[read part one here!]
Once I was settled into my room, I was moderately starved because I hadn't eaten any lunch and the last meal I'd had was a bagel at 7AM. Because the nurses were gearing up for what they were assuming was going to be a long labor, they offered to give me lunch before they started moving things along. I scarfed down some turkey and potatoes until a nurse walked in, commenting in passing on how brave I was to go into labor with a full stomach.
Duly noted. I finished half the plate and decided to call it a day with the lunch situation.
At this point in the story, I seem to lose track of time—which is probably because that's just the way it is when you're in labor. It's such an altered state of mind you're in, and things seem to move either unnaturally fast or unnaturally slow (or a little bit of both) and it's just hard to realize how much time has actually gone by. However, I do remember the on-call OB coming in and saying that she wanted the nurses to start the pitocin around 4PM to hopefully encourage my body to start dilating. I also remember telling the nurse right away that if we were going to be going the pitocin route, that I'd definitely be going the epidural route. Please and thank you.
The nursing staff was quite chatty and sweet and completely wonderful. I love when I'm surrounded by people who obviously love what they do! In-between small talk and contractions, I answered the usual barrage of questions regarding my medical history and current pregnancy. Once again, I was sure to mention how my first labor had progressed so quickly once I was in active labor at the hospital. Nevertheless, the nurses still seemed to be anticipating a long evening, so they were in and out of the room and left Jay and I alone for a good portion of the time.
It must have been a little before 4PM that I was starting to really struggle through each contraction as they increased in intensity. One of my nurses took a good look at the chart and said, "Yeah, there's no way we're going to start you on pitocin. Clearly, you are moving right along on your own at this point!" They still hadn't checked me to see how much I was dilated since that morning and I started to get a little panicky as the pain increased at what seemed to be a rapid pace. Once the contractions were less than two minutes apart I was pretty much desperate for someone to check me in case I had reached the point where I couldn't even get an epidural. (Missing the "epidural window" was my main fear. I've heard too many stories of people who either requested the epidural too late or they simple progressed too quickly before the anesthesiologist got there.)
And here's the thing about labor: With Eisley, I ended up getting the epidural right before I hit 8 cm. Even though it's been four years, I remember the pain fairly well. This time around, I really thought that I would be able to power through and possibly (possibly) handle a med-free birth. But now I realize I am just not that person.
God bless you, if you are one of those people.
I know labor pain is different for every woman, and possibly for each individual birth, but I'm not sure I'll even attempt a med-free labor with any future pregnancies. Maybe if I went the birth center route and had a doula talking me through it the entire time—but even then, I'm just not sure I would want to do it…as much as I wanted to at one point.
The pain of my second labor was much, much worse than my first. I almost couldn't believe it, and wish there were words to describe it within a blog post—but I know that is absolutely impossible. For what must have been at least 30 minutes, I couldn't even open my eyes and had to lift myself off the bed with my hands during each contraction to try and tolerate the pain. (To be honest, if I didn't forcefully blow air of my mouth with each contraction, I had a feeling that I'd totally be that person screaming for an epidural.) I just remember thinking about how each contraction felt like fire. Fire, fire, fire. That's the best way to describe it, and now I'm hoping that I'm not terrifying any pregnant women who may be reading this.
(If you're pregnant and reading this, please don't freak out. You'll totally get through it and, as they say, when all is said and done you'll most likely be willing to subject yourself to the madness of labor at least one more time in your life. Also: squishy newborn. You will have one soon!)
Although we had everything set up for the epidural, the news came that there were two emergency c-sections that were keeping both anesthesiologists busy. The nurses offered to give me some morphine, which they said would help with the pain. I believe the nurse checked me around that point (finally!) and I was at 8 cm.—just two away from being ready to push. Which means at that point I probably would have taken a bullet to bite on like some old-timey soldier. So, clearly, I agreed to the morphine.
Unfortunately, the morphine didn't do a darn thing except make me boiling hot, so I kept asking the nurse to just tell me if I'd get the epidural in time. Just tell me, please! I'm sure I was considered a high-maintenance patient at that point, but the contractions were less than two minutes apart and I knew I had to somehow mentally prepare myself if I wouldn't get the epidural in time. If it wasn't going to happen, I needed to know.
At one point, one of the younger nurses tried to put a warm cloth on my forehead and I remember thinking, I am in the worst pain of my life and now my hair is going to be a halo of matted frizz. Even while in pain, I'm such a people pleaser (who cares too much about her hair) so I hoped she would somehow sense my concern and tendency toward natural curl, but alas. I figured if I swiped her hand away during a particularly intense contraction, she wouldn't think I was being a jerk.
So, I finally did, and felt much better about the hair situation, at least. (But I still feel like I should have apologized to the nurse, who was clearly only trying to help. Have I mentioned I'm a people pleaser?)
While I was closing my eyes and wondering how women in ancient times managed to get through labor in the desert heat or completely by themselves or in a barn surrounded by sheep, I noticed Jay had started fanning me with something. (As it turns out, it was one of those cheap toy fans that looked like something you could get at the dollar store. I still have no idea where it came from.) Up until this point, he was mostly keeping to himself in the room, sending updates to our families and such, and helping me when I needed him. I never expected Jay to be a birth coach or anything of that nature, so I was fine with him not being super involved with the labor process. But, mercy. When he started fanning me I couldn't have loved him more. I wanted to kiss him on the mouth but did not have time between contractions and couldn't really formulate coherent words at that point.
Finally, the anesthesiologist rushed in and apologized over and over for not getting there sooner. She looked like she was my age and was so sweet, and I tried to tell her not to be sorry (I honestly felt bad that she felt bad!). I'm sure I looked like a train wreck at that point and was just ridiculously grateful that she was actually there.
I was so far along at that point, and the contractions were so intense, that even after the epidural was in it took at least 10 minutes before I didn't have to breathe through them each time one hit. (During labor with Eisley, I had almost complete relief immediately after the epidural went in.) Still, it was a million times better than I had been before.
Epidurals are my jam.
And I think Jay was just happy to have a break from the incessant fanning.
I must have mentioned to one of the nurses earlier how quickly I had gone from 8 cm. to 10 cm. during my first labor (30 minutes, for the record) because after a short while a different nurse came to check me and announced I was ready. The first nurse exclaimed, "Ha! You were right! You just went from 8 cm. to 10 cm. in thirty minutes!" And thus began what from my view seemed to be a mad dash to find the on-call OB who was supposed to deliver the baby.
(Spoiler alert: she wasn't going to get there in time.)
At that point, Jay and I were so eager to meet this baby girl. I almost couldn't believe it was time to push! As the nurses busied themselves getting everything ready, my eyes went to the white board in the room where a few hours earlier one of the nurses had written in cheerful cursive, "Happy birthday, Cora!"
Yes, it was a good day to have a baby. I was ready.
August 20, 2015
[read part one here!]