After my water broke I remember foolishly being frustrated that I had to change out of my favorite pair of yoga pants, the pants that I had planned on wearing as I labored around the house for the next few hours. I quickly calculated in my head that we'd definitely still be at home in an hour and a half and so threw them into the wash. (No, I hadn't yet learned my lesson about not being a crazy planner.) Almost immediately though, my contractions became noticeably different. I felt like the waves I was riding had changed from a slow rocking to a nauseating swell that made me change the way I coped with them. The counter-pressure became not just nice but urgently necessary and I yelled sharply to my husband when he wasn't immediately providing it with each new contraction. I also started vocalizing, something that I wasn't sure I could ever picture myself doing. I tried to remind myself to keep my voice low, and found myself making buzzing noises through my lips, a sound that my not-in-labor self cannot now recreate. At this point, and probably in part due to the strange noises now coming from his wife, my husband was starting to get a bit nervous, and to be honest, starting to drive me a bit crazy as he kept asking if we should head to the hospital. I reminded him a couple of times of our plan to labor at home as long as possible, but after a few more contractions I was ready as well. We called the midwife again and I'm pretty sure she could tell by the change in my voice from my previous call that things were moving along. She told us to head in to the hospital and she'd meet us there.
We scrambled to grab our things and were heading out the door when I remembered that I had really wanted one last photograph of me at my most pregnant. My husband snapped one shot, and prepared to take
My smile in this picture though, is not fake. Something that I found SO amazing about labor, and that I'd remark on many, many times throughout the day, was that when I wasn't having a contraction, I felt zero pain. It's really a strange feeling, to be gripped by a crazy amount of pain in one moment, and to be completely released from it in the next moment. I can't think of any other time when that is true.
The ride to the hospital, although just over five minutes long, was miserable, as I was expecting from pretty much every story of labor that I've ever heard. I sat in the back, unbuckled next to the car seat, begging my husband in one breath to slow down and in the next to hurry up and get there. There is just no comfortable way to labor in a car. In our frenzy we forgot that our hospital has valet parking and instead drove into the parking garage, found a spot on the second floor, and took the elevator down to the lobby. I'm sure we were quite a sight, me gripping my pillow and clearly in active labor, and my husband carrying three big bags. Oh hello friendly folks in the elevator, don't mind me, or my huffing, puffing and carrying on, just in labor here, no big deal. I tried to pretend like I was totally calm and that I knew what I was doing!
I was offered a wheelchair once we got inside but refused it, as sitting down seemed like the worst idea ever. I preferred to hang my arms around my husband's neck with each contraction, pausing in the hallway and making quite the scene. Finally we made our way to labor and delivery, where we were given a bed in the triage area, and I was told to change into a hospital gown.
It seemed pretty quiet that day, which was strange, being a Wednesday morning, prime time for scheduled inductions at my intervention-happy hospital. I asked a nurse if they were busy or not, having my eye on one of two rooms that I knew had tubs in them. She said that triage had been busy but that they had been sending a lot of early-laboring moms home. (I grinned when she added that she didn't think I'd be one of those heading home.) During our hospital tour we were told that the tubs were in the two largest rooms and so they were usually reserved for moms of multiples. The tubs were little and not much to get excited about, but I had heard so many good things about the calming effects of water that I really wanted to try laboring in one. I smiled the sweetest smile I could manage and asked if I could have one of those rooms.
Waiting in triage for my midwife to arrive was a bit excruciating, as I had to sit up on a bed and my husband couldn't help in the same way he had before. I was really feeling like I was losing my rhythm in dealing with the contractions already, and so I decided to try listening to my Hypnobabies labor soundtrack on my iPhone. The way the Hypnobabies program works is that you listen to different tracks on a specific schedule in preparation for labor, but you don't listen to the labor track until you're actually doing it. I didn't follow the program very well, and hadn't done nearly as much work as I should have, so I didn't know how much I'd get out of it. Who knew that once I turned it on I wouldn't turn it off for the next eight hours.
My midwife, Kim, arrived and I was so thrilled to see that she wasn't alone! She had with her the student midwife, Brooke, that I had seen and loved the week before. While I also liked Kim, she was quiet and no nonsense and I didn't feel a real connection with her. Brooke was bubbly and enthusiastic and I had really hit it off with her. I was thrilled that as a student she was allowed to pretty much do all of my care while the other midwife supervised. She started off my checking my progress. I had my cervix checked a total of four times during my labor, once being earlier in the week when I was one centimeter dilated. Each time I held my breath, and not because it was terribly painful (I didn't find it that bad), but because mentally I knew how much the number would affect my attitude. I was thrilled when Brooke informed me that I was "a four, a good four". I didn't consider anything I'd been through so far particularly unbearable, and I was already a four... that sounded fabulous to me.
I reminded Brooke how much I'd like to be in a room with a tub and she said she'd see what she could do. A nurse came into to take us to our room and I immediately ran in to see which one we were given. Hallelujah! It was a huge room, one of two on the whole floor with the elusive tub.
The tub was tiny as expected, and for a moment I wished that we were across the street at the birth center, where the tubs were huge and had jets. Next time, I told myself. I had my husband start the tub up for me right away anyways. When I first got to the room I had to be monitored for thirty minutes. Although I had the option of a portable monitor I still wouldn't be able to get into the tub with it on, and so I opted for the traditional one and tried to relax on the bed the best I could. My midwives explained that I needed to be monitored for twenty minutes out of each hour and my nurse inserted a hep-lock after I explained that I did not want an IV. I was instructed that I'd need to constantly be drinking water if I wanted to avoid IV fluids. Two nurses came in to introduce themselves, and the younger of the two burst out with a rushed speech: "Hi! I know what I'm doing! I might not look like I know what I'm doing because I'm new here but I'm not new to nursing, I'm just new here and so sometimes I look like I'm confused but I'm not, I know what I'm doing!" Let's just say that wasn't very reassuring.
While I waited for the initial monitoring to be over, young nurse started firing off questions and entering my information into the computer. At first I was patient with her, but it seemed like she was asking me things that I'd answered before and should have been already there. It turns out she was just confirming everything, but in the most drawn out and annoying way possible. Not fun normally- excruciating while in labor. She then asked me for the first time what my pain level was. I understand why she was asking, but my midwives had already made it clear that I was prepared for, and had the goal of, a natural labor. I knew what drugs were available to me, and I didn't need her to monitor my pain level for me. I explained that to her again as I told her I was maybe about a seven.
I tried managing my contractions the way we had at home- by leaning over a chair and having hubs put pressure on my back. This had brought me so much relief only an hour earlier, but now it seemed awful and I snapped at my poor husband to stop. Throughout the day I definitely had to change up the way I dealt with the pain many times. I tried to focus on the words in my ears on the Hypnobabies track that was playing. I had let them fade into the background, but now I found more relief by slowing my breathing and focusing on each word. I was buzzing my lips a lot at this point too, and my midwives assured me that I was doing an excellent job before they headed back to their office for a few hours. I was a bit surprised as I thought they'd play a much more active role in helping me manage labor than they did. Thank God for my husband. Despite all the snapping I did at him during contractions, I thanked him profusely in between them.
In the middle of a contraction I was interrupted by young nurse asking once again what my pain level was. I mumbled a weary "I don't know" and she launched into explaining to me just exactly how the 1-10 pain rating scale system works. She finished with this helpful tidbit: "You might think what you're feeling now is a ten, but you really want to give yourself some room because it's going to get A LOT worse."