Matt and I sprinted out of bed as the sudden screeching of our fire alarms jolted us awake at 1am on Friday, July 1. I hit the light and ran to grab #Gingerbaby, and Matt dashed from room to room looking for smoke. The alarms shut off after about 15 seconds. At 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant, that 15 seconds was the most exercise I had gotten in months. After finding no smoke and bribing the toddler back to sleep with a Nuk, we crawled back to bed.
That same night at 4am, they rang for another 15 seconds before turning off. With only a few weeks of precious sleep left before newborn nighttimes, we dismantled the alarms. Sometimes sleep is more important than fire safety.
It's a scientific fact that fire alarms only malfunction after 15 years of service in the middle of the evening before you suddenly become a family of four. It's likely the shock of the alarms sent me into labor, but I'm going to assume it was actually the baby ringing a supernatural bell to say, "I'M HERE MOTHER F***ERS!" I look forward to her teenage years.
After settling back into bed around 5am, I started to feel nauseous with a few seemingly far apart contractions. Unable to sleep, I googled "pre-labor signs" while Matt googled "dysfunctional fire alarms" for the next hour. By 6am, Cooper was up and ready to party. Contractions continued through teeth brushing, clothes wearing and breakfast eating negotiations, and despite Coop's best efforts, they weren't easy to ignore. By the time Matt was ready for work and I was ready for daycare drop-off, I knew I was going to have a baby that day. I asked Matt to work from home with me in case we had to make a quick getaway. I was also certain our fire alarms were haunted, and I did not want to be home alone while the demon spirit of my unborn roamed my house.
In between maternity leave prep emails and status report updates, I labored around. By noon contractions were 10 minutes apart, so we decided to have a healthy lunch and head to the hospital. Did I say healthy lunch? I meant microwaved chips and cheese nachos, a West-Steinman delicacy.
We got to the hospital around 1:30pm certain I had dilated to an 11 because my insides felt like they were on my outside. I had progressed quite a bit at my last doctor's appointment, though I'm not sure if my doctor was telling me the truth because I asked her to lie to me and just tell me the baby was coming. I hadn't made enough progress to be admitted right away, so the nurse had me walk around for an hour to make sure I was really in labor. Challenge accepted. Determined to be admitted, I power-walked the shit out of that hospital. Matt kept asking if I wanted to sit down, and I told him to shut up and get this baby out. If that meant we needed to walk until the baby fell out, we were going to do that.
After an hour of walking like a retired couple in a suburban mall, I was deemed admittable. When the nurse left the room to get us moved into labor and delivery, I balled. My greatest fear was being sent home, but now my greatest fear was actually having the baby. Pregnancy had been such a bitch this time around, that labor couldn't possibly be a cakewalk.
After several hours of unmedicated labor, I couldn't take the pain. My hips and back were just too busted for natural pain control and labor progressing methods like walking, bouncing, swaying, bathing, etc. I could barely get out of the bathtub when I finally asked for the drugs.
At first I felt ashamed. My first pregnancy had gone so smoothly and the labor process (albeit long), went fairly well (with the exception to a fractured tailbone). The first time, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it on my own. Well, I can check that shit off my bucket list because I did it once, and I wasn't about to survive that again. Bring in the big guns.
Enter bliss. I went from the most pain in my life to watching House Hunters, eating Chipotle and cracking jokes with the nurses. Contracting in-between the insertion of a 6-inch needle in the middle of my back was less than pleasant, but the aftermath was a bizarre, pain-free existence. I was the most comfortable and relaxed I'd been all pregnancy, and even though I was numb from the tummy down, I was hyper-aware of what was happening. I'm so glad I got to experience both kinds of labor. I understand the hype around both, but if I had to do it again (please God no), I'd take the drugs. If you're feeling guilty or anxious about either option, in the words of my #tribewife Alison Beattie, cut that shit out. Both methods get you a baby. Neither give you complete control of your bowels during labor.
Two and a half hours after I got the epidural, I felt a tiny bit of pressure and asked the nurse if that meant anything. Apparently the baby was pretty much falling out of me. 15 minutes of pushing, and she arrived at 10:45pm. She immediately peed on me, so we've bonded right away. At 6 lbs. 9 oz. and 19 inches, she was such a tiny nugget. How could something so small cause so much chaos? Perhaps there's an old wive's tale that says a full head of hair gives you heartburn and sets off your fire alarms. Speaking of hair, my daughter came out with frosted tips.
The minute I got the feeling back in my legs, I felt like I could do cartwheels through the hallways. I didn't because surely something would have come flying out of there. In the last two weeks, I've gone on walks, taken the kids to the zoo, sat on hard surfaces and chased after my son. I feel human again, and I can't wait to start running. I don't say that to be like, "look at me, I work out" because honestly, I don't work out. I say that so all the waddlers out there know they too will feel human again, whatever that means to them.
Zoe West Steinman (#QueenZee) came into the world like a 5-alarm fire (complete with alarm). God help us all.
P.S. You might also like #Gingerbaby: An Origin Story.