I love a birth story. All of 'em. From the scheduled C-section to the home birth in a bathtub, each story is a wonderful celebration of new life. No matter how many stories you've read, each one brings a new perspective because each story reveals something new about the amazing power of the human body. Plus, each baby gets ONE story - all his or her own. As a mother, nobody can change that story or take the experience away from you. Ever.
So this is Josh's story. It's quick, but it's all his.
Like Owen, the lead up to this birth was a little more involved than I would prefer. I had about a month of annoying contractions (felt like stretching across the top of my belly) and had dilated to 3 cm. With those things and my history with a tiny baby, I got some extra monitoring at the office and extra ultrsounds. On Monday's ultrasound we were thrilled to see that baby's growth had made good progress from 3 weeks earlier. Dr. Ackerman was optimistic that baby would hold on for two more weeks and should be "over 6 lb no problem." Great!
I was personally hoping to get past October 24 (Saturday) when we had a big birthday party for 7 of Owen's playgroup friends. So, we spent Saturday watching the Huskies get crushed by the ducks - boo! and I was thrilled to be at the birthday party (Pool Party!) with all our friends Saturday evening. It was great to get some water time to relax my muscles, and I was feeling good that we made it through Saturday without going into labor.
(this is where you would normally post the picture of your nine months pregnant belly, but, well that photo doesn't exist.)
Saturday night, Scott and I were watching the last 5 episodes of Season 3 of Weeds. I had my standard contractions sitting on the couch - annoying, but nothing new. Then, I thought I felt some MINOR leakage. Hmm... I told Scott that I didn't think my water had broken, but just wanted to give full disclosure in case something interesting came later. (Looking back, it was more of a gut instinct than any physical sign that got me to give him a heads up.) Of course, once I said something out loud, I wasn't going to hit the bed easily. Scott suggested I pack my hospital bag, just to give me something to do and see if I had any more contractions. Being up walking around, the contractions seemed to go away, so we went to bed about 10:45.
Over the next hour, I felt 4-5 contractions and realized that they were waking me up. I didn't think they were really noteworthy because they felt like low menstrual cramps, not the "top of the belly" contractions I'd been having for the last month. At 11:45, I realized that these WERE top of the belly contractions, COMBINED with stronger cramping pain, and probably worth paying attention to. They seemed too short to be worrisome, but Scott timed one anyway - 90 seconds. Wow! That got us talking and finally up and out of bed just after midnight.
Through this whole time, my mind was less on what might be happening to me and more on the fact that it was starting to get late to call someone to come spend the night with Owen. While our friends were on call and more than willing to help, I really didn't want to have to wake anyone up at 3 AM! We decided to start calling at 12:30. I grabbed the phone and Scott set to work packing his things and putting sheets on the guest bed. We made three phone calls to Alisha and Neil with no answer. By the third call, I was dialing and shoving the phone at Scott while I took deep breaths through the contractions. At 12:50, we got Julie on the phone (second call to Kevin's phone), and I was so relieved to hear "All right... I guess I'm on my way."
At this point, I was pacing the living room and calling out items for Scott to add to the car - contact lenses! Camera! phone chargers! Baby name book! In less than an hour we had gone from "Is this labor?" to active labor that required Scott's full involvement. It took us a few contractions to find our rhythm because we were both so caught off guard. I was telling Scott "say this, do that" and at one point said, "I am probably not going to be very nice to you for the next 12 hours, but I just need you to stick with me and not take it personally." That seemed to settle us both down and I ended up working through contractions in a standing position, with my head buried in Scott's chest, squeezing the life out of his fingers. He coached my breathing and shook my arms to release the tension after the pain... before dashing off to throw something else in the car.
Scott remembered to call the nurse hotline, to notify the doctor and hospital we were coming. I was anxiously watching for Julie's headlights. At this point, I started thinking that if these were early labor contractions, there was NO WAY I was going to manage a natural birth. And at the same time, with the level of discomfort, there was NO WAY I would be able to hold still for an epidural. (Post birth, Scott said he was having the same thoughts.) Julie walked in the door at 1:20 AM. We worked through three contractions while Scott got her oriented and then jumped in the car.
Thank goodness we are just a few minutes from the hospital. I only had to do one (blessedly short) contraction in the car. We parked, I did one contraction against the car door and panickedly told Scott I thought I needed to push... "Don't Push! Let's go!" was the reply. I was like that classic movie scene where the woman walks in the hospital and gets raced down the hall in a wheelchair. The poor security guard was a little freaked out by a laboring woman - probably the fastest he's pushed a wheelchair in a long time. The birth center nurses met us in the hallway and joined Scott in the chorus of "don't push - breathe!" while I was wheeled into the closest birthing room.
From there, it was a sea of hands and blue scrubs. Belly monitor, blood pressure cuff, internal exam, and an attempted IV - didn't work. Through this, Scott was awesome - kept making me open my eyes and focus on him and breath instead of whimper and push. The nurse announced that I was completely dilated, but my water hadn't broken. Dr. Howell raced in the room - fully gowned up because she was prepping to deliver a different woman down the hall. After a short debate, they decided that woman could wait (Sorry!) and Dr. Howell would deliver our baby first. Good choice - there was NO WAY I was waiting. I remember Dr. Howell saying, "This is why I sleep at the hospital."
(At our 2 day follow-up visit to the hospital, I actually got to meet that other mom and her new daughter, born 12 minutes after Josh. I told her I owed her a big thank you for being in labor ahead of me to get the doctor ready and apologized for making her wait. Crazy!)
They got me in position and Dr. Howell broke my water. Sweet relief! All that pressure was eased up and Scott actually had a chance to pull out the camera and take a breath. Scott asked for a squat bar because that helped me push with Owen's birth, but the Dr and nurses were convinced that this baby would come quick. I was skeptical - Owen took 2 hours. I gave a moderate pushing effort on the next contraction to get myself oriented. The next contraction, I pushed for real and was shocked to feel the baby on his way out. Head, shoulders, arms and legs... and a pink, wiggling, screaming baby was on my chest. 1:48 AM - less than 2 hours after getting out of bed and less than 20 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. I was in total awestruck disbelief - screaming and laughing with joy.
Scott and I spent the next several hours in total shock. After Owen's delivery, we were both exhausted, but this time we were on an adrenaline high. Most of the nursing staff cleared out, we turned down the lights, and baby set to nursing like a champ. It took about an hour to get the scale in our room because it was with that other baby down the hall. During the time we were convinced this baby was bigger than Owen. Of course, the scale told the real story - another one at 5 lb 2 oz. Apparently I grow babies in only one size.
It took us about 18 hours to settle on a name: Joshua Todd Maxwell
Small, healthy, pink, and wiggly. Beautiful in every way.
I would wish this labor and delivery for ANY mama. Crazy fast and stressful, but over before you have time to process what's happening. One of the nurses said we're welcome to deliver at St Charles anytime. They love those fast deliveries. Of course, they also told us that if we ever decide to have another one, it might be a good idea to just head to the hospital as soon as we think we MIGHT be in labor. Dr. Howell told us later that she had three deliveries that night - all were early babies, and all were less than 7 pounds. Something with the moon?