As you all know, I noticed the first regular, painful contractions last Friday around 1:30pm, as I was doing some grocery shopping. I realize now that I had actually been feeling that pain for the past week on and off. I started timing them through the afternoon and they were about 5-8 minutes apart, but I knew that the pain needed to be a lot more intense before I could be sure things were happening. So I finished my shopping, made a good dinner for us, called my mom to update her, and hung out for the evening. As we were laying on the couch watching TV, the contractions were becoming a bit less tolerable and I was needing to focus and breathe through them. But I still had a feeling I'd make it through the night at home.
We went to bed around 11, and I actually got about 2 hours of hard sleep in before the contractions really woke me up. I spent the rest of the night dozing off between contractions and breathing through them when they hit, waiting for them to speed up. They were about 8-10 minutes apart by the morning (they had slowed down as I slept), but I had a feeling they would speed up once I got out of bed. Which I did around 6 or 6:30, and sure enough, they started coming intensely about every 4-5 minutes. I got up, took a shower, ate a bowl of cereal, and woke Pete up to get ready to go. I called the hospital, and they told me to come in but warned me that if I were still 3 cm or less, they might make me walk around a bit or even go home before admitting me.
We arrived at the hospital around 9. By this point, walking anywhere, answering questions, signing my name was all quite a nuisance. The contractions were intense, and the pain wasn't exactly disappearing between them. We got into an observation room, and I answered more questions, many of them repeats. I learned that my reaction to intense pain is to shut down and get really quiet, so I don't think anyone except Pete realized how much pain I was in or how close the contractions were together. After about 45 minutes, a doctor finally came in to do an internal exam and was surprised that I was already at 5cm and 90% effaced!
I finally got into a labor and delivery room by about 10:15 and was told the anesthesiologist could be there within a half hour. I think my nurse finally caught on to the fact that I was not as serene as I seemed with the pain, and I was very ready for that epidural. My goal had been to make it to 5cm without meds, so I was proud of myself for that much.
I finally got the epidural by 11. A word about epidurals. They are one of the best inventions ever. I thought I would be disappointed in myself for getting one, but when the time came around, I was 100% sure it was the right decision for me. And I was able to actually enjoy and fully experience the rest of the labor process peacefully. I know Pete enjoyed it more too without having to watch me in pain.
Around 1pm or so, my nurse told me it was time to switch from laying on my left to my right side (they switch you back and forth to even out the medication). I rolled over with her help, and suddenly the fetal heart rate plunged from the 120s to below 100. I noticed it, of course, but wasn't sure what it meant until the nurse started moving really quickly and had me roll back over and started calling other doctors. She stayed calm, but suddenly I had about 7 doctors and nurses running around the room. I got an oxygen mask and was told to breathe deeply and that my contractions were so strong and close together that it must be stressing the baby out a little too much. So much for epidurals slowing things down! A doctor told me she'd need to break my water and put an internal monitor on the baby's head. As she did that, she said I was already 8cm, 100% effaced, and the baby was at 0 station. The baby's heart rate did come back up to the 110-120 range and all seemed to be okay for a little while longer.
However, around 2ish or so, I heard the heart rate take a sudden nose dive again. Pete and I were alone in the room at that point, but sure enough, we were surrounded by doctors and nurses within a few minutes again. They really do have a good system for monitoring these things. They added a dose of Turbididine (or something like that) to my IV and told me it would slow the contractions. They also informed me that they would need to take me to a C-Section room in case things went that direction--and it sounded like I had a decent chance of that happening. They started wheeling me down the hall and told Pete he had to wait because he would have to get scrubs on. The Turb. (along with the nerves, I'm sure) made me start shaking uncontrollably, even while I took deep breaths of the oxygen. We got into the OR, and the meds finally kicked in and seemed to slow the contractions enough to bring the heart rate up again. They also finally let Pete in, and he sat next to me and held my shaking hand.
I was 10cm by this point, so they told me I could try a few pushes to see what would happen. They had transferred me to an operating bed, so I was laying flat, which made the pushing a little harder. One of the doctors came behind me to prop me up, and they had me push about 3 times through one contraction--and caught a glimpse of a very hairy head! Pete was even way less grossed out by it than he expected and took a look and saw the head! They told me to stop and take a rest while they reevaluated and talked about moving me back to the much nicer labor and delivery room.
But then the heart rate dropped again, and a C seemed imminent. They explained that pushing is usually pretty stressful for a baby, and they didn't want his heart rate below 100 for very long. So if it was already down and I started pushing and he didn't make it out fast enough, they would have to do a really messy C with general anesthesia. But Pete and I really didn't want a C, especially when we seemed so close! One of the other doctors (I think we had 3 or 4 OBs and 3 or 4 nurses in the room, maybe more) took our side and said we should give the pushing another shot. The head OB assented and told me that I would need to push like my life depended on it, and they put me back on the L & D bed, which was better equipped for squatting. By this time, the epi (from which I had been disconnected when rolled into the OR) was starting to wear off a little, so I could feel the contractions a bit without too much pain. We waited for the next one, I took a deep breath, and I strained like I've never strained before. I can't remember if I pushed through one or two contractions, but it went really fast. Everyone was excited and cheering, and Pete was telling me how much dark hair our baby had. It was truly exhilerating--and the pushing felt really good against my shakiness.
And then he was here! I had a slimy, squirming, tiny little boy with a full head of dark hair laying on my belly! I couldn't believe we had made it so quickly and easily. Pete cut the cord, and Braxon gave a few healthy squeals as they wiped him off, then he settled down and lay on my chest looking at me while they pulled the placenta out and stitched me up. He did try to find my boob, but I was laying flat again, so not really in a good position for latching.
I apparently had a fairly roomy vagina (I have been doing perineal massages--maybe they actually did something), and Brax wasn't too big--or big-headed--so my tearing was apparently fairly minimal and along the side rather than the back. Which makes me really admire those of you who've had much worse tearing, because it still hurts to sit (I'm very thankful for the donut cushion I took from the hospital), and peeing was pretty scary the first few times.
After delivering our 7lb 8oz baby at 3:15 on Saturday, we stayed that night and all day Sunday. But we were both pretty ready to get home, so they let us leave Sunday night. My parents flew out on Saturday, so they are here and have been a huge help. I don't think we could be surviving without them right now, even though having 5 people in a very small two-bedroom isn't ideal.
I should stop and try to take a quick nap before Brax wakes up from his. But I will include the promised pictures. Pete and I are completely in awe of how gorgeous our baby is. He has the same full head of hair I had at birth and generally looks a lot like my newborn pictures--though he's way cuter :).
About to get weighed. I think he actually scratched himself in this picture--I've had to clip those nails!
The proud papa, all scrubbed up.
Ugh, postpartum pictures are so unpleasant. But I've already lost all dignity, so what the heck. Strangely enough, after having zero swelling through my whole pregnancy, I retained a ton of water on delivery day. The nurses were a bit concerned at how concentrated my pee was all day, even with a ton of water both by mouth and by IV. But I've been peeing like a racehorse since, so I think I've lost most of it.