I hope this long post doesn't bore anyone, but I'm partly writing it for my own benefit. I highly doubt I could ever forget the events surrounding Griffin's birth, but I know that the details can get a bit foggy. So here's how it all happened:
Monday, July 22
Due to a major storm that knocked out power to most of the Quad Cities, I was at home (lots of damage and no power at work). I planned on using my time at home to get a few more things ready for the baby. However, I was feeling really tired and had the start of a migraine. I decided to take a nap around 3 PM, and when I woke up, my headache was even worse. At 4 PM, I got up to get some more medication, when I felt this strange sensation. It sort of felt like I peed my pants - not much, but enough to make me think, "Oh great, just another lovely side effect of being 9 months pregnant." I did find it a bit curious as I hadn't had any of these issues previously, but there's always a first. Pretty soon I realized that I wasn't wetting myself, but that my water broke.
I called the doctor's office thinking they'd tell me to chill at home for a little while as I wasn't feeling any contractions, but they told me to grab my bags and check into labor and delivery. Holy crap! I wasn't ready for this. Just then, Patrick came home. I told him what was happening and we grabbed our stuff and left for the hospital.
By about 6 PM we had been checked in and were getting settled in our room. I was in my hospital gown and was hooked up to the fetal monitor. Pretty soon, we could hear his heartbeat, which sounded a lot like galloping horses. Eventually the nurse turned down the volume because it was quite distracting. The doctor came in and we developed a plan - I would labor until midnight without any intervention and see how I progressed. If I dilated more (I was only at 1 CM, but 70% effaced), great. If not, they would start the dreaded Pitocin drip.
Patrick and I watched the Cubs game and chatted. I walked to the bathroom numerous times (still had that pregnancy bladder) and dragged my IV with me, while the cords from the fetal monitor were wrapped around my neck. Let me tell you...this wasn't easy!
Tuesday, July 22
Finally, it was 12 AM. No progress. They started the Pitocin drip a bit after midnight, and within 30 minutes, I started to actually feel some contractions (I'd been having them consistently since 6 PM, but they just weren't strong enough to make any real progress). By about 1 AM, they were strong enough for me to pull out the old breathing techniques. They were quite helpful until about 1:30 AM, when the contractions didn't deem to ever break. I decided to forgo the breathing and went straight into a plaintive moan. By this time, I also had rolled onto my side and gripped the bed rails with the wave of each contraction, moaning through them and waiting for them to peak and then subside...but they never subsided. The nurse came in around 2 AM and I told her that they didn't feel like they were letting up. She said, "That's because they're not."
It was at this point when every fear I ever had about getting an epidural went right out the window. She must have read my mind, because she asked me if I wanted one. She checked me again, and I was still stuck at 1 CM, but was 100% effaced and the baby had dropped. I didn't think they would give me an epidural because I had always been told that you needed to be at least 4 CM dilated. Thankfully, I was wrong. The 15 minutes it took the anesthesiologist to get to my room felt like an eternity. Patrick was strangely quiet during this time - I know it must have been hard for him to watch me like that. He was wonderful, though, and kept bringing me cold, wet washcloths for my face and neck.
All of a sudden, I could hear a man's voice coming down the hall. Relief was in sight! The epidural was painless and very quick. For some reason, I was able to sit still during my contractions for him to complete the procedure. I was motivated to feel better, so I was willing to do just about anything. Within 10 minutes, I started to feel some relief. I was numb from my thighs up to my mid-back, but I didn't care. I felt like a human being again - I could speak and breathe and actually listen to what others were saying to me.
I started experiencing some weird sensations - a definite pressure in my pelvis. The nurse checked me again, and was in complete shock when she told me that in the previous hour, I had dilated from 1 CM all the way to 10 CM! I was ready to push. I turned to Patrick and said, "Did you hear what she said?" He just nodded his head and smiled.
It's now 4:30AM and I'm starting to push. It's a strange sensation because your body is all crunched up and people are holding your feet and you're curling up in a tight ball while gripping some handle bars. Very primal. I made a lot of progress for the first hour, but then I kind of stalled. I pushed...and pushed...and pushed for 2 straight hours. I pushed on my back and on my side. I pushed while performing a tug-of-war with the nurse while we both pulled on a bed sheet. Nothing. Finally, the doctor said that we might need to think about a vacuum-assisted birth, and if that didn't work, we needed to do a c-section. She let me push some more and all of a sudden I was overcome with an insane amount of pressure. It was non-stop and I couldn't stop myself from pushing. They'd count to 10 and I would keep pushing to 11, 12, 13. My body was doing it on its own. I was so scared because they had turned off the epidural not long after I got it, so the numbness was wearing off and I could feel so much pressure and burning. I was so scared because the more I pushed, it felt like my body was going to break. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it's the truth. They told me that the best way to deal with the pain is to do the opposite of what your instinct is - instead of holding back and not pushing, I needed to push right through the pain. So I did. My nice, controlled pushes that I started out with were replaced with stronger pushes, heavy breathing in between (did I mention I had on an oxygen mask?), and I believe some occasional grunting. And you know what? It worked. A little before 7 AM, the doctor got on her gown and gloves. The nurses set up the cart with all the necessary medical supplies and instruments, and I was told it would be over very soon.
After his head was out, they suctioned his mouth and had me push very lightly. Out came his shoulders and my work was done - they pulled him out and out him on my chest. The rest is a blur - he was crying, Patrick was taking pictures, I was thrilled it was over, etc.
I don't think there is anyway someone could truly explain exactly how it feels to give birth. First of all, every woman's experience is different. Second, we all have our own issues to deal with. What I mean is that I am a highly anxious person who worries about everything. For me, labor and birth was the ultimate unknown. There were so many things out of my control. I tried to remain open minded about everything and go with the flow as much as possible. Overall, I think I did a great job...and for the first time in my 35 years, I am in awe of myself. This was me facing the ultimate fear. This was me going beyond any physical limitations I had ever put on myself. If I can do this, I don't know what I can't do. It feels like just about anything is within my reach.