Sometime around 1:00 Wednesday morning, I started feeling what I thought might’ve been real contractions. I got up about once an hour because I was uncomfortable, but I was still convinced that they’d probably go away so I never woke Norm up. Around 5:30 I finally got up and went to the living room. As I was opening the front door to see how much snow we’d gotten, Norm came in and peeked out. I said, “hmmm...it’s no good”. He said, “it’s no good? Why, are you feeling bad?”. I said, “um, kind of”. He looked worried and I explained that I thought I’d maybe been having contractions since about 1:00. We debated skipping my doctors appointment because of the weather and going straight to the hospital if I decided I was really in labor.
Around 6:00, Rodney came in the tractor and plowed out our driveway. We wouldn’t have been able to get out otherwise. He said we’d had about 10” or so and it was drifting pretty bad. Norm didn’t tell him I was having contractions, but he said he thought we’d probably be able to get to my appointment. Luckily, in the next 30 minutes or so, the county plowed our road four times.
While I took a shower and got ready, Norm anxiously went through my last-minute packing list and packed up everything in our hospital bags and put them in the car. We left home around 7:00. I started timing my contractions on my phone and they were about 30 seconds long and 5 - 5 1/2 minutes apart. It took us about an hour and 45 minutes to get to Terre Haute. We stopped in Clinton so I could go to the bathroom and get something to eat because I was afraid if they admitted me I wouldn’t get to eat the rest of the day.
At my 9:00 appointment Dr. Hammons checked me and said I was 4 cm dilated and 90% effaced. His nurse laughed at my little fist pump. He said he could send me across the street to the hospital to be admitted and would come break my water to really get things going, or we could go spend some time in town, but he really didn’t want us to go home. I told him that I didn’t want to end up on Pitocin so we could go walk the mall or something and he said, “yeah, you’d better go walk then.” Off we went. Norm and I called and texted our families and I sent a text to a coworker to let them know I was probably starting my maternity leave right then. We went through the Starbucks drive-thru so I could get a frappuccino and banana bread. My dad called and they thought it was hilarious that I was having Starbucks.
We went to Babies R Us and walked around for a little while and bought a couple things, then got to the mall around 11:00. Norm got lunch at the food court and we started walking. We took pictures in a photobooth and walked all the way to the other end of the mall. A store employee met us in the aisle and asked, “are you timing them?”. When I said “yes, ma’am”, she said, “I thought so! Good luck!”. By that time, Norm was getting nervous and thought we’d better head back toward the car. My contractions were getting stronger and a little longer. It took us a while to get back to the car because I had to really slow down and sometimes stop when a contraction would come.
We drove back to the hospital and parked across the street. I was convinced they were going to tell me I was still only 4 cm, so we sat in the car while I ate my banana bread and texted people that we were headed into the hospital. Finally Norm got annoyed that we were still sitting around in the car and decided it was time for us to go in. We had to wait a few minutes for someone to come to the admitting desk and then do the admission paperwork. They asked if I wanted a wheelchair to get back to labor and delivery and I said, “I walked across the street from the parking lot, I’m pretty sure I can walk down the hall”.
We got back to L&D triage at 1:30. The nurse put the contraction monitor and the fetal heart monitor on my belly and then checked to see how far I was dilated. Her eyes got big and she laughed and said, “ooookay, you’re at 8 cm with a bulging bag of water. Were you planning on doing this naturally??”. I said, “well, I thought I would try until this morning when the contractions really got going and now I’m not sure”. Another nurse came in and she told her, “she just got here and she’s at 8 with a bulging bag of water” and laughed. The other nurse went away and then came right back and said, “the anesthesiologist is going into a c-section in just a few minutes. You can get an epidural right now, or it'll be too late. Do you want it?”. I was really undecided and I looked at Norm and he said, “you’ve made it this far without it” and the nurse agreed. I said, “well, I’m pretty sure it won’t actually kill me to do it naturally, so...okay, let’s try it”. I told Norm, “you’d better call your mom. It looks like they might miss this”. While he called her, I texted my family. My dad and step-mom were in Arkansas driving back from vacation.
Within just a few minutes, the nurse put a saline lock in my hand, put me in a wheelchair, and pushed me into a delivery room. The contractions were really starting to get painful so I laid on my side and squeezed the bed rail and Norm’s hand with each one. I told the nurse that I didn’t think I was actually going to throw up, but that I felt a little nauseous so she gave me a sick bag and told me it was because I was breathing too fast during the contractions. I tried to focus on slowing down my breathing, but felt myself losing control. I asked Norm to get our 30-week ultrasound picture out of my bag and I turned on my labor and delivery playlist on my phone. I put it on shuffle and the first song that played was “Be OK” by Ingrid Michaelson (“I just wanna be OK, be OK, be OK...”) and Norm and the nurse both laughed.
The nurse said she would give us a little time and stepped out of the room. With the next contraction, I felt my water break and it hurt. I told Norm that my water broke and he frantically pushed the call button. The nurse came back and checked me and said the fluid was clear. Norm kept spoon feeding me ice chips and adjusting the wet wash cloth on my head. She checked me again and said I was still at 8 cm. I was so disappointed. The contractions were really hurting and I asked if it was too late for an epidural. Norm laughed and the nurse said, “yes, it’s too late and you’re doing this anyway”. Norm kept telling me, “you’re doing it honey”. I kept saying, “I’m so stupid, I’m SO stupid! Why would I do this?”. The nurse said, “you’d be upset with me if I let you get an epidural now, but it’s too late anyway”.
A little later I started feeling like I needed to push. She checked me again and said I still had a little bit of a cervical lip. With my next few contractions I started pushing uncontrollably. It was the wildest feeling to have my body doing it without me trying. I panicked because I’d heard you shouldn’t push when you have a cervical lip but the nurse assured me that it was okay and said with the next contraction she would try to push it away. I was nervous because I knew it would hurt, but she did it and it worked.
She told me it was time to really push and that when I had a contraction to take two deep breaths and blow them out, then pull my legs back and push. Every now and then the nurse would step away to get something ready in the room and a contraction would come and I would panic a little and lose my concentration. Norm kept telling me when to take a deep breath and when to push and cheering me on when I’d give up a little too early. In between contractions the nurse would have me take a deep breath and hold it to get me to slow my breathing down.
A few minutes into pushing the door opened and I heard the nurse say, “oh, are visitors okay?”. I said “NO!” and the door closed. I asked Norm who it was and he said, “it’s okay, it was just Mom and Tiff”. I said, “oh no, I hope they don’t think I was rude” and he and the nurse both laughed and said they were pretty sure they’d understand.
Eventually I heard the nurse press a button and say, “we need Dr. Hammons and a baby nurse in here”. Norm told me later that it scared him when she asked for a baby nurse because he thought something was wrong, but I knew it just meant we were getting close. Dr. Hammons came in and said, “hey guys, you’re back. That was quick!”. I pushed for several contractions while he checked me and told me he could see the baby’s head. After a while the nurse said, “I can see this much of your baby’s head” and held up her fingers to make about the size of a quarter. That seemed like SO little to me and it felt like I had so far to go but a little while later I asked her about how much longer she thought and she said maybe just two contractions.
With each contraction, I took my deep breaths and pushed as hard as I could. It was the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life, but with each contraction I just concentrated on making progress and getting three good pushes in. Eventually the extreme pain was not going away in between contractions and Dr. Hammons said we were really close.
Finally, he told me that on the next push I was going to push out my baby’s head. It was excruciating. Once her head was out I couldn’t stop myself from continuing to push. Her shoulders hurt even worse, but then her little body just slithered out and there was Dr. Hammons holding a little person. He held her up and it was the weirdest feeling. Like after all these years of waiting and months of pregnancy and hours of labor, I didn’t think about the fact that there would be a little person in the room at the end of it. It was just bizarre.
She didn’t cry immediately but Dr. Hammons cleaned her up a little and I asked if she was okay and he said yes, she was perfect. He asked if Daddy wanted to cut the cord and I asked the nurse to take a picture. She started to cry and they put her on my stomach and put a warm blanket over us. She was wide-eyed and looking at me and through teary eyes I told her, “Happy Birthday Ellie”.
Ellie Claire Norman was born at 3:35pm on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 in Terre Haute, Indiana. She was a 7 pound 5 ounce, 20” long successful natural childbirth. I cannot thank Dr. Hammons and the fine staff and nurses at Union Hospital and our families enough for all they’ve done for us.
Words cannot express the gratitude I have for my husband and best friend for being the best labor coach and companion I could ever ask for. During my pregnancy I couldn’t imagine him ever being a better husband or me loving him any more. Ellie’s birth day and the four weeks since proved me wrong. I would be unbearably lost without him.
We are now a family of three.