At my doctor's appointment, one day before the 37 week mark, the nurse frowned as she took my pressure. It was 140/100. She took it again and the doctor took it and then they sent me to the hospital for an evaluation which included serial blood pressure readings and various tests. All the tests came back "stone-cold normal" as my doctor put it. I did not have pre-eclampsia. But the doctor did suggest I take it easy and try to make it to 38 weeks--further than I had in any of my previous pregnancies.
I admit by Monday of the next week after a weekend of "bed rest," I was throwing myself a little pity party in my mind. It's so easy to let depression set in but I tried to stay focused and accepting. The next day (Tuesday the 24th) I had a doctor's appointment and my blood pressure was slightly better (130/80) but the doctor encouraged me to have an induction scheduled since things appeared to be going a south and I had officially made it further into pregnancy than any other time. She wanted to avoid having to use magnesium sulfate as did I. So I requested to just come in the next day. "5-25 sounds like a good birthday," I told her. She arranged with the hospital for me to be there at 4:30 a.m. While at my appointment the doctor checked to see if I was dilated and I agreed to let her stretch my cervix to see if it would kick-start labor. She said she could stretch me to a 4 easily but when I didn't start cramping she said she didn't think I would go into labor.
I went home, told Jackie, and began making preparations to go in early the next morning. My incredibly awesome neighbor and friend, Melissa, had already volunteered to keep the kids while I went to the hospital. We decided to go out to eat for supper--a little celebration in my mind--and hit up Chili's for some fajitas. While we were eating supper, I began feeling contractions. I'd had Braxton Hick's contractions for MONTHS so this wasn't anything really new but something was different about these. I chalked it up to the fact that the doctor had stretched my cervix and believed that I might be in for a night of uncomfortable false labor. By the end of our meal, I was squirming in my seat and HAD to get up but still thought nothing of the contractions. We even went to Target to get a few last-minute things for my hospital bag!
On the way home, I continued having contractions. "Do you think we should time these or something?" I asked Jackie. I would occasionally glance at the clock; they appeared to be about 6 minutes apart, were intense, but short-lived. In between needing to pause during the contractions, I packed the rest of the things into my hospital bag, laid out clothes for our early morning hospital trip, and got a shower. Now I had talked to a few people about having a water birth and it had come highly recommended by all and I can see why. Just the shower made everything SO much better. When I turned the water off, however, and tried to step out of the tub, I had to wait doubled over, one foot in and one foot out until the contraction passed!
I tried to lay down. It had been a long day and we were only going to get a few hours sleep. Jackie was so tired and, I swear, could fall asleep and be snoring in between my contractions! Ha, ha! After just a few contractions, however, I knew I could not lay in that bed. "Do you want me to go to the living room?" I asked Jackie, thinking I could walk around and maybe watch a little TV until time to go. It was nearly midnight. So I took a couple of pillows, turned on the TV, and immediately buried my face into the pillow trying not to moan too loudly. It seems so ridiculous to think but I still didn't even consider that I was actually in labor! Jackie knew, though, and was coming down the hall in seconds telling me to get dressed that we were going to the hospital. I'm so glad he perceived how serious things were or else we might have had an accidental homebirth!
We called Melissa who came right over bleary eyed from only having one hour of sleep but smiling uncontrollably. "She's coming!" I remember her saying.
I watched the clock in the van on the ride to the hospital. Contractions were now about 5 minutes apart and lasting at least a minute. I tried not to look at the speedometer and should you ask me about any red lights, I might have to invoke my right not to incriminate my spouse. = )
We pulled up to the emergency room entrance where it was obvious they did not think this was an emergency. I signed a paper that could have said anything in the whole world and waited--squirming in a seat completely unable to be quiet--for a nurse. When she came out I think she asked me my due date and maybe a couple of other questions then she actually said, "So what brings you in tonight?" REALLY. REALLY? You know those stories of laboring women biting people's heads off? It's because of stupidity such as this woman's question. Finally, finally, finally the labor and delivery nurse came to get me.
Through all of this I still thought we would get up there, they would check me, I'd probably be dilated to about 5, I'd get an epidural (even though I'd really wanted to try to labor naturally) and wait until the doctor got there at 4:30 like we planned. So that's what I was thinking on the ride to my room, as I got undressed, and had the monitors strapped to me. But as the nurse began asking a myriad of completely ridiculous questions, including whether or not my grandparents had diabetes and the birth weights of my previous children and whether or not I had any tattoos, the contractions got more and more intense. Incredibly intense. The nurse asked me my level of pain. "One being no pain at all and 10 being you just got your leg ripped off in a wreck," she said. Now I've never been the victim of a vehicular amputation but I imagined that as much pain as I was in the removal of a limb had to be worse so I told her an 8. Then I asked her how all of this could possibly be important and told her to HELP ME.
The nurse finally decided to check to see how dilated I was and I was surprised to hear her say, "You're a seven and a half or eight." They called the doctor who I was assured was two minutes away but then the nurse asked, "Are you pushing?" Hmmm, yes. Yes, I think I am pushing!
Luckily the doctor came in just in time and broke my water at 2:09. Then I tried to figure out how to push effectively--which isn't as easy as you might think--and at 2:16 a.m. I did it! I pushed our baby out into the big world and she was laid on my stomach and oohed and aahed over by us all. She was perfect--literally. She scored a 10 on her APGAR! She was perfectly pink from head to toe and so alert. She latched on like a little piranha and nursed for an hour right there in the delivery room until the nurse said they probably should take her to the nursery to be weighed and washed.
Piper Evangeline Combs weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces--a full pound heavier than any of my other babies--and was 19 inches long.
I think I was still in shock that it happened so quickly and that I'd actually done it--I'd gone into labor, we'd rushed to the hospital, and she'd been born without an epidural! I know that it was all God's doing. He knew the desire of my heart and He is so, so good to me. I believe He even orchestrated the fact that there just plain wasn't time for an epidural because He knew I'd give in and get one and would probably regret it afterwards. God spared me pre-eclampsia and gave me a wonderful, wonderful birth experience than ended with a beautiful, healthy baby. Who could ask for anything more?
I can't say whether I would want to have another natural labor or not because there's no doubt about it, it hurt. But the benefits have been obvious to me. Piper was much more alert than any of my other babies. She nursed immediately with a perfect latch and hasn't stopped since! That fact has helped my uterus begin to shrink back down quickly and has helped me avoid hemorrhaging like I did with Jathan. I was able to move around right away and thoroughly enjoyed not having to have that awful epidural tape ripped off my back. I have felt completely fine since, as well; recovery has been very easy. I definitely believe that drug-free is probably the healthiest way to deliver though I don't for a second believe I have the fortitude to labor for hours and even days the way some women do. I'm certainly thankful for my speedy labor!
My blood pressures have been normal since birth (besides one high one taken while I was holding a hungry, screaming baby) and we got to come home on Thursday. My milk has come in thanks to Piper's barracuda-like nursing tendencies. The other kids simply adore her. Keeleigh is elated to have a sister and is already talking jewelry and painted nails. Jathan will be Piper's protector...he is serious about watching after her and won't even tolerate jokes about her coming to any harm at all. Ryland wants to be near her always. She has withstood his tough love thus far and he has kissed her poor little head a million times! I believe they will be wonderful playmates and am really thankful for their small age difference.
My parents are coming next week and I can't wait for them to get to see the newest addition to our family. Dark-haired, sweet-faced little Piper. My miracle.