My Labor Story, Part I:
I packed for the hospital as if I were heading off to a spa/yoga retreat in the mountains. Though I feared labor would be grueling hard work, the worst pain I’d felt in my life, the books I had read had made me believe I could make it a meditative if not pleasant experience if I put my mind in the right spot and brought the right tools.
In our hospital bag, we packed the following: battery operated candles, an I-pod loaded with calming “labor” music such as Enya, Hem and the sounds of the ocean, a yoga mat and blocks, reading material including a book about hypnobirthing, What to Expect When You are Expecting, People Magazine and Tess of the D’Uberville, a sleep mask and some trail mix.
When I was in the thick of it, I would be equipped with appropriate supplies, readings and relaxation techniques. I would visualize that each contraction was a wave lapping on the shore. I would not know that I was pushing out a watermelon-sized baby; instead, I would think that I was floating on a bed of mist which gently shifted from red to orange and then faded into all the colors of the rainbow.
This was not how it went down. We did not use one of the items we packed in that bag.
I went into labor at 1am and waited about a half hour before waking Kevin.
“Kevin, I might be in labor,” I said, shaking his shoulder.
“Oh,” he said, groggy and confused. “That’s good.”
Soon it became clear to me that it was really happening. The contractions were about five minutes apart and I could no longer comfortably lie on my side in bed.
I sat on the birthing ball (which, in your Rock Hard Abs class at the gym is just called an exercise ball) and leaned forward onto the bed breathing through each contraction. I felt an intense pain in my back and a tingling crampy feeling stretching across my pelvis. Kevin said supportive words, pressed down on my low back, timed my contractions on an app he’d downloaded onto his phone and made me some toast.
I waited until 4am before calling my midwife because she’d encouraged me to go through as much of the labor as I could at home. She said people tend to clam up at the hospital and often the contractions slow down, so better to wait it out. She asked me a few more questions which I can’t remember and then I said, “Excuse me, I’m about to have a contraction.” I breathed it out and when the pain subsided, said, “Okay, I think I’m done.”
Why was I being so calm and polite when seconds before I had been groaning, barreled over on the bed begging Kevin to let me call the doctor?
One of the nurses in our labor classes described a woman who rolled to labor and delivery in a wheelchair, clutching the side of the chair, hyperventilating, and after they checked her out, they discovered she was in early labor and she had thirty hours to go. I did not want to be the woman that nurses gossiped about to their classes for being a mega drama queen. Even in moments of intense pain, I self-consciously wanted Kevin and the nurses to think I was a warrior and not a baby. So when my midwife asked me on a scale from one to ten, what my pain level was, I said five.
“Okay, you’re not in active labor yet,” she said. “I want you to call me when your contractions are exactly sixty seconds and no more than five minutes apart.”
When I called her at 7am, she gave me the same report. It wasn’t time to come to the hospital yet. I said okay and then got off the phone, whimpered and told Kevin how much I hated her.
I went into labor with an open mind about whether or not I’d use medication – I’d give it a good ol’ try the natural way, but I gave myself permission to decide whenever I wanted that the pain was too much. At this point, I just wanted to get to the hospital so they could drug me up. The pain I was feeling was manageable, I mean, it wasn’t like getting stabbed in the chest, (not that I really knew what that felt like either, but before going into labor I often tried to imagine which would be worse), but if this was just the start of my troubles, I didn’t want to know what active labor would feel like.
The movies have you believe labor is like a race from start to end, but really, I had some down time between each contraction. It wasn’t all horrific, crippling pain all the time. There was a lot of moaning and groaning, but I also had time to eat a few bites of the toast Kevin had made for me, take a shower, and suggest Kevin make the bed before we load up the car.
At 8:45am my water broke and so we made a run for it.
To be continued…