Our precious little girl decided to hang out for 11 days past her due date. She also decided to make labor challenge every ounce of will that I had in my body. Labor was long and difficult (hence the name labor), and most of our birth "plan" went right out the window. Tuesday morning at 1:00 am, after having been in early labor for about three days (which I had been successfully ignoring), real business contractions started, which was awesome because I had only had 30 minutes of sleep. I was kind of like, yeah right, this baby has been yanking my chain for almost a month with these so-called "contractions." But she was like, super serious this time. I let Mitch sleep until they were 3-4 minutes apart for an hour. Our doula joined us at 4:00 am, and we continued to try and labor at home. Unfortunately, our pilot light decided to go out, and Mitch, being the son of an electrician and the grandson of a carpenter, of course had no idea how to fix it. It was 57 degrees in our house. I could not get comfortable, and my contractions were steamrolling me. I couldn't let anyone touch me, as I was having back labor and these really hideous shooting pains in my hips and legs. Counter pressure and hip squeezes just made it worse. I'm pretty sure I yelled at my doula a few times, but I'm also pretty sure that's why we pay her in real dollars and not cartons of eggs. So at 6:00 am, we headed to the hospital.
I had fully expected them to tell me I was well on my way to pushing this pumpkin out. I had contractions through the insurance questions and the spouse beating questions was about ready to murder the physician's assistant who made me lie motionless on the exam table with the monitor straps by the time the midwife came back to check me. Not being able to move during contractions is like staring at the sun and not being able to look away while your retinas shrink to pinholes and your eyeballs shrivel up inside your sockets. Anyway, after the two-finger dip test (Mitch's pet name for cervical checks), I was shocked, dismayed to learn that I was only 1-2 cm dilated, 90% effaced, and still posterior. Didn't she know I had been laboring actively for 5 hours?! The midwife suggested we consider going home to labor some more. At this point I had a minor freakout and started ripping tape and straps and hospital gowns off of me while yelling at Mitch to get me out of there. That part's mostly a blur, but he will substantiate my story.
For the next several hours, we labored at home. Mitch managed to convince a repairman to come out and fix the furnace post haste, and the doula helped me spin our baby into a more favorable position. Still no one could touch me. I felt like an island, even though I knew I wasn't. I had amazing support, but I couldn't see anyone. I remember hearing my friend Jillian's voice telling me she eventually learned to submit to the pain. You can't control it. Submitsubmitsubmit. It's a mind game. If you can stay ahead of the contractions, you're golden.
I couldn't. By 1:00 pm, my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, 60-90 seconds long. We headed back to the hospital only to find out that I was just 2-3 cm dilated. After hours of breast pumping, laboring in the shower and on the ball, standing and walking, I had progressed maybe a centimeter. This was possibly the most disheartening news I could have received. I felt so defeated. The midwife speculated that because my water hadn't broken, the baby's head couldn't dilate my cervix. She suggested we go ahead and break it. I knew that once we did that, I was on a tight schedule. You get 24 hours to push that baby out, or you get a C-section (dun dun dun). But I knew we needed to get things moving along. So the midwife got out her knitting needle and went to work.
During labor, I had wanted to be able to ask for an epidural without really getting one. Sometimes you just need people to tell you how awesome you are. So Mitch and I came up with a safe word that would mean I was serious. That would mean get the mother f***ing anesthesiologist in here now before I eat somebody's face off. Sixteen hours into unmedicated labor and only being 4-5 cm dilated, I started yelling "POPCORN POPCORN POPCORN" until Mitch retrieved a swarthy South American doctor who would inject the sweet sweet nectar of heaven into my spine. He may not have actually been swarthy, but at that moment, Dr. Rodriguez was the man of my dreams.
|Before the epidural.|
|After the epidural. Thumbs up!|
Three hours after we started pumping, I was complete and ready to push (totally showed them). But of course we were those people who were like, we have to wait for our birth photographer! We must document all the gory details of our birth! Let me do my hair first! Agnes arrived, and we started pushing. For two hours, the baby and I pushed as hard as we could. She emerged pink and screaming, my long and slender baby. Her umbilical cord was so short, she had to cuddle on my belly until Mitch cut her loose.
Lots of people talk about how they feel an immediate, deep connection with their babies. I did not have that. When she was placed on my body, all I could think was, this is a baby. That's new. We'll call her Dot. Oh, Mitch is crying. She's crying. Why can't I make her stop crying?! OmigoshI'malreadyaterribleparent.
She screamed for two hours solid. Forget breastfeeding in the first hour; my kid won't close her mouth. But they wheeled us to our recovery room, and she quieted. We learned what soothed her. She started to learn us as well, studying our faces at a close distance, turning her head towards our voices. And all of a sudden, it felt like she had always been there. Cliche as it may be, we had always been parents, and this had always been our family. Not sticking to our birth "plan" doesn't seem to matter anymore. Oh, and since I promised blood and guts, I got a second degree tear and an awesome case of 'roids. Totally worth it.