It was July 9, 10:50 pm, and I was in hard labor.
Scott was due July 3rd. I was 44 years old, not 4 months away from my 45th birthday.
We were in St. Louis. The weather, which had stayed unseasonably, reasonably cool, had turned hot and muggy on July 4th.
My parents, who'd I'd requested not come to visit to meet the new baby and help out until at least July 17th had ignored me and come on the 3rd. Every few hours they'd ask if I felt "any 'activity' yet?" I'm convinced this delayed my labor.
At my July 3rd OB appointment the dr. said my dilation was 1 cm. This is what it had been the week before when she'd stripped my membranes. The baby was high, nowhere near engaging the cervix. This was the same condition when Connor was at 40 weeks, 1 cm dilation and nowhere near the cervix. In 1997 Connor was delivered via c-section after 15 hours of labor.
On July 9, the OB who'd been supportive of a vbac delivery, in a birthing tub, was beginning to waver. New research had been published that indicated that women attempting a vbac who were induced were much more likely to rupture their uteruses during delivery. Her face was expressionless when she said she wanted me to go to the hospital for a nonstress test. I saw her in the morning, went in for the nonstress test early in the afternoon, and saw the OB again that afternoon. She did an ultrasound in her office and said that I had enough amniotic fluid, barely. She laid her cards on the table. She wanted to schedule a c-section immediately, first thing next morning. She'd "lost enthusiasm" for my having a v-bac. There would be no tub birth. She said conditions weren't "favorable." I wanted another week to wait. She said she was going to be away in a week, and "there are certain things you don't hand off. You don't hand off a 44 year old woman who's had a prior c-section who is 2 weeks late with a baby who hasn't dropped." I compromised by asking for 2 more days.
I went home and cried, then called and scheduled the c-section for 2 days later. I whispered inwardly, "Scott, if you want to come the usual way, you're going to have to give us a sign." I was sick to death of my parents being there and begged them to go visit my brother in Ohio. I made arrangements for Connor's care during the birth. They wanted to take him with them to my brother's, but I really wanted him to be in St. Louis. He couldn't be at the surgery, but I wanted him to be able to bond after Scott's birth as soon as possible. I also wanted a week with Just. Us. Me, Gary, Connor, and Scott. I anticipated that there might be some difficulty introducing a new baby in a home where Connor had been an only child, and I wanted to do this without the complication and scrutiny of other people in the house. This was why I'd asked my parents to wait to come.
I'll admit I'd heard a rumor that Evening Primrose Oil gel-caps, inserted as a vaginal suppository, could bring on labor. I inserted 2.
My parents were going to leave the next morning. Exhausted and discouraged I took Connor to bed to nurse to sleep.
Suddenly I felt a huge, painful shift inside. I called, "Gary! Something's happening!" Connor said, "Did I do it?"
I went downstairs to the bathroom thinking my water may have broken, but there wasn't anything. But by the time I got back upstairs the contractions were so intense I couldn't talk. We called the doula, who offered to come over, but I was able to gasp to Gary that no, she should meet us at the hospital instead.
It was incredibly hot outside, at 11:00. It should never be that hot at night anywhere. It was at least 90 degrees and the humidity was probably that high. I thought I was suffocating as I inched my way down our outside steps clinging to the railing for support. Our neighbors across the street were out on their front porch and called cheerfully, "Oh, is it time?" I couldn't answer, but it was pretty obvious.
As Gary drove toward the Barnes Jewish Hospital I felt every pothole and bump in the road. But the air conditioning was working better than I ever remembered, and that was a joy. When we pulled in to the hospital driveway he began to steer toward the parking structure and I snapped, "No! There's no way I can make it across the sky bridge. You've got to park right out in front. I see a wheelchair right there." So he parked in the no-parking zone and ran for the wheelchair. He had trouble getting it to me because he'd forgotten to remove the brakes. I sat down and waited while he got the suitcase. After a moment I opened my eyes and saw that he was trying to pull the straps out of their hidden pockets to convert it into a backpack he could wear. "No! We don't have time for that! You've got to take me in there right now!" So he pushed me through the hospital lobby as I moaned with the contractions, into the elevator, and on up to the third floor where maternity triage was. He pushed me to their desk and said, "My wife's having a baby", to which they replied, "Well, she's just going to have to wait because we don't have a room clean!" So there I was, parked directly in front of the station desk as they worked, moaning with each contraction while they tried to go on with their business as if I wasn't there. One of the physicians on duty brought paperwork that signed away our right to sue if anything went wrong, and they finally took me to a room. There was a table that was a mile high and they wanted me to climb up on it. It was like climbing a mountain, but eventually I managed to get up there. They got their stethoscopes and couldn't find the fetal heartbeat. They went for more sensitive instruments. At that moment I was convinced Scott was dead. And since they didn't bother to tell me when they located the heartbeat I remained convinced of this. Then when they did a cursory examination I heard them talking to each other, saying, "she's ruptured." What they didn't clarify was that it was the membranes that had ruptured, not my uterus. But the story my partly deranged mind took from this was that my uterus had ruptured and I'd lost Scott. And a kind of fatalism took over as I wondered when they'd bring the crash cart and put me under the general anesthesia.
Eventually that misunderstanding was cleared up. Clearly the nurses must have had a bad night because they seemed to assume I was being a drama queen and even asked if I'd moan more quietly. I thought to tell them that there were going to be two doulas coming and was asked, "What do you need two of them for?" I explained that one of them had not had vbac experience and so was coming with the other in order to get it. The nurse asked if I wanted an epidural "because you sure sound like you need one." Gary asked, "when are we going to take her to the delivery room" and they said, "we have to check her first. She might not even be dilated." Gary said disgustedly, "She's dilated!" At which point the doulas arrived and instantly I felt calmer. The dr. on call finally checked my cervix and discovered that I'd dilated to 8 cm and they decided they'd better hurry to get me to the delivery room. They ran the bed down the hall, periodically asking me to be more quiet. This was about an hour and a half after I felt the big shift inside at home.
(An amusing parting shot from the most cynical of the nurses was when she checked the records while they were getting ready to take me to delivery. "Hey!" she barked, "She's scheduled for a c-section on Thursday!" I guess the considerate thing to have done would have been to reel it all back in and wait for my surgery on Thursday.)
Scott's birth took 2 hours and 10 minutes, start to finish. There was no time for an epidural if I'd wanted one (though I wished I'd had one for the stitching afterward). There was no time for an episiotomy, or for the birthing tub. They say second babies come faster, but that was amazing. If I was to have had another, it would have had to be a home birth, otherwise it would be born in the car.
I'm grateful that I got to close out my reproductive career with a normal vaginal birth.
Happy 8th birthday, dear Scott.