I didn’t go to the hospital to have a baby.
The short version is I went into false labor at dawn on my birthday, got sent home after turning down a sleeping pill, cried, rested, had an impromptu birthday party that evening, went back to the hospital for the sleeping pill at midnight, was 6cm dilated, passed out, pushed for 15 minutes and Isla June was born. The full birth story follows. I wrote this for me. To have a memory of that amazing and exhausting day. Read it if you want…
At 1AM on June 14th, I woke up with contractions. I’d been having regular Braxton Hicks contractions since 20 weeks, but this was different. These were painful. And this wasn’t the first time this had happened. Three days earlier on my due date the same thing happened.
June 11th (my due date)
Contractions woke me up around 1AM and something felt different. Enough so that I began timing them. They started at 10 minutes apart and by 4AM were close enough that I decided to wake up Kyle up and take a shower in case this was the real thing. By the time I got out of the shower they had disappeared entirely. Huge bummer, but I knew the chance of having a due date baby was slim so I let it go for what it was. False labor.
The next few days yielded nothing. Hardly even a Braxton Hicks contraction. I saw my doctor, who was shocked I was still pregnant, and we scheduled my induction for June 19th if I didn’t deliver before then. When you’re past your due date and have the induction scheduled something happens. You emotionally give up the thought that you’re ever going to go into labor and a very strange sense of calm comes over you. There’s an end in sight and nothing you can do will make it come faster, so you might as well accept it. At least that was my experience with both of my pregnancies.
So I rested and enjoyed the time I had left with only one child.
June 14th (my birthday)
I woke up at 1AM…again. I convinced myself it was false labor and tried to ignore the searing pains that were contractions. Honestly, the next few hours were kind of a blur. I know I moved around trying to get them to go away like they did a few days before. I remember that sitting helped, but standing or lying down brought on very intense contractions. Resting was pretty hard to do, so I finally woke Kyle up at 4AM (again) when they seemed to be getting worse not better.
My goal was to labor at home until at least 7AM, when Ada would wake up and we could take her to my sister’s until Kyle’s mom arrived from Asheville. I made it until 5:45AM. That’s when the contractions really started to get close. They went from 10 minutes apart to 3-5 pretty quickly and all the stories you hear about super fast second deliveries started flashing through my head!! I remember being terrified that I wouldn’t make it to the hospital! Especially because we live 35 minutes away with no traffic and it was getting towards morning rush hour time which could easily double that where we live!
I didn’t want to wake Ada up early and have her whole day thrown off, so we called my mom to come in the short interim until Ada could go to Carter’s. I tried to walk down the stairs when she arrived and had to stop mid-step to wait out a contraction. They were still 3-5 minutes apart, and lasting 30 or so seconds. To all of us in the house, it looked like labor.
Despite not wanting to throw off Ada’s day, we decided to wake her up and tell her goodbye. With tears streaming, both of us kissed her and excited/nervously told her she was going to be a big sister today. It was the strangest feeling telling her goodbye that morning. Beautiful and scary and everything in between. That was 6AM.
A few months ago I got this email. It was from my labor nurse during Ada’s delivery (who I loved!) saying she’s been following my life and work since Ada’s birth and wanted to wish me luck with this pregnancy and offer her help if I ever needed it. We emailed a few times, and she gave me her number for when I went into labor! So the second I got in the car that morning, I text her praying she was on shift that day! Two minutes later I got a return text that said she was beginning her shift at 7AM! She sent me some very encouraging words and told me to eat before I got there if I could.
It was all working out so perfectly! I was so excited!
20 minutes into our drive I realized I hadn’t had a contraction since we left. So we decided to grab a bite to eat like my friend recommended and continue on to the hospital. I think deep down I knew what they’d say when I got there, but I didn’t want to admit it.
We arrived at the hospital around 7AM.
The contractions were basically non-existent. I maybe had one on the drive, but nothing like what they were at home. We got all checked in, moved into triage, and my friend came to be our nurse while they evaluated me. I’m pretty sure I immediately started crying when I saw her, because I knew. I knew they were going to send me home. She tried to comfort me and tell me this happens all the time and prayed that God would bring the contractions back so I wouldn’t have to leave.
With Ada, I was induced, so I got to skip triage. This was a totally new experience for me. I learned that at my hospital you see the on-call doctor before you see your regular OB. I guess they don’t want to call them in if it’s nothing. So we waited to see a doctor I didn’t know I was going to have to see.
When the on-call doctor came to check me I was 3 centimeters. You have to be 4cm to say. He told me I could walk around the hospital for an hour to try and get them to start back and dilate a little more, but if nothing changed I’d have to go home. He was less than sympathetic and acted like I made this whole thing up in my head. Like for fun, I decided to stay awake all night and pretend that I was having contractions…on my birthday. Needless to say he was not my favorite person. But we took his advice and walked. In my sandals, because who goes to the hospital thinking they need tennis shoes for a workout?
They had us walking this tiny little loop around the birthing hall, that literally took two minutes. As soon as I started walking the contractions came back, and I’d get one every time I passed this one picture on the wall. It got to where we’d just start laughing about it, because it was so exact. But even though they were consistent, they weren’t strong. As the time went on the contractions seemed to get farther and farther apart.
An hour came and went, and with each minute my level of exhaustion increased, and as the exhaustion increased so did the emotions. When the doctor came back in and told me I was somewhere in the 3-3.5 range the tears started flowing. He offered me a sleeping pill/pain killer combo so I could rest, but I turned him down. The contractions had disappeared entirely by that point and I didn’t want to sleep my birthday away. I wanted to spend it with Ada.
He literally sat there and argued with me. He even had the nerve to tell me that I obviously needed it, because I was crying. Ummm, hello…have you never met a 40+ week pregnant woman? We have hormones. We cry. A lot. Especially when you’re past your due date, have false labor, have been up all night, and it’s your birthday! Like I said, he wasn’t my favorite person.
At 9AM we left the hospital.
For weeks, Kyle had planned a birthday surprise. He’d ordered a beautiful sprinkle covered cake from The Cupcake Shoppe, and was going to bring it home to surprise me for my birthday. Except, I went into false labor and ruined his surprise. Leaving the hospital, he told me he had to run a quick errand (to pick up my cake). I was less than thrilled about this. Still in tears I told him whatever it was I didn’t want it. I just wanted to go home. That I didn’t care it was my birthday anymore and please just take me home! I cried and begged and begged and cried, but he was adamant we get it. Obviously, he’s never experienced a contraction, but the thought was so sweet and when he showed me that beautiful cake in the car it did make me feel a little better.
Once we got the cake we headed home. Kyle took Ada grocery shopping and let me rest on the couch for a little while. I tried to sleep from about 11-4, but I kept getting contractions. They were intense too. Different than the ones I had all night, but pretty far apart.
After cancelling my birthday lunch, I decided I still wanted to have my birthday dinner. The contractions were no closer than 30 minutes apart since leaving the hospital, so I decided I could handle it. Plus if I was going to go into labor, then I needed a big meal to fuel me. We went out with my family to hibachi and came back to eat the cake Kyle had surprised me with.
That thing was huge, so I told him to go out in the street and invite any neighbors he could find over to help us eat it! I remember mid-impromptu party having to pause, hold on to the counter and do everything I could to make it through a contraction. I’m sure my neighbors thought I was crazy for inviting everyone over in that state, but honestly it was an amazing distraction from the long, exhausting morning I’d had.
Around 8:15PM we sent everyone home so I could rest.
I kissed Ada goodnight and went to bed. Or attempted to. Every time I would start to drift off I’d get a contraction. A horrible, extremely painful, super long contraction. I tried to sleep laying down and tried sitting up, eventually I got up to walk around, but nothing helped. They were 20-30 minutes apart and lasting at least 2 minutes a piece.
Kyle had come to bed around 10PM and immediately fell asleep. He has that amazing ability to fall asleep any time, any where, in any situation.
At 10:30PM I couldn’t take it anymore. I was still 20-30 minutes apart with contractions, but the pain was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I tried calling my doctor to see if they could call me in that sleeping pill somewhere near where I live to save me the 35 minute drive, but all I got was a pre-recorded message that said “if you’re over 20 weeks pregnant and think you’re in labor go to the hospital. Good bye.”
10:45PM I woke Kyle up to take me back to the hospital. Kyle is the most amazing, most supportive husband ever…until you wake him up from a dead sleep. He’ll even admit he didn’t have the best reaction that night. He was not happy with me, mad I didn’t get the sleeping pill earlier, upset that he was going to have to make that drive again just for a sleeping pill. So he called the hospital to talk to their on call doctor, despite me telling him that’s not how it works, and left a voicemail on some random extension. We’re still waiting for a call back, haha!
After 15 minutes of waiting for that call, watching me deal with those extreme contractions and waking up enough to realize I wasn’t intentionally trying to ruin our good night’s sleep, he agreed to take me to the hospital for the sleeping pill. Begrudgingly, but still he agreed we needed to go. Knowing we’d get there, be given a pill, and turn around to come home. Max we’d be back by 2AM, and could still get part of a full night’s sleep in.
Instead of the drive to the hospital stopping the contractions this time, it did the opposite! They went from 20-30 minutes apart to 10!
11:45PM I walked up to the check in desk for the second time that day and tried to explain my situation. “I’ve been here once. I just need a sleeping pill. I’m not in labor, because the contractions are still far apart.” On and on and on. Going to the hospital just for a sleeping pill is a very weird experience in case you were wondering.
Looking back I think the nurses could tell I was in labor. They gave me one of those “this sweet girl doesn’t have a clue” looks, and told me I was going to get checked anyways. I paced the halls trying to breathe through the awful contractions that were now getting closer and just counting down the minutes until I could get that sleeping pill and go home.
It’s midnight now, and the on-call doctor comes in. This time it was a wonderful, sweet lady, who obviously has a clue about pregnant women unlike the first doctor I had. She checked me, and as I prepare for her to tell me what I already knew, that nothing had progressed and I’d have to go back home, she says “you’re 5 almost 6 centimeters, you’re going to have a baby!”Kyle’s face lit up and the most excited expression that I will never forget (completely reversing the feelings he had just an hour before)! I, on the other hand, sat there in shock.
We weren’t there to have a baby. We were there to get a sleeping pill!!
Kyle immediately called Mom & Carter to tell them to get down there, and I immediately looked at the nurse and said can I have my epidural now please! By the time Mom and Carter arrived around 1AM, I had just gotten my epidural and was finally feeling relief after what we now know was 24 hours of labor.
Still in shock I was that far along and actually having a baby, I had a hard time resting. I knew it was going to be a long night. Ada took 15 hours of active labor once at the hospital included 2.5 hours of pushing. Nothing about the birthing experience is fast for me.
Because I came into the hospital unprepared (thank goodness we grabbed the hospital bag before we left!), I was starving. I begged the nurses for a popsicle and had the most amazing orange flavored one around 2/3AM! I don’t think I’ve ever tasted something that good. Labor was going well, I was semi-resting, and for the first time in a day I had no contraction pain!
At 4AM the nurse decided to check me again. At the risk of getting too graphic here, she looked down and saw Isla trying to come out IN HER SACK! She asked if I’d been feeling any pressure, and I told her I had. She informed me that the pressure was my body was trying to push! Who knew! I never had that sensation with Ada, so had no idea that’s what it meant this time! She checked me and said I was 10cm and ready to push!
From Ada’s experience, I knew this wasn’t going to be quick. Feeling weak and dizzy, I asked the nurse if I could have another popsicle to get some energy back for the next few hours of work ahead of me. She brought me another orange popsicle, and this time it was literally the worst thing I’ve ever tasted! I immediately started dry heaving and passed out!
Kyle, Carter & Mom said I looked like I was having a seizure. We now know this was my body transitioning stages of labor. The nurse is screaming at me “A.J. are you ok?”, my mom and sister are yelling back “no she’s not ok!”, which led to the nurse kicking everyone out of the room including Kyle, pumping me with fluids and oxygen and calling in every free nurse to my room! I woke up a few seconds later to 5 nurses standing around me, asking me if I knew where I was. It’s not the first time I’ve ever passed out, and waking up from it is a feeling you don’t forget. It takes a few seconds to get your bearings. Once I did, they let every one back in to see I was ok, and we sent Mom & Carter to the waiting room because it was time to push.
The doctor walked in about this same time because he was coming to check on me after I fainted (the same doctor I had for Ada’s birth!). He agreed it was time to have this baby and broke my water, which still had not broken! That was at 4:20AM.
He hung around while I did my first few pushes. Which I thought was very strange. I didn’t see him until way into pushing with Ada! I bet it was past the 2 hour mark with her! But here he was, right there from the beginning. Three or four pushes later he starts putting on his gown and tells me he only does that at the end because it’s too hot to wear any longer. I remember saying “we’re at the end?” in a very confused tone, because it had only been about 10 minutes, and they all laughed and told me I was literally about to have a baby.
4:37AM Isla June was born. After only 15 minutes of pushing. A healthy and tiny 6 pounds 13 ounces, 20.5 inches long.
My mind was blown. It still is. I was not there to have a baby. I was there to get a sleeping pill!!! It probably took me 24 hours to really wrap my head around the fact that she was here. The sad part of that was I didn’t get the amazing hormonal rush that came when I had Ada. I hate admitting that, but it’s what happened. My body was so physically and emotionally worn out going into that night, that it just couldn’t handle another hormonal event. My heart and my head knew I was so in love with her, but my emotions & energy couldn’t keep up. I feel like I was robbed of that amazing meeting your child moment, but it’s what happened and I can’t change it.
The next few hours were a blur. Immediately after her birth the nurses rushed to the doctor’s lounge to get me food because the kitchen was closed. Isla and I nursed pretty quickly, we snuggled, we bonded as much as my worn out body could. Somewhere in the early morning hours I had to hand her off to Mom so I could rest. I had been up for over 28 hours and couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. My body was done.
Postpartum recovery was so much easier with Isla than Ada! Thank goodness! We could have gone home the next day, but because I’m a strep-b carrier, I have to have 4 hours of an iv antibiotic before having a baby. Since it all happened so quickly, I only got 3 hours and 45 minutes, which meant we had to stay an extra day! That’s ok! We got lots of extra snuggles and time with just Isla before heading home to be a family of four.
As I was being discharged, I nicely complained to my doctor about the message on their answering service and not being able to reach them. She replied, your contractions weren’t close, we would have told you to stay at home and you would have had a car baby probably passing out on the way. She’s right! My contractions never got to that 3-5 minute window the doctors like, my water never broke…I seriously would have had a car baby had I waited at home! So in retrospect, thank goodness they didn’t pick up and I trusted my instincts that something was wrong and I needed to go to the hospital!
*photo by Carter*