6:15 am: Poomergency. Again.
True to form, labor with Aila began with a poomergency. Apparently, that’s how my body likes to inform me I’m about to have a baby. See Carter’s Birth Story for more details in that department.
I woke up with poomergency pangs and sluggishly rolled off the couch. I discovered a few months ago that our saggy couch – which my family has owned since I was seven – is a perfect preggo sleeping place. Every night, I scooted my spine into the corner between the back and seat, and the cushion slanted at the perfect angle to hold up my belly. Ironically, sleeping on the old couch cured my pregnancy back pains too. I slept on the couch in our living room for the last three months of my pregnancy.
Anyhoo. I sluggishly rolled off the couch, hoping it was another false alarm. I had felt light contractions during the week – also in poomergency form – and was really hoping to make it at least to 36 weeks, if not longer. I had Carter when he was 35 weeks, 5 days. On this Saturday morning, I was exactly 36 weeks.
To my dismay, the cramping feeling did not go away after I handled business. Andy was getting ready for a day of work in the field (bird nerdery and conservation stuff) an hour south. When he asked if he should stay home, I told him confidently, no, it’s probably nothing and even if it is labor, it will take all day before it’s time to go to the hospital. You should go.
I should have known better.
7:00 am: Andy left. Carter woke up and wanted to play. Whilst building LEGO airplanes, I started Googling: labor, contractions, when to go to the hospital. I started to note the times of my contractions. They were a couple minutes apart but still pretty short. The experts on Google said not to go to the hospital until contractions were at least 30-45 seconds long and so painful I couldn’t talk. Okay. I was not about to be that person who got sent home because I went too early. I could still talk and the contractions were just a few seconds long.
In between bathroom stops, I played with Carter. My OB was on vacation again (he was out of town when I had Carter too), so I called his office and they paged the doctor on call. No response.
7:30 am: Light spotting. I called Andy just as he arrived at his fellow bird nerd’s home to carpool. Erm. I have some light spotting and the contractions aren’t going away. I think maybe you should come home?
He turned around and began to speed home. Still no response from the doctor, so I called again. I propped Carter in front of the TV and put on Trolls. He was in heaven watching the singing and dancing. Meanwhile, the contractions were starting to get worse. I kept sitting on the toilet thinking I had to poop. Nope. Just the baby wanting to come out. I called my mom and asked her to come over. Right away.
7:45 am: I hopped into the shower and then added a few things to my hospital bag. I’d felt prompted earlier in the week to start packing one…just in case. My mom and step-dad showed up. The doctor called. I remember crouching by my closet, talking to her through a contraction, trying to keep my voice steady. Go in to the hospital and get checked out, she said.
Later she would tell me, You must have crazy high pain tolerance. I thought for sure you’d be getting sent home. You sounded so calm on the phone. You were talking so normally.
8:05 am: Andy returned home. We called his brother and asked him to come over to give me a blessing. The contractions kept getting worse.
I made Andy get a gift bag from the garage for Carter’s gift from baby. I was fixated on making sure that everything about the gift was perfect. Carter had to know the baby loved him and I sure hoped that he’d love her too.
8:20 am: Contractions even worse. I told Andy we couldn’t wait for his brother. We had to go to the hospital right away. I was starting to crouch and double over in pain. How did the pain get worse so quickly?
Andy pack-muled everything into the car. Carter was dancing happily to the end credits of Trolls. Little Boogie had no idea how much life was about to change. I gave him a big hug before we left. I love you Bao Bao. Love you so much, my Boogie. See you soon. Love you, love you. Kiss kiss kiss.
8:30 am: I thought the baby was going to come in the car. The contractions were so bad, I gripped anything my hands could find as my back arched in pain. I remember my feet pressing into the floorboards like they were trying to smash a hole in bottom of the car. I fought against the pressure pushing down between my legs. Baby, YOU. WILL. NOT. COME. IN. THE. CAR.
I think that’s about as creative as I got when the pain became unbearable.
My mind started to stress even more: What if the baby is breech again? It has been a month since my last ultrasound. What if I don’t make it in time to have a c-section and I need one? Oh please oh please don’t be breech, baby.
Meanwhile, Andy was giving me the play by play of our progress to the hospital: We’re almost there, babe. We’re almost there.
Me: That’s what you said two minutes ago, how much farther!?
Andy: Okay, I’m pulling into the hospital. – GO FASTER, CAR IN FRONT OF ME, MY WIFE IS ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY! – Don’t worry babe, we’re pulling up to the front door. Don’t worry, we’re almost there. I’m going to hop out and get you a wheelchair. Breathe.
Luckily, we only live about 15 minutes away from the hospital.
8:45 am: There was no one at the hospital’s valet parking. I was incoherent with pain. Andy jumped out, grabbed a wheelchair and helped me climb in between contractions. The security guard just waved us by. The nurses in the elevator made small talk with Andy until he turned the wheelchair around and they saw me. Then, it was all business. Right this way. Follow me.
When we arrived in the Labor and Delivery department, the nurses saw me and rushed us into the nearest open room. The room immediately filled with a flurry of activity. First, a check to make sure the baby’s head was down. It was. Miracle.
Andy hovered over me. I think he was saying lots of encouraging and loving things like you’re doing great, but I was in too much pain to register his words. Mostly, I just squeezed the life out of his hand. At one point, I started to bite his hand before regaining some semblance of coherent thought that said, Uh, he probably doesn’t want you to bite his hand, woman! What seemed like a million people introduced themselves to me and went through required legal spiels in turbo speed mode. I just remember blurry, smiling faces.
So many nurses. A resident doctor. IVs. Where was Dr. Lannin, the OB on call? On her way. Speeding to the hospital and praying she didn’t pass any police cars, she told me later. Someone helped me take off my clothes. People said something about anterior lip. Another something about anterior lip. What does that mean?
Pop! It felt like a water balloon burst between my legs. I was so relieved we made it to the hospital. I could stop fighting the pressure pushing down.
At some point, Dr. Lannin arrived. I asked, is it too late for an epidural? I’ve been scared of delivery since I watched the Miracle of Life video (read: straight on view of a vaginal delivery) in eighth grade. I didn’t know if I could handle the pain without an epidural. But, there was also a stubborn part of me that kept saying, Women have done this for centuries. If they can handle it, you can handle it. It’s stupid, I know. But I wrestled with these thoughts before going into labor.
I felt about one second of shame for wanting the epidural. Then another contraction started and the epidural sounded pretty good. The anesthesiologist came and said things I don’t remember. Then she said she’d start prepping.
Right then, Dr. Lannin looked up and said, You know, I think if you start pushing, the baby might just come out. That sounded even better. Okay, I nodded, thinking, get her out of me!
I don’t think we were in a regular delivery room; no stirrups or anything, just some boss-hog nurses bracing themselves as they held up my legs. I pushed as hard as I could.
Three big pushes and…
9:12 am: Suddenly, the baby shot out all at once. A flurry of activity I couldn’t see and then the baby was laying on my stomach. I couldn’t believe it. My baby? Here? Already? Can I touch her?
Andy cut the umbilical cord and the nurses cleaned off our little angel before laying her gently on my breast. She was perfect.
Aila Hsu-Ying Bradshaw was born at 9:12 am, weighing 5 pounds 13 ounces and measuring 18 inches long. This time, I was fully conscious and able to experience the waves of adrenaline and joy that were postponed by anesthesia after Carter’s birth. Andy, or course, had a smile ten miles wide. When he cupped her little swaddled butt for the first time, he broke down in tears.
As Dr. Lannin sewed up my tear, she told me I was 9.5 cm dilated when I got to the hospital. Next time, she said, you better come in as soon as you feel that first contraction, or you won’t make it. That baby will fall right out of you!
I spent two nights in the hospital. This time, the baby got to stay in my room, next to my bed. It was a shared room, but miraculously, I never got a roommate. My window looked over a beautiful courtyard of tulips and a blooming cherry blossom tree. The building across the courtyard had a helicopter-landing pad on the roof – Carter loved that. We had the best nurses, including our childhood friend, Julie. We felt so blessed.
As with Carter’s birth, miracles surrounded us at every step. It was a miracle I reached Andy before he was too far away. A miracle my parents were able to drop everything and come help with Carter. A miracle we got to the hospital. A miracle the baby was not breech. A miracle that so many people were able to help with the crazy fast delivery. A miracle I was able to do a VBAC safely. A miracle I survived the pain. A miracle the delivery went so quickly. A miracle I made it to my goal of 36 weeks. A miracle to be blessed with the most precious baby.
I worried about a lot of things during my pregnancy. I knew how dramatically our family dynamics and relationships might shift. I worried about Carter. How would he handle the new addition? How could I make sure he felt loved amidst these changes? How could I give Aila the same love and attention Carter received when he was born? How could I give the same to Andy? I have a vision of a family knit together in love and laughter, bound by close, trusting relationships. I worried about messing things up.
I worried about raising an empowered, mighty girl in a world bent on overlooking, demeaning, sexualizing and silencing women. I worried about building a relationship with my daughter that would hold fast through her teenage years. I worried about the lack of sleep that was sure to come and how it would impact my marriage. I worried about how a new baby would impact Andy’s progress in school. I worried and worried and worried.
Then, Aila was born, and all the anxiety faded. Holding her, smelling her, kissing her are my peace and joy. This time around, I feel more relaxed, less stressed. I don’t need to weigh her before and after each feeding, don’t need to pump after each feeding, don’t need to track every tiny detail like I did with Carter. I don’t panic about every tiny thing. This means more time to rest. More time to enjoy.
Watching Carter love Aila makes my joy overflow. He loves to hold her, hug her, kiss her, pet her and sing to her. He tries to share his milk with her and gets worried if she cries. Every morning, he runs to check on her. One day I looked over and he was crouched over her asking, Aila, do you want to play Frisbee with me? Aila, do you want to play Dominos with me? He loves his baby more than I could have imagined possible. My cup runneth over.
I used to wonder how it could be possible to love another child as much as I love Carter. Carter opened up chambers of my heart I never knew existed. I changed my entire life for him – and I’m grateful for it. How could there be room to love as deeply, as completely? I never should have worried. I can stare at my little tomato’s face and the world disappears. Like with Carter, I am prone to tears while holding and gazing at her. The first time this happened the background song was “True Colors” from the Trolls movie. Don’t judge.
My children fill me with love that transforms my soul. The more I give, the more I have to give. Love this pure is truly infinite.
While love is infinite, time is not. I’m praying to know how to stretch time in a way that allows everyone to feel the depth of my love. Can my children, husband, and loved ones know how much I love them when I have less time with each of them? I pray that Heavenly Father will magnify my heart and efforts.
Aila Baby, our little tomato, makes our family more whole. It’s early, but I feel like she strengthens us. I treasure every second that I get to hold her, every moment her tiny head rests on my chest. I know how quickly she will grow. I hold Carter a little tighter too; my time with him is even more precious now. Heavenly Father sends me angels for children and I pray that I can become the mother they deserve.