So it turns out that the contractions I was having Saturday evening were the real deal. We’re home now, life is still crazy and out-of-sync, and we’re all trying to adjust to the changes.
The (written with little sleep) story:
After two hours of fairly regular contractions 4-6 minutes apart Saturday evening, I called my doula. She agreed that it might be labor, but they also might go away, so I continued to wait them out. Slowly they were getting more uncomfortable (and at this point, I mean “uncomfortable” – the true “painful” comes later), and I called my doula back at 11pm for an update. I didn’t feel like she needed to be here yet, so she advised me to try to get an hour or two of sleep, and call when I needed her.
I think I slept for maybe an hour or so, although I could feel the contractions while I slept – sort of like in a dream. When I woke up, I took a shower to help with the pain, and Aaron called my doula to ask her to come over. She arrived around 2am and went right to work helping me cope with each contraction. At this point, each contraction was around 45-60 seconds and coming roughly every 3-4 minutes. This was so unfair – most women get to build up to contractions coming quickly, but mine started out close and got intense fast.
By 4am, it was taking serious effort to get through each contraction, so we left for the hospital. Valet parking is only available during the day – a serious problem, in my opinion – so we had to park in one of the parking garages. It took about 15 minutes to even get to the labor and delivery floor because we had to stop every three minutes or so for a contraction. Once we got through registration, I was taken into triage to be assessed.
At this point, I was still feeling positive, thinking that my body was probably doing some awesome work in there. And then the nurse checked me, and declared I was only two and a half centimeters dilated. That’s nine hours and a lot of contractions to get one centimeter further than I already was before labor. Disappointed isn’t a strong enough word to describe how I felt.
I was kept in triage for another two hours, waiting to dilate to three centimeters so I could be admitted to the unit. Finally I was moved into my own labor and delivery room around 7am. By this point, contractions were now well over a minute long, still three minutes apart, and I surprised myself with the moans coming out of me.
I brought a birth plan with me, and the hospital was very good at honoring it as best they could. Because I was a VBAC, I had to be monitored continuously, but they had a telemetry unit so I could still move around at will. However, the fates conspired against me, and after about an hour the thing stopped working and no one could fix it.
Aaron and my doula were amazing. As each contraction came on, they were there holding my hands, forcing me to focus on breathing exercises, rubbing my back, and doing anything they could to make me more comfortable. I can’t imagine the sorry state I would have been in without them.
Around 9am, 14 hours into labor, I hit a breaking point. The pain was hitting a new high, one where I couldn’t stay in control and ride it out. The word “epidural” was beginning to escape my lips. Everyone else convinced me to be checked first, since there was a good chance I could have made a lot of progress and be near the end of it all. The nurse checked me, and when she said only four centimeters, I immediately demanded the epidural. Fourteen hours of intense labor overnight to be at only four centimeters was too much to bear.
Thankfully, the anesthesiologist was quick, and within the hour I had my epidural. With that in place, I was able to finally relax and let my body do what it needed to do. I know that epidurals can slow labor and bring on more interventions, but at that point I was too exhausted to continue. I needed to rest.
The next several hours passed with less excitement. My cervix started to dilate at a decent pace, while I closed my eyes and rested. I never slept, though, because I was constantly being turned by the nurse due to the baby’s heartbeat disappearing off the monitor. It wasn’t a cause for concern, because they always found it again quickly, but they didn’t like to see it drop off the monitor.
The epidural also wore off three times. Yes, three times. Sucks, eh? I was able to get it topped off again quickly, though, so I wasn’t in pain for too long each time.
I reached 10 centimeters around 3pm, and started feeling the pushing contractions right away. It’s true what everyone say – pushing contractions feel very different, and don’t feel as painful. In fact, when you reach that point, pushing feels pretty good.
The only problem was the doctor wasn’t there yet. She was called, but said she was still 15-20 minutes away. The resident doctor asked me to try a practice push, just to see how long he thought pushing would take. After my test push, he turned to the nurse and said, “This baby is coming soon. I’m going to call the doctor and tell her to hurry. Don’t let her push until she’s here.”
Don’t let her push? Was this guy trying to be funny? Because with each contraction, my body took over and pushed without any intention from me. There was no way a few “hee hee hee” breathing exercises were going to stop it. I remember at some point saying, “Are you serious? Babies don’t wait on doctor schedules!” Still, I tried to hold off, and about half an hour later, the doctor arrived, and I was allowed to begin pushing.
Active pushing took all of about 20 minutes and only a handful of contractions. The doctor complimented me on my pushing ability, which at the time seemed like the weirdest compliment I’d ever received. “Uh, I guess I can thank the kegels,” I said between contractions.
But a far more weird compliment came after that. The head came into view during the third or fourth active pushing contraction (I can’t exactly remember – it all happened so fast), the doctor reached in to feel around the head and remarked, “Wow, there’s no molding of the head at all! That’s amazing!” Later, after she was born and they again remarked on how her head was still perfectly round, I asked, “Are you saying I have a big vagina?” The doctor laughed and said, “No, just that you have a good wide pelvis for giving birth!”
So back to pushing: I now understand that whole “ring of fire” experience so many talk about. Her head crowned right at the end of a contraction, requiring me to wait for the next contraction to push again. Ouch. The time before that next contraction felt like an eternity, but soon I was pushing again, and she came flying out and was placed right onto my stomach at 4:00pm sharp, 21 hours after it all started. She cried right away and was beautifully pink all over.
I’m glad I got the chance to have a VBAC. While neither method of birth is easy, and I couldn’t even make it through the pain of labor, the VBAC was a better experience. I felt more connected with what was going on, and I was able to hold my baby right away.
Miranda (we call her Mira) is doing well. Unlike Cordy, she’s taken to breastfeeding like a pro, although she does suffer from the newborn problem of falling asleep 5 seconds after latching on. More to come on what happened after the birth later. As it is, it’s taken me all day to write this post.