I awoke to some abdominal pains about 10:15am and called my birthing coach. I've always had severe menstrual cramps so it felt like cramps but instead of being on the side the pain was centralized and low in the pelvis. Some people feel contractions in their back, some describe radiating pain. So this is one of those factors that are different for each woman. I just know they didn't feel like the contractions that were described in my books or how I imagined my abdominal muscles would contract all over my belly. My doula (Sarah) confirmed that labor had begun and encouraged me to distract myself and be prepared for hours of inconsistent pain but to monitor the pains for their proximity and keep her informed. No problem. The pains were bearable, so I watched tv. I had the urge to keep urinating so I remember using the bathroom frequently.
Then my OB’s office called to confirm my Mon. appt. if I did not deliver that weekend. It was a Friday, I was due the next day (Sat.) When I told the nurse I think early labor had started she offered for me to come into the office for a resting monitor to track my contractions. My husband suggested we take my overnight bag I packed for the hospital but I was pretty sure we would be coming back home and didn't need it. No harm in having it in the car I guess. So we brought it. So at 1pm we went to the OB office. Nothing to be alarmed about. Contractions were barely registering. I had one small one during the 15 min session. I asked the doctor to check to make sure my water hadn’t broken because I felt like I was leaking and had been peeing a lot that morning. She thought this was unlikely but checked as a precaution. To everyone’s surprise I was almost 5cm dilated! We were instructed to proceed to the hospital and she would meet us later. Thank God we brought the hospital bag!Way to go Daddy! I updated my doula that we were en route to the hospital. She was shocked I was progressing so fast. She said she would meet us there asap.
The OB office called ahead to the hospital so my room was prepared. We settled into the hospital room and it took about an hour to hook me up to an IV and other monitors, take my vitals and info. When they checked my dilation I was 6-7cm. I had created a birth plan in advance and really had my heart set on a natural delivery (no epidural). So, I did all types of relaxation techniques with the help of my doula (birthing ball, hot shower, pressure points). Sarah was awesome and I lucked up with a great nurse, Eileen, who supported my desire for a natural delivery. Everyone kept emphasizing how well I was taking the contractions. Because of how low I was feeling the contractions, they didn't track well on the monitor. No one could warn me when one was coming or how big it was. I would close my eyes and not respond if someone was speaking to me. That's how they knew I was contracting. I survived by eating ice chips and focusing through the contractions. I didn’t really count but I knew they would last about a minute and sort of visualized going through a tunnel and knowing there was an exit on the other end.
Once I got to 8cm things stalled for a while. Like 2 hours without change. The pain level increased tremendously and I tried various positions but lying down was not comfortable. I threw up a few times during this phase. After about 2 hours and not much change in the cervix I agreed to have my water broken to expedite things and I was told that if I did not progress to 10cm withing the next hour that I would need to have pitocin to speed up things. I wanted to avoid that after hearing of how that drug intensifies the pain and frequency of the contractions. So I asked to get back in the shower. By this time I was having extreme pressure and suffering from exhaustion (approx 10pm). They didn't want to but relented as long as I promised not to push if I felt pressure and let them know if I had the urge to push or "go number 2". I asked if I could deliver in the shower and they catch the baby but no one thought that was funny. I wasn't joking. I was so tired by this time (about 12 hours since pains started that morning). I managed to catch 2-3 minute naps in between the waves of pain. I would be so deep in sleep within 2 minutes I would forget I was in labor until the next contraction awakened me. Hubby was there cheering me on and asking “It is unbearable? You feel like you want to push? You ready to get out?” with every pang. To which I would nod or grimace or ignore him. I’m sure he felt helpless. But I didn’t know how he could help me either.
After about 30 minutes in the shower the pain in my bottom was extreme. The best way I can describe it is the worst constipation and most painful bowel movement you can imagine. They checked me again. I had finally reached full dilation and was instructed on the "correct way" to push. Easier said than done. The position and instructions were unnatural and awkward. They wanted me to lay flat on my back with my feet in stirrups and drop my knees to the side and hold my legs. It was intense and excruciating. How can you have the energy to hold your own legs up when you feel like you are being split in half? This is when you need support. I wanted to give up many times during this stage. I was exhausted like I have never felt. I just wanted to sleep. So my mom held one leg and my doula held the other for me. I must have turned white or green because they scrambled at one point and put an oxygen mask on me.
After about an hour of pushing, there SHE was. A nameless baby girl. Wriggling and sprawling… Hubby says she was dancing. My eyes were full of tears and I cannot verify that but I know she danced her way into our hearts immediately.
So, an overview. Yes, it was the most painful thing I've ever experienced. But, I've never broken a bone, had surgery, or been shot or stabbed prior to this so in all fairness, I didn't have many painful experiences to compare it to. I don't regret choosing a drug-free birth. If I had opted for an epidural, I would never have been allowed out of bed to labor in the shower. I would have been catheterized. I think my recovery was a lot faster because of it. I'm not against the use of drugs for others. I was open-minded because I don't consider myself to have a high threshold for pain. I knew it was an option. Whatever works for you.