Admittedly, I put off some things longer than pre-pregnant me thought I would. Being the anti-procrastinator, I imagined Roo’s nursery would be completely assembled and photo-ready two months before his due date. I assumed I’d have my hospital bag ready to roll no less than a month prior to the expected arrival time. And I figured the car seat would be installed at least three weeks before the blessed event.
In reality? The nursery was assembled at the 2-month out mark, but it was definitely not photo-ready. Here we were two weeks away, and Arthur and I were still scrambling to organize the closet and bookshelf and pick out window treatments. On the plus side, Roo’s hospital bag was all set to go, and mine was mostly packed (I couldn’t really be expected to have my toiletries packed that far in advance – I still needed my glasses and makeup!). And along with organizing the closet and picking out window treatments, the car seat would be installed. At least, that was the plan the weekend of September 28th. Little did we know that Roo had a different plan in store for us.
I went to my 38-week prenatal appointment on Friday the 27th, hoping that there were no signs of imminent labor. Not only did we have some finishing touches to make on the nursery, but we were celebrating my younger sister’s birthday the next day. And I really didn’t want to make my sister share her birthday with our son. If he could hold out until October 1st, that would be great! So when the doctor checked my cervix and said it was only thinning, I hopefully inquired as to whether that meant we had plenty of time. “No,” he said confidently, “he could still come at any minute.” Uh oh.
That lit a fire under me to have a date night with Arthur. Nothing fancy – we just headed across the street to one of our favorite pizza places. Over the course of the meal, I started feeling more intense Braxton Hicks contractions than I’d felt before (and I’d been having them since about week 17). The fact that they were starting in my back clued us in that something might be in the works, but we pushed it to the back of our minds for the remainder of the evening.
The next morning, the contractions were still happening and more frequently. Arthur began timing them, and they were about 8-9 minutes apart. We were both in denial and trying to keep our cool; however, that didn’t stop us from making preparations for this being it. Arthur put me on immediate bed rest while he began packing his hospital bag and cleaning up around the house. We were in regular contact with our dear friend Laura, who’s (conveniently) a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital where we planned to deliver. She assured me that this was probably early labor, which can last days, and that Roo wouldn’t come on my sister’s birthday. I calmed considerably. We also paged the doctor at the hospital, who confirmed this was early labor and asked for progress reports.
Unfortunately, this meant that Arthur and I had to cancel birthday dinner with my parents and sister. I felt terrible. As did my contractions; so much that I moved to the bath to bear through the pain. During that time, it became clear that this was no joke: I’m pretty sure my water broke in the tub. I wanted to go to the hospital to confirm it, although I hated to risk being sent back home for coming in too early.
We got there at around 4:30, at which point my contractions felt the worst they had ever been. The waiting room in triage was empty, so I hoped we’d quickly find out whether I was a wimp who couldn’t handle the pain of early labor or whether I’d at least made it to the point where I could get an epidural and wait out the rest of this process (until midnight, at which point Roo could be born without completely overshadowing my sister’s birthday).
Right after I waddled and checked in at the triage waiting room, another laboring woman was wheeled in making animalistic noises akin to what you hear in movies and TV. They took her in first, while I was left agonizing in fear over the kind of pain to come if that’s what it looked and sounded like to be in active labor. Arthur and Laura were by my side (she had gotten off her shift right before we arrived), and I’m so thankful they were.
After what was about half an hour, we were ushered into the triage area. This is where they decide whether to admit you or send you home. I assumed I’d probably be sent home. Imagine the surprise on all three of our faces when we heard that I’d reached 8 centimeters and was to be admitted. I immediately started crying, not because of what lied ahead, but because this meant his birthdate would be the same one as my sister’s. I also had to make the call as to whether I wanted the epidural. The pain was getting worse (obviously), and as much as I liked to think I could go the rest of the way un-medicated, I didn’t expect myself to. I ordered an epidural and was wheeled on up to the delivery floor.
Of course by the time the epidural was delivered (not 15 minutes later), I was at 10 centimeters. Time to start pushing. The doctors, nurses, Laura, and Arthur all assured me I could get the epidural if I wanted to, but that they felt confident they could coach me the rest of the way without it. I remembered from the labor and delivery class we took that an epidural would slow the process down, and I’ve always been the kind of person who’d rather get the show on the road and the awful part out of the way. So forge ahead I did.
I still don’t know how I was able to do it, but I know it wouldn’t have happened without Arthur and Laura being amazing coaches. They guided me through what I thought were contradictory instructions (I was supposed to breathe but then hold my breath while pushing? Huh?) and encouraged me to go on with push after push. When I heard that Roo had a headful of hair, I was extra-inspired to get him out. And at 6:22, after five or six rounds of pushes, he came!
Rowan Arthur Dennis (formerly known as Roo) came when I least wanted him to, but I’m ever so glad he decided to join our family early and give us extra time together. This pregnancy has taught me so many lessons, and it’s fitting that Rowan’s birth would teach me one more. Although I didn’t have a birth plan, I did have a well-laid out to-do list (not to mention expectations for when he would not arrive). But as I know now, they won’t always pan out as expected. I’m quickly learning that giving myself a break for not living up to these expectations will also go a long way as a new mom.