Okay, so we headed off to the hospital, totally caught off guard and having no idea when or how the baby was going to come. (Kind of like a lot of other people who have a baby :) We registered at the front desk in labor and delivery, which really did take a long time even though we had pre-registered. We were told that would happen. I even politely asked the lady if the process was the same for women in active labor who obviously wouldn't have been able to sit there that long. Apparently it depends. Anyway, we went back to triage like they were expecting us, and realized the doctors hadn't even called to say we were coming. Ha! It was so weird. The nurses even said, "Well aren't you just going to be induced? You're almost 41 weeks!" We knew it would be difficult to not just go through the hospital motions, but it was even more so than I would have guessed. It's not that we didn't trust the doctors; we just really didn't want to jump into anything without thinking and praying it through.
They checked us into a room and our first nurse was Karen. Now, all our nurses are a crucial part of the story because they were AMAZING. Something I will never forget. Having never been admitted in a hospital before, I was in awe of how patient they were with me, how kind they were in conversation, how they cared for us, and that they laughed at my jokes. Seriously - loved that. We talked to the doctor on call and asked her our alternatives to just having my water broken. We wanted to take the least invasive route at first, unless it was necessary to do otherwise. She very hesitatingly told us about cervadil, which is supposed to be very mild and doesn't always throw you into full blown labor, but it's not as aggressive and no turning back like pitocin. While she wouldn't change her recommendation, (because of the heartrate decel earlier in the day), she said it was an option. So we decided that would be our best choice throughout the night, to see if it would help me better go into labor on my own. We got to the hospital between 4 and 5, and they were going to start the cervadil at 10. This whole time we were hooked up to the monitor and the baby's heart rate was great.
I knew that once you get checked into the hospital for labor and delivery they don't let you eat or drink....and I had NO idea how long this was going to take. So I
They started the cervadil at 10, and by midnight I was having painful contractions that lasted about 45 sec.(on average), and were 2 min. apart. Sometimes both of these numbers were a bit more or a bit less. Being at hospital and laboring naturally during the night is a fascinating thing. All is much more quiet, the lights are down, and the nurses really don't bother you much. We had a sweet nurse named Jessie, and she was so encouraging. We joked about how she would be working the next night too, and would love to see us but hoped she didn't. ;) Kevin helped me get through the contractions for a bit, then he tried to get some sleep - (which is extremely difficult when you're listening to your wife breathe loudly in pain, saying the same things over and over to get through her contractions!) While this was my first experience with painful contractions, it also felt pretty special to me, feeling like I was working towards meeting my baby, and having to rely on God and prayer to get through. They were mostly too painful for me to lie down, so I did a lot of sitting on an exercise ball, walking the halls with my portable monitor, and standing and swaying. I also remember being so focused on the baby's heartbeat all night - it's so crazy to see how the numbers change when little ones sleep. Kind of scary if you have no idea what you're looking at. But she was doing great. Sometimes I would turn the monitor up louder so I could focus on that. I also listened to my hospital worship playlist, which was an awesome part of my whole labor experience. Music is very powerful for me, and it definitely helped me relax. I was also so amazed at how much the bible verses I had brought were the most helpful comfort measures of all. One of the ones that got me through the most was, "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Exodus 14:14) At one point I remember lying down, being exhausted and hungry, and trying to catch a little sleep between two contractions that were about 4 min. apart. Ha. If you've ever tried to sleep for 3 min., it doesn't work very well. I also fixated on 'contraction master' on my iphone, which helped me think more about the minutes and less about the pain. Once the sun came up I was really glad so I didn't feel like I needed to be so quiet anymore. I had a couple really bad contractions that Kevin really had to get me through. The doctor checked me and I had progressed another centimeter, which was encouraging to me, though I was hopeful for more. But in my heart I knew my contractions hadn't grown in length or strength all night, just basically stayed the same. So they took the cervadil out, (they leave it in for about 12 hrs), and we were going to see what my body would do on its own. Unfortunately, the contractions lessened to a few an hour, though they were still really painful and I still had to stop and work to get through them when I did have them.
At this point I was on penicillin for the strep b, just so my body would have enough by the time the baby came, whenever that would be. We were still so torn as to how this was going to go and what the best thing to do was. The night before, we had even talked about going home at this point if the baby wasn't coming on his or her own. Yeah right. Between being 41 weeks, knowing the baby's heartrate had been enough for them to send me there even for a second, and having the doctors and nurses looking at us like we were crazy already for delaying the inevitable, I didn't have the emotional strength to make a decision like that. And the doctor knew it. She came in, told me I was in labor and what we needed to do next...some method of stronger induction. I will admit, we were going to try the breastpump first as a natural way to do it...but I hated that. Seriously, having never breastfed or pumped before, having been up all night, having the nurse there watching me, and being the private person that I am - it all about put me over the edge. So rather than having an emotional breakdown I quickly dropped that idea. We decided on a low level of pitocin, so I would still have a chance at being able to get through those kind of contractions.
We had to wait a few hours for the whole process to begin, so for a couple hours that afternoon I had a few quiet moments to myself to rest. It was very surreal, and very peaceful, lying in that bed and praying/wondering how this little baby in my big belly was going to make his/her arrival. At this point I was so tired and so incredibly hungry - but not yet discouraged. Like I said, I had prepared myself for 24 hrs and we hadn't hit that yet. But the not eating thing was the worst. I was exhausted. At this point our nurse was Pam, and she was also the sweetest person ever. Never once did I feel like she thought we were crazy for taking our time with every little decision. She could tell I was nervous and scared to do the wrong thing, and was so great at reassuring me.
They were planning to start the pitocin at about 4:30 or 5, and about 4:00 Kevin and I had some cool moments together. We kind of felt like this step was the big one...we were definitely going to have a baby now. We also knew it was about to get way more painful, and this is what we had prepared for. He was awesome. We prayed and got excited, trying to surrender and trust more than ever. But we still had no idea what we were in for. We took some final "before" pictures, figuring that was the last time we'd be smiling for awhile, and knowing our next pics would probably include a baby! Holly also got there, and my mom had been there for awhile. We quickly realized it would be way too hard for my mom to see me labor naturally for so long, as far as helping to coach me through it. It's not an easy thing to watch your daughter do. Once they started the pitocin it took about an hour or so for my contractions to pick up. Now that was the start of some very real and much more harsh pain. Holly and Kevin got me through every single one, which was amazing. I was hoping I wasn't a moaner, and though you really can't help it sometimes, my best coping came in the form of rhythmic and deep breathing, and saying the word, "Okay" over and over, rhythmically as well. (Ohhh-kay) Swaying or rubbing my leg also helped at times. There was even a chunk of time where I would rhythmically pat the bed to get through them. That helped too. Sometimes I would stand, and sometimes I would sit on the birthing ball, but Kevin pretty much held me through each one, and Holly coached and encouraged. Again - they were both just incredible.
My contractions were about 45 sec. long, and about a minute or 2 apart. When we started I would re-engage in conversation after every one, sometimes even making a joke. So we knew we weren't quite in the heat of it yet. At about 7 or 8:00 on Wednesday night they checked me and I had gone from 4 to 5 cm. We decided to increase my amount of pitocin, to see if my contractions would get longer and stronger, and because I was getting through the ones I was having. They were really bad, but they weren't getting worse. Well, this started working. At this point there was no more light conversation - it was becoming survival through each one. This is going to sound crazy, but it was a really cool experience. It was so amazing to be helped through them by my husband and our friend, and the process became very rhythmic. And there was some definite gratification from working so hard. Focusing on the verses was so powerful, and when Kevin and I would walk the halls and stop for each contraction (and I would squeeze his neck or shoulder really hard), it was sweet. One of the best experiences of our marriage by far. A real lesson in learning to rely on and sacrifice for one another. I know he was tired, but he stayed strong. I was definitely getting so tired and was extremely hungry...I can't even count how many popsicles I ate to try and help. I also have every cute, framed baby picture on those walls memorized. :)
During those hours of contractions I had some really sweet moments with God as well. We had my music playing on the ipod, and during one of the really painful contractions Kevin was holding me, and the song "Be Still" by Steven Curtis Chapman came on. I remember holding onto him, breathing and focusing, all while the music was playing...and I smiled and cried right in the middle of it...because it was amazing. I was so weary and so hungry, in so much pain - but God was carrying us through it. We were doing it and I was just overcome with thankfulness. The same thing happened one other time when the song, "How Deep the Father's Love For Us," by none other than Selah came on during a different contraction. When I think of it now I think of it as a "beautiful pain," because in those moments I took in the depth of it all...that it was just us in that quiet hospital room with the sound of our baby's heartbeat in the background, that God was bringing this baby we had prayed so much for into the world, that we were getting through those difficult contractions, and that my husband and friend were loving me and lifting me up in the gentlest way. I was just so, so thankful and felt so very loved. The power of the Holy Spirit felt very alive and present - and while it really hurt, it was also really cool.
The real drama starts here. We had spent a couple hours getting through much more severe contractions, and I was just sure I would have made significant progress. So my heart was set on it. The doctor checked me at about 10 or 10:30, and I hadn't progressed at all. Kevin would say that was the real start of my heart getting discouraged. I had now spent over 30 hrs. laboring in some way, with no sleep, no food, and having to make one difficult decision after another. My heart, mind, and body were exhausted. The doctor said that we should really break my water. I have no idea why this was such a difficult decision for me - I guess I had just built that up in my mind to be the scariest option. For some reason I think I felt like the baby would be more vulnerable than ever. At the doctor's office they had said something about my amniotic fluid getting lower, and the doctor had said a lot of times at 41 weeks there's meconium in the water. (There wasn't) All I know is, when she broke my water, it felt like my spirit broke too. I started crying at that point, and didn't stop for a couple hours...through the most painful physical experience of my life. Breaking my water set my body into motion...and on top of the pitocin, it was like torture and fire in my belly all at the same time. It got really awful really fast. Breathing, chanting, swaying, music...none of it did any good anymore. A contraction would come and I would literally scream as loud as I could through the whole thing. This is no joke. It was crazy awful. All I could do was lay in bed, squeezing Holly or Kevin's hand while the other one rubbed my back and tried to talk me through it. I kept my eyes closed and just cried, praying for it to be over, but feeling like it would never end. I finally understood what people had said about being in labor and not being able to talk, but hearing the conversation around you and feeling like you were participating. So weird.
Here's what you do need to know. We knew it would come to this. We had learned that many women who labor naturally get to that place where they say they quit and they can't do it anymore...which usually means the baby is coming. We had talked about this and Holly had asked how committed I was - what to do in that situation. I had told them to just keep getting me through one at a time, minute by minute, hour by hour. Well, I was at 5 cm - the baby wasn't exactly crowning. And I knew in my heart and mind I just couldn't do it anymore. I was so fatigued and famished, and emotionally broke. So I started begging for them to give me something. I said, through tears, "I don't want to do this anymore, it doesn't matter, please make it stop!" It was so awful. This was not a beautiful pain. Then came what I can only describe now as what felt like a super dark hour of my life. It was around 12am when I was desperately, more than ever wanting it to stop, and Kevin and Holly decided to try to get me to 1am. They really didn't want me to regret it if I didn't keep going. Well, it was a nightmare. I just remember screaming through each contraction, and in between begging them in a million different ways to please let me stop. I remember thinking about two things (that I never voiced): that the nurses had to be able to hear me, and that I was worried about scaring the baby. Kevin and Holly kept coaching me to get through the next one, and just make it until 1, when the doctor was going to check me again. I would look at the clock and become so discouraged because I just knew I would never make it. It was excruciating. While my eyes were closed and I was pleading with them between contractions, I could hear them whispering about what to do. I could tell Kevin was a wreck, and he kept reassuring me he was listening to me. I mean, I was going crazy. Saying things like, "Why are you doing this to me," and "Please, I change my mind," and "I don't even care anymore, just please let me stop," and "Why aren't you listening to me??" I am totally laughing while I writing this...because it was AWFUL for everyone. I still can't even believe it. They were sincerely trying to help me and do what I asked. Well, somehow they got me to 1:00am and I was a MESS. At this point I was done with Holly and Kevin and just begging the nurse to get me something, telling her I was 30 years old and I don't care what they say. Ha ha. CRAZY. (You didn't expect anything less from me, right??) What's also funny is Jessie, our nurse from the night before was back and had requested me. She is in her twenties, and was so sweet, but because she was so young I felt so embarrassed for her to see me screaming like that!)
I think the doctor checked me, I don't remember, and I don't think I'd made anymore progress. They gave me Stadol because it was the fastest and she said it would take the edge off, (until they could get me the epidural), but my mind might feel funny. Ha. I hadn't eaten or slept, and I'd labored for 30 hrs. - I had completely lost my mind. That started working and I at least felt like I could breathe again, yet I was so upset from the whole experience. The anesthesiologist came in around 2 or 2:30 and I would love and hate to have a video of what that interaction was like. I kept apologizing to him that I was such a mess and telling him how much I appreciated what he was doing and to just do it quickly. I didn't care about needles or anything at that point. Though I did ask for a low dose - because after a day like I had I wasn't exactly afraid of some pain. It started taking effect, and I found myself telling Holly thanks for helping and she could go home if she wanted. Like we were done. So crazy. The next thing I remember is my mom and brother, who had been in the waiting room the whole time, coming in and through tears I said, "I don't ever want to talk about this again. So make sure no one asks me about it." They told me they loved me and were praying for me, and they were proud of me. It turns out Kevin had gone out to give them an update and just broke down. He was so emotionally and physically exhausted, and it was like nothing he'd ever imagined seeing me in pain like that.
I felt so defeated. And I went into maybe the deepest sleep of my life.
It felt like a long time, but they came in to wake me up and check me at 4am. (Thursday morning, September 8. We had gone into the hospital on September 6) Well, the drugs felt pretty heavy at this point, and I had only slept for a couple hours. When I woke up I completely panicked because instantly I realized I couldn't feel my legs. This was awful, horrible moment number two. This may seem really obvious to you, but I have no idea why I had never thought about how scary that would be - and I was terrified. I hated it so much. It felt as awful to me as the pain had, but in a totally different way. Poor Kevin. I cried and cried and said, "I hate it - I can't move, please turn it off!" They came and had to flip me over and it was just awful. For lack of a better term, and for whatever reason, I was having a panic attack. Well, they all knew it would take a couple hours for the effects to decrease, even if they turned it down. But I insisted. So the anesthesiologist came and cut it in half. To make matters worse, I was only dilated to 6cm. I knew, and Kevin knew that I had to calm down or I would never make it. So he helped me through some deep breaths, and I kept crying, but I started praying like crazy. And this whole time I saw Holly, sitting quietly by my bed, praying. She was absolutely an amazing part of this story. The doctor and nurse left, saying they would check me again at 6. I asked Kevin to turn on my Bebo Norman cd - the Ten Thousand Days one. (Which, if you've listened to it, has some pretty amazing lyrics for what I was going through). It's a mellow and beautiful cd, and I knew it would help me relax and try to go back to sleep. The first song says, "Walk down this mountain with your heart held high; follow in the footsteps of your Maker. And with this love that's gone before you and these people at your side, if you offer up your broken cup you will taste the meaning of this life." The third song on the cd is one of my absolute favorites, "The Hammer Holds," and equally as powerful in this situation. It says, "Dream a little dream for me, in hopes that I remain. Cry a little cry for me so I can bear the flames. Hurt a little hurt for me, my future is untold. My dreams are not the issue here, for the, the Hammer holds."
I laid there crying, placed my hand on my belly, and prayed like crazy. I worked to get my focus off my legs, and just asked God, in the name of Jesus, to bring this baby out. I believed He could do it and I desperately asked him to. But I also laid there thinking, "What am I doing?" This is the point when I started thinking of all the other girls recently (or ever!) who had had babies and how I was making it way too complicated, when I knew the doctor could take me across the hall and get the baby out. At this point I was completely surrendered because I had no other choice...and I couldn't see an end.
By God's grace alone, I went back to sleep. If Kevin were telling this story, he'd say it was during this time that he wept in prayer like he never had. It was such an emotional experience, and we felt, more than ever, our total dependence on God for how the rest of the story would go.
This is where it gets good.
To be continued...
(Coming up - Part 3: It's a girl! Part 4: Reflections and what I really think of how this all went down)