About three weeks ago I had a new baby. (Hooray! Go me!)
Baby Daphne arrived 10 days before her due date, healthy, happy (sleepy, rather, which equates to happy for her parents), and weighing in at exactly to the ounce the same birth weight as her big brother. Apparently my uterus has a very strict weight and size capacity for humans growing in it, and, as it turns out, I appreciate its fastidiousness in adhering to the rules.
Since Wee Connor was born in Charlotte and Baby Daphne in Chicago I knew there would be a few differences in the birth experiences. And while I won’t go into gory details of the actual birth, the basics are that I had a planned c-section with Baby Daphne since Connor was an emergency c-section after 26 hours of back labor. (For the record, that is not what we call in the business a “fun time.”)
While I was expecting a few differences, everything was different this time around. My first experience at the hospital basically couldn’t have been worse (in a first-world country with adequate access to modern medicine, that is). Examples of this horrifying experience include (but are not in any way limited to):
- My labor nurse coming in and literally berating me for being in pain during labor since my epidural didn’t work on half my body (“WHAT. What is the matter?! I was just in here 20 minutes ago and I don’t understand why I’m in here now and why you’re complaining,” was her actual, real-life, factual response to my pitocin-induced contractions as I battled a 103-degree fever due to an infection I contracted during labor)
- The hospital literally throwing out my pumped breast milk* I was trying to get to my son in the NICU
- The fact the NICU didn’t have handicap-accessible scrub sinks, forcing moms who just had c-sections (hi!) who are in wheelchairs needing to be lifted up by their armpits and draped over the sinks and someone else operating the foot pedals of the sinks (“Yeah, it’s weird, people keep complaining about this…” was one nurse’s actual, real-life, factual response to my asking if there were handicap-accessible scrub sinks)
- The waiting room nurses telling my mom to “Just Google it and pray” and refusing to speak further when my mom asked what an infection during labor actually meant
…I could go on but I won’t for everyone’s sanity. But you get the idea: first experience: hair-raising. This time around the hospital and its staff were the dream team of baby-bringing-into-the-world-ness and the actual birth and recovery experience was spectacular. Hooray again!
However, it turns out the time leading up to the hospital, the “actual going into labor” part, well, those differences were stark too.
And those differences have a very simple, rational explanation: my husband and I are idiots. And, full disclosure here: it’s mostly me who is the idiot.
And finally, because I like you, I’m going to tell you the story of this idiocy.
Let’s make a timeline, shall we?
Thursday evening before labor
Real-life conversation unfolds as follows:
“Hey, so, it’s like…12 days before my scheduled c-section and Connor was 5 days early. We should probably pack the hospital bag, right?”
[Interlude/explanation: for those who might not know or be aware, “pack your hospital bag” is a piece of advice you’re supposed to take about 2-3 weeks before giving birth, according to The-Internet-of-the-Mom. While at the hospital you’ll probably want a few “essential” items with you. The-Internet-of-the-Mom is full of lists instructing you what those things are, but they more or less boil down to items like comfortable nightgowns, a “going-home” outfit for baby, slippers, a change of clothes or two for Dad, toiletries, breastfeeding pillow (that’s my addition and advice to the masses at large, by the way), iPad, change of clothes for you going home, etc. You want things that make you feel human while in the hospital, because you might be there up to 3 days or so. Interlude over. Hope that was helpful.]
**Chris wakes up from falling asleep sitting up on the couch due to his working 90 hours a week the past 4 months**
“Um, yeah, that sounds good.”
“Didn’t you say something about dinner tomorrow?”
“…okay, so why don’t we just make the list of what we need in it and then this weekend we can pack it after we get back from The Drake?”
So we make The List (capital ‘T’, capital ‘L’). Connor scribbles all over it the next day, but The List is made. We feel accomplished.
By a fortune of what turned out to be near-divine destiny Chris’s mom was coming in for a visit over the weekend before she came in the middle of the week to stay until the baby arrived. She was staying downtown at The Drake (a great landmark hotel in Chicago), and I asked if perhaps she would be willing to babysit Connor and stay at our place while we could take a final rest in her hotel room before the baby arrives and sleep in, relax, get some work done, etc. Perhaps she had been just grandchild-starved enough or we sounded just tired enough because she agreed without question and even arranged massages for us on Saturday (yes, I fully realize how lucky we are)!
We head to the Drake with bare-bones minimal supplies for 2 nights in town, head to a friend’s going-away party in the evening, and then go back and sleep the sleep of two parents who really need sleep**.
Early Saturday evening
“So it’s probably the last time we’ll really get to go out before the baby arrives, why don’t we do something nice for dinner?”
“…hm…we’ve never done this Brazilian Steakhouse thing, how about that?”
[Interlude/explanation: Brazilian steakhouses are incredible experiences where essentially you sit at the table and the chefs continually bring you cuts of the most insanely delicious steaks you’ve ever tasted. You have a signal on the table that you’re ready to eat and for them to bring food, and then a signal you need a break. Then once you’ve eaten more than you can possibly could have ever fathomed could fit in your stomach, you eat promptly proceed to eat again. Twice. Your body content essentially becomes 70% meat. Interlude over again. Continue.]
We arrive at the steakhouse looking dapper*** and sit down. All of a sudden I start getting some contractions, which can be pretty normal at this stage in the game, 10 days before the due date. Typically fake contractions help get you ready for labor and are called Braxton-Hicks contractions. Doctors don’t really want you to worry about them unless they are: a) painful, and b) regular in interval, at which point you need to start timing and paying attention to them. On the list of things I really should have noticed about these contractions were that they were a) painful, and b) regular in interval. In deluding myself that these were Braxton-Hicks (because, you guys, the meat) I proceed through said contractions and continue to stuff my face full of (hope you’re following along here, because say it with me) meat.
Chris asks me if I’m okay as I wince in pain but also is distracted enough by the massive amounts of delicious meat presented in front of him every 35 seconds he doesn’t quite notice how regularly these contractions are coming either.
Just a tiny bit little later Saturday evening
We finish dinner and can barely move due to all the vegetables we consumed (ha! Gotcha. It was all meat. We had the turf-and-turf à la Ron Swanson). Contractions are getting super regular and incredibly intense and for some reason we still don’t consider the possibility I’m actually going into labor. The cab back to the hotel hits a bump in the road and I suddenly am overcome with the urge to punch Chris in the face. This is the first time I realize this baby-being-born thing might actually be happening.
Back at the hotel room my contractions start getting even more real. And by “real” I mean “horrifically painful and creating even more of an urge to punch Chris in the face.” We start timing the contractions, I turn on Hunger Games on television (because what could better welcome labor, right?) and we wait an hour only to realize these contractions are not only coming regularly, but coming every 6-7 minutes and getting closer together, and lasting around 45 seconds apiece.
[Hi again. For reference, in a “typical” labor you go to the hospital when you reach “5-1-1”, meaning contractions 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute apiece, for at least 1 hour. Now, because I was a c-section the doctors said if the contractions were coming regularly and were painful, maybe around the 7-minute mark-ish, I should call because they don’t really care if I went into “active labor”. So the fact that contractions were coming 6-7 minutes was a pretty big deal.]
At this point it’s been about 3-4 hours since my first contraction. If you recall from above, my first labor lasted 26 hours. A few days before I went into about a day of what felt like real labor only for it to fizzle out. In our heads while we whittled our time away watching Hunger Games we had many moons to get our lives together in an appropriate fashion. After about an hour we realize there would be nothing appropriate about the way we get our lives together.
Chris and I look at each other seriously after a major contraction and both start to mildly panic. He calls his mom to find “The List” and see if she wouldn’t be willing to start packing what she could find and so that way we could get the bag and have it “just in case the craziest scenario of being in labor and needing to be admitted actually happened, even though it totally won’t.” I start texting her about items I could remember on there and where they’d be located, along with which ones we had with us at the hotel and not to worry about.
And here’s where the logistics get tricky. Chris and I agree that I should stay downtown at The Drake, 5 blocks from my hospital where I was delivering, and he should grab a cab up to our house to get the hospital bag. Our house is about a 15 minute drive from The Drake, and it wouldn’t make sense for me to schlep all the way up to our neighborhood only to have to schlep all the way back, and if I progressed any faster I would be semi-stranded further away from the hospital. We agree that while Chris was away at the house I would call the OB and see if they want me to come in or wait. (“Surely there is no way they’ll want us in, but I’ll call just in case and see when they actually want me into the hospital.”) I would also continue to track the contractions.
As you probably can guess from where this is going, Chris needs to finish packing the bag because while my mother-in-law is a rock star who deserves every medal imaginable for being willing to rifle through our mess to try and find the random items scribbled down from our heads underneath a plethora of toddler scribbles, there is only so much someone who doesn’t live in the house in which you reside can do. Chris’s portion of finishing the packing takes a long time because as it turns out there is only so much a husband who does live in the house in which you reside can do, too.
I call the OB on-call service, track my ever-increasingly painful contractions that were getting closer and closer together, and receive the call that, yes indeed, I need to get to the hospital. ASAP. So obviously instead of heading to the hospital ASAP I continue to watch Hunger Games and text Chris madly about how much I want to punch him in the face and could he please get back downtown soon so I could accomplish this goal and also the contractions were starting to come 4 minutes apart so get down here now please.
It should be thoroughly noted that throughout this, I was still convinced I wasn’t actually in labor, and this would all fizzle out in the end.
It should also be noted thoroughly that, again, I am an idiot.
Finally my contractions were breaking into the 3:45/4 minute mark and I start to panic as the doctor’s orders to get to the hospital were actually starting to ring into my head. Also Hunger Games ended. I call Chris who is finally in an Uber back to the hotel to tell him that I’m going to the hospital. He asks me (reasonably) if I can just wait since he’d be at the hotel in about 5-10 minutes at this point. I say no, I can’t wait, I’m just going to walk to the hospital.
Read that again: I decide I’m just going to walk to the hospital.
It’s about 40 degrees, drizzling, and 10:30pm at this point.
And I’m going to walk. to. the. hospital.
Here’s how the phone call with Chris went:
“Taylor, are you crazy?! There’s a line of cabs outside, just get into a cab!” (Reasonable reaction.)
“No no no, the way the one-way streets are they’d have to make the left turn onto Michigan Avenue and then another left turn…I’m just going to walk.” (Unreasonable reaction.)
“What?! No, okay, just wait, I’ll have the Uber come around and pick you up, just wait there.” (Reasonable reaction.)
“No, I’ll meet you at the hospital, remember last time the hospital made me walk for 2 hours**** to keep the labor going? This will help cut down on that. It’ll take just as long to walk as it would in a cab.” (True assessment on the timing, though I don’t think the doctors would be pleased as punch about me walking around downtown Chicago along Michigan Avenue at 10:30 at night by myself in 40 degrees with contractions coming every 3-4 minutes, so we shall come down on unreasonable reaction for this as well.)
I put my purse into my backpack that has my computer in it and head out. In labor. Walking down Michigan Avenue (the “Mag Mile” for those who are more familiar with that term with regards to Chicago). At 10:30 at night. Alone. In 40 degree drizzling rain.
Remember how I’m an idiot? I’m an idiot.
I walk the five blocks and arrive at the hospital in the middle of a contraction, which isn’t all that coincidental considering they were coming around every 3 minutes at this point. The guard on duty doesn’t even speak but just points to triage where I huff myself in, get my wristbands, and go back to the triage area for assessment. In triage I call Chris who had arrived 5 minutes earlier (because, obviously, his suggestion that he could just come pick me up in the Uber was exactly accurate) but who had for some unknown reason started just wandering around the first floor thinking I might be, I don’t know, at the coffee shop or something? I couldn’t quite understand why he didn’t just wait in the one place I needed to go (triage), but, you know, husbands. Or something.
We sit back in the triage room as I’m hooked into the monitors talking about how “obviously” this would all just fizzle out and we’d have yet another story of how we “got worked up for nothing.” Never mind the insane contractions that make me almost pass out. Never mind the fact they were coming regularly and at short intervals. Never mind the fact I am obviously in labor and about to have a baby.
Normally you sit in triage an average of 2-3 hours as the nurses and doctors assess whether or not they want to admit you into Labor and Delivery. We shaved that down to 30 minutes. When the nurse came in to say the doctor had reviewed the labor progression and she was coming in and that, yes, we were going to have a baby tonight, we literally said, “Huh?”
“You’re going up, you’re going to have a baby tonight!”
[Nurse slowly backs out of the door to let us gather our stuff and is freaked out by our lack of comprehension considering the fact that I am obviously in labor and about to have a baby]
…and just a little bit later(er) that evening
Remember all that meat I ate earlier in the evening? I may have mentioned that I ate a lot of meat.
And remember also that I was going to have a c-section?
Well, it turns out two things that don’t mix well are “massive amounts of ingested meat” and “major abdominal surgery.”
As soon as the question of, “When did you last eat?” comes up and I explain what I had eaten and that it had been a mere 4 hours earlier it becomes the legend of the evening. Each nurse and resident who comes into my room for various reasons asks me, “Are you the one who ate that enormous steak dinner?!?” and then tries to stifle their laughter as they add in, “Well, it sounds delicious…going down.”
The problem with this becomes quickly apparent: you’re supposed to have an empty stomach for about 8 hours before surgery so you don’t get sick from the anesthesia after the surgery. The anesthesiologist needs orders from my doctor (who was at that moment heading into the hospital) to see if they want to wait for my stomach to clear out more – meaning an epidural – or if they were going to head me into surgery right away – meaning a spinal tap. Meanwhile my contractions are coming probably every 2-3 minutes at this point. Every time the anesthesiology resident and doctor come in I beg them not to go far because you guys this really freaking hurts.
Also during this time I grab Chris by the collar during the contraction, drag him to my face, and say, “Stop telling me it’s okay. It’s not okay. YOU MOCK MY PAIN!” Luckily Chris has the presence of mind to not only apologize but also commend me on my excellent quotation of Princess Bride during labor.
The doctor arrives, reviews the progress I’ve made since she left and does a cost/benefit analysis, and decides immediately I need to go into surgery, body:meat ratio be darned. She also asks if the steakhouse we went to was any good, and would I recommend it before I can’t make an objective decision about it after surgery? (ZED451, and yes, yes I would.)
So it’s decided. Spinal tap.
Nobody seems to enjoy or understand my references of turning things up to 11. I am immensely disappointed at this.
My late Saturday evening continues to proceed as one’s Saturday evening with major abdominal surgery after which you are tasked with caring for a helpless tiny little human for the next 18-or-so years does. Daphne is born at 12:06am on Sunday, which means I get an “extra” day in the hospital if I want it. The nurses, doctors, residents, and everyone involved are all-stars. I never feel shamed for feeling scared during the spinal tap as I did in Charlotte (for what it’s worth, the spinal tap was by far the scariest part of the entire experience for me). At the end of the procedure a new person appears in the room and I love this little crying being immensely.
My recovery room experience proves doctors really aren’t lying when they ask you to have an empty stomach before surgery. I experience my steak dinner a full second time in its full glory. Read as: full glory. My reputation as the “woman who ate that huge steak dinner right before she went into labor” is officially solidified throughout the entire Labor & Delivery wing.
And that’s it. That’s my “going into labor” part of “giving birth” story for my second child. I’m sure you’re left with questions, such as:
- “Why didn’t you just take a cab to the hospital, you idiot?”
- I sometimes get into a “I am Taylor, an independent and strong female who can walk to the hospital while in labor, hear me roar ROOOOAAARRRouuuuuuuuchwhyamIinlabor10daysearlyyyyyy”
- “Was the steak dinner worth it?”
- Yes, totally.
- “Is this a normal labor experience?”
- From what I gather from friends, family, and The-Internet-of-the-Mom, no, not it is not.
- “How can I avoid having both your birth experiences because you do not seem to have normal ones?”
- Fair, and I would say, “Don’t give birth in Charlotte, NC, so as to avoid the first birth experience, and, um, as for the second time: pack the d*mn bag already.
*All breastfeeding moms: I can hear your audible gasps from here. And yes, I can assure you this really happened.
**Which is to say, we fell asleep the moment we came back at 9pm like a pair of narcolepsy sufferers and then “slept in” until 8am.
***I am fully aware that at 8.75 months pregnant there is no such thing as looking dapper, but I made my best effort.
****No, that is not hyperbole. The hospital made me walk on the 8th floor for 2 straight hours while I was in labor because (literal, real-life quote): “We don’t really believe that you’re in labor and think you’re exaggerating your pain.”