I went in for a routine ultrasound (we’ve been having them monthly throughout the pregnancy) and OB visit with Vivianne and David this past Wednesday afternoon, at 38 weeks and 5 days. After the ultrasound, as per usual, Hannah the ultrasound tech went out to show the results to the radiologist before giving us the all-clear that we could go. I knew something was up when she came back all upbeat and said, “OK – just two more quick pictures and you’ll be on your way!” Vivianne and David chatted their way through what seemed like a formality, but by the end of your fourth pregnancy, you know this isn’t the norm.
Afterwards we walked down the hall to the doctor’s office and waited in the exam room. She entered and said, “So, anyone ready to have a baby?!” I started to respond saying, “You know – I’m actually still fine being pregnant,” when I realized that wasn’t what she was asking. She quickly jumped in smiling and nodding, saying, “It’s time to have a baby.”
She said the amniotic fluid around the baby was low; it’s usually between a 6 and a 20 (whatever that means) and the ultrasound showed that it was measuring a 4.1. At any point after 37 weeks if it dips below a 6, it’s best to just get the baby on the outside. That, and the baby’s growth had slowed somewhat too; she had been measuring around the 60th percentile but now dipped down to the 33rd. (I can’t say I was disappointed to hear about her smaller size at that point…) None of this was terribly concerning, she said; the baby was perfectly healthy, but with information like this we wouldn’t want to wait to get things moving along.
“So, as in, we should get ourselves over to the hospital right now?” I said.
“Oh no, no,” the doctor responded. “You can come in at 8:00 tonight… first thing in the morning… up to you.”
That was at 4:00pm.
Swinging back and forth between staying totally calm and moderately freaking out, I finally managed to track Jamie down (thanks for leaving your phone in the car at the vet while you tended to our dog’s ear infection, honey) and we weighed the pros and cons of each option. We assessed plans for the kids, calculated the time I’d be in the hospital with Yom Kippur quickly approaching, and evaluated the wisdom of opting in to the marathon that is childbirth by having it be an all-nighter.
Let’s just do this, we said.
Vivianne and David went to gather their belongings, Jamie squared things away at home and told the kids it was time for the baby to come, and I made my way over to the hospital to get things started. Well, that’s not true. First I stopped to get some sushi for a final pre-birth meal to bring to the hospital. (Have I mentioned I have the best OB ever who lets me eat sushi? Salmon only, of course. But still, once you find a doc like that, you just don’t leave her.)
I checked in to the hospital, had more than one nurse make eyes at my sushi, (“Don’t worry – I have permission!”) and got all hooked up to the monitors. Jamie arrived, followed by Vivianne and David, with an empty car seat in tow. It was quite the motivating view to have in front of me as I delivered.
The plan was to start Pitocin to induce labor, and once the contractions got stronger I’d get an epidural. This was the part I was most nervous about. I’d never gotten one before as I was part freaked out by a needle in my spine, part nervous about the potential for a more difficult recovery, and part fearful about feeling numb all over; even just a tingly mouth post-Novocain drives me nuts so I didn’t welcome the thought of that feeling for my entire lower half. Plus, for the birth of my own kids, I didn’t like the idea of not feeling the whole thing happen.
But since my last baby was also induced, I was no stranger to Pitocin contractions. That was pain on a whole different level (somehow everyone else, even Jamie, got that memo though I had no idea beforehand…) and so I was sure of the plan for this delivery: Pitocin = epidural. Plus, I figured there was probably a reason you hear about people wanting to name their kid Epidural, so l decided to put my faith in those good women.
Before all that got started, especially with how quickly we ended up in that “we’re having a baby now” place, I kicked everyone out of the room to collect myself in the moment and try to become present and focused.
And then it hit me.
I turned to Jamie, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Okay – this is insane. What have I gotten myself into?! Who would do this – this is completely nuts!”
Alright. Got that out of my system. Time to get things moving.
Pitocin… epidural… (epidural! Brilliant!) labor through the night. They checked me periodically to see how far I’d progressed. At one point the nurse checked to see how close I was – she thought I might be all the way there, but wasn’t quite sure and said that she could get the doctor to confirm if I’d like. Jamie jumped right in saying, “Yes – I think you should.” He told her he could tell based on how I was doing that it was time. And right he was. (I’m just saying, he’s an excellent doula if anyone’s looking…)
The nurses – the wonderful nurses – coached me through the breathing and pushing. The head nurse held one leg, Jamie held the other. David stood north of the border, as requested, and Vivianne was all up in my business capturing every mental image possible since I shot down her “wonderful idea” to film the birth. (File that one under ‘things that just do not need to exist in the world.’)
I pushed for about ten minutes, and at 4:41am, a 6-pound, 10-ounce, 18-inch human came out into the world. And she looked nothing like me. Bizarre.
Vivianne cut the umbilical cord. David did skin-to-skin. The baby cried. Her parents beamed.
She was perfect.
Vivianne scurried back and forth between the baby and me, not knowing how to divide herself in two as she stood in awe of the whole thing.
In the days since the birth, many people have asked me how the handoff went. In truth, there was no handoff. The only handoff that happened was my bringing her out into the world. My mother asked if it felt weird not to have the baby come right to me. I answered that it would have felt weird if she did. Once she was on the outside, why should I care for this baby instead of her own parents? I can’t imagine my own baby being born and anyone else besides a doctor or my husband holding it before I did.
Yes, I have gotten to spend time with her since, and yes, I have loved every moment. But I don’t feel any greater claim to holding that baby than to any other newborn I see walking down the street. The only difference is that I feel like it’s more socially acceptable to ask her parents if I can.
Some of you have asked what’s next for this blog, if I’ll continue to write or not. I do want to continue for now, until it feels like the full journey is complete. Of course, I suppose it will never really end in full, though this aftermath and everything that comes with it feels like it’s very much part of the experience.
So yes, there’s more to share, including the rest of the hospital stay and the days since. Thanks for continuing to travel this path along with me.