to go around it.

Baby Update: Healthy as a little horse. Calm as a cucumber. Nursing voraciously. Cute as a button. An absolute blessing and a joy...it is such a privilege to be a mother. The months of sickness and the discomfort and the pain of labor have culminated in a greater love than I could have imagined. Even the previous experience of motherhood (5 times in my case) cannot prepare a woman for the preciousness of another new life. It's always a sweet surprise. We forget too quickly what the Almighty can do. God's works are marvelous!!

And how cool is it that two Catholic mommy bloggers I follow delivered their babies in the same week? You've just got to take a peek at Baby Jude and Baby Gabriella!
Posted on November 12, 2010 and filed under "birth story", "childbirth", "labor".