This was my third child due in late June. This was actually the second child that was due specifically on June 23rd. And while it was never intentional (at least not by my own plans) for my children to have birthdays so close together, by the third time, I thought for sure I would finally have a baby on June 22nd.
Dad: "It's your father-in-law's birthday, you know."
Me: "Yes, Dad, I know."
Dad: "And it's your Pop's birthday, too."
Me: "I couldn't possibly forget."
So we celebrated DM's 2nd birthday, and there was no arrival. And a few days later, June 22nd came and went, and my latest little bundle did not make an appearance despite my utter exhaustion earlier that evening when I thought for sure I would be taking a trip to the hospital. Then my due date arrived, and again, there were no signs that labor would start.
I'm typically pretty patient about this natural process, knowing that there is nothing I can do to force it. But for weeks, this child had been pressing down on all sorts of parts that babies don't normally press down on unless they're preparing to show up, and I thought for sure this would be a pre-40-weeks birth instead of post. So the anticipation was driving me a little bonkers. And I was starting to wonder if our newest baby would show up on LE's birthday, which was only a couple of days away.
But I should have known better.
First, my children, they have minds of their own. They do things in their own time. They cannot be rushed unless they feel like rushing. I learn this lesson about 500 times each day; there's no way the child in utero would be any different. Second, my kids are "due date clusterers." That's my own term. They might not be perfectly "on time" but so far, none of them have arrived weeks ahead of or behind schedule. LE was two days late. DM was two days early. And this baby? He or she would probably be a clusterer, too.
This morning, I got up around 7 AM, with no signs of labor beginning. I curled back into bed because my maternity leave was starting and I didn't have to get up for work. A few minutes later, I felt LE climb into bed next to me on my right side, which was a little surprising because she typically will wake up, immediately ask for paper, and start drawing pictures. Then I heard DM over the monitor exclaiming, "Want to get out!" D must have gotten him because next thing I realized, he was curled against me on the left side. And while he normally doesn't do this, D climbed back into bed as well. And so the four of us just laid there, silent and comfortable in each other's arms.
I should have taken this as a sign.
Roughly around 8 AM, in a sleepy haze, I kissed DM on his forehead. And almost immediately, I felt the first real contraction. I had experienced months of Braxton Hicks contractions, but this, I knew, was different.
My doctor and I had a plan. I live almost twenty-five miles from the hospital, and with the Code 99 I experienced for DM, we didn't want to risk anything. So the plan was as soon as the first contraction hit, the kids would be immediately shipped off to one of their grandparents' homes (whomever was "on call" for that day/time), I would call the doctor, and D and I would head straight for the hospital. There would be no waiting until my contractions reached the "Rule of 4s and 5s." So that's just what we did. The kids were out of the house by 8:15 AM, barely in regular clothes and definitely without eating breakfast, off for a fun-filled day with D's mom. D was back by 8:30 AM. I hadn't gotten a hold of the doctor yet, but had packed up the few little items (hairbrush, deodorant, etc.) that needed to make its way into the suitcase. By 8:50 AM, we were on our way to the hospital, with me making phone calls between contractions to my doctor's office, the pediatrician's office (DM had his 2-year check-up scheduled, and well, that wasn't going to happen), and my father to let someone in my family know what was going on. I was admitted to the hospital by roughly 9:40 AM.
My labor with LE was roughly 9 hours long from the first contraction through her birth. Believe it or not, with DM, it was slightly longer, at approximately 11 hours from the first contraction (the Code 99 occurred simply because the 4s and 5s didn't happen until the last 2 hours, taking us all by surprise). So I figured I had about a half day of discomfort ahead of me.
I surprised myself with how quiet I got during contractions. I figured I'd be sobbing or screaming within a few hours. See, that was the other part of my plan. Despite the scariness of DM's extremely sudden natural birth (I didn't so much as have an IV in, seeing as how I wasn't even an admitted patient at the time he was born), my recovery was phenomenal. I was walking around within a couple of hours, and felt like I was back to my old self by the time I left the hospital. So as scary as it seemed, I opted to go natural again, this time on purpose.
Anyway, as I was saying, I got quiet during contractions. The nurse kept asking my pain level, and I don't think I said anything higher than a 5 out of 10 (I never do, in retrospect). She looked at me like I was crazy a few times, but I kept saying, "If this is what hurts me, then I won't be able to do this. So my pain has to be under a 5." She nodded, understanding what I was trying to say, and kept saying that I was doing awesome. I didn't feel awesome--I felt like I was just trying to survive--but I appreciated her sentiment. I warned her though, "I will scream once it's time to deliver. I don't do it on purpose, but I am definitely a screamer." She didn't believe me.
She should have believed me.
A little after noon, I was feeling like I had to push. The only reason I know it was a little after noon is simply because I found out after the fact that the woman in the room next to me delivered her baby at 12:06 PM, and the nurses kept saying they thought we were having a race for which one of us would have the baby first (she won). As soon as the doctor checked up on me, she confirmed that I could definitely begin pushing, and while I can't say this for sure, I think they thought it might take me a while.
I pushed for 17 minutes with LE. I pushed for about 1 minute with DM. No one timed me today. I'd be kind of afraid if they did, even though it would be significantly shorter than the average that they often talk about in birthing classes. But I know that while mentally it felt like hours, after about 10-12 pushes and tons of screaming (despite my nurse insisting in my ear, "Don't scream, don't scream, don't scream!", and me thinking, "How the hell do I not scream?" as very primitive yells were coming from the deepest parts of my diaphragm), my second little boy, EM, was born at 12:36 PM. (Yup, the other mother and her baby beat us by exactly 30 minutes.) Simply (simply? No, not simple at all) 4.5 hours, from start to finish, and I got to meet my awesome little guy.
While born all-naturally as planned, apparently his heart rate had dropped so they vacuum-assisted to help get him out a little faster. I didn't even know this was happening at the time, aside from the doctor and nurses commenting on this. But he was absolutely fine; his awesome APGAR scores, which matched exactly with his sister's and brother's, proved that. And while there were no drugs in my system as I delivered, they did administer a couple of medications (one was a direct shot of pitocin, and I'm not quite sure what the other was) that would help prevent blood clotting, which I guess is more likely to occur when it's not the first birth.
The day has been a blur. A blur of visitors, of nurses, of conversations, of presents, of hugs and kisses. I'm feeling immensely blessed, to have such an awesome family. And while it's not actually important in the grand scheme of things, I say a silent "thank you" that my children, with birthdays within six days of each other, all have their own special days to call their own.