We got to the hospital about 9, got checked in, and landed in triage for assessment. 3 cm, 80% effaced, and strong contractions, but a bit too spaced out. The order: walking, so off we went.
This was when clock time sort of entered a parallel universe for me. I couldn’t have told you what time it was, which is something I experienced with Clare’s L&D, too. After 45 minutes of walking and contracting (and my weird commentary on the artwork), we headed back, as assigned, to triage to see what was happening. Not too much progress (up to 3.5), but since I was a second time mom, and since I was contracting regularly, we got sent to walk some more. Additionally, the nurse told us that my doctor was on his way in for another delivery, and that we would touch base with him when he arrived in order to formulate a plan.
The second walk was not successful. My contractions were becoming unbearably painful, and that pain was radiating into my hips and bottom, which made it really hard for me to get through them. After about 10 minutes, we headed back to triage to wait it out there. We let the nurse know and began what seemed like an interminable wait, unmonitored, while I suffered through increasingly strong and increasingly close contractions. Charles said later that this period lasted about an hour. Because the pain was so low in my body, I was having an extraordinarily difficult time finding a comfortable position – I wanted every last ounce of weight off my lower half, but there was no way to make that happen. (In retrospect, I think water would have been the best solution, but again, being trapped in triage, that wouldn’t have been helpful knowledge anyway.)
Finally, the nurse came in to do a check and get me on the monitors. I was really struggling through contractions, and really struggling to lie down to get checked. Finally, I announced that the pressure was just too much and that I really felt like I needed to use the restroom.
Now, everyone jumped into action and got me checked again. I had gone from 3.5 to 6 pretty quickly, and because of the pressure, it was clear to everyone that things were going fast. Suddenly there were a ton of nurses and techs – trying to get blood for labs and fluids going to get an epidural going as quickly as possible. I was rapid-fire rolled into a labor and delivery room. Deep down, though, I already knew: I was doing this without meds.
Once they got me into the room, the urge to push became really intense. I was ready to push. I needed to. I couldn’t not push. It is so cliché, but it was primal. It was a knowledge that I definitely didn’t have with Clare’s birth (which was more “sure, there’s pressure. I could push”). They checked me again. Complete. That’s when they told me what I think we all knew all along: the epidural wasn’t going to happen.
In a flurry of action, everything was prepared. I continued to fight through contractions in disbelief. My doctor came in, seemingly ambushed and as surprised by this turn of events as the rest of us. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he surveyed the situation and said, “Oh, Ashley.” He got gowned and gloved, and we all got down to business. I have no idea how long I pushed or how many pushes there were. My one moment of clarity was when, early on, my water was finally broken, and there was an announcement that it “ruptured clear.” I hadn’t had a moment to think about my water not having broken or worry about a repeat of the meconium that we had with Clare, but it was a relief. It was a million pushes later and over in a moment all at the same time. It felt every bit as movies-dramatic as I can imagine with my pushing and the encouragement from everyone around me.
When all was said, screamed, and done, Peter Damien arrived at 12:53 am on Monday, April 7, 2014. Technically, he was two days late, but with so much of the work being done on Sunday, it felt like one. He was 7 lbs, 4 oz, just like his sister, but a half-inch longer, checking in at 20 inches.
|Meeshtow Man (TM Clare)|
I have definitely needed time to process everything that happened. As it was happening, I didn’t feel too upset or frustrated. It just happened, and time sort of stood still. On the other hand, Charles was really upset with his assessment of the situation (both personally and medically) and, in particular, with the triage nurse who let me labor unmonitored (in triage) for so long. Walking the halls the next day, I found myself pretty angry walking by “my” bed in triage, curtain 3. I still feel like the experience is what it is, and all I can do is learn from it. I am definitely a stronger person for it, but I don’t know for sure how I would feel if I were to walk by triage again.
Looking back on things, I am really proud of myself. I never planned on doing an unmedicated birth. In spite of myself, I have to admit that I felt really empowered to be able to say, “I did it.” My recovery has gone well, but I wouldn’t be too quick to give too much credit to the medicated/unmedicated situation – I think being a second time mom, having a less severe tear, and having a toddler to care for (both before and after delivery) have made a world of difference anyway. It’s just impossible to know how it would have gone if I had gotten an epidural. (Random thing I want to remember but doesn’t really fit in anywhere are the burst blood vessels along my jaw line from the intensity of pushing. Also healed up nicely.)
Through the whole thing, Charles was an absolute rock star, and my rock. He was so calm and confident and encouraging – I honestly don’t know if I could have done it without him at my side. I mean I guess I would have had to, but I’d have been an even bigger mess than I already was.
Immediately after delivery, I said that I never wanted to do it that way again. And I don’t. There was too much anxiety, tension, and fear, not to mention the intensity of the pain. I thank God for a lot of little things that went well (like my doctor being there for delivery, in spite of everything), and for a healthy baby and mama. I do, however, think that, if I’m blessed to have more kids in the future, I need to be prepared for another fast-moving delivery. I need to be more equipped with better pain management techniques, and I need to talk things through with my doctor so that any chaos can be better managed.
And no matter what else, the payoff was most definitely worth it.