Ahaha, no it wasn't. In fact, it couldn't have been less according to plan if we had planned to do the opposite of what we'd planned. (if that made no sense, kindly remember that I am sleep-deprived and pretend it did make sense)
Before proceeding further, be warned: this is very long.
I started getting contractions Thursday. They were pretty irregular, but they did get closer and they hurt, so I'm going to call that the start of labor, mostly just so I can use kick-ass stories about 48-hour labors to scare all the noobs. People who have had babies are required by law to do their best to put the fear of god into first-timers, you know, and saying I was in labor for two days seems like a great way to do that.
Us looking dashing and wide awake a few hours before we headed off to the hospital.
Anyway, the Thursday contractions died down overnight, but came back nice and hard on Friday. By bedtime they were about 8-10 minutes apart and pretty strong, so we wound up staying awake all night dealing with them. Showers were nice, walking was not, curling up in bed and repeating the Bene Gesserit litany against fear (from Dune) while Noah rubbed my back was the best. Around 7am we finally decided to go in to the hospital even though they were still about five minutes apart, just because the pain was getting really bad and I wanted to see how far along I was.
The nurse who put in my hep lock wasn't overly careful. I got blood all over my gown (and by all over, I mean I think I may have gotten a drop somewhere on it but I wouldn't bet on it).
Not that far along, as it turned out. Once we got to the hospital and I got into my excessively complicated hospital gown (not really that complicated, actually, since they wanted me to leave the whole thing undone for convenience's sake), they checked me and it turned out that I was about 5 cm dilated and Jim hadn't dropped at all. So we wound up continuing to labor for about five more hours naturally (only with a lot more fancy contraptions around than at home). Mostly that translates to me curling up on the bed whimpering while Noah rubbed my back and did his best to convince me that I would most likely survive. Retrospectively, this bit would have been much easier to take at home. The fancy contraptions, while very fancy indeed, were a wee bit distracting and more than a wee bit irritating. My favorite one was probably the contraction monitor thing, which had to be adjusted every two minutes and did not actually work. They made me continue wearing it while also pushing a button to indicate contractions every time I had one. Jerks.
Our labor/delivery room. I never did manage to figure out which machine it was that went BING.
So, eventually I couldn't handle it any more, and after some discussion with Noah (he was in favor of continuing naturally but also very distressed by how much pain I was in), we decided that I'd get another cervical check and if there was no progress, ask to have an epidural and my water broken. The cervical check showed me at maaaaybe one centimeter more dilated than I had been five hours previously, with no change in Jim's position or anything else, so in came the anesthesiologist to stab me in the back. Noah held my hands almost the entire time, and I was incredibly stoic (read: less wimpy than usual), and it eventually worked out after a couple of tries.
The epidural itself felt great, honestly. I immediately felt better about everything in the world. Unfortunately, the side effects were pretty immediate. My blood pressure dropped, which made Jim's heart rate drop, which made the room immediately fill with pretty much every nurse and doctor on the floor. They put me on ephedrine and oxygen, put an internal monitor on his head, and had me move around on the bed to shift him around inside, and eventually the scariness was over, but it was pretty damned scary. Immediately afterward they started talking to us about C-sections.
(Aside: Honestly, if it hadn't been so scary, it would've been kind of hilarious how closely it followed the textbook model of birth-intervention-escalation. Hospital > contraptions > labor stalled > artificially breaking water > epidural > heart rate problems > more meds > C-section)
Us for about six hours, after the epidural/oxygen/IV/pitocin/monitors but before the C-section.
Since his heart was stable, we decided to keep trying regular labor to see what happened. After about two more hours of that, there was still no progress, but his heart rate was perfectly fine again, so we decided to let them give pitocin a try, since a vaginal birth with pitocin still seemed like a better idea than a C-section. The pitocin caused the contractions to pick up to a level where I could feel them (somewhat - more pressure than anything) through the epidural, but after three hours on pit, there was still nothing going on as far as dilation or Jim's position. Since at this point the epidural was wearing off (and I didn't want more meds because of the heart rate issues) and we hadn't slept for several days, we decided to just get it over with and get the c-section.
The c-section itself was pretty much the worst thing I've ever experienced. They put me on a bunch of drugs which made me completely numb and paralyzed from the chest down (which is a good thing, don't get me wrong), but they had the side effect of giving me almost seizure-level shaking from the chest up. Since I had no feeling in my chest and lower, I also felt like I was suffocating - no matter how much I tried to inhale I couldn't tell if I was actually breathing or not, and for some reason I wasn't able to speak loudly enough that anyone could hear me or make out what I was trying to say. I may or may not have had a panic attack (that's not tongue-in-cheek - I really may or may not have; I don't remember anything clearly) because of it. I felt a bit less panicky once Noah was there (in an extremely silly blue hat, apparently to keep his luscious flowing locks from shedding everywhere) to hold my hand, but it was really horrible.
Noah's hat - probably more useful on him as a device for inducing levity than as one for containing hair.
Once they started cutting, I was relatively lucid until the point where they got Jim out. They held him up over the screen for probably less than a second, then hauled him away to get washed up, etc. At that point something happened with the drugs and I could feel every damned thing they were doing to me. I freaked out and was screaming my head off. In my mind, at least - Noah tells me now that I was mostly just mumbling and groaning semi-coherently. Whatever I was doing, it ended with the anesthesiologist giving me some drug which would calm me down (because I was apparently tensing up whatever they needed to chop) but hurt my memory of what was going on. That was a bit of an understatement - I started having weird hallucinations, and I can only remember two or three second clips here and there of the rest of the procedure. I don't know if it stopped the pain, but at least I can't remember any pain from that point out, so I suppose that's good enough.
That was the worst part of the whole thing. The aftermath was fine. I vaguely remember Noah bringing Jim over to show me close-up and let me touch him, then Noah went with them when they took James out of the room. Apparently he asked me if I wanted him to go with Jim or stay with me, but I wasn't coherent enough to either comprehend or answer the question. In any case, I'm glad he did - I hate to think of Jim being carted off by a bunch of strangers with neither of us there with him, and I was too drugged up to know who was there anyway. Once the weird drug wore off, I felt fine and entertained myself while getting stitched up by interrogating the nurses about how Jim was and if he was particularly furry (he was). They assured me that he was an exceptionally cute baby, which turned out to be true, although I'm sure they're required to say it.
By the time they wheeled me back to our room (only about an hour after James was born, actually), I felt quite good. The drugs were mostly wearing off, so I could more or less move everything, and I was in a much better mental and emotional state now that the entire thing was DONE and all I had to do was lounge around with my husband and my baby and relax. Noah and Jim were waiting in the room for me, and I got to hold Jim skin-to-skin and breastfeed right away. That part worked out very well - he latched right on and nursed for about half an hour straight. Noah took lots of pictures of that part, but you can't see them because I'm oddly shy about having my boobs out on the internets. He's trying to get me to share some of the less obscene ones (Jim is seriously ridiculously cute when nursing), but I doubt he will prevail.
Okay, yeah, breastfeeding picture, but you can't see anything so it's okay. I think Noah took this one a matter of minutes after I got back into our room from the C-section, so it's pretty much our first introduction to each other. Boobs and food always make a great first impression.
Around this point they did a bunch of tests and clean-ups and so forth on Jim and me, and we both were in excellent condition. Despite the extremely long and rough delivery, James was in absolutely perfect health. Noah was also able to tell me at that time what they discovered during the c-section. Apparently vaginal delivery had never been an option, although no one knew this for sure until they actually cut me open and looked inside. He had the cord wrapped twice around his face and the head itself was twisted into some weird position inside where it wasn't up against the cervix properly. Even though it was doomed to fail, though, I'm glad we were able to labor naturally for a while - I credit that to some extent with him being so alert and comfortable on the outside. I'm still highly in favor of natural birth and would like to try again when we, you know, try again, but I'm extremely grateful for modern science in cases like Jim's. It wasn't much fun, but we'd probably both be dead if not for some good doctors with shiny equipment.
After they put some goop in his eyes in case he got chlamydia (which I don't have) on the way out the birth canal (which he never went through). Medical science is great, but also sometimes kind of silly.
I'm also extremely glad that Noah could be there with me the entire time. I'm not sure how I could possibly have gotten through it without him rubbing my back during labor, holding my hand during the scary things, doing anything that required moving, changing all the diapers once we were in the recovery room, going with Jim when the nurses took him to scary places, amusing me with clever dialogue and news of the outside world, etc. I hear all these stories about women being unable to stand their menfolk when they're in labor, but Noah was perfect. Even the nurses were impressed - they said it was really rare that they see a father(-to-be) as involved as Noah.
Noah and Jim discussing the finer points of the Republican primaries the next day in the recovery room. Babies love politics.
Eventually they moved us to a recovery room on the other side of the floor, and there we stayed for several days, eating hospital food and being educated by the extremely nice team of nurses. The hospital is very big on skin-to-skin contact (with both parents) and breastfeeding (not with both parents), and they gave us a lot of help getting things established. We also got lots of cool hospital goodies - lots of free diapers and wipes, enormous mesh underoos for me (sexy AND practical!), a manual breast pump, etc. I was up and walking on Sunday, feeling good (and wearing my own clothes instead of the one-sided hospital gown) on Monday, and home on Tuesday. And that is basically that. I've got a shitload more pictures to put up, so there will probably be more adorable baby pictures here tonight or tomorrow.