I stood up and called to Tom, "Tom. Tom! DUDE!" He sat up.
"I think my water broke," I said, chuckling in a soft, semi-maniacal sort of way. Note to self: giggling equals gushing.
"My water broke! This is the most bizarre thing ever." We may have briefly discussed the fact that we'd be having Fynnie within the next 24 hours as I headed in to the bathroom. In there, I was able to check off most of my "TACO" list.
T = time. No clue... late. (I later figured it to be just before 2:20 A.M.)
A = amount. Oh, definitely not just a trickle. Heck, not just a gush.
C = color. Clear. Thank god for no meconium this time!
O = odor. None, and especially nothing funky. More good news.
When I came out, Tom was nowhere to be seen. I went upstairs to grab a shower and found him wearing a completely different set of clothes. We talked about things that needed to be gathered up and put in the car (pillows, chargers, the green bag with the camera that I'd put by the door earlier in the day). It looked like Tom might try to keep me from taking a shower, so great was his need to get on the road. I understood, but A) I wasn't having any big contractions yet and B) even if I had been, I was not going in without a shower.
The shower was great. I managed to do everything but pumice my feet. Still no big contractions, but I didn't want to be caught off guard. It was especially good that I didn't race through the shower. That way I was still in there when Tom came in and asked, "Uh, we should probably bring the kids, right?"
Dude, didn't you hear that giggling leads to gushing?! Somebody pass this guy the memo.
Getting out of the shower and into clothes presented its own challenges. I offer the answers in case you ever find yourself in my soggy shoes.
*How do I walk around without ruining the carpet (and why do we still have carpet in the bathroom?)? Grab Tom's towel, roll it up and pretend like you're a kid at the pool with those floating tube thingies (and it's because we're focusing on the exterior first... carpeted bathrooms later).
*How do I make that ginormous pad fit into my underwear? You don't. Just do the best you can and be glad you thought to buy them before the baby arrived this time.
*How do I, a nine months pregnant woman, get my panties on while standing in the closet, when I've had trouble doing this same activity for months without straddling a giant soggy towel? I'm not gonna lie, it ain't easy, and you'll be glad that towel's there for as long as it can be. Still, you will say to your husband on the way out of the room, "Add the closet to the places that need to be cleaned, m'kay?"
*In choosing attire for the hour-long trip to the hospital, you may wonder why you didn't do laundry as you'd planned and why the heck you don't own a skirt or dress that could save you the effort of getting into pants. There are no answers for these questions.
Coming downstairs, I was impressed to see that Tom, who was now in his third outfit of the evening, had gotten the car loaded and the kids up and dressed. He had so many towels on the front passenger seat that I had a hard time getting in.
Once on the road, I called Grandma Margaret and let her know Mad was coming to hang out. That woman answered the phone halfway through the first ring and sounded like she was sitting up waiting for my call. I am just not that good when faking alert!
I called Tom's mom and left her a message. Just as I finished, she called back and got the news directly.
Then I sent out emails to a few friends, posted my news on the pregnancy forum and sat back to enjoy the ride. I did have one or two contractions along the way. Tom made it clear that we could always have my dad and Margaret pick Mad up at the hospital if necessary, but the contractions weren't anything like that.
I carried Mad into Dad's house. She wanted me to sit down and snuggle with her, but by then my pants were completely soaked to about mid-thigh. It was a strange tug to want to get to the hospital and want to stay with my daughter. Eventually Mad realized she was at Grandma's house, and Grandma will put Sesame Street on at any time day or night. She barely noticed us leaving. Just before we drove away, I realized we'd left the MP3 player at home. It had been in my car, and I'd brought it in and put it by the door, but not in the green bag. Tom went back in and told my dad.
We pulled in to the maternity parking lot sometime before 4:30. The last time we'd done this was when we were coming back to pick up Madelyn after she'd been released from the NICU. Between my good-bye to Mad and the memories in the parking lot, my mood shifted from giddy to somewhat emotional.
I was excited to learn that I was dilated to 2 cm; this was progress from Wednesday's exam. After the initial monitoring and paperwork was complete, we were moved from triage to the room where I would deliver our baby. It was two rooms over from where Mad made her first cries.
Maybe it was knowing that my doctor (or the on-call doctor, as it happened) wouldn't allow me to remain pregnant beyond 24 hours after my water broke, but time was flying by. Unfortunately, my progress wasn't keeping up. I explained to our nurse that I have had two very long labors.
"What do you mean long? Twelve hours?"
"Uh, no... 24 and 36 hours. In that order. But I deliver quickly. Mad was born after 10-15 minutes of pushing." (Yes, I was holding out for that part not to be a fluke.) Still, she figured I'd progress at a rate of 1-1.5 cm per hour. Imagine her chagrin and my dismay when, seven hours after my water broke, I was only dilated to 3. "Barely 3," is what she said. It was around this time that Tom decided he wanted to wager on when Fynn would arrive. He said she'd be here by 6:45 that evening. I was playfully upset that he was saying I'd be in labor 10 more hours when the nurse clearly felt we'd be done in seven or less. I mean, if my baby's not getting the uber-cool birth date of 8.9.10, then at least let her come soon, right?
The on-call doctor had wanted to start pitocin after six hours, but I asked for extra time. I used about half of it squatting and the rest of it trying to get some rest. I was suddenly exhausted. The doctor, a woman who I really liked a lot (but who's name I cannot for the life of me recall), stopped in to see me and explain what we were doing, why and what options I had. She was supportive about my desire to avoid pain medications, but authorized the epidural so I wouldn't have to wait should I change my mind (she didn't say that, the first nurse told us before shift change in the morning).
My dad arrived just as the pitocin was started. He handed me the MP3 player and I almost burst into tears of love and gratitude. Then he told us he'd taken care of our dog, and that he'd drive back up to our place that evening to do it again. Doh! We made plans for everybody but Maisy. Dad told me, "Do good. I know you will," and headed back home.
The first song, "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison made me smile. The second, "Lullaby" by the Dixie Chicks made me cry (ack! it still does). I couldn't believe we were really and truly going to meet this little baby we'd loved forever already.
Nancy arrived just before her favorite song in the whole world, "Cruisin'" by Smokey Robinson, began to play.
It didn't take long for the pitocin to work its evil magic. Having the music playing in the background was a lot more help than I could have imagined. There were times when I didn't notice it, but when I did... without fail it brought peace or joy or a reminder of what I was laboring for. The songs made me think of the people who helped me choose them or who were the reason for the choice. That Ruth Brown song? Made me laugh part way through a nasty contraction (and then I don't recall the rest of the song).
Tom started off counting through my contractions. This may strike people as odd, but it was completely successful for me with Madelyn. I'm that girl at the gym who can't keep track of her own reps. Even just counting to four or five during labor practice was beyond my ken. The pitocin-driven contractions made it nearly impossible to stay on top of the pain. Eventually I asked Tom to forgo counting and instead to remind me to relax. And especially, please, remind me why we're doing this. It was hard for him to make the shift from counter to meditation guide. We'd never practiced that before. Eventually he got the hang of it.
"Relax your shoulders." I would think, "My shoulders are relaxed!" and then I'd feel them drop a few inches.
"Relax your feet."
"This is a really productive contraction. It's bringing Fynnie closer to us."
"We're getting ready to meet Fynnie."
"You're doing this for Fynn."
That pretty much summed up his repertoire, but the points were important, not variety. I couldn't articulate that the last thing I did at the end of each contraction was to relax my bottom. He had no idea what was going on down there. I could have been making diamonds!
It was this tension as pain control that worried me. What if I was impeding my own progress through my inability to relax the most important muscles? It wasn't an unreasonable fear, either. It took five hours to go from 2 to 3 cm without pitocin. With it, it took another three hours to get to 4 cm and four more to get to 5. If I hadn't the presence of
Meanwhile the contractions were so... oh, there's just no other word... heinous that my blood pressure kept spiking. Nurse Deanna would turn it off, but my contractions would wimp out. So she'd ask me if I wanted to turn it back on. "No, but let's do it anyway." Occasionally they'd stop the pitocin because my body seemed to have established a nice pattern of rock-me-to-the-core contractions. Yet again, that only lasted with the pitocin. Having to say I wanted it back on seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.
When it wasn't my body rebelling against the pitocin, it was Fynn's. I have no idea how long I spent laying on my left side to help her.
My mom arrived very late in the day. It was something that bothered me more and more as the day went on. Later I recalled letting her know a few months back that she could choose to be there the whole time or just come when things were really moving along. To hear her speak of it, it sounds like I said I didn't want her there until the end. I guess that was my original thought, even though I hadn't felt that way when I talked to her about it, so I let it go (not that we discussed it then) . And really, once she was there, I was just glad.
I spent the last few hours sitting upright with my feet together. I heard occasional whispered conversations about how well I was handling "things." I wanted to snap at them that I wasn't doing well at all, but I was too exhausted to do more than wait for the next contraction. Deanna kept trying to get me to change positions, but I resisted out of fear. I made a nasty retort when Tom commented on how great I was handling the pain. However, he couldn't make out what I'd said. Apparently I also gave him quite the look after he said something about this labor being "nothing compared to 24 and 36 hours." I must have blocked that whole thing out.
When I wasn't being cranky or sleeping between contractions (I actually snored myself awake once!), my mind drifted to peaceful places. Sometimes these were guided by songs I could hear. I'd taken two songs from Rebecca's birth playlist. When one of them came on, I was thinking about a picture of her in labor, sitting on a birthing ball with her arms in the air. It is an image of strength and peace, and it helped me get through a few hard times (so thank you!).
Just before 6:00 I told Tom I wanted to be checked at 6:15. Not because I thought pushing was imminent, but because I was reaching the end my abilities to deal with the pain. "If I haven't made significant progress, I'm getting pain meds. I just want you to know."
Corey piped up with one of his few comments of the day, "Do you want some hot sauce?" Sounds crazy, right? Not if you know his birth story, which involved a middle-of-the-night run to Del Taco for their latest big thing: Tacos with Del Scorcho sauce.
For the first time ever, time slowed down. It wasn't even 6:10 when I had Tom call. To my utter amazement and relief, I was "at 7... almost 8. Let me know if you need to push because I want the doctor here!" I mentioned that I'd gotten stuck at 8+ for over three hours last time. She then made me change positions. I opted for getting on my knees facing the back of the bed. Within seconds I needed to push and, every woman's fear, "I'm gonna poop too!" I think I heard Tom stifle a giggle. I definitely regretted snacking after midnight right then.
Mom, Corey and Nance had stepped out during the exam. I really wanted them nearby to hear Fynn's first cry but, for reasons I'm not sure I completely understand, when Tom heard that I needed to push, he asked the nurse to send them to the lobby.
I couldn't help pushing even as I was in that position, even as I was worried that I might cause things to swell up and slow down further if I didn't knock it off. Last I knew I was almost 8, not 10. Moving to my back took a lot of effort. I heard Deanna call the nurse's station and ask them to call the doctor ("she'll be here in 10!") and to send a pre-sep team (I later learned a pre-sep team steps in when Doc can't get there in time). Less than a minute later she checked me and said, "She's right there!" She called again and told that team to hurry up. Deanna instructed me to grab my knees, but I refused, worried that she'd start counting for my pushes. Then I realized I needed to grab them just because I was shaking so hard.
Four or five minutes after I'd gotten on my knees, I felt this small mass of parts come out and I was so worried that my cord had prolapsed.
"What was that?!?"
"She's out!" (In retrospect, "she's right there" should have clued me in that everything was fine, but I'd let fear be my guide.) It was 6:26. Tom beamed when he realized he was right (he'd beam now, too, if he weren't sleeping as I type).
I sat up, touched my beautiful, tiny baby girl and welcomed her into this world. Somewhere in the fog of my brain I realized that I hadn't pooped after all. Then I said, "I'm so glad I never have to go through that again." It felt a little disloyal to Fynn once I said it, but it couldn't have been more true.
Tom and I were expecting that Fynn would be placed on my chest immediately after birth if there were no complications. It's the hospital's standard M.O. Maybe because we didn't include it specifically in our birth plan... or more likely because no doctor was present again (we're calling it tradition), the nurses took care of all the checking and measuring and weighing before finally handing her back to us. If I hadn't been gripped by fear that something was wrong (the nurses were so quiet!), I would have asked for her sooner. It wasn't until one of the team members who was standing over my daughter in the bassinet said something about Fynn having broken something that I found my voice. Turned out that the tape measure broke when the nurse was trying to get Fynn's chest measurements.
That's when I asked Tom if he wanted to go stand by Fynn. He nodded blankly and went to the other side of the room. Pretty sure he was as freaked out as I was, but once the trance was broken, he stepped right into his best Daddy shoes. One second he was at my side and the next he was soothing Fynnie and telling me about her new hat. Before long, she was handed to me. Oddly, neither of us can remember if he brought her to me or if a nurse did. I can picture it both ways.
Once Fynn was in my arms it seemed clear that she was hungry. I brought her to my breast and was amazed when she started nursing right away. Multi-tasker that she is, she also checked out her new surroundings and the face of her mama. Although Tom and I have no clue what song played while Fynn was born, we know for sure that Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was on during her first meal.
That's when the doctor arrived. Apparently she'd been in her garden when the call came in and had to clean up first. She took care of all my post-labor needs and was very sweet in her congratulations on our baby and my avoidance of pain meds. Tom has since pointed out that I have a knack for wanting pain relief just as things are almost over. Well, yeah!
When Nance was allowed into the room, she had no idea that Fynn was born. She had decided after a few minutes of waiting in the lobby that she'd rather be closer. She still missed Fynn's first cries, as did Corey and my mom (apparently they were right behind her, but I don't recall). But the joy on their faces as they saw her... and then got to hold her seems to have made up for it. With Mad, they got to look on as I held her for a few short minutes before she was whisked away. Corey, in a tradition of his own, chose not to hold his baby sister, or even touch her right away. He didn't seem nearly as afraid of her as he did of Mad, though.
That night Tom gave Fynn her first bath. She stayed in our room except for the trip to get reweighed and have the PKU test done. We were totally prepared to leave the next morning. My OB came in to see us pretty early and broke the news that the local pediatricians have decided not to release newborns until they've been in hospital for two nights. It was good to have that heads up, because we had to make plans for Mad and Corey (my mom took Corey and my dad and Margaret kept Mad one more night). Normally I think we would have balked at staying longer, but Fynn was having slight temperature regulation control problems. I know I didn't want to take any chances, even if it seemed a little ridiculous.
Our ped was on vacation, so we had one doctor drop in on Monday morning and a second on Tuesday morning. The sweetest words I ever heard were, "You have a beautiful daughter. She's perfectly healthy. You may take her home." Ahh, even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes. We left the hospital with our daughter. It's one of only a few things from our birth plan that happened as we'd hoped, but it's by far the most important. We couldn't be happier.
She is our Grand Fynnale