I had not planned on being induced.
But who really does? I planned on my water breaking in the middle of the night, nudging Brandon until he woke up, and saying something like, "Honey, it's time. We're about to meet our daughter!" You know, just like it happens in those movies where giving birth is highly romanticized.
It was Sunday, February 5th and I'd packed our hospital bags a few weeks earlier just in case. I had Brandon's bag, my things, items I thought I'd want for labor (oils, music, massage oil, etc.), and of course clothes and other things for our soon-to-be, real life, breathing-on-her-own, no longer attached and safe in my belly baby girl. Needless to say, we had a lot of things. We started that morning out just like any other Sunday. We got up, made coffee, had a quick breakfast, and went to church. I told Brandon that I wanted that day to be as normal as possible because I knew it would help me to stay calm. As the day progressed and we were readying ourselves to go to the hospital, I remember sitting at the kitchen table and saying something along the lines of, "This time tomorrow, we will be holding Emerson."
We were scheduled (this is still so weird to me, but totally in line with how I like things to be) to arrive at the hospital at 6pm that evening. Around 5:15, I told Brandon I couldn't just sit around any more and I had to get out of the house. We loaded up Suz (what we affectionately call our SUV), I took the driver's seat, and we drove around our town for the next half hour. We took the back roads, took in the scenery, went past our new church building, and eventually ended up in the parking lot of the hospital. I can't remember for sure, but I'm fairly certain I cried at some point along the way. Probably twice. I remember feeling such anxiety about the evening. I had no idea what to expect other than what my OB told me - which wasn't all butterflies and unicorn poop, by the way. I remember thinking, "OK, if the worst happens and either myself or Emerson don't make it home from the hospital, life will be alright. Brandon and Emerson can create a new life together. Brandon and I will be OK because we'll have each other. Our God is still good. It'll all be OK." Yeah, I told you. Anxious.
The minute we arrived, those anxious feelings dissipated. After sitting in the waiting area for a few minutes while they readied our room, I got weighed (174lbs! Wowza!) and then headed down to the room we'd deliver in. The room was large and wonderful. It had massive windows, a spa tub and shower, and a reclining chair where Brandon would sleep next to me all night (this turned in to a much larger blessing than I'd realize at the time). We dropped our bags, unpacked just a little bit, and got ready for the long process of induction. I was told to come "ready for battle", so I did. My head was in the game and I was ready to go.
My evening nurse got all of the monitors hooked up, took whatever vitals she needed to, and left us to be for awhile. She told us that around 11pm she'd come in, wake me up if needed, and get me going on this thing called "the balloon". With a name that friendly, how bad could it be? My Mom was sweet enough to bring us dinner that evening. She stopped by around 7pm and brought Panera. Ohhh, sweet carbs. This would be the last thing I'd eat until after I delivered.
11:00 rolled around and my nurse came rolling in. Brandon and I had been watching Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix, so we were awake. I won't go in to detail about what the balloon felt like, but let's just equate it to a Chinese torture device, OK? OK. This little torture device helped get me dilated to 4cm. Once it had done it's job, it would fall out on its own and we'd move on to the next thing. I'm not sure what was worse, the cramping that was brought on by that little torture device or the contractions that I'd experience later. Around 2am, the nurse was kind enough to bring me some pain meds (Nubain) and a little something to help with sleep (Ambian). I thought I'd hit the jackpot, but since I didn't have anything in my stomach, that Ambian came up and out fairly quickly. I was too nervous to take anything else after that, so I just let it ride out til morning.
The nurse checked in on us every couple of hours or so to make sure I didn't need anything. The staff at our hospital were angels. Complete angels. At about 7am, our morning nurse came in and let me know that if I wanted to take a shower before delivery that this would be my opportunity to do so. I needed to be back in bed by 7:45 so that they could start Pitocin promptly at 8am. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. 8:00 came and the Pitocin started. Fairly quickly, contractions followed. They were strong, consistent, and somewhere along the way I took notice of the sounds the monitors were making and knew when I could anticipate a contraction. This helped big time. After an hour or so of steady contractions, I'd decided that I'd experienced what I wanted to in regards to laboring medication-free, so I let the nurse know that I was ready for the epidural. That was the plan all along - to labor without pain management for as long as possible and then get the epidural - and I'm glad it worked out that way.
Once I received the epidural and it kicked in, I can honestly say labor and delivery was not only tolerable, but fun. I was able to joke with my nurse more and really enjoy the fact that we were there to bring our daughter in to this world. When my nurse came in to check on me after receiving the epidural, she asked me if I'd be willing to try something she called "The Peanut". Since I couldn't feel anything below my waist at this point I said, "Sure!" Kara (aka the best labor and delivery nurse ever) swore that this Peanut could cut labor and my pushing time in half. Picture a GIANT peanut-shaped yoga ball. She rolled me on my side, got me comfortably situated, put The Peanut in between my knees, and left me alone for awhile. After 45 minutes, she came back in and asked me to let her know when I felt pressure around my pelvis. "Nothing yet!", I said. Another 45 minutes passed. "Still nothing!", I remarked. At this point, Kara and my delivery doctor decided to cut my epidural in half because I insisted I really couldn't feel a thing. After another 45 minutes (right around 11:40 or so), Kara and my doctor came in and after I swore I still wasn't feeling any pressure, they said, "We're just gonna check you and see where we're at." About 2 minutes later, my doctor looked up at me and said something along the lines of, "You're at a 10! It's time!" Really, just like that? 4 hours in "active" labor and I was ready to push? Well, OK! They got me in the pushing position and told me we were going to do a practice push. Brandon was on my right side holding my leg up, Kara was on my left holding my other leg, and the doctor was doing what doctors do. I gave one big push and my doctor said, "Alright, hold on, I see a head! We're doing this thing!" I don't think she was expecting Emerson to come that quickly because she told me she needed to get her cart (which was just in the next room, don't worry). She came back about 2 minutes later. I looked at the clock and it read somewhere about Noon. She walked me through how pushing would go, gave Brandon a heads up on what to expect with cord cutting, and we got down to business. At about Noon, I started pushing. At 12:12pm, we had a baby girl. I'll get to that, though...
On my first round of pushing my doctor said, "I see dark hair!" and encouraged me to keep pushing with all I had. That comment from her, though, really sparked excitement in both Brandon and myself. He immediately threw everything he thought about not watching the birth out of the window and crossed that line. The looks on his face are what kept me excited and eager to push harder. He was so encouraging. Kara and my doctor were two of the best cheerleaders I could have asked for in that delivery room. They let me break when I needed to and kept telling me how awesome of a job I was doing. I was fighting a bad cold when I delivered Emerson, so I was a little discouraged I didn't have the big breaths to push her out faster. I really needed that encouragement from them.
After 10 minutes of pushing, Kara and Dr. Cline placed sweet Emerson on my chest. Cue the tears. She was the most beautiful, bloody mess I'd ever seen in my entire life. She cried a little bit and it was music to my ears. I laid with her on my chest for about 10 minutes (thanks, iPhone photo time stamps!) and then they took her to a station next to my bed to get weighed, measured, etc. Brandon watched over her while coming back to check in on me from time to time, too.
Once she was all checked out, Brandon did skin-to-skin and about an hour after birth we invited my family in to meet her. Once the room emptied out, we just stared at Baby Emerson for a little bit before moving to our postpartum/recovery room - it was, and still is, one of the greatest blessings to be her parents.
Giving birth was one of the coolest and hardest things I've ever done. I had plans of how I wanted that day to go and while they weren't necessarily met, we adjusted our sails and I'm confident that she was born exactly how God intended all along. 18 total hours in our labor room, 4 hours of active labor, and 10 minutes of pushing - He never abandoned us.
At 1pm on February 8th, we walked out of the hospital with a healthy, happy, and beautiful baby girl. Emerson Leigh Britcher, your Dad and I love you immensely and you've brought us so much joy in the 6 short weeks that you've been a part of our family.