While we were driving, I fielded the idea of going to a hospital again. Which means I randomly yelled “Hospital?!” and “Medicine?!” a few times in between contractions.
We were in a really awkward position actually. Our birth center was a 45 minute drive (maybe 25 if we seriously endangered ourselves). And remember that I don’t know I’m in transition – I believe the worst is yet to come. Under this assumption, along with the influence of having not slept at all in over 24 hours (happy new year!), I have lost any confidence in my ability to have this baby without pain medication.
There’s a hospital nearby, but we already know what we’ll get there: pitocin, episiotomy, and no say in anything that happens. I’m willing to surrender my rights and preferences, however, because I have just crashed through every level of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs and I’m sure I’m actually dying. Plus a part of me is thinking this baby’s coming in the car either way, might as well be near a hospital.
So I start chirping out some new vocabulary: “Go to Baylor? Go to Baylor?”
Because downtown, only about 20 minutes away, is the hospital that midwives had recommended for us if we couldn’t find a birth center that took our insurance and had room for us. When I had kidney stones, we wound up in another Baylor hospital in another city, and they had been very pro-natural birth. I know because we were bracing ourselves to go in to early labor before we figured out what was going on.
Husband acquiesced and we headed downtown for a hospital I’d never set foot in before, flying on faith and pain-driven madness.
My memory of things gets ragged around this point. The pain was more mind-warping than narcotics. I remember flashes of things and lots of panic. I know that when we got there we had trouble finding the right door, but once we did they had special parking spaces right there. I remember walking down the halls thinking “ok, gotta be quiet now” while I kept yelling because I guess my brain was done having a say in what my body did.
I remember walking up to a desk where a receptionist smiled and said “Happy New Year!” before I put my head down on the papers she tried to hand me. Then she said “You can sit on the floor if you like. You wouldn’t be the first.” So I dropped to the ground and kept audibly crying while Hubs filled out the paperwork. Two nurses came up with a wheelchair, one saying she doubted I’d want to sit still at this point. She was correct, but for some reason I also felt it would be rude to turn down, so I decided I’d try.
The nurses were so sweet to me. They kept saying what a good job I was doing working through those contractions, and to take my time. My brain wouldn’t really let me feel embarrassed by the scene I was making, but I definitely had the feeling that I should be embarrassed.
Pain pain pain and the next thing I remember is getting to a room. I had to get in the bed – easier said than done. I rolled and crawled around and screamed when they made me sit still to get a quick temperature or pulse. They asked what my birth plan was – how refreshing! And I think I communicated that I wanted to go natural but I can’t. The nurse said she just wanted to tell me that when moms get desperate like this, they’re usually very very close.
My brain said yeah, we know. Transition. But we’re not even to transition yet. And I can’t. Later I realized she was trying to tell me this was transition, right now! I was 7 cm dialated and 100% effaced. I took in this information. I remember it. But at the time I just couldn’t process it.
I’d also decided there was no way I could have this baby until I could sleep first – this was also something my brain got from our midwife. She said to go to sleep. She meant that I wasn’t really in labor, so this command didn’t actually apply but my brain held fast to it anyway.
So we went for the epidural.
When we were learning about epidurals, it was one of the things that gave me panic attacks – literally. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Needles make me nervous, and I hate things in my skin. I couldn’t handle illustrations or even talking about it. But in the wee hours of New Years Day I got one without hardly batting an eye. My husband was in awe, he said he couldn’t believe how well I did with it. Neither could I. I barely remember it.
As soon as it was in, I felt I’d made the right choice and the wrong choice all at once.
I felt confident in my choice because the medicine worked swiftly and I didn’t feel loopy or sleepy at all. It was like someone simply turned off the pain. I could move my legs and change positions as much as I liked, so labor class wouldn’t go to waste. But the biggest, most important thing to me was my mind. Clear away the pain and my mind was suddenly clear and sharp. I could talk, reason, ask questions, understand the answers, and most importantly, remember it all. From here on, my memory is crystal clear. Without the medication, much of my labor would be in the same choppy haze as my early labor memories.
I was able to go to sleep for about 30 minutes. It felt like 3 hours at least, and I woke up rested and ready to bring a baby into the world.
The epidural also slowed down labor, which gave my parents and sister time to speed across the state of Texas and get there in time to be with me.
There were a lot of pros that I hadn’t anticipated. But I still regretted it at the same time. Had I given up too soon? Was I a stereotypical first time mom with great expectations that were destined to fail? Did I pressure my husband into not having a say? Would it affect my baby? I was disappointed in myself. Everything happened for the best. Husband says he has no doubt that if I’d decided to go without, that baby would have popped out super quick and it would have been fine, but this way I got to sleep and my family was able to make it to us. I have no good reason to feel bad about getting an epidural, but I do anyway.
After my nap, my family arrived and the doctor recommended we break my water. Here was another intervention! I felt sure I’d ruined all our good intentions by getting an epidural. We were hesitant. We asked questions. The doctor was more than happy to talk it through. She said this was better than using pitocin, which she wanted to avoid as much as we did. She explained that she felt there was little risk of “rushing” the baby since baby was pretty much ready to debut and we slowed it down.
So we went for it. I was so nervous, I knew this could be very painful. But my pain was still “turned off” so I didn’t feel a thing. There also wasn’t an embarrassing gush of fluid – at least not on the scale I imagined in my brain’s worry room (see, it’s like a war room, but with worry…? It’s not the best play on words but I’m going with it).
I also got another dose of epidural. This time it was much harder to move – it felt like my legs were wrapped in a thick layer of very heavy something.
Then before I knew it, the nurse said “okay, it’s time to push!”
To be concluded……..