I have so many things to say and sorting it all into separate posts is going to be a big project. But I thought I’d start by keeping it simple with Tessa’s birth story. I’m planning a later post that will delve into the awesomeness that was live-tweeting my labor, but for now let’s stick to the facts, Jack.
On Monday night I felt a little weird. Which I didn’t take as a sign of impending labor in any way. On the contrary, I knew this was my body messing with me. I had an OB appointment bright and early Tuesday morning and I have this tendency to see everything as a hopeful sign right before I go to the doctor. Then I go in and get disappointed and hate life.
But I woke up on Tuesday at 2 a.m. with contractions. Not the first time, but they were the more painful ones so I couldn’t get back to sleep. After about a half hour or so without letting up I thought I’d start timing. They were strange ones, starting with about a minute of cramp-like pain, then moving to back pain, then giving me a little break but not a painless one. After timing for an hour they appeared to be 3 and a half minutes apart. I checked my pregnancy book and saw that this was actually pretty fast. I woke up Eric to take over timing and make sure I wasn’t a crazy person.
Because the contractions themselves were so weird I had no idea if they were real. I knew real contractions shouldn’t have the pain inbetween, but I also knew real contractions radiated front to back so once Eric’s numbers matched mine we called the OB and were told to come on in.
Thus commenced a half hour of frantic packing followed by a drive to the hospital and a check in at L&D to see if I’d be admitted. This entire time I had basically one topic of discussion: If they send me home, it’s going to get ugly. I was frantic not to get sent home and the nurses and doctors probably got a bit weirded out with how preoccupied I was.
The monitors showed contractions, and the spacing was about what I’d measured at home. Then the doctor checked me (OOOOOWWWWWW) and said I was a 2. Instead of thinking, “Yay, I’m dilating!” my response was, “Oh crap, a 2 is not very dilated, they are going to send me home.” But they sent me to a room where Eric assured me that at this point they were NOT going to send me home. I was officially having this baby.
We finally got settled in. I got permission to eat a snack before things got going and Eric ran down to Au Bon Pain to get me a raspberry cheese croissant. (This was a big improvement over our last hospital, where the only 24 hour place for food was McDonald’s.) It was about 6 a.m. by the time we got into our labor room. I felt pretty darn confident at that point that I would be having my long-hoped-for Valentine’s Day baby.
(The Valentine’s Day as a Birthday subject has been one I’ve discussed with many others, including many of you. While many pointed out cons, I have always been heavily pro. But Tessa can’t complain. It’s not like I picked the day.)
Of course, at 6 a.m. this feels like a no-brainer. There are 18 hours left in the day and I was already 4 hours into labor. Graham had only a 10-hour labor and second babies are always faster, right?
Well except for the fact that Graham was an induction… that changes things. And as the hours ticked away I realized gradually that a Valentine’s baby was not a sure thing.
My first nurse would only be there for another hour. E suggested I get my IV before she left because I’d have another shot with a new person if she didn’t work out. It was a good plan. Because she really wanted to get a vein on the side of my arm. She tried very very hard. And she did not get it. And OOOOOWWWWWWW.
This meant we had to wait for our next nurse and most likely resign myself to an IV in my hand. I hate IV’s in my hand. But I also hate having someone dig around in my arm. (This was the first time I’d ever needed that. My hand and elbow have killer veins, but apparently my arm does not.) My new nurse tracked down some lidocaine and gave me the hand IV. It was, as with my previous childbirth, to be one of the single most terrible parts of the process.
At this point I was up and around and stayed a bit mobile. Everyone was falling over themselves to give me an epidural but I wasn’t in nearly enough pain to feel like I needed one. So I hung out until around 10 a.m. when the OB came back to check me. Except she didn’t check me. Because I was far too happy to have dilated further and the contractions weren’t as close together as before. Instead we decided to start pitocin and I figured I’d be getting my epidural pretty quick once that happened.
Except I didn’t. You know how I’ve been complaining about my Braxton-Hicks contractions for a good 6 weeks? And how painful they were? Yeah, I basically had 6 weeks of labor. Because I was pretty nonplussed by my contractions. I went for 2 hours of pitocin before I decided to go ahead and get the epidural. I still wasn’t dying or anything, but I knew the pain would steadily increase and I’d already had 10 hours of labor.
My epidural was rather exciting. I got it from Dr. Camann, the Director of Obstetric Anesthesia. Because we are big pals now. It happened to be a day the marketing folks were making a video about the maternity ward for expecting mothers and so I agreed to let them film my epidural. (I assume this was mostly video of Dr. Camann and my spine. I doubt any future moms would be impressed by my floppy ponytail.) It went great and it was exactly what I’d hoped. I could still feel below the waist and I had my handy button to use as needed to up my dose.
The pitocin was doing its job, my contractions were back to regular and I was excited to get checked again to see how dilated I was. (Especially cuz it wouldn’t hurt. Sweet.) But at 1:45 I was still a 2. A TWO. I had almost forgiven my cervix for its stubbornness, but apparently it hadn’t changed. At 3 pm I was only a 3 and they broke my water.
And at 6:30 I was only a 6. And getting frustrated. We were past 16 hours of labor. I wasn’t mad or in pain, I was mostly bored and tired. I’d hit the button about once every 90 minutes since getting the epidural and while the nurse stayed with me after I got checked, I thought to myself that I should hit it again when she left. I could feel an increase in pain (from about a 2 to a 3 or 4) and it couldn’t hurt to bring it down a bit.
Then she left, I hit the button, and the next couple contractions got stronger. And then, suddenly, I was in 7 to 8 territory pain-wise. The worst thing was that between the contractions there was still a lot of pain. It takes about 15 minutes for the meds from the button to kick in. I was waiting but I couldn’t really take it more. Anesthesia came in just cuz (seriously, they were in at least once an hour to see if I was comfy, it was amazing) and I told them what was happening. I got some extra meds added and just had to wait for my button and new meds to kick in.
And that’s when the pain got to 9 or 10 territory. Where I felt my lungs being compressed and just wept uncontrollably because it hurt. All the pain meds was in place, but my body moved a little too fast to let everything catch up. Anesthesia came in again to check on me and I told him that I was also feeling pressure. This was smart because it meant they gave me meds that shouldn’t interfere too much with pushing. When I had Graham I had some extra meds right before pushing but didn’t know I was so close so I was totally out of it and a bit loopy when pushing time came.
The nurse came back in and kinda freaked. I’d been very very chill all through my labor. Never complaining about pain or asking for anything, just going with the flow. Hanging out, waiting for stuff to happen. And all of a sudden I was a weepy mess with anesthesiologists tending to me, assuring her that I was having pressure and maybe we should talk to the doctor.
The doctor came back in and got ready to check me. I was feeling okay now, the pain was down and I was back in control of myself. As she put on her glove and got ready to feel how dilated I was I saw the look on her face. Her face said, “I see a baby’s head.” So yeah, I went from a 6 to a head in about an hour.
Everyone got ready and we started pushing. My first couple contractions were frustrating. I didn’t feel like I was pushing well, I was still a little bit freaked out from my rough hour. Plus my contractions were only a minute or so apart so I wasn’t getting real breaks. My body seemed to sense this and my next contraction, if it came, didn’t get on the radar so I had a few minutes to breathe. Then we got down to business.
A few pushes later the doctor asked me if I wanted to feel the baby’s head. She seemed surprised when I said no. I would be feeling her head soon enough. And I felt rather certain it would be somehow traumatizing to feel a baby’s head where I was supposed to feel only myself.
Then her head was out and she was already making noise. I really wanted her to come out slowly and easily, as Graham came out way fast and nearly destroyed my body. Tessa was perfect and a moment later she was there on my chest, all purple and covered in goop.
She was born at 8:08 pm, 7 lbs and 9 oz, 19″ after 18 hours of labor and 20 minutes of pushing. All in all, I feel really good about the whole experience. So far people have been a little concerned about that whole “18 hours” part but I really didn’t mind it. It wasn’t like I spent 18 hours in excruciating pain. Even that one rough hour isn’t something I look back on with horror. To the contrary now I feel like I have a pretty decent idea of what I missed by getting the epidural and I have to say I’m comfortable with my choice.
All in all, I got pretty much exactly what I wanted out of my birth experience. I managed my pain well and even got to feel a little tough. I was able to relax. I had great doctors and nurses. I had minimal tearing and no complications. And I got my best Valentine’s Day ever.
This post is part of my New Moms Series. See all posts here.