I will preface this story by saying that everything about Johnny has been incredibly difficult, and so all the more triumphant. He has been a long time coming and a major answer to prayer. We tried for two and a half years to get pregnant, losing one baby on the way, and two weeks before I found out I was pregnant with Johnny was told I may need surgery to make pregnancy possible. But we did get pregnant, and I did carry to term.
Me at 38 weeks. We got the garden in two weeks before Johnny came.
Labor started very early in the morning on Tuesday May 28. I woke up thinking I just had some, ahem, gas, but after a while noticed the pain was coming and going in waves. After going to the bathroom and seeing some bloody show (which, by the way, is probably the grossest term ever) I woke up Alex stating that, "I think I'm in labor." We called the doctor, who said to call the hospital, who said don't bother coming down until the contractions are 4 minutes apart. And so my husband, in true Alex-fashion, downloaded a labor tracking app and we started timing, while trying to sleep between contractions. But with the combination of excitement, nerves, and the mild pain that was already mounting I hardly slept at all. By morning the closest contractions had ever gotten was about 6 minutes apart, and they were actually becoming farther apart. So Alex went to work and I stayed home and watched Call the Midwife. I know, seems like that would be a terrible choice of show to watch when you're about to have a baby, but it was actually getting me really pumped up and excited to give birth.
By about 4:00 in the afternoon contractions were pretty consistently 4 or 5 minutes apart, and they were becoming more painful, so Alex came home and we were on our way to the hospital by 6:00 pm. In the car and getting checked in I kept thinking, "This is it! We're going to see our baby soon" but by the time I got into a room and had an examination I was only dilated 3 cm. We were told that we could go home, but if we wanted to stay in the hospital overnight they would have to give me some medication, either morphine or vistaril, for insurance purposes.(Lame.) We had taken Bradley Natural Childbirth classes, and my goal was to have an un-medicated birth, so these options were very frustrating. I didn't want to go home because I knew I'd be too nervous to sleep. But I also didn't want to be given medication when I didn't need any. Our nurse told us that she had been given vistaril during one of her labors and it was almost like taking tylenol. She said it is very mild, if anything, it may help me sleep a little better. So vistaril it was
Well, I hardly slept at all! The contractions kept marching on steadily through the night. As soon as I was able to doze off after one, the next would start up. By around 2:00 am I was no longer able to bear the pain by myself so I woke up Alex and together we worked through labor for the rest of the night. In the morning I was anxious to have a cervical exam because I thought after all that work surely I had made some progress and things would pick up. So I was utterly discouraged when the nurse said I had gone DOWN to 1 cm! How can that be? After 30 hours of labor? I was however almost completely effaced. We learned that sometimes when effacement speeds up dilation can come to a stand still- or in my case, go backwards.
The nurse called my Dr. and we talked about some options. Epidural? Pitocin? Morphine to try to sleep? Although I had wanted an intervention-free labor and delivery, after two night without sleep some of these interventions were sounding pretty good. I knew that if I didn't get some sleep soon I wouldn't have any energy to push when the time came. We decided to go with the morphine, which sounds super scary. Our nurse said that sometime getting a few hours of good sleep can help labor to progress. She also said that morphine will sometimes stop labor entirely, in which case we would go home and rest and hope that the next time it starts up it would move more quickly. Our nurse that day, whose name was Phoebe, gave me such great care and was the embodiment of what a nurse should be. She drew a hot bath for me, and when I got in put hot blankets around my shoulders. She gave me the shot of morphine while I was in the tub, and as it started to kick in, and I was finally able to relax, I thought, "Yes, this was a good move." Then she helped me into bed, more hot blankets, and I drifted off into sound sleep.
After a few hours I became aware of pain in my back and abdomen again. I felt better after getting some sleep, and another exam showed I was back up to 3 cm. My mom had come down to the hospital and for the rest of that day she and Alex helped me labor. I did lunges, I squatted, I sat on the toilet for as long as I could bear. I bounced on a birthing ball, I tried to eat, I drank a ton of water and by evening I had made no further progress. I felt frustrated and weary. Later my mom told me she could just see my strength running out. The prospect of a third sleepless night was too much. I decided to get pitocin and an epidural. As someone who had often touted the benefits of natural childbirth this decision was spirit-crushing. I knew it was what I needed to do, but that didn't stop me from experiencing feelings of shame and guilt, like I had been defeated. I kept thinking, "how will I ever tell our friends in the natural childbirth world? How will I be able to face them?" The nurse we had that evening, Jessica (who, I might add, was very crunchy) told me that when she had her first child she had wanted to do home birth, but after laboring for three days at home her midwife said she needed to go to the hospital for an induction. She got an epidural, and her baby was born just a few hours later. That was exactly what I need to hear in that moment, that I wasn't the only one, and that it was ok. By the time the epidural was up and running, it was 12:30 am on Thursday and I was at 5 cm.
Alex and I went to sleep, he was sawing logs within a few minutes. I did not sleep so soundly. Having an epidural is a very strange sensation. I was totally limp from the waist down and had to be turned by someone else. I couldn't feel pain, but I could still feel my uterus tightening with each contraction, so my sleep was broken and disturbed. At around 1:30 am I felt a warm sensation. My waters? I called out to Alex, but he was sleeping too hard. I threw a pillow at him and called louder, this time he woke up and helped me check. Yup, my water had broken. I think that helped speed things along because when the nurse came to check me at 3:00 am she said "Oh!! You're fully dilated and his head is all the way down. We need to start pushing!" Alex jump out of bed, wide awake. Finally, we would be meeting our baby....
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