By 3:00am, I couldn’t sleep through the pains, which were short and came very quickly. I walked around the apartment a bit, drank a few glasses of water, and made some (Pillsbury) cinnamon rolls. I wrapped a cozy blanket around my shoulders and over my big belly and settled into the rocking chair, enjoying, as odd as it sounds, the pains that were bringing me my new baby.
My activity was like a reorganization flare for my contractions. They grew longer, more painful, and were more spaced out. Regularly spaced out. As in, exactly five minutes apart spaced out. By 4:00am, I woke Matt up and told him I thought we might need to head to the hospital. I was leery of rallying the troops with false labor again, especially on such a treacherous morning, so we decided that since I could still talk through them and my water had not yet broken, we would stay put. I went back out into the kitchen to frost the cinnamon rolls and from the time I began to the time I finished, I lost the ability to speak when the pain hit. I downloaded a contraction timer app on our tablet and started tracking my progress. By now, they were coming every 3-4 minutes and lasting 30-45 seconds. Then they became too bad to sit through, and I started pacing around the apartment like a caged animal. At 4:30am, I woke Matt up and told him that we were heading to the hospital. We had planned to take the girls to my sister-in-law's house, as she lived a mere 15 minutes away, but it was so early and so cold, so I called my mom, who was on alert as our plan B. We threw a few final things in our bags, loaded up the car, and waited.
Around 4:45, my mom called to say the roads were such that she wouldn’t be able to make it in the usual 30-minute time frame. Waiting 45 or more minutes to leave for the hospital did not seem like an option, so I tried to figure out who could stay with the girls until my mom arrived so we could leave right then. Perhaps I could bang on the door of one of the neighbors? Suddenly an unusual idea popped into my head: the after hours emergency maintenance man. Matt approved of the idea, so I gave them a call. Maintenance said yes with no hesitation, arrived within minutes, cautioned us to be safe on the roads, and wished us good luck. We drove across the ice sheets slowly but carefully with much of the road to ourselves.
We arrived at the hospital, were admitted at 7cm dilated, and directed into the same large, homey corner unit in which Eleanor made her arrival. After all the proper monitors and IVs were attached and inserted, I, finally, got my epidural.
Minutes later, the doctor popped in to check my cervix and announced that I was completely dilated. Once she broke my still in-tact water, I could begin pushing. My water chose that moment to break on its own, so at 7:30am, less than five hours after labor had begun, I prepared to deliver my baby. I rolled on to my back and suddenly the world grew very fuzzy and it became hard to think, move my arms, or keep my eyes open. The nurse helped me roll on to my side where my sensibilities returned. We tried a few more times using a towel to keep me partly propped up, but every time I rolled off my side, I would nearly pass out. We decided to pause everything. The nurse gave me some medicine to up my low blood pressure and encouraged me to take a nap to give the rather strong epidural some time to wear off a bit.
About an hour later, I was feeling much better and having strong urges to push. We opted to try giving birth on my side to avoid any further issues and my nurse encouraged me to start pushing with the next contraction. My epidural was pretty perfect at that point – I could feel all the pressure but none of the pain. The baby’s head was kind of lodged in my pelvis and when he slipped free, I could feel him glide out. I could feel the pressure of his head as he made his exit, his shoulders as they wiggled out, and the release of his body as the doctor caught him. When the fluid gushed out after him, the weeks worth of pressure in my uterus dissipated in an instant. He was born at 8:59am, after approximately 4-5 contractions worth of pushes.
The doctor held the baby up for Matt to announce the gender when my nurse said something about “she” and gasped and rushed one hand up to cover her mouth. A girl? It was a girl? I was right? I looked up and framed right there between my legs were his tiny little boy parts. “It’s a boy!” I said as Matt signed Daddy in an attempt to signal his male gender. They placed him on my chest where he sat rather quietly while his father announced his name to the room: "Theodore Matthew." He made a few squawky moans of protest when the nurse started wiping him down, apologizing and baffled by her “she” slip.
Every one marveled over the hugeness of our new baby and I snuggled Theodore into the crook of my arm. He was so quiet and so content to just be. A few moments later, I went weak again. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and my limbs went limp against my will. No one seemed to panic and the doctor stitched up the small tear while the nurse adjusted my medication. Within a few minutes, I was feeling much more like myself and everyone had cleared out except for my regular nurse. As she straightened up the room, she leaned over my bed, "The next time you have a baby, call me. I want to attend another easy birth for a good family."
That's apparently become my modus operandi: awful pregnancies followed by easy births and smooth recoveries. At least it's something.
Although at the end of the (birth) day, all the pain, frustration, miserable nights of sleep and sleepless nights of pacing, a baby is always worth it.
The joy always outweighs the pain.