I think it goes without saying, but here’s your official TMI alert.
I can’t complain too much about my labor. I think it was fairly easy and quick, all things considered.
A week before my due date, I woke up about 1:20am for one of my usual pee breaks. When I went to the bathroom, I notice my pantyliner was soaked through. Odd, I thought. Could it be amniotic fluid? I smelled it (I know, that sounds gross, but according to what I read online, amniotic fluid smells sweet), but it didn’t have a particular odor, so I figured maybe I had peed a little, or maybe had some heavy discharge. I checked the bed when I went back, and it was dry, so didn’t think too much about it. About ten minutes later, though, I got up again with what felt like “poopy cramps.” A trip to the bathroom yielded nothing, so I went back to bed, only to get up again a few minutes later with the same feeling. I ended up sitting up on the couch, suffering through these mild cramps for a while, searching online for what labor pains felt like. Everything I read said, “you’ll know it when you feel it.” Well, I wasn’t sure these were labor pains, so they must not be, right? Sure, my belly was tight, but I felt like it was tight most of the time over the previous couple of months, so nothing felt unusual…
I started timing my “cramps” anyway, as they seemed fairly regular, and I figured there was no harm in timing them, just in case they were contractions. They were about 4.5 minutes apart and lasting about two minutes each, over a 60 minute period. I kept thinking of the 5-1-1 rule, thinking, if this is labor, it’s time to GO! But the pains were still not very strong – just crampy feeling. I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor.
Around 3:30am, I emailed some friends to get their advice (“Is this labor?”), then went to the bathroom again.When I wiped the toilet paper came away red. “Hmm, bloody show,” I thought, and made a mental check mark. I knew that didn’t necessarily mean labor was imminent, but it was a sign. I went to the bathroom again around 5am, and definitely lost my mucous plug. Check. Feeling kind of gross at this point, I decided to go ahead and take a shower. I figure the shower might help with the cramps, if that’s what they were, and if it was labor, at least I’d be clean.
While in the shower, the “cramps” definitely started getting worse, so when I got out I woke Stephen. “I think it’s time.” I finished packing my hospital bag (all the last minute items) while he showered. I tried to keep timing my “contractions” using an app, but I kept losing track, so when Stephen got out of the shower I handed him the phone and just started telling him when to start and stop the timer. Brain wasn’t functioning on all cylinders at that point.
We left the apartment about 6:45am, me in the back seat with my gut in agony by this time, one foot up on the center console, as there was no leg room in the back. My cramps, now contractions, were coming every two and a half minutes and lasting just over a minute each. The normally 45 minute drive took half an hour, with Stephen speeding moderately, as I didn’t feel “bat out of hell” speed was quite necessary. Luckily there was little traffic at that time of day, so he was able to pass slower drivers (and avoid the speeding cameras by dodging into the oncoming lane).
We arrived at the hospital at 7:15, and they hooked me up to monitors to check my progress. I remember telling Stephen how I was going to be pissed if this was a false alarm, but I was admitted at 7:45, so I was, indeed, in labor. I had measured 2cm dilated a month before, so I figured I’d be a bit further along, but no, I was still at 2cm. I started to worry that I’d have a long labor, and the “cramps” were definitely contractions at that point, although I still felt very much like I just needed to poop. In my birth plan, I had decided against an epidural, but around 10am, at 4cm, I was very quickly started to rethink my decision. I couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I jumped at the chance to use the birthing tub, since I haven’t had the luxury of a bathtub in months, but after ten or fifteen minutes I wanted out. The tub was huge, so I could never get traction in it. I kept wanted to brace my legs against the tub when a contraction came, but the tub was too big for that. I tried the rocking chair, and the birthing ball, but I found that any sort of sitting or squatting position was very uncomfortable, like everything was being compressed. The best “relief” I found was simply standing and bending over the bed when a contraction came. I had access to laughing gas, but I couldn’t really get a good breath once the contraction started, and I didn’t feel that it did much good. That is, until I had a monitor hooked up and could see the contraction coming. Once I could see the contraction start, I’d huff on the gas, so that by the time I felt the contraction the gas actually did take the edge off a bit. Not a lot, mind you, but a bit.
So I had some bad labor pains from about 8-11am. Bad being really really bad menstrual cramps. Don’t get me wrong, I was begging for it to stop, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. By 11am, I had dilated to 8cm, so things had progressed fairly quickly, from 2cm to 4cm to 8cm. The doctor came in and gave me a paracervical block, which was actually pretty painful – but again, more in a cramping way than sharp pain. Once it was done, however, I felt so mellow. Stephen was watching the monitor and was like, “How does that feel?” and I was like, “How does what feel?” It was awesome. I was told the block would only last about two hours, so at that point my eye was on the clock. The last thing I wanted was for it to wear off right before I really needed it!
I hit 10cm around noon, and the midwife told me I could go ahead and start pushing if I felt like it…then she left the room to help with another birth! I was like, I ain’t pushing if she’s not here. What if the baby came and there was no one around? So I “pushed” but not really. Then she was back, and it was time. The baby wasn’t quite in the right position, so she had me lay on my left side to help with that, then it was time to push. I spent about 30-45 minutes in active pushing, and I can remember wishing I had a diagram of where he was minute to minute. “He’s almost there” is meaningless – show me a picture of where he is so I can visualize. Give me numbers. His head is through the pelvis, it’s now x far down the birth canal – I desperately wanted something tangible other than, “Almost.”
Pushing was rough, but not particularly painful. It was uncomfortable, and took a lot of effort, but I was groaning and grunting more from that effort and the pressure I could feel than from any pain.
Just the day before, I had read about a woman who tore. Up. Not down. It was something I had never heard of, and it freaked me out. So when I started feeling pain radiating upward, I was terrified of it happening to me, too. It made me scared to push. I wanted to take it all back, hit rewind, not let anything more happen. But you can’t do that. So I just hoped for the best and resigned myself to the worst. Luckily, I didn’t tear that way. I did tear a bit, but only needed three stitches, so I figure it wasn’t that bad.
Random thought #1: the shoulders actually were more uncomfortable coming out than the head, which surprised me.
Random thought #2: those people who say you don’t know/care that you poop while pushing? They’re lying.
Baby J was born at 12:58 pm, 3.425kilos (7 pounds 9oz) and 50cm (19.5 inches). I was in labor just under twelve hours, and he barely squeaked through the paracervical block timetable. All in all, labor wasn’t too bad, considering what I was expecting.
In fact, the after birth was far worse. (More on that soon…)