It was Friday, and I was 39 weeks pregnant. My baby’s birth was scheduled for Tuesday.
After having dinner at a local burger joint, we planned to run a few errands to get a head start on the last few items on our baby prep checklist.
But as I was climbing in the car after dinner, our little peanut made it known she had other plans for us.
At first, I was in denial. I’d experienced the sensation of my water breaking with my two older girls, and it was unmistakeable.
This was more…subtle.
First stop: the home improvement store.
When I got out of the car, the thing I was trying to ignore happened again.
I turned to my husband Ty. “I need to go to the bathroom.”
He raised an eyebrow. I’d just gone before we left the restaurant. “Okay,” he said.
In the bathroom, my denial slipped away. I was pretty sure my water was breaking.
I texted Ty to let him know, then waddled up and down the aisles until I found him and our toddler. “I think I should go to the car.”
“Right behind you,” he said.
The whole car ride home, I cried. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
Our date was Tuesday. We’d pick up our 7-year-old Abby on Monday, and we’d all have one last day together as a family before the birth. Abby and our toddler Bailey would be a part of the process, every step of the way.
But apparently, the universe thinks I still need to learn the lesson that I’m not in control.
The Final Steps
At home, I called the doctor. “It’s not a gush though. It’s a trickle.”
“Does it happen when you change position?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Trust your gut, but that sounds suspiciously like your water breaking.”
It was time.
Ty packed the last few items in the hospital bag. And by last few items, I mean 90% of them because I still hadn’t gotten around to doing it yet.
As I put Bailey to sleep, I struggled to keep it together. Scared about surgery, sad that the girls wouldn’t be there for the whole thing, nervous that this was just an embarrassing case of incontinence and not my water breaking at all.
Bailey ran her fingers through my hair while I read her bedtime story, and I realized this was our last time together, just us. Our last time before another little one needed me like that.
I lost the battle against the tears.
The bedtime story we read together every single night is a short book called Get Happy. The book steps through advice for being happy like “Squabble less, Share more” and then ends with this:
Fearless for evermore.
And every night after I read the last two lines, Bailey repeats them. Only it comes out as “Be tong, Be pappy.” Which is just disgustingly adorable.
On that night, when she repeated those words back to me, so clear and so strong, they filled me up.
She was right.
I was being silly. We were about to meet the baby girl we’d been waiting to meet for months and months.
Be strong. Be happy.
At the Hospital
We got to the hospital shortly before midnight.
First, the triage nurse ran a test to see if my water had broken. It had.
Since I’d just eaten dinner at 7:30 pm, I’d have to wait until 3:30 am for the surgery.
The doctor stopped by to give us a run-down of the plan. She told us to get some sleep.
Our sweet nurse found an empty triage bed for Ty to nap in, but I couldn’t sleep. Instead, I performed important pre-birth rituals like watching Adam Levine do an impression of Michael Jackson singing the Sesame Street theme song.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted time to move faster or slower.
But move it did. At 3:30 am, the nurse came to get me.
Down the Hallway
Wearing a hospital gown, a hair net, and those bright yellow, double-sided grippy socks, I walked down the hospital hallway to the operating room. Ty would come later after my spinal was done.
The nurse pushed open the door to the O.R.
So freaking bright. Machines and wires and plastic-wrapped medical supplies everywhere.
I climbed onto the table, and she untied my gown from behind, exposing my bare back.
I sat waiting for the anesthesiologist to show up, wishing Ty were there to hold my hand. Shivering.
Holy crap, I thought. They’re going to cut me open.
My breaths became more shallow. They’re going to stick a huge needle in my back to immobilize me, lay me down, and cut me open.
I wasn’t ready.
And just when I needed it, Bailey’s voice came floating back to me. “Be strong, be happy,” I heard her say. I closed my eyes and could almost feel those little toddler fingers in my hair.
I took a deep breath and smiled. And repeated her words under my breath about a gabazillion more times.
When Ty showed up, I felt like I could breathe again.
He was sporting his own hair net, plus a mask, booties on his feet, and a zippered bunny suit over his clothes. The mask meant his glasses kept fogging up, and we laughed away some of the nervous energy.
We opted for a family-centered C-section, which basically means treating the experience more like a birth and less like a plain old surgery.
One of the components of this style of C-section is having a clear drape so you can see your baby being born. Instead of the doctor getting the first and only view of your baby, you are part of the experience too.
(If the sound of that makes you squeamish, Ty and I were the same way when we first heard about it. But when the doctor explained we wouldn’t see anything gory because of my big belly blocking the view – we were sold.)
The doctor checked that the anesthesia had taken effect, and all I felt was a little pressure.
We were good to go.
The doctor and nurses worked, and my eyes locked onto Ty’s. We held hands. Tight.
After a few minutes, the doctor said, “Almost there.”
And little Charlie announced her arrival with a spectacular scream.
I looked up and saw her pink body being born. From my body! I’d never seen a baby come out of my body before, and my eyes filled.
While the doctor held her up above the clear drape, Charlie kept screaming.
The nurse brought her around the drape and placed her on my chest. More screaming.
I kissed her little squinched up face. “Hi, Charlie. I love you.” She was still pretty upset by the whole thing.
“I think she might be a feisty one,” Ty said.
Ty carried her to the scale, and the nurse weighed her.
“9 pounds, 3 ounces,” she called out.
“Big baby!” the doctor said.
All I could think was: Wow.
“How tall are you?” the doctor asked me.
“Five foot five.”
“How’d you fit that big baby in there?” she laughed.
A New Normal
In the recovery room, I finally got to hold Charlie, with nothing in the way.
Before the big sisters came. Before extended family wanted to hold her. There we were: Ty, me, and Charlie. Just us.
Ty took our sweet baby while the nurse checked my vitals.
I got my first glance of her from afar. A tiny little thing in those big strong arms.
Already her own person.
A person who didn’t care one whit about her scheduled birthday and came when she darn well felt like it.
Be strong, be happy, little one.
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