A little birth story.
William Andrew Easter was born on his due date at 11:05pm on August, 30th, 2018 at 8lb 13oz. 21 inches long.
He was perfectly on time, but boy, did I think his arrival was overdue.
This has been by far, the most difficult pregnancy to date. We survived seven boughts of the stomach flu, a three day stay at the hospital for an appendicitis scare, severe progesterone, iron, and B12 deficiency which required injections, and epic leg cramping that would wake me up at least five times a night. By month nine, I was eagerly awaiting what I thought would be an early birth, as Gemma was born at 37 weeks and Felicity at 38.
As the days crawled by and the pressure of his head kept sinking, I thought I was going implode with anxiety and impatience. It was painful to walk, to sit, to stand, to lay down.
I was already a centimeter dilated at 37 weeks, 2-3 centimeters at 38 weeks, and by my 40 week appointment I was 4-5 centimeters. But, no regular labor-like contractions. I could not understand how I was halfway there and he still wasn't coming. *Warning: pregnancy/labor TMI below.
At my wits end, I asked the midwife at the hospital to "sweep my membranes" ( I really wish there was better terminology for this stuff). Pretty much, they just separate the "bag of waters" from the lining of the uterus which releases prostaglandins, hormones which can jump start labor. She did, and two days later, his due date, still no baby. So, I marched, ahem, waddled back to the hospital and asked for them to do it again.
It was Thursday afternoon, the 30th, at 4pm. The after the quick "sweep" the midwife looked apologetically to me and asked, "You're ready to have this baby, aren't you?" Wide-eyed and relieved to hear her say that, I slowly nodded in tears.
"You're already 5 cm, 90% effaced, full-term, let me see what I can do. I want to ask the midwife on duty if she can fit you in tonight and we can augment this labor ( break your water)." She slipped out the door to make the call.
I started to stew. Oh, OK, wow, I'm going to have a baby tonight. It was strange to me to know it was actually going to happen. With Gemma, my water broke, and Felicity was a picture perfect display of normal labor contractions, so having a "plan to have a baby" was a totally new experience.
Of course, my melancholic worry-wort self immediately started to feel bad about forcing this kid out. Was I not letting God do His thing? Was I trying to take too much control? Was this best for the babe?
The midwife came back into the room, "You're all set. Why don't you go home, grab a bite to eat, and come back at seven. We've got labor rooms open."
But, instead of driving home, I decided to stay. I already wasn't feeling well and traffic would be bad. I called Brian to meet me at the hospital, and then waddled down to the cafeteria to "get a bite to eat" as was prescribed by the midwife.
Of course, I ordered the most responsible thing I could think of: french fries. I ate them standing up because I was becoming more and more uncomfortable. And, after taking a swig of coke, I waddled back to the lobby of the hospital, moving so slow, I could see the every passerby's concerned face.
Brian came shortly after and set up his computer to finish emails for work. I continued to waddle and wince. A maintenance worker came back and gave me a hospital gown. I guess that was my cue to check myself in to triage a couple hours earlier than planned.
We walked into triage and after fiddling around the computer forever, the lady at the desk said they had no record of my name in the system for a 7:00pm induction. By this time I was in active labor and let's just say I could have been more charitable. After another 10 minutes, the disinterested woman said,"Mrs. Easter, you're just not in the system, I don't know what you're talking about."
I huffed around, so angry, and yelled, "well, check me in anyways, I'm having this baby regardless!"
Cue more waiting. Cue a mini argument with Brian over a bad joke. Cue me ready to burst through the triage doors.
Finally, our name was called and we were escorted into triage and continued to walk right into a labor room. I was so surprised, relieved, and sheepish for making such a big stink in the waiting room. "Thank you so much," I said breathlessly. Then, we proceeded to do our "crazy Catholic thing." Brian got the rosary out and I started sprinkling the room with holy water, put my St. Gerard relic around my waist, and placed the Divine Mercy Image up on a shelf.
As we began the rosary, our nurse walked in and we immediately quieted down, not sure what she would think. "Oh, it's OK, I'm Catholic. I actually have a St. Gianna medal on, I love her." I beamed at her and felt so thankful to have a supportive and laid-back nurse. Still in active labor, I kept smiling and chatting with Brian in between contractions, but within less than an hour I could tell I was coming into transition. This was going too fast. Like, really fast.
Unable to stand or sit on the birth ball anymore, I laid down on my side in the hospital bed, gripping the side rails. I started having the shakes from the ramp up in contractions. Here was the moment of truth - was I going to get an epidural or not? Really, that moment of truth should have come the second I walked into the labor room considering I was 6+ centimeters. I just didn't expect the labor to go quite so quick.
My ideal birth was to labor naturally as long as possible, only to have a little medicine to help with the pushing stage ( which was traumatic with Gemma). So, in transition, I said, "I guess I want an epidural?" and the nurse ran out of the room. A couple of anesthesiologists came in, and as they put a shower cap on my head and settled me cross legged on the bed, I saw the woman trying to "remember her lines" as she described to me the risks of the procedure.
"Oh no," I thought, "She's a newbie."
I forgot to request the most senior anesthesiologist on the floor, and instead got a well meaning, but completely new student to practice on me like a guinea pig. And guess what? the epidural didn't take. I never really believed anyone who said that to me before, because I was like, "There's a catheter in your spinal fluid, it's got to be working in some way." But, I have since been humbled.
Back on my side, I nervously yelled out that it wasn't working as I began to shake more violently. Brian held my hand and rigged up the Divine Mercy Image on the side rails of the bed. "I'm going to have to push, it's still not working, it's still not working." The anesthesiologist came running back in the room frantically poking me with a sharp plastic pin on my legs, "can you feel this? what about here?." I replied yes every time, while simultaneously getting ramped up to push. He started pumping some sort of fast acting drug into the catheter cord. "Oh my gosh, I have to push right now!" I yelled, and lo and behold I could tell the medicine started to kick in slightly. I pushed one long push and this almost 9lb baby came barreling out.
Gosh, he had pipes. William cried for almost 45 minutes straight, strong as ever, lifting his head up to look around multiple times.
I, however, was as heavy as a log. The epidural and extra drugs kicked in the moment he was born so I could barely hold him and move about. But, I will say this, having medicine to help with the after birth and cramps was huge.
He was here. William was here, and I could barely process it. Being a mom is the most challenging calling for me - the pregnancy, labor, birth, fragile weeks of recovery, battle with postparturm anxiety, and all the stages to come. But, so utterly worth it.
Each of my births have been completely different and utterly unique, just like each of my children. Looking back, I'm embarrassed I got an epidural so late, knowing I could have had him completely natural ( I had one natural birth with my first child). But, in some way, my prayer for an "ideal" birth was still answered because the edge was taken off for that final huge push, and I thank the Lord for seeing us all through safely.
Who knows what the next labor and birth will be like ( and hopefully a few years away from now). But, now that William is almost seven weeks old and we're getting used to new dynamics, our family feels more complete and whole, like we have always missed him.