I went to bed on the evening of May 3rd with a terrible backache.
It was my own fault, really. I should have known better than to walk that hard being nine months pregnant. But I was already two days past my due date and was ready to have this baby yesterday. So I made Tripp walk with me around the apartment complex. And we walked hard. I’m sure I looked completely ridiculous – like a giant walrus waddling along the sidewalk. And the whole time we walked, I was swinging my arms back and forth in the hopes of agitating my unborn child such that she might find the comfort of my womb a little less hospitable. By the time we got home, I could barely move and the 30 pounds of pregnancy weight I had gained felt more like 130 pounds.
I was so miserable that night and could not get comfortable in bed. I flipped and flopped like a beached walrus just trying to find a position where it didn’t feel like there was a championship game of tug of war going on between the left and right sides of my lower back. As I lay there refereeing the match, I went over all my mental lists: Hospital bag packed? Check. Baby’s room ready? Check. Wall sockets and cupboard doors baby-proofed? Check. Oven cleaned? Check.
After about an hour of tossing and turning I got up and made myself a glass of chocolate milk. I stood there in our tiny kitchen looking over our apartment to make sure everything was spotless. Earlier in the week my nesting instinct had kicked into overdrive and I cleaned the apartment, organized all the drawers and cupboards, and made sure all the laundry was done and put away. Feeling assured that our apartment was now fit for the newest member of the family (if she would ever come!), I waddled back to bed and snuggled my aching back against my snoring husband.
Around 2:30 I woke up in pain. It wasn’t just an ache anymore; it was like I had a crow bar in my lower back trying to pry apart my vertebrae. I took a couple of deep breaths. And when that didn’t help, I reached over and woke up Tripp. As if on cue, he started massaging my lower back – during the last month of my pregnancy, he had gotten used to my frequent requests for lower back rubs. I lay in bed for another 30 minutes or so, but the pain wasn’t any better. In fact, now the back pain had started travelling in waves around my hips and up to my belly. At this point, Tripp suggested that I call my mom.
The phone only rang once, and when my mom answered, she confirmed my suspicion that I was having contractions and suggested that we get prepared to go to the hospital. So Tripp got up and showered while I stayed in bed and kept a mental note of the time between each wave of pain. Once he got dressed he looked at me and said, “Well…what do you think?” as if I had some clue about what we should do. Our dilemma was this – although we lived in Stillwater, our doctor and hospital were in Oklahoma City. My contractions were about nine minutes apart, but what if we make the hour-long drive to OKC and I’m not truly in labor? But if we waited too long, what if I went into labor in the car? The mental picture of Tripp trying to deliver our baby girl in the back of our Jeep parked on the shoulder I-35 was completely absurd, so I called my mom back (she probably already had one foot out the door anyway) and her advice was to go to the hospital.
So I got dressed and Tripp loaded the suitcase in the Jeep. He helped me into the passenger seat and adjusted the seatbelt around my swollen belly. And at 4:00 a.m. we set out for Mercy Hospital. Neither one of us said much on the drive down I-35. Tripp was driving like a bat out of hell and was intensely focused on the highway. We listened to the radio and I watched the clock keeping the time between contractions. Between contractions, I stared out the window thinking how millions of women have babies all the time and tried to assure myself that Tripp and I were no more unprepared than any other couple having a baby for the first time. Just as long as I didn’t go into labor on the side of the road. My contractions continued to get closer, and by the time we got to the hospital they were about eight minutes apart.
After we checked in, I was wheeled into my room. The nurse gave me a gown to put on, so being the modest girl I am, went to the bathroom to change. The nurse stood outside the door and asked me all kinds of personal questions such as how close my contractions were and when was the last time I’d had a BM. I thought to myself, “Who asks that kind of question except your mom or grandmother?” It was the first of many embarrasing experiences that day. After a few minutes, the impatient nurse tapped on the door asking if I was OK. I sheepishly told her that I thought my bladder was leaking because I had a trickle of water running down my leg. She walked in and took one look at me in tears trying to dry up the stream of water with a tissue. She said in the sweetest southern drawl, “Honey, that’s just your water breaking.” I was nothing like I had imagined. Nothing like the giant gush the way they depict it on TV. But then I was grateful that it didn’t trickle into front seat of our new Jeep.
Once I got changed, the nurse helped me into the hospital bed and then proceeded to check to see how far I had dilated – which was not much. I had a long way to go. About this time, Tripp’s mom got to the hospital and my mom arrived not too long after. My doctor paid a visit that morning around 8:00, looked at all the readings from the monitors and wires attached to my belly, determined that everything was proceeding normally, and told us he’d check on me a little later in the day. So for the next five hours I rode the waves of painful contractions and learned that modesty had absolutely no place in a labor and delivery room.
After lunch, the doctor came in to check on my progress. Things were moving along, albeit a little slower than he anticipated – my contractions were still around six minutes apart. In an effort to speed things along, he decided to manually break my water which elevated it from the innocent little trickle to a full on gush. In addition, a “pit drip” was administered for added effect. I just thought contractions I’d been having were painful, because after the procedure, they got a lot stronger and closer together and my labor had started to move along in a big, painful way. The only problem was that it was causing stress to my unborn baby, so they attached a monitor to the top of her head. And what I didn’t know at the time was that Tripp and Dr. Shanbour were having discussions in the hallway about what the next course of action should be if things didn’t start to improve.
Being incredibly naïve and having what I thought was a pretty high tolerance for pain (in addition to a healthcare plan without the benefit of maternity insurance), I had decided early on that I would try to deliver our baby without an epidural. I wasn’t trying to be a holistic martyr – I had no problem asking for more Demerol – I was just trying to save us a thousand dollars. But after another hour of excruciating contractions, Tripp decided that my pain was too much for him to bear and asked the nurse to send for the anesthesiologist. I swear when the doctor walked in with that ginormous needle, I thought I might pass out. And while sitting hunched over my enormous, throbbing belly while he administered the epidural I almost did. For starters, I was so scared that I was going to move or flinch and be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of my life. And to top that off, my contractions were so intense – sitting doubled over and compressed made the pain so much worse. It was the longest two minutes of my life, but once the anesthesia took effect, the sweet salvation of pain relief washed over my entire body. I lay back in my bed and thanked God for the miracle of anesthesia. And prayed that the hospital would forget to send us the bill.
During the course of the day, except for our mothers, we didn’t have any visitors until a little later that afternoon. My friends Debra and Kristi and my mom’s friend Kathy came to visit, and my dad arrived at the hospital around 3:00 with my grandparents in tow. And without the constant bother of painful contractions, it was much easier to visit with our friends and family. I was much more relaxed, to the point that I actually dozed off in the middle of a conversation with Kathy and Grandma, but unfortunately my relaxed state didn’t translate to my baby who was still showing signs of stress. And to make matters worse my blood pressure had dropped to a dangerously low level. While the nurses attended to my fluids, Dr. Shanbour came to check on us around 4:00. He was very concerned about our baby’s stress and had determined that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. He then directed the nurse to increase the pit drip in order to put my labor into high gear. Thankfully, I was painlessly oblivious to the intense contractions happening in my belly. The nurses started checking me every 20 minutes (by that time I had cast off my last shred of modesty) and by 5:00 p.m. I was 100% dilated and ready to deliver our baby.
One of the reasons we chose Mercy Hospital was because of their new (at that time) approach to labor and delivery. Instead of spending hours of labor in one room only to be carted off for delivery in another, everything happened in the one room. So when 5:00 rolled around and Dr. Shanbour showed up, it was go time. The delivery nurse arrived and at 5:00 the door to the room was locked and no one was coming in or going out. Even my dad – an old-school guy who would have much preferred to pace the floor in the waiting room with everyone else. Within just a few minutes, like a Transformer action figure, the bed in which I had spent most of the day getting through contractions morphed into a delivery room table complete with stirrups and quilted footrests. The doctor took his position while Tripp, Mom, Penny, and Daddy stood along either side of my bed. A mirror was also set up at the foot of the bed and angled for our viewing pleasure. Not surprisingly, my dad chose to stand outside the viewing angle.
In an effort to ease the tension in the room from the concern over our distressed baby, Dr. Shanbour joked that his son had a soccer game at 6:00 and that he would really like to have our baby delivered by 5:30. Everyone laughed a sigh of relief. Then he told me it was time to push. The delivery nurse instructed me take a giant breath and bear down to the count of ten. My cheerleaders counted aloud with me, and when I inhaled, they inhaled. We repeated the process a couple of times and then finally our baby’s head started to crown. A few more pushes – a few more two steps forward and one step backs – then finally her head emerged enough that Dr. Shanbour could untangle the umbilical cord from around her neck. Once that treacherous situation was handled, the rest of the delivery proceeded quickly. First her shoulders appeared, followed by her belly and then with one more collective inhale and one more giant push, our perfect, healthy, beautiful baby girl was born at 5:29 p.m.
For the past 18 years, I have watched our precious baby girl grow into a confident, diligent, and courageous young woman. She has always been a delightful, wonderful child and she has blessed my life in so many ways. Being her mother has been the most amazing, challenging, and fulfilling experience of my life and it has brought a profound richness to my life for which I will be eternally grateful.
Today I celebrate the day that this precious baby girl came into our lives and blessed our family.
Happy 18th Birthday Kelsey. I love you so much.