The first thing I had to do once we got to my hospital room was change into a gown, and the next step was for the nurse to check my progress. For that I had to lie flat on my back which was probably the most uncomfortable position I could imagine. At that point she told me that I was 3-4 cm dilated.
I was really disappointed that I wasn’t farther along. My contractions were already extremely painful and frequent, and I had been having them all day. I discussed with David and Kelly the option of returning home for awhile, but we were 45 minutes away and I couldn’t fathom going through that car ride twice more, so I decided to just stay. The nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural, and I told her that I didn’t want to be offered any pain medication at all. I said that I knew what my options were and I’d let her know if I changed my mind. She asked if I had a birth plan, but I hadn’t written anything down. She said, “Okay, but if you start begging me to help you then I’m going to offer you something.” That was fine with me.
This first nurse that I had wasn’t exactly rude, but she was very inflexible and not really full of compassion. She started asking me some admission questions, and when my husband tried to answer for me she firmly told him that I had to answer for myself. Then she said that I had to be placed on the monitor. Kelly asked if I could have a break from the monitor sometimes, and she said, “Only when she goes to the bathroom. That’s just how we do it here.” I knew that my doctor didn’t require this, and I was worried about losing my mobility. Plus, the straps to the monitor were tight. However, this nurse was going home at 11 p.m. so to avoid an argument I let her put the monitor on and sat on the birthing ball at the bedside to labor there for awhile. My parents showed up somewhere around this time as well.
Thankfully the next nurse who came on was a lot nicer and more flexible. She had also received orders from my doctor, who was willing to bend hospital protocol for me in order to have as natural a birth as possible. So from this point on I only had to be on the monitor for 20 minutes out of every hour until I reached 7 cm.
I had to have an IV put in, but I didn’t have to be hooked up to any fluids unless my water broke. The process of putting in the IV was painfully long. My veins were bulging, but they had a lot bifurcations apparent (like a fork in the road). The nurse took a really long time selecting the best spot to put in the IV, and it was made longer because every time I had a contraction she had to stop what she was doing and start over. Eventually she got it in on the underside of my left forearm.
Now it was really just time for me to labor, interrupted every hour for monitoring and vital signs, and every two hours for the nurse to check my progress. Let me take this opportunity to describe to you how my contractions felt: like someone was stabbing me in the lower spine and twisting the knife. And after every contraction I was overcome with nausea that left me dry heaving all night, plus some bad diarrhea. I tried to relax into the pain and recover afterward, but it was extremely difficult because I couldn’t stop shaking severely even though I wasn’t cold.
I tried so many positions to ease the pain. I walked. I held onto David. I sat on the birthing ball. I squatted. I got on my hands and knees. Mostly I sat on the ball or stood up and leaned against something when I didn’t have to be in bed for monitoring. And for every contraction throughout the night Kelly was there pushing against my lower back with tennis balls, and when I started to get bruised from the counterpressure she just placed her hands there which grounded me. She was a rock star and I know she was super sore the next day.
Midway through the night I began to seriously struggle. Remember that I had worked a full day that day without rest and hadn’t really eaten since lunch. I had a spoonful of honey to give me some energy, but I couldn’t really notice a difference. The pain was killing me. I began to be unsure of whether I really even wanted a baby. I felt like I would never not be in pain again. I didn’t ever yell or scream, but I moaned and groaned a lot, and I might have verbally wished to die once or twice. The most comfort I ever got was when I begged the nurse to let me in the shower, and I was allowed to for fifteen minutes.
My progress was slow. Every time they checked me I was crushed that I wasn’t further along. Finally in the early hours of the morning I reached 7 cm and I had to remain on the monitor constantly. David had begun falling asleep sitting up so I told him to lie down and take a nap. My mom took over his job, while my dad left the room from time to time because he couldn’t handle seeing me like that. I alternated between sitting on the birthing ball and lying down on my side in bed. All I wanted to do was sleep, but it was impossible. I knew that I should stand up or move around in order to help labor progress, but I didn’t have the energy. There were several times where I thought that I might be nearing transition because the contractions came right on top of each other. I never felt the overwhelming urge to push, but I thought it might be coming soon.
Around 4 a.m. my nurse checked me and told me I was about 8 cm. I wasn’t happy with that, but I knew that the last two cm could go by very fast so I tried to remain positive. Throughout all this time I never once asked for pain medicine and I declined nausea medicine several times because I knew it would make me sleepier and I needed to focus. Because I was feeling all the pain in my lower back I had a strong feeling that Meredith was turned face up, and I was concerned that this was inhibiting her from engaging in my pelvis.
My doctor showed up around 6 a.m. and checked me a lot more thoroughly than any of the nurses had. I began having a contraction in the middle of it, and when she was finished my husband asked what she thought. She said she wanted to wait until I was done with the contraction to talk to me, and then I knew the news wasn’t good. Once I was ready she said, “I think saying that you’re 7 cm dilated is being generous. It’s more like 6.” The fact that I was only 6 cm, not to mention that I thought I was 8 cm, was enough to crush me. I also was only about 70% effaced. My doctor said that I was stalled out and at this point she needed to do something. I began to cry as I saw my dreams of having a completely natural birth slipping away.