Ford's Birth Story: Part 2
Ford's 1st Birthday (sort of)
So I'm picking right back up where I left off in August of 2014, when I blogged Ford's Birth Story: Part 2.
As much as I wanted an epidural-free labor, I knew conditions would need to be "just right" for that to happen. I decided the only way to guarantee this would be for me to labor at home as long as possible, and once at the hospital be told there wasn't enough time before Baby's arrival to get an epidural.
One of the reasons I was so worried about all of this in the first place was because, even though I'd already had two babies, I didn't really know what to expect contraction- and labor-wise. I had experienced what I thought were quite painful (and close together) pre-epidural contractions with both girls, but what would have happened had I never gotten the epidurals in the first place? For both girls, many hours passed between administering the epidural and their times of birth. Would the contractions I had experienced only get more painful and closer together? Could I handle that for hours and hours (doubtful)? And the pushing? My track record of 2-hours of pushing didn't make an epidural-free labor enticing.
All that to say that the unknowns were what kept me in fear.
Okay, let's just jump right back into the story.
Chet's mom flew into town Saturday, January 4th (she was staying for two weeks). We all assumed that Ford would be born during her time with us since I had both girls a week before their due dates. Ford's due date was January 11th, and we were expecting Chet home from deployment somewhere around that date too (we didn't know the exact date until only a couple of days before he arrived home). When I was pregnant with the girls, I was doing everything possible to get labor started (lots of walking, etc.), but with Ford I was doing nothing, because we wanted Chet home for the birth. (I didn't even let the doctor check to see if I was dilated or anything at my 38-week appointment.)
Grammy (Chet's mom) was supposed to arrive midday-ish on the 4th, but her flight was severely delayed, so we didn't end up picking her up from the airport until probably 8 p.m. (the exact time escapes me two years later, ha!). But she had arrived -- whew! Then, lo and behold, a couple of hours after going to bed on the 4th, I started experiencing what I was pretty sure were labor contractions. I decided to flat-out ignore them, because I was still holding out on giving birth for as long as possible. The contractions must have subsided at some point in the night, because I remember getting some rest; I wasn't awake all night ignoring what were clearly labor contractions.
January 5th was a Sunday, and the night before we had agreed that we would attend church. I was still having contractions that were not merely Braxton-Hicks, but they weren't extremely regular or anything. I told Grammy as soon as she got up about the contractions the night before, but I insisted on still going to church. I also insisted on a few other things, assuming that labor was imminent. You know, important things like changing the temperature setting on the hot water heater.
But as the morning progressed, the contractions subsided. Huh. (That didn't happen with the girls.)
In fact, I was feeling completely normal by midday. But the earlier contractions still lit a fire under me to finish all of those little tasks all mothers plan to do before the arrival of a child. Such as "remove infant carseat from manufacturer's box." I was prepared for the births of the girls for weeks in advance, but apparently I thought that avoiding every birth-related task would prevent me from going into labor with Ford (don't try this at home).
By early afternoon, post nap time for the girls, I was scrolling through social media on my phone and saw that my cousin, who was due around the same time I was, had given birth earlier that morning. And not long after that the contractions started up again.
We went about our normal afternoon activities, and decided to take an early-evening walk around the neighborhood. The contractions weren't going away, and I remember chatting with neighbors, telling a couple of them that I had been and was currently having contractions, but that I was hoping to hold off going to the hospital until the next morning. (In hindsight, I'm not sure why I was trying to hold off -- maybe because I didn't want to be a day behind with sleep like I was with the girls? Because I didn't want to have to ask my friend to come sleep at the house with the girls while Grammy and I were at the hospital? Who knows.) Trying to hold off or not, it was clear that I was in the early stages of labor, and there was no going back.
We walked back home and then hopped in the car and went through the Dairy Queen drive thru to pick up dinner (oh, South Mississippi, how I miss you and your menagerie of fast food joints right outside the gates of the Naval base). We ate our dinner at home (I had a cheeseburger, probably some onion rings and fries -- maybe both -- but I can't remember whether or not I ordered a Blizzard...). By now the contractions were as I remembered them from labor with the girls, but they were still manageable, and Grammy and I still had lots to do before heading to the hospital. (By this time though, I had contacted my friend and told her she'd need to come sleep at the house with the girls, but that it would probably still be a while -- maybe 10 p.m. or so.)
Here are things we did before heading to the hospital:
1. Grammy bathed the girls.
2. I cleaned up dinner and vacuumed the dining room and kitchen floors.
3. I sat at the computer and finished up some pre-baby tasks, such as instructions on the girls' daily and bedtime routines, and some e-mails that would enable non-military family members to gain access to the base.
4. I put the girls to bed.
5. I texted my labor and delivery nurse friend, the one who lived 5 houses down from me, and boldly asked if she would come over and check to see how far progressed I was, labor-wise. She couldn't come though, because she was at work at the hospital.
6. Grammy and I changed the sheets on my bed.
7. Grammy and I started to pack our bags for the hospital (again, unlike with the girls I hadn't even begun to pack a hospital bag).
8. Somehow Chet was aware of the goings on, and I remember talking to him at least once while this was all happening.
9. I contacted my friend to let her know I'd need her to come over sooner than I had originally thought (it was probably only about 8 p.m. at this point -- I didn't think it was wise to wait until 10 p.m. for her to arrive).
10. I called the Labor and Delivery floor at the Air Force hospital where I was planning to give birth to let them know that I was in labor and coming in soon. For some reason I semi-jokingly said, "I sure I hope I make it in time!" The woman I spoke to took that pretty seriously and said, "If you don't think you're going to make it, you need to go to Memorial Hospital right outside the base where you live." Well. Okay then.
By this time the contractions were pretty fierce -- I couldn't talk, or even stand, through them. But I still felt okay. Grammy and I were flying around as fast as we possibly could, getting ready to leave (even though I had no idea how much longer it might be before I actually gave birth). I had already e-mailed my friend the list of instructions regarding the girls, so as soon as she arrived we left. I didn't even take the time to change out of my yoga pants (I was still wearing the top I wore to church that day) or my Crocs (which I used as house shoes).
Maybe it's just me, but having contractions while buckled into the car is the worst. I can't figure out if it's because you're pretty much forced to sit in the same-ish position, or if it's because the motion of the moving car makes things feel worse. It was only about a 10-minute ride from our house on base to the Memorial Hospital right outside of the base, thank goodness; it would have been a 25-30 minute ride had we ventured to the Air Force Hospital.
I'm allowed to share this next part because Grammy gave me permission to a long time ago. When we pulled into the ER bay at hospital (it's a tricky-to-navigate ER bay), Grammy (who was driving) scraped the entire left side our our nice, new van (it was a year old, but it still felt nice and new) along one of the gigantic concrete columns holding up the roof of the ER bay. I wasn't happy. But I think God orchestrated that little accident, because it was a wonderful distraction for the next half hour.
I remember looking at the car's clock when Grammy stopped the car and I started to get out: it was exactly 9:30 p.m.
It was a short walk from the car to the ER's front desk. I had my military ID in hand, as well as my phone, and I set them both down on the desk. I must have looked really scary (I can't remember if Grammy had talked to the woman at the front desk), because I was immediately being seated in a wheelchair and wheeled over to the elevators so that we could go up to the Labor and Delivery floor. Literally immediately. I knowingly left my ID and phone on the front desk, because I no longer cared about such things (they were returned to me later).
I never got a look at the man pushing my wheelchair -- he was very kind and reassuring though. He told me he was perfectly capable of delivering a baby, but that he would rather we make it up to Labor and Delivery. I knew he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, because about that time (while we were in the elevator) I reached behind me and grabbed his sweatshirt and yanked him down toward my head while another contraction washed over me. I'm sure he's seen and experienced worse, and he never let on that he was offended or couldn't handle it. (He was, however, quick to exit once I was safely in the hands of the Labor and Delivery nurses.)
When we entered the doors of Labor and Delivery, my neighbor friend (who was expecting me, even though I never told her for sure I was coming to her hospital) jumped up and took over. She later told me that she was expecting me to arrive with a little while to go before giving birth, but as soon as she saw my face she knew that she needed to move fast, and that I wasn't messing around. They transferred me from the wheelchair to the bed, and it's hard to remember all of the specifics after that. There was no time to change from my clothes to a gown. There was no time to insert an IV into my arm (actually, they were trying, but I was super sweaty and they couldn't get the needle in -- I think the IV was just for emergency purposes anyway). Since the staff new nothing about me as a patient, I remember them asking me the "important" questions: Did I know whether or not I was Strep B positive; did I experience complications with any of my other births; what were the gestational ages and sizes of my other children at birth, etc.
One of my biggest fears throughout the pregnancy, while planing on having an epidural-free birth, was wondering whether or not my body would what to do at the appropriate time (i.e. when to push). And even more than that I feared that I would push for two hours like I did with the girls. I remember asking my neighbor, in a panicked voice, "Am I going to push for two hours!?" Of course she said "no," but I have no idea if that's what she truly believed or if she just didn't want to push the crazy woman in labor over the edge.
All this time I never asked for pain relief. I knew that I was near the end and that pain relief was pretty much off the table as an option, and I was okay with that. It was truly an answered prayer.
Around this time it was obvious the doctor might not show up in time, so my neighbor set herself up at the end of the bed and another nurse took over at my side. It was about this time my body decided it was time to push. The sweet, young nurse at my side told me not to push, and I remember just looking at her, probably with an expression on my face that suggested she and I did not speak the same language. (She was telling me not to push because the doctor wasn't there yet.) My neighbor told the nurse, "It's okay, she can push if she needs to."
And a few minutes later he was born. Ford Alan arrived at 9:59 p.m., 29 minutes after pulling into the ER bay. He weighed 8 lbs, 2 oz, and I can't for the life of me remember his length.
The doctor showed up soon after, and I think was super mad at me for waiting so long to head to the hospital. She didn't show me any bedside manner, which was fine, because who needs a doctor when your friend/neighbor/Labor and Delivery nurse can just deliver the baby?!
There you have it! There's not much to report after that. I remember being in the hospital with him felt like a luxury vacation, because caring for newborns was no longer a mystery to me, and I relished being in a quiet space with cable TV at my disposal and a nursing staff to help me out when I needed it. Truth be told, I'm looking forward to a similar experience when Baby #4 arrives soon!
We love you, Ford/Bubby/Buddy! I can't believe you're 2-years old now, and that you'll be a big brother any day. You're ready for it, and I know you're well equipped to handle being surrounded by sisters at home. (And Mommy's sorry for taking this long to post about your birth.)