For those of you who are into all the details, here goes...
Don't hate me.
It's not my fault that I have "easy" labor and delivery. I credit my genetics and healthy lifestyle.
And even though I say it was "easy", it was the hardest thing I've ever done.
The human body is an amazing thing. Shortly after having Ada, my mind wiped out all memories of the pain and all of the sucky part so that I don't remember delivery being nearly as bad as it was. I just remember I was able to handle it and I survived. I think, as Americans, we are influenced by so many movies and horror stories about labor and delivery that we really are uneducated when it comes to what actually happens and what we should expect. Hopefully, this little story will shed some light on how things could be, if you're lucky.
On Sunday morning, I woke up feeling funny. Not really sick, not really crampy, not really having contractions, but just knowing that this baby was getting ready. We went to breakfast and called our parents to put them on notice and have them start heading into the city so they would be here to watch Ada when the time came. I ate a light breakfast knowing that whatever I ate had a good probability of reappearing in the hospital in a manner I wouldn't be excited about.
Our parents planned to arrive that afternoon. Ada, Rick and I planned to take a walk around the block to get Ada to fall asleep. It turned into a two-hour walk that gave me a flip flop blister between my toes. Ouch. Really, I just kept walking in hopes that it would kick start my labor. We walked toward the hospital just in case my water broke mid-stride.
After the walk, I started having some really pathetic contractions. My mom arrived and the contractions continued. Rick's parents arrived and the contractions became measurable but still weak. At one point, they were four minutes apart but I was in no pain and knew they couldn't be doing much. Around four pm they stopped. Then they started up again but were eight minutes apart. I laid down to see if they would start up again. And I even took a shower knowing that it would be the only one I'd take for a day or two. The contractions eventually ramped back up to four minutes apart and we decided to go to the hospital to get checked out since my doctoress had said "come in when your contractions are ten minutes apart". I told her they started at 6 or 8 minutes apart with Ada so that never really happens for me, but I'd know when it was time. At about 7 pm, we arrived at the hospital and checked in. I didn't think I was ready to deliver but wanted to be checked out "just in case". The nurse checking us in thought I was going to be induced since I clearly wasn't in any pain. I was put into a triage room and asked all of the standard medical questions. A doctoress came to check me out and I was dilated to a two, maybe a three. She said she'd give me a few hours and come back to check how I was progressing. In the meantime, I read a book and Rick studied for his Architecture exams. Excitement in the triage room!
Around 9:30 the doctoress came back. I was dilated to four centimeters, but still not really feeling the contractions even if they were at four minutes apart. She asked how I was doing and I said, "I'm bored." Labor just wasn't progressing fast enough for me and I like to be efficient. She offered to speed things up by breaking my bag and giving me some medicine. I stopped her right there and explained that I wasn't in a hurry if breaking my bag meant starting the "he has to come out within the next 24 hours or we're going in to get him" clock and by "medicine" she meant pitocin. That's when the light bulb went on and she realized I wasn't kidding about doing this thing naturally. I just explained that I wasn't in a hurry and would like him to come on his own terms. I am an impatient person and Ada was a quick ramp up of powerful contractions with a fast delivery to top it off. She understood and then realized that it might be a good idea for me to go home for a few hours and come back when things got exciting. She consulted my doctoress, who explained that I am a rational, educated adult whom she trusts to have good judgement, and I live six blocks away from the hospital so sending me home would be the best course of action. Yes, I was in labor. Yes, the hospital sent me home.
At home, we got to rest, eat, and drink. My mom was on the couch, my in-laws were in our bed, and my good neighbor Kelly was out at a concert and staying with a friend so she offered us her place to relax in until it was time for the baby to make life exciting. After covering her couch with a waterproof mat and a towel, I laid down for a bit of rest. I ate a granola bar and drank some water, knowing both were likely to come up later. I just wanted to keep up my strength while not setting myself up for disaster as the night went on.
About two in the morning, my mom called us from fifty feet away--we were upstairs and across the hall--to say that Ada had a high fever. Great. Just what we needed. I'm in labor and my 2.5 year old is sick. Nice. We tried to give her medicine but it was crystallized so my mom and Rick's dad ended up walking to the store to get a new bottle of generic Tylenol since all of the children's Tylenol has been recalled. Ada refused to take the medicine and opted to sit on the couch and watch a movie instead. Rick and I retreated back to Kelly's for a bit more sleep before all of the excitement kicked in.
At three am, my contractions started to get more intense. We stopped by our place to tell them we were heading to the hospital and accidentally woke Ada up. She had just fallen asleep on the couch and threw quite the tantrum when we left. As we were getting into the car, we could hear her screams out the open window. Not the best way to head off to the hospital.
Just as luck would have it, as I was getting into the car I accidentally stepped down off the curb and landed my foot in a puddle of nasty water and soaked my shoe. Of course it was the foot I got the blister on so I was a little worried it would get infected. Thankfully, we were heading to a hospital...
Five minutes later, we arrived at the hospital. We parked in the parking garage and took the stairs -- another way of me trying to keep things moving, and I was avoiding the elevator since I had bad dreams involving elevators during my pregnancy. We checked back into the triage area and the doctoress examined me again. I had made it to a six and was indeed progressing nicely. They moved me to my own room and my contractions started to intensify. My whole body quickly started shaking from being so cold. I'm told that is a sign of the transition phase of labor and is a good thing. The nurse assigned to me just happened to be the woman who taught the birthing class we took before having Ada. It was so nice to have a friendly face helping us out, and it eased my mind knowing that she was a proponent of natural birth.
Things started to heat up and I was feeling the "urge to push". The doctoress checked me and I was dilated to a seven. A few more contractions and they checked me again. By this time, my contractions were quite strong. I wasn't able to talk during them or say much in between either. What little food was in my stomach decided it didn't need to be there anymore so I was really glad I hadn't had much to eat. I was kneeling on the mattress while leaning over the head of the bed since it had been raised to an upright position. The contractions were the most painful thing I've ever experienced. I'd try to let out a little yell but quickly refocused on trying to breath and rock my hips. The doctor came in to check me again and I was at an eight. I overheard her say to another doctor in the room that I didn't want to break my bag and I piped up to say at this point, I didn't care. If breaking the bag would move things along, then let's do it. There wasn't a fear at this point that breaking it would increase my risk of complications. They went to call my doctoress and get the utensil to break my bag. While they were gone, my nurse suggested that I try to let the bag break on it's own since that would be more natural way to do things. Breaking the bag would just intensify the contractions. That's really what I was hoping for so that I could speed up this process, move things along and get past the pain. About two more contractions came when I heard the click of street shoes in the hallway and assumed my doctoress had arrived. The doctors were conferencing in the hall when, all of a sudden I felt the urge to push. I told the nurse and magically, my bag of waters broke all on its own. The nurse shouted "Bag broke, strong urge to push" and immediately encouraged me to roll over so I could start pushing. Here I am thinking, "Really, I can push already? Sweet. I've got this. I'm having a baby." In the meantime, what sounded like five or six people swarmed into my room and commands were being shouted, gowns were being put on and people were taking their positions in preparation for me to have a baby.
At some point, there was a nurse's assistant touching my thigh during a contraction and I picked her hand up and moved it off my leg. She immediately apologized, having realized what she'd done. It seemed like a bitchy thing to do but I really didn't want her hand touching me and she just put it there absentmindedly, as if to say my being in labor was no big deal and this happens everyday. Well, maybe it does for them but I'm only doing this twice in my lifetime and her touching my thigh right then was not working for me.
Within seconds of rolling over to my back, they had my legs up on footpaddles for pushing. They explained how I needed to hold on to the outside of my thighs and pull them back as I pushed. I was to take in a big breath, hold it while bearing down and pushing the baby out toward the light over the doctoress' heads, all while tucking my chin. I couldn't get the rhythm right and kept putting my head back and breathing out all of the air like I had done for the other contractions. It took two contractions and about six pushes to figure out how to push correctly. Once I finally figured it out, they were quickly yelling "Push, push, push, push, push" and saying things like "I see a bald head." I think it took less than a dozen real pushes and he was slipping out of my body and magically landed on my chest all covered in goo, wrapped loosely in a towel. Awesome!
I made it. Ta da. I had a baby. That's when all of the warm fuzzy natural mommy drugs kicked in and the world became the happiest place on Earth.
Then it was time for them to do some stuff with the cord since we decided to donate the cord blood. That was annoying and time consuming but surely worth it in the end. Then I had to deal with the afterbirth and the doctoress' pushing on my stomach to get the uterus to contract and pass the placenta. Never a fun experience but okay since I had my new son on my chest.
And finally, the poking and prodding and numerous needle pricks that come with repairing a tear. I had a second degree tear with Ada and the same tear with Iain. It seems to take forever for them to sew it all up and numb the area and disinfect it and whatever else they do. At one point I was really tempted to ask, "Are you two yahoos almost done down there?" My patience for being messed with at that point in the process was non-existent. Did I mention I'm an impatient person?
Eventually they had me repaired and dressed in the fishnet disposable underwear that are beyond sexy and do a nice job holding in the ice pack and maxi pad. They weighed and cleaned the baby. Turns out that he and Ada both weighed 8.004 lbs. He was 21 inches long and she was only 20 inches. The sun was rising over the lake, a new day was just getting started, and it was time for me to cuddle up with my new munchkin and take a nap.
All said and done, it was a great experience and much easier than it could have been, and easier than I expected, but also so much harder than I remembered. I felt a bit traumatized afterwards and tended to get a bit bent out of shape when everyone kept saying "So we'll see you back here next year for your third?" or any comments regarding having more children. I made sure to ask my doctoress if it was her I needed to see about "closing down the factory for good" and she said we'd talk at my six week checkup. I think I'm more sensitive to the thought of having more kids since this pregnancy was so much harder than it was with Ada. They don't tell you that each consecutive pregnancy gets harder because 1)you're older 2)you're body is already stretched out and will stretch further and faster each time 3)you have a kid(s) to chase after and take care of while you are incubating the one in your womb and 4)that kid wants you to pick them up and do everything you've always done with them and might be quite adamant that you keep up.
Moral of the story: Labor and delivery stories aren't all bad. A lot of it is genetics. A lot of it is mental preparation, focus and controlled breathing. The rest is knowing what you can handle and what your options are. It isn't something to be taken lightly.