Early in the morning of June 6th, around, I was lying awake in bed, trying to fall back asleep, but unable to find a comfortable position at nearly 39 weeks. My hip pain was exacerbated by moving all day, and I noticed that now my back was hurting and I felt a lot of pressure in my lower abdomen. I got up and wandered to the bathroom and the kitchen, and back to bed, and that's when I noticed the back pain/pressure seemed kind of regular. I glanced at the time. 4:24. Then 4:34. Hmm, ten minutes I thought, could these be contractions? This isn't what I thought a contraction would feel like, I thought it would be more of a muscle contraction than a painful pressure. Never far from my iphone, I opened it up and started googling "early labor contractions." 4:44. More pressure. Apparently early labor contractions feel like menstrual cramps, not helpful, as that's something I never have. Are these contractions? More pressure, then more, then more. Definitely not ten minutes apart anymore. I wake up my husband and tell him I think I'm in labor. He jumps into action and starts timing the contractions on the app we downloaded about a month ago. At this point, the contractions, which are starting to feel more like contractions, are only about two minutes apart. I call OB Triage, per the instructions to call the hospital before coming in. They tell me as the contractions aren't too bad, and my water hasn't broken, to stay at home as I'm likely in early labor and should only come in during active labor.
I hang up the phone, and start looking through my checklist to finish off my partially packed hospital bag. Five minutes later, my water breaks. I call back, and they say, okay, come in now. My husband calls my mother, who was planning to come for the birth, but was still 3/4 of the country away, as her flight was scheduled five days before my due date, and we were eight days out. Being a little more concerned about baby coming early than I was (possibly because her first child, me, was nearly born on the highway) she already had a suitcase packed and in the car and knew that the next direct flight left in two and a half hours. She jumped in the car and zoomed off, hoping to cover the two hours to the airport quickly enough to make the flight.
My husband and I headed to the hospital, where they hooked me up to some monitors, and explained that although my water had broken I was still in early labor, and I could come back in two hours. Since it was now 6:00 am, I was ready for coffee, so I suggested that we go to Starbucks, where we ran into my flamenco teacher who'd seen me just five days earlier in class (yay for dancing till the end!). Coffee in hand, we headed back to our apartment to wait out early labor, except by this time I was pretty sure I was in active labor, as the contractions were getting difficult to talk through.
So, we headed back to the hospital, where I stretched for a bit in the meditation room, waiting for my midwife to come on duty. The midwives work as a team, so the midwife you see during your pregnancy isn't necessarily the one you see for labor and delivery, as it depends on who is on duty. Luckily for me, the midwife I had been seeing came on duty at 8am. When she arrived, I checked back into OB Triage, and she sent me to Labor and Delivery, as things seemed to be moving quickly.
Things were moving quickly, and not too painfully . . . and then I got stuck in transition for nearly six hours, as apparently baby's head was tilted in a way that made it difficult to progress! At this point, I could feel the energy seeping from me, and thought I would never make it through the pain. I stretched, I walked, I crawled, I moaned louder and louder, I laid in the hot bath, nothing seemed to make much of a difference.
In the meantime, my mother made the direct flight, arriving at the airport with just enough time to toss some clothes from her suitcase into her carryon (realizing she didn't have time to check luggage), and rush through the handicapped entrance to security exclaiming "my daughter's in labor and my flight leaves in ten minutes!" They let her through, she made it to the airplane just before the doors shut, and was even able to send us an email via the airplane wifi with the good news.
She arrived at the hospital just as I was getting narcotics through an IV, in the hopes of dulling the pain of hour four of transition. Narcotic pain relief is supposed to take the edge off of the contractions, but still allow you to move around (unlike the epidural I'm terrified of). Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to work so well in transition, the most painful stage of labor. The first dose they gave me had no effect. The second dose took the contraction pain from a 9/10 to an 8/10 for about three contractions before wearing off. Due to a generally high level of activity in the ward, I was unable to get any more doses for the next two hours, and then it was time to push and they said I couldn't have any more as it would have a negative effect on pushing. Aaaahh!!!
I'll never make it, I thought, I don't think I can even stand up, let alone push a baby out with mysterious muscles I've never used before! Yet it turns out that pushing is less painful than transition, and at this point I could at least feel the baby moving, so it felt like something was finally happening. Just when I was sure I'd never make it, she came out, and they dumped my beautiful crying daugher in my arms. My first thought was she's huge, how did she ever get out of there? No wonder it hurt. (She was 6 lbs 12 oz., which is not huge at all, but I was envisioning something smaller in my mind, especially as far as her head was concerned).
I'm convinced there is no full body workout quite like labor. I don't think I will ever be able to complain about the pain of the sword dance, or 100 extended high-cuts, or any other physical activity I might engage in ever again, unless it involves a second child. Every muscle in my body, including many that I was unaware existed, was sore. This is the most awful, unnatural thing I've ever been through I thought (note that I had not tried breastfeeding yet!). Yet in a perfect cliche, by the time baby and I had been wheeled down to the mother baby unit, the pain was already receding under the influence of her baby blue eyes . . .