Catching up? Read part one first.
This was it. We arrived as a couple and would leave as a family. Excitement rose in me as my nurse, Kate, led us from triage into our room.
I recalled our birthing center tour and how I stood in a room just like this one thinking the next time I’m here I’ll be having a baby.
The reality finally settled on Peter, and he was ready to support me through this.
He went out to the car to get our bags while Kate started setting up my IV. I texted and emailed a few people to tell them I was in labor before Kate hooked me up to an IV of fluids to combat my dehydration. I lay in bed in the dimly lit room and tried to remember to sip water from my standard side-kick, my beat up lime green water bottle, but had a hard time focusing on anything but answering Kate’s questions about what my preferences were regarding labor.
I told her I didn’t want to plan on getting an epidural or other pain meds, but I didn’t want to rule it out. She went over some pain relief techniques with me, and told me to save the tub for when it gets really tough because it’s the best secret weapon in the arsenal. She turned on the soothing music of the Care channel and told me to start breathing deeply through contractions now, even though they weren’t particularly painful yet, because it will make it easier later. On the monitor, I could watch each contraction build up, peak and then come down. At this point I told her my pain level was at 3 out of 10.
I hadn’t eaten since lunch, and was starting to get pretty hungry, but it looked doubtful that my doctor would allow me to eat at this point. I cursed myself for leaving the house without shoving something – anything – down my throat.
A little after 8:30 p.m., my doctor (Dr. E) stopped by, marveling at how unexpected my labor was. I had seen her two days prior for my 36 week checkup and had my Group B Strep test done (to determine if I carried an active bacteria that could harm the baby if it were to be transferred during delivery). The results wouldn’t come back from the lab until the next morning, so I needed penicillin in my IV just in case I had it.
Dr. E asked if I was hungry. Yes! “Jell-O?” she offered. Even Jell-O sounded good at that point.
Peter lingered over the room service menu, picking out dinner for him and items off the clear liquid menu for me.
Meanwhile, my contractions became stronger. I asked to get up and walk around, so Kate took the contraction and baby heartbeat monitors off me and introduced me to my “friend,” the IV bag on wheels.
All the pressure in my abdomen made me feel like I had to go to the bathroom – a much bigger ordeal than I anticipated. Contractions continued to strengthen and I felt completely overheated in my two gigantic hospital gowns. I attempted to give myself some air, but the IV kept me trapped in the gowns.
Finally, I emerged from the bathroom, feeling less comfortable than ever. Standing and moving around made the contractions more bearable. I asked for a birthing ball (a.k.a. an exercise ball) to sit on. Bouncing on the ball brought some more sweet relief (or maybe just distraction) so I decided to call my mom. After about 30 seconds of conversation, I had to hand the phone off to Peter as another contraction hit.
Now, I must say, contractions did not feel how I expected them to feel. They weren’t sharp pains as I anticipated. Instead they felt like cramps – dull and deep, and more a sensation of discomfort than straight up pain.
As I bounced, I continued to feel ridiculously hot. I begged Kate to unhook my IV so I could get rid of one of the gowns and change into a sports bra. She helped me change over and around the IV line and bag of fluids. We would pause when a contraction came, as I stared straight ahead and breathed and Peter massaged my shoulders and encouraged me.
Kate could tell my pain had increased significantly, so she had me get back in bed to be monitored again. At this point it was probably 9:45 p.m. Peter put the two newborn hats we had purchased – one pink and one blue – on the couch across from my bed so I could use them as a focal point while breathing. Instead, my eyes were drawn to an abstract spot on the painting hung above the couch.
The food finally arrived, a tuna sandwich for Peter and green Jell-O and pink lemonade for me. Food was the last thing on my mind, but at Peter’s urging I took a sip of the sickeningly sweet lemonade. Yuck.
I tried to get comfortable in bed, but the only comfort came immediately after a contraction, when the pain temporarily subsided and I remembered what it felt like to feel normal again. The contrast made those moments blissful, but they were fleeting as the contractions came one right after another. I twisted and squirmed in bed, but a comfortable position eluded me.
Anticipating the pain to come, I told Peter and Kate I wanted an epidural.
“Really?” Peter asked, knowing I had wanted to avoid it if I could. Really.
Kate checked my cervix to see if I was dilated enough for epidural time. Shocked, her voice took on a serious tone as she told us I was “a stretchy 7” centimeters. “Here’s what you can do,” she said. “You can either get into the tub right now, and by the time you get out it will be time to push, or you can have the epidural.”
Peter and Kate reminded me how much relief the bath would bring, and how close to the end I was. They told me the bath is probably all I need, but I just couldn’t fathom getting out of bed and into the wet tub at that point. I’ve never been a bath person, and it didn’t seem any more appealing at that point than it ever had in the past. I just wanted relief from the pain.
Kate also brought up the option of putting pain meds in my IV for instant, all-over relief. But I didn’t want to be drowsy when my child entered the world.
Without much hesitation, I apologized for being a wimp and told them I just wanted an epidural.
Kate ordered the epidural, but the nurse anesthetist was in the room next door administering an epidural. Once again, my options were laid out, and I agreed to a tiny bit of IV painkiller while we waited for the epidural.
While Kate ordered that up, I continued to writhe in bed. Peter had sneaked off to the corner of the room to try to eat his dinner, and were I not distracted by my intense contractions, I would have shot him a glare.
It was now almost 10:15 p.m. Still no epidural. Still no IV meds. Kate checked my cervix again.
I was nearly fully dilated.
TO BE CONTINUED… read part 3
[I wrote this entire post on my iPhone while nursing. Be impressed. The grand finale will come soon!]