Around 2:30am on Thanksgiving morning, We were admitted. “You’re going to have a Thanksgiving baby,” promised nurse Jocelyn.
The pain started to get this mysterious “more intense” (aka: effin’ ow) and I started uncontrollably shaking. My nurse said, “These are the transition shakes” and I knew then that there was no going back. It was going to be bad and it was going to be long and they offered me the pain control options. They explained Nubain and the epidural. It was hard for me to make a decision. I didn’t want an epidural, really, but it also started to really be uncomfortable. so I consented. The anesthesiologist showed up and I sat for the excrutatingly long procedure, which was apparently made longer because of my “difficult anatomy”. I had a bunch of contractions in the middle of it all. Once the epidural was in, the doc went next door to do another one, and in the meantime, the epidural did not kick in. There was zero pain relief. My legs didn’t get heavy, didn’t get tingly. Nothing. The pain, truly, only got worse. He came back, took it out, redid it. And again–didn’t take.
I expected pain relief. They offered it. They said it would make me numb, that I wouldn’t feel contractions or if I did, they would be mild, and they offered it to me. So, when it didn’t kick in, it was a complete insult. I don’t do well with change and changing expectations on a good day. So, in the middle of insane pain and hormones raging…I kind of flipped out. That was among my worst moments. But then my awesome new nurse (there had been a shift change between epidural one and two) said, “We’re gonna have to do this one naturally, sweetie” and my mindset changed. I mean, what was I gonna do? That became my mantra in my head with every contraction. I knew that just riding them out and blowing or moaning through them was what was going to get him out of me the fastest and the safest and so I just did it.
From about 3am until about 10 when I started pushing, I just labored through really hard, intense contractions every two minutes. I was able, amazingly, to occasionally sleep between contractions, which made it feel like I had more time between them than I did, but also made me feel like I should have been much further along in time than I was. They had him on the external monitor, but he kept dropping off (that is, they just couldn’t hear him. his heartrate actually was fine and never wavered–not even one time) and I had to be laboring on my back, which was really very uncomfortable. I felt the best when I could be sitting up, leaning forward, which I had figured out when I was contracting during the epidurals. It was much easier to blow through them when I was sitting straight up, but I couldn’t sit that way and have the baby monitored unless they broke my water (which was “bulging” but not breaking on its own.) At this point, I was about 7cm. I was actually progressing really well on my own. I had come in at 3-4 cm and was progressing about 1cm per hour. They said if they broke the water, chances were that my contractions would get stronger (which felt insurmountable to me) but they’d be able to internally monitor the baby and I could sit up and labor, which I really wanted to do. (Had I known then that “internal monitoring” meant actually clipping something onto his teeny baby scalp, I don’t think I would have agreed. But I didn’t know.)
So they did it. I didn’t really feel the breaking nor did I feel the monitor being placed on my boy, but I did hear his heartbeat strong and steady in the background. It became the soundtrack to the hardest part of my labor and I actually found it really reassuring there, steady in the background like a metronome. Each contraction after that brought a warm gush of amniotic fluid, which also felt really good. It was at least another sensation to focus on.
I have to say at this point that m* was a complete and total superstar. I mean, for, like, 10 hours on no sleep with bad knees, she stood at my side, rubbing my back, rubbing my feet, encouraging me, being attentive, being intuitive, feeding me ice chips, advocating for me with the nurses and doctors, letting me squeeze her hand until it bled. I say this without even the slightest hint of cliche: there is absolutely no way I would have been able to do what I did without her by my side. I am sure of it.
Sometime around 9am, when I was about 9-9.5cm, I felt the strong urge to push. And while I staved it off for a little while by blowing and moaning through contractions, eventually, I just had the sense that I couldn’t. My nurse gave me the go-ahead. She said, “if your body wants to push, push. It knows what it needs to do.” And so I pushed, sitting up there on the bed. It felt like a relief to push, but in no way did it take away the pain and intensity. Eventually, I was sure the baby was coming. I was sure. M* went out and got the nurse. It was about 10:05 at this point. The bed was still put together; the stirrups were still hidden and the doctor was not there. The nurse had me push my feet against her hands and she counted to ten for me. I did three sets of ten per contraction and she said, “it’s not going to be long. This baby is on his way” and m* confirmed for me that with each push, she could see his head come out and slip back. I was an awesome pusher. For real. I had seen enough baby shows to know that doing anything aside from bearing down, curling around the baby, grabbing my knees, and pushing soundlessly was not going to make him come any sooner.
Three rounds of three pushes each and there it was: the ring of fire and they said, “stop pushing!” Despite reaaaaaallly wanting to push, I blew through one contraction. And I waited. The doctor was just getting her gloves on and I thought, this is NUTS and I pushed my baby out and out he came. In one big push, he slid right out onto the bed, purple and shiny and screaming and awesome. I mean it. Seriously awesome. And it was the greatest sense of relief I had ever felt. And I bent forward and looked down at him and I said, “did i deliver him?” And there he was and m* was crying and I was in shock and my baby was wailing and the nurse was congratulating me and he was picked up and suctioned out and wiped down and Ilooked over and saw him pink up and they told me he scored a 9 and I thought Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.