But then I realized that we had Helen so unexpectedly early, and it all worked out just fine. To know how prepared we were this time was much more comforting.
I had been getting up in the middle of the night for weeks. That Wednesday, our induction day, was no exception, and it started off much like the morning that I had Helen. I had some strong contractions, and my stomach felt the effects of all that cramping. Was I starting labor? Would I need the pitocin?
Brian & I dropped off Helen at daycare, and she was excited to know that her Amazing Babysitter would be coming by to pick her up when the baby was born. I gave her a big hug and got back in the car to head to the hospital. We had a duffel bag packed to the brim with technology - laptop, camera, iPod, and cellphones. Very little in the bag had to do with an overnight stay away from home.
We got to the hospital and went through paperwork. I had preregistered on the phone, but a lot of the consent forms needed my signature. A nurse came by to take me to the delivery room, and I got changed into a hospital gown. By 8:45, they had checked me (still at 3cm) and broke my water. I had my pitocin IV inserted, and they told me I could have the epidural anytime. I wanted to wait a bit, to see how long it would take for labor to progress first. I didn't want to risk that epidural wearing off at the most important moment!
The baby monitor and the contraction monitor were strapped to my belly, and I learned I wasn't really having any contractions that morning - just more of that fake labor. In about 30 minutes, all of that changed. Lots of strong pains hit, and a few doozies in a row prompted Brian to suggest that maybe I should ask for the epidural. So by 9:45, I had my pain shot.
A word to note: my favorite man in the delivery room last time around was the nurse anesthetist named Fred. I asked my doctor at the last appointment about him, and she smiled and said they all loved Fred, and were so sad that he had retired last month. I literally had a panic attack. Who would handle my epidural?
On my induction date, I found out that Fred made all the difference in the world. The nurse anesthetist who inserted it this time took a span of about 4 contractions to set up and make it happen. In fact, I had a contraction in the middle of all that, where the delivery nurse talked me through "not moving" while the man worked on putting in the needle. My memory is hazy on a lot of what happened the first time, but this time it seemed a lot more painful and a lot more difficult. Plus, the whole "taking too long" part. Too bad Fred didn't pull a Brett Favre and come out of retirement for me.
Don't get me wrong - it was still totally worth it. After a couple of contractions that eased up gradually to slight pressure, all the pain went away and I dozed a little. Neither Brian nor I had slept well the night before, so it was good to get a chance to close my eyes.
The nurse came back about an hour later, and checked me. She said I was definitely progressing - in fact, I was at 7cm. Hearing that, I was stunned. Here I was on pitocin, with an epidural, napping, expecting everything to slow down considerably, and instead I had progressed from 3cm to 7cm. Keep in mind I'd been at the same 3cm since 37 weeks. So I was surprised.
The nurse said she'd come back in about 30 minutes and check me again. Sure enough, I was at 9.5cm at that point. She rounded up all the personnel to set up for our baby's arrival. Fifteen minutes later, I started pushing.
This time around was a lot easier, since I sort of knew what I needed to do. Even with the epidural, I could feel pressure that let me know where the baby was. At the end, I could feel her coming through the birth canal. It wasn't painful, but it was a strange sensation, and I know I didn't miss out on a thing by having that epidural.
The nurse asked me if I wanted her on my chest right away, or if I wanted her wiped down first. She was spreading a towel on my chest as she asked, but the look on my face must have said it all, because she quickly whipped the towel off and said, "Okay, we'll bathe her." When the baby came out, I heard the doctor ask Brian if he wanted to cut the cord, and he said, "Sure!" Brian went over with the nurses to see her and take some pictures while the doctor finished up with me. Total time from pitocin to delivery: 4 hours.
Everyone was very complimentary of my pushing skills. It seems like one of those things that is perfectly useless to be good at. And it turns out I was a little too good at it. Because Alice didn't spend a lot of time in the birth canal, she came out with a tiny bit of fluid still in the lungs. Normally that all gets squeezed out. So it meant that first day was spent with a very close eye on her, because she would choke and spit it up.
Other than that, she was absolutely perfect at 8 pounds, 2 ounces, 20.5 inches long. Healthy, beautiful, and really ticked off at being pushed out of a nice, comfy womb. About an hour later, she was totally over it and thrilled to have her mama holding her.
We were just as thrilled.
To read Helen's birth story, click here.