I woke up at 2 am in pain. It was the day before my due date. This was nothing new—I’d been waking every night around the same time with contractions for maybe a week, and had suffered through 2-hour bouts of semi-regular ones from about 2 to 4 am for the last three nights. I lay there trying to get back to sleep, and would occasionally glance at the clock. The really painful ones were between 20 and 6 minutes apart—not regular. I thought maybe I just had to go to the bathroom, since I’d had middle-of-the-night bowel movements with the contractions during the previous nights, and within a half an hour afterward things had petered out. This just must be some new and cruel form of indigestion, as my enormous belly is putting all this pressure on my poor squished up bowels. Maybe if I just stop eating for the rest of the pregnancy I can get some sleep? I had a huge, long, really painful contraction. I breathed slowly, relaxed my body, forced my jaw to relax, and envisioned my body opening for my beautiful baby. The contraction finally eased, and I got a little frustrated thinking that this was a lot of work for what was probably just going to turn out to be my body opening for...poop. After another contraction like that, I decided I needed to get out of bed, even though it was warm under the covers. I sat on the toilet but nothing happened, other than I was colder. I went back to bed, but again the contractions were hard, and it didn’t feel good to lie down. I decided to take a hot shower. I stayed in the shower for a long time, leaving briefly to finally use the bathroom, but the contractions continued. They weren’t nearly as painful in the shower, although they did seem to be getting closer together. I still didn’t believe it, though, after getting my hopes up so many times before. I got out of the shower and tried to go back to bed, but again once I was out of the water and lying down I was very uncomfortable. I figured if I was going to spend half the night awake and the next day half-asleep, I might as well pass the awake time in the relative comfort of the shower. I stayed under the warm water, but started to get worried that I’d run out of hot water. I would face the spray until a contraction started, then would turn around so it would hit my back during the peak. The relief from the water was amazing. After a little while, the contractions were getting more painful in spite of the water, and quite close together (I wasn’t timing in the shower). I finally decided I must be in labor. My SIL, who was to serve as my coach/doula, lives 45 minutes away, and I didn’t want to wait too long to call her. I grabbed my cell phone from inside the shower and phoned her between contractions. She sounded so thrilled to answer her phone at 4:30 am! She said she’d come right over. After five more minutes in the shower, I realized that since I’d called her, I really had to go through with it now. I still didn’t have complete confidence that this was the real thing, but I thought that in the worst case scenario, I’d go to the hospital and at least be more dilated than I was at my last appointment (which was 4 cm) and maybe they’d give me pitocin to keep things going. This seemed sort of goofy, because I’m really opposed to induction, but I couldn’t think of how else to handle the situation at this point, given that I had to get my Dad over here to watch my DD, my Mom to accompany me to the hospital, and let my DH call his parents to let them know they could start the journey in from St. Louis (a five hour drive). All these things had to be set in motion, and I really hated to give a false alarm, but I also didn’t want to wait too late since I was pretty sure this was real labor.
I got out of the shower and woke up DH. He didn’t seem that surprised, and he called his parents. I dried off and put on my clothes, because with my previous labor I’d stayed in my pajamas too late and was miserable pulling on my clothes to leave for the hospital. I brushed my teeth and combed my hair and put on my cutest earrings, because you’ve got to feel like you’ve got *something* going for you while pushing out a baby in a hospital gown, right? I went downstairs and fired up the computer to contractionmaster.com. The problem was, my contractions seemed to be slowing in both frequency and intensity. Bummer. Still, with my concerted concentration on relaxation and pacing the floor, I did have small to medium contractions every 3.5 minutes while waiting for everyone to arrive. My Mom got there first, and as usual, having her around made me feel better. (She is married to and lives with my Dad, but they drove separately since they had different jobs to do that day.) SIL got there next, with muffins, and I filled them both in about where I was with things. Of course now my contractions basically stopped. My Dad came in next and wanted to hug me, which completely irritated me (I didn’t want to be touched) and all at once I knew we had to leave. I love my Dad, but his nervous excitement was not conducive to labor, plus I was afraid my DD would wake up soon with all the people coming in, and I didn’t want to deal with leaving her once she was awake. I told DH we were leaving and he was shocked. You mean right now? He hadn’t packed his bags. I didn’t care. I gave my team the list of things we needed to bring (my pre-packed bags, big sister gift, car seat, camera bag, etc) and we left. The hospital was about 20 minutes away, and I had only three contractions in the car, in spite of conscious relaxation. Two were very small, one was painful. I had another while we were entering the hospital, and I had to lean up against a wall, which I was glad about because it meant they weren’t totally petering out. I was not sure it was a good idea for me to be showing up like this, clearly not in late-stage labor, but I couldn’t think of a better course of action, so in we went.
At the L&D nurses desk they seemed a little skeptical. I felt, like I did when I arrived at the hospital in labor with my DD, like the hospital intake could be a little easier on a mama in labor. (Different hospitals, same basic hassle.) They couldn’t find my preregistration, had to call around, finally figured out who I was, made me fish out my insurance card twice, didn’t offer me a place to sit (not that I wanted to), and finally showed me to a room. Later we found out they put me in the “outpatient” room, expecting me to be sent home since I wasn’t making any kind of big fuss during my contractions. Inside the room, my nurse had more questions but was very kind. She put me on the monitor while I answered, so I could get to the shower quicker, as I was asking to do. She had a great attitude and I liked her. She was also very understanding about pausing questions during my contractions and kept telling me I was almost to the shower. I still wasn’t that uncomfortable, but I did want to get into the shower as soon as possible in hopes of speeding things back up. Finally the intake stuff was done, and all that was left was for the nurse to check me and put in my heplock before I could get into the shower. She got this funny look on her face while she was checking, and it took her a long time. Finally she said, “You want to guess?” I said I had no idea. I was nine centimeters dilated. Holy crap! I don’t think anyone in the room could believe it. All at once, activity in the room picked up. The nurse whisked me off the monitor and sent me straight to the shower, where she kindly put in my heplock by me hanging one arm out of the curtain. My doctor was phoned (and roused from bed), and all at once the baby nurses showed up with paperwork, which they mostly took care of through my DH and a few questions to me through the shower curtain. I was in complete shock (because not only did it mean I must have dilated to nine centimeters in my shower a couple hours prior, it also meant that my body was totally stalling on this by keeping that baby in until I could get to a comfier place!) and was glad to be in the comfort of the shower, with my SIL keeping me company on the other side of the curtain. My contractions started to pick back up.
The next several hours passed pretty calmly. I think that after I got checked everyone expected me to push that baby out quite quickly (and my poor doctor totally rushed out of bed and right over for me—she assured me that was a job hazard she was already aware of when I apologized), but actually it took me a number of hours to feel much different. I had good, strong contractions but no urge to push. I’d stay in the shower for a while, then my legs would get tired and I’d dry off and sit on the bed cross-legged for a while with my headphones on and my eyes closed for a while (they’d do their monitoring then), and then back to the shower. The pain from the contractions was very manageable in the hot water of the shower, and I could relax through them on the bed by losing myself in the music and pretending all the love song lyrics were about my new baby. I also had brought a little book of photographs of my daughter right after my birth so I could look at them and focus on why I was relaxing and letting my body open for this new little person. My doctor assured me that the urge to push would come, and that Mother Nature would let me know when it was time. My SIL realized I was starting to doubt it, and she read a passage from one of the birth books she’d brought along, about how sometimes there is a quiet period of rest between transition and pushing. I’d never felt the urge to push with my daughter; I had an epidural for two hours of my 18 hour labor, and although it had worn off by the last hour of my pushing with her, I only pushed because I was told to, not because I felt like it. I tried to be patient, but after we’d been there for over three hours the experience was starting to feel anti-climatic—we’d all gotten rather excited after finding out I was at nine centimeters!
Finally, back in the shower, I started to feel like bearing down a bit with every contraction, and the contractions started to seem longer and harder. I went with the bearing down a little, but nothing much happened. My feet hurt again so I got back out and decided to walk around the room for a while. I still felt that bearing-down feeling, and wondered if that was the pushy feeling. I asked my doctor to check me, mostly because I wanted confirmation that I really was that far into labor. I still couldn’t quite believe it! She checked me and told me I was fully dilated and could do whatever felt right. I continued to walk around the room and occasionally would sit for a while and see how that felt, bearing down gently with the contractions, but nothing felt quite right. The mood in the room was warm and friendly, and my doctor earlier had offered to leave or stay—I told her I really didn’t care. She had good energy and I like her, but she wasn’t necessary like my Mom or anything. So she’d sort of come and go. At this point she was sitting with my team and there was chit-chat and friendliness. It was almost like we were all out in the waiting room together—including me! I decided that even though this atmosphere was pleasant (and the people in the room where all there by my own invitation), maybe I actually needed privacy to give the pushing a good try. So I headed to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. That seemed to do the trick. I gave a few good pushes with contractions, and although it hurt to do so, it also felt productive. Suddenly there was a loud POP and a gush into the toilet and some liquid actually shot out into the bathroom in front of me! My water broke!
The next few contractions on the toilet were really intense and painful—worse than anything I’d experienced yet. I pushed with them, sort of tentatively, and suddenly felt bowel pressure, which I felt like was a good sign. I left the bathroom and told my doctor, who helped me quickly over to the bed. The next hour is sort of a haze. They dropped down the lower part of the bed so that I could push over a sort of toilet-shaped opening on the upper part of the bed. I pushed and pushed, but it hurt very bad and I’m not sure if I had the “urge” so much as just knew I needed to. The pain was really intense during the whole hour of pushing. I think I yelled and cursed some, which I knew was not a great use of energy, but I couldn’t help it. My team was sweet and supportive, which was great, but of course there isn’t much anyone can do for mama at that point. I could push in any position I wanted to, but none felt good or right. I mostly stayed up sort of sitting, and sometimes raised myself up into a squat during pushes. Finally after an hour I started to get the ring of fire feeling, and I could see my baby’s hairy head when I looked in the mirror. A couple more good pushes (which finally felt "right", maybe because he was finally under the pelvis?) and he was out! Relief!
My doctor put the baby right onto my chest, and it was such a great feeling to have his warm little body on the outside. He was 9 pounds, 5 ounces! Two pounds bigger than my DD. No wonder the pushing was so rough! Unfortunately, he took a long time to draw in air, and after a couple minutes it was clear that he was having trouble breathing. Poor baby turned purple instead of pink. The rest of his story is as long as this one—the short version is that he had to spend the first day of his life in the special care unit, as he’d inhaled fluid on his way out and needed oxygen. I got stitches for a second degree tear but otherwise felt fine pretty much as soon as the ordeal was over (except for a sore tailbone). The nurses were never quite sure what to do with me. It’s not common to have natural births there—there are two other local hospitals that are known to be better for natural deliveries, so people who want them typically go there, but for various reasons I selected this hospital anyway. One of my nurses told me she only gets a natural birth patient about once per year! They could never believe how little help I needed. Baby and I were finally reunited and are doing well now. He’s thirteen days old, nurses like a champ, and is as cute as can be.
Here's a http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs490...._5609076_n.jpg
picture of him two days ago with my DD.