One of Chloë's loyal minions pointed out a couple weeks ago that I never actually posted the rest of the birth story. Apparently I completely forgot about it. I meant to post. Maybe I just wanted to forget. Anyway, here's part two. If you recall, Eric and I had arrived at the hospital at around ten after my water broke, had been checked in, and had tried to settle down for a nap before the action started...
...At around two AM, having gotten about forty minutes' sleep, I woke up to see Sandy (the midwife) and Stephanie (the nurse) standing there. "You need to get this labor going or we're going to have to start you on Pitocin," Sandy said.
She left, and we pointed out to Stephanie that I wanted to walk to get the labor going, but couldn't while hooked up to the monitors. "Well..." she said. "I know we have a portable monitor that you can wear, but I'm not sure I can give it to you..." She hemmed and hawed and finally decided, "Let me see how far along you are. I'm sure the midwife won't mind."
So she examined me, which was very wet and uncomfortable ("the amniotic fluid keeps on being made," she explained, "so it's just going to keep on leaking"), and pronounced me one to two centimeters dilated. Based on this, she gave me the portable monitor and let me walk.
So we walked. Up the hallway to the big window, down the hallway past the nurses' station to the little kitchenette. Up, down, up, down. For hours. I looked at the security monitor each time we passed, knowing it wouldn't show me anything interesting, but unable not to look anyway. I pointed at the scale in a little alcove and said "Ha!" because at my last checkup I'd been 199.5 lbs and had been depressed about going over 200, but now I wouldn't be weighed until after the baby was born. Eric calculated how much we had walked. We talked. For hours.
At first the contractions were barely noticeable. Then they were noticeable but not bothersome, so I'd tell Eric when one started and when one stopped, and he'd time it. I was averaging about one every five or six minutes, I think, when they started hurting enough that I would stop walking each time one began. Sandy said later, "That was the first time I saw you without a smile. So I knew that this was serious."
A little after six AM, a new nurse caught us and introduced herself as Shannon, saying she would be Stephanie's replacement. Not long after, it was time for my next dose of antibiotics. (I'd tested Group B Strep positive, which meant that while I was asymptomatic the baby might catch it, which could be serious, so I got a hep lock for antibiotics every four hours.) Sandy met us there. She looked at the readouts and was pleased at my progress. I sat in a little rocking chair that squeaked, rocking each time a contraction started. The conversation occurred in fits and starts around the contractions. "I'm unhappy that the nurse examined you, because since your water broke we don't want to look down there too often, because of the chance of introducing infection," she said. "But I think we can do without the Pitocin if you keep on progressing like this. Amy will be taking over for me soon, and I'm not going to examine you because she'll want to, but you're looking good."
Things were hurting enough and the contractions were close enough together at this point that I decided walking was over and we'd stay in the room. I was allowed to stay off the monitor and off the bed; they just needed to check the heartbeat and my temperature every half hour, and come back every four for my antibiotics. Shannon offered a birthing ball, a beanbag chair, the Jacuzzi, and I accepted the birthing ball. It's a big bouncy ball, and you sit on it, rocking or bouncing, whatever feels right. That worked for a while. Things got a little worse. I asked Eric to press on my lower back whenever a contraction started, and that worked for a while. Then I told Eric and Shannon, "I want something to pull on," so Eric knotted a blanket around the rail of the bed and I pulled on that. I tried getting on my hands and knees. I tried the ball again.
"I think I'd like to try the Jacuzzi," I said eventually.
"I'm already getting it filled up," Shannon said.
Amy came in to see me when she came on shift. I was about four centimeters dilated, she said, and I was disappointed, but glad that the threat of Pitocin hadn't intensified. "Where are you feeling the contractions?" she said, and I indicated two lines in front of my pelvis, like a V. "In the back or the front?" she said, and I said, "In the front."
I also wanted to know if the Jacuzzi was okay since my water had broken. "It should be fine," she said. "I'm a big fan of water births. We can't do that here, but you can be in the Jacuzzi while you're laboring."
The hot water felt wonderful, but it didn't actually help the pain. I tried a few positions there and then gave up. I also gave up my hospital gown at this point; I was hot and uncomfortable and didn't care what anyone could see, and it just got in the way when they put the monitor on and the IV in.
Sometime in here, Shannon came in with another woman, whose name I have forgotten but will call Martha. "Martha's a tech," she said (without explaining what a tech actually is, on the maternity ward), "and wanted to know if she could observe your labor. She's never seen anyone actually try to go natural before. Usually everyone just gets epidurals." I said of course. Later I wondered uneasily about all those women with epidurals and how good the soundproofing was, because the pain kept on growing, and I started making noises, groaning as they'd suggested in childbirth class, then something halfway between crying and screaming. It was mid-morning, and I was tired and hurting and growing less willing to change positions, but Shannon and Eric kept after me to do so. Eric was fantastic. He never left me, never stopped encouraging me, and managed to be supportive and helpful without sounding like he was repeating what he'd been told in childbirth class or like he wanted to be anywhere but in this hospital room on no sleep and little food.
"You're handling this so well," he said.
"Is it okay if I stop being able to?" I said, because the pain was continuing to get worse, and the contractions longer and closer, and while I'd been able to tolerate them I knew I was getting to the point where I was no longer going to be able to do so.
"Yes," he said, and so I didn't feel so bad about wanting to cry in the middle of the contractions.
Sometime in there breakfast came, and I used the bathroom and tried standing for a few contractions, pulling down on Eric's shoulders. Amy came and went. I got more antibiotics. I was on my hands and knees on the bed when Amy asked if I wanted to be examined again, and I hesitated because I felt if I wasn't very far along I was going to be too disappointed to keep going (as if I'd be able to just stop). Another contraction hit, and Amy said helpfully, "I can examine you in the position you're in."
"Okay," I croaked, and she did so, but I didn't hear what the result was because another contraction came. I decided that if I was only at six or seven centimeters I was going to start asking about drugs--I still wasn't interested in an epidural, but Nubain was starting to sound good.
"Did you hear?" Eric said, and when I shook my head, "You're at eight to nine centimeters! You're almost there!"
Eight to nine, I thought. I'm almost there. Then it won't be much longer and I won't need medication. That was at around noon.