by Rob Lovejoy
As my 39-week check wraps up, I put a hand on my enormous belly and decide to ask my OB about nudging labor along. “If I still haven’t gone into labor by next week’s appointment,” I ask cautiously, “Would you be open to stripping my membranes?”
She looks up at me and says with a smile, “I just did.”
What?! I read that most full-term women go into labor within two days of having their membranes stripped. Is it really baby time? I reflect on what just happened. It didn’t hurt. I’m a bit surprised she didn’t discuss it with me, but I’m excited.
“What if I go into labor on Thanksgiving?” I ask, a little nervous about having only a skeleton crew of hospital staff available on Thanksgiving Day, which is the day after tomorrow. And, my OB had just finished telling me about her upcoming Thanksgiving trip to Santa Barbara, two hours north of us.
She urges me to wait until Friday.
As I walk out of the office, my head is exploding with excitement. “I just had my membranes stripped,” I text to my belly buddy, Dana, who’s due a week after me, “Eek!”
Once I’m home, I tell my husband, Josh, that my membranes were stripped and what that means. I watch the excitement spread across his face. A few minutes later, I overhear him on a phone call, telling someone, “It looks like this baby may be coming in the next couple of days.” He (finally) believes me this baby is coming soon.
The next day, Wednesday, my parents arrive in town. We’re hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year. I’m thrilled about the giant feast ahead. Elastic waistband, get your game face on.
The rest of day passes fairly quietly. It’s not much different from any other day, other than getting to enjoy time with family and noticing the mildest of Braxton Hicks contractions … until I lie down to go to sleep.
I get into bed at about 11 p.m. As my head hits the pillow, my abdomen gets super-tight, and then I feel a giant cramp and a gush of liquid. I am for sure, no-question in labor.
I make a run for the bathroom, surprised by how intense this contraction is.
I should get Josh. I catch my breath and start to get up. Then I feel another super-strong contraction. Deep breath; I have to get Josh.
My cell phone is only about 10 feet away, but it takes me 10 minutes to get to it. “Those fake contractions I’ve been having all day just turned real.” I type into a text message to Josh. “I’m in labor.” Send.
Another contraction. Deep breath. As soon as the contraction ends, I start the stopwatch on my cell phone. After only two minutes, the next contraction starts.
Josh bursts into the room, with wide-open eyes. “We have to go right now,” I tell him. “I’m progressing really fast.”
My birthing class had told us to wait until the contractions were one minute long, at least every five minutes, for two hours. But, these contractions hit so fast and hard—we’re going.
As we head to the car, my parents are standing between us and the garage, smiling and waving. The excited look on their faces kind of surprises me. I’m just uncomfortable and gross. Oh yeah, I’m having a baby. They hug us and eagerly say, “Good luck.”
We have to get to the car before my next contraction.
As we drive along the curvy mountain road toward the hospital, I stuff a diaper under my butt, just in case. This is not my most attractive moment. I start to feel queasy and ask Josh to drive slower around the turns. We’re just crawling down the street, but it’s still too fast. I puke into a garbage bag, which I thankfully included in my hospital bag. It takes us 45 minutes to get to the hospital that’s only 20 minutes away.
Once we’re inside the hospital, the staff is relaxed and moving slowly. “Epidural,” I holler. I’ve planned on an epidural all along.
The nurse calmly tells me that I’m probably not ready for one yet. I ask to be checked. Moments later, she tells me, “You’re 4 centimeters dilated.”
I know what that means—I am far enough along for the epidural. I manage to mutter, “epidural,” again. I can’t say much else.
The annoyingly calm nurse, softly explains, “The anesthesiologist is with another patient, and it may be a while, but you probably have a lot of time.”
“EPIDURAL!” I gasp for the third time. To my surprise, she goes to get the anesthesiologist.
I’m a bit nervous as I lean forward and the anesthesiologist wipes my back with liquid. Inserting the epidural doesn’t hurt.
The anesthesiologist shows me a button I can push if I want more medication. He explains that there’s a slow drip already going.
I focus on what I’m feeling. I’m not hitting that button unless I really have to, so I can keep labor progressing. The contractions are so intense and the muscles in my abdomen are so tight. I feel like I’m trying to do a stomach crunch while holding a car, or something. But I’m not feeling pain.
In our many hours of birthing classes, I liked when Josh gave me a light massage during my pretend contractions. But, now, I just need to focus on what I’m feeling, so I know I’m OK.
As I push Josh’s hand away, I notice a sad look in his eyes.
I’m having contraction right after contraction. “Wow, are you OK?” Josh asks, watching the monitor. “It looks like your contractions are right on top of each other.”
I know what that means, too: transition.
That was fast. It’s 3 a.m., only four hours since my first contraction. I ask the nurse when they plan to check me again, and she says, “Typically in another four hours.” So, I ask to be checked again, now.
“You’re fully dilated,” she tells me. Yeah, I know.
They page my doctor again. I still haven’t pushed the button, but the epidural is glorious—I concentrate on the contractions and pay attention to what I’m feeling. It’s so intense, but I’m not in pain. I’m OK. I’m waiting for my doctor.
She finally walks in, about an hour-and-a-half later.
Josh holds one leg, while the nurse holds the other. My doctor is really encouraging. She tells me I’m doing really well and the pushing is working. The nurse tells me I was clearly made for having a baby. Hearing this helps motivate me to keep up my energy.
by Rob Lovejoy
I push for 16 minutes. Then, I hear my baby girl’s little cry and see my doctor draw her away from my body. My baby has just been born.
Josh cuts the cord, and in an instant, baby Savannah is on my chest. She picks up her head for a quick moment. I’m already proud of her for doing that. We make eye contact, and my heart melts.
I feel a flood of emotion looking at her little face, and tears fill my eyes. I’m so happy and so in love. I put my hand on her back—she has the softest skin I’ve ever touched.
For a split-second, I remember it’s Thanksgiving. There’s no turkey dinner for me this year. I smile at Josh then gaze down at my daughter. After nine months of pregnancy, she is real and healthy and here.
There’s so much to be thankful for this year. I love you, turkey baby.
Read more about Cary’s adventures as a new mom at MamaLovejoy.com.
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