This is long and fairly graphic; consider yourself warned. (I typed it out to include in Lincoln's scrapbook.) But if you're into natural childbirth/considering it, I'll share it here. Click to read the actual story after the jump.
Sunday, March 11 started like pretty much any other Sunday; I didn't have to open at Starbucks, so I showed up for church band practice at 9 am. We sang as usual, and at a bathroom break at some point during the morning, I noticed that I seemed to have lost my mucous plug. I was pretty happy about that, because I just wanted to be done being pregnant.
After the service, people asked repeatedly how I was feeling, and inevitably my response was, "Ready to be done. I have never looked forward to extreme pain SO MUCH."
If I only knew.
Sunday afternoon was spent in a fairly low-key manner. I don't remember what we ate for lunch, but I know we spent a good amount of time chilling together on the couch. About 2:45 I noticed an excess gush of fluid and thought I had just wet myself a little. (It tended to happen without warning toward the end.) Later on I napped for a couple of hours while Jared worked on his lawn mowers.
About 6 p.m. I started having irregular contractions. I also had noticed some spotting when I went to the bathroom, and that had me a little concerned. However, it seemed to go away, so I decided to wait until the next morning and go into the office and have it checked. The contractions continued, but at that point they weren't that strong, so I figured they were more of the practice sessions I'd been having. Something seemed different, though, so I couldn't help getting a little excited.
The contractions started getting closer together and were strong enough at this point that I could actually time them. I had a app on my phone that I was using for this. They were still around ten minutes apart, but I decided to take a hot shower and shave my legs just in case I did end up in labor; at least I would be clean and wouldn't have to worry about greasy hair.
The whole time I had a strange sort of feeling of urgency. Although I should have been resting, I couldn't. I was just counting time, hoping this was the real thing.
Finally at about 11:30. as I was seeing still more blood clots, I decided that we needed to have it checked out. Either there was a problem or my water had broken, but in both cases the hospital was where I should be. I wasn't going to wait until the morning. I told Jared and started packing up the last few things that needed to go into my hospital bag: camera, cell phone charger, bag of special snacks for J that had been hidden in the back of the fridge with "NO EATING" written on it. I called my sister Sarah, my birth coach, just to let her know what was going on and assure her she needn't head to the hospital yet. He called his brother and asked if it was ok for us to drop the dogs off that night--if it was too late we would have just left the puppies at the house and had the neighbors check on them in the morning. Ryan said it was fine, so we all loaded up and headed out.
When we left the house my contractions were about 6 minutes apart and still weren't that strong. We stopped at his brothers house, dropped off the dogs, and headed on the hour drive to the hospital. Jared kept asking if he should speed, but I assured him we weren't in a rush. There were plenty of cops and few cars, so we would have been an obvious target. I was a little disappointed, however, that we wouldn't get to use the very legitimate "My wife is having a baby" excuse. Immediately after leaving Ryan's house my contractions jumped to about four minutes apart, sometimes closer, and the intensity increased to the point where I couldn't talk through them. After about half an hour of this remaining consistent, I called Sarah and suggested that maybe she DID want to head to the hospital after all.
When we got to the hospital and they started checking me in, they first asked if my water had broken. I responded that I didn't THINK so but it might have. They checked my dilation and she said she wasn't feeling a bag of waters, just baby head, so she thought it might have. She did a swab test to check, and told me I was dilated to 3.5. At that point it was 1:30 a.m. and Sarah had arrived at the hospital. The test came back, I was indeed leaking amniotic fluid, and counting back we figured it was probably that fluid I'd felt at 2:45 that afternoon. She asked my preferences on the birth and I said that the goal was to do it without drugs.
I was admitted and installed in a room and the nurse showed us where everything was and left us to things. She said laboring in the hot tub would probably help me to dilate faster, so into the tub I hopped.
This is the point where it all starts to blur together. I know I labored in and out of the tub, walked as much as possible, and occasionally labored on the bed. I also know the contractions became consistently more intense and started to hate this birth experience. The midwife that I had been working with, Penny Williams, was scheduled to come on duty at 8 a.m., but she showed up earlier, and was amazingly calming as she showed me how to relax into the contractions. I was still in pain, but just her presence relaxed me.
Jared and Sarah were troopers, spelling each other so I always had someone walking with me, supporting me, rubbing my back as needed. At one point a coffee and donuts run was made, and I was SO JEALOUS because I wanted a donut ridiculously much, but since I was throwing up everything in my system, I knew that wasn't a good plan.
By about 5 or so in the morning I was starting to just get tired. At this point laboring in the tub was my favorite, because I could actually fall asleep between contractions.
At 7 Penny came in and checked my dilation and I was at 4, FOUR. I was so angry when I heard that. I had been in pain for five and a half hours and all I had to show for it was a measly half-centimeter! I started to get discouraged, but the staff encouraged me: 1-5 was the hard part. I was almost done with that.
Penny doesn't like much interference, so she wasn't going to check my cervix constantly. She told us that the next stage to look for was the feeling like I needed to have a bowel movement; that meant the baby's head was moving down. At about 9:30 I felt that and she checked again: I was at 8. I was starting to feel like I needed to push, and holding back against that meant fighting against the contractions. Penny assured me that it was ok to bear down, if not actually push, and it would help me to complete dilation.
Finally at 11 a.m. I was completely dilated and had permission to push. So I started to push. And pushed. And pushed. And pushed. At this point Jared and Sarah were holding my knees, and I was so tired that I couldn't push the full duration of the contraction. It. Was. Hideous. I would manage about three good pushes per contraction, but there was enough contraction left at the end for a fourth push, but I just COULD NOT summon the strength for one more, which meant I was just curled up in pain, waiting for that one to stop and the next one to start.
Apparently at this point the baby's head was catching on my pubic bone, and I just couldn't get him past it. After two hours of pushing she was able to guide him around the bone, and now began the "ring of fire." I could feel him, he was close, but I just couldn't give that little bit extra to get him out. Penny was apparently very concerned that I was going to tear; she was massaging my perineum with warmed oil (I think) almost constantly as I pushed. They were monitoring the baby closely, and he seemed to be fine. They also asked me if I wanted a mirror to see the progress, and I said in no uncertain terms that I did NOT. At some point I did reach down and touch his head, and feeling all that hair gave me a little bit more energy: I could do this.
Finally, as we were closing in on 3 hours of pushing, she pulled out the scissors. She was going to have to do an episiotomy. Apparently she doesn't do those often, but this child was not coming out without one. She snipped, and literally on the next push he was born.
So at 2:05 p.m. I gave birth to an eight-pound, five ounce boy, 21 inches long, with a 15-inch head. Yep. That's why I pushed so long.
They placed the sticky bundle of wrinkliness on my chest, I looked down at this creature, and he had THE WORST CONE HEAD you've ever seen in your life. Someone asked, "What's his name?" and I said, "Lincoln Everett." Jared said, "I thought you wanted Lelan?" To which I responded, "That is the funniest looking baby I have ever seen, and Lincoln was a funny-looking president. Lincoln it is."
Not included in this story are me crying, gasping for breath and claiming "I can't do this." Also not included: groaning like a crazy woman while pushing, threatening to quit, and generally attempting to wuss out but being incapable of doing so because, you know, I was in labor.