I rode out most of the afternoon laboring in the tub with my Hypnobabies soundtrack. I braced myself through the transitions from tub to bed and the twenty minutes of monitoring that followed. Those were the longest minutes of the whole day, and I couldn't help but watch the clock during them, yelling for the nurse to come and unhook me from the monitors just as soon as the time was up. Otherwise, as long as I was in that tub, my labor really flew by for me. Sometime around 2 pm, which marked three hours at the hospital and nine hours of labor, I asked for something to eat, and was given the options of Jell-o, soup broth or a popsicle. Ahead of time, I had prepared myself to argue if I decided I needed something else, but when the time came I really didn't want to eat anything more substantial. I chose the Jell-o, and inhaled two cups of the vaguely named "tropical" flavor. My husband ate the third cup that we were given, which was strawberry, or cherry, or some other artificial red flavor. So that he could keep up his energy and be my perfect labor coach, we had a bag of snacks carefully purchased and packed ahead of time. Which of course we left in the car. You can imagine that I wasn't about to let him leave my side long enough to use the restroom, let alone run back out to the car. He managed the job of perfect labor coach anyway on the sustenance of one cup of red generic Jell-o.
As the time ticked on towards five o'clock and the return of my midwives to check my progress, the pain definitely intensified. I played a few different mind games with myself to get through it. One technique I tried used my so-called unproductive contraction pattern to my advantage. I had been told that the smaller aftershocks of pain after my contractions were called couplets. At this point my contractions were coming about three minutes apart and there was about a thirty second gap in between the first stronger contraction and the smaller one. With all of those contractions coming so closely spaced together, it was difficult to keep track of which was which. So I decided to tell myself with the start of each contraction that this one was the smaller one, the easy one. I did it over and over again. Just relax, this is the easy one. Apparently I am pretty gullible while in labor.
Even with the success of all my mind games, the exhaustion was starting to set in, and around four o'clock I remember telling my husband that I couldn't do this much longer. Nothing was working. I was trying desperately to relax, but the contractions were getting so strong that it was nearly impossible not to tighten up in response to them. I pushed my husband's hand away when he tried to press on my forehead, which had been so helpful a few hours prior. I so desperately wanted a break. Thoughts of getting an epidural started to creep into my mind. I had heard other women describe it as the most wonderful thing ever. Women even took naps during their labor after getting an epidural! Why the heck hadn't I wanted that again?
I needed a break so badly that I decided to take one. That's right. Eleven hours into labor I decided I'm not going to have this next contraction. Nope, not going to feel it. And just like that I tricked my brain into just not feeling the intense bout of pain that was my next contraction. And the next. I tricked myself so well that I actually started to worry that my labor was stalling. I'm really not sure how I did this, but looking back it seems like I truly had entered the semi-hypnotized state that the tracks I'd been listening to for hours had promised. The Hypnobabies tracks were just so amazing in keeping me calm and still. The trance was sort of like that funny thing that happens when you're driving to work and you look up and realize you're there, but don't have any recollection of the last five miles you just drove. Over and over I heard the soft voice tell me that every hour I was in labor would feel like ten minutes, and that every contraction would be easier than the last. It had seemed like hocus-pocus to me at first, but at this point I was buying into it one-hundred percent. Each contraction really did feel easier than the last.
It was almost five o'clock and my midwives were due to return any minute. I interrupted my trance just long enough to tell my husband that I was pretty much done with labor. I was doing well, but I knew I just didn't have much energy left in me. I told him that if I wasn't at least seven centimeters dilated when they checked me that I was going to ask for an epidural. I felt okay with my decision, like I had really given it my all, and that I was proud of how far I'd gotten without any drugs. My husband reminded me, like we'd discussed ahead of time, that getting an epidural was not part of my plan. I told him that I hoped I wouldn't need it, but that I just couldn't do this for that much longer. It had been about six hours since I had last been checked, and at that time I had been four centimeters dilated. I told my husband that either the Hypnobabies stuff had really worked, or my labor had stalled and that was the reason I was feeling less pain. I tried to be confident that it was the former, but if I'm being honest, I was pretty nervous about that check.
The young nurse came in to move me back to the bed, and she asked if I had gotten better at dealing with the contractions or had my labor slowed. I knew by now to ignore her obnoxiously worded question, but it was the one I was asking myself as well. I climbed onto the bed and held my breath as my midwife checked my progress.