Our babe was 12 days overdue and had given us no indication that he was making a move out of the womb and into the world. I was scheduled to go into the hospital on Wednesday to be induced and we anticipated a long labor with a lot of time to hang out. We bought raspberry yogurt bars for the occasion, we made a 'Having Asher' playlist full of soothing music, and we decided it would be great to have some of Collin's famous chocolate chip cookies while we waited. Collin had the video camera and tripod all ready, and a complex system of communication in place to let our family and friends know what was happening. In the end, we didn't have time for any of those things.
I woke up on Tuesday, July 5th at 5.30am feeling like something was different about my body and having some minor pains. We spent the day hanging out, watching Lost, resting, and taking short walks. I didn't think I was having contractions, but rather just some pre-labor crampiness. This would have been the perfect time to dig into those yogurt bars, but after waiting so long for labor to arrive, I wasn't going to allow myself to believe that this could really be it and then be disappointed. By early evening, I noticed that Collin was starting to gather things for his hospital man bag which held the camera, tripod, video camera, computer, chargers... you know, all things techy that would allow him to document the birth of our son and communicate with family and friends. When he insisted that we eat an early dinner and told me I really needed to eat because I probably wouldn't feel like it later, I thought he was being overly optimistic about how fast labor would progress, after all, some people are in labor for days, and I didn't want to be one of those women who says, "OMG I'm in labor!", but then is sent home from the hospital because they weren't in "real" labor. I listened to him, thinking that his judgement of the situation was probably a bit clearer than mine after a long, tiring day. After a nice dinner of grilled chicken and baked potatoes we took a short walk, but I felt pretty vulnerable and didn't want to stray too far from home. We walked down the road a bit, stopping whenever I'd have a contraction. We actually passed some people we know on our walk; at that point the contractions were far enough apart that we chatted for a minute without incident and nobody had a clue. When we got back, the contractions were a little stronger, so we decided to do what all the midwives here say to do for "pain relief": "Take a bath and a paracetamol (Tylenol)." Collin and I stood in the kitchen and he said, “You might think about calling the hospital soon... you are in labor.” I'm pretty sure I just looked at him like he was crazy, thinking this wasn't really it. It must have hit me suddenly because soon I heard myself repeating back to Collin, 'Um, babe, I think I'm in labor'. I had been in denial all day until that point.
We laid down in bed to watch a Lost episode, but I was pausing it every few minutes when a contraction would come, and we finally gave it up. We decided to try to rest for a while. I laid there in bed, sleepy, but every time I'd start to doze off I'd have another contraction. I soon realized there was no possibility of sleep and became frustrated with just laying there through the contractions. I woke Collin up, feeling like things were picking up quickly. He started timing the contractions again; they were closer together than before. I told Collin I couldn't just lie there, so he suggested maybe taking another bath to try to relax a bit. He lit some candles and started the water; I laid in the tub trying to relax, but found myself turning sideways trying to cope with the pain. Meanwhile, the contractions kept coming closer and closer together and were harder to ignore. At this point, Collin said they were close enough together to call the hospital. It was about 1am when Collin called and told the midwife on the phone everything that was happening. The contractions were between 3 and 4 minutes apart and becoming more intense. I heard Collin on the phone, "Yes, we've tried pain relief. Yes, bath and a paracetamol." It was as if that were the magic combination and they wouldn't let you come to the hospital until you'd tried taking a bath and a paracetamol. I couldn't answer questions or think of anything else when a contraction would come. I got on the phone between contractions with the midwife at the end of the conversation and she suggested I try to stay at home for as long as possible and 'snooze' and 'eat and drink' between contractions, and then to call back when we felt like heading to the hospital. We hung up the phone, but just a few minutes later realized that there wouldn't be much more waiting around and definitely no snoozing or eating. Our yogurt bars and chocolate chip cookies would have to wait. We got in the car and called the hospital to let them know we were on our way. The midwife told me to be prepared to go back home because I might 'not be in active labor', to which I responded, 'What do you MEAN I might not be in active labor?!' I don't remember much of the ride to the hospital, except that I was mad at the lady for saying I wasn't in labor and trying to text my family between contractions. Collin seemed to be calm and collected at this point, though I'm sure he was panicking on the inside. We'll have to get his side of the story.
The first midwife we had was called Annette and turned out to be very attentive, competent and patient. She said she would assess me to see if I was progressing well enough to stay, but I think she was soon convinced when a few contractions come on quick and strong. I was 4 centimeters dilated. She listened to the baby's heartbeat and said it was too slow, so immediately strapped on the monitors. I really wasn't a fan of the monitor; the straps were tight and I really didn't need more action going on in the belly region. The doctor came in to watch too. I noticed that Collin still had a death grip on his iPhone and was timing the contractions, which I thought was pretty funny, since we were all watching the contractions on the monitor.
Annette said she would get a room set up for me and then we could discuss options for pain relief. I said something along the lines of “no need, Annette, I'll take a strong cocktail of epidural and gas and air.” All throughout the pregnancy, I thought I would just wait and see how it was going, thinking I would give it a go without the epidural if things were manageable, but had given myself permission to get the epidural if I needed it. In that moment, there was no question in my mind, the epidural could not come fast enough, but the doctor wanted to monitor baby's heart rate for at least half an hour before getting the epidural because of the dips they saw right when we arrived.
Forty-five minutes later, I was letting everyone in the room know that it had been MORE than half an hour and I wanted the darn epidural. After the room had been cleaned and we got all set up, the contractions were pretty intense and I was crawling off the bed every time one hit. It was like I was trying to escape from the pain but couldn't get away from it. Soon enough, the anaesthesiologist came in and read me what seemed like the entire warning label on the side of the epidural bottle. It doesn't really matter what they tell you could happen at this point; because all I heard was, "Blah, blah, blah." It was pretty crazy, but they got the epidural in and there was a sudden calmness in the room and I started chatting it up with the midwife and anaesthesiologist, asking about their children and their own birth experiences. I was finally able to relax for a short while, until I started having more pain. The anaesthesiologist was called back in and determined that the epidural was leaking a bit and I wasn't getting all of the medicine and gave me a 'top up' of a stronger drug. The midwife did some checking and told me we were at 10 centimeters and it was time for our little boy to be born. I was so glad I had gotten that top up at just the right time!
While there had typically only been one midwife in the room with us all night, there was suddenly 5 more people present. I wasn't really sure what was going on, but they told me that our little boy was getting tired in there and it was time for him to come out. His heart rate was dropping again, this time lower than before. I remember wanting to know everyone’s name (don’t ask me why!) and then I started shaking and felt very scared about what was about to happen.
To be continued…