I avoided this post for this long because I wasn’t sure how much detail to go into and what to cut out. But as I’ve been thinking lately about the debate between midwife and general practitioner, I can’t go into why I’m so in favor of the former without explaining what labor was like with a regular OBGYN.
Sure, being in labor is never something a mom expects to be fun. And yes, they say your first time will be the longest, getting easier and faster with subsequent births. But most everyone I know has opted for the pain medication route, which meant the “horror” stories I heard weren’t actually very bad. Not that mine was, either. It was just very very painful and very very long. I think that all women coming out of labor feels a bit invincible, like they’ve just joined this exclusive club that they earned the right to be in, because, my God, that was not easy. You were pushed beyond what you thought you could endure. And here you are, at the other side of the tunnel, mostly intact.
In a nutshell, this is how it went down for us.
On Jan 14th, the contractions started at 2pm. My birth plan was to labor as long as I could at home. It was no big deal in the beginning, feeling like just very mild menstrual cramps, barely even noticeable at first. But by 8pm, it really started to hurt. I took a bath, which helped a little to relax me but we don’t have a deep tub, so I couldn’t really submerge. The remainder of the time, I was breathing through the contractions with CS timing me on an app he found. I leaned against the wall, I leaned against the bed, I bounced on the ball. By 6am, the pain was unbearable and the contractions were 4-5 minutes apart.
On Jan 15, we left for the hospital at 6am, sixteen hours into the labor. When we were finally admitted at 6:30am, the nurses told us I was 8 cm dilated. They were amazed and so was I, that I went that far without any assistance, and they said we’d likely have the baby delivered by 8am. This sounded great. My water didn’t break, so they broke it, hoping to expedite the labor. Unfortunately, the nurses were wrong. It was 2pm (I labored another six hours) and only got 1 cm further. By 2pm, not only was my dilation going backwards to 8.5 cm, which happens when your body is too tired, but my contractions were also spacing further apart.
So while I wanted this to be natural, at 24 hours into labor, I agreed to Pitocin, which is an IV drip that helps induce labor by simulating oxytocin, a hormone your body naturally produces. Things really got ugly at this point because Pitocin is notorious for producing contractions much stronger than your body would normally experience. And it was really, really painful. I remembered noticing, in the middle of one of the contractions, that I was screaming like a feral animal and how it must be echoing down the hallways of the hospital. The contractions increased not only in frequency but in strength. The baby still hadn’t dropped and I was unmoved at 9cm dilated. So, after two hours of the Pitocin, I agreed to an epidural. And this is exactly what I dreaded, and why I resisted the Pitocin for so long. The contractions were coming so fast and so hard, that unless you’re ready to push, there’s no way you could last without getting an epidural to contain that pain. And since the baby didn’t descend low enough and I still wasn’t fully dilated, I had no choice.
At 4pm, 26 hours into the labor, I got the epidural. The pain eased and softened almost immediately. But I was shivering, teeth chattering, which they said is a common reaction. I fell asleep briefly. And at 29 hours, they told me I was ready to push. I didn’t even feel the contractions at that point. But the baby finally dropped low enough, I was finally dilated, and Ollie was born.
29 hours of labor, my friends.
And throughout those 29 hours, I saw my doctor a handful of times, each time coming in to check up on me for 5-10 minutes and then leaving to return to her practice for another 6 hours. Most of the time, it was the nurses offering assistance, from fresh towels and bedsheets and water to advice on positioning and breathing. But even they weren’t in the room the whole time. If CS wasn’t as great a coach as he was, having read the Bradley method book, I’d have been very lost without him. And my doctor? She was actually very calming and reassuring when she was actually there, never pressuring me to get the epidural already. The problem thought was that she just wasn’t there much.