If you do not like to read in detail natural birth stories - then this would be best left unread. But if you do, boy are you in for a treat!
Athena's due date was June 1st. Elisheva was born in April, and Guinevere in June - so I just knew that Athena should come in May, and then we'd have a line-up of March (Lydia) to June - where each girl would get her own birthday month. We were moving to Utah for the summer (so Avram could teach a couple of classes at BYU) on the 16th - driving cross country, with a family of seven, no less. We were coming back at the end of the Summer, so we didn't need to pack our whole house, but it was still a big move for a family of our size. Elisheva came 11 days early, and Enoch I went into labor 5 days early. The latest I had ever had a child was one day after my due date, so I felt pretty great and set for an early baby. Of course, narrative causality tells you that no way was Athena going to arrive like in May - the perfect month for her, and for our family (and her long suffering pregnant Mama!).
Avram's mom graciously agreed to come out and help with Athena's coming, and with preparing to move. It ended up that what worked best for her schedule was to come a whole week before the due date. I was concerned that having help in town so early would somehow jinx her actual arrival, but I also was relieved that she would be there for the last few days of school after Memorial Day, just in case I went into labor during the night and she could still get the girls off to school. Well, she came, Memorial Day came, the last day of school came - and went. Nothing happened. During the last day of school, I had a midwife appointment. She checked me, and nothing was happening - no effacement, no dilation, nothing. I know that one can go from nothing to birth in a day, so it's not like this is actually helpful information to know, but my heart has not yet been convinced of this.
Now, I need to take a moment and mention my midwife group. For Athena's pregnancy, I saw the three same midwives that I had used with Enoch's birth - Emily, Cassandra, and Becky. They had been out of Westerville and used St. Ann's hospital there when I had Enoch. I had used a different midwife group previously with Guinevere's birth, whom I did not like at all, and they had delivered at Ohio State Medical Center, which hospital I had not liked for birth at all either. Well, sometime between having Enoch and Athena they switched over to the OSU medical system, and no only delivered at OSU! They had also added another midwife to the group, Pat. So although I was loathe to return to OSU for another birth, I loved these midwives too much not to do so. I was concerned about delivering at OSU, but after talking to them about my concerns, and how to change Athena's birth experience from what I had gone through with Guinevere (which, if you follow the link to her birth, you will see was nothing major at all - I just felt like we had become a cog in a machine, and did not enjoy my labor and delivery with her because of it).
The last day of school, a few days before my due date, I had an appointment with Pat. I scheduled an induction for June 6th, a Friday, because I wanted to have Athena and be home from the hospital longer than a week before we drove to Utah (which would put it a week and three days before). I have never wanted an induction, I had never asked for one, or had one that I scheduled. But I also wanted to have this baby for I had to drive cross country! I asked her to strip my membranes, just in case it could get things started. It was incredibly painful (remember - my body was not in fact getting ready for birth yet), and led to a lot of contractions that were stronger than braxton hicks, but not bad at all...and that also went nowhere.
Whelp, the last day of May came and went, along with all my dreams of a perfect birthday line-up. Sunday brought her due date, but no baby. By now Avram's mom, whom we call Mum, had been there for over a week. We were all very ready for this baby to just come on out! On Tuesday I had another midwife appointment. I decided to move my induction date back to Monday, the 9th, because that would still get me home from the hospital by Tuesday the 10th, which would be six days before the move, which was almost a whole week, and more importantly, added on an extra three days that she could come without any outside prompting as well. By this appointment it looked like there would be a baby actually showing up sometime, since I was dilated to a 2.5, and mostly effaced as well. I think because of this it did not hurt at all when they stripped my membranes.
A few hours later, like they promised, the contractions showed up. The kids were in bed, and we turned on The African Queen. There is nothing like waiting for a baby to show up to make you watch a lot of movies - even for me, and I am not a movie/TV person. During the movie I timed each contraction - more than I ever have in my entire life. My labors are quick, intense, breathless. They do not involve passing the first hours with movies, walking, sleeping, timing. However, with the membrane stripping, I didn't know what to expect, whether this was slowly moving towards actual labor. So I timed, and in a few places had to look away from Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn to breath through a few. Hope rose. And then the contractions moved further apart, lessened in intensity. The movie ended, and with a few contractions still coming, we went to bed.
And woke up the next morning. Nothing.
It became a waiting game - every night I would go to bed, and hope against hope that I would wake up before the next morning - that in the middle of the night we would make a silent escape to the hospital while Mum held down the fort. Every morning I awoke, just as pregnant, as full of baby, as I ever was. As I told Avram repeatedly, although I was tired of being pregnant, I logically knew that one way or another Athena would come soon. The problem wasn't exactly being overdue, as much as being overdue and on a tight deadline. It amazed me how I could carry a child so close to me, with her underneath my heart, her bottom firmly planted under my ribs and her head down low, and yet at the same time feel so utterly apart from her. I felt like I was waiting to meet her from a far voyage, that one day her ship would come in and we would meet at last, rather than carrying her around with me constantly, where ever I was, Athena was also. Just not earthside.
Friday, June 6th I had an ultrasound. The levels of amniotic fluid were high, but not concernably so, so we were given the all ok to keep waiting. The ultrasound tech captured a very clear picture of Athena's face, with her hand laying next to it. She was amazed at how clear it was, being that usually full term babies have their heads so low in the pelvis that you cannot see them. Not Athena! She had no intentions of coming down, of coming out. I was grateful that day that I had moved my induction date - because otherwise that would have been the morning of her induction, and clearly she wasn't ready yet.
Also, I was greatful, because Avram had ended up attending Jury Duty that day. He had received the notice in the mail a few weeks prior, and they gave a set number of reasons for getting out of it - but none matched our situation (can't serve - will be out of state). Also, we thought at the time that surely Athena would be born by then, so we didn't worry about it. Well, the day arrived, Avram went down, and was gone all day. They told him that he had to come back on Monday, and give his reason he couldn't serve to the Judge then - that they had no authority to release him. I hoped even more sincerely that Athena would be born that weekend, because I didn't want Avram to have to call in Monday morning in the middle of an induction and claim emergency issues, risking contempt of court if they were not accepted.
Friday night (Mum has been here for two weeks as of the next day, mind you. We are all ready, ready, and over ready for this) I went to bed as pregnant as ever. We didn't get to bed until after one, since Avram had role-playing. I bowed out, since I could think of nothing but having this baby, and so spent the night watching the newer Henry III with Aleatha and Mum across the street. As our friends left after roleplaying, I joked with them that this would finally be the night that I went into labor, since we had stayed up so far past our usual bedtimes. Around 2:45 in the morning, I woke up, when I felt a gush. Now, this is where things begin to get graphic, so don't say I didn't warn you. My water broke first with both Elisheva and Enoch (his was when I walked into the chapel on Sunday - exciting times!), and so I knew what it felt like. But - it was a small gush, and so I wasn't sure. I hopped (waddled) to the bathroom, where I was pretty sure, but not completely so, that my water was broken, or leaking at the very least.
I went back into the bedroom and changed my clothes. I also slightly woke Avram up, and told him that I thought my water was breaking. Ever the one to be excited to talk to me when he is half-asleep, he mostly said nothing (but later told me he thought that this was not much to worry about in the moment - after both Elisheva and Enoch it was 11 or 13 hours until I went into labor. I lay down and tried to relax, but then had three contractions in a row, and by the last one I wanted to control breathe through it. I woke Avram up again, and announced that I thought this was actually labor too, and not just my water breaking. By this point it was around 3:00 am.
Now, as I mentioned before, I have quick labors. My labors from for the previous four were (from very start to finish, not just "active" (ie, four centimeter) labor): six hours, three hours, four and half hours, three and a half hours. Also, my contractions start out close together and just move in closer - there is no gradual build-up, and I am basically in the final stages of labor - intensity-wise and distance of contractions - my entire labor. Because of this, we do not wait to pass go, collect $200, or stay at home. We immediately and quickly move towards the hospital, as fast as two people, one of whom has to stop every two minutes for another minute of contracting, possibly can - as in, we quickly move like cold molasses pouring from a jar.
We began to do those timeless things that all couples do when preparing to go to the hospital. I called the midwive's on call number, they called back, we discussed arriving at the hospital, I put the final few things in the hospital bag, Avram informed Mum of the situation, and we slowly stepped out to the van.
I think that this is a good stopping place - I will get to the second part soonish, I promise.