Once at the hospital the triage nurses had me sit for registration. Only sitting felt horrible and I pre-registered online. Details are fuzzy but I didn’t stay long in that area as one nurse commented my contractions were already three minutes apart. They shuffled me into the triage area and set me up on a bed. A nurse affixed two monitors to my belly: one for contractions and one for the baby’s heartbeat. I quickly glanced and saw his heart rate to be around 150 beats per minute, normal for him and for labor. It stayed in a decent range during contractions too. This soothed my momma heart.
All during this time my contractions continued to rock my body and I moaned/yelled/grabbed/thrashed the closest object. I found if I pushed down very hard, it felt the most comforting. All the while Mike stayed by my side and endured my physical and verbal banter. At this point the nurses informed me the midwife on call remained at home, since we never told her we were on our way. This made her a little upset, understandably. Around 5am she arrived, having been woken and told her patient showed up without her knowledge. We were not off to a good start together.
I labored at home for about four hours and at the hospital for one, with intense contractions. I wanted a cervical check and hoped to hear nothing less than four centimeters. Amber the doula asked if they should even tell me if my cervix remained dilated less than four centimeters and I bellowed out a yes. I needed to know. And it turned out I only dilated between 1 and 2 centimeters – barely anything. This totally gutted me. Here I was, feeling deeply in labor, wracked with pain, and with nothing to show. Now I understood why some women choose not to know if they are not dilated far.
The midwife, already not pleased with me, told me if I labored more at home I might feel more comfortable. We talked about what I wanted – the feeling of water and rest. Getting in the birthing pool in early labor slows things down. So no water for me. And my body and mind were far from rest. The midwife suggested I go home for awhile, where my bathtub and bed waited for me. Except a car ride home and back? Hell no. No way. I was here in that hospital and I was having a baby.
At this point I began my plea for pain interventions. Mike gently reminded me of my desires for a natural labor, the class I took, and calmly encouraged me to continue my course. I quickly told him to stop shaming me. The midwife then took a firm stance and told me to get up and try moving. Moving sucked, but I tried it. And then I sat down again. I asked for pain management again. My doula heard me and assisted the conversation. We decided on a narcotic, I asked them to tell me the name of it a thousand times so I could remember how much it sucked and tell everyone to never take it, but I seem to have blocked that information. As a migraine sufferer, I am no stranger to narcotics. I respond well to them and like them, for pain. This narctoic was just plain stupid. It failed me. They set me up in a labor room and with a hep-lock IV port, after three failed attempts to place it in my hand (I told them my hand veins were too small! but no, lets jab this person already in pain and fail multiple times). The medicine did nothing for the contractions but made me so tired, more tired. I sat in the gurney and continued to moan, but with less volume. I remember saying “it still hurrrrrrts” while my eyes were closed and drooling.
Around this time, 7am, the midwives’ shift changed. The new midwife on-call arrived and talked to me like a friend. She included our doula and Mike. It felt like we were all on the same team. I laid there, semi-drugged, full on pain, contractions surging three minutes apart, having not slept at all the night prior. So feeling less tension in the air (but not in my abdomen) I up and said it, “I want an epidural.” I felt worried the midwifery practice might kick me out for seeking such assistance. This hospital setting held all necessary medical procedures, however this midwifery practice specialized in natural birth. The current midwife on call did not judge my request and told me that sometimes women opt for anesthesia. She confirmed this choice would bring me rest and hopefully allow me to progress. She went to call for the anesthesiologist. At this point on Thanksgiving no planned surgeries were happening and so not many doctors — specifically ones who take the pain away — were available. We, I, had to wait.
This pregnant woman in labor’s wait for pain relief from an epidural felt long and hard. I received fluids during this time, as is standard with an epi. But when you really really want something, and are in pain – time stands still. And so we waited. And I begged Mike to make the doctor show up. I told him to go into the hallway and not return until he had the anesthesiologist. Apparently the midwife told him to make a few laps around the L&D ward and then come back after time passed. Low and behold Mike saw the man of the moment as he roamed the halls! Everyone but the wonderful, sweet, caring, patient nurse had to leave the room while the doctor performed his magic. Honestly having the epi placed while trying to hold completely still and hunched over to make my spine available, during many contractions, falls under one of my least favorite things ever. I will say though that the contractions hurt more than the giant needle in my back (which I asked to see after he placed the line — not that scary, but definitely huge). Mike returned, ready for some rest himself, and we all settled in for relief.
I didn’t find the relief I was looking for in that moment. The nurse returned to check on me while the doula, who also needed rest, went for Starbucks. The right side of my body felt pain free – completely numb, in fact, while the left side of my body still entertained the ebb and flow of contractions. They called the anesthesiologist back and he fiddled with the placement. They placed me on my left side to help the medicine flow that way. An hour later: right side gone, left side pulsating. The doctor returned and moved things around some. Yet the same problem continued. And he came back one more time, with the promise of fixing it and if not, placing the epidural again. I didn’t care – I simply wanted the pain to end. Two hours later and three attempts overall, finally the left side felt no pain and the right side was utterly gone to my control. 11am.
The midwife administered some pitocin, which simulates contractions. See when you get an epidural it cuts off the signal from your cervix to your brain (or vice-versa) to stop contractions. My crazy intense contractions still continued somewhat however we needed to make sure they continued totally, and that’s exactly how pitocin helps.
A small part of me mourned the loss of a water birth, getting out of bed, laboring with movement at all. But a larger part of me felt complete relief and comfort. I finally slept, somewhat restless and filled with anticipation. Amber brought me a peppermint hot chocolate, to keep my energy up. I also munched some fruit snacks.
Around 4pm the midwife returned for another cervical check. I believe I was around 5cm and everyone cheered for this progress. Soon it would be time to push.
To be continued