Well, it's just over a month out now, and I still haven't posted anything here as a birth story. I think I'll do that now.
The last few weeks of my pregnancy were the worst part of being pregnant. Though I don't recall it quite as clearly as when I was there, I remember texting my mom almost daily to complain about pain. I had sciatic pain and my right leg would often be the recipient of the shooting pains while I was sitting down.
I was also uncomfortable in general. Sitting, standing and sleeping took a special effort and walking had dissolved into a light shamble. Ok, fine, it was a heavy shamble.
However, as September rounded the corner and me with a due date of 9/24/12, I knew I had to be patient in waiting for my little baby.
At Smiley's workplace, his coworkers were telling him to expect me to go late; as a general rule, first time moms tend to give birth at 41w1d or something along those lines. Don't quote me. But the important part is, they go late. I think we both started mentally psyching ourselves up for that.
At my workplace, my coworkers were convinced that I would go early. Coworkers I hadn't known well would stop and ask if I were alright as I tried gamely to shamble from desk to bathroom and back again several times a day. I assured everyone they would be seeing me until September 24th or longer, if needed. They laughed.
On Wednesday, September 5th, I went to what would be my last prenatal appointment. Of course, at the time, I had no clue. I complained about the pain I was feeling. My doctor did my measurements, and told me at my next weekly appointment, we'd do my first cervical check.
On September 7th, minutes after midnight, I woke up to what I thought was my water breaking. I was highly incredulous, due to the fact that my due date was still weeks away and also because this was how births started on TV or in movies - this wasn't how my birth was supposed to start in my boring real life. I was supposed to feel a few contractions one day and wonder if it was the real thing. And then I was supposed to feel them start to slowly, over the course of several hours, start to become more painful and more consistent.
But that wasn't how it was supposed to be for me. Right from the beginning, Silas was ready to go. I wasn't, at first. I got up and went to the bathroom to assess the situation. If my water had broken, I would have to go get checked out at the hospital within 24 hours. If my water hadn't broken, then I had lost control of my bladder in a spectacular way. I really, really doubted it was the second option.
I grabbed some towels and put them on my side of the bed, deciding I would try to rest for a bit. I didn't feel any contractions, and there was no reason yet to wake up Smiley. I closed my eyes for a few minutes, but felt another gush of water and knew that this had to be my water breaking. I tried to reassess the situation. I still didn't feel any contractions.
Of course I started to wonder. What if I didn't get any contractions? What if I had to be induced? What if I woke up Smiley and we went to labor and delivery and they sent us home? What if it really wasn't my water breaking?
Thankfully, before I could start to worry (too) much, I felt a pain that might have been a contraction at about 12:30am. It hurt - not horribly - and seemed to have a definite start and end. It was sort of like a menstrual cramp. I thought about trying to download a contraction timer on my phone but decided to go on my computer for a bit.
Once I got a new towel on my computer chair, I opened up a contraction timer and started clicking start and end. I was shocked to see the contractions were apparently two minutes apart and lasting for 45 seconds. They still didn't hurt too badly, and I weighed my options. It was my plan to labor at home for as long as I could, but I didn't factor in my water breaking to that scenario.
After laboring at my computer for about an hour, I decided to take a shower. So, back into the bedroom I went, and I took a longish, warm shower. The heat and water were good. But the contractions did not stop and were starting to feel stronger, so I decided it was time to wake up Smiley. It was about 2:30 when I touched his shoulder and said, "I think we might be getting to use our carseat today."
Smiley got up as I explained that I had been having contractions every two minutes for the past few hours. I told him everything I knew said to go to the hospital when you had contractions 5 minutes apart for 1 hour, and that this was definitely past that. And that I was pretty sure that my water had broke. And that we had to go to the hospital.
Oh, and also, could we stop by a gas station to get a cold Gatorade? I was thirsty.
I didn't have a hospital bag packed. As I sat in the bathroom, laboring on the toilet, Smiley grabbed some of my comfortable dresses and packed a bag for me. Once he was done, we got into the car and headed up to the hospital.
In the car, the contractions were somewhat worse. I shifted in my seat and kept my eyes closed nearly the whole time. It was about 3 am and I was thankful my baby waited until the streets were clear before demanding to be out.
By the time we got to the hospital, I could still walk, but the contractions were making me stop to deal with them. I leaned against the outside brick wall and switched my weight from one leg to the other, moving them back and forth. I tried to relax.
Once we were at the labor and delivery check-in, I filled out paperwork with Smiley's help. I was mildly tired and shaking a little bit from pain. I'm pretty sure that the papers I signed contained the worse signature I've ever signed in my life. It might just be a line. I was directed to triage.
Triage did not last long for me. The nurse gave me my gown, had me change, and hooked me up to the monitors. I remember her grabbing a swab, explaining that she was going to check to make sure my water was broken. It instantly changed color, indicating that it had.
I remember the matter-of-fact way that she said she was going to check, as though she expected it to be broken, and I remember feeling proud that she didn't think I was lying. I honestly had been somewhat unsure, and I had heard all sorts of stories about women going in and being told they were peeing themselves!
Then she said she would check my progress. I had not had a cervical check until this point and I was shocked when she said I was dilated around 4cm. This was it. I had a broken water, timeable contractions and dilation. The nurse asked me how I wanted to deal with the pain, and I told her I was planning on going without medicine, as I held the arm of the bed in a death grip during a contraction.
She walked my husband and me down to our labor and delivery room. I had to stop a few times for contractions, which were still coming every two minutes. Once in the room, they had to finish admitting me. I walked around the room, looking for a suitable surface to lean against during contractions. Nothing was a great height, but the sink area was pretty good. I hung out there until the nurse came back in to do my hep-lock.
Now, at the time, I was otherwise distracted, but for a good two weeks after giving birth, my entire right forearm was basically a bruise. I say this so I remember for next time to ask them to be a touch more gentle.
The nurse wanted to do the hep-lock on my arm instead of my hand, which I was agreeable to. However, she didn't think she had gotten the vein at first, and was pressing my arm and asking if it hurt. It might have, a little, but certainly not in comparison to the contractions, so she did not try to re-place it. The other nurse checked it out and pressed on my arm a bit too. Again, not as painful as contractions, but boy did I have a bruise afterwards.
Anyhow, once they had gotten that taken care of, things got a bit harder for me. I did my best to stay calm and tried to remember to take a sip of water after every contraction. My nurse offered to fill the tub and I was very agreeable to this suggestion. I'm not sure what time it was, exactly. Maybe 4:30am or 5. She filled the tub and I got in and it was lovely.
I'm normally not a fan of tubs.
In the tub, I placed a washcloth over my stomach, and the bit of pressure from that helped me feel better. During contractions, I would move up and down in the water from my hands and knees. Also, I might have vocalized some. I tried to keep it low in tone and calm, but I know at some points I was screaming from pain.
I remember telling Smiley as he sat there next to the tub, holding my hand, "It doesn't hurt when I'm not having a contraction, but when I have a contraction, it's bad." I'm not sure what inspired me to share that bit of wisdom. I guess I figured it would hurt in between contractions. But it didn't, not yet.
The tub was great. I stayed in there for awhile, but the contractions were getting worse again and the water was getting cold. I had already added hot water a couple of times, but my body temperature was dropping and I knew it was best for me to try to warm up. So I got out of the tub and got into a new gown as the nurse came in to check on me.
She offered to bring in a birthing ball and I said that sounded good. I remembered how much time I had spent on our exercise ball at home and how it had helped with my aches and pains. First she did another cervical check, and said I was still around 4 cm. I tried not to think about that and did my best to keep breathing through contractions.
The birthing ball was brought into the room, but it was not going to work. I don't know if the baby had worked his way down too far or what, but the moment I sat on that ball, I felt like I was going to die from pain. Right about then is when the back labor started. I thought I had felt pain before, but I was so, so wrong.
Now during contractions, my back, hips and spine felt like they were exploding. I thought for sure during each contraction that I could look down and that I would see blood and bits of bone fragments splinting through my skin. The nurse showed Smiley how to put pressure on my back and as each contraction began, I would tearfully shout "back, please" and he would do his best to help. It got me through the next set of contractions. At this point, I was in the bed, but the back was up all the way. I was leaning against that, on my knees, with my butt hanging out for all the world to see.
I made a joke about how all of my stretch marks were on my butt, but I guess I wasn't very funny because the nurse offered to get another gown to put on backwards. I assured her that at this point, it didn't really bother me for people to see.
Everything I had read about giving birth without pain medicine had talked about how transitional labor was the worse part (dilating from 7cm-10cm) and I was in a hell of a lot of pain. Most of my contractions involved screaming and/or pleading. The nurse offered to check me again to see if I was in transition and I agreed. However, to be checked, I had to be lying down. That was when the tears started. At least on my knees, I could work through the contraction. On my back, I could just cry.
Thankfully, she said I was at about 7cm. She was so nice and kept reassuring me that I was in transition and I could do this and that I wasn't going to die.
I certainly felt otherwise. I thought I was going to explode and I thought I was going to die and I thought I couldn't do it. But a small voice in my head told me that if I started pushing, I might feel better. The voice reminded me that many women had said that transition was the worst part of a natural birth. So I kept at it, because I wasn't going to die and things were going to get better.
After some time (I really don't remember times now), I asked if I could start trying to push. The nurse checked me - 9.5cm - and said that it was ok to try. At this point, I was really started to be tired. Somewhere along the line, I forgot to keep drinking water as often as I should have without an IV. I need to remember for next time to drink more water. Maybe it will help.
I sat in the bed and started trying to push.
It wasn't feeling better.
I listened to my nurse, as she instructed me to push into the pain and that it would help me feel better. I tried to push like that, but it hurt.
I was scared. Pushing wasn't turning out to be the relief I was planning on. But I kept trying, because I might have been doing it wrong. Maybe I had to do it in a different way. I asked how I would know if I were making progress and the nurse said that when they called in the OB, that meant that I was nearing the end.
They called in the OB, and I kept trying to push. At some point, Smiley's mom had came into the room and she and Smiley were holding my legs. My pushing did not seem effective. My legs were trembling and my left leg was starting to cramp up fiercely. I felt horrible as I screamed and cried through contractions while my OB sat there, explaining that I had to push to get the baby out.
I felt horrible. I didn't have any idea how to deal with this. The contractions kept coming, regardless of my ability to deal or not. They came in a sort of wave like pattern, with one or two smaller, manageable ones and then one giant peak that had me trying to crawl out of my skin.
I was able to push with the smaller ones, but could do nothing but cry during the larger ones. I never did see the contraction monitor, so I don't even know if they were truly that bad. I wish I had asked how strong they were.
Finally, I gave up. I stopped trying to push. Everyone kept telling me to push and I remember lying there, half asleep, basically whispering. "I know I need to push, but I can't. No one is listening to me. Everyone is saying I can do this, but I can't. I want to, but I can't. I don't have any energy and this isn't working."
I honestly didn't know what would happen next. It was my understanding that I couldn't get an epidural at this point. But I guess that's not how it works now. My OB said I could get one, and so after a minute, I agreed. What I was doing now wasn't working, and I didn't want my baby to be in distress. Still, I couldn't help but worry as I waited.
The anesthesiologist came in and I want to say it was around 10am? I vaguely remember that he told the nurse to give me something to calm me down and she said something about how the birth was going to be soon, but she'd give me a half dose of something. So I got a half dose of something, maybe, and I didn't feel too much different. My contractions still hurt, but I guess I felt a bit calmer in between.
So I told the anesthesiologist that I had minor scoliosis and I had a twisted sense of pride when he looked and told me that I certainly did not have "minor" scoliosis at all. He pointed out the curve and rotation in my spine. Like a roller coaster. Hey, I was just happy to know that my day to day back pain wasn't from something "minor." I take what I can get.
Contractions while sitting on the side of the bed trying not to move are the worst fucking things in the world. I nearly tore Smiley's shirt (and back) in two as I grabbed on during those contractions. I did not move.
Now, I had a lot of reasons for wanting to go med-free with my birth. My mom had given birth three times without an epidural, without pain meds. She had labored without pain meds for my other two siblings as well, though those two ended up as c-sections. So I certainly felt that it was possible and I should try.
Second, I didn't like the idea of pain meds. I have no problem with ibuprofen, but that's certainly no giant needle going into my spine to administer medicine. There are a few more possible risks with an epidural than ibuprofen.
Third, I knew epidurals didn't always take, and didn't always go on both sides. With my scoliosis, I felt that was a high possibility and that I shouldn't rely on an epidural to manage pain.
My third reason started to be a possibility when I felt only my right side going numb. I could still feel all the pain in my left side. Granted, it was only half of the area feeling pain, but it still felt miserable. They had me lie on my side a bit, and thankfully, both sides took. The nurses said something about letting me rest for an hour and left. To me, it only felt like 15 minutes or so, but when everyone came back into the room, I felt rejuvenated and ready to go.
At first, the epidural had me pretty numb, and as I pushed, I didn't feel much. But slowly I started to feel a bit, and it was so much more efficient. The doctor said that I got as far along as I had been in a fraction of the time with the epidural. I nodded and said it was a lot easier to push when I wasn't also trying to run away from the pain.
Time went by. I kept pushing. I started to be able to feel the pressure from a contraction without the pain, and it made it even better for pushing. But, Silas got stuck somewhat during crowning. I crowned for about 45 minutes. I was never more thankful for the epidural than at that point. I remember looking up at the clock and thinking, "he'll be born before 11:45" and then "he'll be born before noon" and then "...before noon thirty? Maybe?"
Finally, at around 12:30, just 12 hours from when my contractions started, I gave birth to Silas. I knew I wasn't going to be the type of person to cry when I gave birth, and I didn't (probably). But I did hold him there on my chest and whispered happily to him as he cried and cried and cried, letting us all know he was doing ok.