Pregnancy had not been entirely easy for me. I had dealt with fairly common, but severe nausea, heartburn, fatigue along with some surprising side effects (like chronic nosebleeds). And from a very early point in my pregnancy, I experienced frequent Braxton Hicks contractions. So, when those contractions started becoming quite regularly spaced a week before labor, I was pretty hopeful that my baby might come a few days early, if not on her actual due date. Starting the Saturday before my due date, I would get contractions that were usually 15 minutes apart (but sometimes as close at 2 minutes) for several hours at a time. We called the doctor several times, but were told to stay home until they became so painful it was hard to talk through them.
And so it went for a whole week. We would get excited thinking this round of contractions could be the start of labor, but it never was. My due date came and went and I was feeling pretty annoyed that this baby was not here already. On Monday, the 12th, I woke up at 6 in the morning with some minor cramping. I didn't think anything of it, as many of my false labor contractions had felt this way, but when I saw the bleeding I decided I should call my doctor's office. I had a doctor's appointment already scheduled for that day, but the nurses told me to come in as soon as possible to get checked out. The doctor said everything looked normal and that I was 2.5 cm dilated already. She was, however, concerned about the bleeding so they monitored the baby for about an hour. When those results came back as normal, she said to go home, take it easy and that most likely labor was right around the corner. So, I went home, once again disappointed that nothing was happening yet. I continued to have the cramping throughout the day, but it was just like the rest of my false labor, so I ignored it.
At about 10:45 that night, I distinctly remember turning over in bed to snuggle with my husband and feeling an intense cramping pain. This was so markedly different from what I had been feeling before that I took notice and started timing. It started out 10 minutes apart but quickly progressed to every 2-5 minutes in the course of an hour, all the while getting more and more painful. We finally called the doctor around midnight and when the force of the contraction took my breath away while I was on the phone, she told me it sounded like it was time for me to come to the hospital.
So away we went, the whole time using the techniques we talked about in the birthing class and calling on my years of yoga meditation to get me through each contraction. In addition to the pain, I was feeling pretty sick to my stomach, and shaking violently with chills which made for a very uncomfortable car ride. Once we got to the hospital, we were told to wait in the waiting room until they could check me in the triage area. Much to our surprise, we saw the Haug's from our birthing class waiting there as well. We had to wait a long time there because apparently everybody had decided to go into labor at the same time that night and there weren't enough beds for us yet.
I remember sitting in that waiting room for what seemed like forever, trying to consciously relax all of my muscles and not tense up through the contraction. And I was really glad that there was something stupid playing on the TV in the room – Lizard Lick Towing – but it didn't stop the contractions from getting progressively stronger and my nausea from getting the best of me. I remember that I could not try to talk or even think about anything other than the conscious effort to relax or the contraction would be so much worse. It made for a long and silent night.
Finally, they sent us back to the triage area where they checked us in and confirmed that I really was in labor this time. I was so grateful that we got to stay as I had dilated to a 3.5 and my contractions were 2-4 minutes apart by this time. I remember telling the nurse (as soon as she told us we were staying) that I wanted an epidural as soon as humanly possible. I look back at this and laugh because I had wanted to try doing IV medications before going straight to the epidural. But I was not prepared for the intensity of those contractions.
Not long after that, we were in our own room and the nurses were finally able to get an IV in (it took them several attempts and two different nurses). And at 6:30, I finally got my epidural. It was not anywhere near as bad as I expected (having a severe aversion to needles), but the one surprisingly painful aspect of the procedure was when the doctor threaded the catheter into my back. It hurt in a tingly, knee jerk, hitting your funny bone kind of way and it took all I had not to kick the nurse standing in front of me. And not long after that, the drugs took effect and I felt so much better. At this point it was early in the morning and we were both exhausted, so Matt went to sleep and I tried, but the stupid blood pressure cuff kept going off right as I would be drifting off to sleep, waking me up. The nurses also had me turn onto different sides every hour or so, making sleep pretty much impossible.
Later that morning, the doctor finally came in to check on me and said that while I was dilated to a 4, my contractions had slowed down significantly and that my water still hadn't broken. She suggested that in order to speed up labor, that she break my water and start a pitocin drip. I was all about getting this baby out as soon as possible, so I agreed. So she broke my water and I went on pitocin around lunchtime. Thankfully, I couldn't feel a thing (thank heaven for epidurals!) and my contractions really sped up after that.
After a while though, I started feeling pain with every contraction on the left side. This wasn't all that surprising when I think about how the epidural was effecting me. My entire right leg was completely numb and I could only wiggle my toes. Getting any other movement coordinated was pretty much impossible. My left leg however, still retained a goodly amount of sensation and I could use it to push myself around the bed. I remember the nurse taking out an wet swab and asking me if I could feel whether it was cold and wet and if I could feel her stroke my skin. On my right leg, pretty much nothing. On my left, not only could I feel the stroking sensation, I could feel that it was cold and wet. She seemed really surprised by that. So, the nurse decided to give me a boost to my epidural so that I couldn't feel the contractions. After that, both legs were completely useless. I couldn't even wiggle my toes at that point, but I didn't mind so much. At least I wasn't experiencing the contractions any more.
At about two, the nurse came back in and said that I was 9.5 cm dilated and thought that I should be pushing by about 3 pm. She called the doctor back in (who was different from the first doctor as there had been a shift change) and he said that I was fully dilated and should be pushing soon.
I was worried that because of the epidural I wouldn't know when to push, but thankfully there was this downward pressure and some slight pain associated with my contractions that told me to push. I told the nurse who got everything ready and right on the dot, I started pushing at 3:00 pm. After about 30 minutes of pushing, the nurse told me to breath through the next few contractions so she could get the doctor. He came in, I pushed once and our daughter, Everly, came into the world.
I couldn't believe how small she was or how much hair she had! I also had a hard time thinking she was mine (she didn't look a thing like me or Matt – she looked asian!). I remember crying I was so relieved she was out and that everything was ok. I think Matt was in a state of shock because I had to tell him to go over to the warming station to our daughter and tell me what was going on and take pictures as the doctors continued to work on me. Unfortunately, I tore in two places and required quite a few stitches. Eventually, our daughter was brought back to me, all clean and wrapped up and I was able to get a good look at her. I couldn't believe how perfect she was, all 6 pounds 11.5 ounces of her.
After that, things are a bit of a blur. I was so tired from pushing and I just wanted to sleep (you can tell from the pictures!) that I don't remember much other than my sister and Shelly were there and adoring little girl and it was taking a goodly while for my legs to come back from numbness. Once I had regained most of the feeling in my legs, they moved me to the recovery room where I spent the next two days (which in my opinion was not long enough!). I seriously wish the nurses and lactation consultants could have come home with me because I was simply not prepared to care for this infant on my own. And I know that I had my parents and my husband to help, but it's just not very helpful when no one knows exactly what the little girls wants/needs. Motherhood is a heck of a lot harder than I thought it would be (especially with the hormones and sleep deprivation) but every day seems a little bit better. I just hope I can figure this whole mothering thing out soon, or I think I might pull out my hair.
Any way, I thank my lucky stars every day that I'm not pregnant anymore and I don't wish she was back inside of me EVER. I'm glad she's here, safe and sound and growing every day.