“When patients bring me three page birth plans, I have to laugh,” my OB said. “I tell them that the opposite will happen. If they’d just relax and realize it’s all in God’s hands, everything would be better.”
She and I were finalizing my “birth plan,” or my preferences for delivering baby number three. Since she’d delivered Collin and Frank, she knew to expect another stubborn, big baby. Fortunately I’m an incredibly patient person, so we would put off a C-section until it was an absolute medical necessity. However, I have little tolerance for pain, so she checked “yes” next to epidural. I had dilated to 3 cm, which meant labor was close. Now all I had to do was wait.
The contractions started Sunday morning, Oct. 13 as I was getting ready for church. Patrick wanted us to stay home in case we needed to call the doctor, but I insisted on going to Mass, especially if I was in early labor. I waddled down the street, sunk into the pew, and “sneeled” my way into the kneeler. The contractions were coming strong and regularly, exactly 10 minutes apart. We had sent Collin downstairs with the other kids for the Liturgy of the Word, but Patrick, who had been watching me and timing the contractions himself said, “when he gets back up here, it’s time to go.”
So, in odd fashion, we left Mass before Communion, packed up the car, called my mom to take the boys, and checked in with the doctor, who told us to head to the hospital. When we got there, they put me on a monitor and determined that my contractions weren’t strong and regular enough to admit me. So, they told us to take a walk around the hospital and its grounds for two hours.
While we walked, I prayed. I wanted so badly to meet my baby, and I wanted it on that very day. Being sent home is the worst feeling in late pregnancy. Prolonged discomfort. So many nagging questions and comments from well-intended people you know and don’t know. The shame of not knowing false labor from the real thing. When I got home, I stuffed myself in my bed, swearing not to come out until it was time to have the baby.
I was on edge all week, expecting my water to break at any second. Having never experienced it outside of a hospital bed before, I didn’t know what to expect. And every stomach cramp felt like a contraction, but it wasn’t. I prayed for my water to break or the contractions to start, but they didn’t. And there was nothing I could do about it.
The good news was that there was an end in sight. My OB had scheduled me to be induced on Friday October 18th because an ultrasound had measured my baby to be big. Given the size of the older brothers at birth (Collin was 9 lbs, 14 oz and Frank was 8 lbs, 13 oz), she wasn’t willing to risk birth complications or a C-section. So, I counted down the seconds until October 18th, praying for the patience to get me through to that day.
On the morning of the 18th, Patrick and I were running late getting out of the house. We were supposed to be at the hospital by 6 a.m. to start the induction, but we would be there closer to 6:30. I began to panic. “What if they make us reschedule?” I asked Patrick, as I frantically called the registration desk over and over, and finding no answer. “We’ll be okay,” he said. I prayed for mercy to trump my tardiness. It did.
Once we were checked in, we were introduced to our nursing staff for the next half hour. I really liked our nurse, a bubbly blonde with a daughter Collin’s age and a passion for Halloween, and was worried that after she left we’d be stuck with a grumpy old troll by our side. I prayed for another nice nurse. Then, in walked Donna, the easy-going, attentive nurse who helped deliver Frank. Plus, my own two doctors would be on staff all day when it came time to deliver. It was a fantasy birth experience, and these were my star players.
I waited until the contractions were just painful enough to make me clench my jaw at a tooth-cracking intensity before I asked for the epidural. With Frank, I had a spinal migraine afterwards, so I was nervous just getting the numbing needle. I said a few Hail Marys while the anesthesiologist did his thing, reflecting on the admiration I have for Mary and every other woman who ever brought or will bring a baby into this world without anesthesia. The entire procedure was done, and I was numb in no time.
Just as it did with Collin, Frank, and even this little one on the previous Sunday, my labor slowed down for several hours. “They’re not sending me home, right?” I half-jokingly asked. “Nah, you’re leaving here with a baby,” Donna said. I said a few decades of the Rosary, just as I had with my older two, and before I knew it, my OB showed up and said it was time to push.
In the final moments before my baby entered the world, I reflected on what an incredible journey this pregnancy was. With my circumstances, there were so many things that could have gone wrong. But they didn’t. When we first saw this baby on the ultrasound just after Valentine’s Day, a tiny beating heart was all there was to see. When we met with the high risk doctor, we were told that heart might be defective because of the medications I had to take. Scan after scan came back clear. Our baby was growing strong only because we kept praying and believing.
After a final prayer, not asking for anything, but thanking God for the gift He was about to give me, Leo Matthew was born. At 11 lbs, 12 oz he made a big entrance into this big world. With a first name that means “lion,” he’s sure to be courageous – he’s already fought his way through a number of obstacles. With a name that means “gift from God,” he’s already been the answer to my prayers.
Robyn and Baby Leo