I was 41 weeks, 5 days, and had been at 3 cm, 60% effaced for the previous two weeks and was frustrated and facing a very-much-not-wanted induction on 3/5. I was scared of pitocin - I was afraid it would make the contractions more than I could stand, and scared it would lead to an epidural or c-section. Fortunately, Geneva decided to arrive on her own terms, and I felt my first contraction around 2:30 in the morning. I remember thinking "that's probably what a contraction feels like" - I'd been wondering how I'd know, but what other women had told me held true - you can tell. To me, it felt like a strong, though brief, menstrual cramp. I made note of the time, and then went back to sleep. I felt several more as the time passed, and when my husband got up for a restroom visit at 4:30, I mentioned to him how I'd been contracting for a couple hours. That was all she wrote for our sleep for the night - I'd spoken the magic words, and they officially woke us up. I started timing - we stayed in bed until around 6, and with the contractions around 7 minutes apart, I realized this was probably the real thing, so I got up and took a shower. Jimi made us oatmeal for breakfast, and I made a pan of brownies for the nursing staff. When my midwife's office opened at 8 a.m., I called and gave them the scoop - because I'm group b strep positive, they told me to head on to the hospital. This was it!
Check-in went quickly, and because I was so overdue already, I was put directly into a room - they reassured me that I wouldn't be leaving the hospital without my baby. I was told to change into a hospital gown, was strapped to the monitors, and an IV for antibiotics was started. In other words - things were starting off in exactly the way I hadn't wanted to labor. I felt like a sick person, but I wasn't sick! I was just in labor! When the nurse checked me, I was still only at a 3 - I assured her I hadn't been making up the contractions. She smiled at me and told me she knew, and not to worry because if things didn't speed up on their own, there were things that could be done to make things happen. That was the closest anyone came to offering me medications, and it wasn't an explicit offer by any means.
After my first round of antibiotics was complete, my midwife came in and unhooked the monitors and IV so I could change into my own clothes rather than the gown - I felt much more human and less sick wearing my black maternity dress. When they checked me again and still there'd been no progress, they brought me a breast pump to use to try to stimulate more contractions, and boy did it work. When we started, I was able to breathe easily through each wave, rocking on the birth ball or leaning over the side of the bed. After one 15-minute session with the pump, I was needing to get down on all fours to rock myself through the waves. I spent the next 3 to 4 hours pacing my room and and getting down on the floor or up into the bed onto my hands and knees each time a wave hit. I did manage to lie down and nap briefly in that time, maybe for 30 minutes.
My midwife came in after office hours and we discussed my options - did I want to be checked? What were my options if I hadn't progressed? She mentioned a balloon catheter, maybe more pumping...I decided I wanted to be checked - i needed to know if things were moving along. She did, and they were - now I was between 5 and 6 cm. Thank goodness! I was so relieved to know things were happening, that the last few hours hadn't been for naught. I continued my rocking for another hour or so, then asked to move to the tub. Jimi ran me a warm bath, and I climbed in. The water didn't offer the complete pain relief for which I'd been hoping, but it did make the waves more tolerable, more bearable.
I'm not sure of the timeline that followed after - at one point, I felt what was almost a pop inside my belly, followed by a whoosh between my legs. I was pretty sure that was my water breaking, but I was submerged in water, so I couldn't be sure. Jimi was sitting on the edge of the tub, reminding me with each wave to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, to "Relax" (a cue from Hypnobabies reminding me to let my body go limp). At one point I asked him to sing to me; he sang "Sweet Baby James" and "Raspberry Beret". He also called me "Momma Manatee" as I flopped from side to belly to side in the water - in another time and place I would've laughed, but in the moment I could only think incredulously, "He just called me a fucking manatee." I was starting to get vocal, too, Ooohing and Aaahing through each wave, remembering what I'd read, that relaxing the jaw and vocalizing can help with pain control. I don't know if it made anything feel better, but it did make me feel better to let out some sign of what I was feeling. The waves started at the middle of my belly and radiated out across my waist and around to my back, almost like a wide belt of strong menstrual cramps, but much deeper and more intense and stronger than anything I'd ever felt before. I began to lose myself - I didn't have much interest or concern for anything outside of my body, I was just following the cues, doing what felt right and offered the most relief.
This will have to be a Part 1 - there's so much more to tell, and my sleeping baby time is so short...
But here's a hint - the story ends with a beautiful little girl safely in my arms. It's the most beautiful