The First Few Hours, And More Shit No One Tells You About Pregnancy
It was around 7 p.m. when it was evident I was having contractions. Evident because:
A) I'd had monitors hooked around my belly since I'd arrived. One was tracking Eve's heart rate, one was tracking my contractions. Not only could we watch the machine produce a little seismograph-like printout, we could also watch the activity on a special TV monitor mounted to the wall; and
B) THEY ARE CONTRACTIONS.
Now, on the one hand, I was actually sort of relieved to start feeling something, even something painful, because it meant that I could finally say, think, announce, PROCLAIM that I was finally in labor!!!
Sound the trumpets!!!
On the other hand, well, Ow.
I mean, even in the early stages, the contractions basically felt like I expected them to: like the worst of the worst menstrual cramps I've ever had, in acute, angry, increasingly prolonged bursts.
Except -- just like they say -- the contraction comes and life is VERY unpleasant...and then it's gone completely. So the time between contractions is all weirdly normal, and you're like, "Oh, hey! Just kidding! Everything is fine! Mind if I tweet? Where's that water bottle? I need to text my sister bac--OH, CRAP, HERE WE GO AGAIN..."
By 8 p.m., I was definitely getting into the swing of things. My contractions were regularly registering on the Contraction Seismograph, and they hurt, but it was still early.
To ensure that things continued on this course, they decided to give me my second dosage of Cytotec.
By 8:30 p.m. the evening nurses had come on duty, and were ready to hook me up to my IV. This is worth mentioning.
For one thing, the IV meant I was really, truly, actually in labor. And yes, I know I already pointed this out but dude. After nine full months of pregnancy, four previous trips to the hospital, and a full five weeks of being prepared to go into labor "at any moment," it was kind of hard to believe.
Well, until Our Main Nurse showed signs of hesitation at putting my IV in. She tried to cover for it, but it was obvious she wanted the other nurse to do it. This did not put me at ease.
Now, for the record, I didn't really care about being jabbed because that is More Shit No One Tells You About Pregnancy. Pregnancy means taking about nine hundred million different tests, all of which require vials of blood to be drawn from you whether you like it or not. There were days early on when I pricked so many times and had so much blood taken that was surprised I didn't leave the doctor's office "empty."
Still, it wasn't comfortable. And when you're trying to be patient while your nurse is yammering on endlessly about nothing and doing these crazy stupid voices and joking while not managing to get the needle successfully into your vein, you might get a little testy. Then when a contraction comes on and the nurse is still poking at your forearm and WHY IS SHE STILL TALKING you might envision kicking her in the shin. This is a sign that yes, you are really in labor(!) but also you need a distraction.
"Do you mind if I Twitter this?" I asked the nurse.
And so I did, albeit one-handedly. She eventually gave up on my arm and announced she'd have to just put it in the back of my hand, which is "a little more uncomfortable." Great.
(I ended up with a gigantor bruise on my forearm from where all the needle poking and prodding "didn't work." It didn't photograph well, but note that it's four weeks later and there is still a bruise outline on my arm.)
For the next two hours, there wasn't much to do. I was now hooked up to the IV and the two belly bands, so getting up and walking around (or even going to the bathroom) was a challenge. The contractions slowly started to feel more intense, though they looked basically the same on the Contraction Seismograph.
This concerned me. I wondered if that meant the pain would get much, much worse.
By about 10 p.m., Ish and I had worked out how to deal with my contractions as they started to intensify. Turns out, I HATED having Ish touching me in any way. No massage, no pats, no hugs, no nothing. This was contrary to everything we'd seen in videos, learned in class, or discussed ahead of time, but what can you do?
Instead, the moment I'd feel a contraction coming on, I'd look immediately at my husband and open my eyes wide. He quickly learned that this meant: Back away, but do not go far. Do not touch me unless I grab you for the purpose of squeezing the life out of one of your appendages. Say helpful, encouraging things and tell me I'm doing a good job, but whatever you do, DO NOT ASK IF I AM OKAY. The LAST thing I can do right now is worry about answering the dumbest fucking question I've ever been asked in my entire goddamned life.
By 10 p.m., it looked like we were going to have a quiet-ish evening. Yes, I was having uncomfortable contractions, but there had been no change in my cervix, and no reason to think anything really progressive was going to happen before morning.
We asked the nurse how we could expect things to play out, and she confirmed: we were looking at a whole night of the same. I'd probably get more Cytotec and possibly something to help me sleep, so that we could both be rested and ready to go by morning.
She suggested that before we try to get some sleep, however, we should really take at least one walk around the halls. According to her, this would help keep things moving. I agreed, but not because I wanted to go for a walk. I agreed because my nurse would not shut up about how walking was the best thing I could do and I should really walk around and you know I should walk around now before things really get cooking and I can't walk around any more. And also I should walk around.
So she unhooked me from my mass of wires and bands and tubes and damn it, we walked. And you know what? IT SUCKED. I didn't like strolling the hallways half-naked with my tube things on that wheelie cart. I didn't like wandering past the other rooms full of laboring women who didn't want to see me and who I didn't want seeing me. I didn't like the feeling of always having to pee because the baby was still putting massive pressure on my bladder which -- ha, ha -- was NOT made better by all my uterine activity. And mostly I didn't like walking ten feet and then having to glare at Ish so that he would stop walking and wait for me to try to climb the wall with my toenails until the next contraction finished.
By 10:30 we got back to the room and had to call the nurse to come re-hook me up. We thought maybe we'd try to get some shut-eye. I decided to use the facilities while I had the chance.
At which point my water broke.
WTF, huh? I mean, I'm no expert, but I don't think anyone expected that. I certainly didn't. (Especially not while sitting in the bathroom.)
In fact, I didn't quite believe it. So I came out of the bathroom and told Ish, but that didn't help anything. It still sounded crazy: Hi, um, I know there's been no progress and I'm not dilated and sure, I was um, just, you know, peeing for the 40 thousandth time, but hey -- I think my water broke. He just looked at me dumbfounded.
Then the nurse appeared and I told her the same.
I expected her at least to celebrate the news, since apparently her stupid insistence on walking had done some good after all.
Instead she replied, "Oh, no. It probably didn't."
"I kind of think it did."
"Well, are you still leaking?"
This was an unexpected question. Am I still leaking? I'm supposed to leak now? I had to think about it.
"Then your water didn't break. Once your water breaks, you just keep on leaking. Your body will actually keep producing water and leak until you give birth."
I stared at her, processing this, adding it to the More Shit No One Tells You About Pregnancy file.
I was pretty sure something odd had happened while I was in the bathroom, but I couldn't be sure and so we let the nurse leave.
Three minutes later, however, we called her back.
I will spare you the minute details here of exactly why we called her back (but yes, it was leak-related), of how they test said leakage, and of what they do when the "leak" comes back positive, but I will offer these choice phrases: hospital-grade maxi-pads; hospital-grade netted underpants; hospital-grade bed-liners.
Ugh. The miracle of birth.
But who cares, right? Because my water broke! Of its own accord! This indicated that my body was responding to the gentle encouragement of the Cytotec and I was going into a natural labor! Oh, happy day!
The nurse checked my cervix again!