[To read part one, click here!]
Arriving at the hospital reaffirmed the fact that having a baby is so not like it is in the movies. Once we arrived at Labor & Delivery, I checked in and took a seat in the "waiting room". It was the weirdest thing. Nobody brought me a wheelchair to wheel me to my room, nobody asked how long I'd been in labor thus far, nobody did much of anything, really.
Jay and I sat there for a little less than ten minutes. I closed my eyes during each contraction, because it felt awkward having the seven other people in the room witnessing the whole situation. "Oh, hi. I'm just sitting here in the throes of labor. Nothing to see. Move along."
They finally called me back, and I walked to triage with Jay, taking a couple breaks as contractions came and went. This was my first interaction with any of the nurses there, and it was a great indication of what was to come. Basically, she was the sweetest thing ever. (I kept wanting to hug her, but felt that may freak her out a little bit.) She checked my vitals and then came the moment of truth: Had I progressed enough to stay at the hospital, or were they going to send me home (or, more realistically, to the Taco Bell drive thru)?
I was at 4 centimeters. I wasn't going home. This was actually happening. And it was time to be wheeled (finally, my movie moment, albeit not very dramatic!) to my room.
It was around 8PM when I arrived at my room. It was a large, private room and seemed cozy enough. I kept wondering how long I would be there. What is going to happen exactly? Will I be here until tomorrow afternoon? What are the nurses going to be like? Is my doctor on call, or is it going to be someone I didn't know? Do they actually give you ice chips to suck on? If so, BRING ON THE ICE CHIPS!
Little did I know, my time in that room would be far shorter than anyone could have anticipated. Eisley was going to make her appearance in less than four hours.
As labor progressed, I kept my cool. I had a new nurse—equally as sweet as the first one I'd met—even though she felt the need to ask me a bunch of questions when I was in the midst of contractions. (At that point, how important is it to know whether or not there is a history of gallstones in my family? Honestly.) She was incredibly encouraging, though, and kept reminding me that I was doing just great, and to breathe through the contractions. I hadn't taken any birth classes and was kind of winging it, so her calm demeanor and direction really helped.
Not long after that, I received some news I wasn't expecting.
"It seems your blood pressure is very, very high. Unfortunately, if you were planning on a completely natural birth, it's just not going to happen."
I asked a huge torrent of questions and expressed my shock, considering I'd never in my life dealt with high blood pressure. And then I cried. Halfway from disappointment, halfway from the realization that my birth experience was so out of my hands. I kept apologizing for the tears, but the nurse was very kind and didn't make me feel bad. We talked back and forth about what I had hoped for, and I explained to her that, ideally, I had wanted to make it through the birth without medication. She recanted her original statement a bit, and explained that I could definitely try for a natural birth, but my options for dealing with the pain of contractions were extremely limited. And by "extremely limited", she meant "you'll have to remain on your back in bed while periodically being told to turn from side to side to hopefully help improve your blood pressure".
My head was spinning. Being confined to the bed wasn't even on my list of "what ifs" to prepare for. The nurse left for a minute, and after Jay helped calm me a bit I realized that this was just something I had to deal with. There was no changing it, and I was still getting a baby at the end of it all. Her healthy delivery was the main goal.
As far as progression, my labor moved pretty fast. A couple hours in, I had gone from four to seven centimeters. The contractions were becoming seriously intense. Intense to the point where I kept starting them off with, "ARRRRGGHHHHHUUUGHGHHH!" and the nurse kept coming over to say, "Just blow through them, sweetie." Jay also helped keep me calm, stroking my back and saying encouraging words.
I remember trying not to focus on how frustrated I was about being stuck in bed. I had one opportunity to get up to go to the bathroom, and I then realized how much more tolerable the contractions were when I was standing up. Much, much more tolerable. Alas, I was guided back to the bed, at which point they strapped an oxygen mask on me completely out of the blue. It made me feel incredibly claustrophobic. That, combined with the intense contractions (now barreling at me every two minutes), led me to ask the nurse just how long it would take for the anesthesiologist to arrive if I decided on the epidural.
Which I did, about ten minutes and five contractions later.
Even though I'd really wanted a natural birth, at that point I really didn't feel bad about my decision to get the epidural. I kept thinking about how proud I was of making it to seven centimeters without any pain medication, especially since I was confined to the bed. Also, at that point, I was starting to really lose control of myself as each contraction hit me with more and more force. They were happening so quickly that my body had no time to recover from the pain in-between. And I didn't feel like I was able to work through them at all as I lay there like a giant baked potato.
Of course, once I decided on the epidural, I was terrified. I kept trying to remind myself that I was going to be just fine, and may even get to have a nap—which sounded quite delightful, even though I hadn't been in active labor that long. After all, it was close to 11PM at that point. And I like sleep. Don't judge me.
The anesthesiologist arrived and I immediately turned into a blubbering child. It didn't help that Jay wasn't allowed in the room while they administered the epidural. I remember telling the nurse, "I'M SCARED." And she was all, "It's okay. Just breathe." And I was all, "NO, REALLY. I'M SCARED. I CAN'T DO THIS." And yet she somehow was able to keep me calm enough to sit completely still through several contractions while the anesthesiologist worked her magic.
For the record, it's ALMOST PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to sit still during a contraction at that point. They kind of take over your body. And it's terrifying to have a nurse look you in the eye as you're hunched over in all your deranged, pregnant glory, and say, "You can't move. This is very important. Stay completely still." I kept thinking back to all the possible epidural side effects that flashed across the screen during all the documentaries I'd watched while pregnant. I'm going to be paralyzed! My baby is going to die! I'm going to die! I'VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE!
And then, before I knew it, the procedure was done. I literally felt no more than a tiny pinch and a slight "zing" down one of my legs. I felt a bit of one contraction after that point, then nothing else. I was in awe. I was also confused about the fact that I could still move my legs. The nurse gave me a weird look when I was all, "I can move my legs. Is this normal?" (For the record, apparently it is.)
After I was settled into a pain-free world of delight and happiness, the nurse checked my progression. Sure enough, as the nurse had predicted earlier to Jay (without my knowledge, apparently—or maybe I just hadn't been listening because I was in all the pain in the world), I was at a ten.
"Yes, you're at a ten. Let's get ready to push!"
"What? How? Why? ALREADY?"
According to the nurse, getting the epidural had helped my body relax enough to finish progressing at warp speed (yes, I'm fairly sure that's the medical term). I went from a seven to a ten in a matter of minutes! It was a little ridiculous, as well as the complete opposite of what I'd heard about how an epidural could influence labor. (So many people are warned against them because they can slow progression. Then again, that could be more for people who get them early on. I'm not exactly sure.)
My heart was racing and I was so excited that it felt a little bit like Christmas, except with less clothing and a lot more fluorescent lighting. Jay and I looked at each other like, "Well, this is happening a bit quicker than we'd planned." And then they got me set up to start pushing. Which was completely and utterly surreal.
[To read part three, click here!]