This pregnancy was by far the hardest of my three. The endless weeks of morning sickness, the exhaustion, the acid reflux. I was more than ready to put it behind me and meet my new little daughter. As with Lucy, strong Braxton-Hicks were a daily occurrence starting in week 35 and I foolishly (oh so foolishly!) convinced myself that I would surely not make it to my due date. If you’ve ever been overdue, you know that each day after your due date feels like a million years. And despite the evening primrose oil, the birth ball squatting, the walking, and the pineapple and spicy food eating, our little Gwen was stubbornly staying put.
On my due date I started a treatment of acupuncture to induce labor naturally so I could avoid an induction. On my second appointment I had contractions on the table but they fizzled out. Same story with my third appointment. But at my fourth appointment on May 29th, exactly a week after my due date, my acupuncturist (a deacon at our Parish) brought out the big guns. He brought in a relic of St. Francis of Paola and we prayed that he would intercede for a safe delivery for Gwen. I started having mild contractions right then in the office at about noon while my friend Colleen’s album of sacred music played in the background. The song was Ave Maris Stella, ushering our little Stellamaris into the world.
I went straight from the acupuncture office to the hospital where I had an appointment for a biophysical profile to be assured that although overdue, Gwen was thriving in the womb and had plenty of amniotic fluid. She looked great and my friend Brittany’s mom was my ultrasound tech which was special. I took home pictures of Gwen’s chubby little face wondering if this was the day I would meet her. The contractions kept coming. At 3pm my friend Allison invited me and the kids for a walk in our neighborhood which sounded like a great idea to help labor along if I really was in early labor. The pressure increased and the contractions got stronger as we walked. When we arrived back home, I had the bloody show. “This is really happening!” I thought to myself. I let my sweet mother-in-law know I was in early labor and she came to pick up Benjamin and Lucy for a sleepover. When I buckled Lucy into her car seat, it hit me that this was the last time I would see her as “the baby.” Soon she would be a big sister.
I asked Daniel to come home from work at 5 as labor picked up a bit and we packed the car with our hospital gear even though my contractions were only 30-40 seconds long and 10-25 minutes apart. When I was laboring with Lucy, we waited a little too long to go to the hospital because my labor was not at all textbook and my contractions didn’t get regular even though I was in active labor. With Lucy, I was deep in transition when we made the trip over to the hospital which was not super fun for me (highlights being a car ride of misery and throwing up in the hospital parking lot). And because Lucy’s birth was so quick, we didn’t want to take any chances! I was also keeping in mind that I was GBS positive again and needed to get started on penicillin 4 hours before delivery. So we headed over just to see if they wanted to admit me or whether we could labor longer at home.
When we arrived at 5:30 we got set up with a great nurse in triage. She attached the monitors for the fetal heartbeat and for my contractions. I was still in a super-excited-that-we’re-having-a-baby mood so I knew I probably wasn’t truly in active labor. The nurse examined me and confirmed my suspicions, I was only 1.5-2cm dilated and the baby was still in a high station. “Should we just go back home?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “you could try walking around the halls for an hour and see if anything progresses.” We decided to give that a try since if we went home we would just be walking around our neighborhood anyhow. The contractions started to lengthen and get stronger. At the end of the hour we walked back to triage and got the good news: I was 4.5 cm! The nurse was surprised at how much progress I’d made in such a short amount of time and set up my IV port for the penicillin while she and Daniel chatted about Catholicism (she had asked about his tattoos, which are religious in nature, and wondered what would make two Protestants who went to a Baptist college convert). I was still in my right mind enough to contribute here and there to the conversation.
They called Dr. B., my doctor (my midwife that delivered Lucy had left the day before for a midwifery conference, thinking, as I did, that surely a third time mama wouldn’t go more than a week past her due date!). Thankfully, I had been to several prenatal appointments with Dr. B and really connected with her calm and kind personality. I also knew that she wouldn’t push for unnecessary interventions and was supportive of natural birth, so I didn’t have any anxiety about her delivering Gwen.
It was almost 7pm. “With 3 cm of dilation in an hour, this baby will be in my arms before midnight!!” I thought to myself. What I didn’t know was that I was beginning a loooong and exhausting labor…