"It's a girl Steph!" Mike said, a little tear-ily. I was still leaning over the side of the bed, wondering what the water coming down my back was coming from.
"What?" I thought. "I am not. I just had a baby." Then I realized that it was our new little girl, saying hello to her mother with some friendly bodily fluids.
It started on Tuesday night. I caught some sort of flu virus and spent the night moaning about how sick I was and wondering if I was having contractions or if one of my internal organs had somehow crept into my stomach and stuck and knife in it. It was torture. Mike came home early on Wednesday when I threw up and could only manage to stare vacantly at the floor afterward. He let me sleep and moan and took care of me.
Luckily it was torture of the short kind, and that night I was able to sleep again. And when I say "sleep again" I mean I only woke up 6 times to pee instead of being up for 45 minutes of every hour moaning about my stomach. It was very restful. In fact, I think having the flu made me feel grateful for being 9 months pregnant. I appreciated it much more.
Thursday my stomach was still a little queasy so I kept it easy, eating mostly toast and applesauce. I went shopping with Ellie for drape material for the nursery (because I am a totally rocking seamstress who always homemakes her drapes and decorates her nursery. Actually, I blame Pinterest. It's ramped me into this crazy craftin monstress.) and that night I felt a spastic burst of energy that involved moving furniture, vacuuming excessively, shampooing the carpets, and cleaning the fans with a pillowcase (thank you Pinterest for that tip).
Mike had a headache and kept saying groggily, "Steph, will you please come down from there? I can help you with that tomorrow." or "Steph, don't you realize you're 9 months pregnant?" or "Steph, why did you move all the furniture? You could have asked me to do that."
I brushed him off with a little cluck of my tongue and told him to go lay back down.
The next morning I even shaved my legs, thinking hopefully, "This might be the last time before I have a baby."
Then it was off to coach a few kids from my neighborhood at the local park. I had them run hill intervals, and while they were off running up the hill, I watched from my vantage point on a little berm by our starting line and I began to think, "Ohhh. I believe that was a contraction." So I started timing my contractions while I timed their intervals. They were probably about 10 minutes apart at that point. So I finished the workout (What else was I supposed to do? Yell at some 13 year olds that I was having a baby and scare them to death as I drove us all home? No. It's much better to pretend everything is fine. And between contractions, it was.), drove them home and went home.
When I got home Mike was outside with the girls, jumping on the tramp. "Hey," I said, trying to be casual about it, because I would hate to be wrong. "I think we're going to have a baby today. Let's go to the hospital."
"Really? Girls, Mom says we're having a baby today!" This made Kenzie and Hannah giddy and Ellie just copies what they do, so she was giddy too.
"Maybe." I said. Since it was between contractions, everything seemed fine. It didn't seem real that I was going into labor.
Mike started going into worry mode a little. "What should I do? I haven't even showered!" Mike always gets a little flustered when it's time to go to the hospital. I'm glad, because then I get to be the calm one.
I told him to hurry and go shower, I would time another contraction, just to make sure I was in labor. He showered while we waited for Shirley to come over and get the girls, and I gathered up our things and we headed to the hospital.
I called my midwife on the way, since I usually go so fast and she assured me that she would be ready.
We arrived at 11:30 and nicely enough, they believed that I was in labor. My midwife had called ahead and told them to expect me. So they took me right back while Mike checked me in.
Luckily it was our same nurse from when I had Ellie! She was supposed to stay on triage (just check me to see if I really was in labor, I guess), but when she recognized us, she asked to switch and got to be my delivery nurse! Both Mike and I were so glad to have Laurel again.
I was at an 8 when she checked me the first time. Hallelujah! And then they started running the IV for the Strep B medication right away. (Stupid IVs. It took 3 times to get it in. And it hurt like the dickens.)
When Mari, my midwife, showed up, she had a student with her, who was at my last appointment. She asked if it was okay if she was there too and I think I tried to smile and say yes, but I wasn't really happy about it. I remember thinking at my last appointment that I was glad Mari only had a student for a week and that hopefully she wouldn't be around when I delivered. (Nothing against the student, just I didn't want one more person in the room.)
Mari left for a little bit and I had a few contractions, but wasn't quite ready to push yet. Mike and Laurel helped me through them by putting pressure just below my kneecaps and laughing and talking with me. Then I started to feel like I wanted to stand up.
Mari came back in without the student and told me that she had re-read my birth plan and saw a line about wanting no students. Hooray! I didn't have to be rude, my birth plan did it for me. I always feel kind of funny about handing my plan out and being bossy to my nurse and the hospital staff, but I was really glad I did this time.
My contractions were getting harder and I switched to standing up to help me get through them a little bit. You know, the whole, "Walk it off," thing. I wasn't walking much, but swaying and Laurel showed me how to hold onto Mike shoulders and lean my weight into him while he put pressure on my hips to counteract the contraction. Mari rubbed my lower back and I started feeling a real need to push.
My water broke on the first push, and that in itself felt like an accomplishment. Then suddenly, I was pushing and I could feel the baby coming out. I was still standing (not planned), leaning against the hospital bed. One purple-faced long push and the head was out. As I felt the head come out I thought, "My gosh. This is the biggest baby I have ever delivered." Another push and the shoulders slid out. It was such a relief. I just leaned over the bed and felt tired. Mike said, "It's a girl Steph. It's a girl!" And they laid her on my back. And she peed on me.
Ahhhh. So sweet. Mike cut the cord (he cried real tears), I got the placenta out, and then I finally sat down. I'm not sure why I didn't sit down earlier, but I guess I didn't know what to do after the baby came out. I didn't plan on delivering standing up. In fact I remember talking about delivery positions with Mari, saying I did not want stirrups, and wanted to be able to move around. She said the only position that was hard for her was standing up. I said, "Oh, I probably won't deliver standing up." But then it just happened. I kind of wish I had turned around a seen them cut the cord and stuff, but oh well. They put that little oxygen breather over her mouth and rubbed her vigorously for a bit, and then they handed her over to me.
As I held her, I felt done. Complete. It wasn't a seismic shift, like when I had Kenzie, and it wasn't an overwhelming emotion. It was just perfect. It was how I felt when I held Mike's hand for the first time--a feeling of being where I was supposed to be, a wholeness.
We debated names for a bit and finally settled on Norah Jean. Our lovely fourth daughter, 7.2 pounds, 20" born at 12:52 on March 16, 2012. The Jean is after my Grandma Bette and Norah because we liked it and it has the same ending as Hannah.