So while it's fresh in my mind, and nobody is coming into the hospital room to bug me every few minutes, here is how it went down. As usual this will not be a story of rainbows and puppy dogs but you know me - I call it as I experienced it.
I will start by saying that yes, it was a far better birth experience than before. I definitely got everything I had hoped for - no induction, no emergency c section, no going too late, no complications, no logistical problems surrounding getting Bumpus' care covered. It really all did work out, and in probably the best way(s) possible, because just sometimes the universe is cool like that.
So Tuesday night I was awoken by regular annoying contractions that radiated from front to back, mostly resting in my spine. They weren't too bad but did keep me from sleeping. I timed them and they were 7-8 minutes apart, way too far to even call anyone about. By morning they had passed, and I of course googled all the stories of women who have this go on for weeks. I started to feel real despair at that point.
By dinner time Wednesday the contractions had returned, but were a lot more painful - and I mean take-your-breath-away painful. Still, they were seven minutes apart. But in terror of passing a whole night in that kind of pain, and not knowing if I was indeed dilating, I called first my doula and then L&D, both of whom pretty much told me that unless they were five minutes apart to not bother coming in (!). By ten o'clock I couldn't stand the pain anymore and made the executive decision to drive myself to L&D even though I was 90% sure I would be turned around home in an hour.
So they got me hooked up to monitors and did the painful cervix check and did an ultrasound. Although I was 2 cm dilated and about 50% effaced, since they had no baseline for me (I had not been checked before) they couldn't determine if anything was actually happening, and told me I should go home. But then the contractions started in earnest, and they checked me again and I was at a 3. They still said I should go home, but thankfully one doctor offered for me to hang out for an hour and then be checked again. I am so, so glad I didn't drive myself home! During that hour wait the contractions shortened to three minutes apart and I was in absolute agony. I started sobbing because I just couldn't take it. There was no position, no walking (walking? what's that?), no amount of breathing through these things that would even remotely help. I felt like someone had gotten a hold of a large steel mallet and was smashing it against my spine. Or alternately, there's a scene in the science fiction film Species where an alien pulls someone's spine out of their body through their skin in one big yank. It felt like that. Every three minutes.
When they returned to check me after I lay sobbing in the kind Ghanian nurse's arms, I was at a 5, and hurrah! Finally I was no longer the high maintenance crazy person with no pain tolerance, I was a person in active labor. It was such a relief to be listened to and believed.
I begged for the epidural and got one, just as my doula showed up. I'm sad to admit she did kind of try to talk me out of it - said, "you know this is all going to be over really soon, right?" But I said, "oh, I know, but I've had quite enough of this bullshit," and that was the end of that.
Still...epidural didn't do much. I think it only took on one side, because my right side felt dandy and my leg was numb, but my left I was still in a torrent of pain. Everything was happening so fast, though, that I didn't care to have the anesthesiologist back to try to "fix" it; and everyone said what I was feeling was pressure and not pain and couldn't be helped anyway (I actually don't agree with that - I know the difference between pain and pressure). This was at about 3 AM.
There were some concerns about my blood pressure and talk of magnesium being administered, but it wasn't. Theo had pooped in the sac and they were worried about this...at one point a whole NICU team flew in in a panic because of this and his dropping heart rate, and for a second I wondered if I was headed for an emergency c section. But really - I was in so much pain all I cared about was it being over. I knew it would end one way or the other and I just wanted to get there.
The next three hours was nothing but pain. Agonizing, horrific pain. I found myself chanting to no one in particular every time a contraction started, "I need this to be over now I need this to be over now I need this to be over now", as if all I had to do was submit a change order to someone in triplicate and make it so. There is nothing worse than being trapped in an experience like that and knowing there's nothing you can do to help yourself and make it stop. It's just awful. Or maybe I'm just a big pussy.
They wanted me to push finally, but unlike with Bumpus it was not at all cool or empowering. I don't know where my friend the Mexico City restaurant owner was who helped me push the baby out last time (odd hallucination I had with Bumpus' birth!) but this time it was all me, and not working out too well. I just kept pushing and pushing and nothing was happening - it was hard to do in the midst of painful contractions, too, which again was not an issue last time.
But at last we found a good position, I got my breathing while pushing rhythm going, and I felt his head and knew it was just about over - and pop! Out he came, screaming heartily and covered in tiny little baby poops, at 6:20 AM.
So it's hard to say how long of a labor it was - active labor only about maybe six hours, but if you count in the maybe six hours leading up to that, twelve. He came right at 40 weeks and was 7 lb 2 oz (smaller than B who was born a few days earlier).
And much to my surprise - he looks nothing like Bumpus! Brown hair and what appears to be brown eyes (?) and not at all the plump Gerber baby thing B had going on. Genes are wacky!
I had called my sister when we went to the delivery room to see if I should call in the babysitter but we both decided to just let her stay home and take care of B, which I think was the right decision. The birth went quickly and was fairly uneventful, and I had the doula and her assistant there for the requisite handholding and moral support. I feel a lot more secure knowing someone who has the whole house/feeding/bathing thing with Bumpus down pat is there. He loves her and I don't think has even noticed I'm gone. I haven't been much fun the past few months!
So now my poor battered body has to heal itself, and little T and I have to get this whole breast feeding thing going. I will be here overnight and probably head home Friday.
I forgot how teeny tiny newborns are, even full term ones! How were we ever this small? And even at this small, how was this person inside my body? And how did he come out of the smallest hole in my body???
Right now I feel pretty ok - not utterly exhausted and starving and shell shocked like last time; there's a lot to be said for having experience, and knowing how messy and bloody and unpleasant it all is at this stage, and just going with it. It will soon be over and we'll both be clean and fresh again. But not today.
I don't know how on earth people do this with no pain meds. I wondered this aloud often during the labor. It did make me question my pain tolerance compared to other people's...and also made me wonder if I just have a shitty attitude about childbirth...or if everyone kind of does but I'm one of the few people who comes out and says it. I wonder about some of my first timer friends who are due around now who have their whole natural birth/birthing center/hypnobabies thing going on, how that will go for them - maybe if you're just determined to make that all work for you, it does, because after all this stuff really is what you make of it. Maybe my "let's just get this crap over with" attitude isn't the best way to have a "magical" birth experience. But...none of that matters now because I will never, ever ever, have to do it again. For realz this time.
And neither will my boys. Hurray!