[Part I]We arrived at the midwives’ office around 2:30pm, and had to wait several excruciating minutes while the receptionist finished some paperwork before talking to us. Thankfully, one of the nurses saw that I was in labor and rescued me from possibly having to experience a contraction in a waiting room full of people. She took us quietly to a back room where we waited for the midwife on call to come check me.
She came in, saw my face and said, “I think this is the real thing. You have that look.” Then she checked my dilation and told me I was 3 or 4 centimeters dilated.
Once there, we waited in triage to be admitted – the nurse asked us questions and told us they were preparing the room with the birthing tub for me. Even in my preoccupied state of mind, I was so happy about two things – one, that the nurse was kind enough to not talk to me during contractions (so many birthing books I read talked about how to deal with nurses that ignore your contractions – I didn’t have to worry about that!) and two, that the room with the birthing tub was available. I had feared that since the birthing center only had one room with a tub, I wouldn’t get to use it. I also feared that since the center was so small (eight rooms), I might get bumped to the bigger hospital that is known for being a bit too intervention-prone. Happily, I got to be where I wanted.
We walked down to our room, which was big, with a bed, several chairs, the birth tub, and a bathroom. They hooked me up to the external fetal monitor to get an initial read and make sure the baby was tolerating the contractions well. He was, which meant I only had to get the monitoring intermittently instead of constantly. I also got a Heparin lock, in case I would need an IV later. It’s amazing how little getting a needle in your arm hurts when you’re in pain from labor!
Since I wasn’t yet dilated five centimeters, I wasn’t allowed to labor in the tub – so Mike and I spent an hour (two? I have NO SENSE OF TIME.) laboring on the birthing ball (aka: exercise ball). The nurse and midwife left us alone, which was so nice. It was like we were at home – the lights were dim, the room was quiet, and we just labored and labored. We first tried going for a walk around the hospital, but I didn’t get far before needing to throw up – which is not so pleasant to do in front of others. It was during this time that we called our families to tell them we were in labor. (I hadn’t planned on telling my parents until the baby was born – but since we had plans to meet them that night for Mike’s birthday, I needed them to know.) Back in our room, I sat on the ball, draping my arms and upper body on the bed. Mike sat behind me and talked me through contractions, rubbing my back and reminding me to relax.
Every contraction, I realized I was tensing my uterus. I knew I needed to let my stomach relax, because all my reading told me that my uterus would have to work twice as hard if I tensed up. But relaxing through pain is so much easier said than done! I’d relax, and it would hurt way more. I didn’t notice any increase in pain in the contractions – each one was just so hard, I’d think, “Well. That was the worst I could handle.”
To make the contractions more fun, I was still vomiting if I tried to drink any liquids at all. Throwing up during a contraction? Let me tell you what, it’s hard. And this is when Mike really impressed me. Because he’d bring the basin over so I could throw up, then he’d dispose of it and clean out the basin. Multiple times. I offered to clean it out myself, because: eww. But he insisted. What a guy.
After lots of laboring outside of the tub, Susan the midwife checked me again. I was a 6! Hurrah! To the tub!
In between contractions, I was able to joke around a bit, but during – I was focused. Everything around me was blurry and in slow motion. The only thing I could think about was my body. In my periphery, I noticed they were setting up things for the delivery in the room. Was there an end in sight?