Begin with the first.
I was at the top of the stairs with Ronan.
I said something like, “Come on, buddy, let’s go down…”
I felt my foot slip. My heel, too close to the edge of the step, didn’t grip. The world fell out from under me, and I was falling, arms thrown akimbo trying to grasp something, anything. A deep roar of fear escaped my throat, and I felt my bottom hit the stairs in a burst of pain that exploded up my back. Moments, mere moments seemed to last forever as I slid down the stairs and came to a stop on the landing, in a heap. I cried deep sobs of pain, but also sobs of pity for myself and I stayed in the heap. I didn’t move.
I heard Ronan screaming from the top of the stairs. Panic screaming. He didn’t have any words to explain how he felt or what had just happened. Brock came RUSHING out of our bedroom and tried to help me up, but I shouted, “Ronan! Get RONAN!” I could tell that Ronan had been incredibly upset by watching me fall, hearing me scream. It felt more important in that moment for him to be cared for than me.
Brock carried Ronan down the stairs and then helped me to the couch. Ronan and I sat on the couch and cried together; a mix of fear and sadness and relief that it wasn’t worse. We took some deep breaths and finally calmed down. I looked at Brock and asked fearfully, “What do we do now? Do we go to the hospital?”
Since Brock was unsure about the right thing to do, he called our midwife to ask. She said if I wasn’t bleeding or in pain, the baby was probably fine… but if we wanted to be checked out, it wouldn’t hurt to go in and let them put me on the monitor for a while. We got someone to watch Ronan, and if I’m being completely honest, I can’t remember who it was. I suspect Laura, because we went to the hospital immediately. We travelled to the hospital closest to us, and attempted to check in through the ER. They told us that I was too close to my due date to be seen in the ER, and I had to just go up to the maternity floor, where I would be evaluated in Triage.
Triage put us into a little tiny room and hooked me up to the monitor. Now, if you remember from previous installments, you know that I have an irritable uterus. That means (besides sounding something like ‘bitchy womb’) that I experience contractions pretty much all day, every day – without any change being made to my cervix. You and I both know that they don’t mean I’m actually in labor; my midwife knew that those contractions didn’t mean I was in labor… the triage nurses, despite me telling them that I had an irritable uterus, did not believe it.
When they saw the contraction pattern on the monitor, they started to behave as though I was actually in active labor. A doctor was called in to check my cervix. Long and closed. No effacement, no dilation.
We explained to the doctor what had happened – that I had fallen down the stairs – and that we just wanted to make sure the baby was okay. She seemed to understand, but also seemed incredibly hesitant to believe that I wasn’t about to birth my child. She said that she would like us to be on the monitor for at least an hour, and at that point, she would come and check on us again.
Brock curled up against me on the narrow hospital bed to the ba-dump ba-dump ba-dump of our baby girl’s heartbeat, and we watched movies on his phone. The sound of her heartbeat was strangely reassuring, intensely calming. Two hours later, the doctor finally came to check me again. Still ‘long and closed’. My cervix wasn’t changing at all. Brock and I were starting to get agitated, and wanted to go home. She gave us the “let’s just be safe,” speech, and left us alone again.
When she entered the room an hour later, I told her I was ready to leave. I explained to her that we were planning to have our baby in a birth center, so if I wasn’t in labor they needed to let me go home, and if I WAS in labor, they needed to let me leave for the birth center… and EITHER WAY I was not staying there another minute. She looked at me sternly, disapprovingly, and told me that she was going to write in my chart that I was leaving AMA – against medical advice. I told her to go ahead. I wouldn’t be returning there to have my baby anyways.
We got home and wound down for the day. I realized that it was Tuesday, and knew that I had to work a 12 hour shift on Wednesday. I did a quick self-check and decided that I was sore, and I was tired… but I was okay. With a good night of sleep, I would be fine to work. I really, really didn’t want to go on maternity leave earlier than the moment the baby was born, because that would use up the scant paid time off that I had accrued. It could still be WEEKS until I went into labor! I went to bed planning to work when I got up in the morning.
And I did.
I went in at 10am and worked what was a slower than normal shift. I had my lunch break at my usual time, around 6pm, and started noticing my contractions taking my breath away a little more than they had previously. My co-worker that evening was an incredibly lovely friend that had always meant so much to me. She seemed quite concerned each time I was having a contraction, and kept trying to talk me into going home early. I felt like I was doing really well, despite being tired, and held off as long as I could. My shift ended at 10:30, and I pulled up at home just before 11pm.
I was so exhausted when I got home. I cried, desperate for sleep, and I just wanted to go to bed – but my contractions were just too frequent, and too strong. I didn’t even begin to think that I was actually in labor, I just needed to go to sleep. Brock drew me a very hot epsom salt bath, and I poured myself a small glass of red wine. I kept telling myself, if I can just get some sleep, I’ll be fine.
As soon as I get some sleep, I’ll be fine.
I got out of the bath and crawled into bed. I looked at the clock and saw that it was nearly 1am. I was absolutely certain that I wouldn’t even MOVE until morning. I drifted off to sleep almost immediately.
The next contraction that hit woke me out of a deep sleep, and took my breath away. It was stronger than any contraction I’d had before, and I really had to work to breathe through it. I kept my eyes closed, but the anxiety of being suddenly awoken stopped me from immediately falling back to sleep. I tried to relax. I tried to allow myself to fall back asleep. I tried as I felt the next contraction mounting. I breathed through that contraction… the one that seemed to come just a little sooner than I would have liked, and then quietly said to myself, “Please let it be morning.”
I opened my eyes to check the time, and found it to be 1:30am.
I had slept for a rock-solid thirty minutes.
To be continued.