My dad arrived on Saturday, September 22nd – the same day Scott picked 140 lb of apples to sauce, Mackenzie had her first soccer game, and Caitlyn came down with the same awful virus Mackenzie was fighting.
The Virus of Doom
My sweet girls developed red, swollen gums and lips, sores around their mouths and on their tongues, and were just generally wiped out and feverish. Luckily, Mackenzie was on the tail end of this when my dad arrived. But she still had all the sores in full display, along with a swollen mosquito bite on her forehead. When she tripped and fell and scraped up her chin on Monday I very nearly laughed. She was not quite primed for photographs, poor thing.
Typically smiley, poor Caitlyn was nothing but tears and screaming for days. Her mouth hurt too much to eat much of anything and all she wanted was for me to hold her. (Not a good backdrop for a new baby’s arrival.)
Edited to add: This virus turned out to be very dangerous to newborns and put us on high alert for the first few weeks after the birth.
Although I had been having lots of contractions for weeks, and had been dilated to a 3.5 and was 70% effaced at my 39 week appointment, pretty much all spontaneous activity stopped when my dad’s plane landed. We walked 7 miles in the first 24 hours he was here and there was some minor excitement but nothing that was remotely close to The Real Deal.
Come Sunday night, I was bouncing on a birthing ball and timing contractions 3-4 minutes apart. Each contraction was lasting a minute and a half and after a few hours Scott started to raise his eyebrows a bit. I knew that the contractions were too mild to count, but how do you explain that to a concerned man-doctor? The rule of thumb is that if they are 5 minutes apart for an hour you’re supposed to call it in! I finally talked Scott into letting me go to sleep by assuring him there was zero chance the baby would arrive while I was asleep without me knowing. 🙂
I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible nightmare. It was so bad I had to wake Scott up to hold me and reassure me that it wasn’t true.
Before I could get back to sleep, I started thinking about how quiet my baby had been in my belly lately. My baby was normally a Kung Fu Master, but ever since the regular mild contractions I had been having I had hardly felt a nudge. I lay in bed hoping to count kicks, but with no luck. At around 5 am I decided that maybe the baby just needed a little food, so I came downstairs for a slice of homemade apple pie (Scott had put 6 of the 140 lb. to good use already 😉 ). I stretched out on the couch and ate my pie for about 45 minutes, praying for some baby activity.
There was enough movement to be reassuring to some degree, but still nowhere near as much as I was used to. I felt okay about waiting until my scheduled appointment at 8:50 am the next morning to get things checked out.
Gory Details Begin
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
At my appointment, as planned, my doctor stripped my membranes. Essentially, she separated the amniotic sac a bit from the side of my uterus. This sends some percentage of women into labor and it was my Hail Mary attempt at getting this baby to come while my dad was in town.
After hearing my concerns about the baby’s activity she had me hooked up to a monitor. Gratefully, my Kung Fu Master made a reappearance and brought some intermittent stronger contractions with him.
Before I left the office my doctor told me I was dilated to a 4.
After I got home, Scott finally decided he’d better take the time to wrangle three car seats into the back of our Subaru Outback. We were both sweating by the time that was accomplished!
Scott went to work and Mackenzie and I distracted ourselves with blowing bubbles.
We were all going a bit stir crazy, so my dad and I took the girls to Whole Foods for lunch. We then went next door to a great toy store and my dad surprised Mackenzie and Caitlyn by promising to buy them a toy each and telling them they could pick anything in the store.
I don’t recommend this as a post-membrane-stripping activity. Putting a 2 year old at ground level with an entire store full of brightly colored, tempting, and sometimes breakable items is a risky endeavor at best. I spent the next few hours wrangling Caitlyn and cramping while Mackenzie inspected everything in the store carefully in order to accurately assess which toy was most desirable.
I finally issued a 5 minute ultimatum and we left with a barrel of crafty things (for M), a wooden pounding toy (for C), a tub of dinosaur goo (which Caitlyn managed to open in the store before I could get it out of her hands) and an at-the-end-of-her-rope Mama.
Nap time was very sweet that day.
Discouragement and Denial
When Scott came back from work, he wanted to talk about Plan B – the plan for if the membrane stripping did NOT put me into labor. I was feeling uncomfortable enough that I thought talking about Plan B was a bit premature.
Instead, I packed us a picnic dinner and we walked a mile to the park to practice Mackenzie’s soccer skills.
Yes, she likes to wear her uniform every chance she gets. 🙂
I timed contractions on the way there (between 5 and 10 minutes apart) but I think running around with Mackenzie may have done something because on the way home the contractions were more regular and I had to pause a few times for strongest ones.
Halfway home, Scott cleared his throat and ventured, “Well, I guess we should actually decide on baby names.” Miracle of miracles, he was even willing to discuss boy names just in case.
By the time we arrived at home, we had a frontrunner for a girl and a frontrunner for a boy.
Getting the Party Started
We got home at 8pm, put the girls to bed, and I sat on my birthing ball eating bruschetta Scott made and timing contractions. They were still irregular but getting a bit more uncomfortable. By 9:30, they were usually 3-4 minutes apart and strong, but still easy to get through.
At 10 pm I had one where I actually felt the baby move down and it was stronger and longer and I said, without thinking, “Woah! That was… um… we’re going to need to go to the hospital tonight.”
Scott leapt into action and started pulling together things to take to the hospital. My dad was busy rounding up camera equipment.
As for me? I was just chilling on the birthing ball. I stopped timing contractions and just relaxed and called out reminders to Scott as he hustled around the house. For some reason I was really intent on a certain pair of maternity pants coming to the hospital but Scott wasn’t having any luck finding them. I told him there was no hurry and the thought occurred to me that I would walk down to the basement myself to see if they were there. I got off the birthing ball, and took probably three steps towards the stairs before I was uncomfortable enough that I reconsidered. That was really the moment I thought, “We may actually have a baby tonight!”
After dropping off the monitor at our next-door-neighbor’s house we jumped (or, in my case, slowly climbed) into the car and made the 7 minute drive to the hospital. On the way, we made delivery time predictions: 12:58 am for Scott, 3:17 am for my dad, and a conservative 7 am for me.
Scott wanted to drop me and my dad off at the doors but I insisted that he park and we all walk up together. I was clinging to this idea that there was no hurry, and a part of me still thought I’d get sent home for not really being in labor.
I had to stop for lots of contractions going up to the doors but still had Scott sweep me up into his arms in our typical dramatic fashion so my dad could get our entrance to the hospital on video. 🙂