If you had told me when I woke up that morning that I would be holding my son less than twenty-four hours later, I wouldn’t have believed it, though I probably would have hugged you for thinking such a lovely thought.
He wasn’t going to come early, he just wasn’t. Being a first-time mom & having my own mama go past her due date with her children more than once (and only having her “early” babies one or two days ahead of schedule), I didn’t see it happening. I still had five days to go, and I fully expected to go even longer.
But that didn’t prevent me from doing everything in my power to speed the process along. As I curled my hair for the day, I did squats. As I walked up and down the stairs, I did lunges. The day before, my dad and I had gone for Thai food, and I had ordered one of the spiciest things on the menu. “The last pregnant lady who came in to our restaurant and ate our food went into labor that very night,” the server had told me. “I wish that would happen to me,” I had laughed.
I walked as much as I could, and earlier in the week, I had gone to the park and walked with my mom and sisters up and down the sledding hill. When they started to get tired, I just said, “Come on! I’m pregnant and I’m still going!”
I knew that doing all of this didn’t necessarily mean labor would come sooner, but I hoped that it would mean an easier labor. I had heard walking and stretching helped prepare your body & at my last doctor’s appointment, I had been dilated to a 2 and 50% effaced with my cervix softening. “Maybe the next time I see you will be in the hospital?” I had asked my
OB hopefully. Him and I had a comical
relationship… he looked like Joe from Princess Diaries and had the funniest
sense of humor that paired nicely with my own dry humor. Maybe it’s odd to be
joking and laughing with your OB, but as
someone who doesn’t like doctors and hospitals (aka, is terrified of them), it
was refreshing to not be scared of him and to actually enjoy our conversations.
I saw his eyes sparkle at the poorly masked desperation in my voice, but his response
wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. Another, “We’ll see.”
So with all of this in the back of my mind, I got out of bed and got ready for the day. Brush my teeth, squat, brush some more. Pull up the covers on our bed, lunge around the room, toss on the rest of the pillows. Glance at my hospital bag, sigh because I’m hoping for the impossible, throw another item in the bag anyways.
But breaking up my waiting game was the fact that Kristen was coming over that day. The fact that she is one of my best friends and the fact that she would distract me made me feel like I could make it through another day. :P
She came over and around lunch time, I texted my sister, Lauren, to see if she wanted to go out to eat with us too. We picked her up from a nearby church where she had been doing make-up for the dress rehearsal of a play my seven-year-old sister was a part of. They would be performing the next day, and my mom’s parents were in town so that they could see it as well.
Mom had told me this would be a good time to have the baby so that her parents could meet him, but I had laughed the same joy-killing, but well-meaning laugh my
OB had laughed at
me. “We’ll see.”
After we picked Lauren up, we decided to eat at Potbelly’s (har har har… a nine month pregnant woman eating at Potbelly’s…get it? Get it? Yeah, but really, we did.)
As I drove, I found myself putting my hand on my stomach every couple minutes. I didn’t know why I was doing it, and I didn’t even remember doing it until later. We went in to eat, and suddenly I was STARVING. I ate my sandwich & then stared at Lauren’s chips until Kristen bought me a bag of my own. As we got back in the car, I put my hand on my stomach again and something felt tight… probably just my seat-belt. I tried to adjust it so that it wasn’t rubbing up against my bulging belly, but now matter how I adjusted it, every few minutes, it would feel tight again. Maybe I had just eaten too much.
Finally it dawned on me. “Guys! I think I’m having Braxton Hicks! I know that doesn’t mean much, but at least my body is practicing!” Kristen and Lauren were excited for me, but we all knew it didn’t mean anything.
We dropped Lauren back off at the church, Kristen went home, and I went for a walk. There’s a park at the end of our street (like three blocks down) and round-trip it’s probably half a mile. I walked down there and sat on the swings and thought it was funny that I was still feeling my stomach get all hard every few minutes. “But there’s no pain,” I told myself. “Surely, this CANNOT be it.”
As I started the walk back home, something different began to happen. It was hard to breathe when the contractions would come. No pain, but I had to stop each time and really breathe. And it felt like I was stopping a lot.
I still didn’t even remotely consider that this was labor. And when I got back, I saw that it was about 5:30 and I should probably make dinner. So I started dumping ingredients into the mixer and pulled out my pizza dough to knead it. Grammy was also in the kitchen and she was watching me closely. Every two or three minutes, I would stop what I was doing and breathe. She watched me and watched the clock and watched me some more until finally she said, “Your contractions are almost every two minutes!! You should get ready to go to the hospital!!” “I’m fine,” I laughed. “These are probably just Braxton Hicks!”
Suddenly, I had to pee (and there is no better use for the word “suddenly” than when a pregnant woman suddenly realized she NEEDS to pee.). So I went to the bathroom. Something felt different, and so, before I flushed, I looked into the toilet and saw blood (part of my mucous plug). Interesting. And as someone, who doesn’t like bodily functions/medical things, may I just say, disgusting. I'm sorry you even had to read that.
Well, now, things were looking a little more serious. But I washed my hands (just thought I should clarify that, haha) and went back to making pizza. Christian was going to be working late at our house and I wondered if I should text him or not.
When I timed the contractions, I noticed that they weren’t even two minutes apart anymore. Grammy looked grim. “Don’t have that baby in my kitchen!!” she half-joked.
I got the pizza in the oven and went to the bathroom again. More blood.
Okay, maybe I should text Christian. “You might want to come home now,” I texted semi-nonchalantly. Afterwards, I texted my mom. She asked a bunch of questions and advised I call the doctor right away. But I continued to hesitate. “I don’t know, mom. These are probably just practice contractions.” She continued to urge me to call.
Christian got home and I told him what had been happening. He was grinning, but just as cautious as I was.
“My only concern is that I haven’t felt him move in a long time,” I said worriedly. “I don’t know if I’ve felt him move in several hours.” We tried and tried to get him to move, but he wouldn’t. At the time, I didn’t realize that THAT is also a sign that you are in labor. Whoops.
With concern for his safety, and not really because I thought I was in labor, I called the doctor. By this time, it was after office hours, and we got a nurse. She listened to my concern about movement and then I told her about these mild contractions I was having. “How far apart are they?” “I don’t know,” I said, “It seems like they are every one to two minutes, but that can’t be right.” “How long do they last?” she asked. “Only like fifteen seconds,” I answered. “Hmmm, well you should probably come in since he’s not moving,” she told me, and said I MIGHT be in labor, but MIGHT not be as well.
I told Christian and we slowly got our stuff together. He ate the entire pizza, because if I WAS in labor, I didn’t feel like eating pizza only to possibly throw it up. I told my mom we were going, and that I would let her know if we were in labor and got admitted.
As we drove the six blocks to the hospital, we passed a familiar street…
“It’s a sign,” Christian joked and I couldn’t help laughing. “We better not
come past this road again without our own little Peter,” I hoped. As our
headlights shone on street sign after street sign, I felt each contraction
come, practiced breathing, and thought “This is probably the last contraction.
Just watch. They'll stop altogether once we reach the hospital. That would
be just my luck.”
But they didn’t stop. And by the time we pulled up to the Labor and Delivery portion of the hospital, I finally realized that the next time I walked outside, it would most likely be with our baby in my arms. Our very own baby!
Christian and I got out and the valet parked our car. We walked in and the person at the front desk looked up curiously. The hospital was very quiet. “I’m here to have a baby,” I said and she looked surprised. Even at 39 weeks, I wasn’t particularly huge, and under my loose-fitting dress and winter jacket, I doubt those were the words she expected to hear. She jumped into action and offered me a wheel-chair. “Nah, I’m good,” I said.
Christian and I walked to the elevator she pointed out and as the two of us got inside, I couldn’t help looking at his face and feeling like I had felt the first moment we had alone after getting married. The “did we really just get married?!” feeling was instead turned into the “are we really about to have a baby?!” feeling, but it felt just as happy and surreal as ever.
I was surprisingly calm. The surprisingly part being my own surprise. I don’t think I expected myself to panic in labor, but I also didn’t expect to be so matter-of-fact “let’s do this thing” carefree about it all. This was the moment I had been waiting for. And unlike that panicky, sick feeling I used to get before a basketball game or before a debate tournament or before a swim meet, I was ready. And even if I wasn’t, it was going to happen, with or without me… well, with me but... you know what I mean.
We got out of the elevator and walked over to the nurses’ station and I again explained how I was here to have a baby. Since I had called ahead, they were ready for me, and they immediately hooked me up to a fetal heart monitor and a contraction monitor. I heard the steady beating of my sweet baby’s heart and felt relief that he was okay. And then I started to laugh as he kicked incessantly at the strap around my belly. “Well, THERE you are, you little stinker.”
The nurse had left for a moment and Christian and I listened to our child’s heartbeat and tried to interpret the lines going up and down with each contraction.
“Your contractions are every one to two minutes!” the nurse told me after she had re-entered the room, “and they are lasting a full minute, not fifteen seconds!” “Oh,” I said sheepishly. I was dilated to a 3, I believe, and more effaced than I had been at my last appointment. I told them about the blood, and sure enough, I was losing my mucous plug. “Let me talk to your
OB,” the nurse said, “but it looks like you are here to
I filled out paper-work slowly as I had to pause with each contraction. They were just starting to become slightly painful, but definitely still manageable.
Christian texted our parents and we snapped a quick selfie while we waited to be moved to the delivery room. Mom was going to come and help labor with me. That way her and Christian could take turns resting. Plus, I don’t know if you’ve ever met my mom, but she’s like the best kick-butt coach while simultaneously being a gentle encourager, so naturally, I wanted both her and Christian by my side.
We were finally upstairs in the labor and delivery room, and I was bouncing methodically on the birthing ball, watching tv. Christian was talking to my mom on the phone and she was picking up milkshakes. “Do you want one?” he asked. My face must’ve spoken for itself and he told her I would pass, but that he would take a chocolate one. I rolled my eyes. Leave it to my mom and Christian to turn this into a party. ;)
At this point I was relatively uncomfortable and dilated to a 4, I believe (I honestly didn’t keep super good track, but I know every time they checked me, I had progressed), but still hadn’t taken pain meds. I wasn’t sure if I would need to or not, and in my mind, I had left that open to whether or not the pain was tolerable. I would definitely prefer to do it naturally, but I didn’t want to hold that up on a pedestal and then feel like a failure if I needed them. Right now, the pain was tolerable, so I kept bouncing and breathing, bouncing and breathing, bouncing and breathing.
Mom walked in around 10:30 and her face glowed with anticipation and excitement. Christian’s face glowed at the sight of the milkshake. My face… well, I don’t know if it was glowing, but I really had to pee.
I got up and went to the bathroom, walked out, and noticed there was a puddle at my feet. “Did you just pee yourself?” Christian laughed. “NO!” I said defensively, “Well, I don’t know, I guess.” I watched more liquid trickle down my leg and shuffled pensively forward. Another stream of liquid. “This can’t be pee,” I laughed.
Our labor and delivery nurse (ahhh, can’t rememeber her name!) was herself 38 weeks pregnant, and oh my goodness, we won the lottery by getting her. She was the sweetest, most supportive nurse and I couldn’t have hoped for anyone more perfect for me and my mom and Christian to have there with us, answering our questions and encouraging me to do labor however I wanted.
Anyways, she was called in & we explained the “is it pee?” situation. She thought that it probably was, but when she swabbed it, the stick immediately showed that it was amniotic fluid.
“Your water broke!” she exclaimed.
And it just. kept. breaking.
Fluid continued to eep out for the rest of labor and I feel like I spent the next few hours in a sopping wet puddle.
12 AM (Saturday, March 12th)
At this point I was dilated to a 5 or 6, and after my water broke, the contractions became increasingly painful. I started to feel my first wave of panic as I knew I still had several centimeters to go and that things would continue to get more painful.
I was also getting tired. If you know Christian and I, you know that sleep is incredibly important to us and our ability to function. :P I glanced over at my husband and saw his eyes looking heavy with sleep. Maybe I could just take something to ease the contraction pain enough for me to get an hour or two of sleep?
The nurse gave me a dose of something slightly stronger than Tylenol and I immediately felt better. “I feel loopy,” I said to my mom and Christian, and they both started to laugh. I knew better than to keep talking and saying things they could use as blackmail, so I closed my eyes and tried to doze off.
I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes, Christian was sleeping on the couch and my mom was sleeping in a chair next to my bed. But I swear, 0.8 seconds after I opened my eyes, she opened hers and asked if I was okay and if I needed anything.
The pain medicine had worn off and I was feeling the intensity of each contraction. I knew I was getting closer and closer to the point where an epidural wouldn’t be allowed anymore and I made my decision. I wanted one.
So our friendly pregnant nurse came in and explained how it would work. I had had a spinal tap before, so I was familiar with the idea of a large needle being inserted into my back. The anesthesiologist was called & I told my mom to wake Christian up. I wanted him by my side for this.
The procedure went off without a hitch and the anesthesiologist waited around to make sure it worked. He kept pressing on my legs and asking if I felt anything. “Yes.” “How about now?” “Yes, I feel that.” “How about now?” “Yes, I feel all of that.”
For some reason, even though I still felt everything, he left. Only my butt was numb (suuuuuuper helpful, right?). My legs were barely tingling & I still felt pain with each contraction. It hadn’t worked.
I told our nurse how I was feeling. “Are you feeling pressure still or pain? Because pressure is normal, but you shouldn’t be feeling pain.” “I’m feeling pain,” I said.
Another nurse wanted me to roll to my side and she was about to help me when I did it myself. “You can move your legs that easily?!” she asked surprised. “Yes!”
So they called the anesthesiologist back in and he upped my dosage and said something about not taking my height into consideration. But once again, it didn’t work, and I was still feeling everything with maybe only the tiniest tingling/numbing sensation.
Meanwhile I was dilated to a 6 or 7 now and I could feel how LOW this baby was. My mind was still calm, though it finally started to dawn on me that sometime, soon, this baby would have to come out. That there was no pause button and no “can we do this another time?” option. The part of me that hates feeling trapped started to panic a little bit, but overall, I was still on the “let’s do this” train.
My body, however, started to go into shock. Whether it was the medication or just the pain from the contractions, I started shaking violently.
In the past, I have had panic attacks where my body shakes violently, but in each of those situations, I’ve also been panicking in my mind. Watching myself shake uncontrollably felt like an out of body experience. As if I was calmly assessing the bizarre shaking of some other pregnant woman. The nurse asked if I was cold and I assured her I wasn’t. My mom asked if I was scared and I shook my head no. But my body wouldn’t stop shaking. It was weird. And it started to unnerve me.
The next two or three hours felt like a blur. At one point, I started to drift off to sleep again, only to have someone wake me and tell me that the epidural had caused my contractions to slow a little and that they wanted to give me pitocin and that once they did, things would speed along quickly. I nodded my approval.
I was dilated to an eight and the pitocin was definitely doing its job. The contractions were happening every other second it felt like and they were strong. I was starting to get a little bit panicky now. I called Christian to my side and he and my mom reassured me over and over that it was going to be okay and that I could do this. At this point I wasn’t contradicting them, but I was starting to wonder if it was true. Could I do this? Could I get a quick break? Could someone else take a few of these contractions? Just a few?
I could feel baby dropping and when they checked me again a few minutes later I was at a 9. “I’ll come back and check you again in fifteen minutes,” she said. Her shift was ending in an hour or two and I was really hoping to have the baby before she left.
The moment she walked out the door something changed. I felt him drop even lower and there was this intense urge in my body to push. I looked at Christian with fear. “I can’t do this,” I whispered. “That must mean you are ready to,” he said gently. My mom ran back out after the nurse as I frantically shouted that I NEEDED to push. I almost screamed with the next contraction and tried to keep myself from pushing before the doctor got there.
The nurse ran back in and looked a little alarmed and quickly ran over to check me. “You’re at a 10!” she exclaimed. “Let’s do a few practice pushes and then I’ll go get the doctor! Most first time moms push for at least thirty minutes.” I pushed for the length of one contraction and could tell by the look on her face that she was surprised and worried. “DON’T PUSH anymore! I’m going to get the doctor!!!” She hurried out of the room and a moment later, my
OB was flying into action. He quickly washed up as I
shouted “I NEED TO PUSH.” “DON’T PUSH!” he yelled right back at me. I almost
laughed for a moment because I felt like we were having a parent/child fight,
but at the same time I wanted to slap him. Don’t push?! I can’t help it!! He
rushed over and explained to me exactly how he wanted me to do it. I was
exhausted at this point, but suddenly, a wave of strength washed over me. “Do
you want a mirror so you can watch?” he asked. “uh, NO!” I said and he laughed.
Mom had left the room with prayers and encouragement, because I had asked that it just be Christian and I for the delivery. He stood at my side and as I looked at him, I could see the tears in his eyes as he held my hand and reminded me not to clench my teeth with the contractions but to breathe and bear down (yeah, he’s a really good birth coach you guys). “I’m so proud of you, I'm SO proud of you,” he kept saying between reminders. “You are doing SO well.”
Meanwhile my doctor shouted “NOW! PUSH!” and I gave every single ounce of strength I had into that push. Some women talk about how birth makes them feel like they can do anything, how it makes them proud of their bodies… and in that moment, I felt it. “I am woman. Hear me roar,” I had read that in the past and chuckled. But now I was roaring and I was going to get this baby out of me or die trying. The doctor and nurses were surprised at my intensity and I saw pride on my husband’s face. "You were made for this!" my OB said proudly, but then not even a second later, the doctor yelled “AGAIN! PUSH PUSH PUSH!” and again I wanted to slap him, but instead I pushed, and Christian shouted, “I SEE HIS HEAD.” I pushed again and *I* saw his head. Just a few more pushes and he was out, but I didn’t realize he was out at first. I was about to push again when my doctor was like, “He’s out!” And I was inwardly like, "Oh. OH!!!"
I didn’t hear him cry at first, but they sucked the fluid from his lungs and he was fine, though he still didn’t cry. He was happy to be born. Happy to be here. Christian cut his cord and they put this warm, wet, perfect little bundle of skin and arms and legs and his daddy's eyes and my cheeks and wavy brown hair and a perfect button nosed baby on my chest, but only for a minute before whisking him away to be checked and weighed. Christian rushed to be with him, but not before coming to my side with wet eyes and saying, “I can’t believe you just did that!!! You were amazing. I can't believe he came out of you!! I can't believe you did that!!”
My placenta came out without any problems, and as I watched my husband adore our baby nearby, the doctor turned to me. “You have two tears. They’re not too bad, but I’ll need to stitch them up.” I inwardly grimaced, but was too distracted by my baby who was OUTSIDE OF ME to care very much. “You’ll need to hold still so I don’t poke myself with the needle.” I looked at him and said, “That’s the least of my concerns.” He laughed outright along with the nurses and teased me back, but my attention was already back on baby.
He weighed 7lbs. 7oz. and was 21 ½ inches long. He still wasn’t crying, but he was alert. Christian finally carried him back over to me and our little one looked so tiny in his arms. He laid baby boy on my chest and all I could do was stare. I was feeling so many feelings at once that I couldn’t focus on one at a time.
It wasn’t until my mom came back in after the stitching and I saw her holding him that I fell apart and cried. My body had stopped shaking the moment our baby boy emerged. It knew that it had done it’s job and could rest now. Rest after nine months of carrying precious cargo. And now my mind was catching up and realizing that my mama was holding her daughter's son. Her daughter, now a mama too.
“Do you still want to name him Peter?” I asked Christian. He nodded. “Me too.”
A nurse pressed on my belly and looked shocked. “In all my time working here, I’ve NEVER seen a belly vanish the way yours has.” I looked down with just as much surprise. There was no more baby bump. My stomach was gone and there was a very flat, though very squishy, belly in it’s place. I felt empty and full all at once. “He’s here,” I thought, “I don’t have to feel his kicks from the inside anymore. I can kiss his toes from the outside.”
The rest of the day was beautiful and exhausting and emotional. The calmness I had felt mentally during labor started to backfire and I felt a little bit like weeping, a little bit like laughing, a little bit panicky over everything that had just happened, and a little bit like curling up in a ball with just my husband and Peter baby and sleeping for the next three weeks.
He passed all his tests and he continued not to cry, but just to be happy and content. He nursed almost immediately & was HUNGRY (some things never change, haha). Both his brand new grandpas and brand new grandmas and brand new aunts and uncles met him, and seeing my baby sister hold my baby son just about killed me. Getting to see my dad (of four girls) hold his firstborn grandson still makes me get all teary.
On the day I found out I was pregnant with Peter, before I took the test, I had stood in the shower and scrawled the words, “My heart will choose to say, blessed be Your name,” into the foggy glass. I wanted those words to be my rock no matter whether God gave me a beloved child or not. I wanted to choose to bless His name.
Peter (meaning: Rock) David (meaning: Beloved) Higgins...I am so glad that God chose to give us you.