It was almost a week past my due date. I was carrying a bowling ball around my waist that seemed like it would never stop expanding. My skin was stretched further then I ever imagined possible, then tested time and time again as my growing daughter did somersaults inside me to try and break through my belly- or so it felt AND looked by my distorted midsection.
The anticipation was building as butterflies joined the baby in my tummy. I was going to meet my daughter, who had shared my body with me for the last 9 months sometime in the next few days. I was scheduled to be induced in two days, finally, officially in the home stretch. As I slept uneasily that night, anxious for the next day to pass quickly, yet also apprehensive of the new adventure I was about to enter in life, I awoke at around 3 am having minor contractions I assumed were braxton hicks, though they still felt different somehow. I had been stressing over the thought of going into labor and not being able to recognize it until it was too close- wouldn't that have been nice! I tried my best to go back to sleep though, after timing these new contractions and not finding a regular pattern. One would come within 8 minutes of another, then the next would be 20 minutes later. But they continued to plague me throughout the next day.
Around 4 pm, I started finding a more regular pattern in them. Every 8 minutes my stomach would get rock hard, and painful- though nothing compared to what was coming. Despite knowing my own mother had been in labor for over 20 hours with all 4 of her children- me being the first and longest at 36 hours I believe- I was anxious to get to the hospital. To get to the Navy hospital where I was supposed to give birth you had to go through a tunnel in the downtown area of a major city. It was not unusual for this tunnel to be seriously backed up for hours beginning at around this time of evening, as everyone rushed home after work. I had images of giving birth in the car in the dark tunnel, surrounded by commuters, on a continuous loop running through my mind. I was terrified if things did happen quickly I would not make it all the way there, so I insisted that we immediately rush to the hospital for them to verify it as official labor and maybe admit me if they weren't too busy. Of course it was actual labor, finally, and as I feared, they were very busy, so at only 2cm- which I had been at for a month- I was sent home where I could be more comfortable. Though comfortable was the farthest thing from what I felt by then.
By bedtime the contractions had still not gotten any closer together, though the intensity in which they were coming seemed to be at its peak. I longed for the drugs I had earlier decided to attempt to go without, though my heart was never fully in it. I knew I would cave at the slightest suggestion of pain- and so I did! We headed back to the hospital, our 2nd trip. Jon kept trying to offer me his hand to squeeze as he drove and I sat doubled over- sort of, anyway, hard to be doubled over around a belly that big. I just snapped at him in between focusing on my breathing that if I wanted his hand I would've asked for it. I think that was the only time I actually got mad at him through the whole thing. Again though, we arrived at the hospital and Jon wheeled me up to the maternity ward. I hated more then anything sitting in the waiting room in excruciating pain with a room full of witnesses. I tried hard to hide what I was feeling, but it was difficult. We finally were put in a triage room to be checked on, only to find my cervix still having made no progress. Our 2nd trip was another bust. We were sent home with ambien to help me sleep, though in the process of getting it I found myself again waiting with an audience in the pharmacy, which for about 10 minutes went into a fire lock down. I was completely in panic mode as the ends of the pharmacy area sealed up, all the windows closed and we were stuck waiting for the situation to end. It only took 10 minutes, though that seemed like an eternity to me as my contractions inched towards 6 minutes in frequency, lasting for a good 30 seconds each time. Finally we were on our way back home with something to help me sleep.
Of course after taking the ambien and Tylenol with codeine (yes, doctor prescribed), I quickly realized that the doctor who had prescribed these must not have heard I was in labor. I felt only mildly sleepy and in no less pain then before. I think it would've taken a horse tranquilizer to get me to fall asleep with those contractions! We didn't even stay home a full hour before heading back for a 3rd trip, to the hospital I was beginning to resent. After another stint in the waiting room, my cervix was checked for the third time that night at around 11 pm. I had made it to 3 cm, and my contractions were coming fast and hard at 3 minutes apart. I thought for sure I will be admitted now! And again I was reminded how very busy they were and told to go home! I was livid, I was in the most pain I ever thought possible, contractions coming on top of each other and because I was only 3 cm I was going home?! How was I supposed to tell when I was dilating more from home? My contractions couldn't get very much closer together then they already were, how was I going to know when to come in?
For another few hours at home, my husband, feeling exhausted and helpless, ran around doing anything I barked at him as I attempted to find a comfortable spot on the couch- as if that were even possible! Around 2 am I had had enough and we went back in feeling very heavy hearted that again we would be turned away. At the hospital though, the same nurse who had checked me twice that night already, took pity on me. Since I was scheduled to be induced in another 6 hrs anyway, she finally admitted me. By 3 am I was in my hospital bed in labor and delivery with IVs in my hands, and some drugs running through them. I was told they would keep the edge off, and I hoped it to be true since I feared the thought of an epidural. I hate needles. From what I had been told an epidural requires a large needle very strategically placed into a precise point in your back as you hold still. I was in fear of not only the needle, but not being able to hold still for it and having something go wrong. Unfortunately the drugs that were to 'take the edge off' helped very little and I decided to get the epidural. I was more scared of the pain getting worse then anything else right then. And honestly as I prepared for it, I never saw the needle, and barely felt it all go in. It wasn't hard to sit still, rolled over my belly like that, in fact it was somewhat comfortable, and Jon stood in front of me to hold me steady just in case. Once in, I felt awesome! And I finally managed to get that few hours of sleep, nodding off to one of the movies we had packed- What Lies Beneath.
By the time I woke up it was nearing 8 am. Though I could see all the contractions on the monitor, I felt nothing. In fact I felt too much nothing! When the doctor had given me the epidural he had showed me how to push the button if I needed more, though I hadn't had to use it, he also said it should keep me numb from my waist down. But I was numb all the way up to my chest!! I could feel the weight of my arms as the, apparently too high, dose spread! I paged the nurse who came in and misunderstanding me, pushed the button to give me more before the doctor happened to be walking in to check on it. I told him how numb I was and he adjusted the level as I regained some feeling back in my chest. The nurse helped flip flop my legs and left behind him, without having checked anything 'down there'. I don't remember clearly when they popped my water sack, though I know they did, I think it was sometime after the epidural was in place, but that was around the last time they had checked my cervix as well.
An hour later I was feeling impatient. It had been hours since the last time someone had checked my cervix to see how things were moving. I didn't want to spend any longer laying there bored and waiting. I called the nurse in, it was almost 9 am. She checked on the monitors and all the routine stuff and was about to walk out when I asked if she would check my cervix. "I suppose we could do that," she answered so casually, like it wasn't a huge deal!! Sure enough she reached down to find I was a full 10 cm and the baby's head was right there, crowning and ready for me to push!! The nurse called the midwife in and while we waited she had me begin pushing. Jon was on one side holding my leg and the nurse was on the other. My first push, I actually kicked her pretty hard accidentally in my efforts to push as hard as possible- though subconsciously maybe it was my little revenge at her casual attitude about everything!
Not even a full hour later, among many more pushes my daughter's head was almost all the way through with a head full of hair. I remember being asked at that point if I wanted them to put up a mirror so I could watch and I nearly shouted "NO!!" at the same moment the midwife asked if I wanted to feel the baby's head. I didn't answer, I am sure the look on my face gave away that it would be the same response as before. But my husband, who was now weeping with joy, let out an "I do" in the happiest but saddest voice I ever thought I would hear from him. I, however, at the moment, wanted to finish getting the baby out, not sit around staring in mirrors or touching the baby's head! I wanted to stop pushing and be able to rest!! I even shot Jon a dirty look as he reached down to touch the baby, thinking, seriously, can we move on now??
Minutes later my little Natalie was born at 9:56 am. She was a whopping 9 lbs .3 ozs and 21 1/4 inches long. Though I loved her dearly I was exhausted and after holding her for mere seconds I passed her to her daddy. I had always been told its okay if you don't have one of those instant falling head over heels in love with your baby right away experiences, but I had expected it. I was a sensitive, caring person, very emotional, and I was shocked I felt no real bond from that very first meeting as I had hoped. I loved her, but it seems she was destined to be a daddy's girl right from the beginning.
Before Natalie was even out, the epidural had been shut off and was fading too fast. I had a 2nd degree tear and I could feel them stitching me up. When I cried out in pain, no longer able to contain it, they offered me the option of local anaesthetic to help ease the pain- just great another needle being stuck in the very spot my body had endured the worst already! Unfortunately it had little effect and I suffered through the rest of the stitches as Jon feel deeper in love with his first little girl.
Don't forget to check out Zachary's Birth Story later this week as well as How We Came to Formula Feed Our Babies, and My 10 Tips for New Moms.
*Note to pregnant mommies planning on an epidural- DON'T let them shut if off until they are all done fixing you up! After my 2nd I was up front and adamant about that from the start and I didn't feel any of the stitches that time despite an overall weaker epidural!!*