Warning: Births are dramatic and messy. If you think birth stories are gross, don't read this one. :)
I'd had a lot of cramping in the weeks coming up to the delivery and was nearly halfway dilated at the checkup appointment the day before I actually went into labor, so we knew it was imminent. Halfway through the pregnancy I was so uncomfortable that I thought I would die if I went all the way to my due date, but really my comfort level was a lot higher on most days in that last month, and we were having a relaxing week since I was done working and we were having sweet family time together. I was still certainly ready to have that baby out (and I really prefer her out!). As we approached the due date I wondered if I'd actually have two kiddos born on their due date.
I also knew that second labors are usually faster than the first ones, and that I tested positive for this certain strep virus thing. It's something that most of us carry on our body, dormant, but that can infect a baby during delivery and be very harmful. They've dramatically reduced that problem by having all women that test positive for the virus be on antibiotics (penicillin) for 8 hours before the baby is delivered. So, I needed to come to the hospital immediately in order to get on the antibiotics.
The day before my due date I woke up at 6 am when Isaac left the house for an early morning guys Bible study down at our church. I laid in bed, feeling some mild cramping like I'd been feeling for weeks, thinking that it would just be so ironic if I went into labor when Isaac was 45 minutes away. The cramping seemed pretty regular but I couldn't tell if it was real or not yet. A trip to the bathroom revealed the mucus plug, but wikipedia told me that labor could still be days away. I texted Isaac to be on alert and keep his phone on him. By 7:30 I texted Isaac and told him I thought he'd better come home because my cramping was quite regular and actually becoming painful, not just uncomfortable. I got Judah ready to go, showered, got our bags ready, and breathed through the contractions. This is us, on our way out the door!
By the time we got to the hospital, passed Judah off to our friend Lauren in the parking lot, and checked in at 9:30, the contractions were good and painful. The nurses looked at me doubtfully when I walked up between contractions quite comfortably, saying I didn't look like I was in labor and I also didn't look big enough to be ready to deliver. A call to my doctor sent them all scurrying to hook me up to antibiotics, and revealed that I was 6 cm dilated (I'd been 4 the day before and 10 is fully dilated, so I was moving right along). Between 9:30 and 11 am I labored as they checked me in, hooked me up, and waited for the doctors and next steps. The last hour was very painful, fighting through intense pain with Isaac holding my hand and the nurses coaching my breathing. I threw up as I transitioned into that hard stuff - I did last time too. It's the body's response to the physical shock of labor.
This stage was much more painful than last time, where I had an epidural kick in just before labor got intense and so I never experienced the rough stuff. This time it felt really rough. There's a little monitor that they hook you up to that shows the contraction spiking, and the intense contractions were right on top of each other and spiking to the top of the chart. When the guy came that administered the epidural, I was immensely glad to feel that pain lessen! I feel quite proud of myself now, because at that point they checked me and were startled and said that I was completely dilated and nothing was holding in the baby except the bag of waters. So, essentially, I went through all the work of laboring to the end, BEFORE receiving the painkillers.
However, this is where I became an unusual case. My water still hadn't broken. The baby was there, my body fully dilated, but still the baby was encased in an intact amniotic sack. The nurse said she'd never seen that before, and because they really wanted me to be on the antibiotics for 8 hours before I delivered (though it was doubtful that I'd make it that long), there was no reason to go ahead and deliver yet. I was now peacefully numbed by the epidural and the baby seemed fine, so they let me continue to labor while waiting for the water to break. I sat there with Isaac for maybe 30 minutes, peaceful, surreal, telling stories, messaging family, and waiting for the last stage.
This was the crazy part. Everyone went scurrying suddenly when we realized I was a beginning to deliver an intact amniotic sack. Literally it was a balloon-like bag of amniotic fluid, but the baby still inside and the bag intact. I had about five nurses standing there marveling, none of them had ever seen anything like it. Apparently most women have very tender bags of waters, and it's very unusual to have the sort of strength and tension to actually hold up to any sort of pressure on its own. Lots of giggles and oohs and ahhs and so, so weird and surreal! The doctor finally rushed in and just afterwards my water finally broke. Then they just told me that when the next contraction hit I should push. Last time, with Judah, I pushed for 30 minutes with everything I had. This time around we waited a moment for one to hit, I gritted my teeth and pushed (it's a bit weird, it's hard to know exactly where to push or which muscles to use), and Isaac gasped and said, "The head is out!", but he says by the time he got that phrase out the whole body had actually delivered, and again the room was filled with nurses exclaiming that I was not the normal case and it was so fast!
Elly was blue and squalling and slippery and was laid on my stomach, and Isaac and I looked at each other in awe - it was all SO fast, it felt like a dream. She was there, already? I was laughing and marveling at this sticky wailing baby on my stomach, and we were thrilled that they gave us a couple of hours with her in the delivery room before taking her off to get a bath and sit in the warmer because she was so cold.
Total labor was maybe five and a half or six hours, and wonder of wonders, I didn't tear at all. Last time around it took a full day before I could stand up without help and I had extensive stitching that was painful for weeks. It's been a week and a half and I feel like normal.... amazing. Little Elly gave me a rough pregnancy but an easy delivery! She was just gorgeous, even at the beginning. Cheeks like Judah's. Dark hair. 7 lb 3 oz, so smaller than Judah.
I really liked this hospital, actually. The ratings online were pretty bad, but when we went in for a tour we found out they'd rebuilt and upgraded the labor and delivery section last year and everything they said about their policies seemed more mama/baby friendly than Medical City Dallas was last time around. Medical City was fine, but almost too fancy, you know? They're a slick machine, but I liked the personal feel of this hospital, and that's what I felt during our time there as well. They were people, I was a person, not a patient, and it was more personal with a lot more time with baby and less worry about little things. We also picked it because the hospital was supposed to be a bit cheaper, and if all was well they'd let us check out after one night instead of two. Since the hospital stay is by far the most expensive part of delivering, we wanted that. So, I was very happy with that experience.
The craziest part was trying to juggle Judah. I long for family nearby but was really thankful to have friends take Judah on the day I delivered. After that Isaac took Judah home at night and for naps, and I'd be alone with Elly in the hospital. Given that I was really processing the new news that Elly has a cleft palate, and trying to figure out feeding with a cleft palate (more on that later), it was actually nice to have hours of silence with just me and the baby. Processing, sleeping, praying, snuggling this little one, skyping with family.... there was peace. When Judah was in the room he was delighted with Elly but also a typical Judah whirlwind, making it difficult to talk to doctors or hold the baby peacefully.
We had talked a lot about "our baby" coming, wanting him to feel like he was a part of this and had ownership as well. He seemed to know what was going on and Isaac said he was super excited to see Elly through the glass in the nursery when Isaac first brought him in. He ran up to see her saying, "Baby Honey, baby Honey?" Elly comes out "honey", which is totally adorable. He was too scared to hold her at first, though, he'd just sit near and marvel, and when she cried he'd get worried. "Baby cry? Honey, you ok?"
So, here we are, adjusting to live as a family of four. More to come...
Also, Judah's birth story is here, and my post on the first two weeks of motherhood with Judah is here. I'll write about the transition to motherhood of two in the upcoming weeks!