Third time should be the charm, right? Third baby, third delivery, third time at the rodeo. We should be seasoned pros – ready to DO THIS.
And yet, more than a month since I’ve delivered my third child, I’m just now able to talk about the trauma that was my third delivery.
But let’s back up. How about my first two deliveries? They were night and day.
I labored over 24 hours with my first, and pushed for 3.5 hours (yes – a full three and a half hours of pushing). Fortunately, I had pain relief in the form of an epidural… And I swear I heard angels singing once it was administered. The doctors finally gave up on a vaginal delivery and began making calls to schedule a c-section when the baby nudged downward for the first time.
Once he finally appeared, my doctor said, AH, he’s sunny side up – so THIS is why it’s been so difficult. Healing was slow and difficult, and I never imagined I would have more children.
So say we all.
Number two was much faster. I labored for a day at home, and then we rushed to the hospital as the pains became too intense. I was 8 cm dilated upon arrival and begged for an epidural. The nurses fought me: you’re too far along, it won’t work, your blood pressure is too low. But I insisted and forced them to call my doctor who promptly authorized the epidural.
Alas, they were right.
Outside of maybe taking a tiny bit of the edge off, the epidural didn’t kick in until I was being stitched up AFTER the baby had already been delivered. My doctor walked in, took one look at me, and said to the anesthesiologist, um – doesn’t look like your epidural is working. The baby was born within 45 minutes of arrival to the hospital.
This time we were going to be prepared. I was going to get that epidural, dammit! We would arrive at the hospital in plenty of time to take full advantage of pain relief and enjoy a comfortable, albeit medicated, birth experience.
A friend offered her sister’s services as a doula for the delivery. I declined, insisting that I didn’t think I could ever have a fully natural birth. That I simply didn’t think I was one of those women who could “breathe into the pain.”
My birth plan has pretty much always been to receive an epidural as soon as possible.
Which brings me to baby number three.
This time we knew exactly what to expect. My doctor wrote a note to administer pain relief medication as part of our admissions paperwork without me even asking. She warned me that the third baby would come quickly, and that we should head to the hospital as soon as contractions were close together. I agreed and assured her that we would arrive in plenty of time this time. We weren’t taking any chances.
The week before the baby was due, I was still at only 1 cm dilated “but soft.” Baby was in the right position and my doctor said it looked like we could potentially have a baby by the weekend.
She performed a sweep to try to move things along. At my ripe old “advanced maternal age”, doctors don’t like me going beyond my due date. Ladies – the sweep was intense. Painful. Not fun. And it didn’t work.
The following Monday I returned to her office. The nurses expressed surprise that I was still pregnant. I’m surprised too, I told them. I was as big as a house and could barely move outside of an awkward waddle. My husband had to put on my shoes for me.
Now I was 2 cm dilated. Even softer, my doctor said. Baby looked ready to go. This time she performed a surprise sweep. Ouch. But this time it worked.
Came home and spent the rest of the day working and writing. I suppose this is my form of nesting. Long after everyone else had gone to bed, I was still glued to the laptop. Finally around 12:30am, I figured I better get some sleep before the kids would be up in a few hours.
I got to bed around 1am, and started feeling very mild contractions. So mild, in fact, that they were no different than the contractions I had already been experiencing for the past two weeks. I was annoyed as I knew I needed to get some sleep. As it was, I was only sleeping around four hours a night during late pregnancy.
Around 1:30am, my husband woke up and saw me sitting up. He asked if it was time. I responded with a hormonal, how the heck would I know!? I will let you know when it is “time”. He wisely put a lid on it and sat up with me, looking increasingly anxious.
At 1:45am, he asked if we should call the friend who would be watching our other children. She would have about a 45 minute drive and we had all agreed that we would call well in advance so that we could arrive at the hospital early in the process. I told him NO, and reminded him that the hospital would send us home if these weren’t real contractions.
By 2:30am, my husband looked completely stressed out as he began throwing his overnight bag together. He pleaded again to call our friend. I breathed through a contraction and told him, FINE! Call her, but tell her she has plenty of time – I don’t want to stress her out. He was on the phone with her before I could even finish my sentence.
I was beyond annoyed at having my sleep disturbed so of course turned on the laptop, figuring at least I could finish the project I had been working on before bed. The contractions remained manageable.
Suddenly during a contraction I felt a POP inside. As if a water balloon had just popped. I told my husband that my water may or may not have broken, and to get a towel just in case. He checked the time and clocked it at 3:17am. Sure enough, the falls of Niagara came gushing out as I stood up and we rushed to the tub to clean up the mess. Thankfully, I had learned through previous births to have adult diapers ready for these occasions so I put one on, bunched up under my maternity skinny jeans. Sexy indeed.
And then all hell broke loose.
My mild contractions instantly became fast and furious. I screamed at my husband to find out how much longer it would be before our friend arrived. He called her, panicked, and let me know that she was still 20 minutes away. The kids woke up and we comforted them back to sleep. Well, my husband comforted them as I panted and clenched the bathroom counter in pain.
We made it to the car. Hubby called the hospital and asked them to PLEASE call our doctor to meet us there. He reiterated that this wasn’t our first time at the rodeo and that this baby was coming.
The nurse said, we will assess your wife once you arrive. Clinically.
As I was groaning through a particularly bad contraction, our friend pulled into the driveway and we quickly pulled out. The contractions were now less than 2 minutes apart.
Our conversation in the car went something like this:
Me: STOP RUNNING [frantic breath, frantic breath, frantic breath] RED LIGHTS!
Husband: It’s fine! Nobody’s on the road.
Me: [Doing my best to sound as threatening as I could in between contractions] Stop it now! Stop at the [frantic breath, frantic breath, frantic breath] lights! I don’t want to get [frantic breath, frantic breath] pulled over! I am getting [hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, expletive] PISSED!
Husband: We need to get there! I can’t deliver this baby!
Me: [Multiple expletives] ANOTHER contraction already!?!? I can’t DO THIS! They’re not going to [frantic breath, groan, frantic breath] GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL! I feel the head!
Husband: Yes they will! Don’t worry – they will!
Me: NO THEY WON’T! AHHH, another [multiple expletive] contraction!!!! I need to push! I CAN’T [multiple expletive] DO THIS! They’re not going to [hoo, hoo, hoo, frantic breath, groan] give me the EPIDURALLLL!!! I have to have the epidural!!
Basically on repeat. For the entire drive.
At 4:06am we pulled into the hospital parking lot and made a beeline for valet parking.
Valet parking was closed.
My husband started to drive up the parking structure until I stopped him, shouting that there was no way I was going to make it to the top. This baby is coming NOW!!
He parked illegally – I don’t even remember where – and told me to hang tight. He ran off and returned a few minutes later with a wheelchair. Carried me into the chair because by this point I could barely move through the pain – and then started running into the hospital.
Slow down over the bumps!!
We finally got up to the Labor and Delivery floor and, whaddya know, there was a line. A group of people, men and women, gathered around. I was now literally shrieking in pain during contractions and had become a circus attraction for this group of strangers. The men looked at me in a combination of horror and disgust.
The receptionist finished her conversation with one of the women as if she didn’t notice we were there. My husband said, we are having a baby NOW. She replied, I need you to fill out some forms first, then walked leisurely to the printer to pick them up.
Hubby was now getting angry, informing her that we had already pre-registered and that the baby was coming NOW. He threw the pre-completed paperwork on the counter. She didn’t look convinced, and I could swear she rolled her eyes.
I screeched at my husband to at least move me out of the center of this group of strangers watching me writhing in agony. He faced the wheelchair towards a wall.
Finally the door to the ward opened and hubby rushed us over to the nurse’s station. The head nurse glanced over and then continued her personal conversation with another nurse. My husband cut her off.
We are having a baby RIGHT NOW! This is our THIRD.
She looked irritated and then typed something on her computer. I continued to howl during contractions. She spoke up (to whom, I don’t know) and said, take them to Room 6.
Hubby started rushing us over there and then she called out – actually, put them in Room 3 instead.
I couldn’t take it anymore and cried out, you’ve got to be KIDDING me – what the [expletive] is the problem?? This baby is about to be born RIGHT NOW!!! Do you guys NOT GET IT??
We finally ended up in a room and a nurse asked me to put on a gown. There was no way I could even lift myself out of the wheelchair, never mind put on a hospital gown. I think it was around this point that they started to realize maybe, just maybe, the baby really WAS coming.
More nurses (or doctors? or witnesses? spectators??) started piling into the room. Hubby peeled off my jeans as someone simultaneously performed a cervical check. My nether regions had become fair game for all.
The cervical checker looked surprised. Wow, she wasn’t kidding. She’s almost 10 cm. The head is literally right there.
In my head I silently roared, I TOLD YOU!!!
Suddenly everyone kicked into gear. I suppose better late than never. More people filed in (who ARE all these people anyway??) and someone started blabbing on about an on-call OB rushing over. Someone else was going on about me not having a hospital band, an IV, or monitors hooked up. Another person asked, does anyone know the patient’s name?
I couldn’t have cared less about any of that.
My husband spoke up about me wanting an epidural. Sheepishly. He knew by this point there was no way in hell I was getting an epidural. But admitted later that he didn’t want to deal with my wrath for not at least asking.
Someone chuckled. I was told that no epidural would be forthcoming. Then someone dared to speak the dreaded words:
You’re going to have to do this naturally.
I screamed, I HAVE TO PUSH!!
Someone – a brunette – looked at me and said, OK, let’s push. (For the record, there is no “let us” in “let’s push.” Nobody is doing the pushing except me and me alone).
I grabbed onto my husband’s arm and cried, I CAN’T DO IT! I NEED AN EPIDURAL! I CAN’T DO IT!!!! The fear in his eyes was palpable. I don’t know if it was fear for me or OF me at that point.
Someone else – a blonde who had suddenly appeared at the foot of the bed – said firmly, you’re doing it.
By this point, I was bellowing like a crazed animal. My husband looked around at the doctors and nurses as if to ask, is this NORMAL?? He later told me he had never heard such sounds emerge from anyone’s throat… And doubted he ever would again.
My insides were being cut out with rusty steak knives and nobody was helping me. My eyes burned from the sweat pouring down my face. I was horrified as the reality of what I would have to do sunk in.
Someone encouraged me to stop screaming and to instead use my energy for pushing.
I ignored them and screamed my lungs out. I couldn’t have stopped even if I’d wanted to.
I pushed with everything I had, shrieking and wailing, and felt the head nudge partially out. (Turns out my baby’s head ended up being in the 99th percentile for width. Lucky me.) Strangers held my legs and instructed me to stop clenching. Someone told me to focus on pushing the baby out with the next contraction.
I wanted this baby out NOW. Contraction or not. I continued pushing, squealing, crying, and clenching. The walls were caving in and I was losing my mind and I was going to pass out from the agony and nobody could help me. Nobody could help me!
And then – WHOOSH! He was out. Just like that. At 4:17am. Exactly 11 minutes after we pulled into the hospital parking lot.
The baby cried immediately. I laid there, stunned and trembling. Hubby asked someone why I was shaking so badly. They said it was normal – my body was in shock.
Someone, I’m assuming (hoping?) the on-call OB, began stitching my tears. My regular OB walked in and gestured that she would finish. The baby was weighed, measured, and deemed perfectly healthy. Perfectly healthy. The words every mother prays to hear.
A nurse asked for my name and indicated that we would have to now “work backwards.” In the chaos, I never received a hospital band, IV, nor monitors. We began going through my contraction and medical history (which seemed frankly silly after the fact).
Someone congratulated me on my “courageous natural birth.” I corrected her that there was nothing courageous about it. I had been screaming like a banshee and the ONLY reason I delivered naturally was because I had no other option. She indicated that I delivered the way every mother dreams to deliver – fast.
A nurse apologized for not believing that the baby was coming so quickly. She said she was the one who had talked to my husband on the phone. It’s just that every pregnant woman who comes in here says she is having the baby ‘right now,’ and then it turns out she is only 4 or 5 centimeters, she said. I’m sorry. We assumed this was the same.
The baby was placed in my arms. He gazed up at me and I fell completely, wholly, fully in love. Again. For a third time. My husband gave us a hug and all was good in the world. Perfect, actually.
But I still would have wanted that epidural.