My hope and prayer for this labor and delivery was to avoid the hospital as much as possible. After John's marathon induction (30 hours in labor and delivery alone), I was really hoping this would be quicker and mostly take place at home so as to avoid all of the hospital hoopla. It turns out that God answered nearly all my prayers. I got exactly what I hoped for and it's given me a lot to think about (and to discuss, God bless my long suffering husband who has had to listen to me chatter on about birth interminably). We didn't quite make it past the 31st, which was the day of Peter's big exam. But the timing still worked out quite well. And how could we be anything less than thrilled with the arrival of our baby girl?!
Here's the story:
At 3 am on March 28th I woke up with contractions. Prior to this, I had only felt occasional tightness. They weren't very painful but they were keeping me awake. I concentrated on relaxing and trying to get back to sleep. I don't know how often they were coming but I know I didn't sleep well for the rest of the night. I had no idea at that time which way things would go. Women can have contractions on and off for days, if not weeks, before active labor so I wasn't jumping to conclusions.
That same morning, March 28th, at 8:30 am, I had an OB appointment. My doctor and I agreed that, unless I'd been having contractions, he wouldn't do any cervical exams until after the 31st (the day of Peter's test) so as not to stimulate anything. I debated whether or not I should tell him that I'd had contractions over night. I decided to only mention them if they persisted up until the appointment. They didn't. They seemed to die down. When we spoke, I felt guilty denying that I'd had any, so I did tell him that I'd had a few but emphasized that they'd subsided. I really didn't want the hassle of a cervical exam. He asked me a few questions then said "I think we're skirting around the obvious, which is that your body is preparing to have a baby but you're not in active labor." That was true enough but I don't think that either of us necessarily thought that I'd be having a baby that night. The things I was experiencing are pretty common for the end of a pregnancy. Since nothing is a reliable predictor for when active labor will begin, I was still holding out that I wouldn't have the baby until after the 31st.
After my appointment John and I went to the zoo. It might seem strange for someone who wants to avoid stimulating labor to walk around the zoo with a toddler- in fact, I now recommend this method for inducing! But after my appointment I was not aware of regular contractions. I'd planned to take John to the zoo because my OB's office is blocks away from it. I wanted to do something fun with him in his last days as my only child. It was a nice day and I was feeling well. Occasional contractions, some more intense than others, didn't hamper our time there. I in no way felt like things were progressing. We even walked over to the hospital (where I would be merely 12 hours later to deliver the baby) to have lunch with Peter during a break in his work.
We got home from the zoo, and I put John down for his nap, put dinner in the slow cooker then laid down myself around 2 pm. Only then did I become aware of regular contractions. By glancing at the clock periodically it seemed like they were coming every five minutes. I rested for a while but couldn't sleep through them. John woke up around 4, which forced me to drag myself out of bed (I was tired!). Contractions were still the same. Somewhere between 4 and 5 I started to think that they might not go away. I called Peter and told him that I didn't yet know what it all meant but that he needed to come home as soon as he could get his work done, just in case. In the meantime John and I took an early labor trip to Target in search of helpful labor props. I got it in my mind that if I was in labor, a labor ball might be called for. (I was trying to recall all the labor techniques that I'd learned in my Bradley class that we took two years ago before John was born- the ball being one method of coping with contractions. ) I also had it in my mind that I might like to do some baking, if I was able. I had seen this recipe that I really wanted to try. I had some ripe bananas that I felt compelled to deal with before we went to the hospital. The things a person thinks of when she thinks she might be in labor! Unfortunately neither the labor ball nor the baking worked out.
After we got home from Target things continued on the same for a while. Contractions every 5 minutes, varying in intensity, but overall not too bad. I was anxiously awaiting Peter coming home, though, because, I have to say, at this point John was driving me crazy. As much as I love him, he makes an abysmal labor companion. At one point I was trying to relax on the bed while he was bouncing up and down on me as if he was riding a trotting horse. Later he closed himself in the bathroom and then repeatedly called "hal mama!" (Help mama!). This was cute but also required me to get off the bed to let him out which was not what I wanted to do.
Peter got home around 6:30 pm, contractions were still every five minutes. They were now requiring some focus to get through, but overall were still very tolerable. Peter and John had dinner. I puttered around the house, sometimes laying down, sometimes sitting or standing through the contractions. I was also packing the final things in our hospital bag and John's overnight bag. Very gradually, contractions were getting stronger and stronger. Peter, I love that man, made sure to do all the dishes and clean up from dinner because he knew that it would irk me something awful to come home to a dirty kitchen.
Around 8 pm, John's bedtime, We decided to drop him of at a friend's house to sleep assuming that we'd probably go to the hospital sometime that night. One of our friends that we contacted about John mentioned that if I hurried and had the baby before midnight, she and the baby would share a birthday. That was sometime around 8 pm and I was thinking "there's no way." Little did I know.
Peter left to drop John off and I took a hot shower. I was definitely having to work to get through the contractions now. Peter returned and we spent the next hour and a half or so in our bedroom with the lights dimmed essentially hanging out in between contractions. Peter timed a few of them and they were more like three minutes apart now. I was surprised by how painful they were. At the same time, it's not constant pain so I just kept going. I changed positions frequently trying to find ones that felt more comfortable. The labor ball didn't work out very well- maybe next time. There were several things that worked at various times. Sometimes it felt better to move through them. Sometimes I could lay down, sit in a chair, or lean on Peter. I used a heating pad for my back almost the entire time from when I laid down around 2 pm. That helped a lot especially in beginning. We discussed when we might go to the hospital. I began talking about epidurals and that if we were in the hospital I'm pretty sure I would get one. Peter would have been supportive either way, but he was good about reminding me why I wanted to avoid the hospital scene in favor of the comforts of being at home.
I wasn't so aware of it, but Peter said that my countenance definitely changed- becoming much more serious- sometime from 9 to 10 o'clock. This is one of the signs that labor is progressing. Around 10 pm I was ready to go to the hospital. I don't know what exactly made me know we should go. I do remember not being able to keep quiet during the contractions. They were very intense and I had to cry out. I really wasn't sure what they would say when we got there. I was dreading that they would tell me "lady, you're not even in labor. Go home and take a nap." I knew if they told me I was only 4 cm that I was going to get an epidural. We got in the car and thus ensued the least comfortable ride of my life. It is a short drive but having what I now realize were transition contractions every two minutes in the car is, physically, the least amount of fun I've ever had. It really makes me feel for Mary riding a donkey into Bethlehem on Christmas eve. I'm sure a donkey would be even less comfortable than a civic. Yikes!
We get to the hospital and I'm feeling more desperate every moment. The contractions are overpowering. When one starts, I have to stop and focus all my energy on making it through. We walk up to labor and delivery. My inhibitions are melting away at this point, and I don't even care that I'm moaning and groaning my way through the hospital. They have a triage system in L&D where they evaluate patients before they are either admitted or sent home. To set the scene, picture the part in Meet the Parents where Ben Stiller is trying to get on a plane and, even though there are no other passengers present, they won't let him board until his row is called.
It's about 10:20 pm. We walk to the front desk and Peter is asked to fill out a form about why I'm there. In the spot for "reason for visit" he writes labor. The clerk looks it over and asks "So... is she having contractions?" Um... what does labor mean to you??? And why do you think that every few minutes I'm huffing and puffing like the proverbial big bad wolf?!
I'm sitting, standing, pacing, panting, sweating like a pig, lowing like a dying cow and probably a few other unflattering farm animal similes. I can't really describe how I felt other than than, like I already said, I was feeling desperate. The waiting room is empty. The doors to triage keep opening and staff is walking in and out but I don't see any patients in there either. And yet, we had to wait for 10 minutes before they called me. 10 Minutes isn't that long, unless you are about 30 minutes away from pushing a child out, then 10 minutes seems like they're making a conscious effort to ignore you. I was preparing to make a scene in which I barged into the triage and... I don't know quite what I was going to do after that. But they were going to know that I was not to be dismissed!
Finally they call me into triage and the nurse begins patiently asking me questions like what time I last ate and when contractions began. I just blurt out numbers in response, "6, 7, 8...". I can't sit in the chair so I'm leaning over the desk. I tell her that I'm having a really hard time getting through the contractions (if that isn't obvious). I also say that I'm going to feel really stupid if I'm only 3 cm dilated. She seems to clue in that perhaps time is of the essence here and she takes me to a room where I am supposed to undress and then wait for her to check dilation. I know they see a lot of drama in labor and delivery. Women come in full of histrionics. No doubt they are in pain, but most of them probably are not on the verge of delivery. I can understand why they didn't jump when I walked in but I was also like "what is wrong with you people?!? Can you not see that I need help?!" And that became my mantra for the next half hour: "I need help!"
The nurse entered and placed monitors over my abdomen, then she checked dilation and said, "I see why you're hurting. It's because you're 9 cm." I was so relieved that I wasn't being a complete wimp and that I was actually in the most difficult part of labor. I was also alarmed because I knew that there was no time for any drugs and that I would have to finish this they way I started it- naturally! (Which is what I originally wanted but at that moment I was having some second thoughts.) As they wheeled my bed to an L&D room, I was announcing to anyone who would listen "I need help!" They were all so calm and reassuring, which did help in a way. They knew that all of this was normal and that women the world over do this every day.
I repeatedly declared "I can't do this!" They all, very calmly, responded "Yes, you can! You've already done most of the hard work!" This is very easy for anyone who is not about to push out a baby to say. However, I knew they were right and that pushing would most likely be quick. I never felt the urge to push but one of the nurses said that I could push if I needed to. I tried it during one contraction. I didn't know if I accomplished anything. At that point my doctor came running in breathless. He checked and I was completely dilated. I did ask, just to make sure, if it was too late for the epidural. Um, yes it was! My water had not broken so he broke it. I still didn't feel the urge to push but pushing with the contractions did feel better than writhing and yelling through them. So, they coached me a little bit, I pushed through 3 or 4 contractions and she was born! Pushing was a lot easier than I expected. I think it might have been because my OB injected some local anesthetic. I was expecting to feel the notorious "ring of fire" but it never came. It was also so quick that maybe it just seemed easy because I didn't have time to dwell on the discomfort.
The whole thing was about 9 hours. From 2 pm when I noticed regular contractions to 11:04 pm when she was born. 9 Hours sounds like a long time. But it went by so quickly. And the most difficult part was only in the last hour or so.
I was shocked by this whole process. I couldn't believe I'd just had a second baby. I couldn't believe she was a girl. I couldn't believe I'd done it without any drugs and with only minimal interventions. I couldn't believe how easy and how hard it had been.
Immediately afterwards I was not at all convinced that I would like to have another natural labor. I kept telling Peter "before I do this again, I have to forget what it was like!" But the further removed from it I am, the more I appreciate the experience. My body did just what it was supposed to do. I was up and walking around almost immediately afterwards. I didn't ever have to be tethered to a hospital bed with tubes sprouting from my person. I was free to move around, shower, eat and drink almost the entire time. All of which were reasons I was hoping to avoid a hospital labor. One of the nicest things was that I had to rely on Peter so much to cope. It was a really great experience to share with him. He was really wonderful, always encouraging me that I was doing so well. He never became alarmed as my mental state deteriorated into one of wild-eyed pleading for help.
As of now, I would say that I'd love to have another delivery like Isla's. I didn't get to watch nearly as much Jane Austin as I did the first time around. But, I suppose you can't have it all! But what you can have (or at least what I have) is this adorable cuteness: