Early last week we learned of some paperwork hassles we weren’t expecting to encounter. It’s the story of life when living abroad. After many attempts to call and get information from the US Consulate in Durban, I finally got through to someone and she explained the process we would need to complete to obtain Sadie Kate’s passport and Report of Birth Abroad. She also informed us that we would be unable to cross back in to Lesotho without these things. That was major news to us, because we had crossed back in with Ellee without those documents, just her South African birth certificate. But South Africa changed the laws this January, requiring parents to show their children’s passports as well as their unabridged birth certificates when crossing the border. We were intending to drive from Durban to Maseru after the birth and apply in Maseru at that Consulate this time, too. Having to stay in Durban to apply and wait for the paperwork meant still being on our South African visas which run out on November 14th. Thus, we were looking at a serious time crunch on business days to complete things, get her passport back and get out of South Africa with our baby before we had overstayed our visas.
At my doctor appointment last Friday, the day before my due date, we set an induction date for Tuesday, Oct 27. I did not want to be induced - I have never wanted to be induced - but we really had no choice except to try to get Sadie to come so she could have a birth date and a passport picture taken. Then we could submit her application. The doctor did an internal check that morning and said he didn’t really think I was prime for labor at that point, so we agreed that Tuesday was the longest we could give my body to prepare naturally while still allowing enough business days to wait for her documents to come back. I really appreciated that the doctor also wasn’t keen to induce because medically everything was fine, but, of course, recognized our predicament. He explained how the process would go and said because she was my third, it would probably be relatively simple and my body would take the hint.
The rest of Friday and Saturday came and went without any signs of labor. On the recommendation of a few friends, I decided to try drinking some castor oil on Sunday afternoon. I was really afraid to do it, not knowing how it would affect my system, but was desperate to not have to do an induction. I read hundreds of testimonials online of women who had tried castor oil for induction. Some were quite comical, for some it had done the trick and for others it had been an absolute nightmare. I was so nervous to try it I couldn’t eat any lunch, so instead I ate a bowl of ice-cream with a ton of sprinkles. I said a prayer and took the glug. The afternoon progressed without any difficulty, just a couple trips to the bathroom and no pain or discomfort whatsoever. Around suppertime I took another glug and still nothing by 10:45 when I climbed into bed.
I hadn’t fallen asleep before the first contraction came. It was mild, just barely notable. I hung out in the bed for nearly an hour and probably had five or six more contractions. Because the kids were in the room and Kyle was beside me in the bed, I decided to get up and move to the couch as they were getting slightly more intense and it wasn’t as easy to stay quiet and still through them. Around midnight, I plunked down on the couch and told Jonathan I’d had a few contractions and that it was going to be a long night. I had read so many castor oil testimonies that said they had experienced some contractions but it never led to anything. I was still thinking it could be a fluke and thought I’d probably just end up missing a few hours of sleep over nothing. Nevertheless I alerted my sister in law that I was having some contractions and asked her to call and let my mom know. On a scale of 1-10 I ranked them at about a 4 and about 20 minutes and a few contractions later, decided I’d start to time them. Within the next 20 or so minutes, I had six more contractions and they grew significantly in intensity.
By then I thought I ought to try to write out instructions for the guest house owner, Wendy, who had agreed to come and sleep on the couch if I went in labor during the night. Why I didn’t write those dumb instructions out before the day after my due date, I don’t know. I guess I just really believed labor would be slow and boring at first and I’d do it then. I struggled to write out details for breakfast and lunch and Ellee’s nap time and hoped that would be enough. I had no idea how long we would be gone. Jonathan got dressed and started getting things together while I struggled through more rapid contractions. He called Wendy and let her know we were leaving soon for the hospital. I waited until a contraction had just finished to rush into the bedroom where the kids were and try to get dressed before another hit. Wendy came up and I didn’t really want her to see me having contractions, so I ran to the bathroom for the next one. Then I hurried out to try to talk through the few notes I’d written out and rushed back to the bathroom for another contraction. By the time I came back out, Jonathan had everything together and we got out the door. I had to stop for another contraction before we could even get to the car. It was just after 1AM.
The drive from the guest house to the hospital is about 20 minutes. I was dreading all the speed bumps we’d have to cross and Jonathan was thoroughly enjoying running all the reds lights. He said he’d always wanted to be able to do it and that it was apparently genuine cause for breaking the law if you had a laboring woman in the car with you. The contractions were coming hard and fast, but I was still wondering if they would just stop out of no where. I had about four or five minutes between them at one point and thought to myself, “great, what if they’ve stopped.” Wrong. They kept coming. I had read in the testimonies that castor oil could make relatively quick labors. It had not even crossed my mind that I could possibly be very far dilated, though, because my other two labors were relatively long and slow. And things had just started. The contractions I experienced with both Kyle and Ellee at 2-3cm were nearly as intense as what I was experiencing in the car. We parked at the hospital and I realized I didn’t know where I had put the phone. We looked in the car and in my bags and were struggling to find it. The phone had the SIM card which we would use for internet to contact our families. I thought about sending Jonathan back to the guest house to get it. We kept looking for it while I kept having contractions and finally found it in a side pocket of my hospital bag. It was about 1:30.
We walked into the hospital and I had to stop to have a contraction before I could speak to the nurse. They offered me a wheelchair, which I readily accepted, and hurried me down the hall to Labor and Delivery. They initially started taking me to a labor room when the midwife came and took over. She wheeled me straight to the delivery room, asking when the contractions had started. By this time I was pretty much just having one big contraction and was struggling to talk much. We waited for a slight lull so she could stand me up and without any warning at all, she stripped my clothes right off me. I was trying to tell her I needed to pee so badly but she told me it didn’t matter, she had to check to see how far dilated I was and I could pee on her if I wanted. She was a feisty little English woman probably in her fifties. She checked and checked again and boy, did that hurt, and then said, “yeah I figured. About 7-8. What’s your name?” Jonathan answered for me. I was shocked. And I was terrified. I knew that meant no drugs, and the reality of delivery without any drugs was just absolutely terrifying in that moment. Both my other deliveries, with epidurals, had been awfully painful. Sheer panic set in at the reality of having to do it without any meds. I cried, hard, and must’ve said ten times over that I couldn’t do it. I probably said it a hundred more times over the next half hour.
The midwife immediately called my Doctor, who naturally was sleeping at 1:45 on a Monday morning, and he said he would be over immediately. She started throwing the room together for delivery while I kept having miserable contractions and struggling to even catch my breath. Until we got into the hospital, I was able to at least breathe between the contractions and was trying to breathe well through them. By this point, I could hardly see straight and I just couldn’t catch my breath. And my mouth was so dry. I asked for some water which Jonathan got for me and I sucked a bunch of it down. I asked if there was anything at all she could give me for the pain and she said, “gas.” I didn’t like the sound of that. I asked if it would make me loopy and she said a little but as soon as you stop breathing it, it wears off. I didn’t want to be loopy for the delivery, but I thought I’d give it a go at least to try to catch my breath at that point. I sucked and sucked on that stupid gas and it didn’t do a darn thing. She kept saying you have to breath through the mouth and I was trying but it wasn’t helping. Nevertheless, Jonathan shoved it in my mouth a few more times with the contractions and it gave me something to focus on other than the incredible pain.
My body started involuntarily pushing and I was (not so quietly) telling the midwife that I needed to deliver the baby. She was adamant that I needed to wait for the doctor to arrive and I was just as adamant that I couldn’t help it. She kept checking and said the head wasn’t quite there yet, but my body didn’t care and kept pushing her down anyway. So involuntary. So incredibly intense. So painful. I was thankful I knew I was the only person in the delivery area (which was entirely separate from the labor and recovery rooms) because I was so loud. I absolutely could not help it, even though I was trying my hardest to be nice. Everything I said and did came out so loud! It was chaotic but I wasn’t trying to be. I was still just shocked I was so close to fully dilated and I couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on. And I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
The midwife had gloves on at this point so she could be messing with me, and she kept asking Jonathan to do things so she could keep her gloves clean. He was opening things and getting her hair out of her eyes for her. She was sweating profusely. The bell rang for the door and she told Jonathan to run open it for the doctor. He later said his wife was parked behind him in the driveway so he decided to take her car, but his access keys were left in his car. He ran in and also started making requests of Jonathan. Neither of us understand why another nurse didn’t come in to help that poor midwife, but we figure it might be that it was an otherwise quiet Sunday night and they had sent people home. We don’t know. But, I guess it was good that Jonathan had something to do to help, because goodness knows there wasn’t a thing he could do to help me. He was trying and I was trying to be nice but I couldn’t handle anything touching me. Although I know I kept grabbing his arm and the midwife’s arm when they were close and I didn’t know why I was doing it but I couldn’t not. Jonathan swung the spot light around and got it situated while the doctor pulled on his gloves and tried to get ready. The doctor was so calm and collected and I was so out of control. I really was. My body was doing it and I couldn’t help what all it was doing.
With the next contraction, from somewhere deep within, in a place I didn’t know I had, I managed an enormous push. One single push and she crowned. And it hurt. Then I had to wait what felt like an eternity but was probably only about 45 seconds for the next contraction so I could push her shoulders out. Another enormous push! Goodnight this girl has broad shoulders, that was the first time I’d ever had to try to push the shoulders out! And she was born. It was 2:07. With Kyle and Ellee, I felt an intense sense of relief when I knew I was done. This time I didn’t feel that immediately. I was shocked. It couldn’t sink in. She was here. A couple hours ago I had been climbing into my bed with no signs of labor and there I was with my baby on the chest.
She was here. Sadie Kate. The girl who had put me on such a rough and wild ride straight from the start of pregnancy to the delivery. I checked to make sure she was a girl. They just left her there, warm and slippery, on my chest. I was still wearing my regular clothes on top. Her skin was clean, like Kyle’s had been, and she cried immediately. Because Ellee was so early, she was covered in vernix and she didn’t breathe well right at first. I was relieved that Sadie was breathing and crying. She was big, strong and healthy and I was so thankful to be touching her. The rest of the stuff the doctor was doing hurt, too, and I wasn’t happy about it. Incredibly I didn’t need any stitches. Within a few minutes he left me alone and soon he was headed home to go back to bed.
The midwife asked Jonathan to go check me in to the hospital so she could proceed with identifying me and the baby and handle paperwork. We hadn’t even signed in on our way through the emergency reception. While he was gone, I got in touch with my mom to tell her Sadie was born and when he got back he called his parents. After the paperwork was completed, the midwife suggested I take a shower in the enormous and weirdly beautiful shower in the delivery room bathroom. I wasn’t sure I could stand up yet but she put a chair in the shower and I managed. Jonathan held Sadie Kate and sang to her while I sat under the warm water trying to grasp what had just happened. When I got out and was ready to be wheeled to a recovery room, I was finally able to hold her and just cry. She was here. I couldn’t believe it but I was so, so relieved.
She is a sweet baby. She likes to snuggle and she loves milk. Kyle and Ellee are smitten with her and she seems to enjoy them, too. At least as much as a four day old baby enjoys anything. She closes her eyes when we kiss her. She looks a lot like Ellee did as a baby but I also see plenty of Kyle faces, too. I certainly don’t think she looks a world different from either of them. Sort of a mix of both. I’m in love all over again.
It was hard. All of it was hard. But she was worth it. Every bit of it.