Saturday December 8th started like any other day really. Joe went for a ride on his bike, I stayed home and cleaned up. We had planned on lunch out at one of our favorite restaurants, followed by a stroll around the flea market. Both went smoothly, no sign of baby arrival.
We were home for the night and settled in to watch a movie. I made it halfway through, before heading to bed. Joe followed me an hour later.
11:45pm: I woke up to find that my water had broken. (Luckily, when we bought our new bed several months back, we also purchased the gortex mattress protector!) We called the doctor who told us to stay at home until a) the contractions became really bad or b) 6am if nothing had happened. Shortly afterwards, I felt a contraction. I was very relieved as many times women must be induced even after their water breaks. Until this point, I was expecting to be induced by the end of the week if Ava did not make her own entrance into the world. Having my water break and feeling a contraction were two of the best things that could have happened that night. We called our doula, Robin, who told us to go back to bed and try get some rest during the early labor. Ok.
We tried. Unfortunately, the contractions had other plans and pretty soon they were becoming more intense and closer together. 25 mins apart, 15, 10, 8 and then 6 minutes.
2am: Joe called Robin again, who made her way to our house. By the time she got to our house, the contractions were quite painful, although when one ended, I was able to maintain a short conversation. That didn't last very long, though, and before too long, Robin suggested that we head to the hospital - waiting much longer would ensure a very uncomfortable and painful drive.
4am: Left for the hospital
4:30am: Checked into the triage room. The nurse examined me and found I was 4cm dilated and about 80% effaced (I had been 1cm and 80% for the past several weeks). So, we settled into labor and waited for a L&D room. Unfortunately, there were two emergencies that came in after us, so we were bumped to the back of the line. Labor became increasingly difficult and painful and no position was very comfortable. I tried sitting on the birthing ball, sitting on the toilet, standing and leaning on Joe. The only place that offered any comfort was kneeling on the bed facing the wall and holding onto the back of the headboard. And even that offered limited relief.
I had worked through much of my pregnancy wanting a natural childbirth after hearing our friends Cate and Chris tell us of their plans (and later their experience when their son was born). I did not want any pain meds and certainly did not want an epidural, but the more intense the contractions became, the more desperate I become. I was also running on about an hour of sleep and a very light dinner so was become more exhausted with each contraction. I decided I wanted some relief and told Joe that while I didn't want one, I needed an epidural. I didn't think I could manage to work through 6 more centimeters with such pain. I said I wanted some pain relief but would try standing in the shower when we moved into our own room, which luckily happened then.
6:30am: Finally moved to a L&D room. I decided I didn't want to wait to try the shower, I needed some relief then! Before relief came, though, the doctor came to examine me and said I was at 7cm and about 90% effaced. That was some relief to me as I had been laboring in triage for the past two hours believing I was still at 4cm. I still wanted some relief as I was exhausted and the thought of having to labor through the last three cms and then push out a baby was very overwhelming. My lower back was on fire with each contraction and all I wanted was to crawl out of my skin.
Luckily, we had a wonderful nurse in triage who read our birth plan (imagine that!) and ordered a dose of phentenal (sp?) which would help for a while and then wear off before it was time to push.
Ahh... relief. Don't get me wrong - I could still feel every contraction; the sensation was just dulled and better yet, I was able to rest between contractions, something I had not been able to do until that point.
8:30am: The new doctor arrived (the same doctor Joe and I had seen at our very first appointment during the pregnancy and who had successfully turned Ava during the version a few weeks before - we were very happy to know he would deliver our baby, as I was not at all fond of the first doctor). I was just about at 10cm and he said that if I felt the urge to push, that I could start pushing.
8:45am: Urge to push!
Whew - that was hard work. I pushed, quite unsuccessfully for about 15 minutes before the nurse suggested using the birthing bar - basically, it's a bar that attaches to the bed. One foot on one side, the other foot on the other side, and my hands held onto and pulled a sheet that was tied over the middle. It looked like an upside down U shaped metal bar that you might find on a playground. You push with your feet, pull with your arms and are better able to focus the push (you know, like they say "push like you're having a bowel movement" - much easier to do that efficiently with the bar than without, at least in my experience).
Push push push!
The nurse says she thinks we'll have a baby by 10am.
Joe and Robin are on either side of me, offering me sips of water during my rest periods and loads of encouragement during each push. Joe would say "push, push..." while Robin counted and told me when to take a deep breath. Sets of three pushes each to the count of ten.
Finally, there was sign of a baby and the doctor told me to just push through the next contraction and keep pushing.
I pushed three times with all my might and then pushed three times more. Joe thought I would take a break after the first three, but their reactions to what was happening was just too exciting to stop. I pushed and pushed and finally her head emerged. I looked down to see her little face peering up at us. She was "sunny-side up" which explained all the horrible back pain.
I don't remember if I pushed her out the rest of the way or if the doctor wiggled her out, but at....
9:48am: Ava popped into this world and was placed on my belly!
The rest of the L&D experience was not terribly eventful. The doctor slowly released the placenta after Joe had cut the umbilical cord (we had them allow the cord to finish pulsating before cutting it). While I was still on the bed, Joe was with Ava across the room while she was wiped off and weighed. She was brought back to me so I could try nursing her, which was luckily a success.
After a short recovery in the room, we made our way to our new room - I even managed to walk there on my own and was cheered on by the nurses at the nurses' station. We settled into our new room and over the next two days, bonded with and started getting to know this tiny little person. It's so amazing to look at a new baby and imagine who she ever fit inside my belly. What amazes me still, is how quickly I've forgotten the feeling of all the labor pain and all the pushing pain. And sadly, today I was telling Joe that I find it difficult to remember the feeling and sensation of being pregnant. But looking at her sweet little face and watching her tiny fingers hold my thumb and I know it was all worth it. And then some.