Friday night on the way home from picking up Chinese for dinner, I had my first painful contraction. Not crash my car painful, just oh, that hurts a bit painful. Then I had my second. Then nothing. Saturday I spent the day on the treadmill and running up and down stairs and going out in public, convinced that if my water was going to break it was likely to do so next to the organic pears at Trader Joe's. Nothing. Saturday afternoon though, more contractions. Again, not huge miserable baby is coming contractions, just less than friendly reminder that I have an interloper in my uterus contractions. I finally sent Chris to Target to buy a watch with a second hand. Last minute, sure, but in my heart of hearts I never really believed that I would go into labor. While he was gone, I somehow decided that my water had broken. I blame the instructor of the childbirth class I took when pregnant with Mia, who told us that the baby's head can act like a cork and basically make it hard to tell your water really had broken. She lied. After dinner, I beached myself on the couch with our new watch and learned that my so called contractions were coming every six minutes. I finally called my OB, she told me no, you aren't in labor, stupid, and we went to bed. Where I lay awake most of the night feeling like an idiot because I didn't have a single contraction after speaking to my doctor.
5:20 Sunday morning, my water broke. Boy howdy, did it ever. I ran for the bathroom, ran for towels, ran back to the bathroom, then finally threw a shoe or something at Chris's head and told him my water had broken. He said "what does this mean?" I said "Um, I think it means we are about to have a baby." And then we both panicked for a few minutes before I decided I ought to take a shower. I wasn't having any contractions, so even shaved my legs. Oooh, fancy. Hopped back in bed after that discussing with Chris when to call the OB and his parents to come stay with Mia and generally just have 10 calm minutes together to ponder what the hell was about to happen to us. Then I mentioned that if he might want to take a shower himself since he was about 30 minutes away from driving me to the hospital. He complied, I called my OB and she told me to head on in, my in-laws arrived and Chris and I went to wake Mia and tell her what was going on. By this point, I was having contractions every four minutes or so and they hurt. I felt one coming on as we were talking to Mia in her room and I tried to get up and leave so she wouldn't see that I was in pain, but walking was not possible. It was then I decided it was time to stop stalling and get to the hospital already.
We arrived at around 7:30, got a room, changed into the sexy gown, made it to the bed without leaking too much fluid on the floor (gross, let me assure you) and then sat and waited. And waited. And waited. And then I started freaking out a bit, because the contractions were now every three minutes and hurt like hell and I was convinced that the baby was going to just pop right out any second and that when the nurse came in to check my blood pressure or whatever she would find me clutching my newborn. Ha. The nurse finally came, did whatever it is they do, hooked my up to a couple of monitors for contractions and the baby's heartbeat, and then went exploring to discover that I was 1 centimeter dilated and 75% effaced. Not good.
So then we hung out for a bit, not much going on, just chillin' at the hospital. Oh, except for the pain. And that Chris kept waiting until I was in the middle of a contraction and then asking me a question about, I dunno, whether I thought we should turn the kitchen table the other way or something. I finally told him to sit down and read a book. The anesthesiologist (who turned out to be a nice guy, deflating my theory that they were all assholes) arrived at about 10:30 and gave me drugs. I had decided in advance to have the epidural early to avoid any chance of an emergency c-section requiring general anesthesia, but I was more than ready and grateful for the pain to stop at that point. It worked, it was lovely, I felt nothing at all, and I couldn't breathe. The anesthesiologist came back and lowered the dosage. It worked, it was lovely, I could feel the contractions just enough to know they were going on but not enough to hurt, and then my blood pressure jumped off a cliff and tried to take me with it. The anesthesiologist returned again, gave me more drugs, lowered the dosage again, and we were off to the races.
Except not so much. Somewhere in the midst of the anesthesiologist visits, my OB arrived and discovered that I was no more dilated than I had been. I was having strong contractions, but they were irregular, would stop and start and stop again, and she was worried I was rupturing along my earlier c-section incision instead of dilating. That scored me an internal contraction monitor and a scalp monitor thing for Owen (which wasn't necessary but the nurse couldn't keep him on the external monitor even after three helpful suggestions that she put it on the left side instead of the right, but I didn't mind much because those belts itched like crazy).
I spent the next couple of hours lying on my side visualizing my cervix dilating and Owen moving his little head closer and closer to the world. I know, I know, go ahead and laugh. So not my thing, but I did it on the theory that it couldn't hurt. Other than visits from the nurse and a conversation with Chris about how Austin and Tasha are the B-list Backyardigans, that's how I spent the rest of my time in labor. They started me on Pitocin at around 12:30, trying to get me to have contractions that actually did something, rather than just lying there taking up bed space, and even with the epidural those contractions hurt like crazy. But they still were not regular. They upped the dose, more pain, no more gain.
I finally agreed to let my parents come visit at around 2:00. They arrived the same time as the nurse, who lowered the Pitocin dose and told me they were concerned that my "resting tone" was too high. Apparently the pressure in your uterus is supposed to go up when you have a contraction and back down when it is over, and mine wasn't going back down far enough. They flipped me around from one side to another, finally turned off the Pitocin entirely, and that resting tone just kept getting higher and higher. Then the nurse told me that Owen was showing signs that are usually associated with having his head squeezed in the birth canal, which would have been good if his head had been anywhere close to the birth canal, but it wasn't. My OB came in at 2:30, told me I was only 2 centimeters and 80% effaced and basically said well (brisk clap), that was fun, we'll have you in the OR in 30 minutes.
After 9 hours of waiting and waiting, that felt like about 30 minutes, the next hour was insanely busy and seemed to take a week. The anesthesiologist came back to up the epidural, the rolled me down the hall to the freezing cold OR, I spent 20 minutes or so lying half naked staring at a blue drape while random people did who knew what to my exposed, numb and paralyzed lower half, and then Chris came in wearing his sexy blue scrubs and the party got started. I was talking a little bit to the anesthesiologist, staring at that blue drape, wondering at how bad the music selection was, and feeling a little poking and prodding near my right hip when I finally decided to ask if they had started yet. The anesthesiologist said yes, my baby would be out in about two minutes. And then he was, or so they told me and I had no reason to doubt them. I couldn't see anything but that blue drape, so I just stared at it saying "cry baby, cry" and he did. And I did. And Chris did.
I could see him on the warming table, covered in goo with his hand flung up over his head. Chris got to go over and be with him, and finally brought him wrapped and hatted over to me. Unlike my surgery with Mia, my arms weren't strapped to the operating table for reasons unknown and unknowable, and I was able to touch Owen, then I was able to hold him. And I have no problems whatsoever with Mia's birth, but I didn't hold her for hours and holding Owen right away made a huge difference to me. It made the next two hours of recovery and being wheeled to my room and demanding in ever-shriller tones that they bring me my infant far easier to bear. Chris introduced him to his grandparents while I was having my internal organs made internal once again (and fighting the good fight against the vomit while they did it), they watched him get his bath and dressed and whatever else they do to defenseless newborns, and then he was in my arms again. A bigger version of his sister, but looking strikingly like a boy to me, rather than just a nebulous newborn.
And I was stunned by him. And I still am.
Owen Gregory, born 2/10/08 at 3:26 PM, 9 lbs. 3 oz,. 21.5 inches.
Tune in next time for Part Two, the After birth. Wait, that doesn't sound right.