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On Tuesday morning May 31, I was 2 days past my due date and at my morning OB appointment, I was dilated 2 cm and 50% effaced. I had been 1 cm and not effaced since 37 weeks. Around 5:15pm that same day, I was on the phone with an old friend I hadn’t talked to in awhile, when I realized that I was having some rather uncomfortable and REGULAR squeezing/pressure sensations in my uterus and my cervix felt crampy. I ended the conversation and told DH that I thought something might be happening. I tried to ease the contractions by taking a short hot shower and lying on the bed, but they did not change.
I sat down for dinner and the contractions continued as I ate. After we were done I said that's it, this is getting intense and I need to get back in the shower. It was becoming really annoying to act normal. I went back in the shower and stayed in there a long time, taking all sorts of different positions and trying to remember all of Ina May Gaskin's advice about how to integrate rushes. Eventually I yelled to DH that he should be timing these. I think that was a little before 7pm. By the point I was getting into an altered state of some kind. I completely lost track of time. At some point I decided I was done with the shower, and I went on to the bed. It was hard to move or to do anything. I was trying with all my effort to open myself up to the contractions and invite them and not to fight or reject them in any way. I lay down on my side and suddenly there was a quantum leap in intensity. I tried to handle it in the usual way but it was clearly a different ball game. I told DH this was getting really intense and he noted that they had been only 2-3 minutes apart for awhile, and under 5 minutes apart for a couple of hours, and almost all lasting more than a minute. So we decided to call the OB's office.
The doctor on call said we should come on in and get on the monitors and see what was happening. I got my iPod set up to listen to my childbirth guided imagery. Then I spent the whole car ride just trying to groove on my contractions again like I had been before, and focus on the guided imagery, and spiral/wiggle my butt while sitting on the car seat. The car ride seemed to go by really fast and suddenly we were at the hospital (1 hour away). It was 9:50pm when we checked in. We got me into a labor & delivery room and they checked me, I was 6 cm and 90% effaced!
I was hooked up to an IV in my hand, had electronic monitors strapped to my belly, and they asked a million questions about my history and so on. I was getting fluids in the IV. I got the ok to use the exercise ball. By the time they left us alone again, I was alert and lucid and pretty normal, no more weird altered state. I tried to get into the contractions again but they were weak and didn't require much attention. We kept looking at the contraction monitor and listening to the white noise of the baby's heartbeat. Nothing I was doing (walking, standing. squatting, bouncing on the ball, lying down) was making the contractions stronger or closer together. The baby's heartbeat was very steady and comforting.
2 hours later I was checked again. No progress. Contractions still weak and far apart. The doctor said we could break my water since my bag was bulging a bit. I said I wanted to rest and wait a couple more hours before doing that. They left us alone and we both napped. At 2:15 or so the doctor came back and checked again. Still no progress and by now the contractions had almost stopped completely. The doctor broke my water and then got all serious and calm and told me that there was a great deal of meconium in the water and that this was concerning. He gave some speech involving the phrase "path to c-section" and said if you don't progress significantly in the next hour or so I would like to start pitocin to move you along more. I figured that I had better go with that because I was only getting more tired over time and was worried about how the “real” contractions had gone away. They stuck a tube into the uterus and a sterile wash to get the meconium out. I was feeling a lot of fluid coming out of me and nursing staff kept changing the big blue pads.
Well, an hour later I had opened up less than a cm and no other change, so we started pitocin. That did seem to get things moving on the contractions, and an hour after that got started, I was 9 cm and 100% effaced, and the baby had moved down to +1 station, which was real progress. But the contractions were not like the natural ones and I was having an increasingly hard time managing them. By 5:00 or so I told the nurse I wanted to be checked, and if the baby hadn't moved and I hadn't gotten complete, I was going to want an epidural. She checked and no change (1 hour after my last check). At this point each contraction had me uncontrollably writhing in agony and I was begging the contractions to stop. So she turned off the pit and called the anesthesiologist on call, who had to drive in, so it took 45 minutes to get the epidural but at least the pit contractions were easing up in that time... and as they did, I was returning to my old pattern of very weak and intermittent contractions, so I knew the pitocin would be needed to get the baby out quickly. But with the pit contractions gone temporarily I was able to hold still and all that for the epidural. Getting the epidural was creepy and uncomfortable, but at that point I didn't care.
As soon as the epidural kicked in, I felt profound pain relief and numbness below my waist. I felt pretty dissociated too and was no longer very concerned about what was going to happen. I rested. Time passed quickly. They turned the pit up again and soon told me I was having a great contractions pattern. I was like, if you say so. I could not feel a thing. Around 7am the hospital shift changed. I was sad to see my night nurse go, she had been very sweet. The new nurse checked me - I was complete and +2 station. She had me do some practice pushes to try and move the baby down. It was working well so they started getting set up for delivery. There were blue cloths covering everything and it seemed like a movie set.
Finally around 7:45 or so the new doctor showed up. She was super sweet and I trusted her right away. We started pushing. I was holding my own legs and using the muscles that I had felt during some of my pushy contractions at 9 cm. It was total coached purple pushing, counting to 10 and all that, which was not what I had wanted but it was the only thing to do at that point. The doctor and nurse kept telling me how much progress I was making, again I had to take their word for it since all I could feel was slight pressure at the peak of the contraction. I was focused and intent on doing the pushing. It was very abstract since I couldn't actually feel my muscles responding.
I did not feel the baby crown or come out. When they pulled her out and put her on me it seemed completely surreal. She was pink and hollering at the top of her lungs. She had barely any vernix on her and the meconium had been washed out by those earlier flushes. I did not cry, it didn’t seem like that big loud clean pink baby could have possibly come out of me. She was taken to the side bassinet for checking while I pushed out the placenta, which looked fine but they sent it to pathology because of my heavy first trimester bleeding. The doctor said I had an internal tear and would require stitches, I saw her working on that in slow motion, with a curved needle and long thread. I tried not to look down. Baby M was put on my chest and I tried to soothe her. I talked to her and tried to put her to the breast but she kept hollering and kicking and thrashing and would not calm down. She was already very strong. I felt rather helpless and it all still seemed unreal.
After not too long, they took her away for the neonatalogy assessment, and DH went with her as I had told him to do. About an hour later or a little less, they brought her back and moved us to a postpartum room, which was really big and nice. I took my gown off and held M on my bare chest under a blanket, for hours, until suddenly she latched on with a good strong suck. She got very calm when lying on me and I was starting to feel a lot more peaceful and back in my body as we had that time. So we did have good bonding time, just not right away. (And nursing has gone great in the month since then.)
M's 1 and 5 minute apgars were 9 and 10. She was 8 1/2 lbs and 21 inches long, born around 8:30 am on Wednesday June 1, 2011. She has been a wonderful, vibrant baby, very alert and energetic with lots of personality. She loves to kick her long legs, especially on the changing table, and that, more than anything, convinced me that she is DEFINITELY the same baby that was inside me - she used to wake me up at 4 a.m. with those same aerobics routines in the 3rd trimester!