Truth be told, I was not unhappy about the prospect of getting induced. At a (low-key) party the Friday before SB was born, a friend who had a baby last year told me about how she and many of her fellow birthing class moms had bad experiences with it and would decline an induction next time round… and I’m sure there’s something to it, but also, my baseline for “terrible experience” is leaving the hospital without my babies. I’d take any physical discomfort over that. Plus, the total lack of control I had over C’s bag of water breaking and her birth a few days later must have left deeper scars than I’m aware of, and so I welcomed the thought of experiencing all this in a much more controlled environment.
But then the next day I woke up and had what I can best describe as cervix cramps. They weren’t really painful, so I wasn’t sure if they were productive, but once I bothered to time them I was a little surprised that they came every 5 minutes. A few weeks earlier, my doctor had told me that – once I was full term – if I had contractions every 5 minutes for at least an hour I should head to L&D. But these “contractions” (I didn’t even feel anything contracting) felt way too weak, and somehow I was paranoid of being sent home for not being sufficiently dilated – it just seemed too much hassle to head over to the hospital only to be told to go back. Despite grand plans of what I wanted to do before the planned induction I didn’t feel like doing much during the day, so we just hung out, went for a short walk, re-packed the hospital bag and timed contractions every now and then. Initially even timing them wasn’t easy, as I wasn’t necessarily sure something was a contraction until it was nearing its peak – to give you an idea of how not-strong they were. Gradually they grew more intense, but I could still comfortably talk through them even when they were 3min apart. Then, less comfortably but still talking. This was probably around 9pm and I called L&D, to get their opinion. They didn’t seem too interested in the spacing (perhaps because I was the one who was calling, and clearly still able to communicate?) and concluded I was probably in early labor. As I wasn’t planning to get an epidural, they recommended I stay home, but call again or come in once the contractions got too much to talk through.
We started to play a game, but now things were picking up and I had trouble concentrating on my moves. Around 10 we decided to go to the hospital, though until we had everything assembled and were ready to head out it was probably 10:30. Walking towards the car, I felt something moist come out of my vagina – first I thought my water may have broken, but there were no huge amounts of fluid (irrationally I was worried about making a mess in the car…) On the upside, if it was my waters that’d mean we’d get admitted regardless of how dilated I was.
By now contractions were intense enough that I closed my eyes to breathe through them. Initially I thought about counting how many contractions it took to get to the hospital, but quickly gave up. Many, despite streets being empty. Yet we got there without anything exciting happening.
The way from the hospital entrance to L&D never seemed to take longer, what with stopping every 2-3min to get through a contraction. Except for a few nurses the place was strangely deserted. I was assigned a triage room and asked for a urine sample. Once I went to the bathroom I saw that the moisture from earlier had been the mucus plug. Cleaning myself enough to give a clean-catch sample took 3 fairly painful contractions (maybe I just shouldn’t have bothered). H had been getting worried why it took me so long, while I was glad about anything I didn’t need to do or explain. Back in the room they put me on monitors – I was grateful to hear SB’s heartbeat, because with all the contractions I’d had a hard time feeling her move around that day. We’d been promised a doctor would be in, but that took a while. I started to feel lots of pressure with the contractions, which were coming every 2 minutes and quite intense. H went to find the nurses again – somehow they didn’t know where the doctors were (?!) but perhaps his insistence helped, because 5-10 minutes later a nice young doctor that I’d met at a previous testing appointment came in. She checked me and was, I think, a little surprised to find that I was 8-9cm dilated and that my amniotic sac was still intact but bulging out – this probably explained all the pressure I was feeling. Her supervisor came to also check me and reached the same conclusion. Now the plan was to get me into a labor room as soon as possible and break the bag there – once it broke, the baby might come out rather quickly, they thought. Just a quick ultrasound first to make sure baby was still head down (she was).
My right leg really hurt even with light pressure on it, so I was glad when the nurse offered to wheel me into the labor room. (So much for my plans of being active during labor.) I think it may have been the same room as where A&C were born, while H thinks it was the room next door, albeit with identical layout. (And his account on such details is probably more reliable here ;) The familiarity was strange, basically the only difference seemed to be that it was pitch black outside now, and that I was rather hazy from the contractions – although I am glad that my birthing class taught me to pay attention to the times between contractions, when there is no pain, and to rest during those.
The question of pain relief came up again – the options were an IV analgesic that would have to be discontinued 30min before delivery (because it makes the baby drugged and sleepy, too) or laughing gas (N2O), which dissipates from the body so quickly that it can be used through delivery. Worried that the last part might be the most painful, I wasn’t particularly interested in pain relief I’d have to discontinue before long, plus I was wondering how they’d figure out when “half an hour before birth” would be. So N2O it was. They gave me a mask to push onto my face whenever I needed it, and take off once the contraction was over. It did dampen the pain somewhat, although I could definitely still feel everything. Subjectively, the main drawback was that this occupied my left hand, and they were busy poking an IV into the other, so that I had no free hand to hold my husband’s.
Still in search of ways to relax, I asked soon after this whether I could go into the tub. The nurses probably gave me a skeptical look, but I was too busy to care. I could, I was told, but the N2O couldn’t. And I’d have to get out when it looked like I was about to deliver (they don’t do water births, sadly). So they started filling up the tub. The next contraction was so intense that I moaned. Once it was over, I announced that perhaps I wasn’t going to get into the tub after all. Everyone agreed.
Around this time the doctor came back in, with her equipment to break the amniotic sac. She was getting ready, preparing to intervene after the next contraction was over. I was feeling more and more pressure and the urge to push, but was told not do. At the peak of the next contraction, the amniotic sac broke from all the pressure. For a short moment, relief, then again lots of pressure. It must be her head, I thought. And indeed, with that same contraction, Strawberry Baby’s head emerged from my body.
H later told me that he, along with one of the nurses, was the first to see her head. The young doctor was saying “wait, not so fast” and frantically trying to put on her second glove. There was a call on the intercom and, when I “came back” into the room, suddenly there were a dozen people or more, including the midwife who was present for A’s delivery and the doctor whom I saw in my twin pregnancy. And someone else.
All the pressure was gone. After what felt like a few anxious seconds I heard SB cry, then they put her on my chest. Surreal is the closest I can come to describe it. A moment ago I had still been pregnant. It wasn’t even 1am, we had been at the hospital for at most two hours. And yet here she was, my precious little girl.