Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ada Mae's Birth Story, Part I: Early Labor through Transition

I am still in a bit of shock over how fast Ada Mae entered the world. My entire pregnancy, I imagined that I'd wake up in the middle of the night with some mild pain. It would progress all day until we'd need to go to the hospital. And from there, it would take many, many long hours. It's how it went for my mom -- all 27 hours of it. Surely, I'd experience something similar.

Though I've had a feeling she might be early for a while now, when I woke up at 4:30 AM Wednesday with what I thought were intestinal cramps -- I had no idea I was in labor. I had just started my maternity leave last Friday. With only two days off, I had felt sort of sick. Tired. I had a to-do list a mile long. There was no way it would start yet. Right? I went back to bed suspecting nothing, really, and then woke up with our alarm at 5:45.

By then, the cramping was a bit worse. Not much, but enough to make me hop in the shower. It was at that point when I noticed that the pains were coming in a pattern. Not terribly close together (maybe 6 minutes), and since I was so used to getting Braxton Hicks at that interval (or closer), I decided to take note. However, even though I thought IT might be starting, I was sure IT would be a while before things really ramped up.

Since Stephen's a teacher, he leaves for work around 6:45 each morning. It's hard for him to quickly decide not to go into work because he has to arrange for a substitute. By this time, the pains were a bit closer together and more intense. I bent myself over the birth ball in our living room because my back hurt. I told him to go in, it just wasn't easy making the decision. We debated if he should stay, and I ultimately decided that if this really was labor, we had a while.

The plan: I'd call him if things got worse.

He left at 7:15 . . . and, yup, almost immediately things got worse. I had lost my plug (TMI? I feel like I don't know the meaning of that anymore!) a week or so before, but now I was noticing some blood, a more distinct sign. I waited 20 minutes and thought first about calling my mom so I wouldn't be alone. But something told me to go ahead and call Stephen. I told him to please come home ASAP, but he had to write up substitute plans, so I knew it would be at least half an hour or more. I then called my midwife and told her what was going on. She asked if I was comfortable and told me to try to labor at home as long as possible, since first-time moms usually take quite a while to work through early labor.

Again, things got worse. My contractions were 4 minutes apart and painful. At least I think, I was "tracking them" by writing down when each started. I had tried a contraction counter, but kept forgetting to use it -- paper and pen worked just fine. I knew they were close together, but the pain wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be when it was the real thing. The frequency didn't phase me. I hopped in the shower again, but felt like the warm water was intensifying everything. I dried off and returned to the birth ball since a lot of the pain was still concentrated in my back. The contractions were more like 3 minutes apart and lasting longer. I called Stephen as he was driving home and could barely talk to him. He pulled into the driveway around 8:45 or 9. I can't remember exactly.

We decided to call my midwife again because I wanted to go to the hospital. From when I first felt like it was labor, it had only been three hours. I felt ridiculous. Still, something told me to go in. I was so worried we'd get there and I'd only be a centimeter, maybe two, dilated. Or not at all. I remember telling Stephen that "if we get there and they send us home, I don't know WHAT I'll do" because the pain really was getting worse. We threw together my half-packed hospital bag and grabbed a few other things on the way out the door. Stephen said something about not having made a birthing playlist. To be entirely honest, I think I said something like "F*** it . . . we just need to GET there . . . like NOW."

I had joked a week or so ago that if we timed things just right, I might not experience a dreaded contraction on the way to the hospital. Hell, it only takes us 4 minutes -- tops -- to get there. I definitely had three strong contractions en route. We parked at the Emergency Room (it's just where women in labor are admitted at our hospital) and they started to assess my condition. They did a quick blood pressure/pulse reading. Took my temp. And told me to wait for the Labor and Delivery nurse. (I did so by bending over a chair and whimpering because I knew I'd have to sit down to get up to the unit.) Then they brought the wheel chair. Oh, god. The wheel chair. And we were on our way.

When we got to our room, I experienced one of my least favorite parts of the labor experience: Laying in bed being monitored. They have to do it when you first get in to assess what's going on. My midwife got there so quickly. It was nice to see her despite the pain I was feeling. My nurse, on the other hand, quickly rubbed me the wrong way. She was very tough love in contrast to my midwife. But I'll get into that more later. I was hooked up to the monitor while she checked my progress. Her jaw nearly dropped. I was 4-5 centimeters dilated and 90% effaced.

It was official: I was in active labor and staying at the hospital.

The nurse told me that my contractions were up to 2 minutes long and only 1 to 2 minutes apart. At least that's what I remember her saying. It sounds like so many and so much . . . but I was already starting to enter my own world. The next couple hours are sort of a blur. I was hooked up to the monitor a total of 20 minutes. During that time, someone came to take my blood and hook me up to an IV. Wait a minute, I said to her, I was told I didn't HAVE to have an IV. She argued with me and said it was standard, but I knew in our birth class that I had specifically asked that question and told her to wait until my nurse had returned. At which point, the nurse told her that I indeed did NOT need an IV. Thank god.

I signed some papers.
I signed some more papers.
There was SO MUCH paperwork!
My signature was unrecognizable and I really had no idea what I was signing.
Someone came in to ask for my lunch order. I didn't respond to her. Stephen had to.
Oh, and I had to sign one more paper they had forgotten. JEEZ!

Everything had been so crazy, I hadn't noticed the room I was in. One of the reasons we chose our particular hospital was because you labor, deliver, and recover in the same room. Most of the rooms had newly renovated bathrooms with nice jet-tubs. My room? It was NOT one of these renovated rooms. I had arrived an hour or so before their 11AM discharge time, and none of those rooms were available. At first, I was irked. At the same time, I was in so much pain, I didn't care terribly much. They'd try to transfer me later. But once I was taken off the monitors and given a birth ball -- I quickly forgot that I even cared about that. I stripped, took the birth ball into the bathroom and turned on the shower -- aiming it at my lower back.

I was flooding the bathroom with my shower, but didn't care. I was completely naked (TMI again?), but didn't care. I kept saying to Stephen: "Where's the BREAK everyone talks about between contractions?! There's no rest! I . . . get . . . no . . . rest!" I had packed all these comfort items from home weeks ago -- fake candles (since you can't use real ones at the hospital), a buckwheat heating pad, aromatherapy oils, etc. -- and I didn't even open that bag until we got home again. To put everything back! I didn't know it at the time, but my labor was progressing very quickly.

In the interest of shortening this post a bit, here's what happened next: I labored this way for about two hours. Rocking back and forth on the ball, flooding the bathroom with hot shower water . . . ignoring everything outside of myself. The pain was BAD. It hurt in my back. It hurt in the front. It hurt on the sides. It was agony when I signaled to Stephen that I wasn't going to be able to go on. "TOWER OF LONDON, Stephen. TOWER OF L.O.N.D.O.N." We had watched the entire Tutors series during my pregnancy. And if you have seen it, too, you might understand why we chose TOWER OF LONDON as our code phrase. I felt like I was being tortured without rest. I wanted an epidural. NOW.

He got the nurse, who had to get my midwife so we could discuss. Before we could do anything, I had to be monitored again. It was the worst thought ever. While they hooked me up, I kept telling them there was so much pressure. Pressure. Intense pressure! I wanted to be on my hands and knees. I begged them not to lay me on my back. But they had to. My midwife checked and -- again -- looked a bit in shock.

"Ashley, you're at a 9/10. Fully dilated and effaced. You're almost there!"

I took a moment for this all to set in. I had been at the hospital for around 2 and a half hours. After laboring at home for only 4 hours. I was fully dilated and ready to push. I felt it, too. There would be no epidural. There would be no drugs. I was terrified and completely overwhelmed in that moment, but also excited. I was going to push our baby out. I had stayed fit in my pregnancy. I totally HAD this. I could finally DO something to move forward!

My midwife told me that most first-time moms push for around an hour. I felt confident it would all be over soon. I felt strong. I totally didn't know what was in store. But that's another l.o.n.g. story for another day.

And I can't leave you without a cute photo. I mean, you've earned it if you've read this far down the page!

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