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Pregnancy After Infertility: The One with the Mucus Plug

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Mucus plug.

Seriously, this is possibly one of the world’s grossest phrases. But these are things I talk about now.

Pregnancy After Infertility: One Mom's Journey

I’d always envisioned that my water would break, I’d jump in the car with my little bag all packed and ready to go, and labor would begin promptly and properly once I arrived. I didn’t know that not everybody’s water breaks ahead of time. Or what the heck a mucus plug even was. Nobody tells you this stuff, especially when you’re 38 having your first baby. They expect you to know these things. You can tell them it’s your first baby and they STILL expect you to know these things. Finding out that not only was there such a thing as Group B Strep, but that I tested positive for it… another surprise. Oh, the fun.

Anyway, mucus plug. I lost that a week before I went into labor. I was positive it would happen any minute, I mean, C’MON, I lost my MUCUS PLUG. (It’s starting to sound normal now, right?) But, alas, my ob/gyn of the week said I was dilated 1cm and didn’t even use the word “effaced,” so, you know. Go home, wait it out, you have plenty of time. Disgruntled because I kept feeling like all of the signs were there, I spent another week Googling my heart out anytime I had what I thought might be a symptom. Then, sometime around midnight a week later, I had an annoying cramp. I’d had a few already (you know, the famous Braxton Hicks I was talking about last time), but this one was followed by some more. And then some more.

Being Group B Strep positive and 38 years old, I was told to come in a bit earlier than they normally want women to come in. They said to wait until the contractions were 10 minutes apart and lasting about a minute at a time. I live 20 minutes from the hospital, so I followed those instructions to a T. The problem was, they got closer and closer and then – miraculously – when I arrived at the hospital the little buggers started getting less frequent. Cue more disgruntlement. It hurt, let me tell you. It felt like my periods back in high school, when I’d skip a day of school and sit at home with a heating pad and a cup of tea because they were so bad … but worse. And my mother told me that was what to expect – really bad period cramp pain – so I knew it was time. I did grab my little pre-packed bag and, around 5 in the morning, we traveled to the hospital, entered through the ER because the other side wasn’t open yet, and got into a birthing room. The contractions came less often, then more often, then less often. I was dilated to 3cm.

I’m a nervous poo-er, so off to the bathroom I went, and while I was in there I figured I’d have a good cry, because was this IT or was this NOT IT? My husband had already taken the day off school, so I wanted this to be IT since he’s a full-time student AND tutor AND peer mentor AND president of the Economic Forum AND on the student government, so a day off is pretty detrimental if there’s not a baby at the end of it. I composed myself, came back out in my stupid little pointless gown that didn’t cover anything of importance, laid back on the bed, walked around the halls a few times, laid back down again. During one of our walks, my husband saw me holding the wall, my face scrunched up in pain, and finally relented and allowed me to name the baby after him. Score! But, when the nurse came back to check – dilated 3cm – she said the words I didn’t want to hear.

“The doctor is sending you home. We’ll give you some morphine, while you’re here so you can take a nap, but then come back when they’re closer together.” When she saw that I was about to cry again, she added, “I’m sorry.”

But the reason I wanted to cry was because I knew, deep inside, that this WAS it. I didn’t want to drive home, wait more and come back. I wanted to just stay there. Why waste the time, the gas, the getting-dressed-and-undressed… nobody else was filling up the other six birthing rooms, so why couldn’t I just stay? Please? Please let me stay?

I did cry. I cried all the way home. My mom came to the house to be there with us because we knew that, sooner or later, we’d be back at the hospital and she didn’t want to miss it. We drank tea, we played Scrabble, we talked, we counted contractions, we timed them. My husband took a nap, having had precisely two hours of sleep in the last 36 hours, and not once did the contractions give me any kind of indication that they were getting closer. They were random. But at this point, I’d been having them for over 12 hours and I just wanted to go back and get admitted and get this show on the road, my friend. Random or not, they hurt, and I’m not wussy. I called and asked for my doc on call, who lovingly told me to come back in and get checked, and if they had to send me back home again, they’d cross that bridge when they came to it.

Pre-packed bag still in the car, we started the process over and, all the while, I was thinking, If I’m still at 3cm, I’m going to murder someone. But I wasn’t. I had dilated to 6cm and they were happy to admit me. I would have jumped for joy, but the pain was too intense. They were aware of the Strep B, so they started my antibiotics, and they were aware that I had planned on having an epidural. As someone with anxiety disorder, knowing these things ahead of time gave me great peace, so I was just sure to tell everyone that walked into the room. “I am supposed to have antibiotics. I am supposed to have an epidural. Will this happen in time?” (I know there are those of you out there laughing right now because OF COURSE there was time. 6cm is nooooothing.)

As the contractions intensified, the anesthesiologist came in to introduce himself and to explain the epidural procedure. Since I’d taken a recent birthing class, I knew what he was saying thankfully, because the pain was forcing me to tune it out. I sat on the edge of the bed and he began the procedure and, very shortly, he became the second love of my life. I extolled his virtues to anyone who would listen. I praised him for his expert skills of complete pain removal. And from that point until the point where I heard my baby’s cry, I. Felt. NOTHING. It was amazing. But I still had 12-and-a-half more hours to go.

The process became joyful for me then. I was relaxed, out of pain, talkative, excited and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. My husband and my mother were in the delivery room with me; my younger sister and her fiancé arrived and they had picked up our daughter from college. They stayed a short time and my husband asked them to go on home because it might be hours before the baby came. Confused because I was certain it would be very soon, I said goodbye to our daughter and then asked for my sister, but she’d already left. My hormones and exhaustion turned into sudden sadness and I cried just because I didn’t get to hug her goodbye.

Things became a blur. I listened to voices, mostly my mother and husband in the corner of the very large birthing room, talking about politics and family and babies and television, and I became lost in thought. I’d automatically answer nurses’ questions without really processing them, and I never slept (even earlier on in the day when they’d given me the morphine). After 28 hours, they asked me if I was ready to push. I had no idea. I couldn’t feel a thing. But apparently the contraction-o-meter was off the charts. I said I was ready if they thought I was ready. Getting into position with three nurses, my mother and my husband coaching me, I began to push.

I figured a few pushes and out he’d come, right? Because: movies. And after pushing several times, one of the nurses told me that it was usually a couple hours of pushing before the baby actually came. I nearly screamed, “WHY DOES NOBODY TELL ME THESE THINGS!?” But I took it in stride because, what was I supposed to do? Say, “Yeah, never mind, I’m just gonna go back home now…”?

I was a pretty good pusher, though, it turned out. After nearly a half hour of pushing, they told me to hang on – someone ran to get the doctor and she ducked in the room just in time to catch my slippery little baby boy. My mother holding my leg, my husband holding my hand, I began to bawl.

Pregnancy After Infertility: The One with the Mucus Plug

I sobbed, along with my husband, as they put him inside my gown up against my chest and he lifted his tiny head to look at me. He looked at me. This amazing little miracle, this precious gift that I never thought possible, that we had waited over a decade for, that we had prayed for, was on my skin, looking with his dark little eyes up at me and I could not stop crying.  At that moment, every year of trying, every stretch mark, every moment of excruciating pain, every prenatal vitamin, every poke and prod of my most private parts, every agonizing second was worth it.

He was worth everything.

Pregnancy After Infertility: The One with the Mucus Plug

I closed my eyes and held him, dropping back onto the bed while having third degree lacerations sewn up, my husband’s hand still wrapped around mine and wet with both our tears, and I whispered, “Thank you,” over and over to God.

Pregnancy After Infertility: The One with the Mucus Plug

Stephen Paul was born at 4:49 a.m. weighing 6 lbs 7 oz, 19 ¼ inches long, 8/9 Apgar scores, and 13-inch head. He is here. He is real. And, someday, he will call me “Mommy.”

Stay tuned for Stephanie’s final installment where she discusses the post-partum period…and even more I-had-no-idea moments. Be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss it.


StephanieSalisbury_HSStephanie J. Salisbury is a writer, editor, minister, wife and mother in Middlebury, IN. She is the founder of A Journey of Reinvention, an inspirational blog for everyone whether or not they are spiritually inclined. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she roots incessantly for the Wolverines. Go Blue! Find her on Facebook, Twitter @OnOurJourney and Instagram: Adventures.Of.Baby.Stephen.

Have you followed me on Pinterest yet? Also, be sure to find me on Instagram at meaganchurch.

{Professional photo credits: ©puhhha – & Hanah Tepe Photography, respectively.}

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