Surprise! It's labor!
No one really knows what triggers labor; however, for centuries ladies have been passing down tips to jumpstart the process; eating spicy foods, drinking raspberry tea, exercise, rest, and sex. The only thing we do know for sure is that it's the baby who decides to come out. A stress hormone is released in the baby's body and it triggers contractions. Once the ball is rolling there is little you can do to stop it, even really powerful wishful thinking.
It's the longest I've ever been pregnant. Jayden was 3 weeks early due to preeclampsia, and Delaney was 2 weeks early because... just because I was there. I had been having contractions about once an hour for three days, when gradually they slid to once every 10 minutes. I had been working at a Hallmark store and I was making change when a particularly painful contraction came and help was no where in sight. My long line of customers were compassionate while I awkwardly rang up their purchases. Shortly, I got to Brigham and Women's Hospital to find I was only 2 centimeters dilated. Not wanting to fight the Yankees/Red Sox traffic going on at the moment I opted to induce at the behest of my boyfriend, John. I made it about 5 hours before the pain brought on by the pitocin became unmanageable and I got the epidural. It took a long time for the drugs to take and I was still working so hard to fight the pain instead of resting up for heavy labor. They dialed up the drugs and rolled me around the bed a little bit. I didn't feel anything after that; not a single thing. I had so many drugs in me that I didn't even feel the need to push, the nurses came in and told me I was ready. They told me my contraction was coming up, to wait for it (like waiting for your turn at a revolving door), and go! When I did push I didn't feel anything. I was pushing so hard but it was like I was pushing into nothing. So a minute later when the next contraction came I decided I was going to push until I felt something. I pushed so hard that Delaney popped right out and I didn't even know it, I was busy still pushing and trying to feel. They gave her a once over, then placed her on me, slime and all. It was a breeze compared to delivering a baby with a partial epidural under the stress of preeclampsia and other complications; and being on a magnesium drip that made me feel like, did you ever see Ghostbusters? Remember Peter Venkman gets slimed and he said, I can't move my arms and my legs, I feel funky." It's like that plus sweating and double vision.
Thinking back to my previous two deliveries, I didn't feel like I was... present. There was something missing with both. I was scared, uncomfortable, and ill prepared for the first one; and I was numb for the second one. When I got pregnant again, I vowed to be prepared and present. I had a plan, and my plan was to not be induced so I would not need an epidural so I could feel my baby leave my body, and be at peace with that. Also, I had just had just heard of my friend's drug free water birth and I was jealous.
So on this day I was at work, where I'm a dog trainer, and I was waiting for my 12 o'clock when I notice there's something wrong. The problem is I feel good, too good. I woke up and didn't want to kill anyone, I was hungry for breakfast and had time to eat it because I wasn't busy hating people not in misery, like myself. I got to work on time and began setting up my ring in record time because my body wasn't getting in its own way. It was then that I panicked. I called my doctor's office and they asked when was the last time I felt the baby move. I had been awake for 3 hours at that point and couldn't recall noticing the baby move at all. So I went to the hospital. On the way I made it clear to John and Toby(my best friend's mom who is on my delivery team), that I am not to be talked into induction. The end. I was seen, everything was perfect, and in fact, I started having contractions. But, I wasn't dilated enough. So I went home.
Friday January 6th
It's my due date and I got nothing. Just a bunch of random contractions that tapered off, and 800 people telling me to hurry up already. Including my doctor who said that by the 17th he was going in, like it or not. At around 11 at night I had two contractions at 10 minutes apart and got excited so I called the hospital. The nurse said that typically they would ask an expecting mother to wait until her contractions got to be a full 5 minutes apart for one full hour before heading in, but given my distance from the hospital, I only needed to wait until I was 7 minutes apart. Then she said, "But, this is your third baby, so you'll know when you're in labor." But I wouldn't, because I've never experienced childbirth that was wasn't induced in a hospital. I felt like an idiot for feeling like I had no idea when this was going to happen. So I went to sleep.
Sunday January 8th
It's 3 am, I've had 8 contractions in the last hour, which were not exactly syncing up, but 8 an hour is 8 minutes by average (I think... I'm not a math scholar). So I call. The nurse who picked up was really unhappy to talk to me at 3 am, for whatever personal reasons she had, or some harm I had caused her in a previous life. I explained everything and told her I was past my due date with baby number three and that my contractions were significant. She said that I "sounded too calm and rational to be in labor" and no matter how many contractions I've had, unless I was prepared to be induced, I wasn't going to be admitted with my "unorganized contractions" and to "go back to sleep." Ermmmmm. I woke up later and went on to have exactly 46 contractions in 24 hours ranging from "not bad" to "just annoying" to "powerful." I kept a contraction journal so that I was sure I was organized. Bonnie and Toby brought me some buffalo wings from Beerworks. 2 pounds of them. I ate them all.
Monday January 9th
I woke up at 4:17am with a contraction I labled "medium sauce." At this time I was on alert, but not hopeful. I had been having contractions for 9 days now. I was exhausted, but I wasn't about to call the hospital and feel stupid again. So I recorded the contractions but didn't get up. John got up at 6:30 to get Jayden ready for school. I said I was having contractions but they were only 9 minutes apart so don't get excited, they'll probably disorganize themselves. I told him to send Jayden off to school and if they start coming every 8 minutes for a half hour, we'd go pick him up and take the kids and go to Boston. Now that I was up, I decided to take a shower. I figured I had some time. I asked John to record the contractions with my iPhone. I was in there for a few minutes when I said, "contraction" and he said "label it" and I said, "feels like a Mac truck coming through." A few moments later I yell, "contraction! It's a 'SONOFABITCH' that's awful! ... Did you get that?" He said, "Um. That was only 3 minutes apart." I then decided I was going to be in denial about this and instead asked him to help me trim the lady hedges so we can see when our package was going to be delivered to the baby door. He said I was crazy and then started gathering up our already born children.
I tried to remain composed all the while my contractions were getting stronger and quicker and quicker. I called Jayden's school and got the voice mail. When calling a student out absent, you have to state why. My message sounded like this: "Hi, it's Jayden's mom. He's not going to be in today... but... he's... not sick. It's me. I'm not sick. I'm in LABOR. I'M GOING INTO LABOR RIGHT NOW. He'll be in tomorrow though. Have a nice day. Wait!... mmmmmmmmmmmm, wait (I got this). I need you to send home some information ABOUT THE NEW AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM. I want to... to... to put him in the j-j-JESUS!!! Reading section. Ok. Bye." By then I was on the floor. But I was still hopeful that I was going to make it to Boston through the morning rush hour traffic. I felt like, "if I could just get dressed" then "if I could just get downstairs." Getting downstairs was excruciating. Halfway down, I just didn't want to move anymore, but I was too far away to walk back up to the top. I sat there for a moment, by myself because John was buckling the kids in, and contemplated never moving from that spot ever again. By the time I got to the car, it must have been obvious to everyone (but me... still in denial) that things weren't going so swell. John asked me if I wanted an ambulance. I said, "No, just drive." Jayden asked me if I was going to survive. Since he was a baby I've always told him that I was afraid of nothing; hoping it would inspire him to be the same, and to always use his brain instead of his tears to get what he wants. Cool and in control is how he's always seen me, so this hot mess that I was at this time was jarring to him. I assured him this was normal, and that it would all be over soon... in between screams of pain. I said, "Don't be scared, but Mama's about to get real up in this car."
We got less than a mile down the street before I had another contraction and knew right then that I did not want to be in our car anymore. John pulled over at a shopping plaza and called 911. We were in Swampscott... not a whole lot goes on in Swampscott because 2 cruisers, 1 supervisor's car, a cop in his own car who was on a detail, and a fire truck showed up. I thought, "where is the ambulance!?" The cops and fire fighters started clearing the kids out of the back seat. They all wanted me to deliver back there. I thought, "where the fuck is that ambulance!?" One fire fighter, who happened to be a lady, suggested they wait a minute, the ambulance was coming from Lynn, the next city away. I was very thankful for that.
When the ambulance came the EMT asked if a hospital was expecting us. I smiled and said that The Brigham was expecting us. He told me that unless I planned on having this baby on the Tobin Bridge, we were turning around and going to Salem Hospital. I was disappointed, and finally allowed myself to believe that this baby was coming right now, not later, not in a while... immediately. Inside the ambulance was cold and empty. I felt like I was just put in the back of someone's van. I told the EMT I was having a contraction, then another one 90 seconds later. I said I have the urge to push. In a very surprised voice he said, "Please don't push in here, I've never done this before." Then I noticed that this guy was just a baby himself. I promised I wouldn't push and that everything would be ok. The 3 minute ride to the hospital was agony. I just wanted the EMT to stop talking to me, to stop asking important questions. I wanted to never talk again.
When we finally got there, he wheeled me into Emergency. I guess that's a law in Massachusetts; when a woman comes in during labor, they have to check her at emergency first instead of going directly to delivery. I was unaware of this law and as soon as I was in the building I asked when I could push. I also asked for drugs. Any drugs. I knew it was too late for an epidural, but I wanted something, anything. I would have smoked crack if they gave it to me. The ER doctor greeted me rather eloquently, and then told me he needed to check to see how dilated I was. He informed me that he would need to partially remove my pants and, and as he put it, "make you a little indecent for a moment." I said, "That's ok, I know what goes on here!" He looked relieved then sent me on my way to delivery. I begged the EMT to just let me have the baby in the hallway.
In Labor and Delivery it was all hands on deck. All of the nurses and doctors were there because they were about to perform a scheduled c-section when I came in. There was like 10 people in this room. Which is why I grew impatient that I wasn't in the stirrups and in place by now. They were all too busy asking me who I was and if I had any allergies or history of stroke. I really just wanted to tell them all of that once it was over. I needed it to be over already! My contractions were coming every 45 seconds by now and my body was becoming exhausted. I was tingly because I wasn't breathing and I hadn't eaten or drank anything since the night before. I began ripping my own clothes off because no one else took the initiative. I walked off the gurney myself and climbed into the bed. My water broke when the delivering doctor put the electrode heart monitor on her head. That was a weird feeling. She just reached in, not far, and stuck something on my baby's head. My baby's head was just right there. She said, "ok, push" and I did, but I was bummed out that no one from my team was there. I pushed anyways. A nurse asked if the EMT could come back in because he had never seen a birth before. I thought, "why not?" everyone else was in there. Then Toby came in. My contractions were coming every 15 seconds. I started going numb. They were yelling at me to hold my legs up by my ears, but I was so tired. I said, "the EMT's not doing anything." I wanted them to give him that job. I was so tired. And I was not breathing because you're not supposed to breathe during a contraction, you're supposed to hold your breath and bear down. There were only a few seconds in between the contractions for me to gulp air, so I felt like I was drowning. Then I felt a pain that was completely indescribable. I had no idea what was going on, I let out this blood curdling scream. What the doctor did was push my baby back in. The baby was coming out at an angle, and getting stuck and they were losing the heart beat. John, who was just arriving, heard my scream and came right in just in time to see me crowning.
Everyone was yelling for me to push (like I wasn't or something), and I did, hard, but it felt like nothing was happening. For a split second I was afraid that this baby would actually never come out. That I was going to live like this forever. I gave one more push, in the middle of a push I was already engaged in. I pushed so long and so hard that I broke blood vessels in my eyes, face, and shoulders. And then I felt my body rip open and I just let go. My baby girl was out at 9:04am. They scarcely held her up so I could see before the pediatrician ran away with her. They needed to examine her because of her heart rate. Plus, I wouldn't have been able to hold her...my arms had stopped working. That and they were stitching up the hole she left in me. It was like she was the Kool-Aid man breaking through a brick wall.
But in no time I was nursing, eating breakfast, and moving around. The good thing about not getting an epidural is that there is no lag time where you have to stay in bed until it wears off. And there's no tubing to remove, no IV, no site to monitor. Not having an epidural is good for after the birth. During... it's a little rough. Although I'm still a fan of au naturel because I feel like I wouldn't have begged for drugs if I had been pushing when I was supposed to. I was told that by the time I walked down my stairs, on the way to my car, I was 10+ centimeters dilated and fully effaced. They only thing keeping her in was my membranes. It was likely that my water never would have broken on its own.
I didn't feel like I was really present for this birth either, being in that much pain. I couldn't concentrate on the act of birthing because of the abyss of crazy stupid pain I was in that scrambled my brain. In addition to the bloody eyeballs I got, I ended up with two blackeyes too, a sewn up whoo-ha, and an infection from a rubella vaccination. But it doesn't really matter because my baby was perfect nonetheless. Although not immediately, but shortly after giving birth, that pain is just a fading memory. Her name is Jacinda Eden Cannon. They don't care how they come into this world, they're just happy to be here with you. Before she was born I had remarked that there is a moment of awkwardness when you pick up someone else's baby and don't know just where to put your arms. But when you pick up your own baby, you know exactly how to hold them because it was if they were made for you. This is true. Don't let my baby story scare you. I lived through it. It's been 6 weeks and I'm better than all better. And my baby is awesome.