Aug 31 2015

And Then There Were Four: B’s Birth Story

The induction was scheduled for 6 AM.

6 AM. Clearly the medical profession had lost its fool mind. They said the maternity ward might be full — because, you know, births are unpredictable like that — so I was supposed to call the hospital an hour prior to check if there was space for me. The night of my due date, I finally finished packing my hospital bag, spent some special family time with Peaches, and set my alarm for 4:57.

Well, births are unpredictable, all right. I never made it to 6 AM. Or 4:57, for that matter.

I really, really didn’t want to be induced, but at my 39-week appointment, my OB suggested that I should think about it — and soon. In my particular case, I knew there were some medical reasons for this, but I still found myself balking at the recommendation. “I definitely do NOT want to do it before my due date,” I blurted when she brought it up.

“Okay,” she said. She checked her calendar. “Let’s try to do it the day after, then.”

I typed INDUCTION – 6 AM into my phone, but I was uneasy. It felt clinical, like I had just efficiently scheduled a hair appointment. There are countless stories of successful inductions — a lot of my friends totally prefer them, in fact — but it was so different from what I’d experienced the first time that it made me feel incredibly unsettled. I was not at peace with it.

We have eight days, I thought. That’s FOREVER in Pregnancy Land. Hopefully he will decide to make his own entrance before then.

To assist my unborn son with that decision, I spent those eight days doing a lot of walking. Thankfully, my parents were still in California with us, so there would be no scrambling around to find someone to help with Peaches if I happened to go into labor. But every morning I woke up feeling exactly the same: totally normal (well, minus the heartburn and the sleeplessness). With each day that passed, I became more perplexed. How could I be three weeks early with one child and almost late with another? Yes, I know. Every pregnancy is different. I guess it’s not just a cliché.

The day before my due date, I solicited advice from my Michigan people. “Bounce on an exercise ball,” a good friend suggested. “That’s what helped me. I did that one night to try to get things going, and my daughter was born the next day.”

So I did. I bounced for two straight hours while Al and I watched TV, and went to bed on Due Date Eve. I prayed that Baby Boy would come on his own schedule. And then the sun came up the next day.


While Peaches was at school, I waddled my way to the neighborhood clubhouse. The Due Date Gods were on my side: for the first time ever — HALLELUJAH! — I was the only person at the pool. I got to swim and read a book in the sun and not worry if my bare belly was offending anyone. It was glorious. And then I waddled back to our rental house and bounced on the exercise ball some more.

That evening, as I looked at my beautiful Peaches, I was gripped with an overwhelming nostalgia mixed with pride and grief and something that felt like remorse. She had once been a tiny newborn, too: 6 pounds 2 ounces of snuggly deliciousness. Tomorrow you will not be my only baby. You will have to share our attention and affection. I hope this will be worth it for you. I hope we are adding a wonderful friend to your world. And then: How will I ever love another child as much as I love you?

Al and I took P to get some ice cream, which is a pretty rare treat for her. I rubbed her back for a long time when I put her to bed (“Pet me, Mommy,” she always says), and I cried after I left her room.

I went downstairs and looked up happy induction stories online.

I told myself that this was BETTER, because it was a PLAN and I am a planner. I would wake up at 4:57. I would call the hospital. They would have space for me. We would arrive by 6 AM and I would be ready.

A mild contraction woke me up just before 2:30 in the morning. More Braxton Hicks, I thought, shuffling to the bathroom to pee.

And then my water broke just a little.

With Peaches, it broke in stages: first small and then larger amounts, at home and all the way to the hospital and then all over the wheelchair — so I assumed this was the beginning. But this time, there was one tiny incident and nothing more. I’m imagining things, I told myself as I crawled back into bed.

I couldn’t fall back to sleep — not just because the questionable water breakage had me a little keyed up, but also because I felt a second twinge in my abdomen a few minutes later. Another contraction? Is this for real?

I started to time them. They were eight minutes apart. The next two were only six minutes apart.

I touched Al’s shoulder to wake him up. “I think we need to go to the hospital,” I said.

Because my first delivery was so quick, the doctor told me not to mess around with this one. I figured we needed to get in the car ASAP, but Al was having a tough time getting out of bed. “We need to go,” I said again.

“Are you sure? We’re supposed to call the hospital in a couple hours.”

“I know. But I really think we should go. I’m pretty sure my water started to break.”

As he gathered our bags, I went downstairs and woke my mom. “We’re leaving,” I said.

She got out of bed and came to stand with us in the foyer. “It’s six AM already?” she asked, understandably groggy.

“No. It’s three in the morning.”

Before I could say anything else, I had another contraction — the pain was definitely intensifying — and I pressed my hand against the wall and tried to breathe. My mom rubbed my back. “Yay!” she said. “I mean, not yay that you’re in pain. You know what I mean!” She stayed behind with my dad and P, promising to meet us at the hospital as soon as they could.

Al helped me into his car. As we drove, I continued to time the contractions: now they were three minutes apart and about fifty seconds each.

Since it was the middle of the night, we had to enter through the ER — they made me walk (?!) to the maternity ward — and it was just after 3:30 AM by the time we checked in. The second we arrived, I told the nurse, “Last time, my labor progressed too quickly to have an epidural. Can you please get one started NOW?”

She was awesome. She processed THAT paperwork before everything else, and someone rolled a cart into my room within minutes. “You can sign all that other stuff once you’re comfortable,” she said. Then she did a quick initial check: I was five centimeters. The pain was intense, but bearable.

My anesthesiologist was a handsome man with a German accent, but I’m pretty sure he could have looked like Shrek and had a helium-balloon voice and I would have fallen in love with him. He gave me a spinal first and then inserted the epidural, and I could breathe within a few minutes. “Thank you SO MUCH,” I gushed. “You have such a cool job! It must be nice to have a million women who are always so happy to see you.”

He laughed. “It’s pretty gratifying.”

As soon as the epidural took effect, Nurse Awesome checked me again. “Eight centimeters,” she said, sounding surprised. “Well, that was fast.”

“I tried to tell you,” I said.

She patted my hand. “I’m going to get your doctor on the phone now, okay? You can fill out the rest of your paperwork.”

It was about 4:50 AM by then. She returned a few minutes later and offered a sympathetic wince-face. “I’m sorry, but your doctor isn’t picking up. I need to try the on-call doctor,” she said. “Someone has to get here quickly.”

I had a mini moment of panic. In Michigan, we were required to meet ALL of the doctors in the practice; we had to see each of them at some point throughout the pregnancy since we never knew which one would be on call when we went into labor. But here, I have ONE doctor. She said there was no need to meet any of her partners because she would come to the hospital whether she was on call or not. What was happening? This was definitely not part of the plan.

When I first moved to California, I had to resign myself to the idea that a stranger would be delivering my baby — but then I met and clicked with my new doctor and she didn’t feel like a stranger anymore. Now, I turned back to the clipboard and resigned myself to the idea again.

Okay. So, I haven’t revealed my face on my blog yet. And since this will be the first time in the history of ever, I figure I should probably show you something wildly unflattering.

before and after pictures pre-epidural and post epidural

BEFORE (3:44 AM): Mid-contraction and trying desperately to breathe. AFTER (5:04 AM): Just filling out some papers on this totally regular day. What, is something supposed to be happening?

Even with the epidural, I could still feel some slight pressure every two minutes, so I knew when I was having a contraction. By the time the paperwork was complete — around 5:10 AM — I had started to feel actual pain again, but only on the right. The nurse hit a magical button and had me roll onto my right side.

When I was comfortable, she checked me again. “Nine and a half,” she said. “It’s time to push.”

Already? I was supposed to be weaning OFF the epidural at Go Time, not ramping it up. Whoops. I prayed I would know what to do.

Doctor Stranger swept in a few minutes later. She was a woman with loads of experience and an absolutely impeccable education — I know because we looked her up later. Even without Google, though, you could tell she knew what she was doing. She was confident and poised and relaxed and friendly. Thank God.

She shook my hand. “Nice to meet you,” I said. And then she got all up close and personal.

I did my best, but I was totally numb. With Peaches, my body was absolutely in charge, and I felt powerful and knowledgeable (but remembered very little of it afterward). This time, I had to be directed, but I was fully present and aware of every moment.

After three pushes, the doctor said, “This is a pretty big baby. He’s stuck against your bone — I need to use the vacuum, just to turn his head and get him angled properly.”

The vacuum? Oh, no.

As it turned out, he was stuck for another reason: the cord, which was unusually short, had wrapped around his neck and was tethering him back into place every time I pushed. Once the doctor adjusted the angle of his head, she was able to clip the cord enough for me to get him out.

I pushed once more and he was born.

There were a lot of nurses cooing and my own relieved laugh-sob and then the gurgly first cry of my son. “Five forty-three!” the doctor announced as she lifted the baby onto my chest.

He was born seventeen minutes before my scheduled induction.

B was 8 pounds 4 ounces and 21.25 inches long. I’m calling him B for a couple of personal reasons, and also because almost every single one of his nicknames — from pregnancy until now — starts with B.

mother with newborn baby

My actual doctor came to see me about an hour after I’d given birth. “I can’t believe I missed you guys,” she said, patting my arm. “My daughter yelled for me in the middle of the night. I was only away from my phone for a few minutes. When I came back to my bedroom, I realized I’d missed a call — but by then, my partner was already on her way.” Mystery solved.

And then a nurse I’d never seen popped in to tell me a funny story: “Hi! I was JUST about to call you and ask you to reschedule your induction because we’re so crowded!” she said. “But when I picked up the phone in the nurse’s station, they were like, ‘Oh, no, she won’t answer. She’s over in Room Eleven having her baby.'”

For posterity’s sake (and, let’s face it, mostly for my own notes), here’s a quick comparison of both birth experiences:

Timing: From the very first mild contraction until birth, Peaches took five and a half hours to arrive (8 PM to 1:39 AM). B took just over three hours (2:30 AM to 5:43 AM). Legend has it that labor will go faster and faster with each child. For me: truth. If I ever have a third child, and I continue this precipitous labor trend…I mean, what, will I have my first contraction and then give birth within the hour?

Hmm. That actually might not be so bad…if I lived next door to the hospital.

Hospitals: There is a special place in my heart for my Michigan hospital. Here in California, there were two or three nurses who were absolutely wonderful — they MADE my experience, and I actually missed them once I got home — but there really was something incredible about each and every nurse who helped us with P. (Our Michigan hospital was newer, too, with a fabulous cafeteria that was basically a restaurant.) I loved Doctor Stranger, though — she had the perfect combination of professionalism and warmth, and I don’t regret for a second that she was the one to deliver this baby.

Drugs vs. Drug-Free: If I DO have that aforementioned third child, and if I have any say in things at all, I think I might like to try it naturally again. The epidural was such a gift this time around, and I’m glad I got to experience it that way, but I’ve never felt so strong or so in touch with my body as I did when I gave birth to P.

Plus, truth be told, it’s a few weeks later and my spine still feels kind of bruised near the epidural entry point. Does anyone else have experience with this? Tell me this is normal before my hypochondriac brain spirals out of control.

And while I’m doing comparisons, I’ll end with my favorite. I’m breaking my own rule by showing B’s face, but he was only a week old here and he already looks vastly different…so I guess I’ll cope.

pregnant woman 40 and 41 week comparison

I love this because of the story contained within that slim dividing line. Sometimes life surprises you even when you’re expecting it.

What a difference a week can make.

About Melissa

Melissa Bowers is a high school teacher from Michigan who (reluctantly) moved across the country when she was six months pregnant. Her days used to be filled with great works analyses and discussions of intricate film and literary techniques, but they are now consumed by two spirited children and the desperate urge to write ALL THE THINGS -- which generally occurs a paragraph at a time whenever the kids happen to nap. Since moving to California, her work has been published by Writer's Digest and The Writer, and her articles are regularly featured on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and others.

8 comments on “And Then There Were Four: B’s Birth Story

  1. You are definitely not a hypochondriac! I feel a bone bruise where I got my epidural, and my little man is 12 weeks old! I hear it eventually fades, but even now it’s painful! Congratulations on the new addition!

  2. This is so cool to read your blog! You were by far my favorite teacher my freshman year at Milford! I’m now finished with college, married and have a baby of my own but I still recall loving your class.

    • Oh my gosh! So nice to hear from you, Lauren! The whole reason I miss teaching so much is because of students like you. Congratulations on your baby! It’s such a crazy adventure, right?!

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