Larkin Clementine: Her Birth Day

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Larkin Clementine Southerland, our fourth baby, was due on September 1, 2016. Or September 2. Really, it waffled between those two dates, depending on if you asked the ultrasound expert or the spinny-due-date chart thing that the nurse always uses. I chose to go with September 1, because it was just easier to remember. And also, because it was closest to August. 

See, I had this crazy weird little quirk surrounding this pregnancy. Even before conceiving this little one, I really REALLY wanted a baby due in the summer. Noah was a Fall baby, Lucy was a Spring baby, Quinn was a Winter baby. For ages I've wanted my fourth and final baby to "complete the set" and be a summer baby. I went so far as to make sure Joe knew that in order to have a summer baby, we'd need to conceive in the autumn months, and I set my sights on that goal. 

When September, October, and November last year came and went with no BFP (that's "Big Fat Positive" when taking a pregnancy test), I thought I'd blown my chance for a summer baby. I settled into the idea of a regular old fall or winter or spring baby, and moved on. Then December came and went, and though it was a crazy month, and one where baby conception was the LAST thing on my mind, somehow on December 29, after beginning to suspect maybe things had gone right regardless, I took a test and got my BFP. And when I plugged the dates into the online "due date predictor" websites, they gave me September 2. People, that is STILL SUMMER. Even better, if I went early, like I had with Noah and Quinn, I was very VERY likely to even get an August birth date for this baby. 

I know, I know--- this is a long and boring story to start out with, when you are expecting to read about the END of this process, not the beginning. But I promise it is relevant, because it brings us to August 30, 2016. In order to make sure I got my AUGUST baby, I planned to request an induction for August 30 from my medically conservative OB. I figured that since it was only 2 days before my due date, and because I was "advanced maternal age" (blech, what a cringe-worthy term!) and because of my gestational diabetes, he'd be up for the suggestion. I confess I thought WAY more about this plan than I probably needed to--- like when to spring the suggestion on him: too soon and he might lock it down and say, "we'll see" and not talk about it with me again. Too late and I might not get a spot on the induction schedule. Clearly I timed it just right, because he was totally down with the idea, and called the hospital that day, Thursday August 25, to get me on the hospital schedule for the following Tuesday. 

So. Tuesday morning, I was "on call" with the hospital to get my final instructions on when to get there to check in. They could've called as early as 5am, or as late as 9am. Joe and I made the plan that I would prepare to head to the hospital that morning without him, regardless of what time they asked me to be there. That would free him up to be able to get kids off to school and Quinn to our friend Laura's house before he headed to the hospital to join me. I couldn't sleep past 6:30am that morning, even when I didn't get an early call, so I got up before everyone else and finished preparing for my trip. The call came while the kids were finishing their breakfast and getting ready to hop on the bus-- about 7:20 am. I was able to hug my older kiddos good-bye, telling them that the next time I saw them, it would be with their baby sister in my arms. They ran excitedly to their bus, bursting to tell their friends and teachers the news that Larkin was coming probably this very day. 

I took a quick shower and grabbed all my stuff for the hospital-- the suitcase, the camera bag, the "activity bag" for my long day of waiting for the induction drugs to do their job... A pillow... Everything for a 2-3 day stay at the hospital. I gave Quinn extra snuggles and reassurances and I was on my way. 

Joe finished getting Quinn ready to go and took him to Laura's house. The plan was that Quinn would play there all day, and when Lucy and Noah finished with school, they'd get off the bus at our friend Lori's house (just a few houses away from ours) and then Laura would go pick them up for the evening. Since Lucy was an induction starting around the same time of day, and had been born by dinnertime, I was assuming our little one this time would be arriving at a similar time. So Joe and I had tentatively planned for Joe to pick the kids up from Laura's house after baby had been born, so they could sleep at their own house with their own daddy. 

Meanwhile, I arrived at the hospital around 8:30am and got a fabulous parking space (trust me, that is RARE at Mercy!). I checked into their Maternity Welcome Center, down on the main floor. Then my nurse for the day came to get me and walk me upstairs to my delivery room. It was all very calm and organized, unlike when I'd come there for Quinn, at 4:00am, dilated to a 6 and hurting like heck. This was like Lucy's day-- a quiet, painless start to an induction day. In fact, I was basing a lot of my expectations on how Lucy's day had gone-- slow, kind of boring for most of the day, then FAST fast fast in the afternoon/evening.I knew I needed to get two doses of antibiotics into my IV before they'd break my water to get labor going hard anyway, since like with Lucy and Quinn, I had tested positive for Group B Strep earlier in the third trimester. 

My nurse (dangit, what was her name? How have I already forgotten??) was a sweet older lady with a very quiet, mellow temperament. She got me comfortable in the room and showed me the amenities, then began the extensive paperwork and computer info inputting. A second nurse came to get my IV in, and blew it twice-- a first for me, since I have pretty excellent veins. She finally backed away and let my main nurse do it. (I ended up with a bruise from one of those botched attempts that lasted almost two weeks!)

I settled in and it wasn't too long before Joe arrived. I was getting the antibiotics first, and the Pitocin drip took a while to arrive and get started. I think maybe it was around 10:30/11 before that got going? Joe and I watched random movies on the TV (there seemed to be a disaster movie theme going on, so we watched the end of The Core, then followed that with Deep Impact ...), played on our phones, and had a brunchy snack of muffins and smoothie. (Turns out it was okay for me to eat lightly for the first part of this day. This was vastly different from the Lucy Induction, when I couldn't eat past midnight and was STARVING ALL DAY. This time I was able to have a small bagel and some cereal in the morning, then this mid-morning muffin.) I even journaled a little bit. I brought my cross-stitching, but I don't think I ended up pulling it out to work on. The Pitocin was only making me feel the lightest hinting of cramps initially, so I was completely comfortable.

Back with Lucy, they'd waited til the second dose of antibiotics had started AND finished before they even talked of breaking my water. And these doses need to be 4 hours apart. So I didn't have my water broken until 4pm or so, back then. This time, I was totally surprised when the resident OB came in around 1pm and briskly said she'd be checking me then breaking my water, even though the second round of antibiotics had just begun. I confess I was kind of not ready. I mean, I had packed a whole "activity bag" in anticipation of more down time. I wasn't sure I was ACTUALLY ready to begin doing the "work" of getting my baby here. I mean, that stuff HURTS, ya know? The birth thing? So I had to re-calibrate my expectations really quickly, because the doctor lady was getting her plastic crochet hook ready for tearing of the amniotic membrane. (yes it's as cringe-y as it sounds).

Like with Lucy, once the waters were broken, the crampiness pain went from a 1.5 to an 8 or more pretty quickly. From a lazy, boring morning to INSTA-true labor-- I was unprepared for this. I hadn't even begun to think about how to breathe or cope or visualize my way through real contractions, but there they were. So we began. My nurse chuckled when I said I wanted to see if I could labor for 20 minutes or more before begging for an epidural, and sure enough, I didn't last 10 minutes before I knew I was ready for relief. In those ten minutes, the contractions became so close together that I barely had a minute between to gather my will and strength to handle the next one. And they were steadily creeping toward the high end of the pain scale. (Funny, in this text convo between my friend Mel and I, if you could see the time stamps, it was 1:12 when I was like, "No big deal! I'm a 2!" and 1:35 when I said, "I already asked for the epidural!" It became unbearable that fast!)

I ended up having to manage that epic level of pain for 45 minutes or so, and it was all I could concentrate on. In the past, I've needed Joe to dig fists into my lower back, or let me hang on his shoulders. This time, the one move I really needed him to do was to hold my shoulders while standing behind me, HARD, while I leaned away from him. It was sweaty work for both of us, but it was the only thing that kept me from going feral with the pain. Hard pressure as I leaned hard away, usually vocalizing "ow ow ow ow ow ow!" at the same time. By the time the epidural man came, I was reaching an all-time peak of pain and I actually dreaded his arrival because I knew it meant I was about to be asked to sit down and hold still while he did his magic. I could not FATHOM sitting OR holding still and I wanted to crumble at the thought. Somehow, though, we managed, while Deep Impact still played out its dramatic climax in the background. At the peak of the misery of "hold still and hug this pillow" part of the epidural, I stumbled back upon the very first trick I ever used when managing contractions back with Noah's birth-- a silly thing I hadn't planned at the time, but once I did it, and it helped me concentrate, I held onto the trick for dear life the whole time. The trick was for me to mutter the fifty (nifty) United States in alphabetical order (something I learned from the song YEARS ago), and with every state, try to visualize something (a person, a landmark, an icon) from that state. All those years ago, it was the only thing to help me focus into the pain and back out, and this time, right when I was at my worst, I remembered this and began it in earnest. I didn't even have the strength to mutter the words in any volume-- they were whispered and breathed in and out with every breath. 
(Fun fact: I began to notice, after doing this several times through several contractions, that the worst cresting of pain was around Kansas and the M states, and the slide back to relief began around Ohio. I even murmured to Joe toward the end of this ordeal, "Thank heaven for Ohio!" I'm sure he had NO idea what I was talking about.)

With the epidural finally in place, and pain finally ebbing, I lay down, sweaty and exhausted, to rest. Joe needed to stretch his taut muscles, too, after being my pulling post for an hour. It was now 2:30, and somewhere in that laboring, I had managed to dilate from a 3 to a 6. I managed a nap for the next bit, and in that time, between 3-4:00pm, I'd dilated even further to an "almost-9". It seemed like things were going to flow just like Lucy's day--- maybe we'd meet baby even earlier than dinnertime! But then, around 5:30, I began to feel some significant pain in my left thigh and bum cheek. It felt like a Charley horse, and the nurse said it was likely that the baby had moved into a spot where she was resting on a nerve. She said this was pretty common, and mimicked the pain one would feel with sciatica. I felt waves of it with EVERY contraction, so even though my epidural was doing its job fabulously with the usual areas of pain management, this nerve pain in my butt was pretty strong and miserable. Added to that, I also began to feel queasy and sweaty and light-headed-- a really consuming yuckiness that I could not shake off. It was that sort of feeling where I could have either been hungry or nauseous, but not sure which. It finally occurred to me that it was likely related to my blood sugar, since even with the light snack a few hours earlier, I was still gestationally diabetic and not taking in nearly the usual amount of calories I was usually supposed to. The nurse concurred and had my blood sugar checked, and sure enough, it was lower than my usual fasting blood sugar number. She brought me a Sprite and some apple juice-- my first sugared drinks since March!-- and slowly, after sipping both of those, I was able to get back to a much more stable blood sugar, and the shaky sweaty yuckiness eased.
 (feeling so yucky!)

(just waiting for baby... taunting us from across the room!)

Around 6:00pm, I was still hanging out at a 9.5, just barely not complete enough to make pushing worth it. By this point, I was pretty done with the weird mix of "boring" and "yucky" that had been the themes of the afternoon. The butt pain was relentless-- each contraction brought a wave of the "faux sciatica". I rolled from one side to the other every 15 minutes or so, and tried to find relief. My nurse and I, both so confident earlier in the day that we'd be meeting this baby together, began to realize that she might be off her shift before baby came. I was so disheartened, after assuming I'd be seeing my little one by the same time of day as I had delivered Lucy. I kept asking why I couldn't just push, maybe... but my sweet nurse gave me her honest opinion that while we could certainly begin pushing, at the 9.5/"lip of cervix remaining" stage I was hanging out at would mean that I'd likely be pushing for an hour or more... Not fun. Not worth it. So I settled back into the boring/yucky groove and tried to sleep a little. 

Sure enough, 7:00 arrived, and still no progress. No baby. And my nurse got ready to head home. We were both wistful that she had to leave when I was so close, after spending the whole day together. She gave me her optimistic estimate that she bet the baby would be here by 8:00 pm, easily. We said our goodbyes and the next nurse took over. She was a younger gal, cute and efficient. She assessed my leg pain, my 9.5 cervical status, and agreed with her predecessor that the baby just needed to descend a bit further before we'd be ready. She mentioned that there were some side-lying leg positions I could try that could help move baby along. I tried them and found that they significantly increased my discomfort in the sciatica-pain department. No fun. So I was left with this dilemma: keep resting and waiting, exhausted and bored and restless, but mostly able to manage the awful leg/butt pain.... Or gather my will and actively do the leg positions, bringing on significant pain and discomfort, but maybe hasten this stubborn baby's arrival, finally. 

I confess, I chose the first choice. I was so tired. So disheartened. And so not interested in making the pain worse on purpose. I tried a few half-hearted attempts at the leg positionings, but never for very long. So slowly, we crept to 8:00pm, and saw it go past us on the clock. So not an 8:00 baby, then. Sigh. But the slow slog, as frustratingly tedious as it had been, was doing the job, so that by 8:00, I was definitely feeling an increase in pressure and pushy urges. The nurse let me try one practice push, then decided it was okay to go ahead and call my doctor to come to the hospital. He told her to have me try a couple more practice pushes, then call him again. So around 8:30, I was finally allowed to give a really good set of pushes. WHAT A RELIEF-- not only the physical relief of pushing when that is all your body is screaming at you to do, but also the mental relief that maybe MAYBE we were going to see the end of this. Finally. 

All the nurse needed to see what that one set of pushes and she hastily told me to go ahead and stop for a bit--- she needed to get the doctor here first, and that set of pushes was too close for comfort. Ha! So after the relief of pushing, I had to lock it down and go back to just waiting, this time DEFINITELY more ready to keep pushing than to try to lay still. Yuck. So I had about 15 more minutes of leg/butt pain contractions and major pushing urges while we waited for Doctor Branson. I was so relieved to see him come through the door! He came ready to joke with the staff, like he always does, and with me, also like always, and I willed him to suit up faster. Finally, when he was ready and the lights were on full-blast, and the nurse, baby nurse, and resident OB were all on hand and in position, getting my feet into stirrups, I was given the go-ahead to push when the next contraction rose up. But of course, for the first time in hours, my contractions stalled for just an extra minute or two... Just to tease me. But finally one started rising up, and it was go-time. All it took was that one contraction and two and a half good hard pushes, and BAM, Larkin was out. Literally, my doctor only had to hang out for one contraction. 

The relief was immediate, and my squishy, floppy, DARK-haired, red-faced baby was handed right to me. I only had eyes for her, and didn't even notice the placenta delivery or the clean-up efforts, except for noticing I was getting a few stitches. Joe and I were busy ogling our new daughter, already wide-eyed and so red and dark compared to Lucy and even Quinn. She was perfect. And all the weary boredom and discomfort of the day melted away entirely, as I began the beautiful work of getting to know my little girl. Joe and I took a few phone photos, then Joe took some with the big camera, but mostly we took our time just admiring her and trying to stay in the moment, a moment we'd worked hard for all day. (All year, really.) 

 Larkin Clementine was born, FINALLY, at 8:52pm. She weighed 7 pounds 10 ounces, was 19.5 inches long, and had a full head of dark hair. Joe was able to hold her and enjoy her for an hour or so before he headed to our friend's house to get the kids, who were in pajamas and tucked in at her house, but all still AWAKE, awaiting the overdue news. Poor kids-- I'd given them the expectation that they'd hear by dinnertime. But they were excited to see photos and to see Joe, and he took them home to sleep in their own beds.  

 (the "big camera" shots from her first hour or so...)

I know I've already made this whole story so much longer than I probably needed to. I think part of it is just that this is my last baby... my last birth experience. And part of it is just that I realize now how quickly these details fade. I don't want to forget a thing. Even in the worst, more painful and uncomfortable moments, the act of bringing  a baby into this world is so miraculous, so incredible.... And I cherish each of my babies' birth days. So if you actually read the whole thing, you deserve a trophy!! 

To end, I have the rest of the photos I took while at the hospital (I confess I've LOVED each of my baby-birth hospital stays. They have always been special-- quiet and calm, a cocoon of new-baby-learning before the noise of the world intrudes back into life. I know many people cannot wait to get sprung from the hospital after baby comes, but I'd always have happily taken a few more days, every time.) 

After my set of photos, I've included several special ones that my friend Erin Duggin came to take for us as well. I'm so grateful for her being willing to come help ME be in some photos, and to make sure we have those memories of the first 24 hours of Larkin's life.

Ending with Erin's photos. I dressed Larkin in a special bonnet for this session, and for the last part, in her special swaddle. ♥

(crazy lady-- can't seem to stop taking photos. EVER.)


And ta-da! It only took 4 days of stop-and-start writing, and another two days to edit photos and prep them for the blog... but..... It's done! And only 5 days past my goal! Go, us! (I'm getting good at nurse-typing. Maybe I'll blog some more, soon!)


  1. Oh my gosh, that photo with you and Joe & Quinn with her! Squee! It's so perfect!

  2. I love your beautiful story-telling. Beautiful.

  3. Totally misty eyed. I love this. All of it.

  4. Love this story. Way to end your baby-birthing career on a high note.
    And seriously, could she be any cuter. Actually posing there on the first day looking all wise and such.


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