Monday, July 16, 2018.
My phone vibrated: “Are you in labor yet?”
It was one of five similar texts I had received within a span of 48 hours. Never mind I was still four days away from my due date, or the fact that if I was in labor I can guarantee my first act of preparing to push a kid out of my hoohah would not be to get on my phone to play catch up: hey how’s your Monday going my womb is contracting *smiley face emoji*.
But behind all that #SarcasmFont I smiled. Our baby was already so loved.
What didn’t make me smile was how anxious I felt about going into labor over the last two months. Anxiety convinced me I’d take a few more tiny elbows to my lungs and peeing four times a night if that meant I could put off the pain. It didn’t help that postpartum recovery with our first was distressing, the stillbirth of our second was traumatic, and our third came out like a face-up freight train.
Just imagining the delivery of our fourth baby left me short of breath and on my knees: You’re a good, good Father. So, Lord, please have mercy and let me get to the hospital in time for an epidural.
I wasn’t interested in getting one with our first or third because I was on an all-natural kick and enjoyed wielding my anti-drug status like a badge of honor. AKA: Look at me and my incredibly strong loins.
But not this rodeo, Chicas. I wanted to be captain of the Drug Team.
My uterus felt light, inconsistent contractions all day, while my mind played tug-of-war between denial that I was actually in labor and anxiety over making sure we left on time for my dose of anesthetics. We had gone about our day as any other – errands, naps, and swimming – until my contractions were fifteen minutes apart and making it hard to walk. It was time to pack up and go.
Then came Husband’s crucial role in the delivery process: driving me to the hospital.
This was the root of his nerves for the past two months, partially because I made a list of roughly thirty-seven areas he could improve from the Delivery Drive we took shortly before our son was born a couple years prior. Being in a new state with a new driving route to a new hospital didn’t help relieve the pressure much.
And hot diggity, he took his job seriously. He was practically Dale Earnhardt Jr., running yellows and cutting through parking lots when the left turn lane backed up too far for his liking. His driving habits are often a sore spot in our marriage, so I made sure to affectionately inform him I wished he would drive like I was in labor all the time.
“The fourth floor of the parking garage – that’s where we need to go.” He was sure of it.
As we wound up the parking ramp, he offered commentary about how silly it was to put the entryway to Labor and Delivery on the fourth floor. “This drive is stressful enough as it is!”
We reached the fourth floor, which was the top, outdoor floor of the parking ramp – also noted to be ridiculous by the both of us because Midwestern Winters. We threw the glass doors open and walked in, not to see the entrance to the hospital but a pair of elevators.
Husband had one job.
Now, from one to ten on the Niceness Scale, I’m about a seven when you get to know me. But when I’m experiencing the pains of intense contractions, the scale window reads: Err. Because he is the one within reach, Husband ends up suffering from all my wrath, holding true to the ancient proverb: Hell hath no fury like a wife in labor, and nobody is more incapable of doing anything right than her husband.
But my labor wasn’t heavy; I was in pleasant spirits. Husband might even tell you I was capable of being nice. We rode the parking garage elevators back down to the first floor, walked through the main entry, and took the indoor elevators back up to Labor and Delivery – located on the fourth floor.
And I threw zero eye daggers the entire time.
Due to my niceness, the nurses didn’t believe I was actually in labor. Sweet time was taken to do what feels like an FBI background check of my medical history and give me orders to change my clothes. I tried to explain that my body has a strange super power to transition from “Meh, this hurts a little” to “OH MY GOSH I HAVE TO PUSH RIGHT NOW” at an incredibly fast rate. Therefore, I came in much earlier than previous deliveries and how do I sign up for an epidural?
Epidural? Epidural? EPIDURAL! I think they got sick of me saying that word. Like, what’s this lady’s deal she’s barely in labor?
But with a gloved hand thrown up into my nether regions to check for dilation I was vindicated: Eight centimeters. Eight. Two away from pushing. I felt awesome until I heard my nurse say: “I’m going to try really hard to get you that epidural, but I’m not sure there will be enough time.”
The anesthesiologist arrived. Possible side effects were communicated, wavers were signed, and I was practically leaning over the side of the bed: Yeah. Uh-huh. Less talk, more drugs, Doc.
Contractions were only five minutes apart and getting more intense. We were in a time crunch before my water broke and all maternal agony broke loose.
And then his phone rang: Can you please come back to room 704? My patient needs some yada-yada-yada….and I don’t think Kendra should get an epidural because she’s just being a wussy and so I’m just going to delay her from getting one so that she’s forced to give birth naturally AGAIN.
At least I’m pretty sure that’s what I caught through the speakerphone.
Finally, I leaned over the bed, waiting for a needle the size of a turkey baster to be poked in my back. Because of the time constraint, the anesthesiologist said he would give me a spinal injection. It would numb me within minutes, faster than a regular epidural. I almost proposed to him right then and there.
Minutes after I was all hooked up to the good stuff, Doctor Drugs said: “You just had a contraction.”
I said, “No I didn’t.”
And I thought: Shut the front door.
Contractions were flying, gloved hands and plastic tools were being thrown all up in me to break my water, and the baby was making its way down the canal and resting right on my bottom parts – and I couldn’t feel a thing.
Husband didn’t even know what to do. I wasn’t yelling at him or glaring at him or telepathically communicating with him that he was doing something wrong. In fact, he kind of “felt like he was out of a job.”
The nurse assured him: “You can hold her other leg while she pushes.”
Husband and I looked at each other and smirked. He wasn’t looking for employment. But I guess when you’re wife’s giving birth you still gotta pay da bills.
After three quick pushes, she was out: our sweet, Cecily Mae.
The doctor immediately laid her on my chest, and this time I laughed at the beauty of the moment instead of crying at the relief from the pain. What was different with an epidural was that I felt like I was in my right mind the entire time. But what didn’t change was the sweetness of that moment you meet another baby you know you’ll love more than everything.
That’s the same every time.
The nurse was quite enthusiastic about Cecily’s stats: 9 pounds, 13 ounces. 22 inches long. Our biggest baby, though not by far. But by far our smoothest delivery.
And so that’s our birth story that wasn’t much of a story compared to our other birth stories. But dang, I’ll take it.