As my doula had warned me, the hospital I was to deliver in was more or less split into two halves. There was an "old" half and a "new" half. The old half was the original part of the labor and deliver ward. The nurses there tended to be more old school and more accustomed to patients who came in demanding an epidural. They were more interventive and didn't really give much credence to "natural childbirth". The new half was where they expanded the maternity ward. The nurses there tended to be more ready to work with patients, like me, who came prepped with doulas and birth plans and goals of drug-free deliveries. Unfortunately for me, I wound up in the old half. With a nurse who reminded me of a grouchy substitute teacher. But I had a doula. I had a plan. And I can be pretty freakin' stubborn. So I didn't worry much. I probably would have worried more if I had heard her say when she said to Mr. Dog, "This baby is going to be born before the end of my shift." Luckily I didn't.
Once the pitocin was started, my very regular contractions went wild. Instead of every 5 minutes, they were coming at odd intervals, sometimes a minute, sometimes 3, never more than 5 but usually much less. And they were irregular lengths. One would be 30 seconds, the next over a minute. At one point they more or less started to blur together, each contraction just mildly backing off before the new wave of pain washed over me. Mr. Dog was right there, functioning with no sleep from the prior night, he was amazing. He coached me through each contraction, he rubbed my back, he stroked my hair. He did all of the things a good husband does when his wife is in pain. And Nurse Ratchet kept the pitocin coming.
At one point, Nurse Rached offered to take me to the shower to see if it would help ease the pain a bit. I agreed, but was halted as a new contraction took hold. As I stood there, holding my IV pole trying to breathe through the pain, she snapped at me, "I have other patients. If you want to take a shower, you need to do it now." Again her inner bitch was peeking out. It reared its head again later when she nearly came to blows with my doula over who would get me some juice. Seriously. It was that inane.
Hours later, after more than 13 hours of the unrelenting contractions, which I later learned were actually considered back labor, my OB came in to check me. I was 1.5 cm and 70% effaced. Yep. After all this time I was still where I was when I started out the night before. I was exhausted. I was frustrated and yet, I was stubborn.
"Do you want something for the pain?" she asked.
"No, I don't want any medication."
"Are you sure, this baby is not likely to come anytime this afternoon," she said, in a thoroughly non-pushy way.
"I don't want an epidural. What are the other options?" asked the girl who didn't bother to read up on pain control medications because I was going for a natural birth.
"Well, you can have fentynal."
"Ok, I'll take that," I said, but maybe a little too quickly.
"It will take the edge off, but it doesn't last long."
"Fine," I said as the next contraction began to grow.
"And I can only give it to you three times during your entire labor."
"Oh," I said as the pain intensified.
I lasted another hour unmedicated. When she asked again, I caved. "I want an epidural."
So they called the anesthesiologist. An on call anesthesiologist arrived about a half hour later. Turns out by the time I decided I'd had enough, I was at the end of a list of laboring moms in a similar state of mind. The hospital was full to capacity with pregnant women. When she arrived she talked me through the procedure, but I have to admit I don't remember much of it. I was riding a series of contractions that never fully ended, just ebbed a bit before the next big peak of pain. They prepped me, positioned me and she inserted the needle into my back just as a new surge of pain took over. Within a few minutes, it brought an end to my labor pain. And to my ability to feel my feet. Or move anything below my boobs. While I wasn't in pain anymore, I felt strange, and helpless. And that made me kind of scared. But before I knew it, I was asleep. When I woke up an hour later I was at 6 cm. Nurse Ratched's shift ended and I sighed a sigh of relief. I lolled around a bit, then dozed off again. When I awoke, I was at 10 cm ready to push. Finally.
Since I was completely numb and unable to move on my own, Mr. Dog, my doula and the nurse moved me into position. Once we were good to go, I began pushing. The first few were hard. Being so numb got in the way of feeling what I was doing. I wasn't sure if I was pushing the way I needed to and didn't know when the urge was there or not. Then I got the hang of it. Within the first half hour I was getting all kinds of encouragement. "That's great!" "We can see the head!" "You're almost there!" "Just a couple more like that and you'll meet your baby!" But it didn't seem to go anywhere. I pushed, they cheered, I pushed, they cheered. And since I was positioned where I could see a clock, I watched the time slip by. One hour. Two hours. Two and a half hours. Then the pain set in. I'd run out of medication in my epidural. And if you don't know anything about epidurals, once you get one, your own body quits producing endorphins to help you through the pain. If it runs out, the pain just comes crashing back down on top of you. And when you aren't exactly logical due to pain, you just might try to refuse more medication. I still don't really understand why I tried that. But I did. I think it was because the feeling of being so numb scared me. It was like being paralyzed, completely unable to feel my own limbs. Once they calmed me down, and recharged the epidural, I took a break from pushing. Not long, just enough to try to prepare mentally for the challenge and give myself a little rest. Soon I was back in the pushing groove. I pushed, they cheered, I pushed and once again nothing seemed to happen. Until it did. And then he was born. My son. My Big Dog. And he was perfect.
Ok, maybe his head was a bit pointy from the experience. And maybe I thought it looked like he didn't have a chin, but I was overwhelmed. I'd really wanted a boy, and yet I was convinced I was having a girl. Either would have been welcome, but when they handed me my son it felt like the most amazing gift.
The discovered when he emerged that he was face up, which is likely what made my labor so long and his delivery so difficult. And on his way out, his head had been pushed against my pelvic bones so he could not exit easily. In fact, he was born with a sore on his head where I'd been pushing his skull against bone for the last 3 1/2 hours.
And that's that how it happened. But don't think I'll ever forget about the 25 hours of labor I endured to receive the gift of a lifetime.