Anyways, moving right along. It was December 14th and I was 35 weeks and 2 days when I had a normal check-up with my doctor. I go into the room and they tell me that my doctor's going to go ahead and do the Group B strep test today. Not thinking I'd have to take off my pants until the next week, I was immediately and inexplicably overcome with embarrassment about the wookiee I had hiding down there. And yes, I'm fully aware that my vagina doctor has likely seen bajingos in a lot worse shape than mine was, but that didn't make me any more proud of the luscious pube forest I had burgeoning down under. (How's the for a colorful mental image? You're welcome.) The nurse tells me to disrobe from the waist down as she hands me a giant paper towel sheet to cover myself with. A sheet which, as usual, I manage to rip in 8 different places with my wedding ring while I wait awkwardly bare-assed on the table.
My doctor comes in nice and cheerful and we engage in the usual pre-exam pleasantries. Admittedly, I didn't really remember what this "Group B strep test" involved - I just assumed that it was PAP smear-ish, so instead of worrying about having medical equipment jammed up my love tunnel, I was still obsessively worrying about her seeing my copious amounts of lady fur. As soon as I'm laid back with knees in separate counties and my lack of crotch grooming habits on display, I immediately launch into an apologetic explanation of the glorious vaginal mess she was witnessing. I tell her that I was waiting for the perfect time to get waxed, where it wasn't so early that it would already have grown back by the time I gave birth, but not so late that my kid would have to journey through the vaginal thicket to get to fresh air. She laughed and said, "I don't think I've ever heard anyone put it that way before." Yeah, probably because no one has. I'm just a psychotic basket case. Anyways. As I was mentally giving myself a reminder to schedule a wax for that week, I was very suddenly reminded what the Group B test involved as she shoved some kind of swab up the ol' poop chute. Good times.
After taking our relationship to the next level, she went elbow deep into baby town to see if I had progressed at all. She tells me that I'm a "1+ to 2 and 60% effaced" which, while I was glad that something was happening, I wasn't expecting for that to progress much further any time soon. She tells me she can feel baby's head, and that up to this point, she hadn't really been concerned about how big the baby was, but "feeling around [she wasn't] so sure anymore". She commented that baby girl seemed pretty tall. Tall, I can do. Big is a much different and way more traumatizing story. She let me know that we were at the point that if I were to go into labor on my own, they wouldn't try and stop it. She followed that up by asking me if I wanted an elective induction at 39 weeks, and I'm not sure that my immediate "YES, PLEASE" could have been any more enthusiastic if I had tried. I was due on January 16th, and because I'd be 39 weeks on a Saturday when my doctor wouldn't be on call, she was going to schedule the induction for January 11th. It still seemed like forever away, but it was nice to have an actual, concrete end in sight.
Early the next morning (the 15th), I could not stop shivering to save my life. It wasn't just a quick little shiver here and there, it was full on, non-stop shaking for a good solid 10-15 minutes. I was pretty sure I was probably sporting a pretty good fever and managed to eventually stop shivering and fall back asleep. When I woke up again, my body felt weak and sore all over. As I was walking around, I felt more pressure downtown than I was used to feeling. It wasn't the, "I have to push NOW" type of pressure, obviously. More like a "this kid's head is resting on something down there that isn't holding it properly and she may or may not fall out of my vagina" type pressure. (If only child birth were that simple.)
The morning went on and my back was on fire and I kept having random sharp pains from down under. I suddenly wished I knew what an actual contraction felt like, for comparison's sake. The only contractions I felt with Eli were the few that happened when my epidural started wearing off. And, naturally, those were immediately repressed into the dumps of my memory. I did notice that this pain, although bearable and not incredibly intense, would get a little worse and then randomly subside. I wasn't sure if it was just how the baby was positioned, or if it was maybe contractions. I decided to time the random waves of pain as best as I could - even though it wasn't super obvious when it was starting and stopping. I managed to time some that were happening ever 5 or 6 minutes and lasting about a minute, and I was fairly certain that they were actual contractions.
My doctor always ends each appointment telling me when I should call in versus when I should skip the call and go straight to Labor & Delivery. "Scary contractions" or "More than 4-5 contractions in an hour" were some of the "go straight to L&D" qualifiers. The supposed contractions I was having weren't necessarily "scary", but I had definitely had more than 4 or 5 in an hour. Even though I felt super dumb, I called and left a message for my nurse about the fever and figured I could casually slip in that I was having some random pain down yonder to see what they'd say.
While I waited for the nurse to call me back, I kept stressing about whether or not I needed to go to the hospital. And then subsequently stressing about all the crap I needed to do before baby made her grand entrance into the world. Like, you know, get waxed. I decided to take a shower to see if that would stop the contractions, and while it mostly seemed to stop the waves of pain, I still had a pretty constant, unpleasant ache going on. Probably a 6ish on my completely weak scale of pain. The nurse finally called back and more or less told me to just treat the fever with "comfort measures" and if the contractions didn't subside with rest/shower/bath/etc., to go into L&D. Even with the contractions more or less subsided, I still felt pretty weak and useless to do much else. Shawn, bless his heart, cleaned the entire house while I was curled in bed drinking a crapload of water to make sure the contractions didn't come back. I felt pretty weak, exhausted, and just all around crappy.
The next morning I had another episode of the "shivers". Except it was a lot worse than the previous day. I was shaking uncontrollably to the point where I couldn't even pick Eli up. I was worthless to the world, and I could not make it stop. I piled several blankets on top of myself and tried to make them stop. When that wasn't working as quickly as I needed it to, I called Shawn and through sobs and rapid breathing told him I had a fever, I couldn't stop shaking, and he needed to come home. You can imagine how quickly that got him home. After standing in the shower for 25 minutes, I finally was able to stop shaking. My lady garden was still hurting like a female dog though, and I decided that I should probably go into the hospital, if anything, just to make sure that all the shaking and the fever weren't adversely affecting the baby. I figured I probably wasn't in labor, but needed the peace of mind that my baby was okay.
When I got to the hospital, they hooked me up to all the machines to monitor the baby. Again, I find myself apologizing to the nurse for the untamed va-chia pet that was ravaging my loins. (And seriously, I don't know why I feel the compulsive need to apologize for the condition of my cookie to medical professionals that literally look at them all. day. long.) Anyways. Gratefully all was well with Grace. Her heart rate was a little elevated, but still within the "normal range." I, obviously, had a fever and my doctor decided to have them do a flu swab to see if I had the flu, or if it was just some other random virus. And if you've never had the pleasure of enduring one of those, they basically take a freakishly long cu-tip and shove it up your nose all the way to your brain and leave it there for 10 seconds. I'd take a butt hole swab over the flu swab any day. Anyways. We waited for what felt like forever to get the test results back. In reality, it was probably more like 2.5-3 hours. In that time, however, my contractions started to pick up. Up to that point, the little contraction monitor hadn't really registered much of anything, which made me feel ridiculous and like I didn't know what the hell my body was doing. My nurse had told me that the pain I had been feeling down there was likely just my ligaments freaking out when Grace moved. She didn't seem overly concerned about that, or the contractions I was sure I was having.
Towards the last hour that we were waiting for the test results, my contractions picked up even more consistently, and I finally shifted around to see if I could get the monitor to show anything, or if I really was just mental. As soon as I had shifted around, the monitor finally started picking up the contractions. They weren't all that big on the monitor which, according to the nurse, didn't mean much, because it was an external monitor. But nevertheless, I felt pretty vindicated with physical evidence that I was indeed having contractions.
The bottom line are the contractions. (Top is Grace's heart rate.)
They finally came back with the test results and told me that I had the "coronavirus", which is pretty much the fancypants science way of saying, "Hey, you have a cold." They told me it should fade after a few days. You know, like a cold. I made sure to call the nurse's attention to the contraction monitor before they booted us out of the hospital. I confirmed with her that they were indeed contractions. Even though by this point, they were painful enough that I didn't need a monitor to tell me they were contractions. I cracked a joke at one point about getting an epidural to go, to which she responded I could go home and take some Tylenol. Because that's the same. I didn't bother mentioning that this particular brand of lady pain would likely be completely impervious to the vain efforts of freaking Tylenol. She decided to do an internal exam, just to make sure Grace wouldn't fall out of my body on our way to back to the car. I was still just somewhere between a 1 and a 2. She gave me the, "You're fine, this is just normal false labor stuff that'll go away in a few hours" speech.
Yeah. It didn't.
I decided that I'd make use of our amazing, giant bathtub when we got home to see if that would ease up the apparently "false" contractions I was having. Shawn barely got it halfway filled before we ran out of hot water for no damn reason. I tried to get in to see if I could still make it work. And then the make-shift drain plug we were using (because ours is apparently broken) failed. Probably because our idea of a make-shift drain plug is shoving one of Eli's plastic balls down the drain. So, here I am, flopping around like a damn beached whale trying to get my enormous, naked body completely submerged in as much lukewarm water as possible while the tub is slowly draining. All the while, cursing like a sailor through the contractions that weren't even kind of letting up. I finally gave up on what was literally the worst bath I've ever tried to take.
Again, I curled up into fetal position in bed and continued to wait for this "normal" pain to subside, like the nurse had been so sure it would. After a bit, the contractions finally started to slow down a bit. As in, they were closer to 5ish minutes apart, instead of 2-3 minutes. Even with that brief moment of relief that the nurse was right, I asked Shawn to give me a blessing that this TOTALLY NORMAL FALSE LABOR wouldn't kill me. The good news is that I'm still alive. Yay. The less great news is that I haven't gotten a full night of sleep since then.
Just when I thought the contractions were maybe starting to slow down, they came back just as quickly and with more vengeance than ever before. It was mother lovin' BIRTHQUAKE CENTRAL up in this bi. I tried my best to breathe through each one, but some how my breaths managed to come out full of expletives. I paced around. Tried sitting and laying in different positions. All the while, Shawn was blissfully unaware of the R-rated scene unfolding in our bedroom, as he had ear plugs shoved clear to his brain so my pregnant snoring wouldn't keep him up. I got in the shower to see if that would help at all. I spent a solid 45 minutes in there. I'd sit. I'd stand. I'd almost fall asleep until I felt the next contraction start to ramp up. My breathing/swearing/moaning must have finally gotten loud enough to penetrate the depths of Shawn's ear holes, because he finally woke up and was like, "Are you dying?" Trying to lighten the mood, every time a contraction would hit, he'd yell, "PUUUUUUUSH!" Fortunately for him, it was fairly amusing at the time.
At around 2 or 3 in the morning, I went to the bathroom and there was a bunch of blood. I've always read in the crazy pregnant lady forums about the "bloody show" that happened prior to labor, but didn't really know much about it. I did recall that my doctor said that if I had any bleeding, I should go straight to L&D. So, between that and the unforgiving birthquakes, I decided to call L&D to see if they'd give me any hints as to whether or not I should come in. They told me the bleeding may just be from the internal exam I had had when I was there earlier and more or less said, "Well, if you feel like you should come in, then you should come in." YOU DON'T MOTHER FLUFFING SAY. I decided to just wait it out, partially because I didn't want to have to wake up either our families during the butt crack of night to watch Eli and partially because I didn't want to be the woman that cried LABOR and ran to the hospital only to be shooed out the door again.
I spent the next 5 hours wide awake and hunched over in pain. By the time 7am rolled around, I finally decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I was convinced that there was no way that I just stayed up all night long swearing at my uterus all in the name of false labor. That said, I apparently still couldn't be bothered to make myself look even remotely presentable, let alone pack a hospital bag. All I could focus on were the contractions. And when I wasn't having a contraction, I was dreading the next one.
We dropped Eli off with my mother in law and headed over to the hospital. The contractions were at a nice steady 2-3 minutes apart. Every time the car went over a bump, I was sure my uterus was going to explode. When we got to the front desk, I hurried and grabbed a mask to avoid the "Mask up, bitch" glare I had gotten from the front desk lady the day before, and collapsed into a chair. (A mask I'd end up having to wear the entire time I was in the hospital. So. Annoying.) Luckily, they were able to take me back pretty quickly and hook me up to all the stuff. Again. Part of me felt ridiculous for even being there. But the other majority part of me didn't give two craps because I was in pain, dammit. The nurse came in and I explained to her that I had been having consistent, painful contractions for the last 15 hours and that it'd be super cool if she could make it stop. She grabbed some gloves and was down checking my still unwaxed cha-chi when I hear her say, "Looks like you get to stay with us, you're at a 5 and 90%." Then a bunch of angels started singing the Hallelujah chorus. But it sounded more like, "EEEEEEPIDURAL. EEEEEEPIDURAL. epiDURAL. epiDURAL. EPIIIIDUUUUURAAAAALLLLLL."
The sheer joy of knowing I'd be able to stay was quickly replaced with, well, another contraction, and then completely panicked thoughts of, "Holy crap. I'm having a baby. Today. I'M NOT READY TO HAVE A BABY TODAY. MY VAGINA IS STILL A MESS. I DON'T EVEN HAVE MY HORSE HEAD." (For the record, that was literally the first thing we told my little sister to grab from our house to bring over. Not clothes for the baby. Not a toothbrush. Not a phone cord. A HORSE HEAD. Priorities, people.)
We called our families to tell them that, surprise, we're having a baby. And I texted our photographer that I totally understood if she couldn't make it, because it was super last minute, but that we were at the hospital. (And, bless her heart, she dropped everything and found somewhere for all her kids to be and came over super fast.) The anesthesiologist came pretty quickly and I couldn't have been any happier to see him. He cautioned me to hold still, because you know, he didn't want to paralyze me. The process of getting the epidural was just about as not fun as I remember it being from Eli, but I didn't even care, because DRUGS.
For some reason they still hadn't gotten the results of the Group B butt swab that my doctor had done earlier in the week, so they told me they were going to treat me as if it were positive and put some penicillin in my IV. Some of my family showed up to come hang out with us and bring Shawn some food. After about an hour and a half, they came and checked me again and I was still at a 5. The nurse left the room and came back after a little bit and told me that the doctor on call (because mine was out of the office for a few hours) said that because I was still so early, they didn't want to do anything to progress my labor and if I hadn't progressed on my own in the next 2-3 hours, they may just send me home. ACCA-SCUSE ME?! I immediately started panicking about getting my epidural taken away, much less having to go back home while I'm dilated to a 5 and almost completely effaced. Did they WANT me giving birth on my kitchen floor?! I immediately started pep talking/threatening my vagina to do her damn job.
The next several hours were pretty uneventful. It reminded me a lot of all the waiting around we did when I was induced with Eli. Although at least that waiting wasn't overshadowed by the sheer dread that they might rip my drugs away and send me home. At one point during the waiting, my actual doctor showed up and explained, again, that they didn't want to do anything to further progress my labor and if my lady didn't cooperate, they'd take away my epidural and send me upstairs. Now, upstairs is better than back home. But they were still threatening to take away my drugs which made me feel a little stabby. Even with the epidural, I was still feeling contractions. Not nearly as bad as before I had drugs coursing through my body - but I could definitely feel them, more on one side than the other. And it wasn't for a lack of me pressing the magic "MORE DRUGS" button or switching which side I was laying on.
My epidural continued to progressively stop working and the contractions were getting worse as I waited.
Around 2, the moment of truth arrived in the form of my nurse gloving up to check my progress. The first thing I heard my nurse say from down there was, "Well, there's your bloody show. Something's happening down there." She told me I was at an 8 and fully effaced. They decided they were okay to go ahead and break my water. Oh, you mean you don't want to SEND ME HOME?! Grumble. It was going to be go time soon, and I was ready to have the contractions over with. They were trying to get the epidural re-filled, or something at this point. I honestly don't even remember. All I remember is that the nurse didn't sound like she knew what the hell she was doing and kept paging random people to figure out some kind of code? Meanwhile, I was feeling the contractions pretty full force at this point.
My doctor came in around 3ish to deliver the baby and saw me clinging to the bed rail for dear life and asked if I wanted the anesthesiologist to come back and re-dose me. I nodded an emphatic yes. He came and gave me another dose and said it should be working in about 5ish minutes? (Or some other amount of time. Heck if I can remember.) I do remember that it still wasn't completely working when he said it would be, and I was starting to panic about having to feel a baby rip through my loins. Like Eli, Grace was posterior as well. So they had me lay in a funky position for a bit to try and get her to flip.
As I was getting close to delivery time, my nurse asked me if I wanted the drug man to come back and I told her if it was an option, I'd take all the drugs they'd give me. He came back pretty quickly and gave me some super drug that totally deadened my legs and while I could still feel the contractions a little but it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been. It came time to start pushing, and I honestly couldn't even tell if I was even pushing the right way. The doctor assured me that I was doing just fine. Which, in my mind, translated as, "Yeah, you're crapping on the table. Atta girl!" After a couple pushes, I got totally emotional out of no where. I couldn't stop thinking about Eli and how he wasn't going to be my only baby anymore and I was worried about how he'd handle everything. I was worried about everything being okay with my month-early baby as the NICU team stood in the background ready to whisk her away. And I was just really, really tired.
I pushed for about 3 or 4 sets and she finally flipped and after a couple more pushes...
It took her what felt like an eternity to cry - but really, was only probably a couple seconds. And as soon as she did, I was sobbing. The NICU team took her over to the table to measure her and all that stuff. She was 6'13 and 20 inches long - which, for a baby that was a month early, is pretty good-sized. When my doctor pulled her out, she was pretty surprised at how big she was. She easily could have been a 9-10 pounder had I gone full term, or even to 39 weeks. So, thanks for that, Grace. I managed to get away with a teeny tiny 1st degree tear (which has made recovery stuff incredibly more comfortable than it was with Eli.)
They brought her back to me and let me just hold her and do skin-to-skin for about 45 minutes before they took her to the NICU to monitor her.
She passed all her NICU "milestones" like a champ, and was back to me later that night in all her perfect, newborn splendor.
Ever since I got pregnant with Grace, I had a pretty strong feeling that she'd come early. I always just figured that was just me hoping she'd come a little early, so I didn't have to wait as long. I never expected her to be a whole month early. Turns out my momtuition is pretty on point. I thank God every day that it all turned out alright, and that she was and continues to be perfectly healthy. Eli is the cutest with her and has acclimated just fine to having a little sister. I'm pretty darn grateful for my little family. As I think back on how hard we fought to get these kids here, I can't help but feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude and love for both of them. I am so unbelievably blessed to be a mother. It's everything I've ever hoped for and then some. And because it's starting to sound like I'm about to break out into song, let's go ahead and end this ridiculously long post with a nice little video of BIRTH. Weeeeeee!