It all started on September 16th, three days before the due date. As mentioned in my final pregnancy update, I was feeling pretty anxious to get baby out — partly due to those pesky pregnancy-related discomforts, but also a nagging sense of concern the longer the pregnancy went on. Lillian had weighed exactly 9 pounds when she was born at 38 weeks, and despite conflicting and potentially inaccurate estimates from the ultrasounds during this pregnancy (they were guessing just under 8 pounds as of a week before the delivery) I had the gut feeling that Baby #2 was on track to be as large or larger.
But even if the doctors shared those concerns, a potentially large baby is not considered a legitimate medical reason to induce labor — and with a completely closed cervix, my doctor actually recommended against it, insisting that it would be better to wait for labor to start naturally to avoid increasing my risk of having a C-section.
Even so, I was adamant that I wanted to induce labor anyway. (Which I realize is the stark opposite of many birth stories I’ve read, where the doctor wants to induce but the patient would prefer labor to start on its own.) Somewhat reluctantly, the doctor agreed, but it would be considered a purely “elective” induction, and that’s how I got on that waiting list mentioned in my 39-week pregnancy update post. The way it works, the hospital only has a certain number of slots available for inductions, and the ones considered medically-necessary (of course) get a higher priority than the elective ones, so I wouldn’t know until the day before if a slot had opened up for me or not.
So on Tuesday morning, I called the doctor’s office to see if I’d been moved off that waiting list, so as to be on the schedule for an induction for the following day (September 17th). The answer was no. They said they’d call me back that afternoon if anything changed, and I hung up from the call feeling frustrated and powerless and all kinds of emotional (which I can probably blame on pregnancy hormones).
I had heard that walking can help get labor going, so rather than sitting around helplessly, I decided to go for a walk. A long walk. To the nearest mall, 3.5 miles away. My mom had come over to keep me company, and thought it was crazy, but I promised to call for a ride if I got too tired or went into labor or whatever. And with that I crammed my swollen ham-like feet into a pair of sneakers, put my favorite angsty self-pity music on my headphones, and started walking.
About two hours later I had made it all the way there, and it was actually a pretty nice walk — almost entirely quiet residential streets with sidewalks, and I got to cut through a park I’d never visited before, and the weather was perfect for being outside. It was admittedly pretty tiring, but I think having a concrete destination in mind motivated me to keep going longer than if I’d just started walking aimlessly around our neighborhood.
And in a bit of uncanny timing — just as I arrived, I got a phone call from the doctor’s office saying that a slot had opened and I was on the schedule for an induction, at 2:30 AM that same night (or the next morning, however you want to look at it). I was ecstatic. The walk didn’t make me go into labor, but it ended with exactly the outcome I wanted, other than maybe that ungodly hour we’d have to show up at the hospital.
I invited my mom to meet up for lunch at what’s probably the last surviving Quizno’s anywhere in Chicago, and then rode back home with her, since it would be a little crazy to walk 3.5 miles twice in one day while 9 months pregnant. We swung over to her place so she could pick up a few things, since she’d be staying over at our house to watch Lillian while we were at the hospital, and I spent a good chunk of the remainder of the day taking a nap.
Joe and I headed out a little after midnight, and stopped for a very late “dinner” at Steak N Shake (dining room open 24 hours!) since I’d been told I wouldn’t be allowed to eat after checking in at the hospital. We were settling into the labor and delivery room by 2:45 AM, and shortly afterward the nurses had started an IV with pitocin drip. (Interestingly enough, at the first cervix check I was already 3 centimeters dilated — so either the pitocin started working really fast, or all that walking did help something after all.)
Overall, the whole thing felt so much more relaxed than my first labor. Partly because it was all planned and scheduled, rather than unexpectedly rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night, and partly because I’d been through it before and had a better idea of my own preferences. (For instance, I knew 100% that I wanted the epidural, rather than the “let’s try to go natural if possible” attitude I went in with the first time, which ended in a big slice of drug-flavored humble pie.) By noon I was numb from the waist down, comfortable as could be, and spent the rest of the day chatting with Joe and watching TV and playing with my iPhone.
Aside from not being able to eat, labor was just a big happy waiting game, counting down the hours and minutes until we could meet our new baby girl. Shortly after 8:00 pm, it was finally time to push. The doctor was called in, and various equipment and instruments were set up. The excitement built as the long-awaited moment finally arrived.
Things went smoothly at first. It only took a few pushes, and less than 10 minutes from when we started, to get her head out (which is pretty similar to how the pushing phase had gone the previous time). It was a little unnerving to hear the doctor mention to the nurse that there was a nuchal cord, meaning the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. And then things got a little scary.
“We have a shoulder,” the doctor said. She said this very calmly, in her typical warm smiley voice, but something instantly changed in the room. Joe, who’d been standing to my left, had to step aside as one of the nurses crowded in to help. Someone called in a code, and it must have been something the hospital practiced for extensively, because within seconds there were like eight people in the room. It’s sort of hard to describe because I don’t recall anyone ever rushing in — it was more like a bunch of extra doctors and nurses just materialized in there, like wild Pokemon.
Everything happened with such an air of calmness and confidence (and I’m sure it does no one any good to act any other way, least of all the concerned parents) though unfortunately I’d read enough about the whole childbirth thing to understand the seriousness of what was going on. It was shoulder dystocia, a complication where the baby’s head is delivered but one of the shoulders gets stuck, and it’s considered an obstetric emergency when it happens because the baby can get cut off from their oxygen supply and suffer brain damage or even death within a matter of minutes if they’re not delivered.
In our case, thankfully, it wasn’t severe and resolved fairly quickly — the doctor was able to perform some sort of rotation maneuver, and I pushed with all my might when they said to push, and she was out within about 30 seconds. It felt like longer, but in reality the whole thing was pretty much already resolved by the time the backup crew of extra doctors and nurses arrived to help.
It was 8:41 PM, and our little Rosemarie had arrived. They put her on my chest briefly right after she was delivered, and it was a wonderful emotional crying-from-joy moment to finally meet her. But she didn’t seem to be making much noise, and I remember that I kept asking “Is she okay?”
Within a few seconds they whisked her away to the warming table for examination, and in the chaos of it all Joe didn’t get to cut the cord as he had with Lillian. But she started crying heartily in short order, and while the team of pediatricians that had materialized in the room mentioned something about her right arm (I think there was initially some concern that the right shoulder might’ve been injured during that slightly complicated delivery), on further examination everything was found to be A-OK. Phew!
It was such a huge relief to have her out and safe and healthy. And upon hearing that she weighed 9 pounds 5 ounces, I have to admit I felt pretty vindicated in those concerns about her size and general anxiousness to deliver… If she almost got stuck now, I shudder to think what might’ve happened if she’d been any larger.
The doctors all seemed kind of surprised at how big she was, and explained that larger babies can have trouble with their blood sugar, so they wanted her to eat right away. This turned out to be easy since our plan had been to formula feed from the start, so she got her first bottle within 20 minutes of being born. At the first glucose test half an hour later, they wanted to see it above 50, and it was 52 — so just barely in the safe zone.
They got us moved up into the recovery room by midnight or so, and I was walking on air — we had our beautiful healthy newborn, and they fed me some warm macaroni and cheese (cafeteria grade, but it seemed like the most delicious thing ever after not eating for almost 24 hours). And I couldn’t believe how good I felt walking around the hospital room even a few hours later. I had no tearing at all, and never felt any need to sit on an ice pack or use one of those “cleansing bottles” instead of toilet paper. Weirdly enough, the worst pain I had in the aftermath felt like a bruise, as though someone had kicked me in the upper right hand side of the rump — not sure where that came from, and imagine it must’ve had something to do with how I was positioned in the bed during labor.
The hospital had really nice private recovery rooms with pull-out beds, which is where Joe slept that first night. Neither of us had gotten much rest the night before, but even so, Joe sweetly volunteered to tend to Rosemarie during the night so I could get some rest. Although that didn’t pan out — the nurses kept coming in to check my vitals and monitor Rosemarie’s blood sugar, and since I was getting woken up anyway, I figured I might as well handle it. For her part, Rosemarie slept contentedly most of the time, just waking up every few hours for a bottle.
The next day, my mom brought Lillian to the hospital to meet her new baby sister. We weren’t sure how she would react to the new baby — she’d always seemed excited when talking to her about it beforehand, but it was hard to tell if she really understood, or if she’d be jealous, or something else. She was really quiet at first, after coming into the room and being introduced to the baby. Then, one of the first things she said, softly, was, “I want to hold her.”
So we got her settled in on the couch, and showed her how to support her head, and I think this photo accurately captures the joy of Big Sister proudly holding Little Sister for the first time:
What really melted my heart was the concern and protectiveness Lillian showed toward toward her baby sister, right from that very first visit. For instance, when the team of pediatricians came in to do one of their routine exams, Rosemarie had been sleeping peacefully, but (predictably) woke up and started crying as they started prodding her with thermometers and stethoscopes and whatnot. And without missing a beat, Lillian jumped up and picked up a half-finished baby bottle and rushed over to the bassinet, clearly wanting to offer it to that poor distressed baby to comfort her. (She wasn’t actually able to, and in reality the bottle had probably been sitting out for too long to be any good, but the gesture was the sweetest thing.)
While they were visiting, the newborn photographer came by to do the newborn photo shoot, something that was optionally offered by the hospital. We had declined getting any newborn photos when Lillian was born due to concerns we had at the time about any additional expense, and kind of regretted it, so this time we decided to splurge and buy one of the photo packages. I think they turned out well and were totally worth it, considering that we were able to get some pictures that we probably never would have otherwise. Here are a few of the photos:
I sent Joe home with my mom and Lillian that afternoon. We’d already been away for so long by that point, and that way he could at least provide the familiar bath time and story time routine that night, and generally keep things as normal as possible for Lillian (not to mention get a better night’s sleep in our actual bed).
We were discharged at around noon the next day. We strolled out of the hospital together and walked the block or so over to the parking garage (drawing lots of stares, since I guess walking down the street carrying a tiny newborn isn’t that common even near a hospital) only to realize that we had a amassed a $150.00 parking bill over the past few days. Luckily we were able to go back and get the validation or maternity discount or whatever, which reduced it to “only” $72.00. And that’s what we get for having a baby at a hospital in the heart of downtown Chicago, where parking is a prized commodity.
Rosemarie is three weeks old now, and so far it’s been relatively smooth sailing. Her settings include “content and alert,” “asleep,” and “crying due to hunger and/or poopy diaper” — we’re keeping our fingers crossed that she will remain a relatively calm, predictable baby like her big sister was, but we’ll see how things go. (If it’s any encouragement, she’s already starting to sleep for four, five, or sometimes almost six hour stretches at night — perhaps one day I will learn to take advantage of these for sleep, instead of staying up reading TV Tropes or composing excessively long blog posts.)
And so far, Lillian has been nothing short of an amazing big sister. She’s always eager to help with Rosemarie in little ways, like giving her a pacifier (“paci-higher” as she pronounces it), or handing us things when it’s time for feedings or diaper changes. She talks endlessly about all the things Rosemarie will be able do when she gets “a little more bigger” — use the potty, eat potato chips, jump on bouncy castles, go in the swimming pool. By all accounts she even seems to highly recommend the Big Sister Experience to others, as I was told about this amusing little exchange between Lillian and another little girl her age by our daycare provider:
Lillian: You should get a baby sister too!
Other Girl: I think I want a puppy.
Anyway, that’s the lengthy and somewhat belated story of how we became a family of four, and our transition into life with two kids so far. (Two! That’s twice as many as we used to have!) There’s admittedly been a bit of a learning curve, for instance when it comes to packing up to head out the door or just generally meeting the needs of both at once, but we seem to be settling in well enough — only time will tell what lies ahead in this next exciting chapter of our parenthood journey!