OB Estimated Due Date (EDD) based on LMP:  Nov 30, 2005
Birthday:  Dec 9, 2005

We were very afraid about 6 months into the pregnancy that Caleb was going to come early.  On September 11, 2005 I started having regular contractions every few minutes after sweeping the back patio of our town home.  I went inside, drank water, lay down on the couch and relaxed thinking they were probably just Braxton Hicks contractions and would go away with the change of position.  They didn’t and I finally called Bethesda Naval Hospital where I received OB care and would deliver.  After describing the situation to the triage nurse I was instructed to drink a pitcher of water and come to the hospital.  We arrived at the labor and delivery ward at 9:40 PM and received an IV, external fetal monitoring, 2 pelvic exams, and 2 doses of Terbutaline to stop the contractions.  The medicine stopped the contractions for about 30 minutes each time but then they came right back and just as strong and regularly spaced as before.  Since everything was still very closed and high they finally released us at 2 AM and told us to come back if the contractions became closer than 5 to 10 minutes apart or became uncomfortable, otherwise we would return on Thursday for a checkup.  On the 15SEP05 we returned at 9 PM and were given another dose of terbutaline and 2 exams.  Contractions were 3 minutes apart and the fetal rate was 160.  I was told that I was not to do any running or other activity that caused the contractions, we were to return if the contractions became stronger or got closer together.  Then on Friday, September 16th, I lost the mucous plug at work.  I told my commander, who was a female and very understanding, and she dismissed my husband and me for the day and we called the hospital and talked with the midwife we had seen a few times for OB appointments.  Mrs. Shawl put me on strict bed rest until my appointment on Thursday and ensured I had the numbers for the OB clinic and L&D triage.  Bed rest was horrible and I am so thankful that I was only on it for a week.  Even after that short time of doing nothing but lying down I felt extremely weak when I went in to my appointment; furthermore the bed rest had done nothing to change the interval or intensity of the contractions.  I knew then that there was no way I would be strong enough to deliver naturally if I stayed on bed rest, plus it was depressing me and stressing me out.  During my appointment we were told that the plug was possibly lost due to the number of pelvic/cervix exams performed in the past week, but now that it was gone the midwives did not want to risk causing an infection or triggering labor so they would not perform any more internal exams until 34 weeks.  I was told that I would possibly give birth early and to try and make it until at least 34 weeks.  The midwife understood my concerns with bed rest and told me I could return to work in the Army, but I was to take it easy, do as little walking as possible, no running or Physical Training allowed.  I could do Pilates on my own if I stayed aware of the contractions.  If the contractions changed in anyway I was to call.  They would also perform a Fetal Fibronectin test every few weeks from then on out and I could ask for a funneling check if I wanted.

I took it easy and closely counted the weeks.  As soon as I had made it all the way to 40, I started exercising again and trying to get things to happen so that I didn’t have to face induction at 42 weeks.  I would run around the parade field, very slowly while holding my big belly as I bounced along, Emman followed behind me in the car just in case!  At my 41 week check up on Wednesday, December 7th I saw a different midwife than usual and she was extremely upset to find out I was still working and blamed the fact that I was “overdue” on the stress of still being at work.  She immediately put me on quarters so that I couldn’t return to work.  She then scheduled my induction for 2 PM on Monday, the 12th of December.  Then she performed an internal exam to check for effacement and dilation.  During this exam she stripped my membranes without informing us or asking our consent (Emman and I both felt strongly against this procedure as all information we found seemed to point to a only a possible 50% effective rate and in most of those 50% the labor was significantly harder and longer).  I was still contracting regularly so it was initially hard to say how much this procedure changed things, although I was feeling a little more cramping with each contraction and my lower back was hurting more than usual. The contractions were 3 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long.

The next night was the Christmas Ball for our unit and I had originally not planned on attending since I was sure I would have a newborn to care for by then.  However, since there was still no baby I decided that maybe a night of dancing would help things along.  So, my best friend and I went looking for evening gowns large enough to fit my baby belly and cheap enough to justify one time use.  After a long morning of consignment stores and no gown, I decided to forget it and stay home; Emman seemed relieved not to be going.  My contractions had seemed stronger all day that day, but I attributed it to being on my feet so much.  That evening I cooked burgers on the Forman grill and made some homemade french fries in the Fry Daddy; burgers and fries were my only craving during the pregnancy.  During dinner the contractions started becoming painful and impossible to ignore.  I was having trouble eating and Emman told me I should go upstairs and try to get some sleep before we had to head to the hospital; he would start getting things ready to go.  I did as he suggested but I was restless.  I had not taken any childbirth classes other than the two-hour childbirth preparation course at the hospital and was rather unprepared for this part of the process.  I fought every contraction by tightening every muscle and holding my breath.  I dwelt on the pain and worried about the forty-five minute drive to the hospital and the possibility of giving birth on the Washington D.C. beltway.  I also excitedly anticipated the arrival of my new baby boy, my first child, whom I had waited so long to see.  I imagined what he would look like and how it would feel to hold him.  I found sleep impossible and time drug on.  After a few hours of tossing and turning, I called the L&D ward of the hospital and was instructed to come in.

We loaded up and Emman timed contractions as he drove us there and called everyone on our list including our unit command at the Ball, and our parents.  By the time we arrived I was in a lot of pain with each contraction and couldn’t walk to the hospital during one.  I was scared, anxious, excited, and already very tired since it was now late evening.  When we were examined at Labor and Delivery they said I was only 2 cm dilated and to walk around some more.  I found walking next to impossible since I contracted every few steps and had to stop and lean on Emman during each one.  My muscles were sore from fighting the contractions and I was wiped out.  We spent most of the time sitting on a bench on the second floor overlooking the first floor and watching a TV mounted on a wall down there.  I don’t remember what was on but I do remember both of us being tired and thinking how much I appreciated Emman and how patient he was being.  At around midnight we went back and I was finally 3 cm so we were admitted.  Emman and I had managed to talk the nurse into putting the mandatory IV into my elbow area rather than my wrist or hand.  I was allowed to walk around if I wanted but dragging an IV pole and bag behind me didn’t make anything more comfortable so I spent the time lying in the bed or going to the bathroom to pee, which I was now doing very frequently since I had liquid pouring into my vein continuously.  Going to the bathroom always triggered a contraction and so did holding it and letting my bladder become full.  On top of all of this, the nurse who came in every half-hour to remind me of how high I had previously rated my pain and to ask where I would rate my pain now, continually drew my attention to my discomfort.  Of course she would then remind me of the option to get an epidural.  Emman and I had decided against this and so we would decline each time.

Emman sat by my side and held my hand during each contraction.  He was so amazingly sweet and caring.  Even the nurse took notice and commented on how unique that was.  By 3 or 4 AM, I felt sick and shaky; I was only 6 cm dilated and felt like I had nothing left to give.  I was thinking about the birth story shows on TV and a particular episode where a woman was all but ordered to get an epidural by her doctor because she was too tired to make it through the rest of the delivery and her contractions were slowing down. I am terrified of needles and had thought that the fear of the needle alone would prevent me from ever even considering such a thing.

But I found myself asking Emman if he would be upset with me for getting an epidural because I didn’t think I could do this any longer.  He was very patient and told me that whatever I needed to do he supported me. I gave in and requested an epidural, but of course the anesthesiologist was very busy at that moment as he had some “issues” to deal with that night.  He finally came in hours later and administered the epidural.  The epidural only took to one side of my body, but did bring enough relief that I was able to relax a little in between contractions.  They checked my progress and I was 8 cm so they decided to break my water.  Any relief from the contractions brought by the epidural was now gone as the contractions intensified dramatically, also there was meconium staining in the water so a Pediatric nurse was notified and would be on call to suction Caleb immediately after birth.  Then, the nurse became concerned and called for the doctor, apparently the fetal heart rate had dropped dramatically after the epidural and breaking of the water. Another nurse stepped in and shouted, “Get her on all fours!”  She then exited to get the doctor and I attempted to roll onto all fours with my legs now numb all without strangling myself in the IV line or epidural line.  Emman remained calm, completely alert to what was going on and completely helpful and reassuring to me.  About the time I managed to get on all fours with the help of Emman and the nurse, the doctor came in and shouted, “Get her on her back!”  So I got back onto my back although I had managed to tangle my lines all up by this point.  The room flooded with doctors and nurses from both OB and NICU in such a way that one would have thought it was an episode of ER.  I was instructed to push, but since I had limited feeling, wasn’t fully dilated, and was completely stressed out by all of the commotion, my attempts were futile. An older woman then told me in a very sweet, yet this in is your best interest, kind of voice that the baby needed to be removed immediately and they would be using forceps.  My heart sank.  This was not at all what I hoped for.  I had an uncle who had been delivered by forceps and is mentally and partially physically handicapped and I was terrified that the same thing would happen to my son. Emman tried to calm and reassure me that the staff knew what they were doing and it was all going to be okay.  We prayed for protection.  I asked for a mirror and a young nurse who was probably just a student, as it was a teaching hospital, was sent to get one.  I had to request she move it several times as she stood with her mouth gapping open and eyes wide in what seemed nervous amazement.  I never really was able to get her to move it where I could see anything.  Meanwhile, another young woman repeatedly attempted to pull Caleb out with the forceps.  She tried, failed, removed them and started over several times before the older woman pushed her aside, grabbed the forceps, and pulled him out on the first try.  The staff then immediately cut Caleb’s cord and he was rushed to the table to be suctioned because of the meconium.  Emman watched carefully and let me know it was okay and Caleb was fine.  When I finally got to hold him and try to nurse him his poor face had a red line where the forceps had been and the iris of the eye that the forceps had gone over was bloodshot and purple.  We expressed our concerns but were told it would go away in a few days and it did.

The room then cleared and we spent some time holding our precious baby boy.  He seemed so perfect and beautiful, yet tiny and fragile.  He was amazing and I wondered how I had lived without him and how I was so blessed to have him at the same time.  Emman told me to sleep and he watched him, he held him close and cooed at him with such an amazing glow on his face.  He was the proudest father in the world!  His incredible support didn’t stop at labor; he was Caleb’s primary caregiver for those first two days in the hospital while I rested.  I don’t think he sleep more than a few hours the entire time we were there!  At the end of our stay in the hospital I knew I had the most wonderful husband and most beautiful baby boy!  I was truly blessed!