Maybe tonight, I thought. Well, that's what I thought every night for at least a week. Curtis and I had gone for good long walks (or at least we tried to when the weather was fair) every day to try to kickstart labor. While we were walking, I'd often feel good, strong contractions, but they would always stop once I had a chance to rest. Every morning I'd wake up, disappointed that it wasn't 3 a.m. and that I wasn't in pain. Hm.
She was due on Monday. Then came Tuesday. And Wednesday. But Thursday felt promising. I felt more tension than usual, so I texted Curtis. It turns out that he couldn't concentrate for pretty much the whole day. He'd text me about every thirty minutes to see how I was feeling. I think he was hoping to come home from work early. I was just eager to eat the spaghetti we planned for our meal that night. We could go to the hospital after that.
We timed my contractions throughout dinner: They lasted about a minute and occurred about five minutes apart. We packed our bag and set out for the hospital at about 6 p.m.
We arrived at Sunnyside Medical Center in Oregon and checked in to a small observation room. Sure enough, my contractions were good evidence of early labor and I was dilated to a 3, but the doctors thought my demeanor was entirely too cheerful to be in real labor, so they sent us away for an hour and a half. Good! Let's go get ice cream, we decided. We walked around the hospital, and to Curtis's good fortune, stumbled on a TCBY. We recommend their White Chocolate Mousse with hot fudge.
During our date, I felt more and more discomfort. Curtis sweetly ran back to the hospital to retrieve the car so I wouldn't have to walk back! We returned to our room around 8:30, and the doctor finally came back in around 8:50. They said I looked more uncomfortable, so it was likely they would indeed admit me. At this point, I was dilated to a 5. A warm tub sounded divine, so they began filling the tub and preparing my room. "What are you hoping to get out of an unmedicated birth?" the midwife asked. Well, I'm not sure. "I had an epidural with Sebastian and loved it. I hear a lot of other women talk about how empowered they feel . . . but I guess I just want to try something new." I'm sure that gave them a lot of confidence in me.
After inserting an IV line, taking some blood samples, and securing some portable monitors, I climbed into the warm water around 9:30 p.m. I was able to use meditation and yoga breathing to ease my way through each contraction. They were coming about every two minutes at this point. I tried to sit back and spread my legs in order to prevent muscles from becoming too stiff. The heat did not take away the pain, but it did soften the intensity and relax the tension. For a little while. I started to feel as if I were becoming overheated. Curtis put cold washcloths on my face and neck.
Near 10 o'clock, I hit one contraction that just did not want to ease up. According to the monitor, most of my contractions looked like spaced hills, but this one looked like a plateau with evergreens across the top. A long plateau! Curtis got in the water to rub my neck and feet. "You're doing so great," both he and the nurses kept repeating. "Really? You think so?" I genuinely asked. I knelt down in the water so that the pressure could be taken off my back. Ooh, I nearly ripped off Curtis's shorts I was gripping them so hard. "I'm not having a good time anymore," I admitted. "I just want to be done. I don't want to do this anymore." I
The anesthesiologist came in faster than I expected! When I asked for an epidural with Sebastian, they warned that it might take up to an hour for the anesthesiologist to be ready. I felt pressure to decide quickly. This time, she was in around 10:20 and was ready with all those medical questions. Whatever. I've made my decision. I'll sign anything.
Um—can we hold that thought? I've gotta get to the toilet.
"If you feel like you need to go to the bathroom, you might be ready to push. Let's check your cervix and you can decide if you still want the epidural." Um, pretty sure I said I wanted it. The nurses were being so patient with me! They pushed the bed over to the side of the tub, and I climbed out. I signed whatever papers I needed to to get some relief while at the same time trying to hold in my need to rush to the bathroom. I guess at the same time the midwife checked my cervix. These five minutes rushed by so quickly, and I was overwhelmed with all kinds of sensations. I don't remember seeing much detail: Voices shouting for doctors and extra hands, bodies rushing around me to situate the bed properly, Curtis running from the bathroom with fresh clothes on. I was soaking wet. They were trying to get my wet things off and dry towels on. But somewhere amid it all, one voice stood out: "You are fully dilated. You can go ahead and push!" Bring it on!
First push: my water broke. Hair could be seen. Second push: the head crowned. I needed a quick rest. Third push: the head was out! Fourth push: the rest of the body!
I held her in my arms. "Well, that wasn't so bad, was it?" It's funny how we forget everything before that moment. I still can't even believe I did that.
Livia Milan Hale was born at 10:32 p.m. We were allowed to cuddle and nurse and be a family for at least an hour and a half before nurses came in to poke and prod her. She weighed 8 pounds and 3 ounces, and measured 20 inches. They inked her feet and checked her vitals. Beautiful and healthy. Curtis gave her her first bath, and we prepared to move up to our postpartum suite.
I remember after having Sebastian, I couldn't walk for what seemed like days. Three nurses practically carried me to the bathroom for the first time. This time, I was up and taking pictures within two hours of delivery. What a difference.
I loved that with Sebastian I could relax and sleep through the night. Had I not had an epidural, I would have been past the point of exhaustion by 10 a.m. after laboring all night. I also loved that I could see what was going on in a mirror. With Livia, I wasn't paying attention to anything but the way it felt (and it went by way too fast to even think of bringing a mirror out). But I also loved that with each push I could feel my progress. I knew how much to push and when I needed to rest. With Sebastian, I had to follow the monitor to know when my contractions would help me push instead of following my body. By far, recovery was a breeze with no epidural. I tore less and felt myself immediately after delivery to enjoy the first moments with Livia. I never felt like I needed to prove anything to anybody by going natural, and I don't feel my labor with Livia was any more or less powerful than my labor with Sebastian. They were both difficult and beautiful in different ways.
The next day was full of relaxation, cuddling, and hospital fluff. Sebastian came to visit and just wanted to drive his new car on her head. He did attempt to kiss her though!