If you haven’t read Part 1, start there!
As Jose and I walked into the hospital and down the hall towards Labor and Delivery, my doctor returned my call from ~30 minutes earlier. When I told her we had decided to just come to the hospital, she was fine with that, saying that they’d check me out and call her if needed. Shortly after hanging up, we rang the doorbell outside L&D and were buzzed in.
The L&D department was totally chaotic! There was at least 15-20 nurses at the main nurses’ station — because, as we quickly learned, we had arrived smack in the middle of a shift change. One of them looked up at me and said “can we help you?”
“Well, I think I’m in labor,” was my matter-of-fact response.
Due to the shift change craziness, there were no clean rooms in L&D at that moment so one of the nurses took me one floor down to some sort of triage area. I remember being mildly annoyed by this, but there wasn’t much I could do about it so off we went. One of the nurses checked me and reported that I was 4-5 cm dilated. I’d had a regular doctor’s appointment less than 24 hours earlier where I’d only been at 3 cm, so clearly Charlotte was on her way!
As the first nurse began working on admitting me, another nurse poked her head into my curtained area and told me to eat something — because I wasn’t officially admitted yet, but once I was, I wouldn’t be allowed to have anything but ice! I was so thankful for her advice! Eating hadn’t occurred to me in that morning’s rush but as soon as she mentioned it, I realized that my stomach was growling. I had managed to shove a granola bar in my bag before we left the house, so I gobbled that down before anyone could change their mind.
The first nurse was still typing away on her computer, and after a couple minutes she let out of frustrated sigh. The hospital computers were down — fun times — and she had to resort to writing all my information down manually. It was a pain for her I’m sure, but I didn’t care too much since it took my mind off my contractions.
While all this was going on, I also got two phone calls that I remember to this day because they were unintentionally ridiculous and hilarious. The first call was from the hospital’s insurance department, of all places. The woman on the other end of the line told that I had a co-pay for emergency visits and needed to go ahead and pay that. This boggled my mind for many reasons, including the fact that 1) I was not there for an emergency visit and 2) I knew full well that my insurance covered very nearly everything for labor and delivery. She was insistent that I had been admitted to an emergency area, to which I responded that the only reason I was in this triage area was because THEY didn’t have any rooms ready! I don’t even remember being mad — I was honestly just mystified and amused by the whole situation. I finally ended the call by saying “well, look, I’m IN LABOR right now so I will deal with this later.”
(And yeah, she was wrong. And then the next day she called again to tell me I owed like $5,000 for my stay. To which I just laughed and said “no, I don’t, and you need to go fix that.” Yeah, she was wrong again. Insert exasperated rant about the state of our healthcare/insurance system.)
The second call was from West Elm, who had been scheduled to deliver some new bookcases that day. Of course I had totally forgotten about that, so I quickly told them that I was very sorry for their trouble but that I’d have to reschedule because: IN LABOR.
Around 8:00, I was finally wheeled up to a freshly cleaned room in L&D and we got settled. By this point, my contractions were getting more painful but not totally awful. Around 8:30 the nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural. I did, but was also hesitant to get one “too early.” I don’t really know what “too early” is and I don’t know why I was hesitating — I think some part of me didn’t want to seem like a wuss? I know that’s a completely ridiculous reason, but there it is.
I finally decided to just give the go-ahead for the epidural, since I knew it might be an hour before it was actually in place and shortly after that, probably around 8:45, my doctor came in to check on me. I was still at 4-5 cm and she wanted to break my water. That was fine with me — but oddly enough, after she was done I don’t think it was actually clear whether that had even been necessary! She asked me if I’d felt anything leaking before coming to the hospital, and I hadn’t — and never did, before or after she came in to see me.
As she left the room, she told me she’d be back around lunchtime. Jose and I looked each other with wide eyes. It was almost 9:00 already — and Charlotte would really be here by noon??
That seemed unlikely to me at the time, but nonetheless, after her visit my contractions took a sudden and definite turn for the worse. The anesthesiologist arrived around 9:30 and by 9:45, I was finally enjoying some relief. It seemed to take him a lot longer to place the needle than I remember from getting one with Emma and man — it just feels really, really weird to have someone rooting around in your SPINE.
No more than 5 minutes after getting the epidural, another nurse checked me and I was at 8 cm! I guess that’s why the contractions got so much worse after my doctor’s visit, eh?
The next couple hours became a blur and my most prominent lasting memory 17 months later is just how FAST everything seemed to happen from that point on.
I don’t remember what time I reached 10 cm, but if I had to guess I’d say around 11:15…maybe even as late as 11:30. Once I was there, the nurse asked me to try some practice pushes. I didn’t expect this to work — I couldn’t feel a thing below my waist, and with Emma I hadn’t been able to effectively push without any sensation in my lower half. Because of that, I’d had to “labor down” for a few hours while my epidural wore off enough for me to push. By the time Emma was born, I could feel a lot. It wasn’t particularly fun.
But this time, I was somehow able to get things going and my practice pushes worked! It was just Jose and the nurse in the room with me, and Jose was actually lifting one of my legs for most of the time. I remember remarking to him several times that it was so weird to not feel anything — that even though I saw his hands on my skin, the lack of any sensation made it feel I was watching him lift someone else’s leg.
The next thing I remember is the nurse telling me NOT to push — because Charlotte was right there. It must have been close to 11:45 at this point, and I had trouble comprehending what was happening. I still couldn’t feel a single thing, but somehow the baby was ready to come? Already??
Since I couldn’t see or feel anything, I questioned Jose and got such a strange response that I can picture it in my head right now. He looked down. He said “whoa.” And then he glanced at me and shook his head. He didn’t elaborate! I was confused, excited, nervous and incredulous all at once. What was happening?!
As it turned out, Charlotte was mere minutes away from making her arrival. Jose told me later that at that moment, when he shook his head at me and didn’t say anything, he felt like his own brain short-circuited for a minute. He could literally see Charlotte’s head starting to emerge…and the only people in the room were me, him, and a single nurse.
Moments later, my doctor came into the room. I heard her but couldn’t see her, but Jose’s description is pretty fantastic. According to him, my doctor walked into the room, looked over to me, and said “whoa!” while flinging both arms out to her sides. She immediately started putting on her gown, hat, etc — Jose says a small army appeared out of nowhere to get her “suited up” and although I still couldn’t see any of this from my vantage point lying on the bed, I distinctly remember hearing her ask for shoe covers, and telling someone to hurry.
With my doctor ready to go, I gave literally 2 pushes and at 11:57 a.m. I heard crying. “Is that her?” I asked. “Is she here?” I was in total disbelief! I have no idea what I was thinking — chalk it up to pure emotion and elation — but it honestly took me a moment to wrap my head around what just happened.
But then there was a beautiful little girl in my arms. Charlotte was here!
In the 17 months since, she has added so much craziness and so much joy to my life. She’s my little curly-haired snuggly fireball, and I can’t imagine her any other way.