Having a history of fast labors, Bryan and I wondered if Eliza's arrival would be really stressful. The week before she came, Bryan was working at Buckhead Church for the huge singles' service day in the city, and as a result he was farther from home than usual. Not only could he be fighting Atlanta's horrible traffic to get to me, but he also was spending several days working on the lower parking deck of the building where there is no cell reception. We were both a little on edge all that week. Bryan was really hoping Eliza wouldn't make her appearance until after Do.Justice (the serving event), so we both prayed she'd hold off.
Bryan got home late on Saturday night after Do.Justice, and he was exhausted. He really needed some time to recover from his very late hours the previous couple of weeks. We hoped Eliza would wait another day. Sunday I kept imagining my water breaking at church and all the embarrassing possibilities that could accompany it. Though I've never had my water break on its own (my doctors or the labor nurses have always broken it while I was in labor), I had a strong feeling that was how Eliza's labor was going to start. That morning I had a pretty constant lower back ache which persisted through the afternoon. I told Bryan I felt like something was going on, but I didn't think it meant labor was imminent -- just that my body was preparing for labor in the not-too-distant future.
Mid-afternoon I left Bryan and the kids at home napping and headed to church to serve in the nursery like I do every week. I told my fellow volunteers that I was praying for Eliza to come the next day. For some time April 29 had been my preferred birth date and what I was praying for -- and I was hoping she would come in the morning so we could be home for most of Joel's birthday on May 1. I'm quirky about numbers; I like odd numbers -- prime ones, especially. Our kids birthdays are all on odd days (Bryan and I have odd birthdays, too), and we were all born on odd years. I wanted the trend to continue. Plus we all have a birthday buddy except Bryan. Joel, Samuel, and I all have a birthday on a first (May, August, and November). Caleb's birthday and Samuel's birthday into Heaven are on a 31st (May and August), and Anna and Jesus are on a 25th -- plus my Aunt Kay was born on Anna's birthday as well. But poor Bryan was the only 29th in the family. :) I told my volunteer friends that I could believe April 29 was possible based on my body's behavior, but I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't come then.
Just before climbing in bed late Sunday night, I lost my mucus plug. It prompted me to email my sweet friend Kaylan who was on kid-watch duty in case Eliza was born before my mom's scheduled arrival Wednesday afternoon. I warned Kaylan that I was praying for a next day birth and that God had humored me on all my previous preferred birth dates with the exception of Anna, so she might want to be ready just in case. After pushing send, I climbed in bed with a bit of a flutter in my stomach. Would baby girl come the next day? I sure wondered and hoped.
At 6:00am I woke up and half a second later, my water broke. I jumped out of bed, ran to the bathroom, and announced to Bryan on my way by, "My water just broke." He was out of bed in no time. I called the midwife and asked her if we should rush right in like we would do if I was having contractions or if we should wait awhile. Since I'd never had labor start with my water breaking, I wasn't sure what she would advise. She said to take a shower and then come when we felt like we had our stuff together. "Labor should start in the next hour or two" were her parting words. I hung up the phone and had a contraction about a minute later. I jumped in the shower, and my contractions continued, quite close together. Once I was out, I timed them; they were a minute and a half apart.
I woke the boys to give them kisses and to tell them we were on our way to the hospital for Belle to come. Joel's sleep-blurry words were, "You got the birthday you wanted!" So sweet. I peeked in Anna's room to see her as my baby one last time. By the time I was walking down the stairs, Kaylan had arrived. We hopped in the car and headed to the hospital. I texted some friends to tell them we were in labor and guessed that I still had several hours ahead of me since labor would likely be longer and harder starting with my water breaking instead of with contractions. I tried to prepare myself for a long haul.
As soon as I got out of the car in the hospital parking lot, my contractions increased in intensity and frequency. I had three strong contractions in the time in took me to walk 20 feet. Once in the lobby, we had to talk to someone in admissions and answer some routine questions, but I was past the point of being able to talk, so Bryan fielded them all. While he sat and spoke politely to the woman at the desk, I was bent over leaning on the counter, focusing on breathing and noting how much stronger every contraction was getting. It felt like we were there for 20 minutes, but Bryan tells me it was more like 10. They offered me a wheelchair to get to the delivery room, but I couldn't even imagine being able to sit -- or stand back up -- so I declined and walked instead.
We got into our delivery room around 7:45 or so, and the nurses (Heather and Camille) instructed me to go to the bathroom to change into a hospital gown. Haha! They almost immediately saw that I was in full-swing labor and getting to the bathroom would be impossible, so they helped me change while standing by the bed in the seconds I had between contractions. They wanted to check how far along I was, but I wasn't getting a break between contractions as they were coming one on top of the other, so I couldn't lay down. Finally there was a tiny breather -- like 10 seconds! -- and Camille said, "I don't want to miss this chance to check you. Let's get you on the table." I was 6 cm. I told Bryan on the drive that I was prepared to hear I was only 3 cm, so I was relieved to hear 6.
Contractions continued to escalate in intensity, and the nurses asked in a mildly panicky way if I wanted an epidural since my window was rapidly shrinking and there hadn't been time to give them my birth plan. Having delivered Caleb, Joel, and Samuel without medication and then having an epidural with Anna, I had decided I wanted to go back to my natural ways, so I passed. Good thing, because I never could have gotten it in time. I asked the nurse to check me again (it had maybe been 5 or so minutes since she checked the first time) because I wanted to know if I was progressing quickly or not, and I was an 8. I had planned to get back out of the bed and on my feet as it's how I labored with all the boys, and it enabled Bryan to give me some relief with counterpressure on my back, but once we knew I was an 8, we all felt better about me staying in bed. I wasn't sure I could manage to stand up anyway, as my contractions were giving me absolutely no break. One contraction would just start to lessen in intensity when another one would start. Bryan said that the monitor showed my contractions going off the chart, and when we first got there Camille said I was having "pretty good, strong contractions" when the chart showed them registering about 2/3 of the way up the graph.
By this time, I was in serious pain. None of my other three natural labors compared to the pain I was experiencing. Bryan later told me that he nearly threw up watching me be in such pain. At some point the midwife came in and told me I could push. With Joel, Samuel, and Anna I barely had to push. Joel and Anna I pushed once -- not even through a whole contraction. So I expected the same to be true on my 5th go. But, I think because I had been laying down from 6 cm on and hadn't had gravity helping me out, I had to push more. It still was a short period of time, but it caught me off guard. I could literally feel Eliza moving down the birth canal during my pushes, which I have to say was unpleasant. After 7 or 8 contractions, I suddenly felt Eliza slip out. I was shocked because no one had told me she was crowning. I keep saying, "She's here?! I didn't know she was coming so soon!" In retrospect, I think I would have handled the pushing better if I'd known how close I was, but instead I felt like one of those women in movies who make a lot of noise. I've always said how unrealistic that is and how it's not like that, but now I have to eat my words because I totally was like that. Eliza came into the world at 8:29am -- two and half hours after my water broke and a mere 40-45 minutes after we got into our hospital room. We (really Bryan) were answering the nurses' admission questions until minutes before Eliza was born. There wasn't much time to spare!
I'm telling you, Eliza was my hardest and most painful labor. I think it's because it was so intense. All the work of labor was condensed into so short a time that there was just no break between contractions -- even when I was pushing. My contractions with her hurt more, pushing hurt more, and getting her out hurt more. For days afterward I told Bryan, "I don't know if I can
God was kind to humor me yet again and grant me my preferred birth date. Not only did Eliza come on April 29 to be Bryan's birthday buddy, but she also came at 8:29; Bryan's birthday is 8/29. :) She is perfect and wonderful and so far our easiest baby. For the first 2 1/2 weeks, she hardly cried at all -- maybe totaling an hour or two. Now she cries some, but she's laid back and delightful. While she was in the womb, I guessed she would be a laid back baby based on her activity and behavior during pregnancy. (All my children have exhibited some of their personality traits while still in the womb.) She is such a joy, and we're all smitten. Anna is particularly taken with her.