Sixty hours of labor. Sounds impressive, yes? Rarrr, I am Woman, fear my uterus, etc. Fortunately for me and my mediocre pain threshold, though, the full story is a little less thrilling.
Everything started Sunday night. Noah and I, annoyed by being past my due date with no baby in sight, had been walking through malls and parks all weekend in hopes of inducing some kind of action, and lo, it worked! Around 7pm I started getting nice semi-painful contractions about seven minutes apart. Hurrah! Baby incoming! Filled with optimism, we rallied the troops and dragged my sister and brother-in-law down from North Carolina in the middle of the night to watch Jim while Lottie arrived.
Our extremely optimistic "Final Family of Three" picture.
Well, nothing happened. All day Monday I had contractions in varying degrees of regularity. They'd be six minutes apart for an hour and we'd get all excited, then they'd drop back to a discouraging fifteen or twenty minutes apart and our spirits would be crushed. I went to bed feeling that all was lost only to be woken up by bad contractions in the middle of the night. As I'd come to expect, though, these too disappeared by morning, leaving me with maybe one decent contraction an hour. Discouraged, we decided to send Noah in to work as usual, since it seemed like nothing was happening.
We did have a little action Tuesday morning, though. I lost my mucous plug (never saw it with Jim - it was less gross than I expected), and I suspected that my water might've broken, unless it was just a case of the infamous Pregnant Chick Bladder Weakness. On a more worrying note, I noticed that I hadn't really felt Lottie move much since the contractions stopped. In the interests of getting a little peace of mind, we decided to head off to Labor and Delivery just to have them check out her heartbeat so I could wait without worrying. At this point I was convinced that I wasn't actually in labor after all, so we made plans to go out for lunch and do a little shopping after we finished with the hospital.
L&D was suitably boring at first. A rather imposing nurse (strong eyebrows and a steel-gray buzz cut) advised us on how best to get the doctors to release me after they checked on the baby. I changed into full hospital regalia, got hooked up to some monitoring devices, then had my first cervical check of the pregnancy: 2 centimeters. Disappointing after having been in pseudo-labor for two days. The surprise came about 45 minutes later when they double-checked my cervix and discovered that I'd dilated another two centimeters in that amount of time. At four centimeters, I was officially in active labor.
Noah got to the hospital as fast as he possibly could, right down to sprinting to the delivery room. Poor guy must've been disappointed to find me lounging around all leisurely-like with nary a stirrup or baby cranium in sight. But alas, so it was. From this point on, things progressed pretty steadily. Emmy and Ilya took Jim home around seven, when I was still quite comfortable. By 9 pm I was about 8 centimeters dilated and in quite a lot of pain. As it turns out, I am neither a screamer nor a moaner. My response to extreme duress is extreme profanity, so for about an hour our room was a steady stream of "Fuck fuck fuck fuck oh shit fuck" every two or three minutes while Noah held me upright or rubbed my back while I rolled around on the birthing ball.
After about an hour of intense swearing I opted for the epidural, which took FAR too long to get. I'm not paralyzed or anything, though, so I guess it was probably for the best that the anesthesiologist took his time shoving a needle into my spine. The meds made the whole experience a great deal more pleasant, so we passed the next few hours watching Food Network while I dilated the rest of the way. I was pronounced 'complete' around 2 in the morning, but there remained a slight lip that kept Lottie's head from coming down the whole way. Around 3:30 I finally got to start pushing, and it turned out that my epidural was at the perfect level where I could feel the 'push' urges while not experiencing any significant amount of pain. It was fairly tiring, and totally surreal having six people staring at my nethers and counting, but despite the exhaustion and general weirdness Lottie managed to make her way out at 4:43 am.
Immediately post-cleaning, freaky cone-head cleverly disguised by hospital cap.
After Lottie came out, everything was pretty good. I got to hold her immediately, goo and all, while Noah cut the cord (after giving it a minute to pulse creepily, of course). She nursed a little right then but had too much goo in her nose and throat to be able to breathe well while doing so, so Noah and a nurse took her off to clean her up. I had two tears, a little first-degree one that needed no attention and a second-degree one that took a full hour to stitch while Noah helped with washing and measuring our shiny new alien. She really did look hilarious at first - properly cone-headed with prominent brow ridges, bright red with dark hair, squinty and angry about being out in the world. After getting the goop sucked out of her orifices, she latched right on and nursed for a good forty-five minutes.
As far as birth experiences go, I'd call this a good one. I'm pretty happy to have experienced both a c-section and a vaginal birth, just for comparison purposes. Science, you know? And in any case, I was only in actual pain for a couple of hours. The epidural worked exactly as it was supposed to (due possibly to getting it so late, so that it couldn't make things stall). I had a little pitocin in the last five minutes of pushing to help with the placenta and bleeding, and I have no complaints there either. Recovery has been a lot easier than with my c-section. I was up and using the bathroom as soon as the epidural wore off (Noah managed to prevent any really disastrous pratfalls during my ill-fated attempts to walk before the epidural was completely gone). I was only in the hospital for about 36 hours, and now that I'm home, I've got no pain or other issues besides soreness in the obvious bits. If Jim's birth gets a D- (I'd give it an F, but it did result in Jim, so it couldn't have been ALL bad), I'd give this one a solid B.
Already getting started on the not-sleeping during our first night in the hospital.