Not just my Auggie, but the Saint for which he is named. We didn’t name him because he was born on this day; rather, I like to think he was born on this day because we had already named him Augustine.
But who ever really knows why babies come when they come?
Augustine’s due date was November 22nd or 26th, depending on the medical professional that you asked. I picked Thanksgiving as his due date since it fell on the 24th in 2016, right in the middle. Like almost all pregnant mamas, though, I began to think that maybe an early arrival wouldn’t be so bad…then again, November rolled around and things were far from “ready.” But the midwives assured me he wasn’t in any position to come early, so I kept my preparation pace slow and steady.
Until Friday, November 11th. Driving home from school, I was hit with this burning desire to get groceries and make some returns and purchases at Buy Buy Baby. I was exhausted, but I just *had* to do it. It was inexplicable. The next day we had planned to go to Indianola for the day to celebrate my dad’s birthday. Mike had to fix one of our cars, so he couldn’t go, and while I could have gone myself, this same strange and driving impulse pushed me to stay home and finish baby prep. I was irritated about it. Irritated at everyone and everything, but I could not resist the impulse.
You’re seeing where this is going, right?
That night, Mike and I took Dad to see Doctor Strange. During the movie, I’ll confess I was drinking a LARGE Pepsi. #cravings. Auggie was kicking around like crazy, and at one point I felt/heard a pop. I attributed it to the bubbly goodness of Pepsi, and took it as a hint to slow down on the soda guzzling.
I mentioned it, though, so let’s jump ahead to 11pm that night, when I got up, as usual, to pee. What wasn’t usual was the extra…liquidity. A coworker had told me just a few days before how she wasn’t sure if her water broke, because things were just a little extra-extra. No big gush like in the movies, no contractions. This was in the back of my mind, so I decided to call the midwife but not wake Mike because probably nothing, right? The midwife said to wait an hour and see what happened. If things kept up the same way, give her a call. So I went back to bed, still not waking Mike, and laid there. My thoughts went something like this:
This is totally not happening. Duh. I’m going to sleep.
This is probably happening. Crap. I haven’t graded the Greek/Latin Roots Pre-Test yet. Maybe I should go do that now, just in case.
You know what? This isn’t happening. I’ll grade tomorrow afternoon. I’m not even going to call back.
I should definitely go dust the house. I haven’t in weeks. That should be done before the baby comes, if this is happening, which it probably isn’t.
An hour later, the signs were pointing to “it happening.” No contractions, though – which is what made the midwife demand we head in right away. It was about 1 in the morning. I finally woke Mike up – you know that startled gopher of internet fame? That’s about what happened when I whispered “Hey babe? My water broke.”
We grabbed our bags, adding some other potential needed items (who really knew at that point what we would need!) and headed to the hospital. That drive down Woodland was surreal. It was dark, but not cold despite it being November. I texted the parents, maybe even called my mom. I’m confident that if I had been having contractions, it would have felt more real. Probably urgent. It wasn’t at all what I had expected, needless to say.
A large group of nurses and staff were hanging out at the counter when we were buzzed in to the maternity ward. They were all smiling; I want to remember that. It set the tone for the delivery – one of welcome and warmth. We had to hang out for a couple of hours in the triage room while they jumped through hoops of confirming that the by now obvious leak of amniotic fluid was what it was. While that sign of labor was apparent, nothing else in my body was ready. This was when I was grateful that I’d taken my labor & delivery nurse friend Allison’s advice and not gotten married to a birth plan. You can’t be disappointed in a plan not working out if you don’t have one in the first place! The first midwife, when she made her final check, said that we should prepare for an epidural because of the Pitocin we’d be using. “Pitocin already means that you aren’t having a natural birth anyway,” she said. I remember it with the permission it granted. She even told us a story of another patient who had a similar birth story and how the epidural was super helpful – and the comfort that brought was on a deeper level, because I was 99% sure I knew exactly who she was talking about.
As you probably guessed, I had to be induced. They got us to a room, told us to try and get some sleep, that we would be induced around 6:30am. This was around 4. I did not sleep. How could I? I emailed my work to let them know that I wouldn’t be in the next day. I continued live-tweeting the experience.* And soon enough the midwife showed up to do some final checks before she started the Pitocin. They hooked me up to the IV, and Mike went home to let the dog out one last time before my dad could make it over to house where he would dog sit for the next few days. We thought we would have a good amount of time before the Pitocin did its thing, but I don’t think Mike even made it to our house before the contractions started. Pitocin is NOT A JOKE.
The next 4.5 hours or so were spent with contractions. It didn’t feel like that amount of time. It didn’t feel like anything. There were only 90 seconds of slamming contractions and a brief 30 second respite between them. I had to be hooked up to all of the monitoring things, but thankfully I could still move around a little. The nurses (who were the best people on the planet, may they be blessed forever) kept offering suggestions for different ways to sit, lay, squat, etc. but the only thing I wanted was to sit on the giant exercise ball. It was like:
Me, content on exercise ball. Eating a popsicle and breathing through things while gripping Mike’s hands.
Nurse: Here, try getting on the bed on your knees with your face in this pillow but don’t move but do move or lay on your side but don’t lay down or walk around the hall even though ungodly things are just leaking out
Me: tries half/refuses half. Hates everything but the exercise ball. Demands exercise ball and twitter.
I did try the jet tub for awhile, but that felt like drowning. I think I actually almost drowned my nurse. She smartly encouraged me to relax through contractions, not grip the edge of the tub, so she took my hand to hold it reassuringly but then contraction so I almost pulled her in. Oops.
Mike and the aforementioned nurses were incredible support systems during this time. I felt strong…until I didn’t. After the tub, the uncontrollable shaking and exhaustion were hitting me hard. I couldn’t take it anymore; I asked for the epidural. The midwife did her job and asked Mike about my intentions towards epidurals before the pain of contractions set in. I remember reminding everyone (loudly, perhaps? Whose to say!) that I never said I was above an epidural. Mike said the right thing. I don’t remember what it was, but it was right, because the call was put in. When the anesthesiologist finally showed, she was the worst – yelling about shutting off phones all while hers was ringing full blast (and yes, she took the calls.) But finally the medicine kicked in, and I SLEPT. I slept for two hours, and I still daydream about those two hours as the last moment of restful sleep I may ever have.
At that point, the nurses and midwife checked me out and told me to “labor down” for an hour. I still don’t know what that means, but whenever I tell medical people, they nod very knowingly, so you know it was a good choice.
When the midwife came in, that feeling of warmth and welcome really took over. The epidural had taken not just the pain edge off, but the nap it allowed had helped me focus on the moment instead of the what-ifs. Between pushing, we all laughed and talked about a variety of things like haunted houses in Iowa, what people assumed about us based on our looks (one of the nurses was very tall and very tired of the ol’ bball assumptions). I remember Natalie, the midwife, asking right away if I was a runner based on my breathing and I felt this moment of pride! that was quickly squelched as she told me to stop it and breathe out in the opposite moments of what I had been doing. There is no room for pride in labor and delivery. (Nor shame – I have never cared less who saw what was in, on, or about me).
It took two hours of pushing to get Augustine out, despite calling in the rest of the instant-infant care team prematurely (this is absolutely not what that group of professionals is called. But I don’t know what they really are called.) I didn’t mind the extra people in the room, though, because that welcome/warmth and joyful laughter theme was only extended by their presence. Everything was peaceful. Everything was happy. I will always be thankful for this blessing; I know this isn’t the experience for everyone. Despite the epidural, I could feel just enough of everything to feel like I knew what was going on – when to push, when to stop, but no pain. For real – that drug is pure magic.
Despite the long labor, Auggie didn’t go into distress until the very end. His heart beat started to slow. We got some scissors involved real quick (if you know what I mean) and then the next thing I knew, as I pushed with my eyes closed, Natalie was saying “Take him! He’s yours!” and I had no idea what she meant. I opened my eyes, completely in shock that he was out! She handed me this chubby blue baby, who was probably crying, but all sound blurred into something like a melody as I held the most beautiful being I had ever seen in my arms. The nurses reminded Mike to take pictures, and while he did, I remember locking our teary eyes together, messy crying out of pure love and disbelief. I wish that I had a photo of him from that moment, but I don’t think I will ever forget it.
While I held him, they scrubbed at him a little, but since he was pretty blue they took him under the lights right away and had Mike go with. My eyes followed that baby everywhere he went, my heart forever chained to this external representation of love before anything else on earth. I know that Natalie was giving me instructions, but I couldn’t hear a word of anything until that boy was back in my arms.
Augustine Lewis was born at 4:13pm on November 13. He was 7 pounds, 3.7 ounces, and 19 inches long. Gratitude is second nature thanks to this blessing. Whether it was the super blood moon that weekend or too much Pepsi giving him a caffeinated kick that broke my water or the fact that he wanted to share a birthday with his eponym, November 13, 2016 was the most amazing day of our lives.
*For those interested, and for documenting purposes, here are the live tweets: