Twenty years ago today, this beautiful girl was born.
In this post I'm going to share Allison's birth story. It's a good story -- and I love hearing other women describe the delivery of their babies, so maybe someone out there is interested in reading this. But if that's not your thing, feel free to scroll on by.
My due date was August 16, 1998. We didn't know if our baby was a boy or a girl -- we had deliberately chosen not to find out in advance -- but we had names ready.
I had a good, uneventful pregnancy. I gained a lot of weight (40+ pounds), and Richard teased me a bit about the fact that for a brief window of time, I weighed more than he did: 172 to his 170. I certainly felt huge, and there was a big "bump" pressing against my rib cage on the left side; my doctor said it was probably the baby's bottom or foot.
In late July, my blood pressure was a bit elevated, so the doctor suggested I go to the clinic at the hospital for some blood work, just so they'd have a baseline in case there were any problems closer to my delivery time.
So on Tuesday morning, August 4 (the Monday had been a holiday or I would have gone then), I went with Richard to have some blood drawn.
Afterward, as we were walking back down the hall toward the lobby, my water broke and fluid gushed all over the floor. Rich ran to get me a wheelchair, got me to the car and home, and I took a shower and changed clothes.
I was having some contractions, but they were fairly mild at that point. Richard and I had some lunch and then decided to play a game of Scrabble.
Partway through our game -- this was probably around 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon -- I said, "I think we should go to the hospital." The contractions were 5-10 minutes apart by that point, and I was having trouble concentrating on Scrabble words. It's true what they say: as labour progresses, you start to have tunnel vision so that the only things you can focus on are what you're feeling and what your body's doing.
We drove to the hospital and went up to the delivery floor. (Interestingly, this is a different hospital from the one I had to go to for the blood work; the two hospitals handle different clinics and procedures, but they are both a five-minute drive from our house.)
I told the staff at the nursing station that my water had broken hours earlier and contractions were coming closer together. A nurse -- I remember she had a lovely French accent -- helped me on to a bed so she could check me out. The contractions were beginning to be quite strong by then.
The nurse looked me over and said, "Hmm ... I can really see the outline of the baby. You've lost a lot of fluid. We may have to do an amnioinfusion to replace the fluid so the baby's heart rate is stable during delivery."
"O-kay," I said. (Whoa. They never mentioned THAT in prenatal class.)
Suddenly a huge contraction overwhelmed me. "All right, she's got the urge to push," the nurse called out. A doctor and (I think) a resident came over.
The doctor was African; he said something to me, and I was embarrassed that I had to ask him to repeat what he'd said because I couldn't understand him. "Has your amniotic sac ruptured?" he said again.
"OH YES," I said, "several hours ago."
The resident did an internal exam. "I feel a small part," she said. "Maybe a hand?"
The doctor checked. "That is a foot," he said.
(No wonder there was so much fluid loss: the baby's head wasn't downward, so there was no cork effect to slow down the flow. And that funny bump that had been knocking against my ribs for the last few weeks: that had been the baby's head.)
After the doctor said that, everything was a blur of activity. Another doctor appeared and they all talked about me and around me. The doctor who had arrived last handed me a clipboard with a release to sign. He told us the baby appeared to be in a footling breech position and that delivering vaginally would likely be quite difficult, and they were recommending an immediate c-section. I signed.
I was wheeled into surgery, contractions coming fast and hard, and was given an epidural. The doctor kept pricking my feet and asking me if I could feel anything -- and just like that, I couldn't. I wasn't able to see anything because of the drape they'd put up, but I felt a lot of pushing and pulling. Richard was sitting by my head with a surgical gown and mask on.
At last the doctor said, "It's a girl!"
"It's Allison!" I said.
At 5:41 p.m. on August 4, 1998 -- twelve days early -- our baby was here.
The details still feel so fresh even after twenty years. Allison's birth wasn't anything like I expected it to be: I didn't listen to calming music or pant through contractions or struggle through exhausting hours of labour. It was intense, fast, and a bit frightening, and the six-week recovery from major surgery was not at all what I had been anticipating.
But Allison arrived, safe and sound and SO cute with her huge blue eyes.
Today we look back on that day with joy because it was the day a beautiful soul entered this world. She has grown into an intelligent, kind, and gifted young woman. We can't wait to see where the coming years will take her.
Happy 20th Birthday, Allison!