I have been so lucky. Besides a few weeks of nasty nausea and fatigue early on, my pregnancy was smooth sailing. I felt great most of the time. Often I would wake up and feel completely normal and have to feel and look down at my big swollen belly to reaffirm that I was indeed pregnant. Outside of the last few weeks of running I never experienced much pain or discomfort at all.
Suddenly, at 37 weeks I started experiencing signs of pre-labor. It felt like I fell off a cliff and went from feeling completely normal to really really pregnant. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling other than I had a feeling of instability: things were changing. At my 37 week midwife appointment I was 1 cm dialated! I also started experiencing contractions every night around this time. I would wake up in the middle of the night experiencing painful cramping in my belly and back. Nothing ever came from them, but they’d often keep me awake worrying that I was going into labor! Little did I know I had two weeks to go!
After a week of these contractions and other symptoms of impending labor I gave up getting my hopes up that any of these signs meant labor was coming. Even when I was 2 cm at my 38 week appointment on Monday, Nov 17, I didn’t make anything of it (at 10 cm baby is ready to come out and you can start pushing). Of course, over the days I had more and more contractions and more and more signs and symptoms but my body had cried wolf so many times that I started ignoring it. On Tuesday, Nov 18 I started having contractions in the afternoon that got stronger and closer together. By bedtime they were 7 minutes apart. I fell asleep for about an hour and woke up to very painful contractions. But I timed them and they had spaced out. I managed to fall asleep for a couple of hours and woke up and the contractions had petered out by the morning. They were still there but were not coming consistently and the intensity was no longer consistent between contractions. I had taken a 4 day weekend already and the thought of sitting at home ruminating about what my body was doing was really unappealing. I needed to do something to distract myself so I went to work. I didn’t have much to do, but it was so nice to get out of the house. I only stayed for half a day and as I was driving home, around 1:30, the contractions suddenly picked up intensity.
I made it home and immediately took a nap. I managed to sleep for two hours. When I woke up the contractions were serious. Once mrp arrived home around 6 we began to time them. They were about 4 minutes apart! We continued to monitor them throughout the night. They became more and more difficult to get through and by 3:00 am on Thursday morning we decided to head into the hospital. The midwife on call came in and checked me. After 2 days of constant contractions I was still only 2 cm dialated!! What a huge surprise and disappointment. The midwife said I could labor at the hospital for 2 hours and then she’d check me again. For the first hour I walked the halls with mrp and squatted for every contraction. Then the second hour I tried to rest but the contractions hurt too much so I got up myself as mrp napped and walked and squatted alone. After 2 hours of this the midwife came back and of course I was still only 2 cm! She gave me some info on false labor and an Ambien. She said if I was experiencing false labor as she suspected, I would sleep right through the contractions with the Ambien. I was nervous: if this was false labor, would I be able to handle the real thing?!
Mrp and I went home. My contractions were so bad I needed to stop to sit down every time I had one. We made it home and I popped the Ambien, only to hurl 10 minutes later. Miraculously, the Ambien had hit my system before barfing and I suddenly felt overwhelmed with the need to sleep. I crawled into bed only to wake up in agony 3 minutes later. Then I fell asleep again and 3 minutes later I woke up moaning in pain and mrp came running in to rub my back. Then I fell asleep again and 3 minutes later there was mrp rubbing my back! This continued for 3 long hours! I could not sleep through the contractions! False labor, my @$$! After 3 hours of the most obnoxious sleep ever I woke up and the contractions were still 4 minutes a part and hurt! I encouraged mrp to take a nap as I went in for a hot bath. I tried to do my crossword puzzle in between contractions, but it was hard. Nothing was really taking my mind off them any more.
The funniest thing was that I received several phone calls while mrp napped. A friend from work called asking whether I had the baby. “Not yet. Hold on!” (muffled moaning for 90 seconds) “Sorry. I’m in labor. I just had a contraction. I’ll let you know when he’s here! Bye.” About an hour later I received another call. It was a friend from high school calling me out of the blue! What are the odds?! She has 3 sons of her own, the last one arriving in May so she totally understood every time I put her on hold for a contraction. It was great talking to her! I hope our guys get together soon!
By about 3:30 pm I had been laboring at home for about 10 hours. I was starting to think I couldn’t take it any more. I tried to eat some soup, but it came flying out of me shortly thereafter. Mrp was up from his nap by now and I asked him what he thought of going back to the hospital so I could take up the midwife’s offer for morphine sleep (she said if the ambien didn’t work this would be what the next step so I could rest to prepare for “real” labor). I really hated the idea of pumping opiates into my body and peanut’s body even if they’d be out of our systems by the time he was delivered, but I was getting desperate. Mrp looked at me and reminded me of our Bradley training and how tough he knows I am and encouraged me to keep trying. We decided that I’d labor like this at home until about 8:00 and then I’d go into the hospital to get morphine sleep so I could sleep through the night. However, by 5:30 I was throwing up everything I put into my body—even Gatorade! I puked in the toilet. I puked in a bucket while leaning on the bed. I puked in the bathroom sink. I was starting to go down hill fast and my contractions were excruciatingly painful and never seemed to leave my back.
Mrp called the midwife and our doula and they agreed we needed to go back right then. On our way out the door I puked in the kitchen sink for good measure! We were on our way back to the hospital. The ride there was excrutiating! I was so uncomfortable not being able to move in the seat and every bump magnified the intensity of the contractions. Ouch! By the time we arrived at the hospital I was so tense and a huge mess. Plus, this time there were tons of people around-it was 6:30 pm. I needed mrp to wheel me to labor and delivery and people stared at me as I moaned in agony.
We finally made it upstairs and they stuck us in a room. It hurt so much just to go from the wheel chair to the bed and then they strapped the monitors on me and I thought I was going to die. I was so uncomfortable already and now I was confined to the bed and had these monitors jabbing me in the belly. Ow! I was so tense and having a really hard time relaxing. The midwife arrived and checked me. I was sure she was going to say I was still only 2 cm, but this time I was 5!! Woohoo! I was officially in active labor (technically starts when you’re 4 cm dialated)!!! I was so excited and had a renewed faith in my quest for a natural childbirth.
The midwife said she’d be back to check me again at midnight (about 5-1/2 hours later) and she left. Our doula soon arrived and we were off to labor away! Mrp and doula were great! Doula massaged my lower back while mrp applied the cold compress to my forehead. Then doula would run out to warm-up the rice bag while mrp helped me drag my iv fluid to the bathroom to pee. All the while we listened to the mix I made for our wedding! It was great to hear all those songs again and it helped me relax. Doula also helped me relax and reminded me of the deep breathing techniques we learned in class. The best help in that department was when she reminded me to relax my shoulders. I guess I hold a lot of tension there because every time she said that and I relaxed my shoulders the contractions were much easier to deal with. By around 11:00 I felt like a zen master. Each contraction hurt worse than the one before it but remembering they would not kill me and relaxing through them I was able to bear them without moaning or writhing around in pain! Meanwhile, I was still vomiting a lot. I’d eat ice chips and vomit. On top of that, I had 3 bags of iv fluid and couldn’t pee. And by 11:30, I was so tired I was falling asleep in between contractions! I was a mess. But between the vomiting, the intensity of the contractions, and the fact I was aleady 5 cm dialated we were all confident pushing wasn’t too far away!
Finally, shortly after midnight the midwife came back to check me. I was excited. All that work had to pay off! She checked me and looked at me and said, “I’m sorry. You’re still 5 cm.” I thought she was joking. Mrp squeezed my hand. Everyone looked sad. We knew my quest for a natural child birth was over. There was no way I could continue indefinitely without sleeping. I asked the midwife what my options were. We decided morphine sleep was out because it can stop or slow down contractions. She and my doula both said the best thing, if not the only decision left to make, was to get an epidural. This would allow labor to progress but would allow me to sleep. I needed to not impede my labor because it was going VERY slowly (by now I had been in labor for more than 48 hours, with 24 of that very painful). The midwife was concerned that I wasn’t in false labor, but that my contractions were dysfunctional, probably too weak. She thought I’d need pitocin (a drug that induces contractions) to really get things going. So, I decided to get the epidural. It was really an easy decision. I had labored on my own for 2 days! I wasn’t a wuss. I had given it my best shot. How could I have known that my labor would be so unconventional?! I couldn’t help but wonder what the Amish do in this circumstance, though! Would I have been one of those poor saps who dies in childbirth in some slummy tenement if it were 100 years ago? Yeah, the weird sh*t that runs through the mind of a woman in labor.
I have to say the contractions I had after deciding to get the epidural and before I actually got the epidural were the WORST!! There was no longer a point to them. The anesthesiologist finally arrived and did her thing. It was totally gross to feel the needle go in my back! YUCK! But I did it and it eventually felt so good. I felt the warm numbing stuff head down into my legs. I could still move a bit, but I could no longer feel the contractions. Around 1 am, the midwife came back. We decided that before we gave me pitocin to see if breaking my water might get things going. So, the midwife went in to check me one more time and now I was 7 cm!! So, in a half hour I went from 5 to 7! The midwife said that sometimes a woman’s body becomes so exhausted that it impedes progress and that by getting the epidural and relaxing that that probably did the trick. I am really happy that I wasn’t 7 cm when she checked me before the epidural because it would have made my decision to get the epi very difficult. When there was no progress after 6 hours of intense labor there was only one choice. At 7 cm I would have still needed to make the same decision but I think I might have always wondered what would have happened if I just stuck it out (probably would have passed out! Ha!)
As she was checking me though, my water broke on it’s own! It felt like peanut kicked her in the face! There was a pop and then a gush!! It smelled very earthy and weird too. I will never forget the smell. Anyway, with that my contractions were registering more intense so they let me go which meant I got to sleep! Sleep!!!! I slept for 4 hours and then they woke me up to check me. 9.5 cm, baby! I just had a little bit of cervix blocking peanut. The midwife said she’d be back in 2 hours. I tried to sleep but I was so keyed up and by now I could feel my contractions in my back. I was chatty and my doula had to keep reminding me to rest as she massaged my lower back! 2 hours passed and the midwife came back. I was psyched! Soon I’d be pushing, I thought! Of course, guess how far I was dialated. Yep, 9.5. Labor had stalled—again.
So, they brought out the pitocin. They rigged that up and I fell asleep again. The nurse woke me up at noon (it was Friday, Nov 21 now). The midwife came into check me and this time I was 10 cm! It was time to push!!! Pushing was the hardest workout I have ever had! It made me feel really bad that I have always been a bit lax in doing my ab exercises. Never again! With every contraction, I gave it my all and every time the midwife said, “harder, harder, harder!!” I asked, “how do all these wussy girls do this?!” I figured I’d be strong and tough, but this was so insanely difficult and I pictured all those women who never lift a finger and wondered how the hell they managed to do this! The midwife replied, “who do you think is having all those elective c-sections!” Not that having a c-section means anyone’s a wuss, but I can see why a lot of women would need to or opt to have one in the face of how hard pushing is!
After 2 hours! of pushing, we got the bad news that peanut was not even under my pelvis yet. It felt like I had a bowling ball between my legs and I had been pushing so hard that it felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out of my head yet nothing had happened! Again! This time though, there was no easy option. Peanut’s heartrate was starting to spike and we both were becoming feverish. I still hadn’t peed! The midwife brought in the ob’s who counseled me that I may need to get an emergency c-section—after all that! The ob’s watched me push during a contraction and decided that I could do it but that I’d need an episiotomy to get peanut out as soon as possible. Yikes! An episiotomy was the thing I most feared! I said I’d rather get the c-section. My doula held my hand and assured me that I’d rather get the episiotomy. She promised me it would be ok. Mrp held my hand to and encouraged me to trust the doctors, my midwife, and our doula. I asked my midwife to promise me I would tear on top of the episiotomy and she laughed at me. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask! So, I kept pushing. And finally, my midwife said, 3 more contractions and you will meet peanut! I gave those all I had. The first one of these three brought the episiotomy. I only know this because mrp’s face became white as a ghost’s! Right after this contraction, "Born to Run" came up on my ipod mix! WIth the second pf these contractions came peanut’s head, face-up! And before the third, my midwife made me give one last push and peanut was out! Suddenly, the mystery of my disfunctional labor was solved. Precious peanut was posterior, or sunny side up. Most babies come out head first but facing down. Since peanut was face up he was not cooperating with my body and wasn't doing his part to move things along. Hence three days! So my little peanut finally was born at 2:44 pm on Friday, November 21 2008 to the crooning of Bruce Springsteen. He was 8 lbs, 5 oz* and 21 inches long.
Anyway, as soon as peanut was out Mrp was crying and I was crying and then he was whisked away by the pediatricians. Nathaniel’s heartrate and temperature were very worrisome, as was the fact that his cord was around his neck twice! Poor baby!! I could hear him screaming and mrp ran over. Then I heard mrp yell, “he squeezed my finger!” Meanwhile, I had a 3rd degree tear on top of the episiotomy and I was now being stitched up which was the worst part of the whole ordeal. I was so mean to the doctors. I kept snapping at them to stop! And then I’d ask if they were almost done. They were great dealing with me! Finally, after 45 minutes I got to meet my baby! What a sweety! I put him on my chest and he found my boob and within a minute he was suckling away like a natural! The ease with which he breastfeeds makes up for the tough labor. It is such a wonderful thing. Ahh… Anyway, mrp and I couldn’t stop staring at him. I took the picture with the little striped hat on with my phone about an hour after he was born.
One by one the nurses left, the ob’s left, the pediatricians left, the midwife left, our doula left and there were mrp and me alone with our little precious peanut. And then he started screaming and mrp and I looked at each other and started laughing hysterically! And then we kissed our little peanut, Nathaniel and he relaxed and there the three of us were: a family.
*He initially weighed in at 7 lbs 14 oz, but once up in the nursery he weighed in at 8 lbs 4 oz. This caused the nurses to check the scale in labor and delivery and sure enough it was miscalibrated and Nathaniel's official birth weight was 8 lbs 5 oz. Still not nearly as big as those pesky ultrasounds suggested!