The day before we met Summer, I went to the hospital for an ultrasound. My doctor thought my belly was measuring a little small, and the ultrasound showed the same thing: expiry date had been reached. The baby was moving all about, everything looked good, but small. The doctor on-call, whom I ended up knowing through mutual friends, recommended we induce labour. (I felt so comforted knowing that, in this big city, I could still make familiar connections with people). She said baby would do better on the outside, and I agreed that I was ready to do this.
I called Rich, then my mum, and made arrangements to be admitted to the hospital. My sister agreed to watch the girls, and my Dad had them for dinner that evening. I felt relieved to know they were well taken care of, and that Abby understood what was happening.
I took a moment of quiet reflection where I made peace with the end of the pregnancy. I couldn't contain my smile--I was going to meet this baby! I was a little afraid of labour. That pain is never something you forget, and after pushing out three babies without drugs, I knew what I was in for. My doctor agreed to try manually inducing me with a Foley catheter, which essentially makes the patient dilate to 4cm, at which point they'd break my water. I made the connection that I knew the doctor while sitting spread eagle during catheter insertion, and she asked if we new so-and-so, and we laughed about how awkward it all was. I liked that we were starting things off on a funny note, it put me at ease and made me feel connected to my care provider.
Labour started fast and furious after that. Contractions came on strong, and were immediately on top of each other. I knew what to do, and I did it: I breathed, I imagined a big flower opening, I pushed down, I grabbed Rich's hands. My body began to get the shakes and I started feeling sick: all signs we were very close. The nurses started preparing the room for delivery. Then everything just stopped.
I was grateful for the break in contractions, but the they didn't return. The Foley catheter came out, but my body was no longer progressing in labour. I felt deflated. In the pain of contractions, I kept myself motivated by the promise I could soon meet my baby. Now, it was unclear when that would happen.
My doctor was able to break my water a little, but not enough to get my body contracting on its own. I knew I was facing a cascade of medical interventions I didn't think I was supposed to be OK with: induction drugs, pain meds, potentially a C-section if baby didn't handle labour well or the cord got wrapped around its neck. I started panicking and getting scared that I was losing control, that the pain I had just experienced would return full force, that I couldn't do it, that I wanted it over. Then, I made the decision that completely turned around my experience and made me feel so at peace.
The doctor explained they would like to begin using a hormone replacement (pitocin) to start labour. It is known to bring it on fast and intense. My own body is apt to bring labour on fast and intense, and I was scared of the pain returning and the disappointment of it not working again. I agreed to the pitocin, and then asked for an epidural. The doctor and anesthetist explained it was a nerve blocker that would not cross the bloodstream and affect the baby at all. It would ease the contraction pain, but not numb me. There were risks, and I know someone for whom the side effects were awful, but I felt confident that this decisions would give me back my peace and happiness about this delivery. I talked to my mom and called a good friend about their experiences using an epidural and began feeling very positive.
It was empowering: the books told me using medial interventions or pain meds would make me feel bad about myself and devalue my labour. But deciding to take control, ride out my labour and meet my baby with minimal pain felt right. I started feeling euphoric and excited.
The epidural went in, the drip was started and I drifted off to sleep, as it was after midnight. I felt contractions happening in my sleep, and began envisioning the opening flower again. I could feel the baby descend, and would massage little feet during contractions to reassure him or her that all was well, "mama's got you." I felt everything my body was enduring, but without the perilous intensity of the contractions. After a few hours, the nurse checked and I was 5cm dilated. I began to think this wasn't working either and that surgery wasn't far off.
Then I felt the baby drop. I told the nurse I felt the urge to push. My body started shaking again, I had to breathe deep through the contractions. My mom and Rich gathered around my bed and the nurse, who had spent the evening joking and laughing with us, checked me again. She asked me to try pushing, to see if that would help the baby descend more and dilate me further. I imagined my baby coming down, took a deep breath and pushed. This is what I heard next:
"OK, wow, stop pushing. Stop pushing. Oh, this is happening. OK, and ... here she is."
The nurse, Emily, caught my baby girl, lifted her up and placed her across my chest. Yes, my girl. Summer. The doctors were called in, and we all smiled and laughed at how fast things had happened. I burst into tears holding my surprise little girl, and I welcomed her to the world. I held her tight while her cord finished pulsing, and watched Rich cut it.
I pet her and talked to her and couldn't stop smiling and laughing. We were all so surprised at how fast she arrived, and that she was a girl. After all, we had decided during labour that only a boy would make me wait so long and be so hard to evict. I nursed her for an hour and a half, and it was clear this girl meant business when it came to her food. Then Emily took her to be weighed, measured and assessed. I let my mom and Rich and my Dad, who had been in the waiting room, hold the world's newest person.
We made a few calls, and watched the sun come up on Summer's birthday. Later that morning, my parents returned with my Grama (Estelle, Summer's namesake), my girls and a birthday cake. We all sang to Summer and shared a delicious chocolate cake, which was Abby's idea. She couldn't wait to meet her new sister and has not stopped smiling, petting and bragging about Summer. It is so heartwarming to see her transition from understanding and anticipating to fruition. Robin seems neutral on this new baby's arrival, but smiles when she pats her back properly. Hailey doesn't seem too sure about this new baby, and so she's been getting extra assurance and cuddles that she is still my very loved and important baby.