As we are preparing for our youngest daughter's First Holy Communion later this month, my mind keeps returning to the night she was born, which also happened to be the same night we celebrated her older brother's First Communion. As joyous of an occasion that the Sacrament is, this was one twenty-four hour period of time I would definitely not want to relive.
Let me preface this day with some facts:
Fact #1: Our daughter's due date was still a week away, but I typically delivered my babies about a week early. All I could think about was my water breaking in church while we were standing in one of the front pews, leaving my family mortified. Or I would go into labor earlier in the day, and my husband and I would miss the entire event. I did some earnest praying all week that the birth of this baby would hold off until after our son took his First Communion, and preferably wait until the end of the party we were having at our house afterwards.
Fact #2: A stomach virus went through our house that week, and it was the worst one I'd ever seen in my family. Every two days, a different family member was sick around the clock for about forty-eight hours. Nothing stayed down, and with a house full of toddlers and young children, this meant a lot of disinfectant used throughout the house. I was exhausted from being up all night with little ones and constantly washing sheets, mopping floors, wiping down walls, and comforting children and a husband who felt absolutely miserable. But I hadn't gotten sick myself.
Fact #3: When I had the appointment with my midwife earlier that week, I mentioned this illness to her and said surely I wouldn't get sick while I was in labor. That God would be merciful and spare me that at least. The midwife looked dubious, and said she couldn't guarantee that, but she had seen women who had a similar virus, and the vomiting helped induce the labor. So along with praying that labor would wait until after First Communion, I also began fervently praying that this stomach bug might somehow skip right over me.
Two nights before the big day, our eight year-old son came down with this virus. I honestly thought we were going to have to back out of it. But he rallied and was fine by the day of the Mass, and miraculously, we had not a single sick family member in our house by the time all of our company arrived. Only our six year-old daughter and I had been spared. I felt tired, heavy, achy, and as if I would pop at any moment, but I hadn't gotten sick, and I hadn't gone into labor. We would all be at the Church, and no one would miss our son's First Holy Communion after all.
And everything did go according to plan. Our sixteen year-old son was an altar server at this special Mass. We were all there to witness it, and take pictures, and celebrate this Sacrament with our second-grader. Then we came home and celebrated some more with lots of good food, toasts of champagne, cake, gifts, and family. I was still nervous about going into labor and getting sick, so I ate very little. Our guests began going home around eight, and we had cleaned up the kitchen and gone to bed by a reasonable hour.
That didn't last long, however, because I awoke around midnight with that dreadful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when of of those viruses hits. And it was horrible; like, in the top five worst nights of my life kind of horrible. Then my water broke. And then I started to cry.
Since this was my sixth baby, and we lived twenty-five minutes from the nearest hospital, my husband didn't want to wait around. Fortunately, my parents-in-law were spending the weekend with us, so we left the children in their care while we headed to the emergency room with a large bucket carried beneath my chin the entire time.
We checked in at the hospital around two in the morning, and I learned that I had a long way to go. Labor coupled with a stomach virus has got to be one of the lousiest combinations ever. But one good thing came out of it: Zofran---which was in my IV drip continuously for many hours. It didn't stop the nausea completely, but it was definitely an improvement.
I won't go into all the details of the labor and delivery, but I will say that the eleven hour labor won second place for my worst birthing experience. It was only topped by her red-headed brother who took a full forty-eight hours of incredible pain before he finally made his appearance. I went into this labor intending to tackle it naturally like I'd done with most of my children (even the red haired one.) I had this noble notion of holding my Rosary beads and praying a Hail Mary through each contraction, but after a couple of hours when I could barely even breathe through the pains, I abandoned that idea. And I asked for the pain meds, which I had never done before. Then when I was finally far enough along, I asked for the epidural too. And finally, around 11:30 AM, our youngest daughter (and last child) was born, fifteen hours after her brother's First Communion party ended.
So as luck would have it, it turns out that I didn't miss out on anything...not even the stomach bug.