Although this post is overdue, I was truly “underdue” (10 days) when little Lord Benjamin decided to make his arrival. Here is the story…
I guess it all starts at senior camp. Crazy me never thought twice about going (even though others questioned my sanity). Here is me and Balsy (only about 6 weeks behind me) baby-bumpin’ and me fake-climbing the rock wall (my mischievous friend Jenna’s idea to freak out John via text).
While no childbirth emergencies happened AT camp, all the walking and activity must have made Benjamin antsy to get out and enjoy the party. So only hours after arriving home on Wednesday evening, in the wee early hours of my birthday, June 6th, my water broke. John, in his final sprint to finish the dissertation, was up until 2:30am. As he came to bed and fell asleep, he pushed my whale of a body (“gently” he says) to stop my snoring. And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Moments later I couldn’t stop “peeing” myself and knew it must be something else. This commenced a three hour adrenaline-fueled rampage through our house as we freaked out multiple times, frantically tried to pack a hospital bag, installed a car seat, did laundry, showered, prepped our house for a baby and got Toby boarded. Shouldn’t we have done these things well ahead of time like all of the childbirth books suggest, you ask? Yes. Yes, indeed.
That was my last official bump picture at home around 5am on June 6th. On the way to the hospital I left a message for Papa and got ahold of Nana, who exclaimed, “Omigod, why didn’t you call me sooner!?” and hung up on me. I was left to assume that she had sprinted for the car and was already driving straight to Chicago at 100 mph. (The truth wasn’t too far off).
We arrived at the hospital around 6:45am with way too many bags and waddled up to the OB floor. We were told that labor and delivery was completely “full” …as in: No Vacancy. Was this possible? How did they not have a bed for a woman about to pop out a baby? Could this be illegal? We weren’t exactly being turned away, just being told to wait our turn. Thank goodness Benjamin wasn’t jumping at the bit to get out, because it was a LONG wait. Nevermind the fact that I was still gushing fluid…if they really wanted their waiting room chairs soaked with amniotic fluid, so be it.
We finally got a temporary “bed” in triage about an hour later. Five other women were in the same camp, but luckily only one was whining and moaning in pain, so I didn’t get too freaked out. After being checked and finding out I was not one bit dilated yet, I felt slightly defeated. Getting induced wasn’t how I envisioned Benjamin’s birth going. But I guess you don’t get to plan these things. But even more so, I was annoyed; each nurse or doctor that came in seemed skeptical about my water having broken, as if I might be confused about how it feels to pee your pants when pregnant. We were flabbergasted that tons of towels I was still soaking through weren’t obvious enough for them. Once they finally did the test they seemed surprised: “Well look at this, your water really did break.” Duh.
After having John sneak me snacks when no one was looking and exhausting the resources on our iPhones to keep us occupied, the contractions finally picked up pace to every five minutes or so. Around 2pm, we finally got a real stinkin’ room so I could get induced. Shortly after, my contractions picked up to 2-3 minutes (thanks Pitocin!) and my family came flooding into our room to join in the fun. Over time, as the contractions got more and more painful throughout the afternoon and evening I found myself closing my eyes for longer and longer stretches. By the end, they never opened. I just kept thinking of how useless all the Lamaze breathing techniques were that our crazy/awful childbirth class teacher touted; I guess childbirth shows you how you deal with pain and no two people are going to do it the same way.
Sidenotes on contractions:
1) I kept thinking that a belt was tightening around me. The fetal monitor going around my belly was uncomfortable in an annoying way all the time, but during a contraction, it felt like an evil instrument spawned from the devil that was trying to kill my baby inside. I kept having to remind myself that the fetal monitor belt wasn’t really changing size, but still, each time I wanted to rip it off.
2) My other coping mechanism that I invented during labor was the “stair-stepper.” Back in college I used to do the stair steppers at the gym and the screen would show columns of red dots ascending as the stepper got harder and descending it as it got easier. Picturing this mentally and counting to 10 with each contraction (5 up and 5 down) was weird, but super helpful.
Around 5pm, as the docs concluded that I wasn’t dilating fast enough they decided to use another torture device: the balloon cervical dilator. Although it was a bitch to insert and felt painful for about five minutes afterward, I soon forgot about it. The thing was supposed to fall out at 4cm, so i was just hoping that milestone would be reached soon. I have no idea when it “fell out” because they were trying not to check me frequently as not to introduce infection.
Around 6:30pm the doc measured me at 5cm and things started to really heat up. No longer enjoying labor, I dug my heels in and really began to focus. I thought I would want to try different labor positions, but couldn’t pry myself out of the bed. Just stair-stepping and eyes wide shut for me.
Around 8:30pm John was out of the room for a moment and when he got back the nurses had put an oxygen mask on me and he started to freak out (I was too out of it to be concerned). Apparently Benny’s heart rate was dipping more than they wanted to see. Contractions were 90 seconds apart and the lack of breaks between them to rest and refuel began to get exhausting. They said to expect only about 1cm per hour. By this point I was ready to pry my cervix open with a crowbar to get that baby out. It’s too bad they didn’t check me again, because I caved in and decided an epidural was the only thing that could get me through hours more of this. Little did I know I was in transition and closer than ever to the pushing phase.
John’s worst fears (that the epidural would take forever to arrive once requested) were right on the money. We should have guessed, considering how “overbooked” the hospital was on June 6th. With two c-sections and four other ladies ahead of me, it took almost two hours for the epidural to come (around 10:15pm). For some odd reason, the anesthesiologist had my mom and John leave the room. If I had any fight left in me I would have protested, but by this point even speaking one word seemed like an insurmountable task. After he finally finished his blabbering about the procedure (probably 15 minutes, but felt like 5 hours), he put in the epidural and left. The nurse immediately started getting a catheter ready to put in. Maybe it was the first traces of the epidural kicking in, or maybe it was the thought of a cath tube going up my urethra, but I finally had some energy to protest. We bantered back and forth for a several minutes.
Me: “But I don’t care if I have to pee in a bedpan. I like bedpans. I promise I’ll go every fifteen minutes. I’ll make my husband change it so you won’t even have to.”
Nurse: “That has nothing to do with it. You need to empty your bladder to make room for the baby to get by.”
Me: “Okay, you win.”
Just after she put that damn thing in she checked my dilation. I knew something was up when it felt like her whole hand was swallowed up down there and she got a bug-eyed look of horror/surprise on her face. She promptly belted out, “You should NOT have had that epidural right now. Honey, you’re 10cm. You need to push” then rushed out to get support. Before I knew it, about seven other people were crowding around me telling me to push. Just around the same time, John and my mom returned to the chaotic situation and simultaneously freaked out and went into super-doula mode on me. They were both amazing coaches; my mom from the sideline and John at center court.
I was far more alert than I imagined during the pushing phase. I think I made some comments like, “This isn’t so bad,” and “Take pictures of everything.” They ended up needing to do an episiotomy since Benjamin’s heart rate wasn’t cooperating. I definitely felt it, but the adrenaline (and the first waves of epidural) were enough to keep me happy. It would be going too far to say I enjoyed pushing, but compared to the intensity of contractions during transition, it was like swimming in waves of marshmallow fluff. I think I only had to do maybe six or seven big pushes, because it only took 25-30 minutes (though at the time I had no concept of time). My main motivation was to have Benjamin on my birthday, and the minutes were ticking away. But a secondary source of motivation for the last big push that popped the little guy out came when one of the docs mentioned the possibility of using the vacuum extractor. Oh hell no, not on my boy you don’t!
Benjamin Oliver Meixner was born a healthy and gorgeous boy at 10:54 on 6/6/13 (now OUR birthday). He was 20.5 inches and weighed 7 lbs 7 oz. I’ll leave it to the pictures to capture the sheer joy and amazing moments that followed in Benjamin’s first moments of life. 🙂