Kraemer and I work together (well, worked – starting July 15 I’ll be in a new building with a new job), which I LOVE, really, I do. We were having lunch, and twice, maybe three times over the probably 25-30 minutes we sat there, I cringed in reaction to a pain in my abdomen. I was in my second trimester – I’d just hit 24 weeks that day – and thought that they were round ligament uterine pains. At the time, I thought the discomfort I was having was par for the course. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and I’ll forever think about what might have happened differently if I could have pinpointed that pain as something other than normal.
I stayed at work. The pain was intermittent, so I didn’t think much of it. Our little “buddy” was being active, as he’d been regularly, so again, nothing seemed wrong. But by the end of the work day, I started to realize the pains were coming more often, almost regularly. Almost like labor. I ditched my plan to go to the gym, skipped the trip to CVS at Kraemer’s urging, and came home to crash on the couch while Kraemer made us dinner.
I researched the differences between true and false labor. My “contractions” were coming every four to seven minutes. They lasted from 30 seconds to a minute. They seemed to be getting worse – or were they? I wasn’t sure. But all the websites described Braxton Hicks as “mild.” These weren’t mild. The telltale differentiator is the size of your cervix – and I wasn’t about to try to figure that out for myself.
When things hadn’t improved with rest, had actually worsened, I called the midwife on call at the hospital for my practice. I hung up the first time; it was after-hours, so when the voice on the message machine told me to “dial 8 if you think you are in labor,” I hesitated. But I knew I needed to talk with someone, labor nor not, so I dialed again. When she learned I’d had a small lunch and only just had dinner, she advised I turn on the tube, drink a quart of water, let my food settle and call her back in an hour. She said dehydration could trigger BH, so while I estimated I’d had a couple liters already throughout the day, she urged I try her proposed remedy for a bit.
An hour later, things hadn’t changed. I waited 15-20 more minutes, and when the contractions kept coming, I was sure things weren’t looking good. I called back and briefed this new midwife on my situation. She told me to come in. Just in case. It was just after 9:30, and she said she’d rather see me at the hospital now than 2:30am. (And 2:30am would have been too late in more ways than one.) I had to ask her which hospital. I wasn’t expecting to need to know that information for four more months.
Kraemer wasn’t thrilled given the hour but grabbed the keys without hesitation. (Full disclosure, I pulled a similar stunt a few months earlier when I was positively CONVINCED I had a blood clot in my calf. I didn’t. But we spent several late-night hours in the ER and several hundred dollars just to be sure. (Hillary had one, why couldn’t I?!))
We made it up to Labor and Delivery by 10:15. The secretary registered me within 20 minutes and ushered me into a large room with multiple beds. I was fitted with an IV for hydration and peppered with questions (many I’d already been asked during registration) about my health and pregnancy for an hour. The nurse disappeared now and again but assured me she’d call the doctor as soon as she “had enough material” for the doctor to review.
Meanwhile, my contractions were strengthening and coming closer together. Holy moly. Every time I contracted, a number on the screen that hovered around 6 would start running up rapidly: 6, 11, 18, 36, 47; I watched for a few seconds before turning my head… no need to see how high it could go. Trying to be encouraging, or make light of the situation, Kraemer mused that labor would be even worse (he was still convinced there’d be no baby tonight.) If this were false labor, there was no question I would be going the epidural route for true labor. I overheard the nurse outside the curtain saying into the phone my contractions were now every three minutes.
The doctor arrived. She asked me a few questions and raised her eyebrows at my response. “We need to check the cervix.” Finally! This is what I thought they’d do the minute I walked in the door.
When the doctor gasps upon looking at your body, you know all is not as it should be. Here’s where things start to get fuzzy. And confusing. There was commotion, questions about when she was called, demands that nurses call up to the NICU (the NICU? Nothing was registering with me yet.), get the neonatologist on the phone. Mags and steroids were ordered. “You have a bulging bag.” (What was that?) I was dilated 5 cm, plenty of space for a preemie. “We need to find out if the baby is breeched. We don’t deliver breeched babies naturally at this hospital; you would need a C-section.” (But I hadn’t read the C-section part in my books yet! I hadn’t taken any of the classes!) They hadn’t administered any drugs yet. They finally jabbed me with the steroids, which are intended to help a premature baby’s lungs develop after birth. But that needs to come, ideally, 24 hours prior to delivery.
The baby was head down. There was no time.
Still in disbelief of what was happening and staring at the ceiling as the nurses rolled my bed through the hallways and the automatic double-doors, I flashed to scenes in ER and Grey’s Anatomy. I couldn’t see Kraemer, but as we turned into the delivery room, I could hear him telling me weakly that I was “doing great” (I later learned he was about as close to passing out as I was – he’d just been hit with the reality that we were having this baby NOW.) My fingers began to stiffen and cramp. I couldn’t move them. “Why can’t I move my hands?” “Don’t worry about your hands. Keep breathing. Breathe through the contractions. Don’t push!” Okay.
I explained as calmly as I could that I was NOT pushing, at least not to the extent that I still felt I could control what was going on with my body. I knew they didn’t want the baby to come tonight, and neither did I, but I could recognize the reality by now and knew where that baby was. Woosh!! My water broke.
In an effort to get out of attending birthing classes, Kraemer always told me that his firemen friends told him delivery was “as easy as catching a football.” I maintain that’s not true, but let me tell you, I’m glad the doctor, the nurse, whoever the heck was on the receiving end that night, had good catching skills, because I think our little boy nearly shot across the room. It was 12:42 AM on Tuesday, July 2.
The rest of my memories consist of Kraemer at my side and our baby whisked away to a cart I couldn’t quite see on the other side of the room. The neonatologist was working calmly and quickly, and told us something about him being “okay.” They fed me a turkey sandwich – my first deli meat in months! – and showed Kraemer up to the NICU.