I've really regretted not being able to keep up on my blog for the last few months, because so much has been happening. . .but the reason I haven't been keeping up on it is just that, so much has been happening. For one thing, we (my entire family) have been held captive by an adorable little tyrant, our beautiful taskmaster and wielder of the late night banshee wail, Claire Marie.
Claire's due date was January 20th, which we thought would give us just enough time to get her passport before our upcoming move (now in our tail lights for the most part). . .but Claire, from the start, was a baby with her own ideas. Her actual arrival date turned out to be January 29th, and we had to get an emergency passport and fly commercial instead of the free military flight we had planned on (though the government took up the tab on the flight anyway; it just wasn't the flight we expected at all and there were all sorts of little things going wrong the entire time, but that's a whole other post.). This shouldn't have annoyed me as much as it did. Babies rarely arrive on their due dates, after all. Coryn was two days past and I'd convinced myself that she would be late and so it felt as if she was on time or even early. . .However, with Claire I had a whole list of reasons why she should be early. I was in better shape. She was my second child so my body should know what it is doing and be eager to do it. Coryn must've left the exits clearly marked. . . plus Claire was the queen of false starts. The Braxton-Hicks were intense and often regular enough to get my hopes up. It seemed that they would go on for hours, until I actually started using one of my contraction counters (I had a mobile ap on my husband's smart phone and also used a web based one provided by "The Bump."), they would stop as suddenly as they had started. I walked a lot. I even did the Leslie Sansone walk at home walks. Claire was just stubborn.
My doctor was a laid back, silent, and ancient Japanese physician by the name of Shoji (spelling might be off a bit). He was tiny, balding, and reportedly drawing very near to retirement. His check-ups were nothing if not efficient. Generally all he said to me was, "Baby (fill-in-the-blank) weeks of gestation, healthy, come back in 1 week." I really didn't want to induce, even though I really wanted her out of there so she could have her passport issued and the entire family could make its way back to America, and he never pressured me too. On my first past-due appointment he asked, "Okay to wait?" and I said yes. On my next past-due he directly asked if I wanted to induce but when I said no he just asked me to come back in three days rather than the usual one week. I managed to get her out before that scheduled appointment, but I like to think he would've continued to let me postpone as long as there was no risk for the child. There seems to be a lot of pressure to induce. I'm really not sure what the rush is, though knowing modern American medicine it probably has something to do with liability.
My first birth story, which I've never detailed here, was long and grueling and about 75% natural. I didn't have an epidural and labored mostly drug free, but I labored very slowly. I went in at 6 minutes apart and dilated about 5 centimeters. Several hours later, I'd only progressed about to 7. 8 or so hours in, they broke my water and then gave me some pitosin. I suppose Coryn deserves her own birth story, so I won't get into it much more here, but I sort of have to relate how slowly things went (I'd been laboring at home for most of the afternoon and up until about 2am before I finally went into the hospital), in order to explain how insane things became the night of January 29th, 2012.
When we went to bed that night I told Matt that I thought I might be starting labor, but after so many false starts, I thought it was best to lie low for awhile. I fell asleep, so it couldn't have been that bad, and woke up again sometime between 1 and 2 feeling. . .well. . .in labor. I don't know how to explain labor pains to someone who hasn't been there. If, like me, you are a woman who has experienced crippling period cramps, then you already have some idea. Just take the worst period you've had, double or triple it but make the pain intermittent rather than constant; that's about right. I got up and started tracking things. They were about 15 to 10 minutes apart but strong enough that I knew it had to be it. Still, I remembered how long I was at the hospital last time and didn't see any need to rush things. I took a bath to ease the pain and didn't bother to wake my husband.
While Matt slept, I walked around, tried to relax, and prayed a bit. I entered the times into my contraction tracker on my laptop and listened to youtube relaxation aide videos. Things were pretty intense, on the floor on my hands and knees intense at one point, but the contraction timer had me at 10 minutes apart, and I didn't want to be at the hospital for any longer than I had to. Perhaps this was a bad idea, in retrospect, but I had done this before and thought I knew what I was doing. . . At around 3 or 4 am I actually threw up during a bad contraction and decided that even though I was only at 7 minutes apart (my goal had been to leave at around 5 or 6) it might be a good idea to wake up Matt. I posted that I would be heading into the hospital and went to get him. He groggily asked me if I was sure then started to get dressed. I started to put on my shoes while he headed down to the car with my suitcase. . .and that's when I realized Claire was coming a lot faster than Coryn had. In fact, she was coming full force right then. Whoops.
Matt came back from the car to me sitting on the floor, panicked and convinced that I was going to have a baby any second. I had a major urge to push but was trying not to, which is about the most unnatural sensation I've ever felt.
"I made a mistake. . .I should've got you up sooner, this is so stupid," I moaned . . . to clarify, Matt and I had joked multiple times about how women in the movies give birth so quickly that they drop their babies in elevators and taxis with little to no warning.
"You mean Hollywood got it wrong?" he'd always ask in his best incredulous voice. Ha ha. Yeah, here I was in the middle of my best, "Oh heck, this baby is coming now," melt down.
Matt is a calm guy. Ridiculously calm. I would've probably felt better if he'd panicked a little bit but instead he calmly (blast him) asked if I could make it to the car and half carried me to the elevator and out into the parking lot where the car was already running. He then ran back up for Coryn who we hadn't even woken up yet (the plan was to take her to a friend's house, but this was all happening way too fast for that to be practical now) . Sitting was too awkward so I ended up on my hands and knees again, trying to breathe, trying to tell myself I wasn't going to have a baby in the car, convinced I was leaking noxious fluids (One weird thing about this labor is I have no conscious memory of my water breaking. My mother-in-law, who was the only one who asked when my water broke, thought it might've happened when I was in the tub but I remember it being a pretty undeniable gush followed by a long period of leakage, which I don't think I could've ignored at that earlier, calmer stage of things, so right now, I'm just chocking that up to one of the mysteries of childbirth), and just generally miserable. I remember praying that Claire would be okay because I didn't want to have something happen to her just because I'd been stubborn about going into the hospital. Matt brought Coryn, all sleepy and in her green monkey print pajamas, looked me over and asked if he should call 911. I said yes, and then tried to assure Coryn that in spite of the fact that Mommy was doubled over and whining like a baby, everything was all right. She seemed to accept this, probably because she wasn't awake enough to question it.
So now, supposedly, an ambulance was on its way. A few quick facts: a lot of Marine Corp medicine is in the hands of Navy Corpsmen. I honestly am not sure how their training compares with the paramedics who drive civilian ambulances, so I'm not going to comment on that in any way, but I will say that these were two young guys and I was definitely the first laboring female they had been charged with. . .if I'd been in a better mood I might've given them my best "You are not prepared" Illidan impression (threw in a World of Warcraft reference because so far this post hasn't been geeky enough) . . .in all fairness, (all this I found out later) apparently they had been told they were responding to a "67-year-old woman having difficult breathing," so their panic was somewhat justified. The first guy (I'll refer to him as "Driver" because he pretty much stayed in the drivers seat the entire time) reacted by falling back on protocol and started to radio in my stats as if this was a normal call. The second guy (who we shall call "Rider" just for the heck of it) yelled at him that he needed to just go because the baby was coming. You could tell Rider really did not want to deliver a baby. They took off, and I'm not sure if Driver was reacting to the pressure of the situation or if he had always dreamed of being in a high-speed car chase and felt this was the best time to show off his stunt driving chops, but that ride was ridiculously bumpy. I was on a gurney, not even strapped in, and all I could do was hold on for dear life. I remember repeatedly saying how stupid this whole thing was, and how like a bad movie it was, which was actually somewhat humorous, so I held onto that and sort of pretended I was in the middle of Father of the Bride II or some other "she's having a baby" comedy.
There are multiple gates to use when exiting MCAS Iwakuni; however, after dusk, some of these gates are locked, and apparently Driver forgot this in his panic. Matt, who was following behind in our car, followed the ambulance until it reached this closed gate and did a u-turn which I'm pretty sure was the one that toppled Rider on top of me (for the first time but not the last that night). At this point, Matt decided to make his own way to the clinic and stop following the ambulance. I don't know what he would've done he had got there and we hadn't shown up. Finding this gate blocked, they then decided to head over to the on base clinic (which doesn't have a maternity wing) and pick up the on call doctor, whose name I forget, but I don't feel so bad about that because even though she asked my name towards the beginning of the ride, she kept calling me "Chelsea," which isn't even close to my name. She kept telling me not to push, not that it really mattered at that point, assured me with, "You're doing great, Chelsea," and started Rider searching for sterile gloves, which took him most of the ride to find.
Matt said we blew past him at the first stop light; I'm pretty sure this was around where Rider went crashing into me for the second time.
We pulled up in front of the clinic about the time I finally lost patience and decided to inform the doctor that my name wasn't Chelsea. I'm not sure what she thought of that. They had some difficulty getting me out of the ambulance (I noticed it being bumpy. Matt claims he was there and had to help them get me out. . . but I was sort of focused elsewhere at the time). The Japanese nurse told them to follow her and started running, and Rider and Driver (who was out of his seat now) took off at a run that would've qualified them had "reckless gurney pushing" been an Olympic event. We hit the wall at least twice. The nurse had a good head start and rounded corners well ahead of us several times, leading Rider and Driver to question where they were going until she back tracked for them. I had felt that Claire was crowning about the same time they'd stopped in front of the hospital, but now it was urgent. I could feel things tearing and burning and she was wedged in really uncomfortably and I didn't care what they said any more. I needed to push.
"She's coming!" I said, just to give them fair warning. Their response was to cover me with a blanket.
Somehow I made it into the delivery room and up on the table. A doctor was waiting and one push later, Claire was out. Matt was out in the hallway with Coryn so this is the second time he's missed the birth of his child, though the distance this time was less considerable (a room away rather than being literally on the other side of the world). He said he heard me scream and the baby crying and that was that. She was perfectly healthy, and though the nurse commented, "Big baby," upon seeing her, she was a fairly average 8lbs 2oz.
There is a lot more to say, about staying in a Japanese hospital (there is a picture of one of my meals included; those are dried fish), about adjusting to a new baby, about how adorable Claire was and is, and I'm sure there will be many posts about our new addition, but its getting late so I'll just sum it up by saying that at Claire's one week check up one of the clinic staff asked Matt if Claire was, "the baby." Apparently her birth quickly became an infamous story, and according to the fellow Matt talked to, they are actually reviewing their training procedures because of how it went. Even several weeks later, when a friend of mine ended up with the doctor who had ridden with me during a check up, it came up in conversation. When my friend mentioned that she knew me the doctor asked if I'd mentioned her messing up my name.
I hope some day Claire will be impressed by her flashy entrance into the world. It is definitely not an arrival I'm going to be forgetting any time soon.