Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Birthening, part 2: Tuesday, or, Things eventually start to happen

DH and I dozed in the hospital room through Monday night. Every hour or so someone would come in to check my blood pressure, so I kept waking up, but I was generally able to get back to sleep. Around 7:00am someone brought a tray of breakfast - the food was actually pretty good at the hospital - and then at 8:00 the shift changed and the new midwives came in and talked with me.

I was starting to have mild contractions, but I couldn't even feel most of them. I had a second monitor strapped to my belly that indicated when a contraction was happening, but I generally wouldn't even know unless I was looking at the monitor right when the contraction started.

Once we were up, DH and I were relaxing and killing time before the real work began. We had brought a bunch of movies on VHS because the rooms only had VCRs, so we watched "The Empire Strikes Back". We had to pause it a few times for interruptions, including the arrival of my parents.

When Mom and Dad arrived, they seriously expected something to be happening. One of us told them it would be "at least twelve more hours, maybe longer", and they expressed surprise. I'm still not sure where they picked up the idea of an instantaneous induction... especially because my sister had gone through virtually the same scenario 18 months before. We told them they should go find some lunch while the midwife checks me out. (I know plenty of women who want their mother with them every step of the way during labor and delivery, but that's just not the relationship I have with my mom.)

At 11:00am the first Cervadil was removed, and the midwife checked me: no noticeable progress. No one was very surprised.

Since I was briefly unmedicated, I could take off the fetal heart rate monitor. I took a shower, which felt lovely, and then I put on my street clothes and DH and I took a brisk walk... down the hall. We weren't allowed to leave the labor and delivery area, so we walked laps back and forth, back and forth. I had a few contractions during the walk, but they were mild enough that I could walk through them. I hoped the contractions without meds were a sign that my body was starting to do some real laboring.

Labor is so weird: I was looking forward to pain as a sign of progress. When else do you want to be hurting?

My parents return from lunch while we were still briskly walking. We told them to just hang around my room and we'd catch up with them in a moment - I didn't want to lose that last chance to move the baby down before I was stuck in the room again.

Around 1:00pm, I got a second dose of Cervadil. Ouch again. While that was happening, my folks checked in to a hotel about 15 minutes away from the hospital.

My parents returned that afternoon... with my sister, who flew in as a surprise. I stayed in the hospital bed for most of the time they were visiting, because I had an open-backed gown and I didn't want to moon my whole family. Otherwise, though, I changed positions pretty regularly in the hopes that it would help move things along.

A few hours later, the contractions finally started to pick up. They were what I would call textbook contractions: I feel a tightening low in my abdomen that then moved up my belly, stayed tight for a time, and then dissipated. DH started timing them and he saw that they were lasting for about a minute. They were becoming uncomfortable, and I found myself starting to use belly breathing and relaxation techniques from my birthing class to get through them. By around 8:30pm I was lying on my side on the body pillow I brought from home (my trusty Snoogle!), trying to catch some sleep before things got really serious. When nurses came in to check my blood pressure, I just stuck my arm up - apparently the nurses were impressed with how relaxed and prepared we were, and commented about this to other staff in the midwife office.

Shortly after 8:30pm, we turned off all the lights and tried to make an early night of it, anticipating that we'd need to rest up for the day ahead. I kept dozing off, but waking up for contractions, breathing through them and relaxing different parts of my body. DH was fast asleep on the dad-cot about 10 feet away from me, and I let him sleep... I could handle these on my own, and (though I didn't know just how much yet) I knew he'd need the rest.

A bit after 10pm, I was awakened by a contraction. It was like the others: rolling up my midsection, tightening uncomfortably... and then something felt weird. I momentarily thought the baby was kicking, really hard, in the middle of the contraction. Maybe he was, but then I felt a definitive POP!... and a second later, a warm gush between my legs.

Oh, my God. My water just broke.

I yelled for DH, who was in a deep sleep at that point, so I had to shout his name while simultaneously fumbling for the nurse call button. Mere seconds after I told the nurses "my water just broke!", a crew of women swept in, all the lights came on, and there was a flurry of activity. I was somewhat stunned at just how much amniotic fluid there was: It just kept pouring out. Of me. Weird. It was also messy, and I kept apologizing to the nurses who were trying to clean me up. My hospital gown was soaked, as were the sheets on my bed, so the bed and I both got stripped down and changed. I couldn't really walk around anywhere without making a puddle, so I just stood awkwardly in one place while the gushing continued.

Academically, I knew I wasn't peeing all over myself, but it's hard to explain that to your emotional self when warm fluid is pouring down your legs.

The midwives came in shortly thereafter and checked the scene out. One of the nurses thought she saw meconium - baby poop - in the fluid. The midwife wasn't so sure, she thought it looked clear enough, which made me feel a better, but they were all keeping an eye on the heart monitor and my temperature to make sure things weren't getting sketchy.

My water breaking on its own was a good sign, all around - labor was finally taking off, it seemed. And sure enough, the contractions that came afterward were markedly different without the cushion of amniotic fluid. It would be days later that I would admit out loud to DH that what I experienced after my water broke was what is called "back labor": every contraction, for the next 22 hours or so, was located squarely in my lower back. And they weren't periods of tightness or mild discomfort any more. They were painful.

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