Note: While this is a birth story, rest assured that I did not include any squeamish details.
Lucia made us wait quite a few days past her due date before finally choosing to make her appearance. During that time, I fluttered between feeling anxious to get the whole birthing process over with to being completely fine with remaining pregnant and putting off that ordeal as long as possible. At one particularly uncomfortable point when my swollen, overdue belly was driving me completely nuts, I scheduled an induction with my midwife and went home completely happy with my decision. We went for a family walk that evening where we began talking to the kids about when their sister would be born and then some doubts and frightening thoughts began sneaking into my head. I prayed about it for a few days, talked to several friends, and then ended up cancelling the induction. I felt like such a wimp but I really wanted to give my body time to go into labor on its own and as long as my midwife was willing to allow me to remain pregnant, I would rather waddle on and pray that Lucia would come naturally before I was forced to induce.
On Friday, May 15th, three days after I cancelled the induction, Paul and I made some beer-battered fish tacos. It was certainly a labor of love making all the different toppings and frying up batch after batch of fish. By the time we sat down to eat, I realized that the irregular contractions that I had been experiencing on and off throughout the entire pregnancy were suddenly coming at 6-minute intervals. We cleaned up the kitchen and continued to time the contractions and they were still about 6 minutes apart. They also had changed from being a minor, annoying pain in my lower abdomen to a stabbing, uncomfortable ache in my lower back. I began to panic that the baby might be posterior in her positioning just like Emma had been. Emma was a very difficult delivery and I was terrified to relive that experience.
Paul told me to relax. I requested that we take a family walk to the park and continue tracking the contractions. Maybe the walking would speed them up? We took our walk and the contractions just kept coming. They also grew in intensity. By the end of our walk, Paul was pretty convinced that the baby was probably coming and I was beginning to believe it as well. We put the kids to bed, sent a note to my Mom and a friend, and then went to bed. I half expected to wake up in a couple hours in full-blown labor. I did wake up a couple times from the pain in my back but nothing too eventful ended up happening. When I woke up at 7:00 AM and realized that I had not gone into labor during the night, I was majorly bummed. The back pain was still there and continued to come and go, but this time at extremely irregular intervals. I was frustrated with my body.
My Mom and my sister decided to come out to stay with us anyway. I tried to tell my Mom that I was pretty sure my body was broken and Lucy was never going to come out. My Mom assured me that I was being silly and she was convinced that the baby would be coming at any time. She was pretty sure that I was experiencing prodromal labor but that active labor was right around the corner. By the time she arrived, I was clearly in a rotten mood. The pain in my back combined with my fear of birthing a posterior baby had turned me into one grumpy pregnant lady. I was not fun to be around. Plus, I was beginning to feel like the proverbial "watched pot" - only instead of never boiling I would never begin laboring!
Saturday came and went with lots of painful contractions but nothing regular. We woke up bright and early at 6:00 AM on Sunday, May 17th to get ready for early Mass. While getting dressed and ready, I noted that I did not feel a single contraction. Further proof that my body hated me! Towards the end of Mass, I felt a single twinge in my back and quickly dismissed it. Later, after we had returned home and were making breakfast, the twinges continued but I did not note anything regular. We enjoyed a nice family breakfast, cleaned up, and then just hung around. By this time, the contractions were still irregular but were getting progressively more painful. I had to actually go into a different room when I felt them coming on just so I could get down on my hands and knees to relieve some of the pressure I was feeling in my back. The pains were really starting to make me mad. My Mom suggested that Paul and I go for a walk or do something fun together. She wanted to take Matthew and Emma to the Zoo that afternoon. I did not really feel like walking around much since the back pain was really bothering me but then I remembered that Paul and I had picked up a large bundle of rhubarb from the farmer's market a few days ago. I decided that I wanted to make a rhubarb crisp and then drown my sour grapes attitude about not being in labor with buttery, sugary goodness. Paul and I made a list of the ingredients we needed to make my favorite crisp ever and then headed to the grocery store.
I should note, that Paul had been tracking my contractions on his phone for a couple hours just to see if anything materialized. I had told him not to waste his time, but he still insisted on doing it. He pointed out to me that they had been coming about 7 minutes apart for over an hour. I brushed it off as nothing. They would eventually stop just as they did before.
As we wandered around the grocery store casually picking up our ingredients, I had to stop and breathe through some of the pains. By the time our shopping trip had ended, Paul pointed out that the contractions had been 5 minutes apart for the last 40 minutes. Again, I brushed it off as nothing.
We returned home and helped my Mom get the kids ready to go to the zoo. After they left, Paul and I began making our dessert while watching an episode of Psych on Netflix. Every four minutes or so, I had to lean across the countertop and breathe slowly through each contraction. Because of this, it took a ridiculously long time for us to finish the crisp. We began making it at 4:00 pm and slid it into the oven at 5:30 pm. In reality, we should have had it in the oven in under 30 minutes. But those contractions (which I insisted were still not real labor) slowed us down!
After the crisp was safely in the oven, Paul began gently suggesting that perhaps we should think about heading to the hospital. I told him that I didn't want to. Then, he tried insisting that I eat a snack, maybe take a shower, and then head to the hospital. I said yes to the snack and the shower, but no hospital. Paul's reply: "Ok, whatever you want. We'll just see where we're at in a little bit."
I ate some cheese and then went upstairs to take a shower. The water felt awesome on my lower back so I took a pretty long shower. After I got out, I put on some makeup and began blow-drying my hair. The contractions started suddenly getting more and more intense. I continued to blow-dry my hair, setting the blowdryer down during the contractions so I could breathe properly through them. The intensity was really making it difficult for me to relax my body. I then realized that the last few contractions had been 2 minutes apart. I also then realized that my legs had begun to shake uncontrollably - and that freaked me out. I decided that maybe I should try finding Paul. I went to get up and realized that I couldn't because I kept getting hit by one intense contraction after the other. I then began to feel a lot of pressure in my pelvic region. I recognized that sensation: the baby was coming NOW.
Meanwhile, Paul was downstairs eating a large ham sandwich. My Mom and the kids had come home in the meantime and a movie was playing loudly.
Upstairs, I tried to yell for Paul to come upstairs. However, nobody downstairs could hear me because the movie was playing so loudly. I was still unable to get off the floor, so I crawled gingerly over to the vent and began yelling for Paul to get upstairs through the vent. That didn't work either. I was getting pretty scared that I was going to be birthing the baby on my bathroom floor. By myself.
Paul eventually had the brilliant thought: "Monica has been upstairs a while by herself. I should go check on her!" and wandered upstairs only to find my huddled in pain on the bathroom floor.
"We need to get to the hospital NOW!!!" I said through gritted teeth.
Paul immediately gathered up my bag and headed downstairs. My Mom came up to check on me and help me down the stairs. I kissed my kids goodbye (Matthew said: "Good luck Mommy! Have fun getting Baby Lucy out! See you at the hospital!" and Emma declared: "I coming with you, Mommy!") and headed out the door. But not before my Mom insisted on snapping this stunning photo of me with her phone. I was ready to kill her.
The drive to the hospital was long and extremely painful. The pressure and pain was so intense and every pothole the car hit made the pain escalate. "Do you have to hit every single one!?!?" I asked Paul. We took some time to pray together for baby Lucy to come safely and that really helped me relax. I also stuck my rosary ring onto my ring finger to take into the hospital with me so I could continue asking for the Blessed Mother's intercession during birth (something she is slightly familiar with).
Paul drove into the parking garage closet to the hospital entrance (he offered to drop me off but I did NOT want him to leave me!). After parking the car, he helped me out and we began hobbling towards the hospital entrance. It was a true walk of shame. I could not stand completely upright and kept getting slammed with contractions that forced me to double over and breathe. We finally made it to the reception area and headed to the front desk. As I clung onto the edge of the counter, breathing heavily while doubled over in pain, the secretary looked up from her computer, smiled cheerily, and then asked us: "What brings you in here today?"
Paul answered: "My wife is having a baby."
"Okie dokie!" was the cheery reply, "You'll want to take her up to Labor and Delivery on the fifth floor."
Then she looked at me as I continued to huff and puff and asked: "Do you need a wheelchair?"
"That would be great," Paul replied.
"They are over there," the receptionist motioned to a line of wheelchairs to the right of the counter. Paul went to grab one, but I had such a death grip on his arm (another contraction had surged at that point) and he was unable to move. So, we just stood there awkwardly as I continued to breathe deeply.
"Do you want me to grab a chair for you?" the receptionist asked.
Paul: "That would be great."
So, we got me into a wheelchair and Paul began sprinting up to the fifth floor and into Labor and Delivery. Once again, we were greeted by a cheery nurse who asked us: "What brings you in here, today?"
Honestly, I thought my pregnant body, doubled over in pain as I tried my best to breathe was a pretty good hint.
Paul: "Uhhh...my wife is having a baby."
The Nurse: "Alrighty. When is her due date."
Paul: "Her due date was a while ago...she's having the baby RIGHT NOW!"
Maybe it was the urgency in his voice that got her moving, but we were quickly moved into a room where I was hustled into a hospital gown and then checked. The nurse's eyes widened: "Call her midwife in NOW. She's ready to go." The nurse assured me that if I could not wait for the midwife, that there was an OB already on the floor who could deliver the baby.
I should probably note that at this point, I was still half-convinced that I was not actually in labor. I almost expected to arrive at the hospital and for them to tell me that I was only 5 cm dilated. I was completely thrown when they told me that I would be pushing the baby out soon.
Luckily, my midwife was driving right past the hospital when she received the alert. She had a pair of scrubs in her car and changed into them at a light before rushing into the hospital. She was there in less than 10 minutes. They basically threw a sheet down and told me I was ready to push. Again, I could not quite wrap my mind around the fact that my body was ready for me to push Lucy out. I asked my midwife if the baby was posterior and tearfully told her that I was so scared to push her out if she was posterior. Heather (my midwife) grabbed my hand and gave me a quick pep talk: The baby is not posterior. She is already on her way out. All it will take is a few pushes. This delivery will be quick.
The pep talk, combined with Paul's calm and reassuring demeanor, helped relax me. I pushed three times with one intense contraction while holding Paul in a headlock. One of the nurses paged for another nurse to come hold my other leg up because: "Mom's got Dad's head in a death grip." After that, I pushed maybe twice more before I was suddenly handed a beautiful, crying, baby girl with a full head of hair! She was so beautiful and so sweet that I could not hold back the tears. I cried when each child was born - but with Lucy, I absolutely sobbed. I kept saying over and over: "My baby girl! We waited so long for you!" I just could not believe that she was here. I mean, we had been making a dessert and thinking she was never going to arrive just a couple hours ago - and now she was in our arms!!
She was born on my late maternal grandmother's birthday - May 17th. My Mom had mentioned that it was grandma's birthday that morning and I remember thinking how neat it would be if Lucy was born that day. And she was!
I called my Mom and asked her to come to the hospital immediately. I could not wait for Matthew and Emma to see Lucy! She is the luckiest little girl to have two such wonderful siblings who already love her so much. The two of them were so excited to finally meet the little sister that they had heard so much about over the past few months.
Now, we just need to find our "new normal" as we adjust to life with three kids. I'm sure it will prove to be messy, sticky, noisy, and tough but also....joyful!
As my Mom told me once when she handed me my little sister Jane to hold for the first time almost 17 years ago: This is love.