I thought my water broke at 9:30 PM on March 2. (It turns out it was just a high leak, but that was neither here nor there in the end). I was ready to finally start timing my contractions without fearing I was clocking my gas. They came every four minutes and lasted anywhere from one to one and a half minutes. Even if I wasn't in real labor yet, at least I knew they would have to induce me since I was pretty sure my water had just broken. (They won't let you go longer than a day without going into labor for fear that bacteria will pass through to the baby).
I texted my sisters and called my mom to give them an update. I lay down on the couch and tried to watch TV, but couldn't focus. I was going to meet my baby soon. How could I be expected to pay attention to The Office with that kind of thought rolling around in my head? I wondered whether we would have anything to talk about. Would we have similar interests? Would she like the same music as I?
By the time my sister, Bridget, and my mom arrived, I had taken a shower, rolled around the bed in significant pain for a few hours and ordered Greg to clean the house. I had even gotten up a few times myself to organize some random piles of junk that were scattered about. I was more nervous about my family thinking I was a slob than the potential increase in pain.
Once they walked in the door, I was ready to usher them right back out so we could go to the hospital. I couldn't bare the thought of having to ride in the car if the pain got worse. It seemed unlikely that I could even sit still long enough should the pain, which already felt as if someone were squeezing and wringing out my uterus while I was having the worst cramps in my life, intensify.
As is never the case with me, I was packed (had been for at least a month) and ready to leave. We hustled out, drove over in two cars and made it to the hospital in 8 minutes.
By 1:30 AM, I walked into the hospital, leaving Greg to figure out what to do with the car. I toddled, with my mom in tow, right to the entrance to the maternity ward. I stopped.
"I don't know how I'm supposed to go about doing this. What do I say to them?" I asked my mom.
I pushed the intercom button and said, "I think I'm in labor." I was embarrassed about having to say this in front of the family in the waiting room. In my head, I thought it would be mortifying to walk back out in front of them after the told me I was still in false labor. They would probably say, "look at that jackass. I bet she wouldn't know a contraction if it kicked her in the face."
The door buzzed and I pushed it open. I stood at the counter in front of five nurses, holding my pillow awkwardly. I waited. I walked a step closer and one of the nurses finally looked up at me.
"I think I'm in labor," I repeated, as if she wouldn't remember buzzing me in.
She took my already-filled-out paperwork and ushered me into triage where I was given a gown. They laid me down on the bed and administered the stress test. My contractions were pretty hard, but when they checked me I was only 1 centimeter and not effaced by much.
I was dejected. I thought all my hard work should be worth more than that. I felt cheep and, apparently, so did the hospital. They told me that I could either lay on the crappy triage bed for the next four hours until Dr Tomayo came in at 6:00 or go home. I wanted to die and started shaking (and continued shaking throughout the rest of labor). I didn't want to have to walk past that family sitting in the waiting room. I pleaded my case.
"I can't go home. Please don't send me home," I said. "I know I'm going to get through this labor quickly. In my family, when we get to four centimeters we go to ten really fast. Please."
A few minutes later they had me talk to the doctor in between contractions.
"You're doing the Bradley Method, right?" She said. "What would you like out of this labor."
"I want to be able to get in the shower and move around freely. I don't want to me stuck on the monitor for the entire labor," I said.
"You don't want to labor at home?" She asked.
"I can't go home. 100% of the 21 births in my immediate family (12 for my mom, the rest for my sisters) have all been the same. It takes us awhile to get to four centimeters, but once we get there we race through labor. If I go home, I'm going to have to come back in a couple of hours," I said.
Ten minutes later, I was wheeled into a large delivery room and immediately got into the bed while my mom, Bridget and Greg sat around it. The contractions were getting harder and I worked through them. I rolled from side to side. I tried to shower, but it was too cold. I was pissed about that one because it was so hard to dry off and get dressed. I went to the bathroom frequently, supported by Greg. Between contractions I closed my eyes, feigning sleep. At one point, I started throwing up.
Greg stood by my side the entire time. When I would roll over, he would pick up his chair, my barf trash can, a cup of ice and a wet towel and carry it all to the other side of the bed. I squeezed his hand when the contractions came on. He turned away from me, once, to adjust the volume on the music. I reached out for his hand and it wasn't there. I yelled for him. I had never felt so alone.
In the midst of the madness Mary materialized out of the darkness. I beamed up at her, relieved. I wasn't expecting her to come. My support system was complete.
I looked over at my sisters and mom sitting on the couch. Their eyes were all closed. I felt really guilty for being so quiet. In my head, I assumed they were wondering, "why in the hell did we come? This is so boring." I wished I could entertain them more.
Suddenly, a disturbing image popped in my head. A video of a female who swings her newborn baby around dangerously played over and over in my head in between and during contractions. I was getting increasingly upset by it and couldn't stop thinking about it. I didn't know where the "stop" button was, so I had to just deal with it.
At 3:30, the nurse came in to check me. I was only two centimeters and 50% effaced after two hours of hard labor. I felt defeated. I wasn't going to make it. I let fear over take me.
"I can't do it. I need the drugs," I moaned.
"You can do it. We know you can," my support team said. Or, at least, they said variations of that.
"I know I can," I said through gritted teeth. "I just don't want to."
My family continued to encourage me, but I insisted.
Finally, someone addressed my request. "You can't get it until four centimeters," Bridget said. She had heard that once. We had previously discussed how she could help me get through the labor naturally. My only request was to hold me at bay for as long as she could. She helped me over this major hurdle.
The nurse, confused, asked, "did you want an epidural?"
I was in the middle of a contraction and didn't respond. She took my lack of response as a "no." She left the room and I continued to labor. At 6:00, when Dr Tomayo checked me, I was only at four.
"Can I please get that epidural now?" I begged.
She looked shocked and spoke sternly to the nurse. "Why haven't you gotten her an epidural?"
"I didn't even know she wanted it," the nurse said defensively, just as shocked as the doctor that I felt they were holding out on me.
They immediately set me up with an IV, set it to the fastest speed and took my blood. Cold washed into my arm. I had to wait for the bag to empty and the blood work to come back before I could get my epidural.
I cried and moaned my way through the hour as contractions came one on top of the other. It was nonstop. When they would start, I would sit up in bed, grab Greg's head and pull his hair. He stood there, completely unfazed. I buried my head in his neck, biting him and repeating, "I can't, I can't, I can't."
After contractions, in the few seconds I had to breath, I said, "I'm so sorry I am being so loud." I worried I would scare the other laboring women.
At 7:00, the new nurse, a sweet woman, checked me. I was at eight. There was some truth to the saying, "when we get to four we go to ten" that I had heard over and over again throughout my pregnancy. The nurses rushed to prep for the arrival of our baby.
My sisters saw them turn on the warmer and bring in the swaddling blankets. Both began to cry. They remembered what all this pain was about. They were going to meet a brand new baby girl and it was going to be amazing. It was all becoming real.
I still wanted my epidural. I didn't trust I was almost done. I looked up at the nurse, "I want an epidural."
She scrunched her face up, "Are you sure?" I began to doubt my decision.
My desire to do it all naturally solidified when I heard the anesthesiologist come bounding into the room at 7:15.
"Alright, everyone clear out. I need to be alone with her for 20 minutes." the hulking woman said.
Panic ripped through me. My support network was going to leave my side AND I was going to have a needle shoved in my spine AND I would have to be alone with this monster? What if the baby was born and she was the only one there to witness it?
"I don't know if I want it," I whimpered.
"Well," the woman said, "If you don't want it, I have another woman who does." She stormed out of the room. You would think she was volunteering and not actually one of the highest paid individuals at the hospital.
At 7:20, the nurse checked me. I was at 10.
"Where is the doctor," I yelled.
"She is 40 feet away," said Mary, an answer which I accepted.
At 7:30, I felt like I had to poo and began to wonder where the doctor was.
"She is 20 feet away," said Greg. Again, I accepted it.
"I am going to poo," I repeated over and over again and then it hit me, "I am pushing. I can't help it."
The nurse said, "go ahead. That's fine."
I began to push weakly, waiting for the doctor to come.
At 7:45, Doctor Tomayo came in and was put in splash resistant gear.
At 7:52, I was in the position and pushing hard.
"Her heads right here, you can push however you want," said Dr Tomayo. Bridget didn't believe her and she looked. There was the baby's head.
I pushed and felt a ring of fire. I pushed myself up to the head of the bed, trying to escape the burning. Then, something Bridget said about her own labor popped into my head. She said, "I realized I could push through the pain quickly or slowly. I chose to push quickly."
I bared down and, after three counts of ten, the pain dissipated. I felt a complete loss of pressure and then our screaming Darla was placed on my chest. Our baby was here and she was absolutely perfect. We all cried. I was so overwhelmed by the power of her energy that my face contorted in a tearless cry, a shit eating grin and awe. The overall effect wasn't pretty, but it was significant. The pain meant nothing. All there was was her.
And she was crying in the warmer, ready to bring immense chaos, exhaustion and pure joy into her parents lives. They swaddled her and handed her to me. I held her and we posed for our first picture as a family.