Anyway, when we left off in Part 1, we were on our way to the hospital!
Wednesday, March 28 Continued...
When we arrived at the hospital, Jess dropped us off at the main entrance and went to park the car. The security guard sent us straight up to the Labor and Delivery unit on the second floor to check in. I got a little emotional walking to the unit, knowing that once I checked in, I would not be leaving again without my baby. This was it.
We were escorted to the early labor room and I was given a hospital gown to change into. The nurse came and took blood, checked my progress and the baby's heart rate. She told me I was four centimeters dilated. I was so discouraged. Days of labor, all for just four centimeters? Jess assured me that this was good news, as those first four centimeters are usually the hardest fought, and labor usually picks up after that point. I wasn't convinced but I tried to stay positive. The nurse asked us if we wanted to stay, and at this point, I wasn't going anywhere. I was officially admitted and we were moved to the L&D room that we would end up calling home for the next five days.
When we got to our room, I laid down in the bed so the nurse could hook me up to the monitors and ask a lengthy series of questions about my medical history and birth preferences. For example, I preferred intermittent monitoring of the baby's heart rate and my blood pressure so I could be free to walk around and change positions as needed. The hospital's policy was for me to spend 30 minutes on the monitors every two hours, and let me tell you, by the end of each such half hour, I was so ready to get up. I just hated laying down - the contractions were so much easier to manage if I was on my feet. In fact, by the time we arrived at the hospital, my feet were so tired from all the standing and walking I had been doing all night. We later tried some new positions to give my feet a rest, such as kneeling on the bed and resting my arms on the elevated head of the bed. Nothing was as good as standing, though.
The nurse did make me put in a hep-lock "just in case," and I was not happy about it. Little did I know that one little tube would be the least of my worries, and there would be many more where that came from.
Not a fan.
After the nurse was finished, I took a shower. Eric put on his bathing suit and joined me for a bit for support while Jess ran out to get breakfast. When she got back, Eric grabbed some breakfast from the cafeteria. I snuck some of it, even though the hospital wanted me to stick to a liquid diet from then on. I needed to keep my strength up! At lunchtime, they mistakenly brought a tray of "real" food as well as my liquid diet, so Eric had the pleasure of eating hospital salisbury steak and red potatoes while I ate jello and chicken broth. Honestly, neither sounds gourmet, does it?
Whose lunch looks better?
After lunch, we went for a long walk up down the halls of L&D. We were limited to this space because once a pregnant woman is admitted, she is not allowed to leave the unit until she is discharged with her baby - not to go to the cafeteria or anything. We were expressly reminded several times during the course of our walks that any doors leading to the outside world were "NOT AN EXIT!" as we headed towards them. We had no intention of leaving, of course, but we made sure to walk all the way to the very end of each hall so I guess we made the staff nervous.
Walking around in my super stylish (and ever so flattering!) gown
As we walked, my contractions continued to come but not nearly as regularly or strongly as they had during the night. It actually felt more like Tuesday afternoon had felt. I was getting frustrated but tried to just keep plodding along. The big goal was to get my water to break - Eric really wanted a fun water-breaking story! No such luck, however. We were at another slow-down.
When walking wasn't working, we went back to the room and I tried bouncing on the exercise ball. However, I was so tired, I literally started falling asleep while I was bouncing. Thank goodness Eric was sitting right in front of me to make sure I didn't fall over! I finally decided I needed to try to nap for a bit, so I laid down and was able to sleep a bit between contractions.
After my nap we set out walking again. I remember passing a baby bassinet in the hallway and suggesting I push it along with us as motivation. Again, I did have to stop and "slow dance" with Eric through contractions, but they just didn't seem to be picking up speed. As the day wore on, I felt more and more discouraged that it looked like another day would pass us by with no baby. I was having a very hard time seeing any end in sight.
Around 6:00 p.m., Dr. Chinn, the doctor from my practice on call that day, came to check me. I was five centimeters at that point, after another full day of laboring. I was very tempted to ask her to break my water for me, but I still held out hope that things would get moving on their own. Dr. Chinn also said they were respectful of my birth plan and she could see that I was in good enough spirits that she was not even going to offer any further intervention because that is not what I wanted, and I really appreciated that.
When Dr. Chinn left, we started discussing our options again. Once again, our natural "speed it up" remedies didn't seem to be doing much. Jess suggested again that I might just need to rest for a bit. She pointed out again that it seemed to be my pattern that contractions pick up after sleep, so she thought that might be a good thing to try in the hopes that would be all my body needed to finally transition so I could get to pushing. She said that if I wanted to go that route, I could try to sleep naturally, or I could ask for a sleep aid to help me sleep between contractions, or I could get an epidural. I decided to take a warm shower and think it over, but the water in the shower never warmed up, so then I was just standing in a cold shower, only adding to my discouraged attitude.
Ultimately, I decided to try to sleep naturally. The suggested sleep aid, Nubain, was supposed to help me sleep through the contractions, but I was told it would probably not work during the peaks. It is also a drug that crosses the placenta and so would make the baby groggy (though at five centimeters dilation, there would be plenty of time for it to wear off). I still wanted to avoid an epidural and try to stay all natural, and I didn't think I needed any help sleeping through contractions. I was already so tired, and if the Nubain could only offer extra seconds to each nap segment, I didn't think it would really help me get a more restful sleep. So, I decided to just try sleeping myself as I had done the past two nights. Jess left again for the night and told us to keep her updated. If things started to pick up, she promised she would be back ASAP.
At 7:30 p.m., Eric messaged our families the plan and I laid down to try to sleep, but struggled to get comfortable. It was still far more difficult to manage my contractions while laying down, so I kept the head of the bed mostly upright and put a wedge pillow under my knees to keep my legs bent. I dozed for a bit but before I knew it, my other discomforts were also back - heartburn, shortness of breath, the whole bit. It was just too much. I tried to keep sleeping as long as I could, largely because I wanted Eric to have the opportunity to rest also (even though I was sure all my moaning was keeping him up anyway, I was hopeful), but soon it got to be too much.
By 10:30 p.m., I just couldn't take it anymore. I got up from the bed and went to take another shower and just had a breakdown. I was tired, in pain, uncomfortable, so frustrated and so discouraged. I cried through my shower and just felt mentally broken.
I know it was all hard on Eric, too, but he was always there to take care of me. He left the room to call Jess and spent some time discussing the risks of taking Nubain and/or getting an epidural. My ultimate goal was to avoid a c-section, and Jess helped Eric understand that the timing was good to go either route. Basically, five to eight centimeters left plenty of time for the Nubain to wear off and was far enough along that I should be able to finish dilating within traditional hospital time limits if I got an epidural. When I got back, I laid in the bed and Eric and I talked about our options. When I was not willing/able to hold a conversation or answer the question, "what are you most looking forward to about having a girl?," he knew I was really struggling and went to call Jess again. After twenty minutes discussing the past three days of labor, they came to agree that, at this point, there was little to be gained from the sleep aid and that getting an epidural was the compassionate decision which actually gave me the best chance to avoid a c-section.
When the nurse came in to check on me around midnight, we had her check my progress. When she said I was only six centimeters, we knew what needed to be done. We figured that I was just so tense and tired that it was keeping my body from doing what it needed to, and the epidural would just allow me to rest while I finished dilating so I would be able to push my baby out. I had so badly wanted to avoid an epidural, but in that moment, I just knew it was the right call. I just couldn't fight through it anymore and I needed a break. By that point, it had been over 76 hours of labor, with minimal stretches of sleep, and I had reached my breaking point. I told the nurse I was ready for the epidural.
Breathing through a contraction as I waited for the epidural
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The anesthesiologist came and administered the epidural about 1:00 a.m. on Thursday. Although Eric was initially asked to leave, he ended up being able to stay in the room and sit in front of me. I couldn't see him as I was hunched over and the nurse held onto my shoulders, but it made me feel better to have him there. I was struck by a couple of things as this was all going on: first, how not scared I was. A large part of the reason I wanted to avoid an epidural was because the idea of something going into my spine made me very uncomfortable and I didn't think I would be able to sit through it. But by that time, I was so in need of relief, it didn't phase me. The other thing that struck me was how quiet it was. I guess I always imagined that if I did get an epidural, it would be in that sort of frantic, screaming way you always see in the movies ("Give me the drugs! I want the drugs!"). But really, it was very quiet. It was late, I just felt resigned, neither Eric nor I spoke. It was very still.
Once the epidural was in, they asked me if I could feel anything. At first I said I could still feel that a contraction was happening, but it didn't hurt. Within a few more minutes, I couldn't feel anything at all. Oh, sweet heaven. After days of labor - 76 hours - I had relief. It was incredible. I even told a joke! And finally, I was able to sleep.
Now that's better.
And that is where we'll end for today. Thank you again for reading, if you made it through all this! Stay tuned for the next installment - it will be the most exciting by far!