I was hoping to post a birth story by now. But -- no such luck. This is not the story of the baby's birth. This is the story of lots of frustration. On the bright side, it's funny in retrospect, so I thought I'd blog about it anyway.
Normally I've spared you guys all the gory pregnancy details because this is more a general-interest blog, but you can't really talk about childbirth without a few details. So I'll just talk in labor lingo, so that if you know all about it, you'll know what I mean, and if you don't, you won't be given too much information.
So it was Easter day. I had been planning for some time to have the baby on Easter if I could, on the grounds that it was the first really convenient day. With work and choir both wrapped up, I'd have nothing to do for the next week. We'd gone to the vigil Mass. So, I was naturally pleased when the contractions I was having (because it has been a week and a half since I've had none) got way more strong and fell into a nice, close-together pattern. The doctor wanted to be called when they were five minutes apart, lasting at least a minute each, for at least an hour. After two hours of 3-5 minute apart contractions, I finally got up the guts to call. (We have had so many false alarms, I was afraid of being laughed at by the nurses.)
First I talked to a rather annoyed-sounding lady. Probably she was cross at having to work Easter night; I know I would be. But when I told her how things were going, she cheered up a bit (at least it was a "real" call) enough to say, "Hm, maybe an Easter baby for you!" before promising to page the doctor, who would call me.
I knew I was going to be stuck with whichever doctor was on call, and I have taken either a strong like or a strong dislike to each of the doctors I've met. So it was a great relief to find the doctor who called was one of my favorites. She's one of the only ones who have ever even tried to suggest any help for my back pain. I appreciated the effort, even though she knew there wasn't any surefire cure. Once she called me, she put me right at ease, and, having heard my symptoms, told me to head on down to the hospital.
On the way, we were kind of laughing at ourselves. Here we were, in a car on the way to the hospital, and yet neither of us really believed this was really it. Sure, it was possible we wouldn't drive this way again until we had a baby -- but it just didn't feel very likely.
At the hospital, we found our way to labor and delivery easily enough, and after a bit of waiting around -- there was no receptionist there -- we found someone to let us into triage. The doctor had let them know we were coming, so they were ready for us. They did tell us, though, that our doctor wouldn't come in unless we were admitted.
Nurse Curly (she didn't mention her name, but her hair was HUGE) was very nice, settled us in with the monitors, and got us some water. I lay on that hospital bed in a gown for about 45 minutes or so, watching the baby's heart rate and seeing the contraction monitor describing wide hills. (And, to be honest, watching the monitor that showed all the women in triage, and confidentally comparing my contractions to theirs. Mine were definitely bigger, and in a much more regular pattern.) However, they did slow down once I was lying on that bed. Not a ton, but down to every six or eight minutes instead of five. They were still VERY strong, but I felt I was coping with them very well. I just took deep breaths and waited them out. But by this time, John could actually tell when I was having one -- he said my face got all flushed with each one.
A note now, and an important one the nurses didn't get -- I don't display pain very often or very well. When I was in boarding school I had terrible migraines almost every day for awhile, and was always getting in trouble for "complaining with my face." I had been unaware that I had been showing any sign of these migraines, but apparently I was, and with a lot of effort and remembering that "my face was for the others," I trained myself out of showing anything. I still get the headaches, but only John ever seems to be able to tell when I have one. Being a teacher is another thing that teaches you to act completely professional even when you are having tons of contractions or cramps or morning sickness or what-have-you. John says I have an attitude to pain that is "too British" -- stiff upper lip and all that, no use making a fuss. And I must admit, I don't really see the use of making a fuss. Doesn't make the pain go away to make a lot of noise and complain.
The nurse stuck around for one contraction, as I remember, a fairly light one, and asked me questions like, "How bad is it on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain of your life?" I said five, but really ... I find this a really hard question to answer. All pain is different, and it's hard to remember exactly what this or that particular pain felt like. I remember that when I had a tooth pulled without anesthesia, I cried for a minute, and I didn't feel like crying this time. So I said five as a safe answer.
The nurse went away for a long time, but I knew they could all keep track of how I was doing with the monitor. Eventually they told us that, since my doctor wasn't at the hospital yet, I'd be checked by a resident. I am not 100% sure what a resident is, but I'm thinking it's a very young doctor. Because when she came, she looked to me like a college student. She was also as nervous as a kid on the first day of a new job, and very apologetic. I'm afraid I took an instant dislike to her, not because she wasn't nice, but just because I didn't feel much confidence in her. My lack of confidence only grew as she fumbled around trying to check me and having lots of trouble doing it. "Sorry, sorry, just one more second, just -- um -- sorry, uh, I can't figure this out ..." Yeah, not a confidence raiser. But eventually she ruled that I was between 4 and 5 centimeters. I'd been 4 at the last appointment. So, I was progressing but not a lot -- it was going to be a judgment call.
So they called back to my doctor, and they talked about me for quite awhile. A long time later Nurse Curly came back and said, "Good news! Even though you haven't made a lot of progress yet, they're going to give you a chance to make some. We're going to take you off the monitors and let you walk around for an hour. If you make more progress, we'll keep you, and if not, we'll send you home."
That sounded great to me. I knew being on my back and on the monitors was slowing things down. So Nurse Curly gave me a second gown to cover up the open back of the first gown (so thoughtful!) and a pair of slipper socks, and off we went. We were confined to the labor and delivery floor, but that was plenty of room, and we paced up and down in high spirits. "I am going to WALK this baby out!" I declared, and I gave the job my level best. While we were walking, the contractions strengthened and spaced themselves out to every three minutes. And they were intense, too -- one lasted a whole trip down the hallway and back. But I wasn't fazed at all by the discomfort -- every contraction was getting us closer to Baby, and that was all I wanted. We talked excitedly about the possibility of holding the baby by morning.
Well, soon it was time to go back, and I got back onto the reclining bed. Nurse Curly did not come back -- instead we were stuck with Nurse Goth for a little bit, who plugged us in without really taking a second look at us. For awhile the contractions weren't showing up on the monitor, but we adjusted it ourselves until we could see them clearly. And they were slowing down more and more the longer I was lying there. So frustrating to watch!
Finally the resident came back and had an even harder time checking me. "It's because the baby's so low," she apologized. "That's good, but it makes it hard for me." I bit my tongue and did not say, "Doesn't this usually happen with women in labor? Surely I am not the only one ever to have a baby that was down pretty low?" But, with a lot of trouble, and a lot of wrenching of my sore hip (which has been getting worse this whole time) she finally declared that I was just a bit over five centimeters.
Normally, they admit you to the hospital at four centimeters. Let me just point this out. (Baby comes out at ten.) But this time they were looking for a change, and we were hoping and hoping that this counted as enough change. The nervous resident got back on the phone with my doctor, and we watched the monitors go up and down some more. A nurse popped in for a moment to ask us where we lived and how long it took us to get to the hospital from there. Then she popped back out and we gave each other a worried look.
Finally a third nurse came back to give us the verdict. "You know, usually when people are in real labor, they're screaming, crying, and all that," she said. "You'll be flushed, sweating, you might even throw up. I mean, sure, there are few women who come in all chipper and really are in labor, but it just doesn't look like you're going that fast here."
I nodded calmly and stared at the monitor that showed my last three contractions, great big mountains on the chart, looking pretty close together. I wondered what the point was of the monitor was if they were just going on my appearance. (And, if my appearance was so important, why they didn't stay in the room to watch me at all.) But I don't generally get angry with strangers -- I mean, I am aware that the grouchy guy who yells at the cashier doesn't generally get a discount just for being a jerk. So I let it go.
"If you were getting an epidural, we'd keep you," continued the nurse. "But since you want to go natural, there's really nothing we can do for you here that you can't do at home. And if you were stuck in bed on the monitors, you'd make less progress and be less comfortable."
That argument did sit well with me. After all, I do not like hospitals and I didn't like seeing everything slow way down every time I lay down on that bed. And we were both starving. So we reluctantly nodded our heads and agreed to go home.
The release instructions they gave us, though, I did find insulting. "Call if have contractions every five minutes, lasting a minute each, for at least an hour," was the instruction printed on the form. What, did you think we were lying last time? Would you like us to call you right now? Grr. So I asked the nurse when they really want us to call, and she said, "When your water breaks, or when your contractions are a lot stronger."
Well, it's the next day and still no baby -- so I guess they were right to send us home. We'd have been in the hospital all this time, which wouldn't have been as nice as my nice cozy bed (where I did get some, but not much, sleep) or the beautiful spring day we went out walking in this morning. But they did say that they thought there wasn't much chance that 48 hours would go by without us coming back in and having that baby. So -- here's hoping? The contractions slowed down significantly overnight (which is why I managed to get any sleep at all) and got weaker. Now they're back stronger and faster again. Still not in the 5-1-1 pattern that makes it worth a call in to the hospital, but perhaps enough to make a bit more progress. After all, I can't stay in labor forever, can I?