To read part 1, click here.
We all knew that going to the hospital was the death of a dream for Phil and Rach, but we also took comfort knowing the health of their baby was their number one priority. The midwives told us to gather our things and prepare to caravan to the University of Washington Medical Center, because the hospital next door was full. To further complicate the situation, the 520 bridge across Lake Washington was closed for the weekend, so we had to go around the north side of the lake. At 1AM, this was certainly discouraging and frightening for those of us in attendance, but we honored their decision and prepared for the 30 minute drive. We were sure that the baby would be coming soon, so we kept our chins up and got behind the wheel.
I drove without anyone in my car, so I used the time to call Lindsay, my sister-in-love, to give her a proper update. I had been faithfully texting her every time there was news, but this was too much to explain in a text, and honestly I needed to talk it out with someone not directly involved in the situation. I shared with her both the facts of what was occurring and the emotions that everyone was experiencing. She offered her unwavering support; despite being in San Diego, she had “showered and dressed” as if she had to go to the hospital with us, and was committed to being up as late as I was. It was a stellar effort, I must say.
Although my waning energy was nothing compared to what Rach was feeling, I couldn’t help but feel worn down wondering how long the journey ahead could possibly be. Without meaning to, my brain kept reminding me that the following day was a Monday, and Mike and I had to go to work in just eight hours. Those thoughts did nothing but further my weariness, so I pushed those realities from my mind and focused on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We arrived at the hospital and dropped Phil and Rach at the emergency entrance to prevent Rach from having to walk from the parking garage (again, the baby was not in imminent danger). We went up to the maternity ward and gathered in the small waiting area, complete with fish tank. The doula and midwife informed us that Rachel was being examined by the doctor and they would have an update shortly, so we settled in to wait.
Champions that they are, Cami and Erik voluntarily missed the last ferry to their home on Vashon Island and came with us to the hospital. They were now committed until at least the first ferry at 4:30AM. We had been together in this marathon for ten hours, so we tried to find the silver lining by saying things like “Think of it this way: when was the last time we had ten uninterrupted hours together? We should do this more often!” The truth of the matter is that having a great mix of people – Cami, Erik, Wendy, Colleen and us – made the ordeal so much more fun than it would have been otherwise. We spent most of the time telling jokes and laughing about every absurdity until we were delirious. For instance, at one point Mike stated, to no one in particular, “It’d be so much cooler if there were like seven options, instead of just boy or girl.” We heard the birth stories of Cami’s four children, Wendy’s three children, and Colleen’s four children; we discussed the relative horrors of the birth experience; we placed bets on birth time, all of us calling it about 22 hours too early.
Eventually we ran out of conversation topics, or perhaps just energy. We succumbed to exhaustion at about 3AM, curling up in tiny, rock-hard hospital couches to try to sleep. I quickly remembered Lindsay patiently waiting up with all of us and shot her a text that said, “They say it will likely be hours if you want to nap — we’re trying to sleep on horrible couch.” She replied, “Ah, yes, hospitals, so inhospitable…” and agreed to crash with us.
At 4AM, the doula told us that Rach had received an epidural and was trying to rest — there would be no laboring tonight. She advised us to go home and get some sleep. Mike and I didn’t need to be told twice — we said goodbye and went home to crawl into bed at 5AM…setting the alarm for 8AM.
The next morning we each went to work, aware that we’d need to be able to leave early should the baby’s birth become imminent. Mike left work around 1PM to go back to the hospital and told me to join around 3:30PM.
When I arrived, Wendy was still there (after moving her flight for the fourth time) and Cami had returned with her daughter Chloe (Erik had to work). Colleen had stayed the night with Phil and Rach, and gave me an update on the current status. Rachel’s labor had not progressed and the doctors thought she had an infection — she had a fever and the baby’s heart rate had increased to over 200 bpm. Rachel’s cervix was still swollen and had not dilated at all in the last two hours, even with high levels of pitocin in her system. Her water had been broken for almost 18 hours, and considering the fact that it took 30 hours for her to dilate to 8cm in the first place, they weren’t confident she would dilate more quickly now. The longer the wait, the higher the risk of the infection having potentially serious consequences for Rachel and the baby. Given all of that information, they suggested a c-section, but told Rach and Phil they had an hour to talk it over before they had to decide.
This was probably the most stressful hour for those of us in the waiting room. We didn’t understand all that we were being told, we knew things weren’t going well, and we knew Rach and Phil only wanted a c-section as a last resort. We were all becoming emotional about the uncertainty involved, and we disagreed about how best to process the information (knowing that ultimately, our opinion mattered not at all). We couldn’t understand why these serious symptoms wouldn’t automatically lead to a c-section, we didn’t know how Rach and Phil were feeling about it, we felt helpless standing around a waiting room — so we decided to pray.
We prayed for wisdom for Phil and Rach making this important decision, we prayed for guidance for the medical team involved, we prayed for patience for ourselves in this frustrating circumstance, and we prayed for the health of baby Goodman and Rachel, most of all.
Around 4:45PM, Rach and Phil asked us to join them in their room. They announced that they had decided a c-section was the safest option, and they were very sad about it, but resolved that the baby’s health was the number one priority. They shared that they were crushed that all the pieces of their carefully planned birth were being lost one by one over the last two days. It was certainly not the birth they expected to have.
True to her good nature, Rachel made a joke about getting two extra weeks off of work due to her insurance policy on c-sections. We told them we supported them and thought they were making the right decision. We comforted them and tried to encourage them as we left the room.
Rachel later shared with me that as soon as the c-section decision was made, she moved on from the heartache and realized she was thrilled to meet her baby in just minutes rather than hours.
Of course, there would be a wait, but none of us were surprised at that point. They told us Rachel would be prepped and admitted in the next hour and a half, so Mike, Wendy, Cami, Chloe and I walked downstairs to the cafeteria to eat dinner. We were all exhausted from three or fewer hours of sleep the night before, and the array of overpriced fried food in a dimly lit room did little to boost our morale. We sat down at the table with our trays and agreed that any topic was acceptable except for anything relating to babies, birth, or any person involved in this saga. We held out for about five minutes, naturally, but quickly corrected and tried to talk about life outside the hospital. Anyone passing our table would have thought we’d been there for 30 weeks instead of 30 hours.
After rejoining the group upstairs, we learned that the plan had changed. At 5:30PM another woman needed an emergency c-section, so Rachel had been bumped back a spot in line. She had literally been rolling down the hall toward surgery when they told her to return to her room. We were first concerned, but then slightly hopeful, because this clearly meant Rachel’s operation was not emergency if they were comfortable pushing it back.
Colleen went in to see Rachel after they announced that her surgery was now scheduled for about 7PM, roughly 30 minutes from the current time. While visiting with her, Rachel said she felt like she really had to go to the bathroom. Colleen paused, considered what Rachel had just said, and then replied, “I don’t think you need to go to the bathroom, I think the baby’s coming.” Unsure, they called for the doctor to check things out and told Colleen they’d let her know.
At 7:30PM, the doula walked into the waiting room and marched straight up to Colleen. She knelt down in front of her and Colleen braced herself for the newest information.
“Grandma,” the doula started. “She’s at 10cm. She’s going to start pushing. You’re going to be a grandma very soon! This baby is on its way!”
We all jumped out of our seats, exclaiming various questions, “What?!” “Why?” “How is that even possible?!” “I thought she was getting a c-section in an hour!”
The doula said she had to get back to prepare to help Rachel push, and welcomed us to join her to see them. When we walked into the room, it was a completely different place than before: the lights were up, Rachel was sitting up and looked more refreshed than seemed humanly possible, the bed was adjusted into a chair and the whole room was buzzing with excitement over this development.
Someone pointed out that we’d just been praying, and God had worked a miracle — if the other woman hadn’t needed a c-section, Rachel would never have had the chance to realize she was dilating and ready to deliver. On top of that, it was a miracle that after being taken off pitocin (to prepare for the c-section) Rachel’s cervix dilated on its own and the baby dropped. Even the nurses were saying this never, ever happened.
I didn’t know it then, but when Rachel first realized she would be pushing, she freaked out.
“I had conceded to the fact that I would see my baby soon and wouldn’t have to do any ‘work’ — they were just gonna cut me open and pop her out! Easy peesy,” she explained to me recently. “All of a sudden we were changing gears AGAIN. I was not mentally or physically prepared to push. It could take anywhere from an hour to four hours – I was completely mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. Pushing, at that point, was the furthest thing from my mind. The epidural didn’t help since it made me pretty sleepy. The idea of a c-section sounded much more appealing — no work for me!”
After a pep-talk from Phil and her doula, she found the strength to rally. Phil grabbed one of Lindsay’s dance mix CD’s and turned up the volume. A rockin’ sound blasted through the room, and we all burst out laughing realizing that Baby Goodman would be born to Rhianna.
Suddenly Rachel threw her hair into a high pony-tail, strapped on a headband to keep the sweat in check, and grabbed the railings on the bed frame to show she meant business.
“I’m ready!” she exclaimed, and boy, did she look it. Phil was smiling so wide it looked like he had just shotgunned a Redbull/5-Hour-Energy mixer.
We all looked at each other and knew this was it. Wendy was asked to stay in the room for the birth, and the rest of us went outside the door to listen for the sound we’d waited three days for.
And this time, we didn’t have long to wait.
The final installment, Waiting for Lillian – Part 3, coming soon!