I’m restless all night. I can feel pain but I’m unaware of when the contractions started. I try to sleep through them but I end up tossing and turning, barely getting any sleep. When it’s finally time to get up and get ready for work, I go through my morning routine of getting dressed, brushing my teeth and hair, and then getting Jude ready and I can finally tell the contractions are pretty regular. To keep myself from worrying too much, I tell myself they are braxton hicks. This isn’t really it. It can’t be. I start timing them with an app and see they are about 15-20 minutes apart and pretty regular.
I settle into the couch downstairs and log onto my work computer. I’ve been working from home since the 18th and today isn’t any different. I send a quick email to my bosses letting them know I’ve been having contractions every 15-20 minutes. They send excited emails back about how today might finally be “the day” for me. Before our team meeting at 11am, I go to the bathroom. When I wipe, there’s bloody mucus on the toilet paper. This is what they call a bloody show and how I realize that this is the real deal and not BH. I take a quick shower on my lunch break and put on some make up (yep, I’m THAT girl).
As the work day goes on, the contractions stay fairly regular but aren’t getting very close together. By noon, they are about 10-15 minutes apart. I call baby+co. and speak to one of the nurses. She asks me how far apart my contractions are and if I had any bleeding, then speaks with Mandesa, the midwife who will be on call tonight, about next steps. She comes back on the line and tells me to call back when my contractions are 8-10 minutes apart. We hang up and I go back to working, finishing up my last proposal and around 4pm, I send it to my boss.
By 4:30pm, my contractions have finally gotten to 8-10 minutes apart. I call baby+co., trying to get in touch with the same nurse but she is gone for the day. Jordan comes home when I’m on the phone with a new nurse.
“My contractions are 8-10 minutes apart now,” I tell her.
The nurse puts me on hold while she talks to Mandesa. “Mandesa said you can come in to get checked if you want, but if you’re only 1-2cm dilated, she will probably send you home.”
“I’ll come in. I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
“Okay,” she says. “How far away are you?”
“I live about 40 minutes away.”
We hang up, and I tell Jordan to pack up the car. I ask my dad if he can watch Jude but he’s got dinner plans so I text Leigh who graciously accepts Jude and offers to watch him overnight if needed. I pack Jude an overnight bag and his backpack for school the next day and the three of us go to Leigh’s. We drop off Jude, giving him a big hug and kiss, knowing this is the last time I’ll ever look at him as my only child, which makes me sad and excited all at the same time.
It’s around 5pm by the time we got on the road and since it’s a Tuesday, we are stuck in rush hour traffic on our drive to Cary. This was my biggest fear: being in labor during rush hour and not making it in time! Luckily, while my contractions are closer together, they are still only about 5-8 minutes apart. As each contraction comes, I stretch my body out as far as it will go in the seat, leaning my head back, as I grip the handle above the window, pulling it down. This is the only position that gives me any relief as I breathe through each one.
When we get about ten minutes from the birth center, I get a call from the nurse asking how much longer we will be. I tell her we are about 30 minutes away, accounting for traffic. Luckily, as soon as we hang up, 440 is clear and we get to baby+co. in another ten minutes. I grab my purse out of the car and we walk in. A blonde midwife I don’t recognize in light pink scrubs greets us and ushers Jordan and I to one of the exam rooms I haven’t been in before.
“I’m from Florida. We’re opening a baby+co. in Orlando but things are delayed because of the hurricane damage so I’m here for seven months,” she tells us. She’s bubbly and reminds me of Angela, one of the other midwives. They have similar hair but similar smiles and demeanor as well.
This midwife and Mandesa are both in the small room with Jordan and I. Mandesa is about to check how dilated I am but I start having a contraction and wince in pain.
“I’m sorry,” I say, when it’s over.
“Don’t apologize,” she tells me as she starts checking me.
“Sorry,” I whisper. She doesn’t hear me. Why do I keep apologizing?
I cringe as she rubs her fingers against me. “You’re 4 centimeters,” she tells us. “We’re going to give you the IV medication now. Have you eaten dinner yet?”
It’s about 6:15 now and I have hardly eaten all day. I don’t know how I’ll be able to eat anything between these contractions. “No,” I tell her.
“I want you to go eat a big meal after this. You’ll need the strength. Something with a lot of calories, like a steak.”
“What about a cheeseburger and a milkshake?”
“Yes,” she says, excited. “That’s perfect.”
She leaves the room and the midwife from Florida goes into the lab to get the IV meds ready. I get dressed and we wait. It’s about fifteen minutes before she comes back.
“You’re dehydrated,” she tells me as she taps different veins on my arms and hands. Jordan hands me my water and I try to drink quickly. “I’ll try your left hand.”
She puts the IV in my left hand and makes sure it’s flush. But it throbs and I know something isn’t right. I get queazy all of a sudden and she tells Jordan to stand on my right side as I roll onto my left. She’s worried I might pass out because I’ve gone pale. I’m not sure what’s worse- the contractions or this.
“If it hurts now, it’s going to hurt all night. I’m going to have to take it out and try again.”
I’m crying now, because everything hurts and I’m terrified of needles. I don’t want her sticking me again. I would rather deal with the throbbing hand all night. But she doesn’t let me. She takes it out and goes to get a new kit. I look at Jordan and he rubs my back.
“That really hurt. Can I request someone else to do it? I don’t want her to stick me again.”
Luckily, Mandesa and Karen (another midwife I’ve seen a couple times), come into the room. Mandesa ties my arm and starts tapping the veins. In a matter of seconds, she has a new IV in my forearm. It feels like a pinprick. I’m thankful she gets it right on the first time, and I’m happy it’s not in my hand. This gives me confidence in my ability to grip onto things and not have to worry about an IV in my hand.
They start the IV drip around 7pm. It lasts about 5 minutes and then Mandesa tells us to go eat a big dinner and when my contractions get 3-5 minutes apart, to call her. She has another patient at the hospital across the street so she will be there until I call her. I’ll need another dose of antibiotics in four hours either way.
“So just come back at 11pm if they don’t get that close?”
“I’m fairly confident they will be before then, but yes.”
I’m relieved. Now we just have to kill time until 11pm at the latest. We go to a nearby restaurant and order food. We get an appetizer sampler and I eat a few small things. I get a chicken sandwich and fries but I can only take a couple bites. The contractions are distracting and I keep feeling like I have to pee. I wonder if the other patrons notice that I’m having contractions. Are they staring at me? Do they think it’s weird I have this IV in my arm? Feeling self-conscious, I put my sweater arm to cover it up. Each time a contraction comes, I lower my head, grip the table, and arch my back as I count my breath.
This will all be over soon, I tell myself. You’ll be meeting your baby girl tonight.
Hopefully. I hope this doesn’t last another day.
After we eat, we still have another two hours to kill so we go to Walmart. I can tell Jordan is tired already, as am I. We sit in the car for a little bit then head inside.
“Let’s get you one of the motorized carts,” Jordan tells me. He’s tried to get me to use them other times while pregnant and I normally refuse but today, I need it.
He gets it out of the cart area and drives it to me. I get on the scooter, fumbling with the forward and backward directions before finally figuring out how to work the speed. We pass epsom salt and I tell Jordan that this will help to soak in after baby girl arrives. He puts in the cart. We circle Walmart, looking at the adult onesies and toys on sale. Every five to six minutes, I have a contraction. Jordan rubs my back each time. His comfort helps me get through them.
I have to pee so we head back to the front of the store. He grabs a gatorade while I pee. We walk/ride around another time. Finally, we check out and head back out of the store. Right outside, I get a strong contraction, bracing myself against the side of the building. Once it’s over, we get back into Jordan’s car. We still have another 30 minutes but we head back to baby+co. and sit in the parking lot. I’m frustrated because I thought my contractions would have gotten closer together by now. While they haven’t, they have gotten stronger, so I get Jordan to call Mandesa. She says she will call Karen and make sure she is there at 11pm for my next dose.
We stay in the car until ten minutes until 11pm and finally decide it’s time to go in. Baby+co.’s door is open so we walk in.
“Karen?” I ask the empty room. Everywhere is dim except some of the hallways. I walk around, shouting Karen’s name, getting no response. “Maybe she’s sleeping in a birth room?” I suggest to Jordan.
We both walk around but we feel weird, knowing she’s inside somewhere and not wanting to disturb her if she’s resting. I have to pee so I use this opportunity to go to the bathroom. When I’m done, we sit in the lobby. I hear footsteps and then hear the bathroom door close. Karen comes out moments later.
“Hey mama,” she says to me. “Come on back.”
We head into an exam room and talk about how I’m feeling. I explain that my contractions are about 5-6 minutes apart still but hurt way more. She gets the IV drip ready and then searches for the IV cart. She can’t find it for some reason, and ends up getting Jordan to hold it high for us. While I get the medication, she checks to see how I’m dilated.
“Well, mama, you’re 5 centimeters now.”
I’m relieved that I’ve progressed but bummed that it was only one centimeter different.
“How far away do you live?” She asks, looking at me then Jordan.
“We’re about 45 minutes away.”
She nods. “If you want, we can go ahead and admit you now.”
I’m nodding before she even finishes her sentences. “Yes, please! I’m too nervous to go all the way home and not get back in time.”
Once the IV drip is done, she leads us to the birthing suite in the back left of the building, one of the larger ones. “Okay, let’s try using the peanut laying down on one side for about 30 minutes, then we will switch to the other side. This will help open up your pelvis and move the baby down.”
She dims the lights in the room and Jordan lays down beside me as she places the peanut ball between my legs. This position is extremely uncomfortable for contractions and each time, I grip the nightstand beside me, wondering if my fingers would be able to pierce through the wood. Jordan rubs my back each time but he’s slow to react as they keep coming, a sign that he’s falling asleep. I try to rest between contractions the best I can but I can’t sleep. They’re too painful.
Swiyah, the nurse on call, comes in to check on me. Then she’s gone again and the room is quiet.
It’s longer than thirty minutes by the time Karen comes back. The contractions have gotten a lot more painful. I’m having a hard time breathing through them in this position. “Sorry for the delay, another mom in labor just got here too. It’s a big day for babies! We had three moms deliver already today. How are you feeling?”
“It’s hurting a lot more,” I tell her, before getting sucked into another contraction.
Once it’s over, she takes the peanut ball away and has me lay back. She checks me again and says, “You’re eight centimeters now, mama.”
I immediately burst into uncontrollable tears. Karen is smiling and acting excited. I look at Jordan and he looks petrified. “Oh my god. Really?”
“Yep. You’re going to meet your baby girl soon!”
She leaves the room to get all the supplies she needs. While she’s gone, Swiyah comes in and asks if I want to get in the tub. I immediately say yes, without any hesitation.
Once the tub is full and Swiyah puts these things inside that I can rest my feet on, I slide in and lay back. The rests for my feet don’t feel comfortable and I just want to stretch out my legs during each contraction. They tell me if I keep my feet up, it’ll help open my pelvis. I try, but my right leg still wants to be stretched so each time I have a contraction, I stretch it out. My contractions are still far enough apart at this point that I can rest between them. I lean my head back and rest my eyes between each one, trying to conserve what little energy I have. I’m starting to get hot and nausea. The warmth of the tub isn’t helping, and I feel like I need to pee. Karen checks and I’m 9-10 centimeters dilated.
Karen suggests that I get on all fours. I’m not sure if I can move but after my contraction, she assists me in turning around onto my hands and knees. I’m now facing Jordan. I tell Karen it’s burning and I have a desire to push. After a couple pushes, my water finally breaks and I feel relief. I’m almost laughing at how much better I feel now. I take this moment of relief to get out of the tub and go pee. Jordan and Karen assist and once I pee, I feel a wave a nausea.
I’m sitting on the toilet when I say, “Can I get on all fours right here?”
Karen smiles at me, “No one has ever asked me that next to the toilet but okay! Let’s do it.” Everyone is laughing a little as they help me off the toilet. I reach for the floor and feel better ones my hands hit the cool of the ground. Karen asks Swiyah to grab some peppermint oil and once we are back in the tub, she wafts it in front of my face. The smell of it doesn’t help, in fact, it’s too strong for me to take so they set it aside. I tell them both the nausea is really bad now so they get a fan and point it in my direction.
“Is it too late for the face thing? It hurts. So bad. Can’t I do anything for the pain?” I’m talking about the nitrous+air. Between the pain and the nausea I’m not doing very well mentally. I need some kind of relief.
“I’m sorry, mama,” Karen tells me. “It’s too late for that. But you have this. You can do it. You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for.”
I want to cry but moments later, Mandesa comes into the room. Karen tells her of my nausea and Mandesa immediately offers me medication for the nausea which I take without hesitation and once it’s under my tongue, I feel a little better.
I’m not sure how much longer it is before I’m fully dilated and starting to push but it feels like only a few contractions later. Jordan moves positions and gets behind me outside of the tub. Karen is still to my side, having to check the baby’s positioning at a pretty constant rate. Mandesa moves into Jordan’s old position in front of me, giving me something (someone) to focus on.
There are chants of “Push, Katie, Push!” and “You’ve got this, mama. You can do this!” over and over. Mandesa is smiling at me but I’m screaming I’m in so much pain.
“Don’t scream,” Karen say. “Screaming won’t help, you need to stay grounded. Focus on pushing.”
At her request, I stop screaming and start growling instead. “Grrrrrr,” I say through gritted teeth each time a contraction hits, feeling more like an animal than I’ve ever felt in my life – a feral cheetah maybe. Between growls, I beg. I can’t help it but I feel a little defeated that she’s taking so long to come out, not that she was really that long at all.
“Get her out of me. Please. Get her out. Can’t you just reach in there and get her out?” My requests are ridiculous but I’m so tired. It’s past 3am now and my mind is numb.
A few more growls and chants later, I’m burning and know this is it – she’s starting to come out. At 2:38am, her head is finally out. “Can’t you just like pull the rest of her out?” I try to joke but instead am met by more encouragement. I can hear Jordan’s excitement in his voice and also how terrified he is.
A minute later at 2:39am, the rest of her comes out. Jordan catches her with assistance from Karen and then Hattie’s being shoved between my legs back up at me. I’m exhausted and uncoordinated and Mandesa has to take her from me so I can lean back and then there’s a precious baby girl laying on my chest, Jordan’s hands on my shoulders.
“You did it,” I hear, but I’m not sure from which person. Everything is a blur.
“She’s not crying. Is she okay?” I can’t see her. I can’t look down. I’m in shock.
A second later she’s screaming. “It’s okay, Hattie. You just did a really scary thing. Mama’s right here,” I say.
After, I’m helped back into the bed where I birth the placenta, I’m stitched up from a tear, and then cleaned up a bit. The entire time, Hattie is skin to skin on my chest. We stay in that room for a couple more hours, doing skin-to-skin then finally getting her weighed and measured. Karen goes over paperwork with us and instructions for Hattie’s care and mine as well. But I’m so exhaused that I can barely hear what she’s saying. We’ve been up so long and I’ve exerted so much energy. All I want is sleep.
We rest for about 30 minutes and then we are ushered into the classroom so I can breastfeed before we go home since another mom is coming in to take our birth suite. It’s 7am when we leave – only a little over 4 hours after giving birth. Jordan drives and I sit in the back watching the precious gift that we’ve been given.
I like to think that my mom played a hand in this. I like to believe she held her before I did. Hattie was a name my mom always loved, and Joan is my mom’s middle name. I’m so glad I could keep my mom’s spirit alive in this way. I wish my mom was here to love on this sweet baby, but I’m thankful she at least has a beautiful angel watching over her.
Welcome to the world, Hattie Joan. 8lbs, 3oz – 21 1/2 inches long!