I was afraid that baby going late meant that she would be a little bigger...Apparently my fears were well-founded. How on earth I managed to pass a nine pound baby out I don't know! I can tell you it wasn't easy! She tore me apart (literally. I refuse to look at the stitches from my episiotomy. I don't want to know. I just know it's a world of hurt down there!) Anyway, I've been wanting to write about my labour/delivery experience but it's hard to find time these days with the baby! She's asleep at the moment so here goes. I'll start at the beginning...
It was Sunday. I was due for my induction on Monday at 8 a.m. One week past her due date. The doctor had told me that it would be much better for baby and me if she came naturally but what can you do? I discussed it with Michelle (yes I'd been talking with her, reading to her, singing to her for many months in utero.) I told her that this was her last chance to come out before they came in to get her. I had asked the doctor if there was anything I could do to bring on labour. Her reply was sex (not a possibility!) and MSG (how much Chinese food can you eat?!) Other people had told me that walking might help. It made sense. Being on your feet may push baby down a little, with the force of gravity and all.
I had been staying with my sister (she and my Mom were going to be with me during delivery. I sure didn't want to go through this alone!) She needed to pick some things up anyway and suggested we go to the mall. It was a distraction if nothing else. I was getting very nervous about the induction on Monday. While at the mall I had some pretty severe Braxton Hicks contractions (at least I thought that was what they were. It couldn't be labour I reasoned because there was no set pattern. They just came randomly.) I also kept experiencing the need to run to the bathroom only to be frustrated that I couldn't go when I got there. Constipation usually isn't a problem for me. Usually it goes the other way. I got tired of running to the washroom and pushing for nothing. Then as we were leaving the mall, I got the grandaddy of all Braxton Hicks contractions. I must have looked a sight. 41 weeks pregnant, massive belly, swollen legs, heavy breathing, grasping my abdomen, a pained look on my face. A kind man held the door for me "Are you OK?" he asked, with genuine concern in his eyes. "Just Braxton Hicks" I said. He thought I was going into labour. I wasn't convinced.
We headed back home. I was trying to keep busy. I sewed a stuffed seahorse (I had a nesting urge. Some people knit booties but I don't knit. The mobile was done but I figured I'd make a couple of little stuffed seahorses. It gave me something to do with my hands aside from gnawing my fingers to the bone.) We watched TV. I kept feeling like I had to go to the bathroom, the way I had at the mall. It was happening more and more frequently. At around 8:30 PM when I hit the washroom, there was blood. The bloody show! I had read about it. OK. It seemed like something was happening. Maybe my water would break. Maybe my baby was going to come naturally without induction. But my water didn't break. The blood was just a few drops, not much of a show, really. I asked my sister if contractions feel like really bad menstrual cramps mixed with feeling like you have to run to the toilet with diarrhea but when you get there you're constipated. She said that wasn't how hers were. I didn't know what to think. But something was happening. The pain was getting worse and more frequent each time I ran to the toilet. I finally thought "This is ridiculous! I might as well start timing them." So I wrote the time down. It was just past midnight. 12:09. The next one was 12:19. Then 12:29. "Holy cow!" I thought. "I'm really in labour! The contractions are 10 minutes apart." I told my sister. She asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said I'm not supposed to go until they're 5 minutes apart or my water breaks. Each time the pain was a bit worse. It would last a minute and go away. Then things started to accelerate. The pain got worse still after 1 a.m. and the contractions were 5 minutes apart.
I called the hospital and told them what was happening, that I was due for induction in the morning but that baby had beat us to the punch. They said to come in. My sister tried to call my Mom and couldn't get her! Really?! Your daughter is pregnant, could give birth any minute and you don't have the phone by your bed?! (As it turned out, her ringer didn't work. My brother drove her to the hospital later.) My sister called her mother-in-law to come watch the kids and we headed to the hospital.
The contractions were really bad now. I couldn't wear a seatbelt. I faked it by pulling it over me when we passed a cruiser (I thought if someone dares to pull us over he's going to get an earfull!) The ride was brutal. Every bend, every bump in the road was excruciating. My fantasy of labour pains being "just like menstrual cramps" was being shattered.
We got to the hospital and they told me I was 2 cm dilated. It was around 2 a.m. The nurse was very nice and supportive. She told me that I could elect to stay at the hospital and could get the epidural but it would be ideal if I could wait a little longer. She suggested I go home, take a bath, have a tea and come back when I'm 4 cm dilated."I think you can handle it," she said. She had more faith in me than I did.
"How will I know when I'm 4 cm dilated?" I asked.
She explained that the contractions now lasted about a minute and in between them there was a break without pain. I would know things were bumped up a knotch when there was no break from the pain, when even between contractions was uncomfortable and painful. Great. That didn't sound pleasant but I decided to tough it out. The idea of sitting in a warm bath for an hour or so was preferable to sitting in the hospital. So we headed back home. I hoped my sister could grab a little sleep.
It was soothing being in the bath. The contractions kept getting worse. With each one I would think "this is as bad as it gets" until the next one would be even worse. I realized that until now I had no idea what pain was. Nothing could prepare me for this. No one can tell you. You have to experience it yourself to understand. I had heard so many stories ranging from "the pain is unbearable" to "it's not so bad." One thing the nurse had said stuck with me "Remember that the pain is natural, that it's necessary, that it's for a good cause -- your baby. She'll be worth it." It kept me going. When I'd have a contraction, I'd breathe through it, huffing and puffing like they do in the movies. I clenched my fists. I kept thinking "It's just for a minute and it's over." When it would end it was such a relief. I prayed to God for strength to get me through this. I tried to use affirmations, positive energy, meditation. I was proud of myself. I was toughing it out. I didn't have a clock. I didn't know how long I'd been in the bath. I wanted to give May a chance to sleep a little. I wanted to impress the nurse that I could manage the pain and come back when I was at 4 cm. I cheered myself on. You got this. You're doing great.
And then everything changed. The worst pain yet, the worst pain of my life, beyond description and then after the minute was up, there was still pain, not as severe but still no picnic. Oh my God. I can't do this anymore, I thought. There's no break. I could endure anything for one minute, looking forward to the next break but when there is no break, when it's just endless suffering, I can't take it. I was done. Get me to the hospital. Give me an epidural. Please!
So I woke my sister, who had had about 1 minute of sleep, to drive me to the hospital.
It was 5 a.m. "Good girl!" the nurse said "You're 5 cm dilated!"
I was proud of myself. I had overshot the mark even. Great. Now please get me an epidural. I'm dying here.
It's ironic given the fact that I've had a phobia of needles my entire life that my salvation from pain would come in the form of a giant needle to my spine. I couldn't wait. I had heard that the pain would cease instantly. That from then on I would feel pressure but no pain. I couldn't wait. I didn't know how much longer I could take these contractions. Which now just felt like one cruel horrendous never-ending wave of pain.
Then she arrived, the epidural goddess. I had to sit up, at the edge of the bed, my hospital gown open. I didn't want to see the needle and luckily couldn't since it was behind me. I was a little nervous but mostly just anxious for the pain to end. She told me that it would sting a lot. When she stuck the needle in me, the sting was so negligible compared to what I was going through that it didn't even bother me. I realized I would never faint at a needle again. I realized that anything I ever went through in life now would be a cakewalk compared to this. And just like that, the pain was gone. Beautiful, delicious, pain-free moments. My butt started to feel really warm. I started to feel itchy. I asked if I could scratch. They said no. I didn't care. I'll take itchy over pain any day! Even my face got itchy. I scratched when no one was looking.
I wasn't a fan of the IV or the catheter but I was feeling no pain so nothing mattered anymore. I was happy. My Mom made it to the hospital just in time to see happy, mellow, pain-free Ann Marie. She admitted that she was relieved she didn't have to see me suffer through the worst of the labour cramps.
Now I was hungry. I hadn't eaten anything since before 8 pm the night before. I'm used to eating every few hours. I was starving. I figured I wouldn't be allowed to eat during labour and I wouldn't want to poop on the table (it was something I'd heard could happen. Frankly I didn't want it to happen to me) but I felt so weak I didn't know how I'd make it through the next several hours. I was eating ice chips and pretending they were freezies. A nurse brought me some toast and jam. It was the best toast and jam of my life. She offered a banana popsicle and it was like winning the lottery.
The next time they examined me (which wasn't fun but really just pressure rather than pain in there) they said that I was 7 cm dilated. I thought this was great, I'm really progressing quickly. I knew that 10 cm is the point where you push though they said that you don't push right away, they like to give the baby a chance to wiggle out on her own. Does that really happen?!
Unfortunately I was stuck on 7 cm dilated for a long time. Several hours later I was at 9.5 cm dilated. So close! And then I hit 10. We were getting so close now. I wondered what it would be like when I had to push.
They had a button for me to press when I wanted more epidural juice. It locks you out though once you're at the limit so you don't OD. It makes a little ringing sound. I heard that sound a few times. When I started to feel a little something I was hitting that button like a fiend. I didn't want to risk running out. I made them assure me that there was no way I could run out. When another bit of it dripped through it made a little squeak like a mouse. I mentioned it to the nurse. She said one of the patients was convinced there was a mouse on the windowsill. I trusted that it was just my lovely epidural machine.
Then it came time to push. They described it as pushing through my butt as though I had to go #2 really bad. I was an expert in this area. Having suffered from constipation the day before and having suffered from IBS for years and spent an inordinate number of hours on the toilet, I was a pusher extraordinaire! Unfortunately, as wonderful as the epidural is, the problem is that it paralyzes you so that you can't actually feel yourself pushing. You can't tell if you're pushing or not. So when I held my breath and pushed, the place I felt it most was in my face. It felt like my head would implode. I wasn't sure I was even pushing down there. Apparently I was and they said I was doing a great job. A nurse was holding one of my feet, pushing my leg up to help with each push. My Mom was at my other foot. My Mom was too gentle. She wasn't pushing my leg hard enough so I was yanking the back of my leg myself to help things along. My wrist was aching. I had had carpal tunnel before this so this wasn't helping. Later my sister stepped in to help and she was a lot stronger and more forceful than my Mom.
Then they called in another doctor. The baby apparently needed to be turned around a little. In walked Dr. Marquis de Sade. He reached in, up to his elbows I think, and was twisting things and doing God-knows-what. It hurt. I was not happy. Nothing was supposed to hurt. What about my epidural? I was just supposed to feel pressure. This wasn't pressure, it was torture. I decided I hated this man. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't like you!" I told him. "This is the first pain I've felt since 5 a.m.! I'm not a fan!"
"I'm just trying to deliver your baby," he said.
"Yeah. I know. It just figures that the one man in the room is the one to hurt me!" Yeah. I have men issues...
On top of Dr. Pain twisting my insides, he'd brought with him a little tour group (my sister explained it was just one student/intern and the rest were a group of nurses) to gawk at me at the most harrowing moment of my life. I wasn't impressed but I had more important things to worry about than strangers seeing my cooch. I kept pushing. It seemed we were getting close but no cigar. Then Nurse Ratchet, accomplice to the Marquis de Sade started pushing on my leg so hard she nearly folded me in half. Even the doctor scolded her that she was going to damage one of my body parts. I hated her.
The doctor got out a plunger (vacuum?) and salad tongs (forceps) to try to pull the baby out as I pushed. Gone was my fantasy of having a pain-free, easy delivery via my lovely epidural. This was scary now. The doctor even started to threaten me "If you can't push hard enough, we're going to have to do a C-section." That was the last straw. I didn't go through all this just to have a C-section. I would push harder and longer than ever. I would strain to hold my breath as long as possible. This had to be it. So I gave it everything I had and then some. Like my life depended on it, because at that moment it did. And then, she was out!
"That's it!" they said.
It was 18:19 and my baby was born! I saw her being carried away. But where was the cry?! She wasn't crying. I started to panic. The nurses had her off to the side. I was so relieved when I heard her cry. But it was a weak cry of distress. They said there was a problem with her breathing. I was terrified. Please please please let her be OK.
I started to cry. I was so scared. So overwhelmed. One nurse (possibly the dumbest human alive) asked why I was crying. Ummm...I just gave BIRTH you friggin idiot, it's a bit of an emotional time. Not to mention my baby may not be BREATHING! Not to mention I'm on NO SLEEP, NO FOOD (except a popsicle and a piece of toast) for a day.
They were checking her out. Weighing her etc. She was 9 pounds, 4 ounces. Holy crap! No wonder there was tearing. They had to do an episiotomy. He told me the stitches would dissolve. In the end I did thank the male doctor for his help in delivering my baby.