This is Part 2 of my three-part birth story. Catch up on Part 1.
We left off with me finally emerging from denial that I was in rapidly progressing labor on Christmas Day and getting into the car to meet the doula, and eventually my baby, at the hospital.
I buckled in for the 10-minute drive, clutching my phone with the contraction timer app and trying to focus on the imagery of waves crashing on the beach as I rode out three more contractions. As we pulled into the parking garage, I begged The Husband to “just fucking park now now nownownownownow” and as soon as he did I flung open the door so I could lean over the hood and not have to sit through another contraction.
As logistics would have it, The Husband’s hands were full of our hospital luggage and I was tasked with carrying in the birthing ball on my shoulder like an absurd parody of Atlas because my belly was in the way. We walked through the hospital doors and the receptionist gasped and clapped her hands together with glee. “A Christmas baby!” She said. I nodded, and a nearby doctor pulled a wheelchair around to help me into. I (hopefully) politely declined and said I’d rather walk, and the receptionist directed us to follow the arrows down a long series of hallways that was vastly different from our hospital tour.
Halfway between the gift shop and the elevators, I dropped to the ground with my front half on the birthing ball and waited out a contraction. A passing food services employee asked if I was all right and I think I said something witty in reply but probably not.
We got up to labor & delivery, and after answering absurd questions like my height and occupation while sitting on the birthing ball well below the receptionist’s line of sight at the desk, I was ushered into a triage room where a kind nurse asked me questions as quickly as she could and handed me two hospital gowns to put on – one facing front and one facing back. She allowed The Husband into the room while I was in the bathroom getting dressed, but first — another contraction! The Husband sounded a little panicky as he asked me if I was okay from the other side of the door, but I emerged in my new outfit and kicked my clothes to him to throw into my bag as a resident entered the room to check my progress.
A quick inspection of my downstairs confirmed it: I was 5 cm dilated. The nurse helped us to our labor room. It was about 12:30 by this time. The nurse had gone to call my doctor and let him know I was being admitted. She started to warn me he may not be able to come in, and we told her we knew it was unlikely he would.
The Husband met our doula Rachel and brought her back, and she immediately began to make herself invaluable, along with the very young but highly capable and enthusiastic nurses who were settling me in. Rachel did some magic with a bedsheet to make a stability-donut of sorts for the birthing ball, and draped another one over the ball itself so I wouldn’t get hospital floor filth on my exposed downstairs.
Let me pause to confirm that everything people tell you about losing any sense of shame/dignity while you’re in labor is 1,000% true. The President of the United States could have been chaperoning a class of fifth graders and a live camera crew to observe my labor and I would still have pulled my gown up like a crazed flasher to let the nurse get a better angle on my monitor belts. They told me a doctor would come by in a few hours to check my progress, congratulated me on my easy-to-read icons only birth plan (thanks, Rachel!), dimmed the lights (I think?) and left us to it.
My body decided I was not interested in sitting or lying on the bed AT ALL. I sat on the exercise ball for awhile and then moved up to leaning over the bed on a peanut ball that Rachel had supplied. She and The Husband started spoon-feeding me ice chips and it occurred to me how hilarious it was that I had been worried I’d get hungry/resent not being able to eat or drink anything at the hospital. As the contractions wore on I started to feel nauseated, a guaranteed side effect of wolfing down a handful of cookies while your contractions are 3 minutes apart.
The nurses kept having to come in and check my monitors, as I was squirming a lot and the one keeping track of baby’s heartbeat kept falling off and making alarms sound. On one of these return trips to reattach my belt, the nurse told me the doctor would be in to check soon. The on-call doctor seemed nice enough and really by this point it could have been the POTUS, a fifth-grader or a cameraman at the foot of the bed because it felt like the baby was on his or her way out and I really just needed someone who could catch. (Not to discount his contribution or the importance of having a qualified medical professional — this was just my state of mind at the time.)
All I really remember from this time when things got really serious was that I felt far better keeping my eyes shut, and I was being louder than I ever though possible. (Imagine someone directing me to imitate a water buffalo, but to really project because I’m in the middle of a football stadium and I need someone in the upper decks to hear me clearly.) I’m sure the laboring moms with epidurals in neighboring rooms were thanking their lucky stars they hadn’t done anything so idiotic as to refuse drugs.
My doula’s notes tell me that it was about 1:35 when I started to enter “transition,” also known as “Reanna’s breaking point.” The contractions seemed to be almost continuous and I remember kneeling on the bed with the back up as high as it could go, me clutching the top and saying things like, “Oh God, I don’t think I can do this,” and thinking things to myself like, “Oh God, I think I am going to have to get an epidural soon.” I remember feeling like I needed to climb away from my body.
A few minutes after that the doctor came in to see how I was moving along. I was gravely certain he was going to tell me I was only 6 or 7 centimeters, and facing the prospect of hours more of this unimaginable pressure and pain. I flipped onto my back onto the bed to try to get this uncomfortable position over as quickly as possible. The doctor examined me and exclaimed with some degree of surprise that I was, “At least 9 centimeters.” He suggested that now might be a good time to break my water, since that hadn’t happened yet. I agreed, and he got to it. I would say more about this but I really don’t remember much. I was just relieved to be close to the end.
I still couldn’t really keep my eyes open and was in the hormone-induced fog that makes unmedicated labor survivable, but The Husband tells me that some scrambling took place in the room as people prepared for delivery. Rachel changed into her scrubs, I think probably some trays of instruments were assembled, and the doctor told me he’d be right back, and that the urge to push felt a lot like the urge to poop, so to let someone know if that feeling came.
I stayed in the bed sort of lying on my side, clutching the bed rails and mentally checking out as much as possible.
In the interest of telling how things really went down, and with apologies to friends, family and future employers who may stumble across this post, it felt like only seconds passed before I called out, “I have to POOP!!!!”
Stay tuned for the next exciting installment: Santa Baby, Part 3: Hurry down the chimney tonight.