I feel like I should start out with a big flashy warning, ie: the birth story may be longer than the actual labor. I wanted to write it down right away, first of all because I feel like I'm already forgetting things and second, because I'm still not really sure WHAT happened. Writing will help me figure out how I feel about it, so in some ways this blog post is just for me. Because I know you love a good birth story, Internet, I hereby apologize for the inevitable tangents...
My parents arrived late Thursday morning to take the kids for the day. I would have told them to just keep the kids overnight, but Jack had preschool Friday morning and my parents offered to bring them home after dinner and honestly, I didn't really hear anything they said after, "We'll take them for the whole day." Whee!
I made a to-do list, but basically I decided to do a whole lot of nothing. I did go grocery shopping, I did do a little more painting, I did do all the laundry. Other than that, I read the rest of Faithful Place, watched a bunch of television premieres (Revenge: intriguing! Up All Night: almost unwatchable! How I Met Your Mother: meh!), and I napped. I napped all afternoon and it was glorious.
My parents brought the kids home, Phillip got home from his work dinner (at my favorite downtown restaurant - annoying), we finally got the kids in bed, and right before I turned out my light I texted my good friend who had a feeling she was going to go to the hospital that night to deliver HER baby.
Around 12:20 I woke up, vaguely aware of some strong lower-abdominal cramping. My whole thought process about that amounted to, "This sucks." Of course, at this point in pregnancy, almost everything makes you think: IS THIS LABOR? But I totally didn't think so. I was annoyed because the cramping made it hard to fall back asleep, and THEN I realized my pajama pants were wet. And my whole thought process around that, lasting a good several totally zoned-out minutes, was, "Wow. This feels disgusting."
Then I realized my water broke. I kicked Phillip. "I think my water broke." And then, I swear to God, we just laid there looking at each other wondering what we were supposed to do next.
My water hadn't broken with Jack or Molly. I wasn't expecting it to happen this time. What I knew about water breaking was that you then had 24 hours to deliver a baby OR ELSE. And, well, THAT did not seem real at ALL.
I think I'm usually pretty good in A Crisis (ie: the panic does not set in until everything is OVER, usually) but this time I seriously could not wrap my brain around ANYTHING. I wasn't panicking, I just didn't know what I was supposed to do next! A few minutes later we decided that we should probably call someone. We fussed around looking for phone numbers and reached the doctor on call. I told her I was cramping, but no big deal. She said, "Well, if it was your first baby I'd tell you to stay home for a bit. But because it's your third..."
So, uh, we were now instructed to head to the hospital. Part of me was all, "Yay! I don't have to go through the whole Should We Or Shouldn't We Go To The Hospital part!" and another part of me was all, "I don't want to labor at the HOSPITAL, this is going to SUCK." My mind had already drifted to the Labor Not Progressing So You Get Pitocin Then A C-Section route and while I was quietly stressing about this, Phillip was loudly banging around our bedroom packing a hospital bag. (Tangent! I'd written "pack hospital bag" on my to-do list and then chuckled to myself, because HA HA HA we had WEEKS!)
My contribution to the hospital bag was a bunch of maternity clothes that did not match and that I ended up not wearing at all. Also shampoo, since I remembered being without shampoo when I had Molly and how dirty I felt even after a shower.
We tried calling the FPC and her husband several times, the designated middle-of-the-night babysitters, but never made it through. We called our backup child-watcher, my good friend who lives minutes away. She woke up and said she was on her way, then we called my parents who said they'd leave right then (12:45ish) to stay with the kids through the next day. This was their third trip to my house that day - they live about 50 minutes away. I know. I felt terrible. I still feel terrible. It's one of the parts of the whole deal where I really felt our unpreparedness.
Although, what are you gonna do? I'm not sure we could have planned it another way.
Off we went to the hospital, which is five minutes away, and the whole time I am all, "Gee, this is the easiest in-labor-car-trip ever!" I was still only cramping at that point, and not terribly often. My other in-labor-car-trips were a bit longer, and at 4 and 5ish cm. No fun. I would have been afraid of being turned away from the hospital, except I was a hundred percent sure that my water had broken and no one would be sending me home.
We entered at the emergency room because it was one in the morning and they wheelchaired me up to labor and delivery. I felt like a dork. I'd had a handful of had-to-breathe-through-them contractions, but was perfectly capable of walking. Nope - wheelchairs were hospital policy. Labor and delivery was a ways away and my memory of this is pretending I am in a from-a-wheelchair's-perspective movie. You know, like when the camera pretends to be the character's eyes, and you're just sort of zooming around. Dork! I kept thinking. Dork!
I was gracefully deposited in our room. I remember thinking, "Yes, this room is smaller, but that's it." This was a new hospital for us and we'd never got around to taking the tour, but what my doctor said was true - the only difference between the new hospital and my old one was the size of the room.
A nice nurse named Linda came in and did all her nice, slow, nursey things. I don't know about you, but the nurses have this sort of aggravating calm about them. Like, DON'T THEY KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A BABY?! She had me get into the fugly gown, she strapped the monitors around me, she used a very caaaalm, geeeentle, sloooow, quiiiiet voice and left us there for a bit. She didn't want to check me because of the whole broken water bit. It was a short time after 1am. I am mostly sure of that.
I sat there knowing that I wasn't contracting very hard and wondering how long we were going to be stuck there. I wondered how much it was going to suck to labor in a hospital room, without my own space. I wondered how far along I was and whether I'd get my drugs sooner or later. I wondered if I'd be able to sit still through the epidural, which was my biggest Labor Fear. (Well, RATIONAL labor fear. I had plenty of freaky irrational ones I won't bother to mention. We all do, yes?)
Phillip was busy setting up the computer and emailing work and all that. I was just mad about having to be stuck in bed. I decided I didn't like my nurse - she obviously thought I was going to be there for a week, she was patronizing, she had no sense of humor, she was making me sit in this bed, she didn't like me, and I didn't like anyone. (Perhaps none of these things were true. I didn't care.)
The next couple of contractions felt a lot stronger and Linda, who was monitoring the contraction tape from the nurse desk came back to the room announcing she changed her mind, she was going to check me. And you guys, I was only at a 1. A ONE. I wanted to throw something. Not only was this going to take for absolutely ever, I was going to have to get pitocin and be miserable in a hospital room for hours on end and SUCK SUCK SUCK. Linda tried to be encouraging about my effacement (70%) ("Effacement never gets credit on TV and in the movies!" she claimed) but all I could think about was ONE and how far away it was from TEN.
We agreed that I would be monitored about a half hour longer, then she'd let me get up and walk around. I wasn't super uncomfortable in the bed, but I knew I WOULD be, at some point. I'm not sure if I was a half hour longer or not, maybe she even let me get up then?
At some point I was let out of bed jail. (Maybe this was after she checked me? I know you don't care, but timing IS important and it bugs me that I can't remember this. I should ask Phillip.) Linda put me in a robe and gave me some super sexy green socks and told me I could walk around or get in the tub or take a shower or whatever I wanted. I elected to stay in the room near a ledge I could lean on, to rock through the contractions. I wanted the news on in the background, because I'm a background noise kind of person. I found the tub intriguing, but sitting sounded horrible. So we just stood around waiting for things to happen. The contractions were stronger, but I still felt like I had DAYS to go.
The first couple contractions were familiar. It felt like Jack and Molly. Not too hard, but I had to stop and lean over and breathe. I could do those, easy peasy. Phillip was emailing away, since of course he wasn't ready to leave work yet. We had to email the friend who was getting married on Saturday, to tell her we wouldn't be able to perform the eucharistic minister duties. I thought about my friend who thought she was also headed to the hospital that night and how totally random it was that I was there too. I scrolled through Twitter. I emailed some friends in between contractions. I thought about how integral the laptop was with Jack and Molly, but how I had a fancy phone this time. P.S. No one updates Twitter at 1am PST. Aggravating.
Okay, so what I think was going on was: the nurse was going to come back in two hours to check me. At that point the two hours just sounded long, painful, and dull. Stuck in the hospital room, blah blah blah. And I believed her because I WAS ONLY AT A ONE. How discouraging (even though she'd tried SO hard not to discourage me. Perhaps I was beginning to appreciate my nurse.)
Blah blah blah contractions and then... ouch. The next contractions were much harder. I was rocking through them. I felt like I could do it. I was in control. This felt familiar. I knew what to do. I did feel a little worried, because now I was looking at two hours of HARDER contractions and then, if I was at a 4 when she came back in two hours, at which point I would be allowed my epidural, who knew how long I'd have to wait for the drugs? I was a little worried, but remembered my other labors had taken forever and I'd waited a long time through those and I could do it. I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. I reminded myself of how I wasn't allowed to keep turning up my epidural during Jack's birth, and how I felt the entire pushing part and I survived and if I could do THAT I could do THIS.
But they kept getting harder. They also felt longer than I remembered. I started feeling totally out of breath after each one, like it took me longer to recover from each contraction and prepare for the next one, and perhaps the time in between each contraction was getting shorter too. I'd never matched the "right" contraction pattern before and I wondered if I was going to do it this time. I got even more worried about the next two hours because for me, it felt like only five minutes had gone by. I wasn't sure if I could keep doing THIS for two hours. Seriously, every contraction left me panting and heaving and whimpering and then another one would roll over me before I felt "recovered" and ready to cope.
They got harder. And deeper and weirder and I started to feel like these were nothing I'd experienced before. Rocking was no longer enough and with each contraction I'd try to find a new way to cope. The pain was radiating through my back and while it felt good for Phillip to rub the small of my back in between each contraction, I HATED having him touch me during one. I think he mentioned the jacuzzi but again, the thought of sitting down sounded awful.
Pretty soon I was making really unattractive noises. Well, at first I felt they were acceptable. I WAS in labor after all. But with each contraction I sounded more and more like a cracked out banshee. I was AWARE and EMBARRASSED by it, but making the noise really helped me deal. I wondered who could hear me. I wondered if the nurse could hear me and if she'd come back. She was going to come back, right?
Phillip, at this point, I think, was saying, "I should call the nurse back" and I was saying, "No, I don't want her to check me and find out I'm only a two. It hasn't even been _______ minutes." Because I was thinking two hours was our threshold and I am a People Pleaser and a Rule Follower and I did not want to be that evening's labor and delivery drama queen.
But ohhh it got harder. They felt stronger, faster, longer. The noises I was making were REALLY embarrassing now, though embarrassment left me the minute the pain hit and it was all I could do to really hang on and get through. I rocked, but I also crouched down, I smacked the ledge I was holding onto, I tried really hard not to swear because I'm really NOT a swear-er and I didn't want the entire hallway to hear BUT GOSH I WANTED TO. And in between - oh God - I would cry. I'd never cried during labor before. And I don't feel like I was crying because of the pain, I felt like I was crying because I was so overwhelmed. I kept saying I was scared - another thing I found embarrassing in the moment, but couldn't keep to myself. This was... like, I think I KNEW it was different and sort of insane, but I was also trying to follow the rules and and remember that I wasn't the professional and people knew what they were doing. After two fortyish hour labors, how could I possibly be going this fast? Maybe I was remembering it wrong. Maybe it WAS this hard before. Maybe I was a bigger wimp this time. Maybe I was less prepared somehow. Maybe I was giving up already. I started to really be disappointed with myself which honestly made it worse. Gah!
I'd also started to say, "I can't do this anymore." I don't think I said that during my previous labors either. I know for sure I'd said things like, "I don't know much LONGER I can do this," but I'd never come to a point where I felt like I couldn't do it right THEN. Even when I was having to sit and be still through the epidurals, I felt like I only needed to center myself for a few minutes, eyes on the prize, and I could get through it. This? I could not keep doing this. Not for two hours. And there was no way in hell I was going to be able to sit still through an epidural at this point.
Not that I considered NOT getting the epidural. Had the drugs been available I would have shot up my own spine at that point.
One thing - when I started to say "I can't do this anymore" or "I'm scared" and cry... Phillip would totally contradict me and encourage the absolute crap out of me. And even though I knew it was only WORDS and that that was his ROLE, it was a BIG DEAL to hear it. (Words of affirmation!) In fact, I sort of felt ALLOWED to cry because I wasn't the only one available to be strong for me, if that makes sense. I could allow myself a moment of weakness because Phillip was there to pick up my slack.
He would also talk about the GOAL, the BABY, our new EMMA, and this was encouraging too.
Unbeknownst to me, he'd called the nurse (who happened to be on her way, since she did hear me all the way down at the nurse station.) He thought I should be checked. I was against it, afraid of being discouraged. She said it was up to me. She offered the jacuzzi again and again I said No Way In Hell Am I Sitting Down. The nurse didn't want to tell me what to do (perhaps I was growing to love her) and Phillip knew better than to tell me what to do. So they watched me/helped me through a few more mind-bending contractions, complete with what was now full on screaming (the nurse coached me go to lower and guttural) and sudden new sharp twisty sensations, and finally Linda said she thought she should check me, but I had to get on the bed.
No, I was not getting on the bed. Why did they not believe me about this? NO BED.
She said she would try to check me standing up, but that it probably wouldn't work. It didn't. The only reason I got on that bed was because I felt pretty sure I was farther than a two.
I was seven cm. It was, I believe, about forty-five minutes past the point where she told me she'd leave me for two hours.
I heard her mention something to someone about the epidural and for a split second I was all, "THANK YOU JESUS!" Then I remembered what it would take to GET the epidural. Then I stopped thinking about anything because the next contraction was washing over me and NOW I thought I was going to die. I heard Phillip asking how long it would take for the epidural to get there. He'd asked several times about the epidural when we arrived and I'd been jokily annoyed, because it was clear he wanted to nap and an epidural was going to be how he got a nap. Now I didn't even hear the answer. I seriously... I feel like I remember everything in between the contractions clearly and rationally. But during the contractions I started to sort of lose my mind. For some reason I was now HANGING on Phillip. Like I had my arms around his neck, but then during a contraction I would sink down onto his forearms and turn into Primal Shrieking Cave Lady and he would somehow hold me up. (Tangent: I weigh a lot. No really. A LOT.)
This is when I remember the pain being so intense that I sort of left my body. I don't really remember what it felt like or how hard it was, but it was of a completely different quality than the earlier contractions that I could just rock and breathe through. It was worse, obviously, and somehow... sharper? Anyway, for a split second I really felt like I left my senses because it was the only way to cope. And when the contraction was over it didn't really feel over, the pressure was too much and it occurred to me that if I reached down I might be able to feel the top of a baby head...
And THAT my friends is when I realized I would probably not be getting an epidural. Can you say: DENIAL!?!?
When I WAS in my right mind I was thinking about how, when I was pushing out Jack, it wasn't the PAIN that consumed me but the PRESSURE. I would have sworn I had a watermelon in my pelvis and I was going to split in half. This time I felt pressure, but it was the contraction itself that hammered me. I had two or three of those sorts of contractions and I'm pretty sure I was pushing because, obvs, I couldn't NOT push. And I hadn't exactly told Phillip or my nurse, still the only people in the room with me, that I was pushing. Although they probably realized it, due to my extreme unladylike postures and sounds. The only only thought in my head was getting this over with, and I was aware enough to know that the only way to do that was to push and DAMMIT I WAS DOING IT.
Someone - me? the nurse? - shouted that the baby was coming out and then I started to hear talk about getting back on the bed and I was all HA HA HA I AM NOT GOING ANYWHERE NEAR THAT EFFING BED and still! They would not shut up about the bed! You guys, I was perfectly confident in my ability to catch my own baby simply because I didn't see another way around it. I was contracting and pushing and could barely hear them over my own voice and seriously, not a thought in the world than MAKE THIS STOP. I knew the baby was crowning (and for the record, I have no memory of feeling "the ring of fire", only pressure and contractions) and even though I was totally out of it, I also realized I was near the end - an incredibly helpful piece of information!
They were still talking to each other about needing me on the bed - which I was ignoring - then finally, in my ear, I heard Phillip say (and he did not like it when I described it thusly to a friend this afternoon): MAGGIE. YOU NEED TO GET IN THE BED. in the tone of voice he uses when he's lecturing me, ie: changing my passwords. Getting my wisdom teeth taken out. Drinking fluids when I have the stomach flu. I HATE his I'm-acting-like-your-father lecturey voice and this was, like, nine bazillion Stern Phillips in my ear. And something clicked in my brain, outside of the physical, that told me: Maggie, you need to get in the bed.
So I did, and I pretty much thought that might kill me right there. Even though, I think, the head was out. I think Phillip told me that the nurse was holding the baby IN, due to (I find this out later) her not being able to deliver a baby with me standing up. Later she said if the doctor had been there that would have been fine, but SHE could not do it. Anyway, that was the one other time that I sort of remember leaving my body and having this extremely "rational" thought. It went something like this: If nothing else, lying down in this bed and pushing IS going to kill you. You WILL die if you don't get this baby out. So let's calm down, collect every molecule of strength, and push like you have never ever pushed before.
So that's what I did. I honestly remember taking one second to brush everything out of my mind, alert all my muscles and push like my entire life depended on it. And THANK GOD the baby was born.
And that? Was fifteen minutes after Linda said I was at a seven.
I'm not TRYING to be super dramatic and I'm well aware that enough of us have had our own dramatic births, but dear God this was mine and I was shell shocked afterwards and everything I've written has been without any Emphasizing For Dramatic Effect. It's exactly how I remember it.
The confusing part is how long everything took. I, understandably, was not really aware of the clock and what time it was when the baby was born and all that. I THOUGHT it was three something and so I had a vague understanding that I'd been in labor for all of three hours. I thought this was the case until the official birth time was 2:42 am and my nurse proudly stuck a note to my wall that said "I was in labor for two hours and twelve minutes!"
A few hours after sticking that note above my head (and me tweeting it to the world, because By God I was going to get some credit for this) she came back in and said that the time on the computer records and the time on the contraction monitor tape were different and she'd done some calculating and changed the birth time to 3:42, meaning three hours and twelve minutes of labor.
To me, three hours, two hours, it's still the same amount of hurt, but Phillip adamantly believes Emma was born at TWO something and has added up all our minutes and hours several times and stands firm at 2:42 am. I don't remember enough solid details to be sure either way (and honestly, I'm going with the nurses on this one. And yes, it's super weird to me that this was an issue in the first place. It is true, though, that the only people in the room were desperately trying to deliver a baby, not paying attention to time, and the other nurses and the doctor didn't show up until after the show was over.)
So the baby was out and as it happens there are some complications with babies born so quickly, but I was not aware of this. I was sprawled on the bed, relieved that the contractions had disappeared, but so dazed and out of it that I didn't realize they hadn't given me the baby right away. I kept trying to focus and I kept losing it. People kept talking to me and I kept answering without really hearing what I was saying. I was waiting to feel like Superwoman, waiting for the spectacular amazing incredible high I'd experienced after having Jack, with my half-epidural, but instead I felt wrecked, exhausted, barely there.
Aaaand, I think that's enough for now. That's how she showed up. I'll save the self-indulgent, probably unnecessary, internal reflective processy stuff for next time. Which is what I originally wanted to write about in the first place, but all of this had to come first.