Really, the story of Jack's birth starts at my 37-week appointment on Monday, Jan. 31. At this appointment, my doctor said she thought the end of this difficult pregnancy story could be written. She said if I had not gone into labor by the following week on my own, we could set an induction date.
So the week and weekend came and went with many contractions, two almost-trips to Labor & Delivery and no baby. So that Monday, Feb. 6, she asked when we wanted to do it and how did we feel about Tuesday, since she was on call. Josh said he really didn’t want to do Tuesday, because he had a lot to wrap up at work on a new project and I was all “Let’s book it now, I want this kid OUT.”
So the doctor said she could also work us in on Wednesday and that there would be room in L&D, so we should discuss amongst ourselves and let her know that night. On the way home Josh convinced me to wait until Wednesday, so we decided that would be the big day.
So Tuesday before I was induced. Josh's sister, Marnie, had stayed with me during the day so Josh could finish up his last-minute stuff at work. I asked if he could go down in the morning and come back as soon as his meeting was over and he seemed amenable.
At 3:30 p.m. when I called him, he still had not left. He was waiting to meet with one more person and then was heading out. Fabulous. I got some last-minute cleaning and organizing done around the house and decided to get a manicure around 6 p.m.
While my nails were drying an hour later, Josh called.
Josh: "You are going to kill me."
Josh: "I am just leaving now."
Amy: (Audible sigh and gnashing of the teeth) "Fine. I will just eat my leftovers."
We were supposed to go to dinner and get some last-minute things done and generally hang out just the two of us. Instead, I ate leftover pasta from my birthday dinner and cooled my heels.
He made up for it though, when he came in at 9:15 p.m. with a big balloon, roses and some birthday cards (long story, suffice it to say, my birthday cards were late, but he did get them, which is all that counts).
Then we made a mad dash to Lowes, which is about 15 minutes away, to get cabinet hardware so our kitchen contractor could install them the next day. We had promised to pick them up before Wednesday, so we had to get it done. So there we are standing in the hardware aisle at Lowes, after the 10 p.m. closing time, while the nice man gets us 25 of the handles out of storage and I keep thinking "Don't go into labor, don't go into labor."
We stopped for ice cream on the way home, mmmmm, and then when we got back, Josh announced it was time to finish the website updates so we could send it live when Jack was born.
I stopped what I was doing and whined it was midnight and I needed to sleep because HELLO, I AM PUSHING A KID OUT TOMORROW AND I NEED MY REST. I helped him with a few things, had a slight feeling of freaked-outedness about the impending birth and went to sleep.
I woke up before the alarm Wednesday morning, so I actually got going and in the shower around 6:40 a.m. My OB had told us to get there early -- she actually said "Around 7 a.m." but we (read: JOSH) have a problem being on time for anything, so I anticipated lateness. We also had agreed we would actually get there a little later than 7 a.m. because my doctor had a lunch appointment and we really did not want her to be gone while I delivered.
Yes, I know there was likely no way I was going to pop a kid out in seven hours, but you never know. My cervix, it is the devil.
So we finally get going and Josh gets up and we get out of the house around 8 a.m. I insist on stopping for donuts on the way -- I knew I would not be eating all day after I got there -- and then Josh came in and wanted a bacon/egg/cheese bagel, and that took forever since it was busy. Sooooo we're on our way to the hospital finally.
We arrived and parked in the patient parking and grabbed the bags. After a five-minute discussion about whether the elevator stopped on 2 or not (Josh was right, it did not) we figured it out and headed up. They sent us right back down to OB Triage. Annoying.
So we get in and I gown up and they call my doctor and things get underway. They hook up the fetal monitor and the contraction monitor and start taking the medical history for the induction. They also start an IV.
First vein -- blown after about 1 minute. Second vein -- we have a winner. So the IV is started and I am warned I may not eat anything else. As I down the last of my hot chocolate, I inform them the two donuts will tide me over. The nurse looks at me funny, but she doesn't say anything.
My doctor comes in at 9 a.m. and says she thought something happened to us because we were so late. We apologize and she says it is busy upstairs, but they will get us a room soon.
So we wait. And we wait. And I am not having contractions. So Josh is IMing people and I am reading US Weekly. And we wait some more. My blood pressure on first check was 136/92.
At 10:55 a.m. I hear a nurse say, "Dr. X is really mad. We need to get her in a room now."
Five minutes later they were wheeling me up to Labor and Delivery and we had a room. My doctor came in and quickly explained that they were going to use a Foley catheter to dilate my cervix to 4 cm and once it was there, the catheter would fall out and we would be ready to start the Pitocin.
I started to get really nervous once I was in the L&D room. I think it finally hit me that I was having a baby. I got a little shaky, like I always do when I get nervous, and I was thinking it seemed like a good time to change my mind.
When they checked my blood pressure for the first time upstairs, it was up to 136/102. My normal BP is around 110/60, but it had been elevated for the last three weeks.
This would be a good place to note I was between 2-3 cm dilated at my 38-week appointment two days earlier and 80 percent effaced. I was contracting randomly all day, every day for two weeks, but nothing regular enough to send me to the hospital.
So Josh commenced with the IMing from his phone and I read a little. At that point, I was starting to get annoyed that he was on instant messenger. I had specifically told him we would let people know when we got to the hospital and when I was ready to push.
Nowhere did I give him to OK to give live updates to everyone, including his friends.But in the interest of labor harmony, I kept my mouth shut and instead asked every once in a while what he was doing and he would smile sheepishly and say nothing. And then he would tell me how funny he was and what he was IMing people and what funny things they were saying back.
The Pitocin got the party started at 11:47 a.m. My doctor told the nurses that I wanted an epidural as soon as possible and then left for lunch and said she would be back in a few hours to check my progress. The nurse said the anesthesiologist was in the room next door and would be right over.
They started the Pitocin at level 2, and told me they would increase it by 2 every hour. They can go as high as 20, but they like to start small. So the contractions started a few minutes later and I was not happy.
Josh was trying to tell me something funny someone had IMed him and the entire time I was looking at him listening, but thinking, "Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet." He said he could tell I was in pain and was trying to make me laugh. Instead, I was giving him a fake half-smile.
Unfortunately, the baby was not so fond of the Pitocin. His heart rate was dropping from a baseline of 130 into the 80s when I would shift to any position that was not flat on my back. I asked if I could sit up to work on the baby book and they said sure.
I was not paying attention, but when I sat up, the baby's heart rate plummeted. Within a minute I had two nurses and a resident in my room, laying me back down.
They called the doctor on call (my doctor was at lunch) and he stopped by and they decided to stop the Pitocin for a short while at 12:50 p.m.
They also wanted to get me on a pulse monitor so they could definitely tell the difference between the monitor picking up my heart rate or the baby's dropping. So they strapped one to my left index finger. Unfortunately, my manicure from the night before was obscuring the read. So they had to take the polish off that finger. Attractive!
I was also given an oxygen mask and told I had to wear it all the time. When I put it on, the baby did a lot better. When I would take it off to run my mouth about something or other, his heart rate would dip slightly, so I tried to keep it on as much as possible.
After they started it back up, I was desperately looking for the anesthesiologist. I must have asked 10 times in 20 minutes where she was. Finally at 1:50 p.m. the trio of anesthesiologists came in and I was delighted to see them. They told Josh he could not stay in the room while they inserted the epidural, so he should go grab some lunch. So he headed out to Chicago Pizza and I sat up and faced the music of the needles.
I asked if the woman doing it was a resident and the older woman with her spoke up that she was the attending. I said I did not want a resident performing the procedure and the attending said she would be doing it herself.
I had an epidural for my cerclage surgery, so I was prepared for it. They had me sit up and curl my back into a circle while the nurse held my shoulders down from the front.
They got me all set up and inserted the numbing shot. Super. They then set to work inserting the catheter. I heard some movement behind me and the doctor said she was going to have to insert it again a little higher. That time, she must have got it, because she was happy with the placement.
They got me back lying down and the doctor explained to me that they had given me " a new kind of epidural." Excuse me? Why did you not explain this to me BEFORE the procedure?
They said it was patient-controlled and that every time I felt a contraction, I could press the button and it would send the medicine directly into my line. I asked them how this was going to work, considering I was having contractions every 2 minutes. What if I wanted to sleep?
The doctor, who spoke with a eastern European accent, told me this was a new kind of epidural and that they were using it at Northwestern Hospital.
I'm sorry, but if I wanted to deliver at Northwestern, I would have. I was not impressed. After I bitched some more to the nurse, we figured out the doctor was confusing me.
I didn't have to press the button with every contraction, I would press it after FEELING a contraction. And with the dosage I received, I should only start feeling them after the medication wore off, which took roughly 90 minutes.
With that straightened out and me feeling immensely better, I settled in for the rest of the afternoon. Josh came back from lunch and we just hung out, listening to Radiohead, Coldplay and Pearl Jam on the iPod. I read my book club book and Josh played on the Internet on his phone.
At 2:55 p.m., the resident said I was at 4 cm and she was going to go ahead and break my water, which would move things along a little quicker. She took out what looked like a plastic knitting needle and started rooting around and broke it. She remarked there was a lot of fluid. Well duh. I could not feel anything, including the wetness, as my kick-ass epidural was working well.
Once my water was broken, they were able to place a monitor on the baby's head to get an exact read on the contractions and his heart rate. I felt better about that, since they said the readings taken through the monitors on the stomach can sometimes be off.
The resident said they would check me again in a few hours, as most women progress about 1 cm per hour. OoooooK. Thanks much. See ya later.
Josh and I continue hanging out, chatting and reading. At 4:40 p.m., the baby's heart rate dropped into the low 80s again. Josh watched the strip on the machine showing my contractions and the monitor with the heart rate. He stood there for about 2 minutes and decided since the nurses weren't exactly busting down the door, he went to get them. They came in and checked things, but all seemed well.
Josh encouraged me to try to take a nap, and I dozed for about 45 minutes until my doctor came in at 7 p.m. and checked me again. I was thinking I would be moving right along, but no, I was still at 5 cm. I had not progressed AT ALL in the last three hours. My contractions were still about a minute and a half apart at a high intensity and it wasn't doing anything.
My incompetent cervix was suddenly more than competent and in fact, was mounting a coup and barricading itself with reinforcements in there. My doctor told me that my contractions were intense and regular and if I did not have any change by the next time she checked me, we would be having a C-section.
I was secretly happy about that, because I was really apprehensive about pushing this kid out. I had been wanting a C-section since Day 1 and had even asked about an elective way back in the day and my doctor laughed at me.
The nurses changed shifts around this time, and I got a new nurse, Brigitte. Brigitte turned the Pitocin down a little bit when she took over because she likes to see her patients contracting every 2 minutes. She thought the baby could use the rest between contractions, which might help with the heart rate issues as well.
A new resident also came in with two med students to check in and see how I was doing. She was the resident who was on the night I was admitted for contractions in December (for those playing along at home, that was my third and final hospitalization of the pregnancy), so she knew the whole sordid tale of the cervix. She was thrilled to see I had gone full-term and filled the med students in on the situation. Explained incompetent cervix, the pre-term labor, yada yada yada, here we are at 38.5 weeks and who would have thought!
I figured I was in for a long night, so I had Josh bust out the laptop so I could watch a DVD. I watched an episode of "Deadwood" while Josh studied, since he had already seen it. I was adamant that we watch "Lost" that night since it was a new episode and I told Josh the baby better stay put until after 9 p.m. so I would not be interrupted.
My nurse also told me I could have a popsicle! Mmmmmmm. Sweet, sweet orange flavor. It was possibly the best popsicle I have ever had in my life. I am not kidding.
Just after "Lost" started, I realized I was having a lot of pressure. And pressing the epidural button was not really doing anything about it. So a new anesthesiologist for the night shift came in and checked things out and said he would prefer to top it off at this point to get me comfy. I was all for it and once he sent the new meds into the catheter, the pressure let up a little.
He told me that was good. He wanted to watch me for a second, however, in case the catheter had shifted in my back. He said if it had, and he pushed too much medication, it would go into the space in my spine and paralyze me temporarily and I would not be able to breathe.
Wow! Fun! So we chatted about "Lost" for a moment and I was still breathing, so thankfully, we were good.
At 8:20 p.m., the resident also said she would give me a quick check, since I was feeling the pressure. She found I was now 7 cm, 100 percent effaced and at +1 station.
Well how bout THAT progress? I did 2 cm in two hours. I was textbook.
So we finished watching "Lost" and I noticed the pressure was increasing, despite the topped-off epidural, and I was shaking. I knew from reading other birth stories and various other articles online, that shaking was a sign you were in transition.
I told Josh I thought we better call our families, who were all gathered at our house, and tell them to head over. I had been adamant that no one come to the hospital until I was ready to push, because otherwise I would have stage fright and feel all this pressure to perform. So he asked me if I was sure I wanted to deviate from the plan and maybe we should wait.
At this point, a little voice in my head was telling me I was getting close, so I said no, I wanted him to call now. So he called my mom and told them to head over. (My sister told me later it was a mad dash to get out the door. I am imagining a state of panic and people running into each other and looking for their coats. High comedy.)
Josh asked his mom to stop on the way and get him some dinner because he was starving.
When he got off the phone I looked at him with my jaw hanging open and he was like, "What?" When I pointed out I had not eaten in 12 hours, he looked sheepish and laughed and said he felt bad and he would tell her not to get anything. But I said one of us should get some food, so he should go ahead, but that he better not eat it in front of me.
I instructed the nurse that no one was to come through that door unless they had express written consent. I told her even if someone said it was OK, they were lying and she should not believe them. She laughed and assured us that would not happen and that the families would have to wait in the main lobby anyway, since there were so many of them (eight in total) and it was after normal visiting hours.
I kept trying to make Josh bone up on his labor coach duties by reading from "What to Expect When You're Expecting" – which he kept avoiding. I shouldn't say "boning up" since he never read them in the first place, so let's call it "a crash course" shall we? So when he realizes I’m almost fully dilated, suddenly he has the book open and is reading like he’s taking a final in 15 minutes and hasn’t been to class all semester. He busts out laughing and reads aloud to me that "The man should not be intimidated by the doctors and medical staff and their finesse and expertise. Sometimes a whispered I Love You means more to your partner than anything a doctor can do." Josh joked that there would be no doctors in the room during the birth because he didn’t want to feel intimidated.
He and I are laughing and cracking jokes about this. My doctor came in at this point, around 9:30 p.m., and asked how I was doing. We felt the need to share this passage with her and laughed about it again. Josh said he was a little disappointed that he hadn’t been offered an epidural yet because after reading about his coaching duties in the book, he felt that he was the one that would be doing the most work.
Clearly the medical staff loved us. We're funny! And snarky!
So my doctor checked me, looked up and said "Well, you're complete. Ready to push?" My face lit up and I got excited and ordered Josh to get my brush out so I could fix my hair. Yes, I ran a brush through my hair before I pushed this kid out. I didn't even put my hair in a ponytail because I wanted to look good in the pictures later and didn't want a weird mark. I wiped the mascara out from under my eyes and felt pretty ready.
Josh, in the meantime, had just gotten a call that his mom was there with his food and he said, "I'm not going to be able to come down and get it." And for once, I didn't have to tell him to get off the phone!
I looked at the clock and it was 9:40 p.m. My doctor sat down on the end of the bed and held my right foot and a med student sat down on and held my left foot. Nurse Brigette stood at the end of the bed and Josh was up by my right shoulder. My doctor told me to go ahead and start pushing.
I could the feel pressure of the contractions, so they told me to push when I felt that. My doctor told me to push against her hand and the nurse said to push like I was constipated. Except that scared the hell out of me, because I spent the last 9 months terrified of pooping on the table. I was obsessed with it and begged Josh to not ever talk about it if it did indeed happen. So as soon as she said that, I started thinking about it. And not pushing very effectively.
They would have me do a series of three pushes with each contraction. Then I would rest and wait for the next one and start again. The nurse was being encouraging and my doctor was being totally chill and awesome and the med student wasn't saying anything. I was trying not to think about pooping. And Josh was being supportive and I could tell he was excited.
I must have been making progress, but I was getting frustrated. I told my doctor I felt like it was "One step forward, two steps back" and she laughed and said that would mean I wasn't making any progress at all! But she knew what I meant. I felt like I would get him almost there, and then the head would regress.
At this point, all I wanted was a glass of cold water. And I couldn't have it, because all I was allowed were ice chips. So after every set of pushes, I would say "ice chip" and Josh would throw one in my mouth and I would chew it and get ready to go again.
After pushing for what seemed like an eternity, I knew I was close because they got out a blue pad and spread it out under me. I knew the baby would be going on that pad, so I started to focus even more. Josh was funny as well, because he would tell me I was only going to get more ice chips if I promised to push him out at the next contraction. He was excited by the progress I was making, but as this was our first birthing experience, was expecting things to happen a little quicker. So I could hear the excitement in his voice, but then it would tail off when I had to take a break. Kind of the noise a crowd makes when a receiver drops a pass in the endzone -- so close, but ooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
On one of the next pushes, I started to feel like I was going to tear UPWARDS. It was not a nice sensation, but not painful either. Just really weird. And when I felt that they were telling me to push even harder and give it all I had.
So I did and out came the head. My doctor told me to rest and hang on and she suctioned out the mouth. I was not looking because I really didn't want to see anything. I had even instructed them not to put the baby on my chest right away -- I preferred them to clean him up and swaddle him and THEN bring him to me.
So my doctor told me to give her one last big push. I did and I felt him slide out and it seemed like he had the longest body ever. And I looked down and there was Jack, lying on the table, all pale and wet and I said "Oh my God. He's here."
It was 10:24 p.m. I had pushed for 40 minutes.
Josh was looking at him and looking at me and he kissed me and I know we said we loved each other and then he said, "Look what we made!"
They took Jack over to the warming table and got him cleaned up and I could see him and hear him crying so I told Josh to talk to him because he would know his voice. And as soon as Josh started talking, Jack stopped crying. Josh was taking pictures and I could see them across the room.
I don't think I even had to push to get out the placenta, and after some massage of my abdomen by my doctor, there it was. I was obsessed with the placenta during my pregnancy and I begged Josh to take a picture of it. He did. I won't post it here and cause anyone to go into cardiac arrest, but suffice it to say, if you want to see the picture you can e-mail me and I will show ya. I mean how often do you get to see a placenta live in living color?
I asked if I needed stitches and my doctor said yes. I asked how many and she said she did not know, but that it was a second-degree tear. She got to work and I watched Josh and Jack from across the room and Josh was holding him and it was just surreal. After all the bedrest and doctor visits and worrying and waiting, he was here.
Then they brought Jack over to me and I got to hold him for the first time. He was all swaddled up and had a little hat on and I could not believe how cute he was. I said "He looks just me!"
He had a total conehead and a decent-sized bruise on the top of his noggin from banging into my cervix, so Josh and I were laughing and said we would keep the hat on him so no one would see.
We just stared at him for a while and then Josh went down to tell the families and bring them up in pairs. Kind of like Noah's Ark. And the nurse brought me a box lunch. Half a turkey sandwich, an apple and some milk. Which, I wolfed down in 5.4 nanoseconds.
His parents came up first, followed by my parents, my sister Beth and her husband Paul, and Josh's sister Marnie and her boyfriend Thabu. Everyone was so excited, but we limited the visits to about 5 minutes each since there were so many and we were exhausted and needed to still go to recovery and get him breastfeeding. But between visits by my sister and his sister, the nurse wanted me to get up to use the bathroom.
Wait, excuse me? Ummm, no thanks. I would like to stay right here in this bed. And HA -- I had a catheter, why would I need to pee? Oh, the catheter was removed right after birth? Shit. Well that's no good.
I offered the nurse cash money to put the catheter back in so I would never have to get up. She laughed and declined. And then helped me sit up. I felt OK, so she had me stand. I felt OK with that, so we shuffled me the 5 feet to the bathroom. In that 5 feet, it looked like a murder had occurred. I kept apologizing and she kept telling me it happened to everyone who gave birth and there was nothing to be sorry about.
I just kept looking at all the blood and thinking "Man, what a shitty job that is to clean up after this." She had me pee, and I think I managed about 2 drops. But she said it was a good start. Then she showed me how to use the squirt bottle thing after I peed and told me how swollen I was.
Well, yes, I would imagine that was the case SINCE I JUST PUSHED AN ALMOST 7-POUND KID OUT OF MY CROTCH.
Oh, and I almost forgot, almost equally as important as birthing the child, I am proud to announce I DID NOT POOP. The nurse told me and Josh later confirmed. I do believe there should be some award given to women that accomplish this feat. I would like to thank the Academy, my family, my manager, my agent, and all the great people at Miramax.
Then she let me get back in bed, sweet sweet bed. After Josh's sister left, they got me ready to go to my room. It was after midnight once we got settled in and we tried a little breastfeeding, but Jack didn't seem very into it.
Josh finally got to heat up his three-hour old panini and he gave me a little of it. And then he finally got to bed around 3 a.m. after we stared at Jack forever and remarked how seriously cute he was and trying the breastfeeding thing again.
He latched on that time, but it was not such a good latch and I ended up with a hickey. On my nipple. Seriously. And I knew it was probably not a good latch but I was so excited that he was just sucking that I let him. That set me up for a good three days of misery and pain.
We ended up sending Jack to the nursery around 4 a.m. so we could get some decent sleep. The next morning, they brought him in around 8 a.m. and we hung out with him a little more before his circumcision, which an OB from my practice performed. They said he pretty much slept through the whole thing.
We stayed three nights in the hospital as Jack was not getting the hang of the breastfeeding and my blood pressure was still slow coming down. By the third day, he was eating and I was anxious to get home. I had had enough of hospitals and doctors after the last 20 weeks.
I still can't believe I am a mom. It surely was not the pregnancy I had envisioned for myself back in June. But I look at his little face and I realize it was all worth it. I know every mom says that and it's such a cliche, but in my case, there were a lot of hard times. I can't believe how close we came to losing him. But in the end, he's here and that is all that matters.