At 39 weeks, I went in for a regular check up. My blood pressure was a bit high, but nothing else out of the ordinary. I let my legs swing while I waited for my midwife and stared at the celebrity gossip magazines stored at eye level on the wall. I had been dilating about a centimeter a week for almost four weeks, and I was at a four but not in active labor yet. I hadn't felt a single contraction, and I was at the point that I felt like I would be pregnant the rest of my life. As I walked to the front desk to schedule what I hoped would be my last appointment for the following week, I jokingly said to the ladies "This may be the last time you see me pregnant, so get your fill!" They laughed and told me not to get my hopes to high. I had spent my entire third trimester trying not to get my hopes too high.
I had finished my last few days at work, waddling around the school making copies and finishing up paperwork. Every day my coworkers would make that oh-so-original comment "No baby yet??" and laugh at how clearly with-child I was. I was frustrated. This baby was done and I was convinced she was just staying in to give me a few more stretch marks to ensure that I would never be tempted to wear a bikini (it worked). That weekend after my last appointment, we visited Eric's friend from high school who's girlfriend had just had her baby. We were only a few weeks apart, but I wanted to make them dinner and meet their sweet little boy. The evening went well, and I was able to share my pregnancy woes with someone who reached the light at the end of the tunnel. She shared her birth story with me, and I was so inspired. I had planned on a natural child birth, mostly out of pride. I had some strange desire to know what a 10 on the pain level scale was, and was motivated by her story of 40 some odd hours of labor, pitocin, and pulling through with the support of her SO. The best part of the evening was when Eric's friend, Quinn, handed their little son over to Eric without giving him a chance to protest. Eric has never been a lover of babies, and I had never seen him hold a newborn. I fell in love with that guy all over again. He didn't look awkward or stiff, but totally natural (even if he didn't particularly want to hold the baby). I knew then this baby could come any time, and we were ready. Not in the sense of supplies, but more in the sense of love. We had enough love for a little girl we hadn't met to come into our lives, to care for her above ourselves, and to be patient during those notoriously difficult first few weeks.
That night after we went home, I started showing signs that the baby was coming soon. I asked Eric if we should pack the hospital bag and install the car seat, but he assured me there was plenty of time for that and that I would likely go past my due date. I asked him to give me a blessing, and I felt so comforted and confident that everything was going to go as it was supposed to.
Monday morning I was in full nesting mode. The unfortunate thing about nesting is it hit me when I was in my least effective state. So full nesting mode consisted of doing a load of dishes and folding laundry, then resting while watching netflix. Eric came home from work and I felt my first contraction. It was painful, but not unbearable, and I could feel it tightening from the bottom of my belly to the top. We started timing. Its hard to time contractions. There is no definite beginning or end to them. Do you start timing as soon as you start feeling tightness? Or wait till it gets painful? Who knows. Either way, they were about 4 minutes apart. I wasn't wanting to get sent home from the hospital, and my midwife recommended I labor at home for as long as possible if I wanted a natural childbirth, so we stayed.
I suggested we get a meal and take Grover for one last walk before he had to share our attention. As we were pulling out, our neighbors walked up to our car. "Well, I can bug you because I know your not going to the hospital or else you wouldn't have brought your dog." I wanted to scream. He proceeded to ask Eric if he broke the 40 year old rotting wood fence that separates our yards. No. He did not. The mystery remains, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was mother nature. We got ourselves out of the ear-hold and grabbed some Chick-fil-a, my signature pregnancy craving. I ate in the car as Eric drove to a bike path by our house and worried through each contraction. We walked for two miles, and things seemed to be progressing, but I was still managing the contractions fine. The last ten minutes of our walk, thing slowed down. It was about 8 pm, so we decided to get to bed assuming that the baby would come sometime the next day or two. At 10 pm contractions started back up again, and I was having a harder time breathing through these. I was frustrated that Eric was sleeping through them, so I woke him up. Who knows the motivation for your decisions during labor! It's not like he could do anything for me. So he stared at me as I gripped the window sill and rocked back and forth like a crazy woman. Around 11 pm, contractions were 2 minutes apart. I was shocked. All the books said things would go slow, that I would survive labor by enjoying the breaks between. I sat crying to Eric, telling him over and over that I thought I would have breaks! I'M NOT GETTING ANY BREAKS!
At 11:30 I told Eric I was done and we were going to the hospital. I think all pregnant woman think that going to the hospital will make their baby come out. This, of course, is a lie. Driving to the hospital does nothing for your labor. But I groaned through contractions trying to tell Eric what I needed in my hospital bag. The bag I read countless blog posts on. The bag I should have packed four weeks ahead like all those girls on instagram who I thought were so silly. I was so upset that Eric hadn't installed the car seat, and that is all I could think. I ended up with a pair of pajamas, a hair brush and make up, tooth brush, and contact solution. Those are the only items that crossed my mind, and we were off.
Contractions sitting in a car suck balls. There is no other way to put it. Thank goodness there wasn't traffic, but it was still a crazy 30 minute drive to Lakeview. We couldn't find where to park, so we hobbled around the hospital till we found an open door. It was midnight, so things were locked up. We went inside and the handed us our paperwork, which I was told would already be filled out before I came, but so much for that. I held on to the counter and rocked back and forth during contractions, trying to tell Eric where my insurance card was in my bottomless pit of a purse. A nurse brought me a wheel chair. I let him wheel me to my room and answered his casual questions. I couldn't understand why he wasn't acting as urgent as I felt. I WAS IN LABOR. There is nothing more urgent. In my mind, he should have been rushing me down the hall.
I got to my room and a short, round nurse with glasses named Heidi handed me a gown and asked if I had a birth plan. I told her my plan was to be flexible but that I wanted to go natural. I had immediately forgotten all the pain management techniques I had read about, so Heidi taught me how to breath and showed Eric how to count with me through the contractions. She checked me. I was at a 6, and apparently I had pre-eclampsia as of that day. Conveniently, pre-eclampsia is cured by having the baby. I was officially admitted. I tried sitting on a birthing ball. I asked to get in the jetted tub. I spent most of my time there, trying to figure out why they called it the epidural of natural child birth, because I was getting no relief. It was about 3 am at this point, and contractions were intense. I threw up, which the nurse seemed pleased about for some reason. I was getting no relief, and I was exhausted. Eric was falling asleep and, in my crazy pregnant brain, was doing the counting thing completely wrong. The nurse came to check on me and I asked for an epidural. She offered a few more techniques to try, but I refused and she paged the anesthesiologist and helped me to bed to check me again. Still a six, but 50% effaced. Laying in bed was excruciating. It took 15 minutes to get things going for the epidural. I had no fear of the needle. I would do anything to get out of pain. I moaned while Eric held me still and I felt the needle slide into my back. It had nothing on the pain of a contraction. In 1 minute flat, he was done and gone. Contractions became more and more manageable, and before I knew it I was sleeping. It felt so good. I could still move my legs for the most part and feel pressure when someone touched me, but I had complete relief from the pain that made me delirious earlier.
The next thing I remember, it was 5:30 and Heidi was checking me. I felt so rested and relaxed. "Oh! Your ready to push! I'll call Laura. Don't do anything yet." I couldn't believe the moment was here! I was finally going to have my baby girl. I realized we hadn't said a word to our families, so Eric took a horribly unflattering picture of me and sent it to our parents saying "It's time to push!" For some reason, I was so worried that I hadn't told Eric to pack a going home outfit for the baby. The nurses laughed, and Eric said he would send my mom to get something. At 6 am, Laura came and we were ready to go. Eric and Heidi held my legs and Heidi taught me how to feel for contractions with my hands and to start pushing when I felt pressure. Apparently I was very effective, which made me feel proud. It was such a surreal time. I was relaxed, joking with Eric and the nurses, and totally in the moment. I wasn't dazed by pain, or frustrated with the person I love most. It was perfect. Baby was moving down, and her heartbeat was fine. I could feel tightness, and Laura told me her head would be out with the next push. I reached down to feel my little baby, then wiped my hand off on my gown. Two more pushes, and she was out. Laura laid a tiny, beautiful, blue little person on my chest. She didn't cry, but was breathing. Her arms were flexed above her head, and she opened her eyes and looked up at me while the nurses rubbed her down, trying to get her to pink up. I looked over at Eric and saw him tearing up. I knew he was in love, and amazed at our new little family. We changed forever. We saw each other differently, in the best way imaginable. I never wanted that feeling to go away. I still get that feeling when I hold Mable and rock her till my arms go numb, or when Eric gets wakes up and wanders into her bedroom to kiss her cheeks before work.
I hadn't eaten anything and it was almost lunch time. I had to have the default meal since I didn't have a chance to order something. Hot wings. HOT WINGS. Who wants a big plate of hot wings after giving birth?! I ate the veggies, and my mom went out to get me a fruit smoothie and some cafe rio. I took the longest, hottest shower of my life and wondered how long I was going to feel like my guts were falling out. When I came out of the bathroom, Eric had changed her first diaper. "I think I did it right, but have a look." Adorably, it was put on backwards. I think it was his first diaper change ever. From then on, anything Mable needed, Eric was on top of it. Diaper change? You got it. Hat falling off? Immediate fix. Binki fell out? Here, I'll stand over her and hold it in. It was fantastic. He needed no explanations on how to care for a baby, he just did it.
Eric's parents came later that day. It was the first time they had been able to hold their grandchild on the day it was born. Doug asked "Does she look like a Mable?" And Eric confirmed, she did indeed look like a Mable Lyn. My dad came by again later that day and brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. It was so nice to have something fresh and beautiful in my sterile hospital room. Eric went home to feed Grover and let him smell Mable's hat. He grabbed a few more items for my hospital stay and a coming home out fit for Mable. When it was time to go home, Eric drove with more caution than I had ever seen, and Grover was so excited to see how many puppies we were coming home with ;) My mom and Eric cleaned our house from top to bottom while I snuggled our new baby and rested. I am so grateful for the amazing amount of support I received through our families. I don't know how people do this out of state!
And that's the end of the beginning. Mable is so sweet and happy. She was sleeping through the night around 2-3 weeks, and made the most hilarious faces. We are so happy to have her, and I have a new understanding as to why the Duggar family would want 19 children. I wonder how many more times I will get to experience having a baby, so I am soaking it up as much as possible.