The birth of Cecilia, part 1
I awoke on the morning of Thursday, April 19, 2012, wondering if it would be “the day.” Actually, I had been waking up every morning with that exact thought for at least a couple weeks. Given that I was six days past my due date, I was definitely ready for Baby Girl Henry to make her arrival.
In addition, I had an appointment at 11 a.m. that morning with Gail, one of the midwives at the practice where I was receiving care. I had seen Gail for my two previous appointments, and at the one a week prior, she had mentioned that if I returned on the 19th, she would ask me about performing a cervical check and possibly a membrane sweep. I had refused both of these procedures at my other appointments.
At the appointment on April 19, Gail did, in fact, ask if she could check my cervix. I consented and also asked about the membrane sweep, a short procedure during which the midwife separates the amniotic sac from the cervix. I was surprised to learn that I was already four centimeters dilated and 80 percent effaced. I told Gail, however, that I wasn’t feeling any contractions. She explained that the baby’s head was still high (-1 station) and that my cervix was posterior – neither of which is considered favorable for labor to begin. If the baby were to start putting some pressure on my cervix, labor would be imminent.
During the cervical check, Gail did strip my membranes. Before I left the office, she said she would probably be seeing me at the hospital sometime over the weekend. I felt satisfied with the appointment, so I grabbed some lunch and went back to work.
By early afternoon, I was having contractions. They were irregular, however, so I figured they were Braxton Hicks and tried to forget about them. The contractions were barely painful, but I thought maybe I should try and time them, just in case. Twenty minutes, eight minutes, fifteen minutes, five minutes. There was no pattern at all, so, again, I tried to ignore them. This went on all afternoon until I left work at 4:45.
I drove to Elliot’s preschool and picked him up. During the drive home, Mike called from work. I told him I was having irregular contractions and that I didn’t think it was real labor. He seemed concerned and offered to leave work. I insisted that he stay and said I would call if anything changed.
Once Elliot and I arrived home, I fixed him dinner (the worst dinner ever, I might add). While I was making his Ritz cracker jelly sandwiches, the contractions started becoming more intense. Having to brace myself on the kitchen counter should have been a good indicator that this was really labor.
I told Elliot it was time to eat and sat down at the table with him. I was in too much pain to eat, so I drank of glass of orange juice. Elliot asked if we could play outside after dinner. I agreed to that plan. By 6:30, I was finally convinced that I really was in labor, so I called Mike and told him to come home. I knew he would be home in a half hour, at which point he could help me time the contractions. I called Lenore, my doula, but got her voicemail. Mike called back and informed me that he had called my parents, who had been tapped to stay with Elliot during labor and delivery, and told them to start making their way to our house. “You called my parents already?” I snapped.
“Yes, April,” he said calmly. “They are an hour and a half away, and I want to make sure they have enough time to get here.”
When Mike arrived home about 7 p.m., Elliot and I were on the deck. He was playing nicely, and I was bracing myself on the railing every few minutes. “Why are you doing that, Mama?” he kept asking. I don’t remember how I answered him. As Mike approached us, he commented on the fact that we were outside. “You don’t seem like you’re in labor,” he said. I ignored him and went inside to sit on the couch.
Mike took Elliot upstairs with him so they could take a shower. I stayed on the couch for a few minutes before I forced myself to finish packing my hospital bag. I already had most of the necessary clothes packed, but I still needed my toiletries and some other items.
With my bag ready to go, I decided to try lying down in bed with my body pillow. This was a turning point. I started shaking uncontrollably. And moaning. When Mike was done with the shower, he took Elliot back downstairs and put a movie in for him to watch. He returned and lay down with me. “Your contractions are three minutes apart. You need to call the midwife right now.”
I didn’t believe him. How could my contractions possibly be that close together already? At 7:22 p.m., I called the after-hours answering service and waited for one of the midwives to get back to me. Jan called me back right away. When I said, “Jan, it’s April Henry,” she immediately replied, “Oh, Gail told me I might be hearing from you tonight. What’s going on, missy?”
I explained that my contractions were coming quickly and intensely but that we were waiting for my parents to arrive so we didn’t have to take Elliot to the hospital with us. She calmly told me to come to the hospital whenever I was ready; they would have a room available.
At 7:27, Lenore called back. I told her what was going on, and she offered to come to our house. I knew she would help us determine when it was time to go to the hospital, which, thankfully, is only a few minutes from our house.
After I hung up with Lenore, I got out of bed, grabbed the iPod and started pacing the hallway. Listening to my labor playlist, I walked between contractions. Like when I was in the kitchen and on the deck, the most comfortable position was to brace myself on the wall or banister and bend at the waist during contractions.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Mike was worried – really worried – that I was going to have the baby at home or in the car. He called my parents a couple times, asking for updates on their progress. He told me we could go to the hospital and meet Lenore and my parents there. “No,” I kept telling him, “we need to wait at home.”
When Lenore arrived, she watched me through a couple contractions, massaging my back. I will never forget the words I said to her: “I can’t tell when one contraction ends and another one starts.” Her eyebrows raised, and she calmly suggested, “We should probably go to the hospital now.”
Inside, I panicked. What about Elliot? Mike reiterated that my parents could easily meet us there. I finally agreed. Mike had already carried everything we needed to the car. As we walked downstairs to the garage, I told Lenore about how I had been shaking earlier. “I read that means something, but I can’t remember what.” She replied, “It usually means you’re in transition.” Oh, boy.
Read part 2.