On Thursday, July 7, I woke up pretty early with contractions that seemed to be stronger than usual. I didn't think Oliver would come early so I really didn't think I was in the early stages of labor. Later that morning, I took Jack Henry and his friend to golf camp, took Mary Margaret on a quick errand, and then came home for the day. Mary Margaret and her friend went to the pool and the other kids and I had things to do at home.
Through the morning, and on and off all day, I kept having more contractions but I really just tried to ignore them. Finally in the early evening I decided to time them and see how regular they were. I remember when I was in labor with Lincoln -- I wrote down my contractions in the back of my What to Expect When You're Expecting book. Now they have apps for timing contractions so I got my phone and started timing. The books and doctors typically say to follow the 5-1-1 rule: Come to the hospital when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for 1 hour. Well, mine were about 4 minutes apart, lasting about 45 seconds and had been this way for about 2 hours. I decided to lie down and rest for a while to see if they might go away -- I didn't want to go the the hospital and have it be a false alarm. So after resting for a while they seemed to go away.
When I got up I just did things around the house -- last-minute things that might need to be done-- and then told Brandon we should go to the grocery store. If I really was in labor I needed to get some groceries so the kitchen would be stocked. As we walked through the store I kept having contractions, but again they weren't very strong, just really regular. We got home, put everything away, and then I just sat on the couch with my laptop trying to decide if this was the real thing. Finally at about midnight, Brandon thought we should go ahead and go to the hospital. The boys were both asleep, but the girls had their friend Haley over and they were watching a movie. The girls were surprised when Brandon walked into their room with my hospital bags. And I'll never forget Lillie's comment: "I don't think this is real. You're too calm." Turns out she was right (sort of).
At the hospital, they don't take you directly to a labor room. First you go to a triage room to see if you are really in labor. After some monitoring, they said my contractions were really regular and that I was dilated to a 4. The nurse said I could either stay or go home and come back when I was further along. She also said that sometimes people walk around for a week or more at this stage. I still had my doubts about whether this was "it" or not -- I had never had a baby come early and I also thought I might get more rest at home, so we decided to go back home. We got home around 3 and both tried to get some sleep. I actually went right to sleep as soon as I got in bed.
The next morning I woke up at about 7:00 with more contractions. I got up and did some things around the house, took a shower, double-checked my hospital bags to make sure I had everything, and kept timing my contractions. They were still regular, just not very strong. Brandon and I went to Panera to get some coffee and a bagel and I was still not sure if this was "it." I had been texting/calling my friend Carol (a former labor nurse) asking her questions -- you would have thought this was my first labor. I spent the rest of the day doing laundry and making sure everything was done around the house in case I would be going to the hospital. Finally around 3:30 we decided to go to the mall and walk around to see if my contractions got stronger. We put my hospital bags in the car just in case. When we were about halfway there I told Brandon that maybe we should just go ahead and go to the hospital -- it felt like my contractions were a little stronger and I was too tired to walk around the mall.
So we did the same routine as the night before: checked in at labor and delivery, told the nurse that I might be in labor, and went to the triage room so they could monitor me. As soon as I lay down it seemed like my contractions went away, but as it turns out I was dilated to a 7 -- this was the real thing. By around 4:30 or 5:00 I was moved to a real labor and delivery room and went through all the usual preliminaries -- lots of paperwork, signing things, etc. My doctor had already OK'd my request for no IV and for intermittent monitoring, so I was able to walk around. Mostly I walked around the labor room (which was really big) and we walked up and down the halls. The baby had to be monitored for 15 minutes out of every hour, and every time I got in bed for monitoring my contractions seemed to really slow down. I'm not sure but I think that's why my labor seemed to take longer than my other ones. Looking back, if I had had an epidural I wouldn't have been able to get up and walk and my labor might have gone much slower.
Throughout my labor Brandon and I were both thinking about Anne Marie, remembering the day she was born. It was unavoidable. We couldn't wait for Oliver to finally arrive and yet there was a sadness, remembering our baby girl. So many things about the labor were different and we both knew the actual birth would be different.
At around 9:15 the doctor broke my water and Oliver was born at 9:29. One thing that stands out in my mind is the loud cry he made when he was born. I don't think I will ever forget that cry. I think it stands out so much because Anne Marie didn't (couldn't) make a peep. When she was born it was eerily silent. Oliver was born wailing and crying. I started crying when I heard that sound, so thankful and yet so sad that Anne Marie hadn't been able to make any sounds at all. We were able to hold Oliver right away and I remember thinking that I just couldn't believe he was here in my arms.
It is true what the Bible says about childbirth -- that when a woman is in labor she has pain, but when she gives birth she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that her baby is here. Yes, there were times when my labor was painful, but that pales in comparison to the joy of holding Oliver. And it was the same with Anne Marie (and our other children). The pain of labor fades when you are able to hold a baby in your arms, even if (as in Anne Marie's case) it is only for a few seconds.
There is nothing in the world like having a baby and I love almost everything about it -- the excitement and nervousness, the wondering if this is really labor, waddling into the hospital with my bags packed. I love the first night in the hospital when it's dark and quiet and your newborn baby is quietly nursing. I love the visitors and nurses coming in and out, and the first meals you eat when you are so hungry not only from delivery but also because you finally have room to eat. I love gazing at my newborn's face, seeing all the expressions and listening to all the newborn noises. I know that I've thought and said the same thing with all my babies: This is the most beautiful baby ever. I realize now more than ever what a true miracle childbirth is.