A week ago today, Andrew and I were playing Settlers of Catan with our buddy Bogle and listening to the Avett Brothers' new album when I realized I should probably start timing my contractions. Seven minutes. Seven minutes.
We went to bed, still timing. I slept a few hours until the contractions began to wake me up at about 1:30, so I paced our bedroom for a couple hours, watching my phone clock. Five minutes. Three minutes. Slow, cleansing breaths.
At 4:30, I woke Andrew up. We packed our last few things, checked and re-checked our list, left a house key for Bogle and stuck our heads in the guest room to tell him we were headed to the hospital.
By 5:00, I was dressed in a hospital gown (Andrew: "Oh, what a pretty dress!"), checked in, 4 cm dialated and 100% effaced. Time to have this baby!
My pregnancy was so uncomplicated that I expected a rough labor, just out of principle. As the nurses came in to check on me, and as Bogle and my friend Christen arrived to stick out the day with us, I kept being told, "You're a strong woman!" My OB told me I was stoic. Honestly, reader, it just didn't hurt that bad. I wasn't putting on. No worse than a bad period cramp, and about the same pain level as my miscarriage.
Two hours later, I was at 5 cm. My doctor came in and informed me that this was probably as bad as it would get. "Getting to 5 can be the hardest part." If this is as bad as it will get, I can do this! I was feeling pretty proud of myself for handling the pain so well.
And as we all know, pride goeth before a fall.
I was at 5 cm for hours, reader. And as surely as my body wasn't progressing, the pain was. Suddenly, it hurt. Intensely. And I wasn't even halfway done having this baby. I had planned on getting pain medicine through an IV if I needed it, because epidurals are terrifying. (Seriously? You're going to put a giant needle in my spinal cord?) But the IV is only temporary; they take it out before you start to push. Plus, as the doctor put it to me, if I wanted an epidural it was now or never: the anesthesiologist was about to go into a procedure that could take hours. Now or nothing.
Fifteen minutes later, I was hooked up.
Still not progressing. The doctor broke my water and stretched me out to 8 with her fingers ("You could never do this to a woman without an epidural." No kidding.)
At 1:00, Andrew's family arrived, having been driving from Tennessee since we called them in the wee hours. Fifteen minutes later, my parents arrived, also having been driving all day from South Carolina. Fifteen minutes after that, it was time to push.
I had been told repeatedly since checking in at 5 that baby's head was really low. "You shouldn't have to push very long! He's right there!" Okay, maybe I can do this...
Two and half hours later, I was still pushing. He was still not crowning. I was so exhausted, I was falling asleep between contractions, which I could still feel despite the epidural, just not excruciating as they surely were without. Again, a now-or-never decision from the doctor. "Well, you can keep pushing for another hour, or we can try suction, or you can have a C-section."
Why do I have to make important medical decisions in this mental condition?
Let's try suction. A section scares me about as much as an epidural. I push and do 90% of the work, the doctor pulls the other 10%.
He never crowned, Andrew says. His head went from being totally inside to being totally outside in one push. His cord was wrapped around his neck, so Andrew had to cut it quickly and then one more push -- and...
I'll never forget the sound of Andrew's voice, full of exhaustion and tears and exhilaration: "You did it!"
Jude Smith Sweeny. Welcome to the world.