This pregnancy was a lot like my last one. I started having regular contractions that woke me up at night around 37 weeks. I warned my boss and fully expected to have a baby round about January 6th. Instead, I spent a few weeks essentially treading water at work while everyone waited to hear when I would really be going on leave.
At my 39 week appointment, on a Thursday, my doctor checked my cervix and said I was "all ready to go," already dilated to 3 cm. She indicated that she thought I'd be in later that day, especially since she stripped my membranes. I did have contractions all day. After the kids went to bed, I time them at 3-5 minutes apart lasting 1-2 minutes. So, we called our babysitter, Megan, and headed to the hospital. Of course (of course!) things calmed down once I sat in the horrible triage beds. The resident came to check me, declared me at 3.5cm and said I could walk around for an hour to see if things were progressing. The nurse expressed her surprise that we weren't being given a room yet, and sent us out walking. We walked the entire hospital, James got himself some Subway to fortify him against the long night ahead, and I had contractions the entire time.
By the time we got back to Triage, the resident was off delivering someone's baby (this was midnight), so we waited. I had lots of rather painful contractions and tried to psych myself up for having a baby. When they finally checked me again at 1am, I had gained only half a centimeter. Not enough to count as labor. I didn't really want to endure a long, slow labor in the hospital, and I thought I might be able to sleep, so went home. The nurse and the resident agreed that I'd likely be back later that morning. I told him I could have the baby in a week, which he assured me was very unlikely. Good thing I never believe the residents.
So, home we went, to sleep we went, and the contractions continued at the rate of about four an hour, every hour, for days. My mom came on Saturday and we went for a walk, then went shopping in hopes of using gravity in our favor. No change. Monday morning things felt different. I felt a lot more pressure and a lot of cramping. About once an hour I'd need to breathe through a contractions. But mostly, I just continued on with my life, wondering when the baby would show up.
By Monday night I was really uncomfortable and felt like the baby was going to fall out. Since I have a history of not identifying contractions well until I'm past 7cm and of fast labors, we decided to play it safe and head to the hospital to see where things were. I called just to check, talked with the nurse we'd seen Thursday, and she immediately said to come. So, we put the kids to bed, put my bags back in the car, and went to the hospital.
It was a busy night at St. Mary's. We got a slightly bigger triage room and a decidedly shorter hospital gown this time. Seriously, the thing was like a mini-skirt. I was worried about walking around in it, even with the robe they give you. Anyhow...when the resident arrived to check me, she said I was at 5cm. Dilating one centimeter in four days is not encouraging. But, she said that "you usually don't get to five centimeters without being in labor," so she wanted to check with a real doctor.
Meanwhile, we could walk. So we walked, and nothing happened. I had one real contraction the whole time. My doctor decided to come in a check me herself, mostly because she'd been expecting me to deliver any minute for weeks. She arrived about 10, said I was really a 5 and we started talking about induction. The temperature was well below freezing, and having a baby in a car in those conditions is really not a great idea. We discussed the possibility of breaking my water to get things moving. However, she had to check on some things. So...in the meantime we were to go walking. The labor and delivery floor is currently under construction, so there are not a lot of places to walk. I don't love the second floor of the hospital, but I've seen every inch of it! And we kept seeing women pass by who were decidedly in actual labor. I was a little embarrassed to be wandering around so clearly not experiencing anything like they were. These women were ready to have babies; I wasn't.
When we got back, the triage nurse had changed. The new one greeted us with "you're the one who's a five and not having contractions." She explained that the definition of labor is "cervical change" and my cervix wasn't changing, therefore I wasn't in labor. Apparently having had a baby just 15 months earlier left things a little "stretchy." As a result, my cervix was a little looser than most, but my body wasn't actually ready to have the baby yet. And, she added, I should go home and wait until it was. It was actually nice to talk with someone who had a definite opinion, since everyone else had been hemming and hawing about what was going on. I was primarily annoyed with having spent three hours in triage AGAIN, and then going home (assuming that's what we were about to do). All I really wanted was someone to check my cervix, assure me that birth was not impending, and to go home to bed. But, since we'd had the induction conversation with the doctor, I told the nurse the two of them could fight it out.
It turns out St. Mary's was really busy that night and there were no rooms. Apparently several women were about to give birth, so rooms would be opening up. But, since you have to stay in the room for two hours post-birth, we'd have started things around 2am. Not great conditions for optimal labor and childbirth. I opted to go home and get a good night's sleep. Once again, they said we'd probably be back in a few hours. I told Dr. Bull I'd try really hard not to have my water break as she pulled into her driveway. And we all went home.
Then the contractions stopped. Completely. Nothing. I honestly started to wonder whether my mom would leave (on Saturday) without ever seeing the baby. I mostly maintained sanity on the idea that I knew the doctor was amenable to induction on Monday, so it was likely she'd still go for it Thursday, on my due date.
Thursday morning, James came to my appointment with me so we could make a plan. Everything was a bit more liquidy on Thursday, and when I mentioned that the doctor decided to check whether my water had broken. She used a test with some special paper that is supposed to turn from yellow to blue if there is amniotic fluid. It turned yellowish-blueish. Definitely a change, but definitely not all the way to blue. In other words, really inconclusive. So...back to the hospital for a more high-tech is-your-water-really-broken? test. Meanwhile, my cervix remained 5 cm dilated. No surprise there.
I had James drop me off at the hospital because I didn't want both of us to waste another three hours in triage (why does it always take three hours?). Unfortunately, I left my phone sitting in the car when he dropped me off. Oops. As it turns out, they still have in-room telephones at the hospital and you can use them to call home! But...before I got a room I had to go to triage. Again. I'd told the nurse on Monday that I couldn't have the baby until I'd seen all four triage rooms. They gave me the big room again. The nurse did her little test, and it was also inconclusive. I think I may have rolled my eyes at this point. So...she did it again. This time the test was positive. We were going to have a baby. But first...I had to see the resident.
This morning's resident was a real treasure. He wheeled in a little ultrasound machine so he could check the baby's position. She had been head down for weeks, and her head was certainly in the right place when Dr. Bull checked my dilation in the office an hour earlier. BUT, the resident pulled out his little ultrasound wand, started looking around, and couldn't find her head at all. He said the ultrasound machine had been problematic recently and that he'd get someone else to come look. I definitely rolled my eyes at this point. SO, in comes another resident to help with the ultrasound machine. He can't find the head either. I'm working hard to maintain my composure. The nurse finally comes along and tells them they're not looking low enough. The baby's head is really low (because she's about ready to make her entrance). Low and behold, there she is, exactly where she ought to be! The nurse and I agreed that we'd both have been really unhappy if I'd needed a c-section after all that. I sent the two happy residents on their way and wondered when my doctor would be arriving.
I should say that I actually supervise a number of medical residents in my job, and I find them to be nice people and generally competent. But, my experiences with them relating to childbirth have not been great, and my general attitude is to believe essentially nothing they say. They don't tend to know what they're talking about, especially when they're young, male and single. Hence my lifelong preference for females to deliver my babies, preferably females who've had babies of their own.
Anyhow...the nurse then came in and started talking about pitocin to help me have more contractions. I had talked with Dr. Bull about simply breaking my water again, so that the loss of fluid was noticeable, and explained to the nurse that I'd prefer to try that first. She conceded that that would probably be an easier intervention and went to call someone about it. I then learned that, although there were rooms available, there were not nurses available. So I had to wait in triage until a nurse could be called in.
At long last, I made it to my room. I think I was only in triage two hours this time! From there, I called James to update him and emailed my boss to let her know I wouldn't be in to work. Then I waited and did some more work. It's always been a bit weird for me to get to the hospital completely not in pain. But this time there was really nothing happening and I just didn't know what to do with myself. So, I did some work. I'm not used to having nothing to do.
Eventually, my nurse informed me that Dr. Bull was indeed going to come break my water (she wanted to do it herself in case the labor was really really fast) once she finished with her morning's clinic patients. Dr. Bull arrived just before 1pm and James arrived just after. She broke my water about 1:15. It was fairly uneventful really, and mostly just more water than I remember there being with the other two (Virginia's came in bits and snatches, but Thomas's was all at once). It was still a while before contractions really started, but they did eventually get moving. A little more than two hours later, with just one push, Molly was born. It was fast enough that I think the resident missed it. Oh well. Even the doctor didn't expect her quite so quickly once I started pushing.
While the process of getting into labor with her was long and somewhat of a debacle, I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying Molly's laid back personality. She is a wonderful third child, and generally a wonderful baby. She's not much into being burped, but she's also really not bothered by the resulting gas. She sleeps a LOT, is very happy when she's not sleeping, and is generally wonderful. It's a good thing we didn't start out with her. It might have made us less enchanted with the other two, who were also really good babies. But not quite this good. If they keep getting better like this, we may end up with a dozen children.