Alex was originally due on August 4. The due date was totally based off of his size measurements in utero, and not on my cycle (which isn’t very regular), so a few months in, the doctor changed the due date to July 31 because he was measuring big. So naturally, I went into labor on August 4!
My mom flew out on July 30th. She stayed with us in our tiny apartment, and we did lots of cleaning, organizing, and pool lounging over the next few days. I’m from Oklahoma, so when we were on a walk one day and I apologized to my mom for the 80-degree weather while she was here (“I’m sorry it’s so hot for your visit”) she laughed all the way down the block. (Granted, it's hotter when you're all the way pregnant.)
It was pretty great to have a few days of downtime before Alex came – Jon and I got to show off the Bay Area and do a lot of touring around with my mom that we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to do. Mom got to come with me to my last weekly OB checkup. She got to meet my friend, the incomparable Autumn Lindsay, hardcore cancer survivor and nail artist extraordinaire. Mom, Jon and I spent one evening walking around downtown in Palo Alto. We spent one day touring San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, which included stops in Chinatown, Ghirardelli, Naia for gelato, Lombard Street, the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach, IKEA (for Mom’s first time!) Cheeseboard, Berkeley Bowl, the LDS temple, and downtown Oakland. (That last stuff was all in one day!)
|Downtown Palo Alto|
|The fancy schmancy reusable grocery bag that Mom bought for us. The Berkeley Bowl people thought we were hardcore, and THAT is how you know you've succeeded in life.|
|The Oakland Temple visitors' center has a pretty great view of the SF Bay.|
|Credit to Jon!|
|Us, the temple and a pretty great little photobomber.|
Unlike many people do, I was not trying to get him to come faster by doing all that walking. At full term, I wasn’t all that comfortable, but it wasn’t driving me crazy (you know, the weight comes on gradually … like the myth about boiling a frog.) A few extra days of hanging out before the Parental Responsibilities began was just fine with me, so we were trying to make those days count.
I’d been trying to get as much sleep at night as I could so I would have enough energy when the time came, so I got up a little after 9am on August 4. Jon was at work, and Mom and I took care of the daily-ish walk around the complex (as we apartment managers do.) Having gotten our morning exercise in, we ran a few errands … I took Mom to show off the giant apple fritters at Happy Donuts and then we picked up a few odds and ends at the grocery store. (Milk, pacifier clip, etc., but I believe the exact words from the audio journal are: “Jonny, don’t be mad, but I got some more Oreos, but they’re hidden.”) Anyway, my point is, we had a lackadaisical morning and I had been having some very occasional weird pains in my abs.
Over the course of the morning, I decided they were PROBABLY contractions, but I had never had a single contraction before. They were very mild and I was sort of entertained by them, because they didn’t hurt that much and I was just interested to see what they felt like. You know, having spent nine months wondering what I was headed for… I hadn’t really been able to conceptualize contractions, so it was kind of cool to start to put the pieces together. The issue was, I had been operating on the assumption that everybody has at least a few Braxton-Hicks before real labor, right? Being a first-timer, I was pretty much planning on not knowing what labor felt like and having a few fakeouts before Actual Go-Time hit. Unfortunately, that mindset accidentally made it so that when I was in actual labor, it didn’t occur to me that it might be real. Yes, yes, you’re all saying, “Brooke, you were FIVE DAYS OVERDUE.” Just remember that, at the end of your first pregnancy, you don’t know what it’s like to have a pregnancy result in a baby at your house, you don’t know what it’s like to be un-pregnant, and it’s been so long since you could see your feet that you kind of just assume that you’re stuck this way forever.
Around 11:30a, I decided that while I was obviously, definitely, in fake labor, the contractions were getting slightly stronger and more frequent, and only my mom and Jon (who was home for lunch) were around to see me look stupid by falling for the joke and timing them. Just in CASE. So even though I felt like a poser doing it, I went ahead and tried out my shiny new contraction timer app while my mom did laundry.
As I suspected, the contractions were all over the place. Some were five minutes apart, some were ten or twelve minutes apart, etc., and they were really varying durations too. Some were 15 seconds long, some were 75 seconds long, etc. (The ‘5-1-1 rule’ that means you’re in active labor: when contractions are five minutes apart, at least 1 minute in duration, for more than 1 hour.) Plus, they still were more interesting than painful. Jon went back to work and I decided to call our nearby doctor’s office to see if they could squeeze me in just to do a quick check and tell me whether this was something that was going to go away.
Backing up: Here’s why I did that. The closest hospital in our network is in Santa Clara – about a 15-20 minute drive. However, I started my prenatal care when we were living in the East Bay, so for consistency’s sake, I kept all my prenatal care over there instead of switching to a closer office when we moved to the peninsula halfway through my pregnancy. I was seeing both an OB and a midwife regularly at the office in the East Bay, and I really liked them both. They were affiliated with a shiny new hospital in San Leandro, and there was a shiny new Oakland hospital really close to the San Leandro one, too. We lived in Oakland for a long time and really loved Oakland, so since first labors tend to take awhile, we figured we would plan on delivering in the Oakland hospital unless my doctor or my midwife happened to be on call when I went into labor (in which case, we would go to San Leandro because that’s where they work.) I wanted to deliver with midwives or my particular OB in a hospital setting, and the Santa Clara hospital doesn’t have midwives at all – they use mainly nurses and residents to deliver babies, which I didn’t really want at least for my first time. So, we were planning to deliver in the Oakland hospital, which is a little under an hour away in good traffic, with San Leandro as our first backup and Santa Clara as our third backup. At this point, I was feeling totally well enough to be in a car for an hour – I could probably have driven myself without much problem. I had been driving all morning. However, I figured if I could find out whether I was in labor via a nearby clinic, I did not want to drive to Oakland just to be told I was not actually in labor and to go home.
The scheduling person on the phone told me that the clinic near us had a 1:30pm appointment and one at 4:30. I thought, if I AM in labor, we’ll want to get going to miss rush hour, so I’d better take the earlier appointment so that if we need to leave, we can get Jon and make it to Oakland before rush hour starts. So I booked the 1:30p and we had just enough time to get the laundry in the dryers before we left. I thought it would be a really quick appointment, in and out – 1:30p is the first appointment after lunch, and I figured they’d just check my cervix and I’d either still be a 1-2 or I would be, like, a 4 and the doctor would say yes or no and send us on our way.
By 1:30p, the contractions were a little more painful, but not much more regular. They weren’t as fascinating as before – by now, they were painful enough to be irritating, but not painful enough to require any special coping mechanisms. I elected to have Mom drive us to the doctor just in case a contraction surprised me and interfered with my driving. We arrived and were running a hair late, so Mom dropped me off and I hurried inside while she parked. (Still totally capable of hurrying!)
When we checked in, surprise! The reason they had a 1:30p opening was because the doctor was unexpectedly still in the operating room, and they had canceled the 1:30p appointment to give her time to get back. Oops. But since we were there and had technically booked an appointment, they agreed to get me in to see someone else. We waited around until a little after 2pm, when someone was finally free. The contractions were, again, more painful but not coping-mechanism-worthy and not super regular. Jon texted me for an update, and I informed him that I was losing my Tetris game.
I finally got checked out about 2:15p. The contractions were, again, a little more painful, but mostly not too crazy. They hurt enough that I wondered if the doctor could tell whether I was in labor from watching how I handled them, but she couldn’t, so I assumed they were still NBD. I was dilated to a 3 and 75% effaced, but I had been dilated to almost a 2 and 50% effaced for weeks. The doctor said I might be in labor, I might not be, and that a lot of people stay at a 3 for awhile. She said it could be hours and hours, but that I could probably start heading to Oakland if I wanted to, but that they would do an NST (non-stress test) before I left just to make sure we knew exactly how things were looking.
(A non-stress test is when they strap monitors to your stomach and monitor the baby for 20 minutes. The monitors could tell exactly when I was having a contraction, and the contraction waves print out continuously on a long, skinny piece of paper. They also gave me a little clicker and told me to click it every time he moved. Alex’s in-utero name was Flippy, so I pretty much got carpal tunnel from the clicker. Also, I tried to be educated during my pregnancy, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what an NST was before that moment. There’s just so much to know!)
So at 2:30p, I went to the little NST area, sat down in the comfy chair, and got strapped in. Mom came and sat with me to keep me entertained while I was sitting through the boring 20-minute test. The nurse set me up, gave me a blanket (it was cold and I asked for one), and left.
It was interesting to see the contractions being recorded and printed out on the long papers from the machine next to me. But then the contractions seemed to come faster and faster, and suddenly they hurt so badly that I couldn’t talk and had to steel myself to get through them. After three contractions, my mom went over to look at the paper printout, and she said, “Ohhh, those are … pretty even, Brooke.” When I’d been timing them, we’d been getting the impression that they were kinda spaced weird, but Mom looked at the paper and said, “These are not spaced weird.” Apparently, at this point my mom knew we would be heading to the hospital. I, however, was still pretty in the dark. At the end of the 20 minutes, the nurse came in to check the printout and how things were looking, and she said, “Ohhh, it looks like you’re on Pitocin!” She said they were three minutes apart and were lasting from 60-90 seconds, and I cautiously thought, “That sound like labor, but everyone’s been so uncertain so far.” So I asked the nurse what that meant, and, through the giant grin on her face, she said she wasn’t authorized to interpret the results and that the doctor would come do that.
The doctor came in a few minutes later. She pretty much stood in the doorway and took one glance at my printout, from a few feet away, and said, “Oh! You’re definitely in active labor.” She said the contractions were coming so fast and my labor was progressing so quickly that I should probably opt for the closest hospital over trying to make it to Oakland, but that it was up to me.
Wow - I got totally choked up as soon as the doctor said the word ‘labor’ and almost started crying right there. It was like she had flipped a switch, and suddenly everything was real, there was a human baby coming, and THIS IS IT. It felt so momentous and sudden and the whole last nine months was sort of rocketing to an end RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT. It was like I took on a new identity – like when you find out you’re pregnant, you’re suddenly A Pregnant Person, and that’s the identity you carry for the next several months. At this moment, I was suddenly A Person in Labor, actually experiencing this fabled thing that until now had honestly seemed a little mythical. It was overwhelming and I could hardly believe it. It’s weird when you’ve read other people’s birth stories, but you actually don’t know that you’re in the middle of your own birth story until it’s well on its way. Even harder to imagine was that in no more than a day or two, and probably less, I would be A Person with A Child – completely inconceivable. So yeah, a lot to take in.
We headed to the car and I remember during one contraction in particular, I nearly collapsed against the wall of the parking structure. Once I got settled in the car, Jon’s and my texts went as follows:
me, 2:53pm: “Come on home!”
Jon: “Like, now?”
Me: “Well, I am definitely in labor. Three minutes apart, btwn 60-90 sec in length. I’d love to take a quick shower but rush hour is coming.”
Jon: “Oh wow.”
To be continued …