First, a disclaimer: You may want to skip this if you are pregnant and nearing delivery yourself. It's definitely NOT the kind of story I would have enjoyed reading while pregnant. I wish I had an inspirational tale to share. I suppose this is a good read if you’re preparing yourself for the possibility of a detour because we all emerged intact on the other side, but it’s not an experience I would wish upon anyone. Anyone who reads this blog knows Elliot’s birth was nothing like what we hoped for. Other than the final result being a baby, we had to abandon every single preference from our birth plan.
Labor came on gradually with intermittent contractions over several days and we were both feeling ready for the natural birth we'd planned. There were a few nights in a row where I would have a few hours of decent contractions in the early morning (i.e. 2-7am) but they would go away during the daytime. I was 2 cms dilated at my 40 week appointment on Wednesday - my due date. That evening, we went to a restaurant and I noticed my contractions getting noticeably stronger, but still not regular. At home that night, I busied myself with final preparations until around 1am when I tried to go to sleep, figuring I had a big day ahead of me. Unfortunately, I woke with each contraction. By 4am, they were strong enough that I needed help getting through them so I woke M up. At that point, I had about 3-4 hours of very strong, regular contractions that were 10 minutes apart and I thought things were moving forward, but they spaced out again after that.
The contractions continued in an irregular pattern all day Thursday, still strong enough that I needed support to get through most of them. I walked and bounced on the ball most of the day but nothing brought them into a consistent rhythm. In the afternoon, I started trying acupressure points – still not much change. I tried to eat but the contractions were strong enough to make me queasy so I didn’t get much in. By the evening, I was getting tired and frustrated that I wasn’t seeing more signs of progress. M was exhausted too so we decided she would sleep until midnight (and I would try) and we’d go into the hospital at that point, either to get checked right away or to wait awhile but take advantage of their 24-hour well-lit and climate-controlled environment for some hardcore walking, depending on how we were feeling.
I couldn’t sleep at all and I woke M up around 12:30am. The contractions were still irregular but very strong and I was working hard to get through each one. I found I could tolerate them by standing and swaying with M, but that was the only position that offered any relief. We decided I needed a touchstone. I felt like as long as I knew I was making some kind of progress, I’d be able to keep doing what we were doing. If I wasn’t progressing at all, I wanted to talk to my doctor about options for pain relief because I was wearing out and didn’t feel like I’d have enough strength for delivery if it was still several days away. I knew there would be no more sleep between then and the baby without something to cut the pain. We initially thought we might return home if it was determined that I was progressing, but I had the most excruciating contraction in the car and I realized at that point we were at the hospital for the duration because there was no way I was going to restrict my movement like that again! I really wasn’t worried about this because I was positive I’d be dilated a few more centimeters when they checked me. That was not to be. In the labor and delivery assessment unit, they checked me and found that I was still 2 cms but possibly more effaced and the baby was still high. I was crushed.
We hung out there while they contacted my doctor. I was still hopping out of bed for each contraction because standing was the only thing that made them tolerable. The other OB in my practice was on-call so that was who they reached and she recommended an epidural and pitocin. We weren’t down with her suggestion, but agreed to be admitted because it was clear that whatever we were doing on our own wasn’t working and I was wearing thin.