Everyone kept telling me to be prepared for how fast labor can go with baby #3. But both Adam and Lake took hours of lovely epidural clouded labor, and I just assumed this one would be the same. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I might have been a little too quick to dismiss these warnings!
In the weeks leading up to her due date, we knew Poppy was breach (sideways). We also knew not to be too concerned, because Lake was breech into her 39th week as well. At 38 weeks we scheduled an external version, a procedure where our beloved OB would try to turn head down with his hands on my belly. This would prevent me going into labor with her in the wrong position which could lead to an extremely dangerous labor for both mom and baby. They don’t always work, but he performed an easy and successful external version with Lake, so we knew it could be done with little worry. But she apparently was not all that excited about being pushed around, because the day before we were supposed to go to the hospital for the version we suspected she had turned all on her own. We went to see the Doc and after confirming she was in the right place he high fived us and said we in the clear. MOST babies stay put this late in the game once they are head down. But knowing that Lake had turned sideways again at this point, I knew there was a possibility this baby could too. I was sent home with instructions to return Tuesday (5 days later). Tuesday morning I woke up and I could have sworn she was sideways again. Her kicks and pushes always felt stronger when she was sideways and my belly looked wider. Sure enough, at 39 weeks, when I got to the Dr and he felt my belly he got a surprised/exasperated look on his face and said you just bought yourself an ultrasound, her head is definitely not down. So he made sure she was in a favorable position and that I had enough fluid to try turning her and scheduled another version for noon on Thursday. This time he told me to just swing by the office on the way to the hospital if we think she might have flipped head down on her own. So we lined up babysitters for the two big kids, packed our hospital bags in case of an emergency c section during the procedure, and prepared ourselves for all the possibilities that lie ahead. But come Thursday morning, Alex looked at my belly and said, she’s not sideways anymore. He was right. So we went to the Doc for an ultrasound to confirm, and promptly cancelled ANOTHER version. Alex and I breathed a little sigh of relief and instead of checking into the hospital we had a lovely breakfast at Bouchon.
We headed into our final weekend as a family of four with nothing to do but spend time loving up our two kiddos as best we could. I had an appointment to see the Doc on Tuesday and an induction scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday. Since she was still dancing all over my Doc didn’t want me to go too far and risk going into labor with her breach. In a more controlled situation we knew I would be safe and she would be safe. Also, since I was absolutely going to get an epidural anyway, I was not afraid of a nice long, slow induction. I looked forward to a day of lying in a hospital bed, comfortably watching movies and enjoying my favorite lemon popsicles.
At this point I was 39 plus weeks, just two days away from my original due date. Our babysitter was scheduled to come Thursday morning to spend the day with the kiddos until my parents arrived that night. And another babysitter and my closest friends were on high alert in case baby girl decided to make a surprise early appearance in the middle of the night. There is something so unnerving about such an a huge, important milestone that could happen at any moment and you have no idea when. Every day I would walk into preschool and everyone would say “oh wow you’re still pregnant!”
On Tuesday morning, the day of my last appointment, I started having very mild contractions. And I felt like she was still head down. It was a hot, sunny, LA day. I decided to take Lake with me since my appointment was in the afternoon after I picked her up from preschool. I always parked in the neighborhood behind my Dr’s office, and I remember calling Alex saying maybe this plan was flawed as I waddled down the sidewalk carrying my 2 year old on my 39 week belly in 100 degree heat. It was a moment I will never forget. I was still having very mild contractions here and there, never consistent and never painful. During the appointment my Dr said I was 2 cm dilated but that I still had a long way to go. Since things were starting to happen we switched the induction to Wednesday rather than Thursday. I asked him if he thought I would make it until morning, and he of course said that since he had no crystal ball there was no way of knowing. But since I still had a while to go he thought I probably would. I asked him what the protocol was for when to go to the hospital. When I was in labor with both Adam and Lake I went to the hospital before I was in active labor, for various reasons, so this was somewhat new for me. He told me contractions should be 5 minutes apart about for a couple hours, then I could go in.
After the appointment, Lake and I met Adam at school for My Gym, one of our favorite weekly activities. I was still having slight contractions on and off, but none that felt serious or real. Like most weeks, we went to The Counter for dinner with a table full of kids and moms after school. I started using my contraction timer app during dinner, and they were still about 15-20 minutes apart lasting for less than a minute. And still super mild. Alex had a work event over the hill that he was hoping to attend, so I took the kids home, threw them in the tub and got them ready for bed. During their bath I called Alex and jokingly said, maybe bath time wasn’t the best idea while I was having contractions! They were just starting to get slightly uncomfortable. But the kids were super sweet and went to bed nicely. I decided not to tell them about our induction the next day. Adam had been talking about being nervous about me and the baby being safe during delivery, and I didn’t want him to be terrified knowing we were at the hospital while he was at school. After the kids were asleep I spent the next hour or so doing some work and watching TV, contractions were getting a little closer together but still only lasting for about a minute. I called Alex around 9 and asked him when he expected to be home, only because it felt a little lonely timing contractions by myself. He said he would leave right away and swing by the grocery store to pick up some juice for me on his way home. I was still feeling great so I decided to take a shower and try to fix my hair. I was dying to be one of those cute moms with perfectly curled hair right after delivery! I had texted my babysitter earlier in the day to make sure she left her phone on that night in case something happened in the middle of the night. But when I stood up to walk to my room, I had my strongest contraction yet and started feeling pressure (duh, I don’t know why I didn’t think this might happen after lounging on the couch for 2 hours!) So I called my sitter and asked if she would come over and stay here with us, at this point knowing I probably wasn’t going to make it to my induction in the morning. She asked if she had a few minutes to pack and get ready for work the next day, I said of course! I’m sure I have a couple hours before I have to go anywhere! I jumped in the shower thinking a nice warm relaxing shower might slow things down, but instead I think I was in and out in 2 minutes, barely limping to my closet to throw on clothes. Needless to say my hair did NOT get curled. Alex called and said he was just pulling into the store and asked what I wanted, I said you better skip it and come straight home. By the time he arrived 3 minutes later I was in the middle of a contraction on our bed, not able to talk, barely able to breath. This was definitely not what he expected to see since just 20 minutes earlier I was calmly chatting with him saying maybe he should think about making his way home! At this point I knew our babysitter was on her way from Glendale so we had another 15 or 20 minutes to wait, and he said absolutely not we are going to the hospital now. I fought him for a second and said no, the Doctor said this should go on for an hour or two before I go to the hospital! Then another contraction happened almost immediately and I said, yep, ok we’re going. Alex called a dear friend that lives nearby to come stay with the kids until our sitter arrived. By the time he got to our house I was in the car and terrified, things were happening way to fast. And there was no break in between my contractions. By the time one ended another was already starting. So Alex jumped in the car and drove as fast as he could with me yelling no! slow down! that hurts! I was hanging for dear life on the bar inside the car door because every tiny bump made the baby drop even lower and every contraction stronger. But since we were going over Coldwater Canyon, basically the curviest, bumpiest, mountain road in Los Angeles, poor Alex was a little conflicted. I was shouting slow down! now speed up hurry hurry! through the entire drive. Somehow as he was fighting this fight he also called our on call Doctor. I heard him ask how long my contractions had been like this and he said about 15 minutes. Then the Doctor asked which baby this was, Alex said 3, and he said ok! I’m calling your Doctor now and he’ll meet you at the hospital!
I could think of only two things as we were going over the hill 1. How long it was still going to be before I could get an epidural and how many contractions I would have to fight through without it. And 2. That there was a fire station at the bottom of Coldwater and I couldn’t deliver her in the car, we just needed to make it to the fire station. When we got to the fire station Alex said it’s 3 more minutes to the hospital, you can make it 3 more minutes. So we flew the last mile to the hospital, potentially through a red light or two, and cruised up to the ER dropoff. Alex ran in and brought out an awesome lifesaver of a guy who helped me into a wheel chair. I was so happy to be within those walls with people to take care of me. This nice man apologized for every tiny bump along the route to the elevator, and I moaned and groaned through my never ending contractions. I was right out of a terrible romantic comedy. When we made it up to L&D, the woman at the desk said oh great we’ve been waiting for you! Sign this one random thing and go right on in. The nice man wheeled me into the closest room where a team of nurses was standing in the hall waiting for me. They tried to say something nice and the first words out of my mouth were I need an epidural. They all giggled and said, ok that’s fine but we need to check you first. I said, great, do that, but I need an epidural right now. Clearly they knew I was serious so they called in the anesthesiology team. I was 7.5 cm dilated. Within minutes they were setting me up for my epidural, and even though I was fighting through a constant contraction they quickly got me hooked up and said ok, just one more contraction and then you should feel a little relief. And then my water broke. And the contractions kept coming. All I kept saying was they won’t stop! I just need a break for a second! I asked for more epidural so the anesthesiologists dialed me up a bit and said they weren’t going anywhere, that they would just stand right in the room in case I needed them. Hooray! The nurse checked me again and in those 15 minutes since I arrived I was at 10 and ready to push. But I really wanted to wait for my Doctor. Less than a minute later Alex said, I think he’s here, I just heard a high five down the hall. Sure enough, seconds later, he waltzed in and said, hey Em! How are you? I said, I’m ok but can I have more epidural? His reply? How about let’s just have this baby. He quickly ran me through what I was going to do, and told me to push on the next contraction which I did. Then as I started my second push I said yikes! why does this one hurt so much more?! And he said because she’s here! Look down! And this tiny little red smushy peanut looked back at me with the same eyes as her big brother and sister. She immediately let out a little cry and they swiftly plopped her on my chest. She snuggled in and whimpered with sweetest little voice. I turned to Alex and laughed and said what just happened? That went so fast! From the time I called him and said maybe you might want to think about coming home because I’m starting to have more contractions, to the time she was born was under 2 hours. It was truly a whirlwind. I had been preparing for a nice long, slow labor, blissfully relaxed by epidural, happily snacking on lemon ice and watching movies just like my other two deliveries. I loved that time, knowing we were about to meet our baby, anticipating, waiting, enjoying our time together in such a safe, nurturing environment. But that’s not how this baby wanted to roll. At one point during the chaos my L&D nurse turned to me and said, I think this is going to be over so soon we aren’t even going to have time to become best friends! Which is so true, my nurses for my other deliveries were absolutely my best friends.
After the Doctor finished everything up, he told us the reason this was only (ONLY!) 8 pounds 7 ounces rather that 9 and 13 like my other two babies, was that the umbilical cord was not properly attached to the placenta. I had a momentary freak out, and he reassured me that she was fine, that 8 and 7 was completely normal and healthy and there was nothing to worry about.
So our tiny Poppy seed was here. After the Doctor and nurses got everything situated, we spent the next two hours just the three of us. It was quiet and calm and Poppy snuggled and nursed. She looked around at us with all the wonder of a brand new baby. When it was time to be wheeled into our postpartum room, it was about 1am. We got situated, I ate a sandwich, Poppy nursed some more, we met our new lovely nurse, and we sent out calls and texts to some very surprised family members who weren’t expecting to get this call until the next afternoon after our induction. Since the other kids didn’t know we had left, Alex went home around 3am to sleep at home so the kids wouldn’t be scared if they came looking for us. I felt completely comfortable by myself and one harmless newborn, with a team of nurses there to make sure we were taken care of. As predicted, Adam wandered into our room shortly after Alex got home and asked where I was. We wanted Adam and Lake to go to school the next day, Wednesday, and wait until after school to come see us. But of course if they knew where we were it would be super hard for them to go to school, so Alex lied and said I was running an errand. Adam, a pretty smart 4 year old, replied with, at a store that’s open in the middle of the night? But he seemed to accept the possibility and went back to sleep. The next morning, Alex took them to school as planned and they were blissfully in the dark until Alex came back after school with really really special news.
Seeing the two kids walk into the hospital room that day was one of my favorite moments of my entire life. Adam crawled right up next to me in bed, gave me a big hug his eyes searching mine as if I was somehow different. Then he just said, where is my new baby? (This is what he called her for the first few weeks of her life, the new baby.) For the next few hours we all had dinner together, watched movies, and snuggled up with Poppy. When Alex went to take them home they gave me a hug and as they walked out of the room Lake calmly waved and said bye baby! My heart literally broke into a thousand pieces and I just knew our family couldn’t be more perfect.