One of the questions I hear the most from first-time moms is “how will I know I’m in labor?” and usually it’s pretty obvious. However, when you have been having contractions for a few days–yes, REAL ONES, not Braxton Hicks–you definitely start to question yourself. So here we are on Monday evening and Glenn just took Collin to his t-ball practice. As soon as they left, my contractions went from every 30-45 minutes to every 10-15 minutes to every 4-5 minutes apart and the intensity was definitely increasing. I was chatting with my mom on Facebook and timing the contractions on my app while trying to determine if this was really “it” and had pretty much determined that I needed to take another trip in to triage to at least get checked out. Being 0cm dilated and not effaced at all that morning was making me feel pretty ridiculous though!
When Glenn and Collin got home at 7:30 we still hadn’t eaten dinner and I certainly wasn’t cooking, so we decided to get take-out from Boston Market and I started placing the order online. But as those contractions continued to amp up, I told Glenn he wasn’t allowed to leave to pick up food, so he cooked a quick dinner for everyone while I took a bath to try and settle my body down, and when it wouldn’t settle, I got a few things thrown into my hospital bag that I’d forgotten on Saturday then made it out to the dining room table and told everyone to please eat quickly! At this point Glenn asked if he had time to take a quick shower, and had I been able to talk (I was having a major contraction) I would have bitten his head off, and I think he got the point!
We got everything together, called Dr. Walter to tell him we were going to the hospital, told my parents we would drop off the kids at their house on our way, and headed out for the hospital. The contractions just kept getting stronger and stronger, to the point that it was just one big never-ending contraction while we were driving, so I told my parents they needed to meet us at the hospital instead. We somehow managed to miss EVERY stoplight between our house and the hospital (except for the one AT the hospital, which Glenn–and my dad–ran). As we were approaching the hospital, I called Dr. Walter since I know he was planning to wait until I was checked to come in and told him that if this wasn’t active labor I didn’t know what was, and to please come to the hospital NOW! It was also around this point that I realized I was going to have a baby with no epidural.
We went around to the labor and delivery entrance and it was closed with a sign that said to go to the ER. I told Glenn there was a side door for after hours L&D, but he didn’t see it and the sign said ER, so we drove back around the building to the ER and pulled up by the front door. My parents thankfully arrived at the same time while Glenn ran inside and told them his wife was in labor and needed a wheelchair. Now Mease Countryside is a lovely hospital and we had a great experience there overall, but the sense of urgency from everyone we encountered during check-in was completely lacking. They gestured to the wheelchairs and Glenn grabbed one and got back out to me while I sat in the car frozen until the contraction eased enough for me to move again. It hurt so unbelievably bad! I didn’t even say goodbye to the kids, I was so focused on getting inside before I gave birth in the car. My parents got the kiddos into their car and off to their house, Carter sitting in the middle of the back seat without a car seat since my parents only have two in their car (and if you know me, you know I’m in serious pain if I’m ok with that since I am pretty stringent on my kids being properly restrained in vehicles) and our car stayed parked out in front of the ER’s front door for the next couple of hours!
At the ER desk we told them I was in labor and they said to go down the hall and up the elevators on the right the 5th floor. Glenn pushed me in the wheelchair into the first elevator that came when we pushed the button, which happened to be on the LEFT, not on the right. We went up, but then the elevator stopped moving, at which point Glenn exclaimed, “You’ve gotta be freaking kidding me!!!” We thankfully got off on the 3rd floor instead of delivering a baby in the elevator and he pushed me onto the next elevator that opened…also on the left. When it didn’t move, I remembered that the guy had said elevators on the right and managed to get that out of my mouth while Glenn got me onto the third elevator, which thankfully took us up to the fifth floor.
The lady at the front desk had pink hair. Now I’m sure there are some very lovely people with pink hair, but this lady and I were not destined for a great friendship. “I’m in labor. This is my 4th child and if I’m not 8-10cm I will be completely shocked,” I told her in some way or another because I was in such awful pain. “You wouldn’t be talking to me if you were 10cm,” she replied, and then continued to very slowly get us checked in despite Glenn’s request that she please hurry and my cries of pain. “I’m going to have a baby in your lobby!” was met with, “Two people got here before you did, so we’re going as fast as we can.” I was literally clenching my knees together in the wheelchair trying not to have a baby in the lobby.
Again with the lack of urgency, Glenn saw some nurses strolling through the back with coffee, chatting and taking their time and one of them finally came out to meet us and take us to triage. I told her the same thing I had told the girl at the front desk, but once again, no one really seemed to believe me. She asked if I could get into the bed, and I honestly didn’t think I could, but managed to at least do that. When she asked if I could put on the hospital gown, I couldn’t even fathom that and stayed in the dress I’d been wearing. As they started getting me checked in, Dr. Walter, bless him, walked in. He had thankfully recognized the urgency in my voice and came immediately when I called the second time. They asked if he wanted to check me and he did. “She’s complete!” he said with a slightly shocked note in his voice, at which point everyone in the room froze for a second like “oh crap, the crazy lady was telling the truth!” before everyone finally sprung into action.
I was in so much pain at this point that everything is slightly blurry, but they quickly got me out of triage and pushed me down the hall to a labor & delivery room. Because I had hemorrhaged with Collin, Dr. Walter wanted me to have a full bag of fluid via IV before I delivered the baby, so a nurse came in to start my IV. Because I’d been so dehydrated, my usually-very-easy veins were apparently not very easy. She tried one IV in my left arm unsuccessfully, then got one in my right arm and started the fluid. And because I had just had my group B strep test that morning they had to assume I was positive and started antibiotics via the IV as well.
Just that morning I had read a blog post written my my doula friend Christie about using nitrous oxide during labor, in which she had mentioned that Mease Countryside was one of the local hospitals who gave this as an option. Because they had just confirmed that I was not getting an epidural, someone offered me the nitrous, and at this point I probably would have tried ANYTHING to make the pain less awful! Christie had noted that it didn’t really help with pain relief, but more distracted you from the pain. My report on nitrous when in full active labor? Not so fabulous!! I tried breathing it in and I guess it did slightly relax me, but after a little while I just started feeling dizzy. They got me oxygen instead and that actually did help a tiny bit so I kept the oxygen.
My body was SO ready to push the baby out at this point, and I was whimpering as my body was just one big huge knot of pain. The nurse asked if I needed to push, which I did, and Dr. Walter, who stayed very calm the whole time, kept saying “let’s just get a bit more fluid in your body first” which made me kind of want to punch him, but obviously it was important. I asked him why after the fact and he told me that if I hemorrhaged WITH fluid in my body, my blood pressure would stay steady, but if I didn’t have fluid in my body, it would tank my blood pressure. OK, good reason! He told them to turn off the antibiotics because I was probably fine anyway and just get the fluid in my body. At some point my body basically started pushing on its own, and apparently satisfied with the fluid levels, Dr. Walter realized it was time to get the show on the road and he broke my water. (So four babies and every single one of them needed their water broken!) That actually helped ease the pressure immensely, and I calmed down a bit and was able to breathe and prepare to push the baby out. The contractions that had been on top of each other for the past hour or so actually slowed down while they got everything ready for the baby and got me up into the stirrups. Everything had moved so quickly during the past hour or so that I hardly had time to process what was about to happen, namely I was about to meet our new son or daughter and I was about to give birth without an epidural including a potentially painful post-partum if I had any of the same problems I’d had with Collin or Rory.
Again, everything is kind of a blur, but I’m pretty sure I pushed for three counts of ten for each of three pushes. Now back when I was pregnant with Carter I watched a lot of Baby Story episodes and it seemed like all of those women were pretty ridiculous in labor, screaming like banshees and being so over-the-top melodramatic with their “I can’t push anymore!” cries at the end of delivery. After going through labor–WITH an epidural I might add–I laughed about how ridiculous they were, but now here I was in my first labor with NO epidural and I actually screamed (which in my head felt pretty loud and ridiculous, but Glenn said it wasn’t too bad), and when it came time for that last push, I cried about how I couldn’t do it while everyone told me I could. And of course I could, and with that last push, out came our baby and they held it up so Glenn could see who had been inside my body for the past 35 weeks and 5 days and he told me “It’s a boy!”
“Hi, Owen,” I said tearily as they placed him on my chest for the first time and my heart grew another size bigger. I just knew all along that we would have another boy, so it really came as no surprise that he was in there the whole time. He had lots of dark brown hair just like his big brother Collin, another mini me!
They took him to be cleaned off after his cord was cut, and also started me on IV drugs to make my uterus contract, then brought him back over to me while I delivered my placenta. Thankfully this part was nice and easy for my fourth and final birth. No retained placenta, no hemorrhaging, no drama. I did tear a bit (between 1st and 2nd degree) and getting stitched up with no epidural (I did have a local) was pretty unpleasant, but not awful. While Dr. Walter was stitching me up they took Owen over to measure and examine, and Glenn went over to be with him. Despite being a “late pre-term” premie at 35 weeks and 5 days, he was in great shape! He didn’t need any interventions and got 9’s on his APGAR tests, good boy! He weighed 6 lbs 10 oz and was 20.5 inches long. Dr. Walter, who had recommended I skip the epidural for this birth because it may have contributed to the problems I had (I wasn’t planning to actually LISTEN to him, though!) congratulated me on my natural childbirth and becoming a hippy, then he headed out.
Owen got to come over and nurse next, and he did great! We had no problems getting him latched, and he was so tiny and sweet to snuggle with! I’m not sure how long we were in recovery, but after plenty of snuggle time and getting my uterus mashed a few times to make sure I was contracting well (I was! Hooray!) I was able to get up and pee and get cleaned off and into a pair of “sexy underpants” (if you’ve had a baby you know what I’m talking about!) and Glenn went to the ER to move our car from the entrance before we headed up to our room. It’s always nice to get wheeled out in a wheelchair holding a tiny, sweet baby in your arms while everyone smiles and congratulates you! When they wheeled me past Ms. Pink Hair I said “I told you so!” and she told me I’d had plenty of time. I considered flipping her the bird but resisted!
From the time I got to the hospital at about 9:15 pm to the time he was actually born at 10:42 pm, it was less than 90 minutes, during which time I could have pushed him out WAY before I did and only waited so I could get fluids in my body. Considering that my contractions had really become regular and close together starting at 6 pm, the whole labor process was less than 5 hours start to finish. I am SO, SO glad (especially after hearing the story from a friend about her sister delivering her baby at home in the bathroom) that I listened to my body and we left for the hospital when we did!
Looking back on it now, I also am a bit sad that I didn’t have a chance to process the end of my pregnancy as I had for each of my other births. My maternity pictures had been scheduled for Wednesday evening, and when I was having contractions on Monday, LeShayne had offered to come over and snap some quick pictures (I wouldn’t have been able to do this since I was in labor by the time she would have made it over to our house) and I joked that if I actually had the baby early we could just snap some pictures with a beach ball under my dress. I didn’t even have time to snap that “last time being pregnant” picture at the hospital that I took with the other pregnancies because I was so far along by the time I got to the hospital that we didn’t even have time to do that! I’m sad that I won’t have those same pictures of Owen in my belly that I have for my other children, but I also got a whole extra month of time with him, so I guess it’s an even trade.
We had a nice and relatively uneventful hospital stay. The first night, since Owen was born at 10:42pm, I had so much mommy adrenaline that I barely slept at all. After getting us a midnight snack/dinner from the cafeteria, Glenn slept on the sofa-bed-contraption and I sat in bed with Owen just enjoying him. I knew how good skin-to-skin contact is, especially for newborns, so I snuggled him in the front of my nightgown against my chest like a baby kangaroo. I dozed for a few minutes here and there but was mostly awake all night enjoying the peace and quiet.
Owen was mostly perfect despite being a whole month early, but the one thing we had to keep a special eye on was his blood sugar, because blood sugar and temperature are closely related. After every other feeding the nurses would stick his heal and check his blood sugar, and it had to be above a certain threshold three times in a row before he could have a bath. He passed two, then failed the third, so he had to have a supplement of either formula or donor breast milk. I was glad the latter was an option, so he had a little bottle of that (not a fan). Then he passed two more tests and failed the third AGAIN and had to have another bottle. Finally my milk came in so he passed three in a row and got his bath very early Wednesday morning. They also wanted to keep a closer eye than usual on his bilirubin levels to make sure he wasn’t getting jaundiced. The pediatrician at the hospital sufficiently freaked us out about this, but his levels were fine and we took him for a checkup at the pediatrician the day after we got home to make sure he was ok (he was). Can I take a second here to say how grateful we are that despite being a whole month early, he was such a perfect little guy? He was obviously ready to join our family and wanted to be a PUMPKIN instead of a TURKEY. I think he especially wanted to show me who was boss…the minute I planned our induction for 11/18 (including making sure LeShayne and Meridith were available to come stay in the hospital with me) I knew I wouldn’t make it there, and sure enough! When I’d had my sonogram the week before, then told me he was already over 6 pounds (and would probably by 8-6 by my induction date), so despite being so early, I wasn’t too freaked out about his health because I just had a feeling he would be OK. So glad that feeling was right!
But back to Tuesday morning…Glenn stayed for a while and I grabbed a quick snooze, then he left at 11:30 to get the kiddos from my parents’ house, where–SURPRISE!–they actually did pretty well spending the night! (Carter and Collin slept in my old bedroom together, and Rory resisted sleep when she realized Mama was nowhere to be found but finally conked out in CeeCee and Grampy’s bed.) Owen and I had lunch together, then CeeCee and Grampy got to come meet him. My mom cried when she held him for the first time, so sweet! Since we kept all of the kiddos home from school on Tuesday, Glenn brought them over to meet their baby brother that afternoon. Rory was sound asleep on his shoulder and slept on the couch almost the whole time they visited, silly girl (then she was super cranky when she woke up and wouldn’t come near me!). Carter eagerly held Owen, but Collin needed some convincing. He finally held him when he got to sit in bed with me and we held him together…so sweet to see my two brown-haired boys together! Our neighbor Meridith came to visit after the kiddos left, which was even more amazing because she is a massage
therapist wizard and gave my poor sore body some loving to help relax the muscles that had been contracting for days. She is amazing!! Then Auntie LeShayne came for a sleepover in the hospital with me. Just like last time, Glenn spent one night in the hospital with me and one night at home with the kids so my parents only had to deal with my crazies for one night, so this time LeShayne was my “babysitter.” It was so nice to have some time to chat and catch up with her, and I was so grateful that she was able to shuffle her crazy schedule to come hang out with us even with Owen’s early entrance into the world.
It was another night of not-so-much sleep for me. LeShayne held Owen for a little while so I could grab some shut-eye but especially with a premie I had to wake him to nurse every 2 hours and of course every other time I would close my eyes either Owen would wake me up or the nurses would, including coming in to give him his first bath at like 4:30am. He enjoyed having his hair washed but HATED the actual bath part and screamed bloody murder! They used an awesome vanilla shampoo on him so he seriously smelled like heaven after his bath, ahhhh! Since we were up at that point, LeShayne headed out around 5am to go get her kiddos to school, and then Glenn got the boys to school and took Rory to CeeCee’s so he could come hang out with us until it was time to go collect Rory and Collin again, have lunch, then get Carter from school. My afternoon allowed me to get a little bit of rest, as Owen had his circumcision and a car seat test, another premie thing, to make sure he could be in his seat for an hour and a half with no breathing or heart problems. He did great with both of these and Glenn came back over that afternoon so we could get packed up and head out a bit early. They’d planned to keep us a full 48 hours since Owen was early but we got out around 7pm instead and we picked up the “big kids” from my parents’ house and took our little Owen home for his first night at our house!
After that it was back to life as usual pretty quickly. Glenn and I took the kids to school on Thursday morning (yes, I even walked Collin and Rory inside Robin’s Nest so she didn’t freak out too much!) and took Owen to his pediatrician’s appointment. My body was definitely hurting (especially since I had Percoset in the hospital but didn’t get a prescription to take with me), but it was definitely tolerable as long as I took my Motrin every few hours. I was mostly better after a week and no longer winced when I sat down after two weeks. I even went trick-or-treating on Halloween, a week after he was born, though I thankfully had a few Percosets leftover from Rory’s birth and I took one of those to get me around the block with my little Minions!
Owen sleeps curled in the crook of my arm at night and wakes a few times to nurse then goes right back to sleep. The first week or so he would poop a few times every night so I had a diaper changing station set up in Rory’s room so we didn’t wake anyone else up. Owen is sweet and quiet but HATED having his diaper changed. It was such a process in the beginning because I had to put vaseline on gauze and put that over his little winkie since he was circumsized, and I had to be careful of his umbilical stump too. So in the middle of the night it was pretty stressful to have to go through this process with a tiny, red, screaming person who was super mad at me, but my favorite memory of newborn Owen was how the second I picked him up afterward and put him back on my shoulder, he would IMMEDIATELY stop crying and be completely happy again. Thankfully after that first week he stopped pooping in the middle of the night so I don’t do middle of the night diaper changes on a regular basis anymore, good boy!
As I finally finish writing this birth story, Owen is almost a month old and I am still just in awe of how amazing he is. He is so sweet and snuggly and he sleeps a TON because apparently he got the memo that he is the fourth child in this family and Mama needs a break! Most of his time has been spent in my arms, on my chest or in my lap. As my last baby, I intend to spoil him rotten and enjoy every sweet second of his babyhood. I so wish I could bottle this feeling of having a sweet baby curled on my chest because these moments with all four of my children have been among the happiest memories of my lifetime. We are all smitten with our sweet little man, and I feel confident now that our family is complete, as much as Glenn likes to joke around with me that we will have more! I still can’t believe we have FOUR CHILDREN!
So welcome to the world, Owen William McKay. We are so glad you chose us to be your family and we can’t wait to watch you grow. But do me a favor and stay small for as long as possible, ok?
Love you so, so much,