Henry’s Birth Story Part 1: Prelude

Two days after my estimated due date, I wake up in the middle of night.

My pajamas are wet.

I’ve read enough stories of women thinking their water broke only to discover they’d peed their pants to know not to jump to conclusions, but I know what is happening. I go to the bathroom to confirm what’s going on—and sure enough my water broke. Even though I’d told everyone how much I didn’t want my labor to start in the middle of the night, I’m super excited.

I crawl back into bed and whisper the news to Nathan. He promptly records “12:56am: her water broke” on his phone since we had discussed that he’ll take notes during my labor.

I call my clinic and they tell me to head to the hospital but obviously there’s no rush considering I’m not having any contractions yet.

I take a leisurely shower and watch as the water pours over my mountainous belly. Then, in a very pregnant, hormone-induced style, I begin cleaning our apartment—scrubbing down doors with disinfecting wipes and doing other deep cleaning jobs. The idea of me coming home from the hospital to a clean home becomes paramount. I even start vacuuming dust out of the corners of our wood floors, which Nathan, for the love of our dear neighbors’ sleep, advises me to stop doing.

Right before we left for the hospital.

Before we drive the half mile from our apartment to the hospital, we look around our home and talk about how the next time we’ll be in this space we’ll have our son in our arms.

***

Despite it being 4am by the time we get to the hospital, I feel completely awake and full of energy. If it weren’t for my ginormous belly protruding into the world, I could have run to the hospital. I check into triage and the nurse confirms that my water broke and that I’m one centimeter dilated.

One.

I ask her if she’s sure that’s correct because at my appointment a couple days ago my doctor said I was at two centimeters. She says she always estimates conservatively, so I ridiculously tell myself I must to be further along. I get to my labor and delivery room and the nurse says they’re going to wait until 8am, when the doctor comes on shift, to make any plans about next steps. That sounds fine.

While I wait, I do everything I can think of to get labor moving along on its own. I’m sure the overnight administrative staff enjoys watching my more-than-40-weeks-pregnant-body climbing up and down the stairs over and over.

I bounce on birthing balls as water keeps gushing out of me in hilarious fashion.

But no contractions come.

In retrospect, I should be spending this time sleeping.

***

By early morning, a new nurse comes on shift and wants to check my progress again.

She is the worst nurse I have ever had. She restates that I’m one centimeter dilated and adds that she can’t even feel the baby’s head. I understand that she’s surprised that my baby hasn’t dropped much, but I wish she’d act a little less astonished about it. She’s convinced my baby might be breech and has the nerve to tell me this.

My mood instantly changes. Breech? No. He’s been head down for over a month.

After she leaves the room, I wake Nathan up (he is the smart one and is sleeping) and start sobbing. I know how breech babies are born. Nathan prays with me and calms me down.

My doctor comes in with a smile and her usual joyful presence and says she’s going to confirm on an ultrasound how the baby is positioned.

There he is on the fuzzy black and white screen: head down.

Just like I knew he was.

***

My doctor comes back in later to discuss ideas about what to do to help my labor progress. She knows that I want to avoid getting an IV, so she presents the idea of doing a cervical foley, which basically means inserting a balloon in my cervix. She’s not pushy about it and tells me there is no urgency to do anything; we can just wait a while longer and see if labor starts progressing on its own.

As weird as it seems, I like the idea of the cervical foley for a few reasons:

  1. It is 9:30, over eight hours since my water broke, and I want to get labor moving along since I cannot leave the hospital with my water broken.
  2. The cervical foley seems like the gentlest intervention: I don’t need an IV. I can walk around and move freely, and I only need intermittent, instead of continuous, fetal monitoring.
  3. The foley will fall out when I’m at least five centimeters dilated, so I feel confident it will help my labor progress.

So, I say to go ahead with the balloon option.

What I don’t want to ask about when she suggests the cervical foley is how much it’s going to hurt—and it does. I start getting contractions almost right away, but I’m relieved that they’re manageable and I can still talk through them.

Nathan and I decide to work on our early labor plan—which involves distracting me as much as possible by watching Harry Potter. I try to relax as my uterus tightens into stronger, more frequent contractions. But my mind wanders endlessly back to my baby and how he is about to be born. How everything is about to change.

(You can read Part 2 of the story here.)

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