As I came into my final month of pregnancy, the burning question was how long I should continue working. I had watched several of my pregnant co-workers work up until their due date and even past it. I had never had the opportunity to reach my due date with my first two children, but I had decided that I didn’t want to work until the point of 40 weeks of pregnancy (if by some small chance I made it that long).
However, I was not sure if I should keep working until the day I gave birth. So, after some consideration, I decided to work until the end of my 39th week if, indeed, I did make it that far.
As my 39th week approached, so did a lot of other stress factors that will be discussed later on in this blog (flood, finances, etc.) Stephen told me that I should stop working earlier than that, because I was allowed to stop working after 38 weeks even if I had not given birth.
I ended up teaching my final day on Thursday, March 31 and handed over my classes to a very competent permanent substitute who would teach my class for the rest of the school year. Friday morning (April 1), I hosted one last meeting/party with my high school civics club and sighed in relief after having completed all my teaching duties.
That afternoon, as I did my shopping for the following week, I began to feel a lot of tightening in my stomach as “false” contractions took place while I pushed the grocery cart around the store. I wasn’t sure if they were a sign of anything besides my own fatigue. So, I decided that I would monitor them after I went to bed.
That night I went to bed feeling a little strange, but decided to wait and see what would happen after a good night’s rest. I woke up twice that night with a very distinct feeling that I was having a contraction. However, they were three hours apart, so I didn’t do anything about until the following morning when I was having them every hour to every half hour. By 8am, I knew I had to call my doctor. He had told me the previous afternoon at my 39 week check up that I was 2 cm dilated and that I needed to let him know ASAP when I started having contractions.
“This is your third child and it will come a lot faster,” he told me.
Nevertheless, I was still surprised when he told me that he wanted me to go to the hospital right away. I was a little annoyed as I took my shower and got dressed and started calls to the people who had agreed to watch my boys in case I went in to labor over the weekend. My contractions were still between 30 minutes to an hour apart. They were very light and my water hadn’t even broken yet as it had with both of my previous pregnancies.
Stephen and I kissed our boys as we left and said that baby Grace would be coming out of mommy’s tummy soon and that they would be able to visit when mommy and baby Grace were ready. Luke didn’t quite understand why he couldn’t come to the hospital with us, but Jared was content to watch us leave. Just the night before, I had given the boys a couple of gift bags with a baby toy in each of them and told them that they could give the presents to baby Grace when she was born. Jared was really excited about that prospect and promised to help his baby sitters find everything that he and Luke needed while we were gone. It made me proud of my 3 and a half year old son to see him step up to be the “big brother.”
We arrived at the hospital shortly before 10am and found my doctor anxiously awaiting us in the emergency room entrance. He whisked us into an examination room where he confirmed my suspicion that I was not that far along in the delivery process. I was still only 2 cm dilated and the fetal monitor had not picked up any contractions in 10 minutes.
So, my doctor said that we could wait in the room until the hospital checked me in and that he would come back later to see how I had progressed. He mentioned that if my contractions did not become more regular in the next couple hours, he would give me something to speed up the process. It seems he was determined that I give birth that day.
I looked at Stephen in annoyance and said, “I do not want be induced!”
I was still hooked up the fetal monitor as different nurses and hospital representatives prepared paperwork and tests to admit me to the hospital. Meanwhile, I began to feel more contractions. I had two within the following twenty minutes and one of them was a lot stronger than any of the previous contractions I had been having so far.
By 11am, they were wheeling me into the labor room where I would give birth. As I waited for Stephen to arrive, I realized that my contractions were already coming a lot quicker than they had before. I noticed that they were now 10 minutes apart. After Stephen came to the room, he noticed the television and began to flip through the cable channels. I tolerated the distraction for the time being as I walked around the room waiting for contractions to come and go.
By noon, Stephen noted that my contractions were coming every two to three minutes and were lasting about 45 seconds to a minute. Shortly afterwards, I felt too tired to walk around and began to sit down on the bed. Suddenly, I could no longer tolerate the television.
“Turn that thing off now!” I ordered him in frustration. “I need you to focus on me, please!”
The nurses must have noticed the sudden change in my tone of voice, because one lady came running in and asked me how far apart my contractions were coming. When I told her that they were coming every two minutes, she said she would call for the doctor. She came scurrying back and said that she was told to check my dilation. I was surprised when she told me that I had already dilated to 9cm.
The room became a flurry of action as nurses began to bring in everything needed for the delivery. I took the time to call Jared and Luke one last time. They were eating lunch and getting ready to take a nap. When I got off the phone, I didn’t even notice any pain for about a couple minutes. However, the next contraction was so strong I knew that I would want to push soon.
“Where’s the doctor?” I asked.
Just then, he arrived and measured me again. I was 10 cm dilated, but the baby had not come down yet.
“Try not to push,” he told me.
The next ten minutes were a rush over my system. The moment the doctor sat down in front of me, it felt like a roller coaster was let loose and I had the greatest desire to push.
“Hold on! Not so fast!” my doctor told me.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I said as I tried to hold back what felt like a waterfall of contractions that were coming all at the same time. “I can’t stop pushing!”
“O.K. O.K. Just slow down,” he said. “She’s coming.”
And suddenly in two pushes, she had arrived. I looked down and saw her little bottom sticking up in the air as the doctor cut her free and handed her to the nurse. My pediatrician did not arrive until 10 minutes after the baby was born because it all happened so quickly. (Note: In Ecuador, it is customary that both the attending physician and the pediatrician be present at the time of a baby’s birth.)
The time was 12:40pm. Grace Erin Meier was born on April 2, 2011, on the 97th birthday of her great-grandmother (on Stephen’s side of the family) with the same initials (GEM). She weighed 2.7 kilos which is approximately 6 pounds and measured the length of 47 cm, which is approximately 18 ½ inches long.
The doctor began to stitch me up as we waited for the placenta to release. After thirty minutes, it was apparent that the placenta was not coming out on its own. This same thing had happened with the birth of my second son, Luke. He called the anesthesiologist to put me under so that he could manually extract the placenta.
By 3pm, I was waking up again and in the recovery room. It wasn’t until 4pm that they wheeled me into my bedroom and I was able to see my baby again. I stayed in the hospital for two days and returned home on Monday around noon to the two very excited big brothers anxiously awaiting the return of their mother and baby sister.
We are all very happy to be home as we get acquainted with the newest member of the family.