Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Hannah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.
When I was thirteen weeks pregnant, I had a surgery done to help keep Hannah from being born super early. During surgery, the doctor tied two stitches through the cervix to add extra support. This helped the boys make it to 35 weeks (Paul – 35 weeks and Elijah – 35 weeks and six days) and we were hoping for similar results this time around. During my other pregnancies, those stitches were not removed until after my water broke and I was in labor. It was a complicated and painful removal that I was dreading.
Due to a number of circumstances, I saw a variety of doctors this time. Finally, one doctor asked, “When is the plan to remove the stitches?” and I answered, as I had always been told, “Thirty-seven weeks”.
“Really?! That surprises me!” she answered. The doctor continued to explain that cerclages are difficult to remove during labor (which I already knew!) but not nearly as difficult to take out before labor. She suggested removing the stitches as early as my next appointment, and I was 33 1/2 weeks at the time. So we scheduled the next appointment for 35 weeks and two days, fully expecting to have our baby that very day.
The day came and Dan and I left the kids with Grandma while we headed to the office. I had been having painful contractions for ages and we were excited to meet our baby. In the office, another doctor expressed his hesitancy at removing the stitches so early. Then he checked and realized I was dilated to three already and decided to send me right to the hospital to have the stitches removed so that I would be there if labor took off quickly.
We made our way to the hospital and began a very frustrating afternoon meeting with various nurses and doctors and waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Despite our doctor’s phone call, the doctor on duty didn’t want to take the stitches out. It was too early. She never met with us but left us in our room to wait until the shift change. The shift change came and went, and our new nurse came in to introduce herself and tell us that she had no say in the decision, but that the doctors were arguing about what to do.
Finally a doctor came in, sat down, and began to explain in her best calm-down-the-flustered-pregnant-lady voice that I was too early. It was too soon to remove the stitches or we might go right into labor and have a 35 1/2 week preemie. We, of course, were fully prepared for this, expecting it actually. We discussed and argued. I didn’t want those stitches to tear through my cervix. I didn’t want to have to go through this whole afternoon all over again. Nope. She was firm.
However, I had been having contractions since I had arrived, and because I was “so” early, they wanted to keep me in the hospital for further monitoring of preterm labor. We argued this point more firmly. I had been having daily contractions for weeks. We didn’t expect to burst into labor that day, but were hoping to get those pesky stitches out before that actually happened.
The doctor wouldn’t budge, but sent us home with dose #1 of a two-part steroid shot for Baby’s lungs and told us to come back the next day for the second dose.
Twenty-four hours later I was back at the hospital, standing stunned in triage, because I had come in for my second shot and the nurse had told me to change into a hospital gown and get settled for some nice, long monitoring because I was having contractions before 37 weeks. I frantically texted Dan asking for backup, and “What do I do?!”. He hurried up to the room (I did not put the gown on) and we explained our situation as politely as we could, insisting that we did not want to spend another afternoon sitting in a hospital room. (Dan also brought in all four kids and didn’t try to manage them very well, just to make our point a little stronger.) Thankfully, the nurse kindly gave me the shot and sent us home.
The weekend passed and we set up a plan with our doctor to remove the stitches the following Monday (36 weeks, 0 days) in his office. We found babysitters and headed in for attempt #2. The procedure, which has taken anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour during and after my other labors, took probably 3 minutes. It was mildly uncomfortable, but so quick, and, just like that, we were on our way back home, wondering when Baby would come. The contractions started, picked up, then tapered off over the next several hours while we had dinner and played games with our babysitters. By 10:00 things looked pretty uneventful and we sent our friends home and headed to bed. We were amazed as day after day passed and no baby came.
On Thursday morning, I slipped on some ice and fell rather gently, into a seated position on the ground. Aware that you’re supposed to call if you fall during pregnancy, I called my doctor’s office and was sent back to triage for four more hours of monitoring. It’s not hard to imagine what happened. When the doctor’s saw that I was preterm and having contractions (36 1/2 weeks, a record for our babies), they told Dan I would be advised to stay 24 hours for monitoring. He firmly opposed them. “My poor wife does not need to be kept up all night in the hospital for contractions that she has been having for weeks!”. The hospital visits were getting old and the longer we stayed, the more frazzled I became, constantly at odds with every medical person we met. After three hours I was ready to beg them to send me home, stressed out, tired, wanting a nap in my own bed. They reluctantly agreed, and my last thoughts before my much-needed nap were about how bad I felt about arguing with the nurse and, probably, ruining her day.
By Friday night I was in significant pain, between the almost constant contractions, and a bigger baby than I’d ever carried before. She was entirely on the left side of my body, something every nurse we met with pointed out in amazement. The grumbly part of me was adamant that this was more uncomfortable than any “normal” pregnancy because I had just as much baby but only on one side. The trying-to-be grateful part of me sympathized with twin moms, because they have just as much baby on each side. The preemie mom in me was thrilled to be a couple days away from term. The pregnant mom in me wanted Baby to come out already.
Sunday afternoon, after a meager snacky lunch, I took a delightful nap and woke up to my water breaking. I spent the next hour in the bathroom waiting for Dan to get someone to watch the kids and prepare to leave. I was so excited, talking to the kids, asking them to help in various ways. Everyone was running around, guessing when Baby would be born, making all the preparations. My water broke at about 4:30 and by 5:30 we were in the car munching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches our baby sitter had sweetly thrown together for us on our way out the door.
In that hour, contractions hadn’t started and I was expecting another 5 1/2 hour labor. I insisted over and over that Dan stop at Chipotle on the way in to get us some food for after the delivery. He, sweet husband that he is, kept asking if I was sure, saying he felt bad leaving me in the car that long. The contractions picked up. Dan bought the burritos. As I waited for him to come out, I wondered if that decision had been a mistake. Even my speedly labors didn’t usually get this serious so fast.
We made it to the hospital, but I was mid-contraction when we pulled up to the door, so we waited it out. Meanwhile, two women were standing in the entrance watching and pointing. I seriously wanted them to go away. I was already in too much pain to have a conversation, even a brief one. They stayed. When I waddled up to the door, I learned that they were the doctors just coming on duty. “One of us will probably deliver your baby” I was told. They sweetly called up to triage and got me all checked in so I didn’t have to do a thing. Then they got me a wheel chair and left me with Dan.
In moments, we were in triage going through my long medical history with the nurse. Moments after telling her we were hoping for a natural delivery, she looked at the monitors and said, “I don’t like your baby”. (To be honest, I become quite a sarcastic little Mama Bear when I’m in labor, so the thought that immediately popped into my head was, “What do you mean you don’t like my baby?!? I don’t like you!”. Thankfully, I’m also shy and would never say a thought like that out loud, I think.) . She went on to explain that our baby’s heart rate was “flat”. The rate wasn’t changing during a contraction like it should. Baby could be sleeping, but something could be wrong.
Despite all my preparations, all my reading, all my logic, I was ready for them to wheel me into a c-section and save that little baby. Thankfully, Dan was clear-headed enough to ask a few questions and give me some advice. In minutes I had changed my position, Baby had woken up, and the heart was doing what they wanted. We were back on the path to a smooth delivery.
The nurse left us in the room to be monitored and we remained in triage for the next 45 minutes. Labor was getting intense. I kept telling Dan, “I don’t think I need to push yet, but they should probably get back in here”. I was seriously wondering if we were going to deliver that baby in triage without a nurse or doctor in sight. At 7:30, they checked me and said I was dilated to 6. Then they took my to my labor room. I must have been in transition at that point, or at least close, because I can’t remember if they wheeled me or if I walked. I remember saying there was no way I could walk at that point. I remember them offering me a stretcher. I remember going back in forth about what I wanted. I think I walked, but I honestly can’t remember.
We came into our labor room and our jaws almost literally dropped when we saw that we had the same nurse from the day I had fallen, the same nurse we had argued with for so long, the same nurse who’s day I had ruined. I hadn’t expected to ever see her again and there was an awkward moment for, I think, all of us. I went to the bathroom and came back to bed, answered a few questions, and asked for a big bean bag. Up to that point, I had just laid on my bed on my side, relaxing through the contractions, but now things were too intense. I climbed on the bed, and flopped, belly down, onto the bean bag between contractions. I had been telling Dan for a while, “I don’t want to do this.”, and “I just want this to be over”. He knew I was close and kept encouraging me in all the sweetest ways that I can’t remember anymore.
I had started to feel some pressure from the baby descending that only lasted as long as the contractions, so I hoped I was close. As soon as I was on the bed, they checked and said I was at seven, but almost eight. Things were so intense and I desperately wanted to be done. I was discouraged, looking at the clock, thinking about how a five and a half hour labor was still more than two hours away. “I don’t know if I can do this”, I thought, and “Oh God, help me!!!”, and those were my cues that I was almost there.
At Dan’s guidance, and the nurses agreement, the doctor was brought in. I was aware of Dan and the nurse talking, could hear every word, but couldn’t show it. I was in a zone, in a fog. They told me to turn onto my back (from all fours) to be checked again, but as I turned I felt that unmistakable and irresistible urge to push. I didn’t really push, but my body pushed for me. I knew my eyes were bulging out of my head when I looked up at Dan, so I shut them quickly (lest he laugh at me, which I couldn’t stand the thought of at that moment). He said something along the lines of, “Justine, if you can just wait a little…”, but there was no hope of that. I didn’t know if I had ever made it to ten, but every involuntary part of my body was pushing that baby out. Before I made it to my back I felt Baby’s head coming out. I was eager to not tear for once, so I tried my hardest to stop the pushing and count to ten. I made it to three, cheered my heroism, and pushed. A moment later it was over, they were placing her warm, wet body up into my arms.
That was all a moment. All one big, restrained push. I never made it to my back, but delivered in a kind of seated position. Later Dan told me his version. Only the nurse had gloves on when Hannah was born, so the nurse was the once to deliver her, which made her day, I’m pretty sure. She’d never delivered a baby before. The umbilical cord was wrapped around Hannah, so as soon as she was born, the nurse unwrapped it, causing her to sort of “flop” onto the bed. Then they handed her to me and we all found out she was a girl, which was a shock to me, as I thought she was a girl all along, and I’ve always been wrong before. 😀
The doctors and nurses in our room exclaimed over how cute she was, and assured us that they don’t say that to everyone, and guessed that she looked big enough that she might be over six pounds. When they weighed her an hour later, we found out she was closer to seven, and we got some funny looks when Dan and I exclaimed, “She’s HUGE!”.
And so, Hannah became a part of our family. After a couple days in the hospital, we were discharged together, my third take-home baby. She was our first take-home girl, our first baby who didn’t need jaudice treatment, and our biggest baby by far.
Hannah Grace Taylor
December 16, 2018
6 pounds, 12 ounces
20 inches long