On Friday, June 23rd, Erik left for Mexico. We had talked about whether he should go since I would be 36 weeks pregnant at the time. Actually, I had initially said no because the thought of being so big and uncomfortable while being alone was too much for me. But he had been spending a lot of time in MI, trying to prepare for our upcoming move for Med School, so I had gotten used to the idea. We prayed about whether he should go- and so did our best friends, Bill and Amber. All of us felt at peace with him going on the mission’s trip with our church. So, he packed his bags and headed out on Friday night.
Erik and I had talked about what would happen if I went into labor, but hadn’t made any real plans because we knew the chances were so slim that it wouldn’t happen. The previous Sunday, though, I had asked my friend Genevieve if she would be on ‘Labor Call’ for me while Erik was away for a week. I think my exact words were “I know there is almost no chance that I will go into labor, but I should probably have someone.. just in case.” We were just SO sure nothing would happen.
I started taking Lamaze classes with Erik a few weeks prior. I wanted a natural birth with Erik as my birth partner. We had picked out a birthing center in Michigan that we both loved- they don’t even allow Pitocin or epidurals in the area; you have to go to the main hospital’s labor and delivery unit for that. We learned a lot from the class, and every once in a while the instructor would throw in something about how the local hospitals in Rochester, NY did things, with a side note of “but you won’t have to worry about that because you will be in that great birthing center in Michigan!”
The plan was that Erik would get back from Mexico on July 1st, and on July 4th we would move to Michigan where I would have the baby 3 weeks later- we assumed a few days after my July 21st due date. Oh, how wrong.
June 25th was a Monday morning. I had tossed and turned all night because of my uncomfortable pregnant belly. My alarm usually went off at 6:30am for work. I was glad to work this week- it would be my last week of work before my maternity leave would start. I rolled over in bed to look at the clock when I felt a wet, warm gush. My first thought was “Oh dear Lord- please let that be pee.” My heart rate got a little faster, but I didn’t move. It was 6:00am, and I knew that as soon as I stirred too much my dog would want to go outside. After I decided I had no choice but to make it to the bathroom, I sat up and felt more warm water- confirmation that I hadn’t had an accident in bed. God had mercy on me as I waddled to the bathroom because my dog was cool as a cucumber. Actually, I was also abnormally calm for something like that. I tried to clean myself up a little and called my mom in Michigan. I told her not to panic, but that my water had broken. I would either be on bed rest for a while, or have a baby very soon, but either way, it would probably be a good idea for her to head on over to NY if at all possible.
(What I didn’t know at the time was that my mom had been laid off the previous Friday- but only for 2 weeks as they called her after a few days and asked if she could come back. Basically, work had given her 2 weeks off to help me! God is awesome!)
After I knew my mom was on her way, I called my friend Katie. I knew Gen would be more than willing to take me to the hospital, but I felt bad- she had 2 little ones under 3 years old and it was before 6:30am! Katie didn’t answer, and I stupidly left a fairly cryptic voice mail about my water being broken. Next I called Amber who had recently moved to Virginia. She answered the phone and I said “Where were you when YOUR water broke?” You have to lighten the mood somehow! Amber convinced me that having my water break while my husband is in Mexico is considered an emergency worth ‘bothering’ Genevieve for (smart woman) so I called Gen.
All this time (now about 6:45am) I had been praying and hoping that I could go to the hospital, make sure that the baby was okay, and they would send me home to rest for a week or two, allowing Erik plenty of time to get home. I realize now how silly that is, but though I was only 36 weeks pregnant, I hadn’t felt any contractions at all, so I was hopeful.
Gen was more than willing to take me to the hospital, and was such a saint about it. She didn’t have a sitter, but she could bring her kids along. She asked me if I would want to wait a few hours, or go soon, reminding me that when I entered the hospital, I probably wouldn’t be leaving pregnant! Under normal circumstances, I would have wanted to stay home as long as possible, but given that I was pre-term (37 weeks is considered full) and I hadn’t felt the baby kicking, I wanted to go sooner rather than later. She said she could be at my apartment at 8:30am, giving me time to have my neighbor get the dog, and for me to pack a hospital bag (I was SO unprepared!!!).
We got to the hospital and I was brought to triage and put on a heart rate monitor for the baby. Baby was doing fine. I asked the nurse if I would be able to go home and be on bed rest and she laughed a little and said “no, you are having a baby today!” I was so disheartened. I wasn’t having contractions, so I knew that meant that I would be induced. The nurse said they were super concerned about the risk of infection so I would need to have the baby as soon as possible. Then the nurse and two resident doctors came to talk to me. One was very peppy and spoke to me like I was 5. She said “Now we need to check to make sure you broke your bag of waters!” I said “well, that is why I came in- I know I did.” She said “Yes, but the Gold Star Standard says that we need 3 forms of verification to confirm, so we will do an internal exam to test.” I said “I know my water broke, so why would you give me an internal exam? Isn’t that counterintuitive to keeping infection out?” She said “Well, we need to follow the gold star standard!” Then, in unison, the nurse and 2 residents said “Everything is VERY sterile!”
The resident confirmed that, “when you do something, you do it well! Looks like you broke your bag of waters!!” which I knew. But she also said that I was 2 cm dilated. I asked her what came next and she said that they would put me on a monitor, move me to a room, and give me Pitocin. I asked if they could hold off on the Pitocin and she said I would have to talk to the attending dr. in the labor room.
I got to the labor room and met my nurse for the day, Joanne. It turns out nurses can be saints- because Joanne was so reassuring and totally made me feel like she was on my side. I asked if, since the baby’s heart rate was steady , I could be put intermittently monitored, instead of having a heart rate monitor attached to me. She said that I could definitely be monitored every 30 min instead, but if the baby’s heart rate dropped, I would need constant monitoring. Sounded good to me. Joanne also told me that the Dr. from my practice that was on staff was Dr. Morningstar. Ugh. I had heard from 2 close sources that she was NOT the dr. to have. I hadn’t met her, but she was not in the hospital yet, only giving direction by phone.
Gen came in and brought me lunch. I had some mild random contractions. They were easily talked through and would come sporadically; every 5 min, 20 min, 8 min, 40 min. I was also trying to contact Erik at the same time. I emailed him with every update all day long. My biggest reassurance was a text I got from Sue, the Church administrator. She said she had gotten a hold of the head missionary at the base in Mexico and that Erik wouldn’t be able to be contacted until he got back at around 11pm. But that as soon as he was back Erik would know that my water broke and to come home. PHEW!
Around 2pm my mom got to the hospital and Gen was able to go home. It turns out my mom was so focused on getting to NY that she ordered coffee at Tim Hortons on her way, paid, and drove off without it. She didn’t even notice until 45 minutes later!
At 4pm Joanne came to talk to us. I hadn’t been checked again since they didn’t want to introduce infection. She said that since I hadn’t started contracting naturally in any sort of pattern, that Dr. Morningstar wanted to have me start Pitocin at 6pm. She said that if labor doesn’t start within 12 hours of your water being broken, then the chances are almost none that it would start on its own after that. I so desperately didn’t want medical intervention. We knew from the half-hourly temperature and heart rate checks that I didn’t have an infection, and the baby was doing perfectly fine. I asked Joanne if there was any way to wait – even until morning. That way, I could get a good night’s sleep and be rested (and Erik would have been contacted by then!). She said that sounded like a really fair compromise and she left to ask the Dr. about it.
She came back after about a half hour and said that Dr. Morningstar’s compromise was that we start Pitocin at 8pm. Ha! An extra 2 hours? My mom asked “respectfully speaking, what if we say no? what if she just refuses Pitocin?” Joanne laughed and said “well, the Dr. wouldn’t be happy.” My mom said , “Uh, so?. Haha. Joanne said that she agreed! As long as the baby was safe, it is MY body- and I shouldn’t do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. She then said that she had offered another compromise to Dr. Morningstar. Joanne had suggested Cervidil.
Cervidil is a drug that is used to ripen your cervix and get you started with dilation. She said it would be placed inside me and left there overnight. Here is the sneaky catch- since I was already 2cm as of that morning, Cervidil probably wouldn’t have any effect. The only thing it would do is keep the Dr.’s away from me until the morning since I couldn’t be checked for 12 hours. Very sneaky, Joanne!
The problem I had with that is that it was still medical intervention, which meant I would need to have a monitor on me constantly. That, mixed with my belief that medical intervention just leads to more medical intervention, still made me Leary. Joanne said we could wait until 8pm to decide. The thing I also had trouble with is that as soon as I got to the hospital I had decided that since Erik wasn’t there as my birth partner, any medical intervention I needed, like REALLY needed mentally, I would allow myself. I just wasn’t there quite yet. I still wanted to do things as naturally as possible- both so I could even talk to Erik on the phone before things progressed too far, and because I didn’t like the possible effects on the baby.
8pm came and I had talked to my mom for hours about which choice to make. I still hadn’t decided when someone knocked on the door. It was a Dr. I hadn’t met, Dr. Amman, and my nurse Joanne. Dr. Amman came in and sat down at the end of the bed. I still hadn’t really had contractions and I was scared of the possible outcome of our conversation. Dr. Amman, it turns out was from Ghana. She started out by saying this (in her awesome Ghana accent),
“I hear your husband is in Mexico and you have a choice to make about drugs. I can imagine that you want him here more than anything. Let me tell you a story woman to woman, not dr. to woman. I was 36 weeks pregnant and was in Ghana. My husband was living in NYC. My water broke and I didn’t tell anyone- I booked a plan ticket that day and flew 11 hours to NYC to be with my husband! Looking back? That was stupid! But I know what it is like to face this without your husband. My recommendation is to take the Cervidil.”
And that was all I needed- just to know that while my baby is doing fine, there could be infection. There is a Dr. recommended path from this point. BUT we are all human and someone understood my position. Phew!
Dr. Amman came in to do the internal exam and administer the Cervidil, which is placed directly on the cervix. She went to put it in, looked up, looked at Joanne and laughed. “She is 5 cm dilated!” She gave Joanne a peace sign and said “She is like this!! This far!!” Then Dr. Amman stood up and threw the medicine in the trash. “There goes $200 in medicine that isn’t needed!” Because I was already progressing, that is all they needed. My body was doing what it was supposed to- only it was doing it sneakily and with almost no contractions!
From that point, 8pm, my contractions started to become more patterned and regular. They also intensified, but during the majority of the time I didn’t feel at all overwhelmed. I tried all the techniques that I learned in Lamaze class, but nothing I thought would help seemed to. My best way to cope was to tiptoe around the room with a ice cold cloth around my neck and listen to Worship music really loudly on Pandora. At around 10pm I had my mom run a cool bath. I had heard lots of women say that a bath with jets took the edge off the pain. I think in my mind it was the end-all-be-all of pain management before medicine. I never did get in that tub. It would have meant there were no other pain management options within my reach. It just sat there while I tiptoed around the room and the halls.
At about 10:30pm Dr. Amman asked if I wanted to be checked again. I hesitantly said yes as that would mean laying on my back on the bed while she examined me. I waited until the end of a contraction and jumped on the bed. She joyfully said I was 8cm!! I was shocked. While my contractions were bad, they weren’t unmanageable. Don’t get me wrong- they hurt a lot and took all my concentration, but I didn’t feel out of control of my body.
Well that was it- I think having Dr. Amman check me was the last thing my body needed to push me over the edge. The contractions got super intense. At one point I felt one coming on and knew it was going to be bad. I ran out of the room to the hall and used the bar in the hallway to hold myself up. I think I just needed to feel some control. If I couldn’t control this contraction, I could control my surroundings!! That is when I told Joanne that I needed to push. “Don’t push in the hall!!” she said. I told her I wanted to squat and push and she put a bar at the end of the bed for me to lean on and called the Dr.’s in. After a bit of confusion over how exactly I was supposed to get in that bed, and where the bar went (the bar was at the very end and I sat at the very edge of the end of the bed leaning on the bar for support) I got on. Dr. Amman walked in and over to me and told me to push. The pain was so intense- but it was also totally different than earlier. I had a mission. I pushed and groaned deep and loudly (I was actually a little concerned I was too loud for the hospital). Dr. Amman and Joanne yelled “STOP!!!!” Apparently my push had done its job! They weren’t expecting the baby to crown with one push! Dr. Morningstar was also in the room and Joanne, Dr. Amman, and Dr. Morningstar all ran to the corner of the room in a giddy excitement to put gloves and gowns on.
During that few seconds I had another contraction but knew I wasn’t supposed to push. To try to stop myself, I bit my hand to let out some of the stress my body was feeling. Joanne grabbed my hand and said “No! Don’t do that!” I felt totally out of control for about 10 seconds (10 REALLY long seconds). I felt like the room was spinning and I was on drugs. My head felt like it was bobbing around and I caught a hold of my arm and started to bite it too. I know is sounds so strange- but I totally understand the idea of giving someone something to bite when they are in pain. My mom grabbed my arm away, and I asked Joanne for something to bite down. I didn’t know how else to deal with the urge to push when I wasn’t allowed to push! Dr. Amman was back in place, though, and Joanne looked me in the eye about 5 inches from my face “Don’t bite- push now- push HARD!” I pushed as hard as I could and looked down and saw the baby fall into Dr. Amman’s hands.
He was perfect. I saw he was a boy before anyone needed to tell me. They put him on my stomach and All I could say was “he is beautiful! Oh my! He is so beautiful! Oh mom! Look how beautiful!” What an incredible thing. 4 weeks early and totally perfect. He needed nothing. In 2 pushes he came into the world at10:50pm on June25th weighing 5lbs 14oz and totally healthy.
40 minutes later I got a phone call from Mexico. Erik’s voice was the best thing I could have heard. “How are you feeling??” I said “Erik! You are a daddy!!”. ‘What?? What did you say!!??” he said. “you are a daddy!” I could hear him pause and get on the phone again all choked up. The last thing anyone in Mexico had heard was that at 6am I went into labor so he had no idea I had progressed beyond that. I asked him if he wanted to know if he had a boy or girl or if he wanted to wait. He wanted to wait to find out in person and meet his child.
For 2 days I kept the gender a secret from everyone but my mom while Erik journeyed. We hadn’t decided on a boy’s name so “baby Sweet” was unnamed until June 27th when Erik met his son.
Levi Daniel has stolen our hearts. Looking back, I truly feel my labor was so relatively easy because of all those praying for my peace and delivery while Erik was away. I was calm, cool, and collected in a way that is not in my nature. God is so good to us when we need Him.