In the 39th week of my first pregnancy, I was tired. I was tired of being pregnant, tired of being hot, and tired of waiting. It was the end of August 2007. We had been trying to have a baby for several years and we were so close and I couldn’t have been more impatient. If I could, I would go back and whisper in my own ear that I should enjoy the sweetness of this waiting. It is cliche, but the past almost 4 years have flown by and in some ways I regret not relishing those last moments of being pregnant with my first born.
My uterus had been described by my OB as irritable, which my husband, Rick, found hilarious and instead called it my pissy uterus. All this really meant is that I had a lot of contractions, starting around 18 weeks. The were never serious or cause for real concern, but they became more annoying the further along I got and anything would set them off. Too tired, too much exercise, not enough water, laughing…really anything.
That last week, my 39th, the contractions continued, but they were getting stronger and more regular. I lost my mucus plug at work on Wednesday, August 22, which just happens to be Rick’s birthday. I really thought I was going to go into labor that night. We went out to dinner to celebrate and I ate very spicy Thai food to bring on labor. Of course nothing happened.
The next day I had an OB appointment and I was 4cm dilated and something like 80% effaced. They hooked me up to the monitor and I was having regular contractions, but they were not painful so we were sent home to wait. We decided to take a long walk, eat, rest and get things ready to go. I had called my doula, Hannah, and she suggested we keep ourselves busy, but also rest if possible.
At some point Rick and I decided to make cookies that we would take to the hospital with us. We didn’t have all the ingredients so Rick went out to the store. He jokingly said on the way out the door that my water would probably break while he was gone. I, of course, thought that was ridiculous. Two minutes later I sat down on the couch and felt (and heard) a pop, followed by the sensation that I was wetting my pants. I went to the bathroom to discover that I could not stop the liquid and my water had indeed broken! That was at 7:30 pm.
Rick got home with the cookie ingredients and we called my OB and the doula again. Because my water had broken, they wanted me to come to the hospital. We took our time because my contractions were not getting any stronger. We met our doula at L&D triage at Meriter Hospital at 9:10 pm (Thursday, August 23rd). There was a lot of intake and admission paperwork and questions. I continued to have regular but ineffective contractions. Baby looked good on the monitor, so we were encouraged to walk and be active with the hopes of getting labor going. Baby’s heart rate was monitored by Doppler every 30 minutes. I was told that if no progress was made by 6am, they would want to start pitocin to induce contractions. We walked and walked and walked and walked. We rested, ate popsicles, we walked. Bounced on the birth ball, walked, rested, walked. Repeat. My doula tried some acupressure and massage to get labor started to no avail.
6am came and so did the resident with the news that I was still only 4cm and they would start the pitocin after I was given the opportunity to shower and eat something. They started the IV at 6:30am. I rested in bed until 8:30am when the first contraction hurt. I meant to say HURT! I was up out of the bed trying to figure out how exactly I was going to deal with this pain. I even remember asking Hannah, how long we planned on doing this. I got in the tub for a while and that did help some. I was checked at 9:30 and had progressed to 5 cm, this did not impress me much as I was struggling with the pain and intensity of the contractions. The RN continued to increase my pitocin drip. By 10:45am I was not coping well, I could not control my breathing, I did not get a break between contractions and after another check I was still only 5-6cm. I was also having some involuntary pushing because the baby had descended all the way and I was having so much pressure to push without being fully dilated.
I then demanded an epidural. This was not what I wanted, but at that point there was no other option for me. After the longest 45 minutes of my life, the epidural was placed at 11:30am, after 3 attempts (giant need pokes in my spine). They checked me again at 11:45am and I was 10cm. For those keeping track, I went from 5cm to 10cm in ONE HOUR. This explains the unbearable pain I was having and I kind of feel like a rock star progressing 5cm on pit without pain meds.
I wouldn’t chose to do that again. I had amazing pain relief with the epidural and was able to rest or “labor down” for about an hour or so while my support team ate lunch. I started to feel a lot of pressure (not pain though) and wanted to push. I was told the baby’s head was “right there” and ready to go. I started pushing at 1:20pm. This part I enjoyed. I was reasonably comfortable and the pushing was going really well. There is even a picture of me smiling while pushing.
Then the most amazing thing in my life happened, one last push and Isaac Richard Gamble was born at 1:57pm on August 24th, 2007, all 7lbs 3oz of him. He had tons of dark hair and the sweetest cry I have ever heard in my life. He looked at my face as if to say, ‘oh there you are Mama’ and it has been true love ever since.
This was not the birth experience I had wanted or expected and for a long time struggled with parts of it. But it was my birth and now looking back I am at peace with it. I have also come to realize that a babies birth can in some ways reflect their what their little personalities are like. My two did. Stay tuned for my second birth story.
***Please note that while Rick is not mentioned much during this birth story it is not because he wasn’t there or wasn’t helpful. It is because my memory of Rick during labor is not a visual one so it is kind of hard to put into writing what his experience was like. I will say, I have tactile memories of him. Holding my hand, holding me up, rubbing my back, calming words, helping me push, his arms around me as we held our son together for the first time, unwavering support.