Looking back on the days leading up to Ryan’s birth, I guess I should have known something was brewing, but I had convinced myself that I was in for the long haul. Based on my weekly midwife appointments, the baby was high and showed no signs of budging. So one night, about two weeks before my due date, when I was feeling exceptionally exhausted and—oddly—not hungry for dinner, labor was still the last thing on my mind.
Pregnant ladies have to eat, though, right? All I could manage were some just-add-water pancakes. The flapjacks and I settled in for a couple hours of TV watching and around 10:45 p.m., I noticed … a leak. I tried to ignore it, but after about 10 minutes, I could no longer deny the possibility that my water had broken.
This wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the fact that my husband, Keith, was half way around the world, in Kathmandu, Nepal. We had moved there when I was four months pregnant for his job. He was scheduled to return to the States five days later. I had prepared myself for Keith not being able to be there for the birth and given that he wasn’t that “into” the birthing process, I thought it might even be better if he wasn’t there. The doula that we hired, I thought, would be enough. But the night my water broke, I suddenly found myself wanting Keith by my side. I knew if I wanted him there, I would have to patient though—and so would my body and my midwives.
As the reality of what was happening sunk in, so did a mini-panic attack fueled by adrenaline. I felt excited, overwhelmed and nervous all at the same time. Somehow, I managed to get in touch with my midwives and doula. They advised me to take a bath, relax, get some sleep, and come to the hospital the next day. Instead, I did the dishes, washed the laundry, finished packing for the hospital, cleaned the apartment, wrote some emails, and planned my morning activities. I knew the next time I would be home would be with my newborn and husband that I hadn’t seen in six weeks, so I wanted the place “in order.” Throughout my nesting activities, fluid was still gushing out, so I was waddling around with bath towels between my legs. I still wasn’t having contractions though, which allowed me to get a few hours of sleep.
At the time my water broke, it was 10 a.m. in Kathmandu. Keith was at work, but I couldn’t reach him. Thankfully, friends were online that could get in touch with him and told him to call me. There wasn’t much to say except get on a plane—any plane—now! Unfortunately, the next plane was still an 11 hour wait and then there would be two more planes and rush hour traffic before he would be by my side. His coworkers bid him an encouraging “You can make it!” farewell, but after he left they joked that there was no way in hell he would get there before the baby was born.
By Wednesday afternoon, I had made it to the hospital and Keith had made it to Doha, Qatar. One flight down, two more to go! I was tracking his progress on my tablet in the L&D room. As for my progress, I still wasn’t having contractions, but I was 80 percent effaced and 2 cm dilated by 8 p.m. I spent the afternoon doing laps around the L&D floor with the hopes of getting things started naturally and to minimize interventions. It seemed to work somewhat since I was able to avoid the Cervidil that my midwife wanted to administer to “soften” my cervix. I couldn’t avoid the pitocin though, so that was started at low doses overnight. By this time Keith was on flight number two from Doha to London and I was reasonably sure he would make it in time, so I was OK with starting the pitocin. Overnight contractions did start, but they were mostly manageable and I was able to get some rest.
In the morning, I was set free from the IV to take a shower and walk around a bit, which felt so good! A friend even brought me a Dairy Queen Blizzard and fries, which really hit the spot—especially after the unrecognizable “french toast sticks” and “sausage” that I was brought for breakfast. Around 1 p.m., I was put back on the pitocin with the warning that they were going to be bumping up the doses pretty quickly. It was go time. Thankfully, Keith was finally on the last flight from London to Atlanta. As my contractions started increasing in intensity, I gave my doula a heads up and she got there around 3:30 p.m. Around 5 p.m., it was getting harder to breathe and move through contractions. I knew Keith was about to land, so I also found myself getting emotional about seeing him. This is when things started getting fuzzy, but I remember sending a couple of last minute texts, making a couple of phone calls to make sure Keith would know what was going on when he landed, and asking my doula to tell Keith something when he got there. Not sure what that was, but I’m sure it was very important!
Around 6 p.m., I wanted to get in the birthing tub. I was at 5 cm, but the midwife was able to “stretch” my cervix to 7 cm. I needed to be monitored for 30 minutes once they stopped the pitocin before I was allowed to get in the tub. It seemed like forever. At first, the tub felt great! About 20 minutes after I got in, Keith finally showed up after 35 hours of traveling! It was awesome and just in time for the best part of labor—transition.
I soon found that the tub was more trouble than it was worth. I couldn’t get comfortable, the contractions were getting unbearable, and the water didn’t seem to help. I could move better out of the tub and feel the baby moving down which felt weird but I liked feeling progress. I ended up in and out of the tub a couple of times, trying different positions to help with the pain. Regardless, with each contraction, it felt like I was getting stabbed in the kidneys. And with the pain came cursing. I am from New York, where cursing was invented, so I was pretty good at it. Keith later said I would have made George Carlin blush. Around 11 p.m., I started asking for some pain medication. I was asked if I wanted Fentanyl. I had no idea what Fentanyl was, but I knew I wanted some—and quick! This drug was an amazing relief. It took the pain away only for about 15-20 minutes, but that’s all I needed to fully dilate so I could start pushing. I tried pushing in a couple of different positions—while squatting, on all fours—but surprisingly, on my back like you see in the movies seemed to be the most effective. Transition was awful, but pushing I could do. I felt in control and focused. Keith was feeding me ice chips and water, the doula had one leg and the nurse had the other. And within an hour or so, Ryan was out! She was born at 1:39 a.m. on March 2, 2012, and weighed 8 pounds 4 ounces (thank goodness she was early!) with a full head of dark hair.
The next couple hours were also a blur—literally. I ended up bursting some blood vessels in my eyes while pushing and I couldn’t see very clearly. But I knew Ryan was perfect. I was able to hold her for a while before Keith cut the cord. She breastfed like a champ right off the bat. All was hunky dory until the “great retained placenta fishing expedition” was undertaken by my midwife and the “massaging” of my poor uterus by the nurse. This part of the post-delivery process was left out of my pregnancy books and probably isn’t in yours, so I’m telling you about it now. It worse than the kidney stabbing, but didn’t last nearly as long and apparently doesn’t happen to everyone.
We had a couple of other small bumps in the road, but were able to go home from the hospital as a family a couple of days later and moved to Nepal as a family when Ryan was just 7 weeks old. What an adventure!