Before Meredith was born, she was already making me crazy. About halfway through the pregnancy, I started having contractions. As the months went by, these contractions increased in intensity. And I had horrible heartburn, which was way more painful than the contractions. I was going to school in the evenings at the time, and I decided to stop going to classes temporarily because I couldn’t concentrate when my throat felt like it was on fire and my uterus felt like a sponge. By the time I quit school, I was starting to get aches in my inner thighs that made getting off the couch a major chore.
Nana came to visit from December 23rd until January 10th. We knew it was quite possible Meredith wouldn’t come until after she left, since her due date wasn’t until January 21st. But Nana left and no baby came. By then I was pretty grouchy. Mark and I spent Saturday cleaning the house after we got back from the airport. We got Kyle’s dresser set up so we could use the baby dresser for Meredith’s clothes. Mark moved the playpen into our room.
Then I woke up suddenly Sunday morning at 5:30 am. I hadn’t even gotten up when I felt a gush of fluid. I couldn’t ask for a more obvious sign. No doubt about it, I was going to have a baby and soon. But I still had a hard time processing the idea that she was really coming, after all this time and after so many false alarms. She really meant it this time!
I woke Mark up to tell him what had happened. Liam woke up, too, and didn’t want to go back to sleep. I sure couldn’t. I had a couple of strong contractions almost immediately, but then they stopped. So I spent a few hours with Liam and waited. At 8:00, I called Grandma. She wasn’t awake yet, but Grandpa let her know what was happening and she came at about 10:00. Mark went back to sleep. Part of me wanted to run to the hospital, but the other part knew I didn’t need to. I told Mark to go ahead and shower and eat breakfast since it probably would take awhile. And it did.
We left for the hospital around 10:30 and got there at about 11:00. But once I got there, I didn’t want to go in. I knew doctors liked for ladies to have their babies pretty quickly after their water broke, and I didn’t want them to put me on a clock. So we walked around the hospital a couple of times. We sat by the waterfall and read our books. Finally I decided to check in at about noon.
We took the elevator to the fourth floor. No one was at the maternity desk. No one was at the labor and delivery desk. We pressed a button and they buzzed us in, and I told them I was here to check in. “Oh, are you a scheduled induction?” they asked. I don’t think women in labor usually walk up to the desk so calmly.
They took me to a room that looked like your typical emergency room and gave me a gown. The nurse came and checked my fluid to make sure that yes, it really was amniotic fluid. The test strip was as blue as blue can be. So they called Catherine, my midwife, and found me a room. They had my birth plan in their hands, all ready. They told me she’d come in a few hours, and in the meantime, I could walk to encourage the contractions.
And walk I did. Mark and I walked around and around and around the fourth floor of that hospital. I put my running shoes on and probably burned a hole in that carpet. Mark got tired of walking after a while and so I walked by myself. They had to monitor me about once an hour, so I’d walk for about half an hour, go back to the room, put the monitor on, take it off, and go walking again.
Cathy came to see me and she was concerned that my labor wasn’t progressing much yet. I had come into the hospital dilated to a 4 and was only at a 5, and hours had passed. But she knew I didn’t want to be induced. So I walked some more.
The contractions started to get a little stronger, so that I had to stop walking and hold onto Mark for each one. I wasn’t walking quite so fast.
And yet, things still moved slowly. It was dark out and it felt like I had been at the hospital forever. We’d raided the kitchenette for juice and popsicles and I was still there. The nurses changed shifts. I heard nurses down the hall counting for some other patient who was obviously pushing her baby out. I started to cry. “Why is this taking so long?”
By about 8:45, Cathy was back and I was moaning. She measured me again and found me at a 6. She’d already told me she was getting concerned that things were going so slow because of the risk of infection. The doctor had told her that 10:00 was the absolute latest I could go without Pitocin, and she didn’t want my labor to be dragged out too long. Finally I just gave in. She promised they would start me small and see what effect it had.
She left and the nurse got ready to put in the tube. I started shaking. “Am I in transition?” I asked the nurse. She said I might be. “Are you cold?” she said. “No, I’m just shaking,” I said. Once I started shaking, I couldn’t stop, which makes relaxation a challenge. She put the tube in. “I think I need to push,” I said.
“You need to push?”
“Not yet, but soon.”
“You want me to measure you?”
I was at a 9. They called Cathy in. Pretty soon there were lots of nurses in the room with me, and this is where my memory is murky. Lots of people were giving me directions. Mark was at my shoulders, rubbing them to keep them from getting tense. I had no idea what I wanted except to be done. Someone wanted me to relax my legs. Someone else wanted me to pull my legs up. I just wanted to scream. Finally Cathy yelled out, “Listen to me!” I did.
She told me to hold my breath and push toward the pain. It hadn’t occurred to me to do that, since screaming seemed like the most sensible thing at the moment. But I did what she said. I remember her telling me that the baby was coming and that this part was going to hurt the worst, but that I was almost done. So I pushed and then I said, “Can I stop now?” She said yes. I couldn’t believe it. I was really done.
“There’s a baby down there!” I said. They picked Meredith up. Cathy handed the scissors to Mark and he cut the cord, and then they put that wet, sticky baby right on my tummy. They checked her out as she was lying there. They wanted to weigh her, but I didn’t want them to take her away. But, since they had to change my sheets anyway, I let them take her for just a second. And then she was mine for a whole hour. I guess they did her shots when they took her to the nursery—I don’t know. But the best part was that I got to hold her for a whole hour, and they didn’t take her away. She opened her mouth and turned her head within about a minute. “She’s hungry! Can I feed her right now?” And I did. I think she must be related to me. “I’m here. Time to eat!”
After that hour, they took her to the nursery, and Mark went along. They washed her and put a bow on her head. They took me away to another room. It seemed like it took forever until they brought her back. When they did, all she wanted to do was eat, eat, eat. She ate for several hours with hardly a break until morning.
We came home from the hospital Monday night and put her in the playpen in our room to sleep. I am so glad Meredith came to us. I love staring at her little face. I have a unique feeling of connection with her because she’s my daughter. She’s this other woman-child that came from my body who sleeps just inches away from my face. I’m excited to see who she will become, but I’m also excited for the now moments I have with her when everyone else is sleeping and it’s just Mama and Meredith, getting to know each other through blinking, sleepy eyes.