June 22, 2013
11 AM: This is where I start to lose all sense of the passage of time. There, in Labor 1, kneeling on a rolled-up yoga mat at the edge of the bed, answering questions about allergies and family history. I know that it was about 11 o’clock because that’s the time printed on the blood-draw wristband I would wear for the next three and a half days. The room has no windows, and the clock on the wall is hidden behind things (and I couldn’t see it if I wanted to anyway). The L&D nurse tried to place an IV lock in my left hand, but I think she missed the vein and hit a nerve because the pain of the IV needle is worse than the contractions. She doesn’t believe me and keeps telling me that no IV should be a 10 on the pain scale, much less worse than contractions. I started to panic because the pain in my hand was distracting me from concentrating on the contractions, and I wanted to focus on what I was there to do — labor! So the nurse had to recruit the obstetric anesthesiologist to come place the next one IV, and it took her another 4 attempts, including one blown vein (the bruise just cleared up in the last two or three days). Mentally I congratulated myself on having decided well in advance to avoid an epidural, because this woman can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn, much less a vein.
The OB came by occasionally to see how I’m progressing, and it’s a centimeter or two at a time. Slow and steady wins the race…?
At some point in the afternoon, around 6 or 7 cm, crazed by a lack of sleep, we made the decision to administer a mild painkiller just so I could rest for a while. It wouldn’t affect River for more than a few hours, but I did have to remain hooked up to fetal monitors until she showed signs of being awake after it cleared our combined systems. I went in and out of a serene doze, not really sleeping, and at some point — the middle of the night, I think — I knew my water broke. I could feel it being on the verge of breaking, and swam up out of the sea of serenity long enough to talk to Jim. I woke up my labor team and they helped me back in to the soothing hot shower, then back to bed, where I waited patiently in a daze for River to wake up too.
June 23, 2013
Probably between 5 and 6 AM: The on-call OB was going to go off his 24-hour shift in the next hour or so, and came by to see how we’re progressing and ask how we’d like to proceed. I’m 9.5 cm but — what the heck?!? — he insisted my water had not broken. I’m pretty sure I didn’t hallucinate the sensation of my water breaking overnight, so the news my water didn’t break made me a little hysterical. It’s too late to administer pain medication per se, but they could give me Benadryl and break water artificially. I wanted to crawl back in the shower again, and we all expected we’ll see the OB again in an hour or so before he goes off shift, so we asked for half an hour to clear my head and talk. But we decided quickly that breaking the water was the best thing to do at this point. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t broken already, because the contractions got noticeably stronger after what I thought was my water breaking overnight.
Sometime around 9 or 10 AM maybe?: We got a new nurse, and apparently the news that I wanted my water broken a few hours ago was never fully realized by the medical staff, because we had been left alone since the OB left earlier in the morning. Whatever, I told myself, Miscommunication sucks but I’m not going to dwell on it. Let’s do it now! The new nurse, who turned out to be a fabulous asset, and the new OB broke the water bag and that sensation convinced me that yes, my water did already break overnight, but I can’t dwell on what did or didn’t happen and make a mental note to ask about it when I’m fully lucid again.
The next two or three hours…: Nurse Patti worked some magic on the hospital bed and transformed it in to a stepped-level surface for resting and reclining and also for squatting using a birth bar that she installed at the end of the bed — almost not in time, because she was still scrambling to latch it when I really wanted to push. And as it turns out, River is facing the wrong direction, with the soft part of her head against my cervix and the hard part against my spine, which explains in retrospect the painfully slow labor and the intensity of the contractions, and the coupling contractions, and the fact that my contractions never came around the front as I’d been led to expect, but stubbornly remained in my lower back and hip bones. I concentrate on the encouragement coming from my support team, while a rational corner of my mind observes the proceedings. I’m convinced that the nurse is telling me I’m doing a great job because that’s her job, whether or not I’m really doing so great, so I put more weight on the things my husband and friend are telling me. I’m completely aware of the OB standing there impassively for a while, not speaking, just watching silently, and I am quite aware that I regularly give her a vicious look (made more absurd, in retrospect, by the fact that my glasses were off and in order to see her clearly at the foot of the bed, I had to squint), waiting for her to say SOMETHING positive. I was depending on her for an idea of how well things were really going, and the state of River’s health, so I needed to see some encouraging sign from her as well. At some point she says something positive, and my friend stage-whispers, “She’s been waiting for you to say that.” I’m aware of Nurse Patti massaging me to make way for River’s head; I’m aware of a second nurse, Nurse Kara, coming in with the blanket warmer, scale, and hospital bassinet to wait for baby; Jim’s commenting on her dark hair, Patti is already comparing her nose to mine; Kara is cheering from the sidelines and telling me how strong I am (the rational part wonders if she means physically or spiritually? I never find out). Patti tells me not to retreat from the pain that is about to come because it’s going to be more intense than the pain I’ve been having (the rational part exalts to know I’m so close to the finish line, and also says Why would I retreat from what I am well aware is the very last pain I’m going to feel?!). And then…
12:43 PM: River is suddenly laying on my chest, and we’re being wrapped in blankets fresh and hot from the blanket warmer, and Jim is moving off to cut the umbilical cord and all I can say is, “Hi! Hi! You’re here! Hi!” because after 34 hours of work, it’s a bit stunning to have her on the outside, where I can see and touch and HEAR her, instead of inside, where she is a total mystery. Someone calls out, “Time! Time!” and someone responds “12:43!” and I want to ask — AM? PM? Sunday? Monday? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT DAY IS IT?! And yes, the pain completely disappears when she slides free and in to the world. Like someone threw a switch, poof.
Over the next couple of hours…: The nurse and OB finish removing the placenta, which is examined for tears or damage, and Kara discovers (I notice Jim is over there in a heartbeat examining it with her) that the typical double wall of the membrane is separated a bit, which explains why it felt like my water had broken, but then it hadn’t — a high leak somewhere along the membrane spilled amniotic fluid in between the double walls, creating a “fore-bag” that descended ahead of the main bag, FURTHER slowing the progress of labor. Double whammy — the soft part of River’s head and the double bag, double the slowed labor. Then they checked me for signs of damage, finding, to everyone’s surprise, none. We all suppose that the combined slow descent due to her bad position and the fore-bag, despite prolonging labor, gave all my parts a chance to adjust slowly and kept me from being torn or requiring a surgical cut. Whatever the cause, no stitches is a great relief to me. We make all the phone calls, send the emails, peek at Miss River caterwauling away on my chest under a pile of blankets, and eventually she leaves for a bath and evaluation in the nursery, and I get packed up to move to post partum.
The wheelchair they brought for me ended up being a baggage cart for all our things. As for me, I walked the length of Labor & Delivery to my room in post partum. Damn right I did.