I started having some contractions on Wednesday night just after I went to bed. They were stronger than any I had had, but not bad. Still, I couldn't sleep through them, so it made for a long night and I thought I must be going into labor. In the early morning hours, the contractions stopped. False alarm. I went about my day Thursday and that evening around 6 or 7, the contractions started again. Stronger than before, but a little irregular. Around 8 pm, I decided I should start timing them. I thought it might be a repeat of Wednesday, but after several hours, the contractions were still there, as strong as ever and getting stronger and closer together. Sleep was impossible, so I tried to keep myself distracted listening to music, trying to relax, etc. Around 4 am on Friday morning, I woke Mr. Frisby up and told him he needed to get up. I knew it wasn't time to go to the hospital yet, but misery loves company. Around 5, when my contractions were about 8 minutes apart, we called Labor & Delivery. The nurse told me to drink lots of water and take a warm shower to see if it would stop the contractions. She said not to worry about coming in until my contractions were about 4 minutes apart. I drank the water and took the shower. The contractions didn't stop, though it did seem to help me relax. I continued laboring for another few hours with the contractions getting closer. I was getting very anxious for that 4 minute mark as my contractions were lasting 1.5 to 2 minutes each and they didn't completely relax in between. We called L&D again around 8 am when my contractions were about 5 minutes apart. I was getting very anxious - I wanted my epidural. But, they again told us to wait until my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart for about an hour. Around 10:30, I decided to take another shower to try to relax. It didn't do much this time around. At last, around 11 am, my contractions had been about 4 minutes apart for an hour. We called L&D and they told us to go ahead and come in. We grabbed our bags and loaded Scout and her things in the car. After a quick stop at the neighbors' to drop Scout off, we were headed to the hospital. At this point, I totally had the shakes and the only thing on my mind was the epidural. Also, I was very scared that we would arrive at the hospital, I would only be dilated to a 3 or something like that, and they would send me home.
We arrived at the hospital, got checked in, and got settled in the L&D room by about 12:30. I told Mr. Frisby to go tell the nurses I was ready for an epidural. My nurse came in and said, "so you're ready for an epidural?" and started hooking me up to all the monitors, IV, etc. I said, "yes, please." She went through all of the questions they have to ask you at the beginning. One of them was, "what is your biggest concern/need?" She asked me that question and looked over at me. I looked at her and said, "uhhh." To which she responded, "just the epidural?" "Yep". She informed me that they were waiting for the lab to come draw my blood. As soon as they got the results, they would do the epidural. She then checked me to see my progress and determine if I would be sticking around. The moment of truth. Please, don't let it be a 3. Please, don't let it be a 3. She checked me and said, "well, you're dilated to about a 6. I think we'll keep you." Thank everything!
After what seemed like forever, but was really only an hour, the lab came to draw my blood. As the lady finished, I asked how long it would take to get the results. I was nervous for her answer. I really wanted that epidural. When she responded, "about an hour" with no amount of sympathy in her voice, I felt like all was lost. But, with all the chaos of being in the hospital getting ready to have a baby and the constant interruption of nurses, midwives, and doctors, the hour went by in a bit of a blur and at last the anesthesiologist came walking through the door. I've never been more happy to see a health care provider in my life! I quickly nodded in consent as he went through all the necessary info, side effects, risks, etc. and finally he got to work. Sweet relief! For the first time in almost 24 hours, I was pain-free. The midwife said I should nap after I got the epidural so I would have energy to push later on since I hadn't slept the night before. Easier said than done when I'm hooked up to a blood pressure monitor that goes off every 15 minutes, making my arm feel like it's about to fall off. I did the best I could and dozed on an off for the next couple of hours. Mr. Frisby passed the time by having fun with the camera.
After checking me again and seeing that I was dilated to a 9, the midwife thought I might be ready to start pushing around 5 pm or so. We told my mom to come around that time. She came a little after 5, but I wasn't ready to start pushing then, so it worked out. For the next few hours, we just waited for me to dilate to a 10. Unfortunately my contractions had slowed a little. Just after 8 pm, it was go time. By this time, the nurses and midwives had switched shifts, so I was working with new faces. My new nurse came in and gave me some info about pushing. She said the average birth has about an hour of pushing. She also explained that whenever I had a contraction, I needed to push with it as if I were having a bowel movement. Noted. The midwife came in to check on things and said we should turn down my epidural so I could feel the contraction and push with it. My epidural level was a 10. She told them to reduce it to a 7. I thought, "can't we try a 9 or an 8 and see how that goes?" But, 7 it was. I could definitely feel the contractions then, so away we went. Since my contractions had slowed, they started me on Pitocin to get things going a little faster. It did pick things up, but it still turned out to be a long and laborious process. At 9:30 pm, I was still pushing. I was totally exhausted by this point, but her head was visible with each push. They asked if I wanted a mirror so I could see. I was hesitant, but I said sure. They brought the mirror. I watched for a second and decided I didn't want to watch anymore. So, they took the mirror away. The nurse said, "let's see if we can get her out by 10 pm." I looked at the clock and I really didn't think I had it in me to keep going. I was completely beat and I was in pain. Fortunately, at that point, things picked up and got pretty intense as Baby was all of a sudden moving. There was no more time to think I was done. Because all of a sudden I had to PUSH! I knew we were close when the midwife came back in and started putting on all her blood/mess shields, got out the instrument tray, and broke down the bed (I delivered at Kaiser San Jose where most of the babies are delivered by Certified Nurse Midwives). It made me excited that it would all be over soon. After about 20 minutes and several pushes later, she was crowning. And, with one more big push, she came out all at once. Baby was finally here (she wasn't Stella yet). They immediately put her on my belly and it was love at first sight. Mr. Frisby cut the cord, I delivered the placenta with one more push and at 9:52 pm it was done.
The whole experience was very intense and somewhat of a blur, but I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw her for the first time. Even covered in gunk and with a pretty wicked conehead, she was beautiful. I won't go into any more detail about the whole thing because the rest of the details are pretty gruesome. But, I will say that I think I was completely unprepared for the pushing part. I had assumed that it wouldn't be very hard and that it would be pain-free because of the epidural. Wrong on both accounts. However, despite the difficulty and the pain, this little babe was totally worth it. She's the best! And to prove it, here are a few pics of her first couple of hours in the world:
By the time she was examined, weighed, bathed, and diapered, her conehead was gone and she was ready for a name. That will have to come later, though. The story of her arrival is enough for one post. Next up, little Stella's time in the hospital.