Thursday I had my final training class from 8:30 – 4:30. During introductions we were supposed to say what project/work task we would have been working on if we weren’t in class. I’d wrapped up all my work the week before, assuming I wouldn’t be back after the week of training. I said if I wasn’t there, I’d probably be having a baby. The instructor joked she’d never had someone go into labor in one of her classes and maybe this would be the day!
The class passed uneventfully. I was pretty uncomfortable – it felt like the baby’s head was sitting directly on my pelvic bones and it really hurt. I thought I was probably more dilated and effaced. I assumed each time I felt the pain it was because the baby’s head had shifted, not because of a contraction, since the pain was only down low, not in my entire belly.
That evening, as Thomas was grilling dinner, I started to load boxes in the car to drop off the next day at our church’s charity drive. I had our donations and my sister’s which made for a lot of stuff, some of which was quite heavy. Around 6:00, as I loaded the trunk, I started to have contractions. They were painful, but I didn’t mention I was having them because all week any sort of physical activity had brought on contractions that went away as soon as I sat down. I kept loading boxes, assuming as soon as I sat down for dinner they’d stop. The pain kept getting worse, so I complained to Thomas that the *&^% Braxton-Hicks contractions HURT. By the time I finished at 6:30 the contractions were VERY painful and every two minutes. We started to panic a little. When I sat down they slowed to every five minutes – still rather panic-inducing, though I half expected them to go away if I stayed sitting. They didn’t. We ate quickly, while calling relatives to tell them it might be time.
By the time dinner was over at 7, they were every 2-3 minutes for 90 seconds each. We started racing around the house throwing things in bags. With Meg, I was in labor 32 hours before we went to the hospital. I didn’t think it would be that long again, but I never expected to be leaving for the hospital ONE hour after contractions started. I’d planned on having longer to get ready. But we were able to leave by 7:30.
We got to the hospital and were put in labor triage. When the nurse checked me at a little after 8:00, I was 6 cm dilated and completely effaced. She admitted me, got an IV started, and said the anesthesiologist would be in to do the epidural when he finished with a c-section. In the meantime, she gave me a fentanyl shot. That was a little weird, since I didn’t ask for one and I swear she didn’t ask me. She asked if I’d had one last time. I said no. She said it would probably make me dizzy, then went and got it. I had plenty of time to refuse it, but I was in a lot of pain and figured why not?
I loved it. It took the edge off the pain without making me feel out of it. I have no idea how often you can get a fentanyl shot, but if I could have gotten another one near the end of labor instead of trying for the epidural I think it would have been better.
The anesthesiologist didn’t come to do the epidural until 9:45. Immediately after he placed it, the doctor checked me and said I was dilated to a 9+ and very close to being done. She broke my water. By 10:00 the contractions were killing me and the epidural still hadn’t kicked in. Since I’d never expected to be feeling contractions at almost 10 centimeters, I was annoyed. I fought the contractions, which only made them worse. I tried to think of a way to relax and remembered people often say things like “ride the wave of the contraction,” which I’ve always thought was really dumb. Seriously? Ride the wave? But it actually worked. It worked so well, the nurse assumed the epidural had finally kicked in. It had not. It might have taken a little bit of the edge off, but it didn’t help much.
I started pushing around 10:15 (maybe a little after?) 3 contractions later (5-6 pushes), at 10:21 p.m., he was out! I actually regret getting the epidural (something I never thought I’d say), since I basically gave birth without it but don’t get credit for doing so. I honestly didn’t think I could do it without an epidural, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong – it really, really hurt, but I pictured it as unsurvivable pain (at least for me, the pain wimp), but, when I had to, I found a way to survive it. If we have another baby, I’ll definitely consider not getting an epidural (I’d probably get the fentanyl again, though).
Looking back, the pains I’d felt all day were definitely contractions, but they were far apart and not in a pattern. At 6:00, when I started having “serious” contractions, I hadn’t had one in over two hours. So I think it’s fair to say labor started at 6, making it less than 4 ½ hours total. A fast labor is a surreal experience. Around midnight I thought: six hours ago, we thought we were going to have a normal, uneventful evening, and now I’m breastfeeding a baby that’s already an hour and a half old. This is so weird!
Paul’s birth was a million times easier than Meg’s. After her birth I lost a lot of blood. I was woozy and throwing up for several hours afterward. When they sent me home two days later I honestly didn’t know how I’d survive without a hospital bed and nurses. I was still weak from blood loss and felt like I’d been through a war. Every time I moved a muscle I was in a lot of pain. This time I felt great and have continued to. I haven’t taken anything stronger than ibuprofen. This birth went about as well as a birth can. Since the only thing I wish had gone differently was the epidural, I don’t think I have any reason to complain!