"Well," Andrew said, trying to calm me down, "I think we're in labor."
"Okay, just sit tight for a minute and I'll come out and get you after we get a room ready."
I wasn't really sitting tight anywhere. We went to get a drink from the drinking fountain. I was upset with myself for being such a wimp. We had just gotten home when I became completely inconsolable and unable to handle the contractions. I couldn't figure it out. From everything I had read about labor you're supposed to be excited when you first start real labor. I was far from excited at this point. I was exhausted and I couldn't handle the pain. Furthermore, why were the contractions coming right on top of each other? When you first start labor you're supposed to have rhythmic spread out contractions. And why did I feel like I needed a toilet every time a contraction hit?
I kept telling myself what a wimp I was, but was even more upset when the nurse came out to get us.
"Is this your first baby?" she asked.
"Yes," I panted.
"Well, don't be surprised if we send you home. Most first time mothers come in way too early..."
"But I think I've been in labor for a while," I insisted.
"Really?" she asked, "How long?"
"Since like seven this morning."
"Oh..." she said disbelievingly, but she took me to a room anyway.
Once inside they put me on a triage bed to assess how far the labor had progressed.
I was having a hard time handling contractions. After one bout of saying, "It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!" the nurse said, "Oh, honey, just do some breathing. They'll only get worse as labor progresses."
I tried to do breathing but it was so hard! I was so tired and they hurt so badly.
"On a scale of one to ten, would you rate your pain for me? Ten being highest."
I was trying to put my pain in perspective. I didn't really have much perspective though because I didn't know how much worse it could get, you know, as labor progressed, "A seven, I guess. The contractions are really bad, but I feel just fine in between."
Like I had any idea how to rate my pain.
"How far apart are the contractions?" the nurse asked.
"Ummm...like 1 to 3 minutes apart?" guessed Andrew. We had no idea. We had tried timing them at home but they were coming right on top of each other so that was a little difficult.
The nurse hooked me up to some monitors so that she could measure my contractions.
She was surprised to see, when the first one hit, that it was already off the chart at the peak. She walked me through the contraction telling me when I had peaked and that a few more deep breaths should do it. She turned around to get something and when she turned back around I was already well into another contraction.
"That was not three minutes," she said, "I have no question you're really in labor. How far dilated were you at your last appointment?"
"Nothing," I said.
She checked my dilation and said with a gasp, "Oh, sweetie, you're already at a nine! You need to be ready to push in about 10 minutes, I'd say. Why didn't you come in sooner?"
"I didn't know I was in labor. I was at work. I thought it was false and I was being a wimp," I confessed.
"You are not a wimp at all," the nurse insisted, "You're at a nine! That's not wimpy."
And then I totally lost it. I was not prepared to push at all. And I was so tired. So I did what any rational person would do.
I started crying and hyperventilating while muttering, "I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do it..."
Luckily the anesthesiologist was on his way to give an epidural to another girl so he was able to stop in our room and give me a spinal tap. It worked instantly. My legs went numb, I couldn't feel the contractions, and I was able to catch my breath and have a little nap before pushing.
Since I couldn't feel the contractions, the nurse had to tell me when to push, which was fine with me because it didn't really hurt...It wasn't exactly comfortable, either, but at least it wasn't horrible. On my first push my water broke. Andrew was very happy he was up holding my hand/head because it popped like a water balloon, spraying the nurse and everything else around. It was kind of shocking.
I was also glad to have the spinal block because while pushing, we had to take the triage mattress off the bed in order to turn the bed into a birthing bed. That meant that I had to move around, which I'm not sure I could have done in a non-medicated state.
The spinal block worked until about 40 minutes of pushing were up. I had an epidural tube in my back, but it wasn't hooked up to anything so it was useless.
The last three sets of pushes were absolutely excruciating, but I didn't scream, and oddly enough, it really was pretty easy to forget about all of that after Rachel was out and crying. It was simply a relief to have her out...and she's such a beautiful baby.
"Congratulations," the nurse said to me as she showed me Rachel, "You're not pregnant anymore!"
After being stitched up for about half an hour, we worked on breast feeding for about two hours until Rachel fell asleep. Then she was whisked off to have a bath.
So, I suppose the contractions I was having at seven o'clock on Friday morning were real ones. Now I know what they feel like.
Next time I won't go into work all day. Nor will I walk from the library on campus down to the Brick Oven for lunch. Nor will I, when my contractions are two minutes apart, tell Andrew that he can go back to work after dropping me off at home for a nap (luckily he clued in that I wasn't okay and didn't go back to work).
No wonder we couldn't do anything to distract me at home. I was going to do some yoga, have a shower, take a nap... We didn't do any of that since we were home for about 15 minutes before I started commanding Andrew to take me to the hospital.
I think I did pretty good with managing my pain though since I was able to calmly tell Susan when my contractions were two minutes apart, "I won't be able to stay to do interviews. I'm having a few contractions."
A few contractions?!? I had the baby 3 hours later.
Next time, I'll have to be a little bit faster to get to the hospital or else we'll have an unplanned home birth on our hands!