When I was pregnant, I enjoyed reading other people’s birth stories – mostly because it gave me different possible scenarios to “prepare” for. In hindsight I know there is no way to actually prepare tor giving birth…but I liked going into it with some knowledge of others’ experiences.
I had an appointment with my Dr at 1pm the day before my due date. While there, I asked to actually be looked at to see if anything was progressing. I had been experiencing some random cramps for a few days – nothing I would label as Braxton Hicks – and was tired of my Drs seeming lack of initiative due to my very normal pregnancy. After a quick exam, I was told that I was 1 cm and 50% effaced, so it didn’t look like things would be happening just yet.
That night, after dinner I started to feel uncomfortable, like the cramps were back. Having gotten so used to being constantly uncomfortable, especially during the last couple of months, I didn’t think much of it. Butch noticed my pacing and asked if I was alright, but I felt I should just go to bed.
But sleep was not to be. The “cramps” started intensifying and it occurred to me to begin timing them. Towards the end, I was concerned that I wouldn’t know when contractions were really real. The universal answer always seems to be, “oh, you’ll just know!” I have to admit, it took me a while to acknowledge that things were really happening. Lying down hurt too much and after a number of hours I was too tired to keep time without Butch’s help. I also had Butch call my doula and my Drs – and was told to call back when the contractions were 3 minutes apart. This finally happened around 3:30/4 am so it was time to head to the hospital!
We were one of the only patients in the maternity ward at 4:30 am, so I snatched up one of the rooms with a jacuzzi. I wanted to see if/how long I could go natural, and sitting in the hot tub sounded pretty good right about then!
Once in the room, they examined me and found I was 4 cm and 75% effaced. So, still a ways to go…and already I was not doing great when it came to the pain I was feeling. I had such crazy sciatic pain during pregnancy that I had convinced myself that I was a “back labor” candidate. But all my pain was located front and center, in my lower abdomen. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced….literally – since I was never one to even have a period cramp! I was trying my best to breathe, visualize, soak in the jacuzzi, sway with Butch and do anything else my doula suggested, but I just kept tensing up with every contraction. I knew that this tension, plus my complete lack of sleep, was going to make things really difficult…and possibly lead to complications. Or to more intervention than I wanted.
So the next time a nurse came in we discussed my options. An epidural, or an IV with pain meds. My doula told me about her personal experiences with both during labor, and based on my own reactions to strong medication, I decided on the epidural. But we were told it would be a while since the anesthesiologist had two others to tend to before me, plus they had to wait until I was 6 cm. Boo.
In the meantime, I realized I should eat something, since I hadn’t had anything since dinner the night before. I started to munch on some snacks but quickly threw up everything in my stomach. And then I didn’t want to eat anything (in hindsight, I should have made myself eat something…).
The blessed epidural came around 7:30am. The anesthesiologist was extremely efficient, and I started to relax almost immediately. I could no longer even feel the contractions. It was heavenly!
Since now it was a waiting game until i got to 10 cm, I had time to nap a little. I also made sure my doula and Butch napped and went to the cafeteria. The hours passed and pretty soon it was late afternoon.
At some point, they started me on some Pitocin, to move things along a little faster. The nurses had also been pumping me full of fluids, because of concerns about my low (and dropping) blood pressure. Unfortunately, as the 11th hour drew near, this meant that they decided to bring the anesthesiologist in to lower the epidural. This did not bode well. I knew the worst was ahead, and at this point, I had barely slept and hadn’t eaten anything in close to 24 hours.
It was time to push! The nurses and my doula teamed up to help hold my legs up (being still attached to the epi, etc, I was limited with my birthing positions)…luckily my doula found a way to explain to me how to push (the term “bearing down” is a little vague) and she also got me counting the pushing “reps.” At first it felt like nothing was happening – that is, until the head started to appear. The nurses tried to motivate me by bringing over a mirror and having me touch the head as it crowned. I was having none of it. at that point (aka “The Ring of Fire”) my eyes were closed and I was inwardly cursing my epidural being turned down while I hollered my head off (note: at this point in the game, not pushing feels worse than death).
The dr, who had been popping in periodically to check my progress (Butch later reported that once the head started crowning, the dr was literally standing there, one head on baby’s head, one on his hip, like a man absent-mindedly gauging the freshness of a melon at the supermarket) was now in position, suited up in his “splash zone” poncho. And it was a good thing he was – once baby James finally came out, a tiny pinprick on the cord activated sent a geyser of blood shooting into the air, all over everyone, including me and the bed. It was kind of epic, in a Sam Raimi/Evil Dead kind of way!
The big surprise was how BIG James was! Neither Butch or I were big babies, so having this 9 lbs 4 ounce, 21″-long slippery fish placed on my belly was a bit shocking. It definitely explained the pregnancy back pain and how enormous I looked toward the end. But regardless, I was just so thankful it was OVER, and of course, thankful to finally meet our baby Boo!
So that’s how it went down. After some initial snuggles and breastfeeding, I ordered an enormous dinner from the cafeteria and topped it off with a Flurry from Wendy’s. The rest of our stay in the hospital was nice, and by Sunday afternoon, our little family went home! More on our adventures in breastfeeding, cloth diapering and baby care coming soon…