Your sister is a FORCE. You know this, you’ve met her. She is fiery and intense and I cant wait to see how she’ll change the world. She’s already changed mine.
I wanted to write down her birth story…there’s no way I could ever forget it, but still — for posterity’s sake.
I’d been to the doctor a couple of times in the week leading up to my due date. I wasn’t showing enough signs of imminent labor to convince them that baby Olivia would come on time, and because I’m gynecologically ancient and my amniotic fluid level was high, they recommended an induction and scheduled it for May 13. We were supposed to go in at 8:30 on that night, and presumably Olivia would be born on the next day. I’d been trying everything the internet had to suggest to naturally induce labor — eating ridiculous amounts of dates and pineapple and the spiciest foods I could stand and walking endless laps around the driveway (staying in our bubble because of COVID-19, but that’s a letter for another day). Even though I was resigned to the fact that I’d probably be induced again and that would probably end up making me request another epidural, I kept on trying the natural induction methods, plodding along on a driveway walk with Gigi on the morning of the 12th, and dutifully eating my dates and pineapple with every meal. I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions pretty frequently for a couple of weeks, and I was dilated to a “loose two” per my doctor, so I figured it couldn’t hurt.
At 9:15 on the night of the 12th, I was watching TV with Daddy and I felt a mild pain that I assumed was more Braxton-Hicks. Over the next few minutes, I felt more of the same pains at the same level of intensity; just a very mild and easily tolerable pain in my low pelvis. I went to bed at 10:30 and fell readily asleep. At 12:30, I woke up to slightly more intense pains, still only in the lower region of my belly, and still not too strong. I laid in bed trying to time the pains, by now thinking I might be in early labor, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. And so around 1:00, I decided to get up and do some stuff to distract myself like finish packing my hospital bag, sweep the kitchen floor (not sure why this was on my list), and take a bath/shower. I started with the sweeping, and pretty quickly, my pain was intense enough that I had to stop sweeping each time I had a contraction. Still, I pressed on, thinking that because it was localized to only the low part of my abdomen, I was still in very early labor and still had a long time to go. I also started thinking that if early labor was that intense, I would definitely need an epidural as soon as we made it to the hospital. Based on my only other labor experience (yours), I knew there was no way I could tolerate that level of pain for twenty-something hours.
At 2:00, I woke up your dad and told him that I thought we needed to get ready to go to the hospital. He got up and checked on me as I lay in the bathtub and I then expected to hear him getting ready but instead heard silence. I yelled from the tub, “Did you get back in the BED!?!,” to which he (rather sheepishly) replied that he thought since I was taking a bath that we had plenty of time and he was still tired. I explained that no, we needed to get ready and I needed him to pack his bag and finish packing my bag so that we could be on our way. About 15 minutes later, I got out of the bath with now VERY strong contractions and tried to get dressed…by now making ungodly noises and trying really hard to practice focused breathing. I was standing at my dresser wondering how in the hell I was going to manage getting clothes on when my water broke in a gigantic gush. I think that’s when Dad realized just how serious things were, but if not then it was surely in the next minute when I felt a powerful urge to push and told him to call EMS, “like NOW; we aren’t making it on our own!”
It was so unlike what I experienced during labor with you. Your contractions were forced by the Pitocin, coming so close together that it felt like they never stopped. It took so long to make progress that I asked for pain relief. I never truly felt like I had to push with you, and it took me a while to figure out exactly how to push to get you out. But with Olivia, WOW. I felt like I couldn’t NOT push. I struggled to the toilet, because, well, that seemed like the easiest area to clean up what was shaping up to be very messy. Daddy got EMS on the phone, and their first instruction was, “have your wife lie on the bed; don’t let her sit on the toilet.” Ugh. So up I get, waddle, waddle, waddle to the bed (still naked), hoist myself up onto the towels Daddy laid out. He yelled to your big sister to let the paramedics in the front door, all the while calmly following each direction from the 911 responder, including getting a shoelace (!) to tie off the cord if Olivia came out before the paramedics arrived.
But it didn’t take them long, and within minutes, there were 4 emergency responders in full-body PPE, including those crazy gas mask looking contraptions, gathered around me asking one million questions. They asked if I could walk, because the gurney couldn’t make it in our front door and I said I thought I could, but I sure wasn’t going to parade myself out the door naked. So they found me a sheet and I wrapped up and somehow managed the short walk from my bed and down my front steps and got myself onto the stretcher. Daddy said, “I’m right behind you,” and then we were off. He didn’t ride with us, because he needed to bring our bags — once we were in the hospital, there was no coming back out until we were discharged (yet another result of the pandemic).
The ride to the hospital took about 6 minutes, and the whole way, the paramedics were telling me, “don’t push, don’t push,” and I tried not to, I really did. And somehow, she didn’t come in the ambulance, so I guess I was successful? As soon as we pulled up to the ER, there were 2 nurses from Labor and Delivery and an ER physician waiting for me. The doctor checked me and said, “Okay we’re gonna have this baby here! We don’t have time to get you to L&D. You can push whenever you feel like it.” Thank the Universe; I’d been trying NOT to push for about 30 minutes. I vaguely registered another doctor poke his head around the curtain and then slowly back away like he’d seen a T-Rex, telling the other doctor, “I can’t help, I have 5 COVID patients,” and then practically running away. I pushed for 3 contractions, screaming curse words and incoherent jibberish and then —
SHE WAS HERE!
I remember looking at one of the nurses, completely astonished and asking her what the hell had just happened. She said, “You had a baby!” and then Olivia was in my arms and we were taking the VERY long ride on the ER bed up and around and over to L&D. I could see what they meant about not having time to get there. It was much more peaceful when we finally made it over, and I just stared and stared at your sweet sister’s face. My OB/GYN arrived to deliver the placenta and sew me up from a small first degree tear, scolding me about delaying my induction and other hooey I just tuned out. Daddy made it about 20 minutes after Olivia was born and the look of surprise on his face when he saw me holding her was pretty priceless. He’d expected a much longer ordeal, just like I had, and thought he’d have plenty of time to finish packing the bags, drive to the hospital, and park the car before settling in to wait for hours for Olivia to be born. Nope. He missed it! She was already showing us who she is — someone who knows what she wants and will figure out how to get it. She was ready to be here, so out she came!
It was crazy and beautiful and miraculous and terrifying all at once. I’m proud of myself for doing it without medication (not that I had much of a choice). I’ll never, ever forget a second of that night. I know you were there with us, probably laughing at how absurd the whole thing was, and welcoming your sister Earthside with your sweet smile. Thank you for choosing her for us and for watching over our little family.
I miss you always and I kiss you,
*Olivia was born 5 days before her due date. She weighed 8 lbs, 13 oz, and was 21 inches long*