Fast forward to Tuesday, August 31. Jared and I went to bed that night like every other night the past few weeks, hoping the baby would plop out overnight in my sleep. Or wait, maybe that was just my silent wish… Anyhow, Jared stated his prediction that I would start having contractions that night at 3 AM. About 1:15 AM, I woke up to use the bathroom. When I came back to bed, I felt a strange little drip. I rushed back to the bathroom, wondering if I had not quite emptied my bladder. I came back to bed and again, as I was trying to climb into bed, I felt a little drip. I stood at the side of the bed for a few minutes, just wondering, “could this be my water breaking?” Jared woke up and asked what I was doing. I was almost hesitant to even tell him, because I was so unsure. It took a couple more trips to the bathroom before I was finally convinced that this was definitely amniotic fluid and not urine. It was dripping slowly and I wasn’t feeling any contractions, so I put a chux pad down on the bed and tried to go back to sleep. Jared was able to fall asleep, but I wasn’t. I guess I was too nervous and excited. Turns out, Jared’s prediction was dead on, because somewhere around 3 AM, I started to notice some slight cramping. The cramps were off and on and irregularly spaced, but I knew they had to be contractions. I continued to lie in bed until Jared woke up about 6 AM and I suggested we go for a walk to get things moving before it got too hot outside. We ate some breakfast and then headed out to walk laps around our apartment complex. (Funny side story: While we were walking, we decided to go pick up our mail at the office. A woman who works in the office looked at me and said, “you haven’t had that baby yet?!” I told her matter of factly, “I’m having it today.” She responded, “Oh good, I’m sure you’re happy about that.” I’m pretty sure this woman had no idea I was actually in labor and just assumed I meant I was going to be induced today.) Walking definitely sped things up and my contractions became much more regular, occurring about 4 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds each. They were still quite tolerable at this point, but I was using deep breathing to relax through them. We finally went back inside the apartment and I spent the next few hours trying to find a comfortable position. I stood in the shower for about an hour, rocking back and forth from side to side, which felt great. After the shower, I tried sitting on the birth ball and lying down, but both of those positions were uncomfortable. Interestingly, I found that if I sat or lied down, my contractions spaced out but got much more intense when they did come. Since standing or walking was the only tolerable position, I paced around the apartment while trying to watch an episode of Pushing Daisies on Netflix. It was hard to concentrate though, and eventually I decided to get back in the shower. Again, I stood in the shower rocking back and forth, but this time the contractions were more intense and I had to concentrate much harder on my breathing. Jared was timing my contractions and they were getting closer together, but we were trying to wait for the magic 3-2-1 rule (contractions 3 minutes apart for 2 hours, lasting 1 minute each) before going to the hospital. My contractions never quite lined up to that rule, though. After they had been coming less than 2 minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds, for almost 2 hours, we decided it was time to go.
The 15 minute car ride to the hospital was difficult and I was silent most of the way there, focusing intently on breathing slowly and keeping my whole body relaxed. As we walked into the hospital, I suddenly started crying, not because I was in any more pain than I was a few minutes ago, but because I couldn’t believe this moment was here and I was scared. We walked to the registration desk and they had Jared deal with the paperwork while they led me back to labor and delivery. He didn’t have to sign very much and they probably would have just had me wait with him, but they saw I was crying and I heard one lady say to the other “she’s really uncomfortable; let’s go ahead and get her back there.” They pulled up a wheelchair for me, but even the thought of sitting down made me hurt worse and I told them I would rather walk. Once I got into the labor room, I thought the first thing they would do is check my cervix and let me know if I was even far enough along to be admitted. I was surprised when they went ahead and hooked me up to the monitor to check the baby’s heartbeat and my contractions. After 30 minutes of monitoring, the nurse checked me and said I was about 3-4 cm dilated, 90% effaced, and +1 station. I was slightly disappointed that I was only 3-4 cm because I was so uncomfortable, but I felt better about it when the nurse told me I was doing great considering how firmly the baby’s head was pushing down on my cervix.
After monitoring, I got into the shower and stood in there until I was too tired to stand anymore. Then, I let the tub fill with water and spent the next few hours alternating from sitting to kneeling in the tub. During this whole time, I was trying to conserve energy and relax. Talking or making noise of any kind (screaming, crying) would have taken entirely too much effort, so I was basically silent for hours. Eventually, I started shaking uncontrollably and no matter how much I tried to relax, I could not get rid of the shakes. I was already exhausted and was starting to get a little panicky that I could not relax. I told Jared that I thought I wanted an epidural. He calmly tried to tell me that I could do it, but I told him that I wanted to at least go ahead and get the saline started, so the epidural would be an option. He went to find my nurse, but she was with another patient. It took about 20 minutes for the nurse to come in and start the bag of fluids. I was still laboring in the tub at this point and was having contractions that felt different now. I felt like I was involuntarily pushing with each contraction. I wasn’t making any effort to push, but I felt like my body was pushing the baby down. After an hour of receiving fluids, the nurse called the anesthesiologist. I asked to be checked before he inserted the epidural and the nurse said I was about 8 cm dilated and that I could easily have another couple of hours to go, plus an hour or more of pushing. I felt like that was impossible because I already felt like pushing when I was in the tub. (I can't believe I'm going to admit this, but I found out later that apparently I was pushing in the tub, because I had a bowel movement without realizing it.) When she told me I was only 8 cm dilated, I thought that if I was already in this much pain, I did not think I could endure the pain of going from 8 to 10. So I told them to go ahead with the epidural. The anesthesiologist inserted the needle and gave me a “test dose” of lidocaine and epinephrine. My legs got a little tingly and the intensity of the contractions did diminish, but I could still feel the pressure of the baby moving down and I could still feel and move my legs.
While they were placing the epidural catheter, my doctor had arrived to check on me. It was about 5:30. She said the nurses had called her and told her they predicted it would be about 8:30 before I was ready to start pushing. However, my doctor decided to go ahead and check me again. She was surprised to find that not only was I completely dilated, but the baby was already so far down the birth canal that she could only insert her finger up to her first knuckle before touching the baby’s head. (Which makes me wonder if the nurse who said I was only 8 cm 30 minutes ago was right...) She told me she would go get changed right away and I could start pushing. She and the nurse both left the room and I started pushing with just Jared there. The doctor and the nurse came back and the nurse told me she was not going to hook up the epidural drugs since it was already time to push (I had the catheter in my back, but no drugs dripping in yet). This was fine with me because I knew I was close and I wanted to be able to feel the contractions enough to push with them. With each contraction, I pushed 3 times for 10 seconds each. I was surprised by how nonchalant everyone in the room seemed at this point. The doctor was making polite conversation, telling Jared to tell the nurses about what he is studying at school. She also asked me some questions like “are you a swimmer? Because you can hold your breath for a long time” and “does everyone in your family have fast labors?” I couldn't believe she was trying to make conversation with me! At one point, the doctor told me that she could cut an episiotomy and the baby would be right out. I told her I wanted to try pushing through a few more. Sure enough, just a couple more contractions and Libby was out! She was born at 6:09 PM. After quickly suctioning her mouth and nose, they placed her on my chest and I held her for quite a while before Jared cut the cord and they washed and weighed her. Apparently I pushed a little too hard and required some stitches. While the doctor was stitching me up, I was surprised to find that I still felt quite a bit of pressure in my pelvis from the placenta. Once the placenta was delivered (which did not require any pushing, because it was so far down in the birth canal that the doctor could easily pull it out), the pressure was relieved. I asked to see the placenta (wouldn't you be curious, too? or is that weird?), so the doctor lifted it up out of the bowl. She lifted it by the umbilical cord, which was twisted, so the placenta started spinning around like a tire swing and sprayed blood all over me, Jared, and the room. It was awesome.
Libby was very healthy, with Apgar scores of 9 and 9. She weighed 6 lbs 8 oz and was 19 inches long.