When we found out that my mom's babies were all right on time or a few days early, Jesse & I joked about having a May Day baby. "Wouldn't it be cool to have the first baby on the board at the Birthing Inn?" When the contractions hit hard around 11.30 PM on April 30th, I thought that we might just have our May Day baby. I decided not to wake Jesse up unless the contractions got closer together.
I sat on the birthing ball we had borrowed from some friends of ours for a while, but every time a contraction hit that I had to breathe through, I would shiver uncontrollably. I just couldn't get warm. I remembered reading or hearing something about water helping with back labor and, since most of my contractions were in my back, I decided to draw a hot bath. It did ease the pain and it helped me get warm. Once I had stopped shivering long enough to think, I started to worry that there was something wrong.
I got out of the tub to try to do some research in my awesome book from the Mayo Clinic. I started shivering again almost instantly. I managed to flip through a few chapters, but I couldn't find anything. I finally shivered my way to the bedroom to wake Jesse up to come look for me. He was very groggy but managed to stumble back across the house with me as I got back in the warm water to get the shivering under control.
He couldn't find anything. Not in the book. Not online. I decided to call the midwife just to be sure that nothing was wrong. I felt bad waking her up (it was now 2.30 or so in the morning of May 1st), but I wanted to make sure that we didn't need to go to the hospital for some kind of monitoring.
She was baffled. She'd never heard of anything like this. She said that as long as I wasn't running a fever or feeling nauseaus, we were probably fine. She advised me to try to get some more sleep.
I had Jesse pile more blankets on the bed & crawled into bed with my cat. There's no better heater than a purring cat. At least I think so.
I woke up in the morning and the contractions had completely fizzled out. Sigh. I guess I'm not getting a May Day baby after all. Which, to a certain extent, I was actually fine with, I had packed that Saturday full and wasn't sure I wanted to try to do all of that while dealing with back labor.
Fast forward to 12 AM Mother's Day (May 8). I had been sleeping and was woken up by more back labor. Jesse was still up working on his guitar (it's a long story, you'd have to ask him). I came out to the kitchen and asked for water. That's the first thing the midwives ask, so I wanted to make sure I had two bottles down before I called or anything. Jesse was watching me breathe and shiver and he said, "I think this is it. I think we're going to have our baby."
These contractions didn't feel any different than the last set, so I was decidedly not as optimistic. I decided to get in the tub again. It's a little hazy, but I think I took two baths through the course of the night and drank lots of water. Since the contractions never settled down into a pattern or got closer together than about 10 minutes, we decided to go back to bed. Somewhere in here I lost my mucous plug & decided to call first thing Monday morning to get an appointment to get my cervix checked.
I woke up still having contractions about 10 to 20 minutes apart. We decided to skip church to get some extra sleep and finally got ourselves up to meet my family for Mother's Day lunch at our favorite Mongolian grill. We laughed with my mom about how surreal it would be to have a baby on Mother's day.
We came back home & took a nap. We figured if we were in labor, it would be best to sleep as much as we could. When we woke up, I wanted to take a walk "in nature" for Mother's Day. Start a tradition, baby or no baby. We looked online & discovered that our metro parks system maintains several nature parks within the city limits. We decided to go check out Snake Lake Nature Reserve. The Nature Center was closed for the weekend, but the trails were open. We walked for almost a mile. By the end of the mile, my contractions were dropping down under 10 minutes apart.
We decided to go get some BBQ (spicy food) to try to keep things going. When we got to the restaraunt, we were informed by our waitress that she was the only one who had 2 other people go into labor at her table. We gave each other a high-five.
By the time dinner was over, the contractions had settled back down so we went home & went to bed.
On Monday morning (May 9), I emailed my colleagues saying that I wasn't feeling well and would stay home. Since I still wasn't sure if these contractions were going to settle into a pattern, I didn't want everyone getting all excited for nothing. I emailed my boss directly and informed him that I thought we were in early labor and I may not make it in again.
I called the clinic and requested a cervical check. My mom's contractions never got steady with her first pregnancy (me), I wanted to get checked and make sure we knew where we were at. As I was getting ready for my appointment, I was thinking, I don't even care if it's much, I'll be happy if we're at 1 cm.
My mom decided to come take me to my appointment in case the cervical check triggered actual active labor.
2 cm and cervix "soft like butter", ready for lots of changes.
I rescheduled my weekly appointment for the next week, went home, and went to bed.
I slept off and on all day.
I was awakened at around 3 in the morning (May 10) with more strong back contractions, accompanied by that blasted shivering. I drew a bath & pulled up my contraction timer app, since it felt like these were closer together.
I timed six contractions at less that 4 minutes apart.
Ok, now we're getting somewhere.
I woke Jesse up saying, "I just timed six contractions at less than 4 minutes apart."
He sprang out of bed sputtering. And followed me back to the tub so I could get warm.
We timed an hour of contractions and called the midwife at around 430 in the morning. She said that since this was the first, she wanted us to wait a little bit longer and call again. We went back to bed and I got some more sleep in between contractions.
We were just getting back up and getting ready to start timing the contractions again when I had a bloody show.
We called the midwife again, and she decided to have us meet the next midwife on call (there's a group of them, and I had met all of them before this point) at the clinic at 8.
I showered and we loaded up our "to go" bag in the car & headed to clinic.
While I was in the changing room getting ready for my cervical check, I felt a warm trickle run down my leg. What the hell? I don't think I peed. Holy crap. I think my water just broke. "Um, honey? I think my water just broke."
Chuckle. "What? Are you serious?"
Then the midwife, Kim Horvath, came in & I heard him tell her. She laughed too. "Well, I guess you're having a baby today."
I got myself sort of cleaned up & got back up on the chair.
7 cm, which apparently is pretty good, since Kim and the nurses were impressed that I'd made it that long.
We headed down the hall for fetal monitoring while Kim & the birthing assistants, Melissa and Susan, got the room set up downstairs.
The sensation of the amniotic fluid leaking was absolutely disgusting. Every move I made caused more of it to gush out. I think I said "Ew" or "Gross" about a hundred times before we got settled into our birthing room. I changed into my labor dress and got up on the bed.
Since I'm Group B Strep positive, the first order of business was to get an IV in. It took Kim a couple of tries to get the needle in, but that's never really bothered me, so I just waited. The tape really bugged me, but that was about it.
I labored for a couple of hours, on the bed, on the birthing ball, and walked a little. I was still shivering pretty badly so Melissa threw some blankets in the dryer and brought them out for me. They were heavenly.
Sometime around 10.30, Kim checked me again and I had dialated to 9 cm. They started filling the birthing tub & pulled all the baby equipment out. I had another costume change to get in the water. Jesse got his trunks on and got in with me.
The warm water felt absolutely amazing. We were so excited. We were going to be holding Panda by noon for sure.
A half an hour later, Kim came in and I had stalled out at 9 cm. I was crushed.
I climbed back out of the tub and changed back into my other labor clothes to start walking. I walked the halls. I lunged up and down the stairs. I sat on the birthing ball and rocked.
We couldn't get the contractions to come any more than once every half hour. My legs were so sore and from all the shivering that it was getting hard to walk up the stairs.
Kim let me go for 3 or 4 hours, and then she said the words I had hoped wouldn't come. "I think we need to transfer you to the hospital. Your uterus has been contracting basically for three days. I think it's just decided to give up."
We cried. Actually, I sobbed, and Jesse held and cried with me. It was so devestating to make it all the way to 9 cm and not be able to finish it out. Panda wasn't going to get her name on the board at all. The credit for the birth would all go to St. Joe's. This wasn't what I wanted.
"Please," I prayed. "Don't let them give me a Cesarian."
Since it had been several hours, Kim gave me the next dose of antibiotics before we packed up and left.
We got settled into our new room at the hospital with all the monitors and the horrid hospital gown. They wouldn't let me wear my labor dress.
I sat in the bed and sniffled while they hooked up fluids and the Pitocin to my IV.
In the interest of keeping this PG, I won't share the words that went through my head when the Pitocin hit my system. But if anyone has ever told you that it's evil, they're right.
Those contractions sent my shivers through the roof. I'm sure it looked like I was having a seziure every time one hit. As the got closer together, Kim came back in to the room and watched me shake.
She talked to my mom and decided to recommend an epidural. I had basically been up for 17 hours and shivering for most of that. She didn't think I would physically have the strength to push. If I got an epidural, I would be at least be able to sleep for a little while.
Jesse and I attempted to talk about it, but I was in so much pain and so tired, I just didn't care anymore. He asked a few questions (which I very much appreciated) and then looked at me. I asked him what he thought we should do and he broke down and cried. Watching me shake like that tore him up emotionally. He prayed about it and felt like we should go ahead with it.
The anesthesiologist came in and started running through his disclaimers. At that point, we both just wanted him to shut up and stick the needle in. They brought Jesse around in front of me on the side of the bed so I could lean on him while the Dr was looking for the right spot.
Several more contractions hit before the epidural kicked in. The last one I felt was the only one that pushed me over the edge and left me completely out of control. Jesse heard me starting to groan and lose control of my breathing. He started regulating his breathing, which was the most helpful thing he could have done at the time. It pulled me out of the pain and helped me to regulate mine.
I started falling asleep before the Dr left the room. I was finally warm. And so tired.
They let me sleep for about half an hour. Then Kim came back in and said it was time to push. It was time to get excited again.
We pushed for 45 minutes and out she came. Jesse's voice cracked, "It's a girl." I looked over to see tears streaming down his face. And then I saw her. And she was beautiful. And purple.
I got a good look at her face and all of her features were just perfect. A full head of dark hair. She had big beautiful dark eyes. A little button nose. The tiniest little fingers. And her mouth. Round. Red. Rosebud lips. Just perfect.
After the cord finished pulsing, they clamped it off and Jesse cut the last physical link between us. She was now her own person. This little life that I had carried for nearly 40 weeks was on her own. It was a spiritual moment.
Then they asked the name. I looked at her & then her daddy and asked:
"What do you think? Do we have our AJ?"
The tears renewed and he nodded.
"Can you do it?"
He shook his head.
I took a deep breath to steady my voice. "Aravis. Aravis Jade."
Aravis Jade Carrigan was born on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 7.59 PM during the sunset. She was 6 lbs 10 oz and 19.5 in.
She's ours. And she's here.