We arrived in Amsterdam when I was just over 35 weeks along. My blood pressure had been high, but well under control during this pregnancy, so I was anticipating getting to experience a “natural” labor – meaning that I would experience the breaking of water, the contractions, etc and whenever he came, he came. When we went in for my checkup with the OBGYN there, however, he informed me that he would still plan to induce 2-3 weeks early because the risks outweighed the benefits of Zach cooking a bit longer. He said my pressure would only go up, and there was really no reason to wait.
This meant we really only had a week or so before his arrival, since when they induce, or at least once they break your water, it is best to deliver within 24 hours, or get a C-section if you’re not progressing naturally. So this changed our mindset a bit, and we spent the next few days making sure we had everything ready to welcome the little guy home – to a home that actually wasn’t ours. We borrowed a few baby things from friends to supplement what we had been able to bring.
This also meant that Grammie, my mom, would not be able to be there for the birth as we had originally planned. We looked into changing her ticket, but it was cost prohibitive, and would have meant even more missed work for her. We decided to leave her ticket as it was, and would welcome her help at 2 weeks old! In the meantime, my Dad(Papaw) decided on the spur-of-the-moment that he would like to come out and be there for the birth. It was comforting to know that Levi could stay home and sleep in peace if we were overnight at the hospital. He planned to arrive the day before I was to go in for the induction.
The Netherlands has a very high percentage of midwife assisted, in-home births. The majority of other births are midwife assisted at a birthing center, and the small minority of “high-risk” births are the only ones permitted to be at a hospital. We do hear that you can choose to rent a room at the hospital – if there is one available – if you prefer that to giving birth at home, but it is not guaranteed you will have a spot so you can’t really count on it. That being said, I was considered high-risk, so we would be planning to induce and deliver at the University hospital. It is a large teaching hospital that happened to be about 10 minutes drive from where we were staying! The induction was scheduled for Tuesday, April 19, just before I was 38 weeks along. I was instructed to call the L&D ward at 6pm to see if there was a place open for me. I was anxiously awaiting for the moment to arrive ALL DAY LONG. I stared at the screen on my phone as it changed from 5:59, and I immediately called the number they gave me. I was surprised and disappointed when the nurse casually replied that they were full, and I should call back at 7:30. We all found this pretty funny, and so we decided to go ahead and have dinner. I called back when they said, and they told me that they did have a bed saved for me, but they were cleaning and getting it set up, so if I could come in around 9pm that would be great.
This actually turned out better than we could have planned. We finished dinner, playtime, and bedtime with Levi just like normal, and then were able to leave while he was asleep.
Like I said, the hospital was a less than 10 minute drive, and we were there in no time. Jonathan dropped me off at the front, and I went straight in and sat down in the lobby to wait for him to park the car. What seemed like at least a half hour later, Jonathan came in a different door and looked very confused. Jonathan is the most directionally adept person I know, so this was pretty surprising. He asked me what door I had come in, and I pointed to the one about 20 feet from where I was sitting, the one he dropped me off in front of. He did not believe me! It was so funny how turned around he got at that hospital. I’ll admit it was very convoluted the way the parking garage and entrance were situated (I didn’t see this until we were leaving of course).
Anyway, we make our way to the L&D area, where is is dark and quiet. We did manage to find a nurse who showed us to the room and hooked me up to all the monitors. At around 11pm, the doctor and his student (this was a teaching hospital, so there was always 2 of everything…oh joy) came in to explain what they were going to do. This was a pleasant change from my previous birth experience with Levi, where I kept getting ushered into places and hooked up to things without much information. For my induction in the US, they started me by hooking me up to the pitocin right away and cranking it up to what felt like full-blast, and the contractions became unbearable after only a few hours. I was pretty traumatized by that experience and so I had some trepidation coming in to this one.
****At this point, if you are not interested in hearing about details of dilation and contractions and pushing….etc….then please feel free to skip this part of the story and scroll down to the pictures and coming home event! ****
11pm – So anyway, the doc and his student came in and explained that I was only dilated about 2cm, and they would prefer I was around 4cm before we started any pitocin or breaking the water, etc. They said they would like to see the labor progress as naturally as possible, and without pitocin, if possible. I like this idea. The plan now was to insert a balloon that they would inflate with a small amount of water. This would put pressure on the cervix and hopefully cause it to flatten. It was minimally invasive, but they wanted me to stay overnight so they could continue to monitor my blood pressure. Jonathan was sent home, I was moved to “the ward,” as they kept calling it, and we both tried to get some sleep. Jonathan sent me this picture to show me Levi was just fine!
The doctor and student said they’d be back in the morning to check the success of the balloon. About 1:15, I was settled in and tried to go to sleep. At 3:15, I wake up to use the bathroom and was so loud about it that I woke up a roommate I didn’t realize existed. Oops, sorry about that! We both tossed and turned the rest of the night, and were pretty much awake by 6:30.
7am, someone came in and delivered juice to me. It turns out it was meant for my roommate. This is when the next shift of nurses seemed to discover I was there and just who exactly I was. I guess sneaking in “The Ward” so late at night was a bit unusual. I begin chit chatting with my roommate and discover she has had the balloon in for almost 24 hours and it still hasn’t helped her progress. Slightly discouraging news, since apparently they told her it could take up to 36 hours!
8am, I contemplate taking a shower but I am starving and I don’t want to risk missing breakfast.
9am…breakfast arrives, praise the Lord. I send Jonathan a picture since we’ve been texting back and forth that morning and he is afraid he is going to have to break in and deliver me food (visiting hours in The Ward don’t start until 10am).
9:45am, the doctor and his student come in to check me and the balloon is out! This means I’m at least 3cm, so we are ready to get this baby moving. Literally. The doc says he will notify the L&D area and as soon as a bed opens up they will move me down there.
11:45am, the bread cart arrives and I get lunch. The bread cart lady was the only person I saw at the hospital who couldn’t speak English. She was very frustrated with me for not being Dutch, and she decided just to pick out my lunch for me instead of letting me point to words I recognized on the menu.
12:15pm, I’m done with lunch and still just waiting, so I decide to take a shower. Nothing else to do but wait, and my roommate’s husband is in our room visiting so I also stay out to dry my hair and put on some mascara. Jonathan arrives a bit later with more lunch and to hang out.
1:45pm, the nurse comes in to apologize for how long its taking to get me a bed. I say no problem, and just out of curiosity, I ask how many beds there are. 6! I couldn’t believe it. And this was a large teaching hospital! This really shows how rare the hospital births are here.
2pm, a bed opens up, and they come to move us to the room where Zachary will make his appearance!!! They want to take the bed I’m in, but I decide to walk. We are not sure why the bed had to come too since there is already one in the room. This is still a mystery.
2:45pm, doctor and student come in to break my water and see if we can get labor started. Everyone’s English is phenomenal, but there were a few phrases that I heard people say that contained the same mistakes. It was entertaining for us. One of these was “rupture the membrames.” It kept cracking me up and I never corrected anyone. So when I go to deliver my next baby here they will probably still be saying it.
3:45pm, not much progression, so they start the pitocin iv.
4:55pm, contractions are starting to get a bit stronger and more frequent. Jonathan runs out for food, and literally 2 minutes after he leaves, the motor starts beeping like crazy because Zach’s heart rate has dropped out. Not going to lie, I started to freak out just a little bit that he was gone.
5:05pm, nurse comes in to fix monitor and easily finds him again. She leaves to go ask doc if she should increase pitocin or not. I’m thinking we’re good at this point but they are the experts.
5:15pm, I start freaking out a bit more because they are definitely stronger and looking regular. Jonathan come back!!!
5:45pm, Jonathan gets back right after my dinner arrives. After just google searching whether it was ok to eat during labor, it was funny to see the slab of meat, potato salad and Lima beans I was served. Forget ice chips…Bon Apetit
6:15pm, doc was happy to see I was still here after meeting us last night. He said he really wanted to help me deliver so he was glad I waited on him. He checked and I had progressed to 4cm. They went ahead and increased pitocin.
7:00pm, I had progressed to about 5 cm, soon after this the pain started getting more intense. At this point in labor with Levi, I still had most of the night to go, and would not deliver him until 11 the next morning. I got an epidural and ended up being completely numb through the rest of delivery. So this time around I was concerned with the intensity of contractions the pitocin was bringing, and I didn’t think I could make it hours and hours more. I requested to speak with the doc about pain medication. You may remember I had back surgery last year. Because I still had remnants of nerve damage in part of my left leg, the doctor had told me he didn’t know if the anesthesiologist would approve me to get an epidural. I was hoping at this point he would approve me because I felt like I was going to die. And I told Jonathan so…several times.
8:00pm, the pain was extremely intense, and I told Jonathan I was stupid not to have asked earlier for pain meds and that I just couldn’t do it (as if there was a choice at that point) and that I was for sure going to die.
8:15pm, I start frantically telling Jonathan that, “MY BODY IS PUSHING HIM OUT!!! CALL THE NURSE!!!” I was so surprised by this sensation since last time I didn’t feel anything at this point of labor. With Levi, I used the heart rate monitor beeping to let me know when a contraction was coming and I needed to push. This time around…I COULD FEEL EVERYTHING. Jonathan is pressing the call button like crazy to get someone to come in. I think they thought I was just in pain and still wanted to talk about an epidural. Nope, I just didn’t want my husband to have to deliver the child that was PUSHING HIMSELF OUT.
8:30pm, the doctor arrives and realizes it’s go time! I push through 3 contractions, and…
8:45pm, Zachary David arrives. The doctor says, “give me your hands.” I am shaking uncontrollably, but at least I’m lucid this time! They place my little boy in my trembling hands, and then he rests on my chest. Wow, what a feeling. I couldn’t believe I did it! I really thought I was going to die before actually delivering this child but there we were, alive…and it was over! I had a couple of minor tears that the doctor stitched up, and then everyone left the room.
For the next hour and half, we didn’t see or hear from anyone. Sometime after 10, they come in and weigh and measure him and check on my bleeding. This was neat to have the time, but I was really uncomfortable since I was still sitting on the same bed where I delivered, and it was really messy. I really wanted to get up and use the bathroom and clean up but I was hooked up to fluids on the iv.
48 cm / 18.9in
2750 g / 6lbs 1oz
The midwife came and checked us both out, and then told us we could either stay and they would try to find a bed for Jonathan, or we could head home if we would prefer. So at 2:30am, we headed back home with our new, tiny little person. Papaw and Levi were sleeping, so we went on to bed without them being any the wiser.
The next morning, we had planned for Levi to get to “discover” Zach, and also see the present Zach had brought him. We hoped this might stave off some of the jealousy from the get-go if it worked. He seemed smitten with him right away.
We felt so thankful for how the timing of his birth happened so beautifully. I felt so great, like 1000% better than I had after having Levi and staying in the hospital for 3 days!!! Call me crazy, but the day after having Zach I decided I was totally up for another one already! Haha that feeling didn’t last too long before we realized just how full our hands were going to be with both of these crazy sweet boys. Thank you, Lord, for your good good gifts to us.