We always joke that The Boy would still be in the womb if we hadn't resorted to medical intervention to get him out. Of course, it's not much of a joke if it's true.
Imagine, if you will, late August in coastal North Carolina; in other words, it was hotter than stink with a healthy dollop of humidity, just for good measure. I was due on August 16th, but I expected to go late, since that had been my experience with Older Girl. I just didn't expect to be staring down the barrel of a September-minded baby. I had been thinking about the peridot birthstone in my future mother's ring too long to easily switch gears to a sapphire. Stupid, I know, but I blame it squarely on the hormones. I surely would have loved him as much had he come in September.
Despite the heat and the discomfort of having a human being kicking back on my pelvic floor, I was not crazy about the idea of an induction. I knew I was running out of time, and I had done everything I could to avoid an induction, short of barricading myself in my home until I either delivered or exploded. My doctor, also close friend of ours, finally had to call on a Sunday and politely order me to present myself for induction on the following night. She knew how I felt about the whole thing, and she consoled me as I cried on the phone. (those pesky hormones again).
Luckily, my parents, who had planned their vacation around my due date so that they could come come down to North Carolina and see a baby, were arriving on Monday night. That meant that they could stay with Older Girl, instead of our original plan of just leaving a pile of Ritz crackers in front of a Dora video on a continuous loop. (I still think that she would have never noticed we were gone.) Plus, they would get to hold the bun when it was fresh-from-the-oven warm. It seemed like a win-win.
Once in the hospital, I felt a little calmer, even though my nurse chided me about my nail polish, stuck me three times in the right arm, dug around a little, blew the vein, and finally concluded that she would move over to the other side, even though that meant the IV pole would be on the wrong (read: inconvenient) side of the bed. I managed to stay calm through prayer and breathing. Oh, and I knew her shift over in about five minutes. Yeah, that helped too.
The plan was to ripen my cervix with Cervidil overnight, hoping that would just tip me over the line into the big L. If it didn't, then I would be getting Pitocin the next morning. Or a c-section, since my thoughts tend to stray to the darker side, as you all well know.
I remember the placement of the Cervidil as a fun little treat. It is, as my husband, the medical professional, so delicately puts it, "like a tea bag with a rip cord" that sits on your cervix and beats it into submission until it is soft enough to open and allow the baby to come out. Sort of like meat tenderizer in an odd and appetite-suppressing way. You have to lay still for two hours after it is placed, but then you are allowed to walk around or go to bathroom as long as you DO NOT DISLODGE THE CERVIDIL. Upon pain of perpetual pregnancy, apparently. I decided not to risk fiddling around with the rip cord for anything so inconsequential as peeing.
Sometime during the night, I began to realize that I was contracting. The contractions started so gradually and so minimally that I was almost ready to write them off as gas pains. Except that gas pains don't start increasing in intensity and frequency as time goes on (depending, of course, on what or where you ate the night before). Rob slept next to my bed in a fold out chair, and I managed to doze off a few times, listening to a tremendous storm raging outside. I remember thinking that I hoped the hospital didn't lose power, which meant I couldn't get my epidural. Forget about monitoring the baby, or all the other patients who might need some kind of electrical assistance, the epidural was paramount in my mind. (Say it with me now, hormones)
By nine the next morning, my doctor came to pull the rip cord and start Pitocin, but I was contracting so nicely (!) that I didn't need the extra drugs. Then she suggested breaking my water, because that usually puts things in high gear. I agreed readily since I had had my water broken with Older Girl and I didn't remember it being too much of a big deal. But I had forgotten one crucial detail: I had my water broken while under the magic spell of an epidural during Older Girl's labor. This time around - well, let's just say that I was not quite as sedate(d). My doctor, a petite woman, dove in with that knitting needle and I swear she was up to her elbow in my business end. I thought about just kicking her and crawling away, but I knew I wouldn't get very far with that IV pole on the wrong side of the bed.
Once she hit the target, we all experienced a flood of amniotic fluid such as the world has never seen. I am not even joking here. My husband, who would never say anything to purposefully make me feel badly, was astonished and just kept commenting on the sheer volume of fluid. I have never seen a woman with that much amniotic fluid! This is pretty amazing! (and remember, he delivers babies for a living, he's not just in some creepy habit of checking on what's considered a normal amniotic fluid level.) I think I started to feel really self-conscious when they had to bring in a mop and bucket because I was saturating the giant diaper-like cloth they put under me, and the fluid was spilling over onto the floor. Clean-up on aisle seven!
Of course, my embarrassment was overshadowed by the sudden realization that this little procedure has drained me of my sweet contraction cushion. The Boy's head thunked audibly onto my cervix, and I was nearly ready to crawl out of my skin. The anesthesiologist happened to be right out in the hallway, so she came in and administered a first-rate epidural, even though she had just gotten back from a tour in Iraq, where they probably weren't using her for her mad epidural skillz too much. At least not during a labor and delivery. I was like the Goldilocks of epidurals: not too heavy, not too light, it was just right. I was five centimeters, so I just sunk back onto my plastic pillows and waited for the rest of the story.
About half an hour later, I noticed Rob looking over the top of his magazine every so often. I noticed him stare at the heart rate monitor, and then look back to the magazine. He did this several times until I finally said, WHAT!? He said it was nothing, but he didn't stop looking at the monitor. A few minutes later, my nurse came in, put the oxygen mask on me, and told me to roll over onto my side. Now, I'm a fan of TLC, and I've seen enough episodes of A Baby Story to know that when they start giving you oxygen, something is going on with the baby's heart rate.
The Boy's heart rate was dropping every time I had a contraction, and so my doctor was thinking that the cord was probably wrapped around his neck. Knowing I was only five centimeters, I started to panic, thinking that this was the beginning of my path to a c-section. I knew that if I didn't deliver him quickly enough, they wouldn't let me just go on. Those doctors don't play around with baby hearts, they're funny like that.
As my mouth dried out from the oxygen mask, I just prayed for something to happen to speed things along. From my brain to God's Ears, apparently, because it was right about then that I felt like a Buick was parked on my pelvic floor. There was so much pressure that I thought maybe The Boy had decided to go ahead without me and birth himself. Which would have been fine, except that I like to be in charge, as you know.
I tuned to Rob and told him I felt some pressure. I actually felt a TON of pressure, but I didn't want to look stupid by screaming, THE BABY! IT IS FALLING OUT OF ME!, only to have the nurse pat my arm and tell me I was still five centimeters. So I played it cool and just went with "some pressure." Because you know how terribly important it is NOT to seem out of control during an event over which you have no control. (stupid hormones) Rob casually sauntered out to the nurses station, and then came strolling in with my nurse, both of them taking guesses as to how far I had progressed. (Meanwhile, The Boy had sniper-crawled his way out and was making himself a sandwich by the time they got to me. Oh wait, that's just how it felt, that's not how it really happened. In reality, there was no sandwich.)
My nurse lifted the edge of the sheet, took a gander, dropped it, and said "Honey, that baby is right there!" We were moving now. My doctor came running in, threw her hands in some gloves, and twenty minutes later was telling me that yes, indeed, there was a tight cord around the baby's neck. Then, in what seemed a second and an eternity, he was out and safe. He was shaped like a triangle, with a huge head and shoulders that tapered away into the narrow hips of a boy.
Here we are, five years later. A whole hand's worth of years. His shape has never changed: he is still a wedge with a head on top. The shape of his heart and soul have not changed either. He is still the same even-tempered, easy-going, affable kid he has been from the start. We've learned so many things about him in five years, some difficult, some joyous, but whatever his obstacles, they can't change who he is. And he is marvelous. I am so thankful, so happy, that I get to be his mother. What a privilege.