That whole week I'd been trying a few low key things to encourage labor. Since I was getting really close, I figured a little romp in the hay or some long walks around the block couldn't hurt. I just made sure to steer clear of things like castor oil and the infamous chile relleno dinner. Eventually I gave up, and just went about things as usual, which is what landed me in the kitchen with everyone just watching me—the non-boiling pot. Luckily, though, I soon lost my plug (and if you don't know what I mean, don't go running to search Google images unless you are really comfortable with uncomfortable imagery). I announced triumphantly that I was going to be in labor very soon! Maybe even imminently. Everyone was excited. I sent a text to my midwife, Jewel, and my doula, Hillary. "I lost my plug!! I am having some twinges!!" They were excited, too.
And then crickets.
I was under this grand disillusion that my previous labors had been over 24 hours because of the epidural situation. I assumed going med-free meant I would have a much shorter labor. But what I soon learned is that while the epidural did slow my labor down once I was in the hospital, my body was still capable of having a very looooooooong and drawn out early (or latent) labor. I finally started having what I knew were contractions that would lead to something on Saturday night. But they were sporadic and not progressing. I remembered exactly what real contractions felt like, so I knew I could sleep through these just fine. No need to get all antsy and stay awake all night feeling excited over nothing. So we packed up the hospital bags just in case, and I took inventory of my extremely thorough "labor comfort" kit (that's a whole other post). I cleaned up the living room, and went to bed. Only the contractions woke me up in the middle of the night. Sweet! I started timing them, and let Wes sleep. But they were still not regular. They were more intense, but not regular.
By the time the sun was up Sunday morning, I had been awake since about 1am. I was tired. I had a headache. I kept hoping I was really in labor. They were real contractions, but they were kind of gun shy. When the kids woke up and started making noise, they went away all together for hours! I kept having signs that my body was dilating (moms who have experienced labor will know what I mean). So I knew this would end in a baby. But in the mean time I was really tired, it was noon, and I had to make a choice. I could start trying things like more walking and nipple stimulation now and kick this into high gear, or I could sleep. I reallllly wanted to sleep. So I tried that for a few hours and my headache woke me up. Ugh. I was starting to worry about going through an intense natural labor later when I was already feeling so worn out.
Wes opened all the windows. We ate. We decided to go for a walk. We walked and walked all around the neighborhood and told neighbors, "I'm technically in labor..." My hips felt so crazy like rubberbands or jell-o. I felt like they might just disconnect from my body at any moment. But still no real progress was being made with contraction intensity. I was getting antsy. I had been texting my doula, Hillary, on and off throughout the day. She was very supportive and calm. All of her texts were some encouraging version of this:
After dinner, I could feel myself getting panicky over having to go through another sleepless night of fake-me-out labor. I was ready to get SERIOUS about this. I kept telling my body it needed to progress, but it wasn't listening. Wes finally came in and convinced me to do nipple stimulation (which was recommended by my doula, midwife, and handful of friends). I am here to tell you that it WORKS. After only about ten minutes (and I won't go into details, you can google it if you need to know the method), I was having actual contractions every 5 minutes or so. So with things jumpstarted, I decided to sit on the exercise ball for a while. Wes turned on Pride and Prejudice in the bedroom, and we watched that for an hour, just the two of us, while I sat and bounced and timed contractions. He had the window open, and I remember watching the sun going down over the snow-capped mountains with a blushing sunset behind. It was really peaceful. Then my mom announced that the season finale of Downton Abbey was on. !!! What?! I was going to miss that? ;) I moved my big pink exercise ball out into the living room. I bounced, and timed, and watched. After we sent everyone to bed, I assured them that I would be GONE in the morning.
Wes went to sleep and I rested and timed contractions some more. About midnight they started to get stronger, so I took a bath. That was amazing. Contractions in water were so surreal. It felt very elemental. I wanted to stay in there forever, partly because it felt good, and partly because I felt like I didn't think I could actually get out of that tub! I called for Wes, but he was sleeping really soundly (and I didn't call too loud, because I didn't want to wake Finn and Maya up since they had school in the morning). I managed to somehow get out and get myself dressed. I wanted to distract myself, so I did full hair and makeup—ha! Just something to pass the time. I even worked on my cuticles between contractions. I think I even slapped a clear coat on my nails! Overachiever, I know.
At 1am I woke Wes up and said I needed some support. Contractions were every 4-5 minutes, and I was swaying and breathing through them. I would lean over the dresser or sink and sway and breathe and it was great. I was totally handling it. But they were getting stronger, and I finally told Wes to text Hillary to come over. When she got to my house around 2:30, I could no longer talk or look at anyone during a contraction. I could only sway and breathe and focus. I didn't want to do anything else. I would walk around the dark and quiet house between contractions. But during, I would need Wes and Hillary to do things like counter pressure on my hips, or use different types of touch for distraction. Wes would push on my temples, then my chest, then my arms. It felt really good, and kept me focused on touch rather than pain. At that point it didn't seem so much painful as just uncomfortable. But knowing what my body was doing, I didn't feel fearful at all, and I wasn't in a large amount of actual pain. It was intense, but not unbearable. Hillary was reciting the prompts from my hypnobirthing CDs, and it was awesome. I could totally get into that, and visualize what she was saying.
The hours seemed to pass quickly—probably because I was focusing on small segments of time. I was expectant and centered. Before I knew it, it was 5am. I ate a bowl of cereal, and Hillary suggested we transport to the hospital. I knew she could tell I was ready to do that. I felt like if I could get there, I wouldn't have to hold back at all, and my body could move forward. It also might slow things down at first to make the transfer, and I wanted to get that out of the way. Hillary guessed I was 4-5cm at that point based on my demeanor, and it was a good time to go.
I remember it felt so quiet and dark outside. We live in a small town, and I was headed to our equally small hospital just 5 minutes away. It was cold (February in Utah), but I'd been wearing a heated rice bag on my shoulders the whole time, and didn't want to have to put on a coat. The combo of the cold air and heated rice bag felt great, and helped me through the few contractions I had on the way to the hospital.
When we arrived, it was so quiet and empty. We walked down to labor and delivery. I was the only one in labor (there was only one other mom who had delivered the day before). The admitting nurse, Malena, watched me have a contraction and asked if I wanted a room with a tub. I said I did. We went in, got settled, and I immediately looked for a ledge to lean on so I could do my rock and sway thing. I think we went through the admitting process. I vaguely remember getting changed into a gown and Malena hooking me up to the fetal monitor just for a few minutes to make sure Lena was A-OK (which she was). They gave me a hep lock (like a port for an IV), just in case I needed an IV later. But other than that, I was free to resume my modus operandi. Sway, breathe, sway, breathe.
Melina asked if I wanted to have my cervix checked or keep laboring for a while. I wanted to know how dilated I was. Contractions were INTENSE at this point. And while they had slowed down (6ish minutes apart), they were getting stronger. Each one seemed to rise up from the ground, through my legs, and radiate into my body. I would surrender for that brief moment, before having a few blissful minutes of release before a new contraction would swell. I still felt like I was handling them fairly well, as long as I had Wes and Hillary. I would raise a finger and nod, and they'd hurry over.
"Let's get you checked and see how dilated you are, and then we'll call Jewel," Melina said. It was 6:15 am. I'd been awake since 1am the day BEFORE, and I was ready to get this show on the road. I was pumped. Only what Malena said next pretty much took all wind out of my sails...
Tune in for part 3, where I try to hold it together, go way primal, and ultimately have a beautiful baby girl!!