At 1:58 pm on November 26, 2016 we welcomed our son into the world. This is the story.
I hope it’s not too graphic. If you would like to hear the knitty gritty version complete with a detailed account of dilation, effacement, and what fluids I lost and when, I’d be happy to share it with you over coffee.
This isn’t that version.
From the very beginning, this pregnancy threw me for a loop.
I was convinced I was not pregnant: double pink lines. I was convinced I was having a girl: boy parts. I was convinced I would deliver early: waiting, walking, and more waiting.
On Thursday afternoon, November 17th (three days before Aidan’s “due date”) I thought my water broke. Ryan was at work and I had just finished baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to give to the labor and delivery nurses.
When I arrived at the Sharp Mary Birch parking garage Ryan was already there. As I pulled my car into the space next to his, Ryan was hopping up and down like a kid on a pogo stick, a goofy grin spilling off his face.
Could this really be it? Would we really meet our sweet boy so soon?
We grabbed the cookies and my over-stuffed hospital bag and hauled them to the hospital. We posed for a selfie near the elevator.
In triage, I changed into the scratchy hospital gown and was given a bracelet. They hooked me up to the monitors and the nurse seemed optimistic that my water had broken.
All signs pointed to labor.
While the machines pulsed with Aidan’s heartbeat, Ryan recounted the gory details of the last episode of Game of Thrones to pass the time of what we later learned was not actually labor.
My water hadn’t broken. Turns out there are many different fluids a pregnant person can leak. Two hours later, we were sent home not knowing if we’d be back later that night or not for another week or two.
No one tells you that waiting for a baby is torture.
They tell you to enjoy your last baby-free evenings. To soak up your time together as a couple. I wish I could say we did that, but the only soaking I did was in the bathtub and our bonding looked more like cranky commiseration.
Over the next week, we had several “this is it” moments. My body was showing all the signs of early labor (which I incessantly googled), except starting labor itself.
Each night I’d go to bed hopeful that I’d awaken in the throes of pain or swimming in a pool of water, but each morning brought only minor discomforts and an unsoiled comforter.
I had never been so sad to wake up with dry underwear.
Aidan’s due date came and went. By that point my mom and my dad had arrived from Northern California. I’d eaten boatloads of spicy foods. We walked Ikea. We walked the beach. We walked our little neighborhood twenty times over. We fully completed the nursery. We did everything thought to induce labor (don’t think about that too carefully, mom and dad.)
By Wednesday night, the day before Thanksgiving, regular contractions started. We went to triage again. I still wasn’t in active labor so we were sent to walk around the hospital to kick start labor. When I was checked again two hours later, I hadn’t progressed. They sent us home at 5am on Thanksgiving morning, still contracting, no baby.
I was not feeling thankful. It takes a toll to be on such high alert, to analyze every cramp and twinge and ache as a sign that the most momentous adventure of your life is underway. I was exhausted and in pain, barely holding on to the belief that my body knew what it was doing.
You see, Ryan and I had taken an online childbirth class that focused on natural birth. We were “preferring” (our instructor had warned us against birth plans and called them “preferences” instead) to have a natural birth. No drugs. No interventions. The instructor was so positive and confident that she had us believing we could do it.
We had been practicing breathing and comfort measures and different positions. I’d chosen some key phrases to help me focus and get through the “surges” when the time came (she’s also not a fan of the term “contraction”).
You are safe. You are loved. You are surrendered.
I wanted to be surrendered to the process. To trust my body. But after so many false alarms and days of on and off “surges” after nine months of a difficult pregnancy, panic was setting in.
I reluctantly made it through Thanksgiving lunch with both sets of grandparents and my brother and his wife at our new home. I should have been thankful. I should have enjoyed the turkey and stuffing and lumpia (Filipino husband for the win) and the fact that we would meet our son soon.
Not soon enough.
Thanksgiving night the surges started again in full force and increased in regularity. But this time I was determined to wait until there was no doubt I was in labor. I wouldn’t let the triage gatekeepers send me away again.
I dipped into the bathtub and chanted my mantra, rejoicing at the increasing pain. Until something wasn’t right.
Contractions still surged, but I wasn’t getting any relief between them. Sharp, shooting pain ripped through me. I could barely get out of the tub.
You don’t need all the details, but lots of unpleasant things were going on. Bottom line: it was scary. Not just “oh my gosh, we’re going to meet our baby” scary, but “we may need to call an ambulance because she can’t walk and something might be seriously wrong at 2 in the morning” scary.
Ryan stayed calm. He called triage. He guided me ever so gingerly down the steps and into the car. He–miraculously–got me to the hospital.
When we got to triage, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t stand. I could barely transfer from the car seat to the wheelchair. Yet, when the nurses checked me, I wasn’t even in “active labor.” My body, that I had put so much trust in, was letting me down.
The nurses knew we were trying for a natural birth, so they chose not to admit me to the hospital. They let me wait a few more hours in the dark triage room to see if labor would start on its own–no walking halls this time, I couldn’t move.
At 7am–shift change–I could barely walk, I couldn’t pee (an actual baby head was blocking the path), and I was exhausted. They sent me home anyways.
In hindsight, we should have fought harder to stay. We should have agreed to an induction and an epidural on the spot. We should have just refused to leave. But I was discharged and Ryan took me home yet again.
Friday is a blur to me. I think I rested on the couch for awhile when we got home. Ryan napped upstairs. My parents, who were staying with us, were growing more and more concerned.
Sometime in the afternoon, I just couldn’t take it anymore. The pain was severe and unrelenting. I couldn’t walk. I still couldn’t pee.
Ryan called triage again. They suggested I run some water while trying to use the restroom or perhaps a warm bath would get things moving. As if my bladder was just shy. I don’t think they understood that the upstairs bathtub may well have been at the top of Mount Everest and that something–a baby head–was physically blocking the contents of my bladder.
Ryan finally got ahold of the on-call doctor and explained the situation. The doctor, rather dumbfounded, said, of course, you should come in right away.
It took Ryan and both of my parents to get me to the car.
This time triage was expecting me, a repeat offender. They knew my name and situation. The nurse from the morning remembered my weight.
Once in the bed, I cried to Ryan, pleaded with him to not let them send me home.
By this point, I was more than ready for some labor help and all the pain meds.
When the nurse came with the long awaited news that I was finally going to be admitted if we were okay with using drugs to help with labor, my response was “how soon can I get the epidural?”
Technically, this is the point in the story where real labor began. But for me, it’s when the labor–the work–ended.
I got the epidural and my own room. Both sets of grandparents visited. I finally slept.
That night I slept the most heavenly sleep to the hum of machines and soft murmurs of nurses. The waiting game continued, but now I could relax in the knowledge that it wasn’t just up to me to read the signals of my body.
And the signals weren’t promising. At some point, my water broke on its own. I was dilating, but still ever so slowly. I awoke to a cluster of nurses and the doctor murmuring about oxygen levels and distress. Aidan’s heart rate was dropping. They placed an oxygen mask over my mouth and rolled me to my other side.
Ryan squeezed my hand and whispered,
You are safe.
Aidan’s heart rate came back up. The doctors gave me something to stop the contractions to give Aidan a break. They took the oxygen mask off me.
Hours later they gave me drugs to increase the contractions, to help my body do what it wasn’t doing on its own.
By morning my progress was not what they—or we—had hoped for.
My parents visited and I brushed my teeth. Ryan’s parents brought him breakfast. I sipped apple juice.
The new doctor wasn’t pleased with my progress or the way Aidan’s heart rate kept dipping. He began to discuss our options. We could keep going with the drugs to assist labor for a few more hours, but it was looking more and more like a c-section was inevitable.
A c-section. After days of labor. After all the birth classes.
It felt like failure.
Ryan and I agreed to wait a few more hours. Regardless of what happens, he assured me,
You are loved.
Our parents went to lunch. Ryan and I waited and prayed.
The nurse checked me again at 1pm. No progress. No movement. No change.
As tears rolled down my face we decided together to move forward with the c-section. To get Aidan out safely before his heart rate dipped again. To have the surgery unrushed, before a real emergency set in.
We told our parents. We texted some close friends.
This was happening. Today. Right now.
You are surrendered.
Ryan was given papery scrubs, a hair net, face mask and booties. The anesthesiologist with an Australian accent gave me stronger numbing meds.
This was happening like right now right now.
They prepped my gurney and rolled me away. Ryan would meet me in the operating room. The anesthesia made me shake, violently, uncontrollably.
Just as the fear began to take hold, Ryan was at my side, gripping my hand and unwavering,
You are safe. You are loved. You are surrendered.
Minutes later we met our son: Aidan Mariano Prades. 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 21 inches long. So healthy. So perfect. So alert.
You are safe. You are strong. And you are oh so very loved.