Every birth has a story, and Carrie's is no exception. She started causing drama the minute the pregnancy hormones hit my system. By the end of nine months, I was so ready for her to be outside of me - where someone else could hold her every once in a while. Despite the signs of coming labor, the expectations of my doctor, and all my wishin' and hopin', Carrie made her entrance when she was good and ready. Not nearly as early as I'd hoped, but well before I could kick her out by induction!
At my 39 week check up, my doctor laughed as she pronounced me a stretchy five centimeters dilated. And not in active labor. This scenario, of course, was a repeat of Daniel's birth. Most women are in active labor at that point. My body doesn't follow the rules. So home I went to wait.
Wednesday morning I woke up and went for a walk around the block. Around lunch time, I noticed a few contractions that I assumed were more Braxton-Hicks. Just to be sure, I kept track of the times. They were consistently inconsistent. So I started ignoring them. I ate lunch. I did a couple of hours of data entry. I worked a sudoku puzzle. Then I noticed that some of the contractions were a little tighter than they'd been earlier, so I took a shower and straightened my hair. Just in case.
A little after 3 o'clock, I decided to call my doctor's office for advice. I thought they would have me come in to determine if the contractions were 'real' or not. Unfortunately, my doctor was not in the office. After consulting with another doctor, the nurse called me back to say that I could go on to the hospital if I wanted, but it was really up to me. She said it was really about my pain management and that if I thought I needed to, I could go if I wanted. I decided that was totally not helpful in the slightest. These contractions didn't really hurt. So I waited. Just one more contraction, I'd think. Maybe they'll get regular and then I'll know for sure.
Some time after four, I was sitting at the computer when I heard Daniel climbing on the counter to get fruit snacks from the cupboard. When he refused to get down, I walked over and physically pulled him off the counter. After the resulting temper tantrum, I put him in time out at the bottom of the steps.
That's when it all got crazy.
After three minutes of time out passed, I walked over to have a little chat with Mr. Disobedient. I squatted down in front of him and we had our discussion about his behavior. As he leaned in to hug me and apologize, I felt the gush of my water breaking. Excitement and fear coursed through me as I called Michael from the other room and sent the kids to the car. I called my dad at work and asked him to meet us at the hospital, then, worried that my pants were wet, I hurried upstairs to find another pair. When I couldn't find anything loose and stretchy, I stuck with the wet ones and Michael grabbed a towel. Outside, we found Brenna in the car, and Daniel playing in the driveway. In seconds, Michael had him in the car, along with my hospital bag, pillow, and the camera.
Once we were on the road, I called the doctor's office to let them know we were headed to the hospital. By the time we got to the first major intersection near our house, the contractions were getting intense. Red lights and brakes caused minor panic and I breathed "hee hee who" with intentional concentration. I was leaned forward in my seat and had a death grip on the door handle.
The speed limit on the interstate decreases as you head toward town, so the closer we got to our exit, the slower we had to go. We caught a break on the lights as we cruised down the first road, but a left turn put us behind a car who clearly didn't have a woman about to give birth in the passenger seat. "Go around" I begged through clenched teeth. Michael hit the accelerator and my little Honda flew around the other car like it was Herbie the Love Bug in a Hollywood movie. In a flash we were pulling into the Emergency room circle - right beside three or four ambulances and a host of EMTs.
I rolled out of the car and glanced back to see my dad running across the parking lot. Satisfied that someone had Brenna and Daniel, I started my hunched walk toward the door. Inside, I immediately noted the line for the emergency room desk and decided to bypass it. Walking as gingerly as possible, I turned toward the elevators. Michael caught up with me and I crouched low as we rode up to the third floor. As the doors opened, I sent him on ahead to notify the desk.
When the security doors to the Labor and Delivery wing swung open in front of me, I believe the hall doubled in length. "How much further?", I wondered. About half way, I dropped again to a crouched position. Still trying to smile - making eye contact with everyone watching. Michael hurried ahead to find a nurse...and a wheel chair.
By now it was well after 4:30. I lost all track of time. Somehow I got into a gown and hooked up to an IV and fetal monitors. My back began to arch severely and I asked about getting an epidural. The contractions were coming so steadily and fast that I barely had time to breathe between them. I focused on a stained ceiling tile and took one contraction at a time. I signed some papers, but I don't know what they said. I answered questions, but I don't remember what was asked. The pain was intense and I began to fear it would last a long, long time. I knew it was too late for medication and I was scared to death of the pain sure to come. And so disappointed. And furious with myself for not coming earlier. That's when I started crying.
Nine centimeters. I entered L&D at nine centimeters. It took about fifteen minutes to get the last bit and in that time I noticed an awful lot of activity in my room. Too many nurses. I knew I only needed one or two...but there were at least four. I heard our cell phone ring. Michael answered, said something, and hung up quickly. He had the camera out. Someone entered the room. I guessed her to be a doctor, but I couldn't speak to find out.
Less than five minutes later it was all over. 5:13pm.
In the whirl of events, I had apparently signed consent for the nurses to do the delivery. They'd been unable to track down a doctor, and that's why so many were in my room. The doctor who stepped in at the last minute had been in the OR on another floor. Things weren't quite ready there, and she "felt a little nudging in her spirit", so she walked over to L&D - Just in time. Or maybe I should say 'right on time'.
Over the next hour or so Michael and I held and bonded with Carrie while the nurse admitted me to the hospital and tried to reconstruct the events of the afternoon. Before long it was time to move to recovery. Since I'd not had an epidural, I was able to go by wheel chair. In the hall, we passed other women - in hospital beds and in earlier stages of labor - waiting for rooms. It would be a busy night for L&D.
So Carrie's story is full of drama. In my mind we were one traffic jam away from an Interstate 64 baby. Forty minutes to spare isn't exactly what I had in mind for this delivery. But I'm thankful it was safe and everyone is healthy.