I had a baby.
I have had a baby.
I have a baby.
And it’s about time I told you all about it, as is the legal obligation of 21st-century mothers, most of whom barely make it home from the hospital before plastering their Number One Most Important Birth Story Of All Time all over the Internet. So here you go:
A long, long time ago, way back in 2012, I was scheduled to propel a child into the world on or around October 1. My mom was scheduled to arrive on September 21 so she would be here well before the baby arrived (since first babies are usually late, my money was on October 5). “Selves,” said Stephan and I, “we should really take advantage of our Last Weekend Of Freedom and go away for the weekend [September 14–16].”
So we made plans to stay in a charming Cotswolds village about 2.5 hours south. We booked a room at a fancy inn online, only to have them call the next day and tell us that because we had booked their last room mere minutes after someone else was doing the exact same thing through a different website, unfortunately we could only have the room for one night. We scrapped those plans entirely and instead settled on a Yorkshire country house hotel 45 minutes north. This would turn out to be a really, really good decision.
At this point, I was a few days shy of 38 weeks pregnant. Seeing as all the pregnancy suggesters suggest one gets one’s hospital bag sorted by 36 weeks, I figured it was probably about time, so I spent Friday afternoon in town gathering up bits and bobs and somewhat randomly putting a few things in the aforementioned hospital bag. I had to get ready for the weekend; surely the hospital bag could wait until we got back on Sunday! (Other things I postponed until the next week: cleaning the house, setting the Downton Abbey recording, getting a haircut…)
Saturday morning we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, and I was ready to get out and do something, but Stephan wanted a laze around a bit first. FINE. So I took a nap, as was my right as a heavily pregnant person. And it was the best nap ever. When I woke up two or so hours later, Stephan was crawling out of his skin, he was so tired of sitting in the hotel room. TAKE THAT I WIN.
We went to York for the day, where I experienced what could only be described as the bitterest disappointment of my life: the bubble tea shop was closed for renovation. We had Starbucks in the World’s Fanciest Starbucks instead.
The last picture of me whilst pregnant.
World’s Fanciest Starbucks (in an old bank).
Then back to the hotel for a delicious (and gigantic) dinner, including a “raspberry trifle for two” as big as my head (note: we did share it). In retrospect, it was probably this dinner that convinced the baby it was time: there was clearly no room left in there!
I wanted to take one more proper pregnant belly picture to send to my friend Nalani because she’d helped me pick out the denim dress (see above) three months before, but I thought, no, I’m too tired and crammed full of food; I’ll just throw it on real quick in the morning for the picture.
HA. AH HA HA HA.
If nothing else, this weekend would turn out to be a real lesson in the dangers of procrastination.
At exactly 1.59 Sunday morning, I woke up to pee. Maybe what actually woke me up was my water breaking, but regardless, as soon as I got out of bed, there it was, broken. (Luckily, it was not like in the movies where suddenly there was a puddle on the floor, which I would have felt really bad about leaving behind in a hotel.) I woke Stephan up and then I called the hospital. They basically told me I could a) drive to our home hospital and get checked out, probably unnecessarily since it was my first pregnancy and I could be in labor for a while, or b) go to the hospital nearest the town we were staying in, get checked out, and then maybe even go back to the hotel and see if I could get some more sleep.
Now, I was all prepared for the possibility of being in labor for days. And I already had my morning #2 breakfast picked out. I hadn’t had any contractions yet, so I was totally ready to camp out at the hotel for 6.5 more hours until breakfast started. I mean, we’d already paid for it!
Fortunately, Stephan saw the error of my ways, packed up the room, and herded me to the car. The security guards were at first a bit suspicious that Stephan was trying to sneak out of his hotel room in the middle of the night, but then I waddled into view and they practically drove me home themselves.
We did the 45-minute drive to our own hospital in 30 minutes (not all that impressive, considering we were just about the only car on the road). They confirmed my water had indeed broken, but since I still hadn’t had any contractions, they sent me home and told me to come back when the pain was unbearable.
We were back at ours and in bed by 4. I was out of bed with contractions by 4.30. Stephan was out of bed vacuuming the house in my bathrobe by 5 (because it needed doing and you obviously can’t vacuum with a baby in the house). I called my mom and texted my friend Cenaida. That’s when everything gets fuzzy. I threw up. I took some Tylenol with codeine (per medical instruction!) and threw up again. I think there may have been a bath involved, and while I thought I was having a continuous conversation with Cenaida, records show that there was an hour lapse at one point.
By 8, I was ready to go to the hospital, so we called maternity triage as instructed. They told me they were busy; could I wait until 8.30? I was not very happy about this turn of events, and Stephan says I was quite impatient with the nurse when we finally arrived—well, what do you expect? LET’S DO THIS THING.
So at 8.30, or probably hours later, I was admitted and put in a lovely private labor and delivery room. They gave me another dose of Tylenol with codeine, and I waddled around the room moaning for a while.
Then!—Oh, then!—The gas and air! It was like heaven. It was like heaven came down and I sucked it up through a tube. I don’t know if they have this in the US (I get the impression that there, your options are 100% natural or an epidural), but gas and air is a delicious combination of 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen that makes you feel about 68% better by removing much of your grasp of reality, but it quickly dissipates (so you’re completely lucid between contractions) and doesn’t affect the baby at all. Plus, you’re in complete control of it (though they did say sometimes they have to take it away from people who use it to the point of passing out) and you don’t have to be hooked up to anything. Heaven.
I did walk around and lean on things a bit at first, and they brought in a weird double-exercise-ball thing (“How am I supposed to use this?” “However is comfortable.” Thanks for that NOT HELPFUL AT ALL ANSWER.) I never could get comfortable on it, so I hopped back on the bed where I proceeded to lie on my left side for, according to Stephan, the next four hours. When my contractions were a minute apart, they FINALLY let me in the birthing pool, which is what I always wanted.
And that was even more heavenly—super comfortable to just float in the water (well, as comfortable as one could be, I suppose) and they let you take the gas and air right in with you. This is also the point where the midwife really started annoying me, but luckily another one whose shift was just starting came in and I liked her much better. I was very proud of myself for never saying that I couldn’t do this (or thinking it, even), or that I hated Stephan, or that the annoying midwife should stop talking (although Stephan says I snapped at her once, but that was just a misunderstanding).
I was in the pool for two hours—and for some reason, probably that I am a rock star, I decided to give up on the gas and air when the pushing started (too complicated constantly handing the tube back and forth and trying to time it just right for the contractions).
And then there was a baby. When they pulled it to the top of the water and handed it to me, it wasn’t breathing, so they called in the resuscitation team, who were there so quickly to swoop it away that we didn’t even have time to see whether it was a boy or a girl and had to ask.
It was Alice.
She was breathing in less than a minute, and they weighed and measured her and put on a tiny little oxygen mask before I got to hold her again.
Note striking blue/leopard print bikini top purchased not 48 hours before.
She was diagnosed with wet lung, although they weren’t really sure why she had it as it’s more common with C-sections, so she got a feeding tube and a sugar drip and some oxygen and stayed in the incubator over night. After that, she was in the neonatal unit for the rest of the week, first out in the general ward and then in a private room with me while we tried to establish breastfeeding. She came home on day 6—to a spotless house that Stephan has spent all his free time cleaning from top to bottom, might I add—and in the end, my mom got to our house before Alice did after all!
Stephan and Alice in all her folderol.
A tiny little orange baby on her first day home.
And we lived happily ever after.