*WARNING*: In case you don't like all the details that generally accompany birth stories, you can stop reading now. Otherwise, read on.
Emma's due date was August 30. I felt very confident with this accuracy of this date, though according to her ultrasounds she was measuring bigger (one week ahead at her 20 week ultrasound and two weeks ahead at a 28 week ultrasound). Elliott and I both felt that she would come earlier, but as two weeks early came and went, then one week to go passed us by we knew this baby had a mind of her own.
From the very beginning the one concern I had with her due date was its closeness to the age for school cut-off in Utah, which is September 1. Maybe this isn't a concern to most people, but I have been frustrated with Ava not being able to go to kindergarten this year (because her birthday is October 21) while she and Lily thrive on learning. They are both whip-smart and, as girls tend to try to keep up with their sisters, I believe that Emma will also be ahead of the curve. The thought of holding her back a whole year because she was born one day late galled me to no end. I had spent my pregnancy hoping to be able to experience this birth naturally (the other three I had epidurals) but as the due date loomed I began to be worried that I would go for an inducement/epidural again, a decision Elliott and I made long ago.
I started dilating/effacing 6 weeks out. By my 38 week appointment I was dilated to a 3+, 75% effaced. My doctor gently stripped my membranes (with my approval) and then I waited for another week with no action. I did have quite a bit of mucous shedding throughout the week, but no "mucous plug" per se. My doctor said that was normal, as I was dilated so much already that this constant shedding was in place of my "plug".
At my 39 week check-up I was up to a 4+ dilation, 85% effaced. Dr. Langer stripped my membranes again and we called to set-up my inducement for the following Monday, August 29. Apparently it was going to be a busy inducement day at the hospital, so they put me on the waiting list. Dr. Langer said if nothing happened the rest of the week, I could come back in the Friday before and strip my membranes again. Again, the week brought no new developments so back in the office I went on Friday. I hadn't dilated any further and the doctor stripped my membranes for a third time.
The rest of the Friday we spent in Provo, enjoying visiting with Elliott's sister Gabby who was in town from San Diego and taking my mind off the last few days of waiting. Elliott was very nervous to take me anywhere, but I insisted it was better than sitting at home waiting. Saturday we spent the morning garage saling (""Maybe it'll send you into labor" says Elliott) and that evening we went to the Valgardson's for our nephew Calder's birthday party. I did feel a little crampy on the drive down, but kept my mouth shut as I didn't want to send everybody back home if nothing was happening, and the pain had stopped by the time we got to the party.
I went to bed normally Saturday night and woke up at 6:15am Sunday morning feeling like I was about to wet myself. I reached down to feel my underwear and felt a "bulge", like a small water balloon, between my legs. I jumped out of bed and dashed for the bathroom, but my water broke on the way. I did manage to make it to the tile before gushing all over the floor. I grabbed a towel but remembered my sister Tracy's advice that the water keeps trickling out, so I woke up Elliott to go grab me a pack of maxipads out of the closet.
Once awake Elliott and I decided that we should probably head to the hospital. Dr. Langer had told me to do this, just so they could check me and then they would let me walk around and labor naturally. Elliott took longer to get ready than me, so I checked my Facebook, chatted with my mom, and was able to hug the two big girls goodbye before we left. By the time we got to the hospital I was clocking very light contractions at 7 minutes apart, but I was barely feeling them and they weren't painful at all. We were checked into the hospital at 7:20am and they hooked my up to monitors and started the paperwork. At this point I stopped looking at the clock, because I tend to get caught up with how long everything is taking and stress out, so I don't have exact times but I remember generalities.
The hospital I delivered at is very supportive of natural labor and my desire to do it my way. They wanted to monitor the baby's heartbeat for 20 minutes before they let me off the monitors, and they put an IV placeholder in my hand should I need medicine in an emergency, but I wasn't hooked up to anything. (That process took awhile, as my nurse blew my first two veins and had to call in the charge nurse to put in the IV.) First thing the nurse measured me again and I was still where I was at on Friday - 4+ dilation, 85% effaced. I lay in the bed awhile while the monitor measured baby's heartbeat, watching the morning news coverage of Hurricane Irene, chatting with Elliott. I got kinda hungry and even though I was told not to eat anything, I sent Elliott to the cafeteria for a piece of banana bread (which I scarfed down before the nurse could see). Later on, when the nurse returned she let me off the monitors and had more paperwork questions. By this time the contractions were about 2 minutes apart and I could tell they were getting stronger, but I could still talk through them.
When the paperwork was done I asked Elliott for my MP3 player so I could listen to my relaxation techniques. I had been listening to both the Hypnobirthing and Hypnobabies techniques (courtesy of my sisters-in-law Rachel and Lizzie, who used them for their natural births) but as soon as I tried to listen Elliott and the nurse kept asking me more questions, so I gave up and threw the player back at the Elliott to put away. I knew I was going to have to go this alone.
Elliott wanted to go to the cafeteria too and get something quick to eat, and I said that was fine; it didn't bother me. (Elliott said later he assumed he still had at least three more hours.) The nurse was really nervous at this and told him to hurry. She put the emergency button by me and told me to push it if I needed anything; she was going to start setting up for delivery.
From this point everything gets very busy to me and I don't really have a concept of time. I know the strength of the contractions really picked up while Elliott was gone. The position I found I liked was kneeling on my knees beside the edge of the bed, and I would groan into the covers through the contractions, remembering to breathe. At some point the nurse wanted to check my progress and I told her I was was having another contraction. She said that was the best way to measure, so I climbed back into the bed for her to check and she said I was dilated to an 8. That's when she started to scurry. She put in a call to my doctor (who was not on call but said she would come) and to the doctor who was on call just in case, and ordered stuff for the baby from the nursery.
Elliott got back about 9am to find me in full-blown labor. The nurse stayed in the room with us (you get one-one-one nurses with natural labors I found out later) and encouraged Elliott to apply counter-pressure to my lower back throughout the contractions. I remember hearing their voices ("you're doing great", "just breath, good") and cool washcloths on my neck. The nurse said to let her know when I was ready to push. I crankily said it all hurt, I didn't know what the difference was. "Oh you will" she said.
I will not lie - it hurt. Time is amnesia, but I will remember that it was not pain-free. I breathed and groaned, clutching the covers on the bed as I made my way through each contraction. At some point I said "I think I want to push". The nurse cried out "That's it!" and I climbed into bed just as Dr. Langer walked in. They asked if I would like a mirror to watch and I said yes and they called for the baby's stuff again (it hadn't arrived yet). Dr. Langer barely had time to get suited up, the baby's stuff barely got there, and the mirror didn't make it in time. I pushed through two contractions, crying out like something in a Hollywood movie. On the second contraction I heard "stop Sarah, there's a shoulder, ok go, wait there's the other shoulder, SHE'S OUT" and they put her right on me. It was 9:45am.
Dr. Langer and Emma
Emma looked like Lily, both Elliott and agreed. She was so very alert and awake, and they let me hold her for quite some time. Then they needed to weigh her and clean me up, at which point I remembered the camera and told Elliott to grab it and stay with Emma. Dr. Langer showed me my placenta (no one had ever done that before) and she and the nurse worked to get my bleeding under control (I ended up needing two bags of Pitocin and some sort of shot). I didn't even need any stitches. By the time I was in recovery and off the IV it was about noon. And thus began our new life as a family of six....