It seems to be a thing among BLMs to have natural childbirth. Maybe it is wanting to be as close as possible to our rainbows when they are born? To physically feel everything about the birth? Knowing that no physical pain is worse than the emotional owies on our hearts? Well, I tried to be one of those BLMs. And I almost succeeded.
And I am just so damn competitive that I am still a little disappointed in myself! As I was getting the epidural and could finally think and breathe and even talk, I said to Mr. E, "I'm a wuss."
Let's start from the beginning. My due date was October 25. Two Fridays ago when I left work I got a sort of nesting urge to make a to-do list. I used to work in sales and that was something that was emphasized for sales reps, that if you don't have a road map of the day then you won't know where you are going. I often make to-do lists. But this was a comprehensive to-do list, prioritized and all. I guess part of me knew it was time to just be prepared. I also took home my Fitball, because I thought I might bring that to the hospital with me to help with labor pains (a very good call, BTW). I told my secretary about the list, and we joked that we'd see each other on Monday.
On Saturday I hosted a wine tasting event that I've been organizing for 5 years now. It is supposed to be by bike, but obviously I was just riding in the car this year. We still had a few bikers and a few more also in the car. I had a few tastes of wine and drank a glass with lunch...so we like to joke that the wine started my labor. A friend on the wine tour who plays poker with Mr. E had guessed October 14 as Sprout's birthday...and there was money on the line. He thought he had picked the 13th and he was getting a little crabby that I hadn't gone into labor by the end of the day. Which is sort of funny because at 4:30 on Sunday morning I half woke up to a few mild contractions. I realized that I was starting labor, and I got up and washed my nursing bras (which only ended up being like 2-3 sizes too small), came back to bed and told Mr. E and he fell back to sleep for a while but I was having trouble relaxing. About 7:30 I was able to fall asleep for about an hour, then I started getting hungry and the contractions were enough to keep me awake.
I sent a few texts to family that my labor had started. Such a funny thing, two of my West Coast cousins called that day. One that I talk to regularly but hadn't for a week or so, so that wasn't weird, but another that, no matter how we try, we fail to connect more than once every few months. It was like we were talking to each other some other way. While I was on the phone a few times I couldn't talk through a contraction. But they were still erratic, even though steadily gaining strength. I had been warned to stay away from the hospital as long as possible. Around 3 or 3:30 I ate something and we started getting ready to go get checked.
We arrived at the hospital around 4:30, and waited in triage until a little after 5 for a resident to come check my cervix. In the meantime I watched the baby's heart rate on the monitor and noticed the number for contraction strength rising as I went through them. The worst was around 50 or 60-something I think. Sprout's heart rate was high at around 170 beats per minute, and when the resident came she thought maybe my water had broken some time before that day and the high heartrate might be sign of infection. Later when I saw the doctor he said there was nothing to worry about. Shew. The resident also bore some good news when she said I was 5-6 cm dilated. I would have cried if she had said anything less than 4. So I was admitted.
The couple who introduced me to Mr. E came by to hang out for awhile. I've known M since first grade. She actually stayed all night and watched the birth. T left, bored, after about an hour or so. He was there long enough to see me doubled over the Fitball a few times though. The contractions were getting really strong and painful and I had to "dragon-breathe" to get through them. At one point when Mr. E raised his voice playfully to M across the room I did, yes I did, tell him to shut the f up.
The nurse wanted me back on the bed to get checked again but I refused to move off the ball until the person checking me was in the room. I was kneeling on the floor and rocking back and forth over the ball, resting my head to the side between contractions. It was getting to the point where there wasn't much time to rest. At the next check I was 9 cm. Which was a bit disappointing because I was going to ask for the epidural. On the other hand I was like, OK, I made it, I can do this, not much longer. But the baby's head was high. As the resident (a different one) reached in to check his head position, another small bag of water broke. I'm not sure if that was relevant or not to her discovery that I had a "ridge" on my cervix. I guess there was some swelling that was created when the baby descended? I'm not sure, it was all a little fuzzy, I know I was checked again at 9.5 cm and the resident was kind of pissed that the nurse said I couldn't have the epidural. M told me that the nurse had said that--the nurse whose shift was over, thank god because I didn't really like her. For that and other reasons. Anyway the resident explained that it was too early to push and I had to wait until the swelling subsided otherwise I would tear my cervix. That sounded bad. She said if the anesthesiologist would agree to do the epidural that I should do it, because I was really feeling the urge to push. I was getting vocal with each contraction and trying hard not to push but it was kind of impossible. (Update: I saw the doctor the other day and I guess the "ridge" on my cervix was just that last half-centimeter or cervix that had to move aside. I'm not sure if I kind of stalled at that point, or if the urge to push, combined with not being fully dilated and the baby still being a little high all indicated that the epidural might be good to slow things down a bit. The doctor also said that if I hadn't had the epidural I "would have delivered a baby." But maybe would have gotten a laceration on my cervix, that he said can be fixed, but still. I think I'm still glad for the epidural.)
He came in and did his thing, I couldn't even look at him I was trying to get through the contractions. He wanted the bed raised up but I wanted to be able to push away with my feet and finally Mr. E squatted next to the bed so I could step on his legs. I thought the guy was taking long and I knew I was going to have another contraction while he was putting in the epidural. And I did so I just breathed and yelled and kneaded Mr. E's shoulders. There were one or two more painful contractions before the epidural kicked in.
And suddenly I could look around the room, hold a conversation, stop cursing at my husband. I have to say that having the epidural was good not bad. I do see how it slows down labor...but I needed to slow down my labor until I could get to 10 cm. I watched the contractions on the monitor without always knowing they were happening. That was pretty awesome. They were going up to 112. M said before the epidural they were up past 120. No wonder that shit hurt.
So at some point the doctor came in and said I was 10 cm dilated and it was time to start pushing and have a baby. That was around 10:15 p.m. on the 14th. Lots of pushing and two hours later...there he was! My gallery was getting bored, and tired. My mom, mother-in-law, Dad and M were there in addition to Mr. E, who held one leg and watched everything! I felt Sprout's head as he was trying to emerge but still rocking back. It felt like I was pushing and pushing for nothing for a very long time. I was feeling the contractions as they happened now, but they didn't hurt. After Sprout's head came out they told me to stop pushing so they could move the cord from under his neck. The doctor said that happens in one out of three births, so it's apparently nothing scary. Then back to pushing and I think when his shoulders came out I felt a pop that actually did hurt and I said "ow." I wonder what I would have said at that point had I not had the epidural! The doctor had asked if I wanted him on my belly after he was born and I said, "Yes, please." That was really the ONLY thing I wanted for the birth that was non-negotiable. Everything was fine and he came straight to me, that's when I said "oh my gosh" repeatedly as Mr. E cut the cord. M took pictures of Sprout on the warming table, getting weighed, the look on Mr. E's face as he watched all of this. She also took a picture of the placenta in the rectangular silver catering dish, haha. I just spaced out a bit and waited for the stitching to stop...I had a small tear that took "one long stitch" as the doctor described it. The resident did the work with the doctor directing her. I recall his saying "you can do it in two if you like," so I don't know if I have one stitch or two. I also don't know if I am still stitched or if it dissolved by now. I just know it gets a little better every day but is still not right down there. (TMI? Sorry.)
So that's it. I'm a wuss. Jed is great. Since he was born after midnight my discharge date was Weds, but I wanted to leave on Tues. It felt like two nights already to me. And my room was right outside the nurses' station and the nursery and it was loud and annoying and I couldn't go outside and I wanted to take a shower but not in the hospital shower, and on and on. They let me go so long as we went to the pediatrician the next day. We had a deal.
As for two hours of pushing and getting the epidural and slowing down my labor...well, I guess it was meant to be that Jed was born on October 15, the day the real-life rainbow visited our town. Blue working some spirit baby magic? It was a double rainbow, actually, if you look closely you can see...so it was the day of three rainbows. One for good luck? My favorite day in all my life.