Warning: Contains the following terms: Fluid, Bag of Waters, Meconium, Cervix, Pushing, Hell.
Once I’d changed into a gown, our nurse (Amber) had me lie on the bed while she placed my IV port. As she did so, I kept asking insightful questions like “There aren’t any drugs yet, right?” Once that bit of housekeeping was out of the way, it was time to break my water. Or rather, finish breaking my water. The best analogy I’ve heard for the “bag of waters” is to picture it like a container with a cork at the bottom. You can puncture the top of the container and a little fluid will leak out slowly—that’s what was happening to me. In order for the baby’s head to put significant pressure on my cervix (which is typically what triggers active labor), the cork would need to be removed. So Kim produced what can only be described as a plastic crochet hook of some kind, and promised it wouldn’t hurt. It actually didn’t, but oh dear GOD, I could not believe the amount of fluid that followed. Any previous notions I’d had about not knowing if my water had broken were swiftly corrected, then and there.
Upon viewing the fluid, Kim and Amber both noted the presence of meconium—in other words, our little princess had jumped the gun on her first bowel movement. Perhaps she was nervous about meeting us? Either way, we were told not to be alarmed, but upon delivery, a team from the nursery would have to be present to evaluate our baby. If she came out crying, Kim said, she’d be placed on my chest and all would be well. If not, she would be taken away to have her lungs cleared and some tests performed.
Ugh. Between the IV in my arm and the news that I might not get immediate skin-to-skin time with my new baby girl, I was feeling a bit down at this point. Still, we maintained our attitude that safety was our first priority.
Once I was able to get up from the pond that my bed had become, I was hooked up to wireless monitors that would measure both baby’s heart rate and my uterus’s contractions. Yes, I said “uterus’s”. Almost immediately, the contraction monitor showed some action, and I felt the first light cramping of the day. I tried not to get my hopes up as we chatted with the nurse and called a couple of friends. After about forty minutes, the contractions were still coming, and getting stronger. To my complete delight, Amber called Kim (who had been called away to assist with an emergency Cesarean) and informed her that I was very much in active labor and would not be needing that Pitocin they’d ordered for me.
The celebration was short-lived, however, as active labor became, well, active. My mom and stepdad arrived a little before 7pm (I think?) and brought Ryan a sandwich. Shortly thereafter they left the room for a few minutes. At this point, the contractions were significant and no longer fun and exciting. The temperature in the room was suddenly unbearable to me, and I determined that the gown I was wearing was no longer going to work for me. It was at this point as well that I determined my parents should probably not be returning. At 7:30, I asked Ryan to turn on Jeopardy, as is our nightly ritual. After all, I had pictured my in-labor self as very cheerful and upbeat, so certainly I could answer a few trivia questions, yes?
I answered maybe two clues, and remember thinking that Alex Trebek’s voice sounded really odd, and was everyone sure that was him? I spent the entirety of the episode leaning on the bed facing away from the TV, wondering to myself how it was possible that I’d only been doing this for two hours or so.
After Jeopardy, things started getting kind of awful in terms of pain. There had been a shift change so our new nurse, Erin, was with us now. I liked Erin because she was helpful when needed but generally remained pretty quiet and uninvolved. It was around this point that I told Ryan he needed gum for his sandwich-breath because it was making me feel sick. That was also when Ryan had to put away the 75% of the sandwich remaining away. Poor guy didn’t eat again until well after midnight. The contractions were getting much stronger now, but for the moment, I was still getting 1-2 minute breaks in between. When Kim returned, it was suggested I get into the tub.
The tub felt good for about 8 seconds. After that I sort of hated it. I remember Ryan crouching down next to me with this look of absolute torment on his face. He would later tell me that for being one of the greatest nights of his life, it was his hardest moment as a husband to see me in that much pain. But he was amazing, even when I screamed and sobbed and begged him, “Please don’t make me do this…I can’t do it, please please please don’t make me.” Everyone in the room, including my husband, knew how much I wanted a med-free birth. I, however, had sort of forgotten that fact. I never asked for an epidural, but on some secret level, I think I may have been hoping someone would be like, “You seem REALLY uncomfortable. How about some drugs?” Alas, no one did, so on labor went.
After hoisting me out of that God-awful tub, Kim checked my progress: 8 centimeters dilated. It was at this point that I told myself it was likely too late for that epidural I didn’t want in the first place—a frightening realization, to be sure. Kim had me labor in about a million different positions, all over the room. I hated most of it, and complained heartily. I wish there had been some kind of counter running to clock all of the times I screamed, “I can’t!” and “I don’t want to do that!” and “Please don’t make me!” All of the breathing and relaxation techniques I’d learned seemed ludicrous as the contractions came faster and faster. Only sporadically would I get into a zone in which I felt calm and under control. Most of the time I was a complete disaster. I kept thinking, and therefore yelling, “I just want a break!” I really felt that if I could just take like a 20-minute power nap, all would be well and I could hack it for the rest of delivery.
No naps were to be had. At some point, I looked at the clock and it was after 10pm. For all of its terrible-ness, things were moving along. At 11:00pm, Kim checked me again and pronounced me 9.5cm dilated. We all know that 10 is the magic number, so I was a bit peeved to be a half-centimeter short, but she surprised me when she asked, “So, do you want to start pushing?”
Having no idea what I was in for, I gave her an enthusiastic, “YES!” I assumed that I’d just push for 20 minutes or so, and then this hell would be over.
My naiveté was a blessing in disguise, though, because as far as I knew at 11:00pm, our baby was coming in a matter of minutes! Time to start pushing!