This is the story of Gladys' arrival. Before I begin the narrative, I just want to say that I have once again experienced God's sovereignty through the birth of a child. I have once again been reminded that I am not in control, and when I look back at the details, I am humbled and awed by God's greatness, His plan, His mercy, His grace.
On Thursday, May 1, I had my 39 week + 2 day appointment at LeeOB. I had had to reschedule from Tuesday with my regular doctor due to cheerleading conflicts and then bad weather. The only doctor available with an after-school slot was Dr. Harris, a doctor I saw once when I was pregnant with Elsie, but I hadn't seen him in almost five years (that I can recall). After waiting almost an hour to see him, he checked me, told me that this baby wasn't coming this week. I told him that didn't mean anything, and we laughed. I asked him to remind me how I would know that I needed to head to the hospital, since I didn't want to be that girl who lives less than two miles (four minutes) from the hospital who accidentally has the baby at home. Armed with this knowledge, I went to Chick-Fil-A to join the family.
On Friday, May 2, I took the kids home from school, and once Eli got home, I turned around and went right back up to work to finish getting my maternity sub plans ready, a task I had been putting off and off and off. I stayed for about two hours, working feverishly, knowing that though the baby wasn't due until Tuesday, realistically, this child could be born any day now. While I was sitting at my computer, I started having contractions, but they weren't reminiscent of the ones that I had had with Oscar. They were definitely different, though, so I made sure that when I left, I left things as ready as I could, but still thinking I would be back at work on Monday. (For memory's sake, my belly just kept getting tight and holding for a long time--it wasn't the belt of contractions that I felt with O.) I stopped at the gas station on the way home, and a passerby commented, "Not long left, huh?" and I told him that my due date was Tuesday, but muttered under my breath while I pumped gas that he could be very right.
I was stopping for gas because Eli was supposed to take the car in the wee hours of morning and leave for Anniston, for Army duty, before gas stations opened. About a month before, he had been asked to be on duty this particular weekend, and he agreed, knowing that our due date was near. We had discussed what that would look like if baby decided to come quickly. Ordinarily, Eli would leave on a Friday night for weekend duty with the National Guard, but it just so happened that it was Talladega NASCAR Racing weekend, and that meant that there were no hotel rooms to be had anywhere near Fort McClellan, so Eli was home for the night, but was planning to be on the road by 4 a.m.
When I got home, I told Eli that I had been having contractions, but there was something about these contractions that wasn't like the contractions that brought Oscar into the world, so I wasn't sure. We discussed what the weekend would look like and how long it would take Eli to get back here from Anniston, etc. He told me that should we go to the hospital in the middle of the night, he was going to wear his Army gear just in case it was a false alarm. I took a shower, and things didn't get better or worse, so we went to bed. I had a hard time sleeping at first (it's really like being a beach whale, trying to roll over on a soft bed at 39 weeks pregnant while there's a dance party going on in my belly) and then I finally fell asleep. Finally.
It was short-lived.
About 1:15 a.m., I was awakened by the unmistakable feeling of my water breaking. It's funny, because in the shower the night before, I had been thinking about how we hadn't taken a childbirth class in five years--was it like riding a bike?--and that I had just been assuming that this baby would come the way Oscar did (that is, I was 8 cm when we got to the hospital, before my water broke). I had never considered what if this went the way Elsie's birth went, where my water broke first. So, I started thinking about all the possible scenarios, and then this happened. So, I quickly woke Eli up and ran to stand in the bathtub--Eli's idea (sorry, I know it's graphic), and then transferred to the shower when I could.
And we started calling down our pre-planned list of people to watch the kids, should the baby come in the middle of the night. I had sent a text to my Plan A around 10:45 to let her know that I was having contractions, and that I would keep her apprised. She hadn't texted back, but I wasn't worried. So when I called at 1:30 a.m., Plan A answered the phone--she was already at the hospital--doing a sleep study--and I had just awakened her. She couldn't leave. Ack! So, we called my Plan B. And the phone rang and rang, and then went to voicemail. So, we called Plan C. There also wasn't an answer. Seriously. It was almost a comedy of errors. Almost. So, while Eli was on the phone with Plan D, Plan C called back, and we made arrangements for the kids.
Eli started to get the kids up. Since Oscar is the easiest to wake up (he's a "morning person"), Eli got him up first, and sent him to potty. He explained to Oscar that Mommy and Daddy were about to go to the hospital to have the baby. Oscar, in his sleepy, yawny, stretching state asked, "What baby?" as he stumbled toward the toilet. (This incident was reported to me by Eli.) When I got out of the shower and got dressed, I heard Eli downstairs moving car seats from our van to our friend's SUV. So, I went to check on the children. Oscar asked me "What baby?" again when I explained to him what was going on. I tried to rouse Elsie, but she did not want to get up. She started crying and told me that she wanted to stay at home. I'm pretty sure Eli ended up carrying her out to our friend's vehicle, and as we got ready to go I kissed the kids goodbye in their car seats, and they drove off. I hopped up into the truck--yes, the truck--and we headed to the hospital (to note, Eli was not in his Army gear).
The first new experience is that I was instructed to come in through the front doors at 2 a.m.--I had to ring the hospital's doorbell. (The last two pregnancies I had to go in through the Emergency Department and then ride/walk up to the Labor & Delivery floor.) I rode the elevator up, and then waited for Eli to join me. They made him wait out in the waiting area, which ended up just being him leaning against a wall in the hallway, while they signed me in and put me in an observation room. Upon sign-in, I overheard the nurses talking about Murphy. You know, as in Murphy's law? Everything that can go wrong will go wrong? I told them that they better kick Murphy out before this baby came. They laughed and said that the only thing Murphy had affected so far was their food orders for the night. I asked which doctor was on call tonight. Guess who?
When Dr. Harris came in to check me, I joked with him about this baby not coming this week, huh? And he laughed, and then told me that I wasn't as big as I had been when he saw me on Thursday, that this baby was probably smaller than he thought. All of this was news to me. He thought I was big on Thursday? I'm really glad he didn't tell me that on Thursday, haha. He mentioned off-handedly how much fluid I had. Then he left and they brought Eli in. Finally, they moved me to an L&D suite and hooked me up to monitors, took my blood, yada yada yada.
Then we waited. We slept while we could.
The contractions were getting more intense. Nurse mentioned that Dr. Harris would be coming in to check on me around 6, "when he gets up."
Shift change at 6 a.m. No doctor. I hadn't seen Dr. Harris since 2 a.m. They mentioned that they were understaffed. Five women in labor, and only three nurses on duty.
7 a.m. Still no doctor. I called for the nurse. Eli and I had been having the conversation about pain management. The contractions are getting to the point of unbearable, starting to resemble my labor with Elsie, and I'll tell you that memories of that labor are not good ones. I wanted to know if I had made any progress in 5 hours of laboring at the hospital. She checked me. 4 cm. 1 cm progress in 5 hours. I consented to the epidural. At some point Dr. Harris came in to tell me that he was leaving and that he hoped he wouldn't have to see me again (that is, that I would not still be here when 6 a.m. rolled around again and he was back on call). And at some point, Dr. Hensarling came in and checked me. Baby was "floating" and man, there was a lot of fluid.
8:30 Eli is awake and hungry. Still no epidural. Evidently, the nurse paged the doctor that was written on the board, but no one had updated the board, it was the wrong anesthesiologist, so he didn't answer. Took her a while to figure that out.
Closer to 9 -- Two hours of severe contractions, and I know that I have made the right choice for this labor--now if the anesthesiologist would come. Oh, hey, here he is. He asks Eli to support me, and to my surprise, Eli consents (huge fear of needles, he has). And he holds me for a while, until he tells the nurse that she needs to take over before he hits the floor--so they leave me alone while she escorts him to the La-Z-Boy. He has lost the color in his face. The nurse comes back to hold me, just in time for another crazy intense contraction.
As we wait for the meds to kick in, I have to lay on my back. The contractions are less intense, and now I'm only feeling them on the left. I get rolled back and forth like a taco. It's all weird. We talk with the nurse. No, I didn't teach her son. Oh, she had Mr. Holland when she was in middle school, and she's in her mid-forties. Chit chat chit chat. The epidural takes effect. My contractions are picking up. They come in and adjust the fetal heart monitor and give me (and the baby) oxygen. Evidently baby's heart rate is raising and dropping slightly with contractions. Nothing too serious, but they are paying attention to it.
Dr. Hensarling comes back in and asks me to try to bear down with the contractions. I do, and baby moves, and I dilate more. She says that is promising. She leaves to go check on a patient. She comes back after a while. 10:20-ish? I'm fully dilated. Though baby is floating, she wants me to bear down with the next contraction. I do.
And then everything changes.
She feels the cord. It is prolapsed, coming out before the baby. This is a rare occurrence in a birth (I find out after researching it later), and it means that we are on our way to an emergency C-section. My eyes tear up, but Eli is there to calm me. He puts his hand on my head and smooths my hair and tells me that it will be okay. I'm not weepy because I'm scared. I'm weepy because I realized again that I'm not in control, and I could never have imagined this outcome, this labor, this birth.
We hadn't seen but one person off and on most of the morning, and within seconds, it seems every person on staff is in the room running around frantically, each one doing some important job. Eli puts on his paper scrubs, and they whisk me away to the operating room. There is a lot of laughing and joking on the way since one of the nurses is having to ride the gurney with me, and she kept mentioning how much fluid there was. They dial up the epidural, and they prep me for baby's arrival. Eli finally comes in (I really was afraid that he would miss it!).
Dr. Hensarling is delivering, Dr. Harris is back to assist. At some point, she says, "Hey, baby girl!" and cries ring out through the OR. Honestly, I was surprised--I had talked myself into getting ready for a boy, though I wouldn't admit that aloud, haha. This little girl is an alto. :) They handed her to Eli, and he brought her around the curtain for me to see. I started talking to her, and she whipped her head around when she heard my voice. It was sweet. :)
While they were sewing/gluing me back up, Dr. Hensarling said some things that made me laugh. She was talking about how this little marble-headed baby was a trouble-maker. I was supposed to be her "chip shot" on this Saturday morning--laboring on my own, progressing without pitocin, an easy delivery. But here we were.
This time, the C-section recovery was different. Eli got to carry the baby with him to recovery, where they both got to stay with me. My blood pressure was very low, so they kept me laid back. When they could set me upright a little, they put little girl on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. My L&D nurse stayed, too, and we all got to talk. It was a crazy morning, so we called the grandparents (who were almost in town) and asked them to bring lunch for the L&D nursing staff.
With the emergency C-section, there was no time to donate cord blood through the donation program at the hospital. That made me a little sad, since I'm unable to donate my own blood. But, having baby girl safely delivered was the most important thing.
So, we joked upon arrival about Murphy and his law, and maybe it seemed that everything that could go wrong did, but I mentioned at the very beginning about experiencing God's sovereignty through this birth. I recognized it as it unfolded, and I had been thinking and praying beforehand about how God had already written this birth, and now His will be done.
Eli was supposed to be in Anniston, but it was NASCAR race weekend in Talladega, so there was no room at the inn. He had to change his travel plans to leave in the morning, so he was home with me. God wrote that.
I hadn't seen Dr. Harris in 5 years, and two days after my appointment, he's the doctor on call when I arrive at the hospital, so he is the most knowledgeable about my most recent doctor's visit. God wrote that.
I consented to an epidural because after Elsie's birth, that was what made everything progress. Had I not had that epidural, I would have had to go under general anesthesia and would not have been awake to hear those first cries and the declaration that I had another daughter! God wrote that.
God is the Author. What more do I need?