I had been having real contractions all along! But because of the way my cervix is set up (and because my water hadn’t broken yet), they weren’t painful. So they felt (and sounded like) Braxton Hicks contractions, which is why no one was taking me seriously. I was technically even in active labor at that point, but I felt nothing more than belly tightening and achy pressure in my pelvis.
While I waited for the game plan, I quickly texted Sam, my mom and my sister-in-law. I wish I could remember exactly what I said, but I’m sure it was something like “I’M SIX CENTIMETERS DILATED. Baby is coming today or tomorrow.” Michelle came back in and instructed me to walk over to Labor and Delivery to get a steroid shot (just to make sure baby’s lungs would be as developed as possible) and then come back the following morning to get a second shot and to be induced. The progesterone shots (my last one was at 35.5 weeks) were keeping me from fully going into labor so I would need some pitocin to get things going. She predicted that labor would go fast and told me to take it easy when I went home. If I had any more labor signs, especially my water breaking, I needed to race back to the hospital.
I giddily rushed out of the office, got my steroid shot, and sped home. I called my doula on the way to fill her in and let her know that we would be needing her the next morning. It was such a strange feeling knowing the baby’s birthday ahead of time! And I loved the fact that I could get everything ready without rushing. My hospital bag had been packed for weeks so all I had to do was finalize it, pack a bag for Harper to take to my parents’ house and make sure Sam had his things together. We had to be at the hospital at 6am Tuesday morning so we decided to take Harper to my parents’ house that night. We hung out with my parents for a bit and then I put Harper to bed myself before heading back home to get our last full night’s rest before we were parents of two under two.
Yeah right…we barely slept. I was too excited and nervous. We woke up around 5am to get showered and dressed. I tried to eat pb&j on an english muffin on the way, but my stomach was in knots. Once we arrived, we filled out the mountain of paperwork (what is the point of pre-registering?) before I could get settled in my room. I got my second steroid shot and started IV antibiotics (for group b strep). Once that was finished, they told me to walk the halls to see if I could get labor started on my own. It was freezing in the hospital so I wrapped myself in my Barefoot Dreams blanket and started walking. My body actually felt great so I was walking fast, trying to get rid of my nerves. Sam had run downstairs to get coffee and he told me when he got back that, when he passed the nurses’ station, he heard them talking about the pregnant lady who was speed-walking at six centimeters. I was like a labor unicorn. Unfortunately, the walking didn’t help so we started with the pitocin around 9am.
I had heard horror stories about pitocin contractions so I was very nervous that they would ruin my natural birth plans, but my midwife assured me the I wouldn’t need much to get things going. She started me at a low level and promised to only increase it every hour or so as needed. When you get pitocin, the hospital requires continuous monitoring of the baby, but they put wireless monitors on my belly so I could still walk around throughout the labor. One thing I knew from my last birth was that I couldn’t stay in bed the whole time and still birth naturally. For the next couple of hours, I watched Bad Moms, drank juice and ate jello, and tried to move around the room to get things going.
At some point, my doula arrived. I’m going to do a whole post on doulas in the future, but for now I’ll just say that I regret hiring one for this birth. We didn’t know each other well and she seemed kind of rushed. She kept asking me if I wanted my midwife to break my water so we could get things going. It was as if my birth was a thing she needed to tick off her to-do list for the day. I was confident that the baby would come quickly once things got started and I wasn’t in a rush. I also wasn’t in any pain. I know some of you just read that and rolled your eyes. You’re in labor, with pitocin, and you’re not in any pain? I promise I’m not one of those super crunchy, hippie moms who describes contractions as waves (even though I totally understand that analogy). I legitimately wasn’t in pain. I was having contractions, but they weren’t painful. I just felt a ton of pressure with each one. I think that’s mostly because my cervix dilates easily (especially before my water breaks) and also because I had read enough to know that you have to breathe through contractions in order to handle them. I did squats, bounced on the birth ball, and moved around as much as possible to try to get things going.
Despite my doula’s eagerness, my midwife was completely relaxed. She kept saying that we had all day. Around noon, she gave me the option of a membrane sweep or breaking my water, but stressed that I didn’t have to do either. I chose a membrane sweep because I was starting to get hungry and I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat until after the baby was born. At that point, I was around 8 centimeters. You would think that a membrane sweep when you’re that dilated would be fine, but it hurt like hell! After that, I definitely felt things changing. I was crampy and starting to feel like my stomach was upset. A sign that pushing isn’t too far off.
If we’ve ever spoken about birth in real life, you know I have two major fears about birthing: tearing and pooping. I’ve already torn and received a small episiotomy so I’ve conquered that fear (or it conquered me), but the fear of the poop lives on and I stress about it the entire time I’m in labor. I knew I would never be able to look my husband in the eye again if I pooped during labor (although he swears he wouldn’t care), so I decided to try to go before the pushing began. The only problem is that I was too embarrassed to relax and I was afraid I would push my baby out on the toilet. So I just sat there trying to decide whether I wanted to risk birthing my baby in toilet water or pooping on the delivery table. Either choice would end in me dying of shame. I eventually gave up, came out of the bathroom and asked the midwife to break my water. I was starting to feel weak from hunger and I was ready to meet my baby.
Check back on Friday for the third and final post on Avery’s birth story!