I heard many, many versions of the same comment as I reported my early labor frustrations to various people: “You’ll know when they’re real.” Of course, this is only true in retrospect. It’s like walking up to someone who has never heard of apples and peaches. You tell him, “I’m going to hand you some fruit. Some of them are going to be apples, and some are going to be peaches.” You hand him a Red Delicious apple, and he asks which it is. You tell him it’s an apple. Immediately after, you hand him a Golden Delicious. He thinks to himself, this is shaped differently, it’s a different color--it must be a peach. “Nope. Apple,” you tell him. Then you hand him a Granny Smith. This tastes completely different, and is yet another color; surely this is a peach, he believes. “Nope. Another apple.” Then you hand him a peach, and he has a clear understanding of the difference, but that doesn’t keep him from making accurate observations about the other apples.
I was handed a peach Tuesday morning: the morning of my due date. I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment that I was so sure I wouldn’t need to keep, and yet there I was. When I went in, they checked me and told me I was 4cm and 75% effaced. Progress. I had walked 7 miles that last weekend and had been having regular contractions for a week. When I left the non-stress test at the doctor’s office (routine since she was measuring big (10lbs 4 oz!!) on the ultrasound and was about to be past due), I was having contractions that felt clearly different. They hurt more, they moved differently, and I was sure it was the start of something.
It was. I called my cousin and mom--the two people who were to join my husband as labor coaches. They decided to come down and hang out even if it wasn’t the real thing. They got to my house and sat with me as I helped some students with online papers and moved through contractions. At 5:15, my water broke while I bounced on the birthing ball. I called the hospital and they said to come in right away. After our 10 minute drive turned into 50 due to an accident (good thing I didn’t wait longer like I had wanted to!), we made it, got evaluated and admitted.
This is where things took a frustrating turn. I have been working towards natural child birth through most of this pregnancy, and I had a birth plan I had worked out with my doctor. It included intermittent monitoring, using the shower to control pain, moving around as much as possible, using a heplock instead of running fluids, and having my birth team in the room with me. The hospital had sounded very on board with these things during the tour, but things weren’t quite what they seemed.
They insisted on continuous monitoring. They told me I needed fluids immediately. Since my water was ruptured, I couldn’t get in the shower. Not only that, I couldn’t even stand up out of the bed for risk of the cord sweeping into the birth canal. I started to panic; there was no way I could handle those contractions on my back. I knew I’d never make it without pain medicine.
I tried to find a balance between being my own advocate and not being a pain in the ass. I said that I was happy to have continuous monitoring if I could still move around--I wouldn’t get in the shower. I was not willing to stay in the bed, and since the head was engaged, I felt the benefits of pain management outweighed the risks. I asked to delay fluids as long as I could continue to drink and feel fine on my own. My husband pulled aside the attending doctor and explained that I really wanted all three of my coaches there with me the whole time; the doctor said okay.
I labored in several positions: sitting on the edge of the bed and standing to lean on my husband during contractions, kneeling on the floor and leaning over the birthing ball, kneeling on the bed and leaning over the raised head. I hated being checked. The pain on my back was miserable. I felt like a crab scrambling to get away from it, unable to get any control over it as it surged through my body.
I was admitted around 7pm and progressed pretty nicely from that point forward. I really felt like some of the doctors and nurses didn’t take me seriously at first. One doctor even said, “you want to go natural. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes.” They only offered me medication--Stadol--once, and I promptly refused. By about 7cm, I felt like they were taking me more seriously. They also left us alone, for the most part. My birth team was AMAZING. My husband constantly told me how great I was doing as he worked through each contraction with me, my cousin rubbed my hips, my mom brought me every single thing I asked for. I couldn’t have done it without them.
I started pushing around 5 or 5:30, and though I was sort of out of it from all of the focus the labor was taking, I distinctly remember pushing being a HUGE relief. It didn’t even hurt. I wanted to do it constantly, but--of course--contractions spaced out, so I had to wait between them. There were a ton of people in the room, but I hardly noticed who they were or why they were there--though I do remember several of them introducing themselves at some point. It’s a teaching hospital and it was right at shift change; I think a lot of people from the night shift wanted to stay to see the end. I had about three doctors encouragingly telling me “This is it. This is the push!” for what felt like fifty pushes. I was getting really dejected and kept asking/panting “Are you sure I’m doing something? It doesn’t feel like anything is happening!”
At 7:21 this morning, the day after her due date, my 9lb0oz, 22inch baby girl was born with beautiful clear skin and a head full of black curly hair. I got to hold her immediately for half an hour. Then they took her and cleaned her up and brought her back to breastfeed. It was an amazing experience. We’re both in the hospital now, but everything is looking great, and I think we’ll get to go home tomorrow.
As for my natural birth goals, I wavered a little bit. I didn’t get an epi or any narcotics. I did decide to get the fluids when I started to get really exhausted around 2 am. I think it was a good decision. I also chose to get Lidocaine injected while I was pushing I knew that I was likely to need stitches because the baby was predicted to be 10lbs, and I knew the drug wouldn’t have time to get to the baby. I don’t regret that decision, either. Other than that, I labored without any kind of medical pain management, and I truly would do it again. As long as I could move with my body and trust it to work, I was on top of the pain.