Us, minutes after delivery.
It's been two weeks, and I'm finally getting around to writing about the process that brought Miss Monkey from the cozy confines of my womb into the cold and cruel world. For a few days, I'd been having a ton of Braxton Hicks contractions, and some even kind of hurt. The night before I really went into labor, I thought that I was starting labor after a couple of strong BH contractions, which in retrospect is kind of hilarious; BH contractions are like little love tickles from a butterfly compared to real contractions. Anyway, my real labor started at about 1:30 am, which was unfortunate because I'd only gotten an hour or two of sleep, so I was starting out tired. I tried to rest and relax during the early stages, but the contractions came pretty fast almost right away, and they were 6 minutes apart by 6:30 am. When they're 5 minutes apart, you're in active labor, and the hospital doesn't want to see you until then, but that looked imminent, so I took a quick shower, and Alex started to pack up the car.*
Apparently my uterus kind of sucks, though, because when I got out of the shower, the contractions basically stopped. I only had 5 contractions or so in the next couple of hours, but rather than going to sleep, I was keyed up and waiting anxiously for the next one. At 9 or 10 am, they started up again and kept going for hours and hours, never really getting much closer together than seven minutes apart. At 7 pm (for you non-math majors, that's EIGHTEEN HOURS OF LABOR LATER), I was on the living room floor sobbing because I was so exhausted and in so much pain and so frustrated because they were STILL 7 minutes apart, which again for you non-math majors is two whole minutes away from the goal, which is a very, very long time in contraction land.
So you don't think I'm a total wuss, I will tell you that the first twelve or so hours were fine. Not fine in the sense of, "I'm going to whip up a quick quiche between contractions for when we get home because I feel dandy" fine, but more like, "Okay, I'm in agony, but these only last for a minute and a half and I can do my breathing exercises and shift positions and make weird scary noises that make Alex think I'm dying but make me feel a lot better" fine. So it was tolerable, for the first TWELVE hours. Then, I started to ask Alex pretty much every time how much closer they were getting, and sadly, they weren't getting closer at all. They were even up to 8 or 9 minutes apart at times, after say, FIFTEEN HOURS, and that's when I started to lose it.
So, like I said, at about 7 pm, Alex finally called the hospital for I think the third time. I don't really remember the conversation, but I'm pretty sure he threatened whoever was on the phone with bodily harm, so they finally said to come in and check out why I still wasn't closer. They said that the worst that would happen would be that I would get sent home, which is funny, because I was NOT going to leave, even if it meant administering a C-section on myself the second I got into a relatively sterile environment.
Fortunately, the minute we got to the hospital, I had 3 contractions within 10 minutes. They checked me, and discovered that I was actually well on my way, and had been in "active labor" for a while (what they were really looking for when they said they were looking for 5 min apart). I chose to get an epidural after all because I was so spent after 18 hours of labor on 2 hours of sleep, and really, at that point, it was an easy decision. I was a little bummed not to have been able to do it naturally, but at that point, I was just wiped out. I'm so glad I decided on the epidural, because I had 8 more hours of labor to go. Fortunately, after the epidural, the rest of labor involved lying resting in the darkened room while Alex slept and I felt occasional pressure. Then at 3 am, I buzzed the nurse and told her I was feeling a lot of pressure and the urge to push, and she said, yup, you're ready!
At that point, they let the epidural fade a bit so that I could feel enough to push, and wow, that anesthesiologist was a genius. I was at the perfect level, where the contractions hurt, and I could really feel what was going on and felt in control of my legs and lower body, but not so much that the pain was so intense to be a huge distraction. I stunk at being in labor, with contractions that came and went the entire time, but boy, did I rock the pushing. The nurse actually told me not to push quite so hard so that the doctor would have time to come and deliver the baby. After about 15 minutes of easier pushing, my OB showed up and I went to town. Normally on TV and such you see the doctors and nurses telling the women to push, and keep going, and encouraging them... I was the one telling my doctor and nurse that HEY! I'm ready to push again! Let's get with the program, here, people, because I am getting this baby out NOW!
After about 30 minutes of serious pushing, out she came. I have never felt a more primal urge to do anything in my entire life. I was screaming and hollering like the Scots in the battle scene of Braveheart, and I have absolutely never worked harder at anything in my life. It hurt like hell, of course, but in a lot of ways was easier than labor. At least with the pushing, I was in control, and I felt like I was making progress and actually doing something.
Looking back, getting the epidural was the best decision I could have made, because I think if I hadn't had the 8 hours of rest to regroup and refocus my energy, I'm sure I would have gone into the delivery portion completely exhausted and it would have taken me three hours to push her out. As it was, I had a second wind, I knew the end was near, and I was able to put every last bit of energy I had into delivery and got her out very quickly. There were definite drawbacks to the epidural, though. I was confined to bed, and my blood pressure dropped very quickly which required medication. As I mentioned, my contractions also stopped and started, and I have to wonder if being up and moving around would have kept them coming, and would have allowed me to avoid Pitocin. Really, though, I would absolutely do the same thing again.
Anyway, out she came, which was quite the interesting sensation. Imagine: that area where you usually just pee? Whoops, a human just came out of there! She was pink and screamy, which was perfect, and they put her warm, slippery, perfect little self on my chest immediately. Alex was adorable, and was overjoyed and we were both just a big fat wad of cliches, which I can't seem to avoid while writing about this. About two minutes after delivery, while I was holding her on my chest and just enjoying how wonderful it all was, I turned to Alex, and said, "That wasn't so bad." And I guess that really sums it all up. I was in labor for 27 hours, completely exhausted, and had just gone through by far the most difficult and painful thing I'd ever experienced, and truly and honestly, when I had my perfect and healthy daughter in my arms, it really just wasn't so bad.
*And yes, I do mean "pack up the car," rather than "throw the one suitcase in and go". You wouldn't believe the amount of crap I brought. I had read all sorts of things saying you should bring slippers, and CDs and movies, and clothes for the hospital stay, and snacks and an exercise ball and on and on. Guess what? When you're in labor, you're in agony! You won't want your monkey-scratching CDs, I guarantee! And then, when you have the baby? You have a baby, and you won't even have the capacity to care about anything else. The best part was that I brought makeup. HA! I thought I was going to put on some mascara before people started taking pictures... Ah, I was so young and foolish then. I am glad I brought our own pillows, though. And the snacks. Definitely the snacks.