I worked on March 5th. I had an email early in the day, asking if I wanted to move my office sooner, rather than later. You see, we had been looking for a new office space, and finally found one, and it was ready. I decided moving offices would be better than sitting at my desk with swollen feet, and if I was really lucky, maybe I would go into labor.
I started by driving to the new office space, and right around noon, as I parked the van, I felt… a cramp. It was mild, but it was there, and I hadn’t had any cramping until that point. I texted Skip that I had a cramp and I hoped it continued!
I checked out the office space, got a key, and then headed to Office Max to get some file boxes for moving, as well as some office supplies for my intern/fill-in for when I went on maternity leave.
I got back to the office, my intern was there, and I suddenly had no interest in moving offices. I had no interest in much of anything, really.
I worked for a while and eventually felt like I wanted/needed to go home. I told my intern I was stepping out early to rest, and as I was leaving, she said she felt like I was going to go home and have that baby…
I went home and laid down. I had a few more cramps, but nothing too promising. At dinner time, I just wasn’t really hungry. I ate some potatoes and nothing else. I spent the rest of the evening being crabby that nothing was happening.
We went to bed around 11 pm, and as usual, I couldn’t sleep. My restless legs were bugging me, and my contractions were getting annoying. I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions up to 10 minutes apart since about 33 weeks, so that wasn’t anything new or exciting, either.
A little after 1 am, I was still laying there awake when I felt a weird popping sensation in my lower belly. I’ve heard women say it felt like a pop when their water broke, but they also said it was followed by a gush. Well, I never had any “pop” when my water broke with Calista (which happened at 1 am the day she was born) and there was no gush. I laid there and waited for something – anything – but nothing was happening.
I decided to go to the bathroom and when I got there, a very small drip came out of me, and when I turned on the light, it was tinged pink. It wasn’t a trickle, it wasn’t a gush, it was a drop about the size of a half dollar there on the bathroom floor, but I knew that pink color from when my water broke with Calista. I called to Skip that I was pretty sure my water broke and he jumped out of bed.
I used the toilet and a bit more fluid tinged with pink came out and I was sure. And then, very much unlike my experience with Calista, contractions started. They hurt and they were coming two minutes apart. I was not expecting it to come on that fast!
I called the doula, who told me to wait an hour and call her back. I texted our friend who was to take the kids, and got no reply. We called her cell phone and got no reply. We called her house and got no reply. I called our birth photographer and got no reply. I was getting a little concerned that our support was nowhere to be found!
Now Skip and I don’t recall how or when it happened, but we did get a hold of P, who was coming to take the kids, and she arrived around 2:45 am. In the meantime, I’d used the bathroom a few more times and when I did, there was quite a bit of fluid coming out and it was blood-tinged. My contractions were getting difficult to deal with. I called the doula back.
Since the contractions were already 2 minutes apart, I was scared we weren’t going to make it to the hospital in time (how wrong I was) and I told our doula we were leaving. She said she’d meet us there.
We got there at about 3 am and Skip dropped me off at the door and went to park the van. I probably had 3 contractions in the short time it took to give my name and address (we were pre-registered at the hospital, so there was no long, drawn-out check in process). They got me to a room and checked me, which was met with another HUGE gush of fluid. I was a whopping 2 cm.
Skip and J (our doula) helped me labor. It was intense. Much more painful than I recall with Calista, and I think in part it was because it was not gradual like her labor was – it came on FAST. I started with the birth ball. With every contraction, another huge gush of fluid came. My gown was soaked so I took it off. They kept changing those blue pads – “chucks pads” – as I was soaking everything. My crazy huge belly decreased dramatically in size as I kept losing fluid.
Skip and J got me in the tub and it was so helpful. But I was still in a lot more pain that I recall ever having with Calista. Contractions were starting to come one on top of the next. The lack of breaks was really breaking me down.
When talking about our hopes for birth, I said I didn’t want an epidural – never had one with Calista – and we had a code word I had to say. If I ever said the code word, they would know I was serious about wanting pain relief.
Another thing we discussed were the stages of labor, and we learned that as a woman reaches transition (going from 8 to 10 cm) she generally gets to the “I can’t do this” stage and that is when she needs the most encouragement.
So there I was, in the tub, in excruciating pain and saying I couldn’t do it. I kept looking at Skip saying, “Help me…” And, true to all we knew about labor and had discussed, they started really encouraging me to keep going. And the more encouraging they were, the ore I wanted drugs. I just could not keep going.
I said I wanted to be checked. J asked me what my number was, meaning how many centimeters did I need to hear to keep going. I said 10 cm was my number and they checked me… I was at 4 cm.
I knew at this point I couldn’t do it. Whatever was different in Calista’s labor was gone from this labor and I needed a break. It was about 5:30 am, I hadn’t slept in 22.5 hours, I hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours and I was in so much pain. No amount of counter pressure was helping my back labor, and I was at the point where I was literally slapping nurses hands when they tried to touch me to put a monitor on or anything else.
I kept asking Skip for drugs, for help. No one was giving in. Then I knew I had to do it. I had to say the “code word” we’d agreed on, the word that I had to say before I could have pain meds. I looked at Skip and said I wanted the drugs, and do I have to say it? Cupcakes. Give me the fucking cupcakes. There, I said it. CUPCAKES! Help me, please.
They got me out of the tub and to the bed. The anesthesiologist got there about 7 am. He was asking me questions and was pissing me off. The nurses were touching me and I was slapping hands away. I just needed help!
I finally got the epidural around 7:30 am and first, I will say that the relief was instant. And amazing. I could feel the tightening of the contractions, the pressure of Shiloh’s head in my pelvis, but the pain was gone. But then it got weird. Weird in a way that unless you’ve ever delivered without an epidural, you might not notice it. What happened was the the doula went to take a nap, Skip took a nap on the couch, and I was posting messages via my iPhone. The adrenaline, the anticipation, the teamwork… it was all gone. Now we were just sitting there, waiting.
I don’t regret that epidural for an instant. But I did feel guilty that I somehow ruined everyone’s experience. It felt like it was going to be so anti-climatic at that point, and it made me sad.
At about 9 am, I finally got a hold of the birth photographer. The ringer had been off on her phone and she felt so bad to have missed our call. She promised to put pants on and be right there. I took a nap.
At 10 am, I was 10 cm, but there was a “lip” of cervix left, and it needed to “melt away” (efface) fully before I could deliver. It was suggested that I lay on my side to get baby’s head to put pressure on it and make it go away. Then it was suggested I do some pushing to push her head onto my cervix to get it to go away, so push I did.
It wasn’t until about 12:30 pm that I was deemed fully dilated and fully effaced and ready to deliver. I laid on my back. I used the squat bar. I was on all fours. I was on my side. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed with all I had and she just was NOT descending into my pelvis.
The doctor went back to his office for a while, which was literally across the street from the hospital. Our amazing nurse, I, went on break and a different nurse came in. I was pushing and the nurse said, “But you’ve had a cesarean before!” and we all kind of thought, “Yeah, so?”
She said she had to get the doctor in the room and she was going to call him. J told the nurse the doctor KNEW I have had a cesarean before and he JUST left. He was aware, and we were fine. But the nurse left to make her call. We pushed without her, and the doctor didn’t return despite the nurse’s call. The nurse never came back, either. Our lovely nurse, I, was back after that.
They had me rest so as not to wear myself out with attempts at pushing here and there. They thought maybe she was malpositioned, preventing her from coming into the birth canal.
Around 4 pm, Dr. H came by to check on us, and said we were “getting down to the brass tacks”. It was his way of saying a c-section was imminent. And then he left. And I kept pushing every way I could.
He mentioned a c-section another time or two, and left both times afterward. I kept pushing.
Finally, I and J showed me a picture of a woman in a position – which had a name that I can’t recall – and said I was going to push that way. That woman was flat on her back with her knees by her ears. I laughed. And then I and J hiked my knees to my ears and told me to push.
Push I did, and finally, someone exclaimed they could see hair! Holy mary, this kid was FINALLY coming out! Someone called the doctor back in, and he told me because she had a large abdomen (I had an ultrasound at 34w5d), he wanted me to keep pushing once her head was out, so she didn’t get stuck.
Her head came through my pelvis and she was crowned, and she stopped there. The pressure was excruciating. And lucky me, my contractions were about 8 minutes apart at that point. So for 8 minutes, her big head was lodged half-in and half-out of my pelvis and everyone is sitting around chit chatting… I wanted to scream!
The next contraction came and holy hell did I push. I was not going to wait another 8 minutes like that. Dr. H said, “Sommer! Look down!” and I said I couldn’t see anything over my belly.
He said, “Look! Look! Grab her!” and then I saw her face and hands over her head as Dr. H lifted her partway. I grabbed her under her arms and brought her to my chest in the most intense moment – it was pain, relief, excitement, love and so many other things rolled into one. And there she was, laying on my chest with those big chubby cheeks. It took her a second to figure out what was going on and decide to cry, and it was completely perfect.
It turned out the reason I had so much trouble getting her to descend into the birth canal was because she wasn’t face down as babies traditionally arrive. She wasn’t in the slightly more complicated face-up position, either. Oh, no, she was facing my left leg!
Shiloh Everly Cronck joined our family at 5:42 pm on March 6, 2013. She weighed 7 pounds 13 ounces and was 20″ long. She was my longest pregnancy at 38 weeks, my longest labor at 16.5 hours and my biggest baby.
Here is a “sneak peek” photo taken by our most amazing friend and photographer, Tiffany Burke:
The story doesn’t end here, so there will be a part two coming soon…