A long wait: The birth of Catherine
Each of my babies has come later than the one before, so I wasn’t surprised when the 40-week mark came and went with no sign of Baby No. 4. At my 40-week appointment I decided to schedule an induction for the coming weekend.
My doctor was on call, and at that point I would be 40 weeks, five days, which seemed like a solid effort at waiting the baby out. I left the appointment with instructions to be at the hospital at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning (a cruel thing to do to a person with three small children at home and a newborn baby on the way, but those were my marching orders). Getting induced wasn’t my first choice, but because the baby wasn’t showing any signs that it was going to come on its own and I’d been pregnant for more than 10 months, I gave in.
Friday night I had packed my bag and lined up care for our other three children for the next two days. At bedtime we explained to them that we wouldn’t be home when they woke up in the morning because we would be at the hospital getting ready to have the baby. We told them that hopefully before they went to bed on Saturday night they would know if they had a new brother or sister and promised that after the baby was born they could come visit us at the hospital.
Shortly thereafter, I was lying on the couch, watching TV with my husband and mother-in-law. Because we had to be up so early, I announced I was going to bed. Then I coughed and felt a little pop. Great. I peed my pants. Again. Definitely time for bed. But then, I thought, that little pop—had I really peed my pants or had I used my sheer force of will to make my water break just seven hours before I was scheduled to be induced?
I didn’t say anything and went upstairs to try to figure out if I had in fact wet myself. My method of determining whether it was pee or broken water was mostly to stand around and wonder. Very scientific, I know. I texted my husband (who was downstairs on the couch because, yes, I am that lazy) at 9:35 p.m. to let him know that I thought my water might have broken. He immediately came upstairs, and we both stood around for awhile wondering. After several minutes of doing nothing, I decided I would take a shower and see what happened.
Nothing happened. I still didn’t know if my water was broken. The two other times my water broke, it was very obvious to me what had happened. But this time I just couldn’t be sure. And I didn’t want to be the crazy lady who went to the hospital on her fourth pregnancy, unsure if her water had broken.
So, I sat around awhile more trying to figure it out.
Then the contractions started. They were mild. My husband came back upstairs to check on me, and I told him that I was going to lie down. If I fell asleep and woke up to the alarm when it was time to go to the hospital, we’d know it wasn’t real labor. But as I lay there, I just couldn’t fall asleep. The contractions were coming regularly. But they weren’t strong, and they weren’t close together.
At 10:55 p.m. I texted my husband again (because I really am so lazy that I couldn’t possibly have gotten up to go talk to him) to say that the contractions had been coming about 10 minutes apart for the past hour. Once again, he came upstairs to ask what I wanted to do. At that point I figured that since we had to be at the hospital in six hours anyway, we might as well go ahead and go. I thought either they’d just admit me early or tell us to go away, and then we could go eat some kind of middle-of-the-night meal.
At 12:19 a.m. I texted my mom to say that I thought my water had broken and that we were headed to the hospital to find out.
When we got to the hospital, the nurses said that—whether or not my water was broken—they were going to admit me and get the process started.
At 1:30 a.m. I was 2 centimeters dilated and 50 percent effaced. And my water was, in fact, broken. Contractions were still regular but not very strong … so we waited. My husband napped on the couch, and I found some “Friends” reruns to watch on TV. Little by little the contractions increased in intensity and got closer together. At 4:14 a.m. I asked for the epidural and half an hour later, it was in. As with Baby No. 3, the epidural only took on the right side of my body, so the nurses had me lie on my left side to try to let gravity help my left side. Just before I got the epidural, I was 3 centimeters and about 80 percent effaced.
Having been up all night, I thought I better try to take advantage of the epidural and take a nap. So that’s what I did.
At some point I remember waking up to the feeling of pressure. But it went away, and I didn’t think anymore about it. Then, a few minutes later, I woke up feeling pressure again. Only this time it was a lot of pressure. It wasn’t like anything I’d felt before. I pressed the button to call the nurse who came into the room at 6:20 a.m. After I explained that I was feeling a lot of pressure all of a sudden, she helped me roll from my side onto my back. She explained that what I was feeling probably meant I was progressing, which was good. She said she’d check to see where I was.
She immediately shouted, “THE BABY IS COMING! THE BABY IS COMING!” All I felt was pressure that wouldn’t stop. My husband, having heard the panic in the nurse’s voice, leapt off the couch and took a look.
“Oh! I see the head,” he told me.
The nurse pressed what I imagine is the functional equivalent of the panic button, and immediately the door burst open and a flood of people entered the room. There were nurses everywhere. There was no doctor. My nurse was explaining what had happened: The doctor was still at home. Another nurse left to call him.
I was lying flat on my back on the bed. They didn’t have time to break the bed apart for delivery. I heard someone say the head was out. “Can you push at all?” one nurse asked. So I went to push, and before I knew what was happening, I felt the baby come out followed by a gush of liquid.
“It’s another little girl,” my husband whispered to me. She was born at 6:23 a.m. Three minutes after I had pressed the button to call the nurse.
Then the baby was on top of me. She was blue. She had a lot of hair. There were still a lot of nurses bustling about. I heard one of them say there was meconium. One nurse was rubbing the baby and trying to get her to be less blue. My nurse explained that when I came in, my fluids were clear. So the baby had pooped sometime between when I was first checked and when she was born. She was still so blue. She had pooped all over everything—me, herself, the bed.
They took her to the little crib and worked on suctioning her. She had aspirated some of the meconium. They gave her an oxygen mask. They were patting and rubbing her. And suctioning. And patting. And rubbing. Every time they removed the oxygen mask, her level would drop, and everything would start beeping.
I had a cold, and my nose was completely stuffed. I laid there and watched them work on her from across the room. The midwife on call delivered the placenta and told me that I didn’t have any tearing. They were still patting and suctioning the baby. She was still blue. She still couldn’t keep her oxygen level up on her own. There were three nurses working on her. They were working diligently, seriously—only talking to give instructions.
I have a friend who recently lost a baby to meconium aspiration. It was all I could think about. I was scared.
My nose was still stuffed up. I couldn’t breathe. All I could do was cry. There was snot streaming down my face. All I could do was stare at the baby across the room. And panic on the inside. Please let her be OK. Please.
My husband was on the other side of me, the side opposite to where they were working on the baby. I couldn’t look at him. I knew he knew what I was thinking, why I was crying. I knew if I looked at him and he was also upset, I would absolutely lose it.
So I just laid there and prayed that she would be OK.
It felt like an eternity. At one point I saw my husband out of the corner of my eye. He was whispering to the nurse. I knew he was telling her why I was so upset. The nurse told me that the baby had a strong heartbeat. And that was a good sign. The baby’s heart was strong.
The doctor arrived at some point. He looked disheveled. He definitely hadn’t combed his hair. He apologized for not being there sooner. He asked if I was crying because he was late. I appreciated his joke but couldn’t talk. I couldn’t breathe. I had so much snot. And I just kept crying. The baby was still blue. They were still working on her.
Later I asked my husband how much time had passed while they worked on the baby. Because to me if felt like an entire lifetime. He said it was probably about half an hour. He agreed that it had seemed like it was much longer.
Finally the baby started to keep her oxygen level up. They brought her to me and put her on me. She had to wear an oxygen monitor on her little hand, but she was able to keep her level up; before long they took that off, too. And she was fine. She was more than fine. She was perfect. They weighed and measured her: 8 pounds, 8 ounces and 20 inches. My second smallest baby.
It was, by far, the scariest birthing experience we’ve had. We are beyond thankful for the wonderful nurses and the excellent work they do.
This baby brings our family grand total to six. Three girls, one boy, mom and dad. Our family is complete.
Editor’s note: The baby’s name was changed per the parents’ request for the purpose of publishing this story.
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By Anna Thornley