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On October 26th, at 39w2d, I had my membranes stripped. I'd been having contractions, so we all hoped that maybe stripping my membranes would help to speed things along. Late that night on Oct 27th, we were admitted for active labor. I went in with contractions 2 to 3 minutes apart, dilated 3 cm and 80% effaced. After one hour, I was 4 cm and 90% effaced. Everybody assumed I was in it for the long haul, but when I got in the bathtub around 6:30 am, my contractions began to space out. By 6:45, they had almost stopped altogether. My body had stalled.
The next day, feeling utterly depressed, I went home with everyone telling me that I would almost certainly be back in the hospital within 24 hours. Fast forward one week full of miserable contractions, and I was STILL pregnant. So, when I had my 40 week appointment, I completely broke down in the office and bawled my eyes out. I couldn't take the waiting game anymore when it was full of pain and discomfort and lack of sleep due to contractions. I asked for my midwife's opinion about breaking my water. I still wanted to strive for an all-natural childbirth, so I was seeking the most natural form of induction I could think of. I had a very strong gut feeling that my body just needed a little nudge to get going again, and my instinct was telling me that rupturing my membranes would work. After all, I was already 4 cm and almost completely effaced. But my midwife wasn't convinced. Still, in her sympathy for me, she put me down for an 8:00 appointment the next morning at the birth center. I was beyond thrilled, feeling like there was finally a light at the end of a VERY long and bumpy (and contract-y, lol) road. That night, I actually managed to sleep well. But in the morning, I called ahead only to discover that the birth center was too full to fit me in that day. I was told to check in on the following morning of Nov 3rd. I was so beyond disheartened and disgusted that I barely spoke to anyone all day.
That night, I was determined to make a difference. I really wanted to feel like my body COULD do something on its own, so I ignored all my discomforts and bounced on my birthing ball for long periods throughout the evening. Then the hubby and I tried to help things along in the bedroom the good old fashioned way. I really felt like we were making a difference, and with the strong contractions I had throughout the night, I even wondered if I might go into labor on my own.
But of course that wasn't happening. I woke up at 6:30 am on Nov 3rd, now 40w3d pregnant, and called the birth center. I fully expected to be told that we wouldn't be able to come in again. But the nurse I spoke to said that we were still on for 8:00 am. I was so excited! We got everything together and rushed out the door, being that we lived almost an hour from the hospital. Halfway there, however, I receive a call from a nurse. She asks hesitantly, "Are you already on your way?" My heart sank. We were about to be told not to come in avain, I just knew it. So I said, "Yes, we're almost there. We're just driving my son to his babysitter first." She must have felt guilty, so she said, "Well, the earliest we can try is for noon."
Fast forward. We walk into the hospital and get greeted by sorry faces. I get informed that a labor patient had just walked in before us, and there was no room for us at all. I could have just fallen to pieces right there on the spot. But I decided to be persistant. I knew they wanted to send me home again, and I was more angry than ever at my body for not being like the woman who had taken our spot--for not doing what it was obviously trying so hard to do. I asked if they could call me as soon as a room opened up. I was NOT leaving town. They told me that they couldn't make any promises. We left, but we stayed in the hospital, feeling completely discouraged.
Around 1:00 pm, I called the nurse at the birth center again just to ask if I could be admitted into a room in order to assure that I would be seen at some point that day, and I received a huge surprise that we could go in at 2 to be admitted! Hooray!
Once admitted, we waited in our own birthing room for about one-and-a-half hours before the midwife came in to see us. During our wait, I had to be on the monitors for a while, which showed that I was contracting about every 10 minutes. They were extremely tight and uncomfortable, but not very painful. When the nurse checked me, I was surprised to learn that I was 5 cm dilated. I had a small jolt of self-satisfaction for all the hard work I'd put in the night before. But for my body to continue to sloooowly dilate and be at 5 cm, while NOT being in active labor, further convinced me that I just needed a nudge in the right direction.
At 3:47 pm, the midwife finally attempted to break my bag of waters using an amnihook. But absolutely NO fluid came out. It was the strangest thing, and I about lost my mind thinking it wasn't going to work. But what she told me she thought had happened was that his head had just come down right away and plugged up my cervix. Even walking around didn't bring about the smallest trickle of anything. She said she'd check back in an hour to see if I progressed any, and if I hadn't, she'd try again just in case it hadn't worked.
Well, almost immediately after she'd checked me and attempted to break my water, I had a contraction. About 5 minutes later, I had another one. I was extremely crampy, the same way I feel when they stripped my membranes, so I thought I was ust having contractions due to the irritation. At 4:30, it finally dawned on me that I'd been contracting rather frequently, and the crampiness wasn't going away. But things were still very mild, so I still wasn't sure the procedure had worked. I got put on the monitor for about 20 minutes, which showed that my contractions were a consistent 3 minutes apart. They weren't that uncomfortable, though.
My sister had arrived a short while before I was placed on the monitor, and we just laughed and talked while I continued to contract. By 5, I was starting to have to breathe through them, and my sister said encouragingly that I might not end up with pitocin after all. But I still wasn't convinced. After all, I still hadn't leaked a single drop of anything.
The nurse came in and took me off the monitor and said that the midwife would be up soon to check me. It was going on 5:30 pm, I think. I sat on the bed for a little while longer, noticing that my contractions were a bit more painful. They caught my breath. I started to believe my sister that maybe the procedure really had worked, and that his head was just blocking my cervix. So, to help things along, I decided to get up so that I could walk around the room in hopes of progressing my cervix before the midwife checked me.
And that's when all heck broke loose! As I slowly swung my legs over the bed and got to my feet, this extremely sharp, sudden jab went POP! up by the right side of my belly button. Instantaneously, this horrific, searing pain gripped my belly, so suddenly and so quickly that all I could do was grab onto Jimmy screaming out in pain. It scared me, Jimmy, and my sister (we were the only ones in the room) and lasted about a minute before slooowly receding. Breathing in hard hasps, I hurriedly sat back down, yelling, "What the hell was THAT?!" It didn't dawn on me that it could possibly be a contraction. I honestly thought I'd injured a ligament or something upon standing. Contractions didn't just hit like that after being so mild, and I hadn't noticed my stomach tightening (even though it probably had). So I sat there in bewilderment, terrified of moving in case I caused it again (it still didn't register to me as pregnancy-related). But less than two minutes later, that horrible, stabbing pain struck again, and all I could do was start yelling again, sobbing against Jimmy's shirt as I clung to the edge of the bed. I seriously thought something was ghastly injured, but at the same time I tried feeling under me to see if that crazy-strong popping sensation had been my water finally going. Not a drop. Completely staggered, another crippling pain hit a couple minutes later and I screamed for them to call in the nurse. She came in, took one look at me, and asked me if I wanted the tub. I was in so much pain that I ignored my fear of the tub causing things to stall and hurriedly said yes, to start the water. The nurse told me it took about five minutes to fill up, so I lay back on the bed, gripping the edges and crying out each time a pain hit. It finally dawned on me that these were contractions, and it blew my mind that they could come on so quickly and so strongly. I begged them to hurry up, and finally I was in the tub.
I don't know what I expected. Some kind of miraculous pain relief? I'd always read about how much water helped with pain management, but I might as well have been laying on concrete, 'cause it couldn't even touch my pain. I have honestly never felt so completely helpless and out-of-control. The pain was already well past the point where I'd gotten the epidural during my older son's pitocin-induced labor. One contraction after another wracked my body. It must have been around 6:30 pm now, and the midwife and nurse scurried about our room, but I barely remember who came in and out of the bathroom. Someone (I think the midwife) checked my cervix and I was 6 cm. I started screaming that I couldn't do this, couldn't do it!
But then the contraction would end, giving me about 45 seconds to a minute's break, and I would remind myself that I needed to take it one contraction at a time. Every single contraction, though, I didn't think I could do it. After about an hour trying to breathe through them, I cried and cried for the epidural. Then the contraction would end and I would try to find "my zone," trying desperately to find a way to get through the pain. For some reason, I suddenly remembered my prenatal workout DVD, and how the instructor mentioned that deep belly breathing would help through contractions during labor. Before that, I had just been making these god-awful bellowing, moaning animal wails because vocalizing my pain was the only thing I'd managed to even try to do. Everything had hit so fast and insanely hard that I just hadn't had time to mentally prepare myself.
Even though I was sounding better through contractions now that I was just whooshing deep breaths of air with each one, the pain just felt so incredibly unbearable. I began begging sincerely for the epidural. I told them NOT to ignore me, that I meant it. I WANTED THE EPIDURAL. I didn't want to hear anymore how great I was doing. So my favorite nurse, whose shift had just started, came in and waited between contractions to check me. I was 6-7 cm. She told me if I was serious about wanting the epidural, that it would take about an hour to even get. That seemed like the worst news ever, but it actually helped me gain some strength because I knew I couldn't just give in to the pain--I had to make it through the next hour.
It was a little after 7 that I gave up on the tub and made an agonizing return to bed. I needed to have IV fluids started if I were going to get the epidural. A small part of me still wanted to try without it, but when the next contraction would hit, I lost myself to the pain again and could only beg that she work as fast as possible.
While in the tub, I had tried other positions, and the only one that hurt a miniscule amount less was lying back in a half-sitting position. So returning to the bed actually started to feel more bearable, even though I'd always read that that was the worst position to labor in. But for me, it was the best. In the bed, I think I gained back some sense of control. For some reason, even though the pain was just as bad if not a little worse, my breathing technique was a tiny bit more successful. I didn't feel like I was spiraling out of control with every contraction. I let the IV get started, but that part of me that had still wanted to go all-natural began to resurface. I knew I had time before the epidural would get there, so I knew I could change my mind.
But in about 20 minutes, the contractions got a little worse. I couldn't stop shaking. These tremors were just wracking every part of my body, and it dawned on me that I was transitioning. I started listening to my sister, who kept telling me how amazing I was doing, and I let it sink in that I WAS doing well. I wasn't screaming anymore, and I was getting through them. Of course I still thought I wanted the epi every time I contracted, but then it would end and I'd start to believe that I could do it. So my nurse turned my IV off.
Nearing 8:00 pm, my nurse checked me again and I was 7-8 cm. Looking back, I know that I progressed somewhat quickly, but at the time that didn't seem like a huge difference, and I started begging earnestly for the epidural again. She started the IV just to appease me, and I asked if I really had to wait for the whole bag to empty. She left the room to get the midwife, and I learned afterwards that my midwife was going to take me by my word (I'd spoken to her earlier when she'd broken my water about what my wishes were), and she was going to refuse me the epidural once I reached 8 cm because I'd told her that I'd be far enough along at that point that I'd finish even if it did feel unbearable.
Not knowing this, I was managing to get through contractions by breathing again. I thought I was still between 7-8 cm dilated. And then it hit me that I was starving. Probably the craziest thing anyone's ever heard is me begging between contractions for a cheeseburger. I had no idea that I actually was transitioning. I didn't feel nauseated in the least. All I had was the shakes. So my nurse came in and gave me juice and crackers, and in the small space of relief between pain, I downed three juice cups and was given two packets of crackers. I still wanted a cheeseburger. LOL
It was a little past 8, and I was getting through contractions still by breathing deeply. I was handling myself so much better than I had at 6 cm, and everybody kept remarking on such. Feeling a little more confident in how things were progressing, I picked up my first packet of saltines, but my nurse suddenly exclaimed, "Oh! You can't eat if you're getting the epidural!" Talk about disappointment!
It was around that time that I suddenly started feeling this odd vibration in my pelvic region. It seriously felt like someone had their phone on vibrate beneath my butt. I start telling people that my vagina is vibrating. LOL! But it really was, and that's the only clue that I had that my baby must have been descending the birth canal, because my contractions hadn't really gotten worse (probably because they were as bad as they could get from 6 cm on).
At this point, my midwife comes in with another nurse and checks me. To everyone's surprise, she says with a smug smile (she really didn't want me getting the epi), "Guess what? You're 9 and three quarters. You've just got a tiny lip of cervix left."
I was so ecstatic and terrified at the same time! I knew I had done it now, and I was suddenly so grateful that the stupid IV bag took too long to empty. But I really couldn't believe it. How could I have been wanting a cheeseburger not 15 minutes before?? LOL
So my midwife said that I could start pushing if I wanted and that she would just hold the lip of cervix out of the way. I wish I would have just waited the five minutes or whatever that it would have taken to be complete, because forcing myself to push like that was HORRIBLE! But it didn't take long, and she said I was complete. Like magic, pushing suddenly DID feel better than not pushing, just like I'd always read. And even though the contractions still hurt, I barely felt them while bearing down. Not once did anyone try to tell me how long to push or when to not push, and that was sooo much better than how it was with my son since I hadn't been able to feel anything with his birth. This time, without any pain meds, my body just knew what to do. I felt him moving down, and to be honest it was the least painful part. I thought it would hurt so bad and I'd been dreading the pushing stage, but all it really felt like was an intense pressure in my bum.
I started to feel him crown, and I got that burning ring of fire that everyone mentions. It was incredible! The only thing I felt when feeling that burning was, Wow! He's almost here!! I focused all my energy on bringing him out, and two pushes later had his head out. His shoulders came next with a small rush of pain, and then it was over! Lucas was here!!
To be honest, I bonded faster than I had with Caleb because there was just so much more emotional/physical effort that made the relief and joy of having him placed onto my chest so much more intense for me. It was absolutely miraculous, and I am sooo, sooooo grateful that my body went too quickly for the epidural, and that I got the birth I'd wanted all along. I will cherish the memory of what childbirth feels like, and it really does help give me the finishing sense of peace that our family truly is complete with our two boys. :-)
I nursed Lucas right after my midwife stitched me up, and he's been doing great at it since!
Lucas Wayne's stats are:
Born at 8:32 pm on Nov 3, 2011
7 lbs 8 oz, 19.5 in long.