Brian and I checked into the hospital at 7:30 a.m. and got paperwork out of the way. They showed us to Room G4 of the women's center wing at St. Elizabeth East. I spent nearly every minute of the next three days in this room, except for a few walks through the hallways. Around 9:30, Dr. George came in and did an exam (to find I was only 2 cm!)... I thought after the week of cramping and pains I would have more of a head start on this labor, but no such luck. Pitocin started mid-morning and then it was all about the waiting game. By early afternoon I'd progressed to 4 cm and the nurses started to arrange for my visit for the anesthesiologist -- for the epidural. They'd ramped up my pitocin slowly during the day to avoid putting too much strain on the baby and also to make sure I didn't get too uncomfortable (from heavier contractions) before the epidural.
When the doc came in to do the epidural, Brian talked his way into getting to watch the procedure. While Brian had a blast learning all about how to put a needle into someone's spine, I winced through the pain and reminded myself of the greater good we were aiming for. Once the epidural took effect, I felt amazing.
As the pitocin continued to do it's work, I was instructed to rest up for delivery... which seemed to still be far away.
When I was only at 5 cm around 6 p.m, Dr. George said it would be safe for Brian to go home and help with Ellie's bedtime and still make it back in time. She said it would still be hours before baby's arrival. I was starting to wonder if we'd have a Feb. 4th birthday!
Brian left the hospital around 6:30 and within 5 minutes I noticed a change in my pain levels and contractions. At first I wasn't sure if the contractions were getting stronger or if the pain meds were wearing off. I called the nurse and then she called the anesthesiologist to give me a booster through the epidural. He got that done by 7 or so, but I was dealing with a lot of pain. My mom helped me bear through the contraction pains, but as they got closer and closer together she called Brian and suggested he not linger at home. (She told him he didn't have to rush, mostly to keep him from driving like a maniac on his return to the hospital... but I was thinking: get your butt back here!)
In another few minutes I was starting to feel a ton of pressure. A check from the nurse revealed I was at 10 cm and ready to push. My mom made another phone call to Brian and reported he was halfway back to the hospital. I believe he broke several laws from that point on in the trip and he later described a screeching turn into the parking lot (hard to do in our minivan) and a sprint through the hospital to my room.
When he walked in I was already sobbing from the pain, nerves and adrenaline. I was in position to push and more than ready when Brian took my hand. The next 15 minutes (or less?) are a blur, but I remember a few things:
- My epidural couldn't keep up with the contractions and I was in a lot of pain. A LOT. I'm glad I got the epidural, and would recommend it to other expectant moms, but I guess every tool in pain management has its limits. Thankfully the delivery process was fast.
- Brian was strong and supportive and helped me tremendously to get through it.
- After two rounds of intense pushing the baby's head was partway out. On the next one the head was fully out, and the next one pushed the shoulders through... and out SHE came.
- Brian proudly announced: "It's a girl!" and got to cut the cord while I cried and laughed and cried some more from everything that had just happened.
- Our baby girl, Katie, was in my arms a minute later. I'll never forget seeing this precious angel for the first time and getting to hold her on my chest, examine her perfect face, her tiny fingers and full head of hair. Too amazing for words to really capture that moment, but I tear up just thinking about it.
I think Katie's delivery story, with all of the ending drama, fits perfectly with the twists and turns we encountered through the pregnancy. Everything from the boy/girl mystery to her crazy activity level in utero to the last-minute rush of delivery tells me we have got a spitfire on our hands with this girl. I love that. And I am so thankful for the "happy ending" we're blessed with, since pregnancy and delivery outcomes are always full of worries and risks. Katherine Elizabeth Wallheimer is healthy and beautiful. She's already transformed our lives. Our new family of four seems as natural as anything. And Brian and I are so grateful for our daughters.