Part One of the birth story left off with us preparing to leave for the hospital...
We were off to the hospital, but it took us awhile to get out the door. I focused on dealing with the contractions while Mike ran around gathering our hospital bags, warming up the van, etc. By now I was practically delirious, so I remember very few details. Mom and Jen were around, but I couldn’t tell you what they were doing. I do remember as we were finally leaving the house, I had to stop every few feet to deal with another contraction. We managed to get outside, and it was a debacle figuring out who was riding in what vehicle and where I should sit to be most comfortable. I ended up on my knees leaning over the seat back in the van’s middle row. My mom somehow kneeled next to me and rubbed my back the whole time. Mike drove, and Jen followed behind us. The car ride was pretty awful. I screamed like a madwoman the whole time. Mike says he ran a lot of yellow lights, but Jen kept up with us the whole time. The day before we had driven the route to the hospital to count the lights – eleven – so Mike gave me periodic updates on the way. Six lights left. Only two more lights. I found it helpful since I was facing backwards and had no concept of where I was. It’s about a 15 minute drive, but it felt like a century.
I hardly remember arriving at the hospital. I’ve since pieced together that Mike pulled up to the front door, we all got out, and my mom parked the van. He lead me to the elevators, and Jen had caught up to us and rode up to L&D with us. My contractions were basically nonstop now, so I screamed and yelled the whole way up, and all down the hall to the nurse’s station. I remember Jen saying, “It’s ok to make noise here.” And I thought, I can’t NOT make noise! I guess I signed something, then they took us to triage. Only one person could join me, so I, of course, chose Mike. They asked if I needed the rest room before getting checked out, and I did. But there was someone in there, and it seemed like years that was I pacing around, screaming, waiting for them to get out. When I finally got into the bathroom, I had a couple contractions while I peed and washed my hands, and Mike says he almost broke down the door because he couldn’t stand to hear me from the other side. After the rest room, we waited in our triage bay for a long time, wondering where the nurses went. All the while, I’m leaning against the wall screaming and crying. The poor woman in the next bay was completely silent and serene. She must have thought I was out of my mind. Frankly, I was.
Eventually a nurse brought us a gown and then left again. We couldn’t figure the freaking thing out and I was so pissed at that damn gown! Jen had snuck in to join us, ignoring the one-person rule, and she helped me get into the gown, and I crawled up onto the bed. I don’t know all that happened in triage – I mostly remember being in agony. But I know they strapped on the fetal monitor and did a cervical check. I was 6cm dilated. I had hoped I’d be about 7 by the time I got to the hospital, so I thought that was pretty good. Maybe with a little medical help, I could get through this. They asked if I wanted any meds, and I did. I needed something to take the edge off. After a frantic discussion with Mike and Jen, I decided to get a dose of Stadol, which they could administer once I settled in.
Soon it was time to move to my labor and delivery room. They asked if I needed a wheelchair and I said I could walk. I thought I’d be able to brace myself long enough to get down the hall, but I had to stop every few steps to get through a contraction. I remember passing a family who was innocently visiting a loved one, and I think I scarred them for life with my primal screams. In my room, they got me into bed and placed an IV. They blew a vein on the left hand and had to place it on the right. It was a horrible IV placement and bothered me the whole time. But they administered the Stadol, and I waited for it to work. It did not do a darn thing. Not even a little bit.
At this point, I was completely out of my mind. I remember very little about the next several hours because I was delirious with pain. I cannot describe the pain to you. There was the occasional contractions that resonated in my abdomen, and those didn’t seem so bad. I was able to handle those with some simple moaning breathing. Those were like a vacation compared to the back labor. The contractions were nearly constant now, I never got a rest. Rather than contraction, break, contraction, it was more like a wave. The pain was constant and just rose and fell in intensity about every 30-60 seconds. In my preparations for labor, I had told Jen and Mike that they needed to help me make sure I was taking full advantage of the rests between contractions to recover. But I hadn’t had a break in about four or five hours. The pain, oddly, radiated from my lower back to my butt, the back of my thighs and even my inner thighs. I knew my uterus was contracting, so why was I feeling it in my back, butt and thighs? It was so strange and not at all how I imagined labor to feel.
During this time, they told me that my doctor, Dr. Steen, was out of town and was not available to deliver me. I was devastated. I had switched to her, my family care doctor, at 30 weeks because I didn’t like the idea of not knowing which of the rotating OBs I was seeing would be there to deliver. On top of everything else, this news crushed my spirit. Supposedly, I met the doctor who would do the delivery, as well as a resident, but I have only very vague memories of this. In fact, I remember very little about this time block, but I suppose a couple hours passed while I tried a variety of positions to ease the pain. They all failed. Mike, Mom and Jen flitted around, trying anything and everything to comfort me, and nothing even broke through the blinding, delirious pain. At some point, they did another cervical check and I was “maybe a 7.”
Somehow I got into the whirlpool tub. Prior to this day, I was so excited this hospital had whirlpool tubs in all the rooms. I just knew that a nice soak would be comforting to me. Boy was I wrong! The water was no more comforting or comfortable than anything else. I stayed in there for about hour mostly because I didn’t want to have to try to move. Again, this whole time period is a big blur, but after talking to Mike, I guess he and Jen mostly stayed in the bathroom with me, and Mom ran back and forth bringing cold, wet washcloths for my face. For some reason I had my bra on, and I remember being annoyed that it was getting wet and I wouldn’t be able to wear it anymore. But I was too busy dying of pain to take it off. I guess Mike’s mom and my sister Kelli came by while I was in the tub. I have a vague memory of my sister’s face next to mine, but it was like a dream. All I really remember is the endless, excruciating pain. Later Kelli told me that when she walked in, she didn’t even recognize what was happening. The noises she heard coming from the bathroom could not be her sister. They were primal, guttural screams. I was a mad woman!
Someone came to tell us that I had to get out of the tub so they could check me again. Here’s a perfect example of how close my contractions were coming: With help, I managed to stand up in the tub. Contraction. I stepped out of the tub. Contraction. Someone towel dried my upper body. Contraction. They dried my lower body. Contraction. I walked three steps to the bathroom door. Contraction. And on and on, basically, one long endless pain.
Once out in my room again, they tried to dress me in a hospital gown. I ripped it off because I was so hot and uncomfortable. I spent the rest of the labor completely naked, and I did not care one little bit who saw what! They did a cervical check after the bath, and I was barely an 8. I was so discouraged because it had been a few hours of crazy hard labor since I got to the hospital, and I had barely progressed 2 cm. Someone had asked for a birthing ball, so I tried sitting on that with Mike supporting me from behind, but I was extremely uncomfortable. There was no way to ease the pain, and I finally started to consider an epidural. I was still scared about it, the idea made me uncomfortable, but I needed relief. I discussed it with Mom, Mike and Jen. I told them that if they could guarantee I’d only have to do this for another hour, maybe I could get through. But knowing it could easily go on for hours and hours yet, I knew there was no way.
Jen said something about having back labor with one of her children, and I asked how she survived it. “I got an epidural at 7 cm.” Somehow that gave me the push I needed to say ok, let’s do the epidural. I had always been open to the idea of an epidural, but I’m stubborn and I was scared. I needed someone to reassure me that it was ok to do the right thing for me, even if it’s not the right thing for everyone. In that moment, the epidural was definitely the right thing for me.