Starting At About 10:30 p.m., Things Start To Get Blurry. And Stabby.
You hear stories about how women are in labor for 12, 18, 24, 36 hours and, if you're like me and haven't ever given birth, you go, "Huh?" Like, how is that even possible? Are you in agony the whole time? How does it take THREE DAYS? And what the hell do you DO for so many hours?
I don't know what everyone's answer is, but I will say that once the contractions really kicked in, time just sort of went away. And not in a happy, "Oh, my my! Where did the time go?" kind of way.
No. I lived from contraction to contraction, which I guess is what happens. And occasionally I'd look at the clock and wonder how it was so many hours later. Sort of like losing track of time because you're so engrossed in a project. Except in this case, the project is a little like removing your fingernails.
I did learn that sitting or lying down was wholly unpleasant, and the only position I could tolerate during a contraction was that of "bent over." So for the next four hours I was standing, chatting, occasionally tweeting, and then bending over my bed humming.
Yes, humming. Making a long, low humming sound brought me relief.
I remember thinking that was interesting. I just found myself humming. Not because I read it or saw it or was taught it, but because that's what I wanted to do. And I remember also thinking YOU KNOW? If childbirth is supposed to be so friggin' natural, why do they even bother trying to teach us what to do...? Bending over the bed humming was not something I expected, and yet there I was. It just sort of "happened."
WHEREAS. There was one point when my pain was getting worse and my "humming" had escalated to "mooing" that the nurse suggested I try the "birthing ball." This was something they'd taught us about in class. So against my better judgment but willing to try anything that might make the contractions more bearable, I agreed. Why not?
So she got the stupid ball and it was a complete and total disaster. (Do I need to remind you of the BALLS OF DEATH?) I can barely manage not to roll off a yoga ball when I'm NOT pregnant and writhing in pain. This ball was rather small to begin with, and not particularly well inflated. When you then add me and my million pounds, the ball sags to within inches of the floor. Um? Sitting was unbearably uncomfortable. Why did I think hunching and squatting on some plastic ball would make everything better? It was the worst position yet, and also had the pleasant side-effect of making me feel like a whale. A beached, mooing whale.
We got rid of the ball. I thought I showed tremendous restraint in not throwing it at my nurse. (This was the same nurse who sorely bruised me while trying to get my arm IV in, and who kept doing silly voices and making light of the situation and insisted that my contractions had barely begun and that my water had not broken. I think I will now refer to her as Nurse Stabby.)
At another point, just after a doozy of a contraction, I stood up and realized that I was completely entangled around my IV pole. Between the bending over and walking in circles in the room and being hooked up to the IV and to the fetal monitor (still), I'd wound myself around the pole and was stuck. Like a dog that's wound its leash around a tree.
Nurse Stabby did a mental eye-roll. "Oh, honey, just stand there." And as she proceeded to try and unwind me, she couldn't help but mutter, "I have no idea how you did this."
Meanwhile, poor Ish was doing his best to by my coach, given my volatile and inconsistent state. And by inconsistent I mean: I wanted no physical contact unless suddenly I did(!), whereupon I'd then grab hold of whatever part of Ish's body was closest. My dislike for Nurse Stabby was palpable, but I certainly wasn't going to show any of that in her presence. I was incredibly testy during contractions and yet (I'd say) rather pleasant between them. Well, and then there's the part where I was mooing.
Ish did a very good job of being my partner and catering to my needs and getting ice water and going with the flow of my crazy. Despite his near-perfect behavior, however, I managed to find fault with him on one count. In the throes of a contraction, I decided he wasn't being creative enough in his use of language. Somewhere around his 150th "You're doing a great job, sweetie!" I glared at him and barked, "STOP SAYING THAT! YOU HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER WAY TO SAY THAT! HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO SAY THINGS?!?!"
Which basically meant, "Your job here is to find new and interesting ways to compliment me while I moo!" Note: Also not something they cover in labor prep class.
Now. At this point, you might be wondering about pain medication, huh? Like, you might be thinking, "Hey, wasn't she supposedly all gung-ho about pain medication? I wonder why she hasn't taken any yet!" And you would be asking very good questions.
One of the first things I did when I got into the hospital bed at 4 in the afternoon was proclaim to any medical professional within earshot: I do not want to miss the Epidural Window. Make sure I do not miss the Epidual Window! I did this because every labor horror story anywhere begins with how the pregnant woman missed the window for getting the epidural, either because her labor progressed too quickly or because she thought she could handle the pain and later determined otherwise. I did not fall into either category, but just wanted to be crystal clear about my preferences in case. The nurses thought this was hilarious. I did not.
Anyway. It turns out, they don't administer pain meds of any kind until you're dilated to at least 2 cm. (They won't even discuss the epidural.) If you'd told me that two weeks before, I would have said, "Oh, that sounds reasonable." But after my water had broken and my contractions were clearly not funny anymore (not that I ever thought they were), Nurse Stabby finally agreed to check me at about 2:30 a.m.
[Aside: "Check." That is what they call it when they put the glove on and reach all up in your business to see what's going on. And I don't want to begrudge medial professionals or anything, but it seems to me there should maybe me a more scientific way to gauge dilation than by a stabby nurse with a glove. Plus also, no matter who's doing it, it hurts. I mean, it's uncomfortable too, in the way that any formal assessment of your hoo-ha is uncomfortable, but it also hurts.]
I was only at 1. 1! Grrr! I didn't find this alarming so much as annoying. Obviously I was ready for labor, right? With the slightest prompting, my body had started its process and labor seemed imminent. Just as soon as my cervix got with the program, we'd be ready to go. The nurses were preparing for our morning to be very active and our baby's arrival to be late morning-early afternoon. And I'd heard plenty of stories of the cervix leaping in dilation and effacement just like magic.
So, I thought basically I was going to have a swift, good, normal labor. And since I was going to have a swift, good, normal labor, that 2 cm rule seemed kind of stupid. But what can you do.
Another hour of mind-numbing, moo-inducing contractions later, I think Nurse Stabby took pity on me. Or maybe she just wanted me to shut up. She'd taken up permanent residence in our room to help guide Ish and I through the increasingly challenging process, and I wouldn't have wanted to listen to several more hours of me, either.
All joking aside, though, what was the point (I wondered) of saying Yes! to pain meds if I was still going to go through hours of pain? I guess just to get to know the joys of labor. Or something.
At 3:30, Nurse Stabby looked at me and said, "You know, if you're really feeling ready for some kind of pain medication, I can help move things along. But it won't feel good." She made a kind of gesture with her hand when she said "move things along" that I won't describe, but she got her point across.
I agreed. At 3:30 a.m. I got my first dose of something glorious that helped take the edge off. I want to say for the record, however, that taking the edge off of a real contraction is a little like taking the edge off of a bullet wound. Comparatively, the rest of my body was a little more relaxed, and I was able to at least sit on the bed without wanting to claw my face off.
At this point, Nurse Stabby suggested we try to sleep. We needed our energy to be ready to go in the morning.
I don't know what kind of "sleep" one is supposed to get while still contracting every 3 to 5 minutes, but let's just say it's not exactly restful.
The next several hours passed with both Ish and I trying to doze. I will admit, he was more successful than I, though he tried really hard to stay awake with me. We had the blinds closed, the door closed, the lights off. I was on the bed, contorting my body into any position I could think of that might make the contractions better. Ish was beside me on the 300 year old recliner.
Everytime I'd move enough to make a lot of noise, Ish would stir. Without getting up or even opening his eyes, he'd say, "You're doing a great job, sweetie."
He really did mean well.
By the time the sun was up and Nurse Stabby had gone home and it was time for us to be transitioning into the next phase of labor, something unexpected happened: nothing.
We'd started the morning by meeting with the nurses and doctor and everyone agreed we should just wait it out. No more inducing meds, no more pain meds, just let labor progress naturally. If we needed to reassess later in the day, we would.
After which point my contractions stopped getting worse and kind of stalled out. They were back to being very uncomfortable but not debilitating. By 11:30 a.m. I discovered I'd actually fallen asleep and woken up and felt momentarily refreshed...until I realized my labor seemed to be going backwards.
"What's going on with you?" one of the new day nurses asked, in good humor. "We expected you to be delivered by now!"
Yes, well. Ha, ha. SO DID I.