I've been attempting to sort through all that has contributed to Lyric's birth story, but it seems that there has been so much that led up to her arrival that I've not been sure where to start. It all started when we got into the car wreck at 32 weeks pregnant. At that point, we had overnight fetal monitoring until preterm labor stopped and I was given steroid shots to help mature Lyric's lungs in the event of preterm birth. Since then, it's just been a blur of ongoing contractions and fruitless visits to labor & delivery. Luckily, I managed to make it to full term - 37 weeks - before I bid a temporary farewell to my coworkers. It was at this point that Spencer and I decided to really put our efforts into getting this baby out.
Every tincture, tea, and cocktail that gave some hope of inducing labor, we tried. Of course, they were all in vain, and probably just led to more letdown for us, but after weeks of prodromal labor, all we had was hope that something would get the labor fires burning. We walked and yoga ball bounced, and still, Lyric's estimated due date came and went.
At 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant, a Tuesday, we had a check up with our midwife. Here, we were told I was 2cm dilated, 40-50% effaced, and baby was at -3 station. My midwife swept my membranes as a last ditch effort to stir up some kind of active labor. Otherwise, Spencer and I had elected to proceed with an induction at 41 weeks due to a variety of personal reasons. Much to my dismay, I think I had fewer contractions that day than I'd had for weeks, and I began to mentally prepare for the induction I dreaded.
That night, I had trouble sleeping between stomach issues and general discomfort. By the next morning, a Wednesday, I was starting to realize I was having mild contractions, and by the time Spencer left for work at 8am, they were coming about 11 minutes apart. I knew they'd eventually fade out like always, so I sent him on his way to work. The kids and I planned to hang out until it was time to meet up with their dad later in the afternoon. Around 9, when Spencer texted to check up on me, I reported that the contractions were painful, but erratic - sometimes coming 11 minutes apart, sometimes 9 or 14 minutes apart. I decided to take a short walk with the kids around the neighborhood, which intensified the contractions, but only while walking.
By noon, they were coming about 6 minutes apart and reasonably painful. An hour later, they were nearing 5 minutes apart, and 30 minutes after that, I had the... (gag) bloody show. At 2, I took the kids to their dad's house, and had a few contractions along the way, but made it home without a hitch. Oddly enough, I was still having contractions every 5-6 minutes, but only every other one was painful. At this point, I felt like I was over analyzing everything, and decided to lay down with a cold glass of water to try to relax and see if there were any changes at all.
At 4:05, I texted Spencer to ask him to come home "soon-ish" and by 4:10, I sent the word to come home now. I had been very gun shy about calling the midwife if things weren't real because of the many attempts to L&D that turned out to be false labor. On the other hand, I was afraid to wait too long since I was positive for Group B Strep, which required 4 hours, ideally, of intravenous penicillin prior to the baby's birth. Weighing these two things, I felt confident that it was time, so I called my midwife to let her know I was ready to come in. She instructed us to come to the office before so that she could check my progress without the hassle of labor & delivery. Spencer made it home and quickly washed the day's sweat off before we headed on our way to Greenville Midwifery Care.
Through all of the 5 o'clock traffic, we finally made it to the office about 6pm. Barb, the midwife, determined I was 3 cm dilated, 50-60% effaced, with a "bulging" amniotic sac, and that baby had dropped to a -1 station. I felt generally disheartened to hear that I had made so little progress despite the day of contractions. Barb, on the other hand, must have realized this could be the real deal, as she instructed us to go for a walk, grab some dinner, and stay close to the hospital.
We decided a walk downtown and dinner at our old spot, Carolina Ale House, was what we needed. This was where Spencer and I first met, so it seemed fitting to have our last meal there before we welcomed a child of our own. A restaurant to book end the 'just me-and-Spencer' chapter of our story. As it turned out, I was having to really breathe through my contractions, so Spencer did all of the ordering for us. Once we finished eating and I couldn't take sitting still anymore, we headed out for a walk around downtown. We walked until I was having to stop through contractions at only 2 minutes apart, and when I sat down in the van, they reduced to 4 minutes apart, but no less painful. Spencer put another call into Barb to let her know I was ready to come in, and she informed us that she'd already let labor & delivery know that we'd be coming in.
We were told to go straight to labor & delivery, so we did just that, bypassing both the registration office and triage. We stopped periodically along the way as I breathed through contractions, but when we finally made it to l&d, we were informed that we'd have to go back to registration before being admitted. My contractions were coming hard and fast at this point, so I was pretty disappointed, but we made our way back only to find that there was a very calm, very not-in-labor woman ahead of us, waiting to be admitted for what I can only assume was an induction. We began to feel irritated and frustrated as we watched the women in the registration office work at what can only be described as a snail's pace. Finally, we were called into the office and Spencer scribbled some signatures as I continued to just try to make it through contractions. We were told at this point that all of the labor and delivery rooms were full, so we were placed into a recovery room to wait until a labor room was freed up. Luckily this didn't take long, as I was growing ever more impatient, wanting to find a room to settle down and focus on contractions.
When we finally entered our labor & delivery room, my eyes landed on the most glorious thing I'd seen all day - a large, beautiful, inviting birthing tub, slowly being filled with warm water, and my body ached for it. First though, I had to have penicillin administered for Group B Strep, and they needed 20 minutes of fetal monitoring before they could allow me into the water. It was nearly 8:15pm by now, and I feel like I should mention one detail that I never want to forget about this labor. The entire time I was in labor, I had Andy Grammer's "Honey, I'm Good" stuck in my head. As a result, I have very positive feelings when I hear that song. At this point, I felt a small rush of fluid, so the nurse, Rachael, checked me to find that my waters were mostly still intact and that I was 6cm dilated. The contractions were unbearable at this point, far worse than I recalled them being with my previous med-free labor. I rocked and swayed in Spencer's arms for awhile, happy to have him, happy that he was there. But finally, the contractions got the best of me, and I asked - no - begged the nurse for relief, happily willing to throw away my birth plan just to ease the pain. Finally, I was given two options - morphine or to enter the birthing tub. Without a second thought, I jumped at the opportunity to get in the water. My IV was capped off and water protected, and I donned a sports bra, ready for buoyancy and relief.
The warmth rushed over my legs and my abdomen, and it was exactly what I needed to keep going. The near 100° water soothed me, and Spencer's touch got me through each contraction. I have no idea at what rate time was passing. I just know that labor was escalating quickly, and before too long, the warm water was not enough for relief as the contractions were coming too fast and too furious for me to appropriately handle. Once again, I felt myself begging Rachael for more relief than the tub could offer. The midwife, Barb, had just finished up another delivery and came in at this point. I wanted an epidural - I was confident - but Barb's affirmations of what my body was doing soothed me enough to keep at it, to keep doing what I was doing. The baby was monitored periodically with a special underwater fetal monitor, and she fared the contractions well, even if I didn't feel like I was.
As the contractions grew stronger and stronger, and I began to enter transition - the toughest part of labor - I started to move around more in the tub, trying to find the ideal position for comfort. I moaned through the ever-increasing pain, and Barb kept telling me "not much longer now". I remember looking at the clock sometime shortly after 10pm, and silently praying that this baby girl would be born before midnight. Barb coached me to lift one leg up to allow the baby to move further down into the birth canal once I started to feel pressure, so I did. I sat on a small stoop in the birthing tub and assumed a "spread-eagle" position. It wasn't going to be long now.
Almost immediately in this position, I had to push. Barb helped me hold back one leg and Spencer held the other, and all I could do was scream, no - wail, as I pushed with every muscle fiber in my body. I started to lift myself out of the water as I pushed, my only way of coping with the pain I was experiencing. Barb ordered me to sit down, fearing, I can only assume, that I would push the baby out above the water. Somehow, I relaxed enough to get my lower body fully submerged again. Through the push, I saw a cloud burst under the water from between my legs - the amniotic sac that held my baby bursting. Immediately after, Barb told me "I see a head, Hilary, you're almost there!" and I just kept on pushing, never letting up, as, in one long push, I birthed the shoulders and the sweet little body.
At 10:53pm on July 8, 2015, Lyric Olivia was pulled from beneath the water, and came to rest on my breast, her lifeline from 9 long months still pulsating between us. A beautiful, perfect, sweet baby girl. Mine & Spencer's baby girl. 7 pounds and 11 ounces, 20 inches tall. We stared in wonder, the closest feeling to heaven on Earth that we will ever experience. Within a few minutes, the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, the clamps were placed, and Spencer made the cut to separate baby from placenta.
I handed Lyric to her daddy and he placed her, bareskin to bareskin, on his chest. Barb and Rachael helped me from the tub, and I made my way to the hospital bed for the final phase of delivery. Spencer handed Lyric back to me and she latched on, doing her part to help me deliver the placenta. This took only a few minutes, and then that was that - I was no longer pregnant, no longer impatiently waiting for our moment. My sweet baby girl was here in my arms, nursing away like a true champion.
All told, I was in the hospital for only 2.5 hours before Lyric's arrival. Because the penicillin wasn't able to work the full 4 hours before her birth, they had to monitor her temperature for 48 hours, but it never spiked, never swayed from absolutely normal. Trust me when I say that just because a labor is short, it certainly doesn't make it easier. Imagine 30 hours worth of painful labor, and then imagine compressing that amount of pain into just a few hours. This labor was by far the most intense and most painful of the three children I have birthed, but each reward has been so great. I never planned for a water birth, only intending to labor for awhile in the tub, but once the water hit my body, I was quite sure I was going nowhere before this baby greeted the world.
Lyric's birth was incredibly empowering. Because I wasn't facing complications, my midwife never felt the need to recheck and recheck my cervix. She never had to coach me not to push or to wait just a little bit longer. Once her initial exam at 6cm dilated, I never had to endure the discomfort that comes with practitioners that want to keep an eye on your progress every centimeter of the way. Instead, she knew to trust my body. She empowered me to trust my own body. It knew what to do, so I knew what to do. We allowed my body did what it was made to do, and what an unbelievable feeling that truly is.
There isn't an easy way to describe how fortunate I feel to have had Spencer by my side every step of the way. He grew increasingly patient as I grew increasingly impatient. I have no idea the things that must have been racing through his mind while I was in labor, but he was there when I needed him, he was exactly as I needed him.
This all started out so scary, a pregnancy test taken on a whim, a baby that was never expected. But as it turned out, it became the perfect story - the next chapter in our lives, and dare I say, the most exciting one yet. The fastest ride.