Friday, April 23, Adam and I both had the day off work. Mom and I ran some errands during the day, and I felt no different than I had any other day in the past week. Mom had been insisting for the past week that we go to the beach and take some pictures of Adam and I together to document the last days of my pregnancy. We didn't feel rushed to do it because my due date was still a week off, and I wasn't really having any indications that labor was imminent. Finally on Friday afternoon, she persisted enough to get us over to the nearest water access to shoot some photos and these pictures were taken. Little did we know I would be in labor less than 6 hours later!
Afterward we went to a nearby waterfront restaurant and had a yummy dinner, then returned home to watch some DVR stuff and chill out. While sitting there on the couch, I continued obsessing over when the baby would come, and whether anyone really thought there was a chance I could still be pregnant a month from then, like perhaps I HAD ovulated on day 24 and I WOULD go 2 weeks over my due date... after all, my belly was not extremely gargantuan yet. I wasn't having any early labor signs as we sat there, unlike the previous few nights when I had regular contractions that lasted several hours over the evening and then petered out when I went to bed. Friday evening? Nothing. I had no clue that I would go into labor that night! We went to bed around 9:30, not knowing we would get only a couple hours of sleep.
Around 11:45 I awoke to a squishy sensation between my legs. I got up to go to the bathroom and there was a little mucous on the tissue. Par for the course, I thought, and actual labor could still be days away. But as I stood up, I felt a little gush of fluid. Having read enough birth stories on the internets, I knew that could be my water breaking. Or, it could just be some extra watery discharge meaning nothing. I decided to get back in bed and try to sleep.
After about 10 or 15 minutes, I felt another gush as I lay there, and I got up to go to the bathroom again. There was still not that much fluid coming out, though it was enough to necessitate a wardrobe change. At that point, I was pretty sure it was my water breaking, but I wasn't having contractions so I decided to ignore it for the time being and try to sleep some more.
As soon as I lay down again I started having contractions. I knew right away they were different from the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been having. They were lower down and more of a crampy feeling. I felt a few more small gushes as they were happening. I probably lay there for only 10 minutes or so before I started timing them because they seemed to be coming regularly. Sure enough, they were 5-10 minutes apart. I lay there timing them for 30 or 45 minutes and they were becoming closer to 5 minutes apart regularly.
It was around 12:30 at that point and I decided I better get up and get some things together since I wasn't sleeping anyway. I decided not to wake my mom or Adam yet, thinking of our Bradley class training that the average labor is 17 hours and not to pay attention too soon. I figured it would probably continue like this through the night before getting into active labor and I might as well let my support system sleep until I needed them.
I went into the nursery and turned on the closet light and started pulling a few baby things out to bring with us to the hospital. A footie sleeper, a gown, some mittens and socks and a cap. A couple burp cloths and receiving blankets. I set out the breast pump and some accessories in case someone needed to come home and get it (in case the nurses thought the baby wasn't getting enough colostrum, they will let you pump to bottle-feed instead of giving the baby formula). Somewhere in the middle of that my mom woke up and came into the nursery to see what was going on.
I said, I think I might be in labor, but I'm not totally sure. I told her my water broke and I was having regular contractions for over an hour now. She said, you're in labor. I told her I was just getting some things together and she should go back to bed, I would wake her in a little while if things progressed.
After that I went back to our room and went in the closet to pull some stuff together for myself. I set out a couple nightgowns that I didn't really plan on wearing but wanted to have just in case, as well as a going home outfit - nursing tank top from Target the day before, lounge pants and a sweater. Then into the bathroom to get some toiletries - travel size shampoo, toothbrush, contact lens stuff. I didn't pack anything, I just set it on the dresser. Having finished the task, I decided to lay down again and see if things slowed down or what.
I lay there timing contractions and they were about 3 minutes apart at that point and becoming stronger. We learned in Bradley not to head to the hospital too early - not until having contractions about 3-5 minutes apart and showing clear emotional/physical signs of being in active labor (seriousness, concentration, no longer hungry, needing to stop and breathe through contractions). Well I was laying quietly in the dark so I wasn't sure about the physical signs, but after about 30 minutes of timing on my cell phone and debating, I figured I was to the point where I should wake Adam (who, by the way, slept through all my rummaging and organizing!).
I poked him awake and said, I think I'm in labor. Being a guy, he wanted to know what evidence had brought me to this conclusion, so I told him my water broke and I was having contractions about 3 minutes apart and contracting for the last couple hours. He said he was going to get his watch to time them and I told him he better think about getting some things together for the hospital. I continued laying there, breathing through contractions until he came back and timed a few himself and confirmed they were about 3 minutes apart. Meanwhile he was going about the room gathering a few things for himself. At one point I asked him if I should take a shower and he said, do you feel like it? I kind of did, but I was thinking maybe it was time to head to the hospital and he agreed.
I told him to go get the suitcase out of the hall closet and turn the light on so my mom would get up and get herself ready. He packed everything I set out, as well as his things, and went to get the cameras and car ready. I got up and brushed my teeth, put my contacts in and puttered around the nursery and our room for some last minute things. I was to the point where I actually had to stop what I was doing and breathe through the contractions. They seemed to be coming pretty quickly and stronger.
My thought process at that point was totally calm and rational. I felt no anxiety or even excitement - just matter of fact-ness. The pain was becoming fairly intense, but still totally manageable. I felt in control and confident. By the time we got into the car, the contractions were coming every 2.5 minutes and lasting for about a minute fifteen seconds. I was pretty sure I was in active labor at that point, since there was little else I could do other than breathe through contractions and wait for the next to hit.
Luckily the hospital is only a couple miles away from our new house, AND it was about 3 in the morning so there was no other traffic on the road, because that drive over was tough. Every bump and jump intensified the pain and made it harder to manage. We pulled up to the hospital and someone fetched a wheelchair since I didn't think I could walk all the long way to the labor and delivery area. Adam put me in it and my mom went to park the car. At that point it really started to hit me - we were going to have a baby. Soon! But I didn't dwell on those thoughts because I was totally focused in the moment and getting through each contraction. I was using the relaxation and breathing skills we practiced in Bradley.
Adam wheeled me through the hallways to labor and delivery. When we pulled up the nurses looked up and seemed kind of surprised to see us and were like, what seems to be going on? In my head I was thinking, I'm in labor, obv. Looking back, it's probably because we didn't call in to ask if we should come to the hospital. We felt confident from our class that we were to that point, but I remember the midwife saying, oh, I didn't hear from you all earlier, and we said, it's been going really quickly. I had only been in labor about 3 hours at that point, but I knew it was going to be a relatively fast labor.
They put me and Adam in a triage room and I changed out of my pants into the paper wrapper they always give you. Then the nurse came in to hook me up to the fetal monitor. I was really thirsty from all the breathing I was doing, but when I drank some water, I started to feel really nauseated and nearly threw up. The nurse was poking on me and trying to get the dang fetal monitor in place. I definitely didn't want that thing on me - having contractions was enough without a huge elastic band pressing into my belly. She was asking me a bunch of questions too, but I was to the point where I was like, quit talking to me! Can't you see I'm in labor! If you ask me a question in the middle of a contraction, I'm going to ignore you.
The midwife came in to check me and I had to lay back, and man, that sucked. Having contractions while laying on your back is NOT COMFY. She checked everything out and then did who-knows-what where it felt like she crammed her entire hand in my special lady area... I think she must have been sweeping my membranes? Because I felt her finger sweep around my cervix... around what must have been the baby's head there. It was not pleasant and I yowled when she did it. She emerged from my nethers and proclaimed me 3 cm dilated with contractions 2 minutes apart. I think normally they would not admit you if you are only 3 cm dilated, but I guess since my contractions were so close together already they decided to go ahead and let us stay.
The whole while this was happening, I was having contractions that sometimes seemed like they weren't stopping, and feeling really nauseated. The pain was really intense and it was at that point I began to lose my mind. They left us alone at one point and I said to Adam, I don't know if I can do this. I wondered if I was close to transition since I felt very disoriented and out of control, and I felt a huge sense of self-doubt. All things we learned in Bradley are signposts of transition.
Looking back I know I wasn't in transition because I still had about 4 hours of labor left to go before the baby was born. I think it was because I was only 3 cm dilated when the midwife checked me. Until hearing that, I thought I was much farther along based on the emotional and physical signs of my labor. Three centimeters is early labor territory! You can walk around 3 cm for days before giving birth! I should have known, though, from our Bradley classes that dilation doesn't really matter that much because you can go from a 3 to a 10 in a hour. However, at the time, hearing that I was filled with dread and doubt because I thought, if this is early labor and I am handling it like this, there is no way I am going to make it through this unmedicated.
The nurse came back with a wheelchair and asked if I could get in it. I said yes, but I had a lot of fluid coming out of me. She just laughed and said, there's going to be lots of fluid coming out until the baby is born, don't worry. I got in the chair with the fetal monitor still strapped to my belly, wrapped in a piece of paper from the waist down, and they rolled me down the hall to my room.
Part Two. Part Three.