Friday, November 14th was a fairly typical day for me, late in my pregnancy. (I was 3 days from my due date.) I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions periodically but they went away when I laid down and didn't happen at all when I went to see Dr. She (my obstetrician) for my weekly appointment. She mentioned that walking might bring on regular contractions and we'd follow Dr. Smartypants' (my perinatologist) recommendation for any artificial means of getting things going. At the moment, he said, waiting for labor to start naturally was fine because Cheeta was not yet "too big." The official weight for a baby considered "too big" is 4500 grams. (Cheeta's birth weight was 3775 grams or 8lbs 5ozs which made me laugh because Dr. Smartypants was sure he would be 9lbs or more.)
After visiting the doctor - where all was declared fine - I had some errands to run, grocery store, post office, sat in on an inspection for Stingy, etc.
That evening my contractions started getting more intense and they didn't always go away when I laid down, so I knew we were getting somewhere. In an irritating fashion they woke me up every 10-15 minutes all night long, so I didn't get much sleep.
Saturday morning they were still pretty far apart so I sent Tarzan to work and started to get ready for a Primary activity we had that morning. Naturally the contractions amped it up right then. After coming every 4-5 minutes for an hour I called Tarzan and had him come home and take me to the hospital. (I feel bad for the Primary President as I had promised her I would be available for this activity.)
The nurses were very nice but they said I was only dilated 2cm and I could go home and come back when the contractions were more intense and closer together. They also recommended walking.
So we went home, Tarzan went to his second job and I went to bed. Still not much sleep but laying down was good for my back which had begun to ache. When Tarzan got home at 4:30 he took me walking around the block of the local high school.
We walked and walked and walked around the thing, pausing every time I had a contraction. They did indeed get closer together and I learned the difference between a 7 on the pain scale and a 9. When the contractions were regularly 2 minutes apart, around 6pm, Tarzan deemed it acceptable to stop walking and go back to the hospital. Funnily enough it was the same shift of nurses at the desk and they could tell right away things were different. This time I was admitted, having dilated to 5cm, with regular intense contractions. The doctor on call that night was Dr. Beard, my regular gynecologist, who was not my OB only by virtue of his schedule being too full when I made the first appointment back in April.
So I knew him and he recognized me.
Labor progressed rather steadily from that point. In the next six hours I continued to dilate up to 9cm. The contractions weren't my favorite - it was very hard to not push - but progress was being made, Tarzan was there to hold my hand and I breathed through it, as the nurses suggested.
No one is entirely sure when my water broke. There are three possible moments but I sure don't know if or when the contractions got more intense. I do know that around 2am Sunday morning I was still at 9cm and this was not moving as fast as the nice professionals said it would. My back was really giving me fits and it didn't abate after the contraction was over. The nurses kept saying the back pain meant the baby was moving but every time Dr. Beard came in I was still at 9cm and Cheeta was still "getting ready."
That's when they offered me the epidural. And though I had told myself previously that I didn't want one, it was a lovely thing when it came. Of course, they put the needle in the smaller, spinal tap area, instead of the larger epidural area so I only got a small amount of medicine and it had to be given every hour AND I had to let it all wear off before the next dose, so the next few hours were a circle of blessed relief and some dozing for 40 minutes, a gradual increase in discomfort for 15 minutes, hard contractions for 5-10 minutes and then back to blessed relief.
Dr. Beard had a surgery to be at early Sunday morning and while he was gone the other on-call doctor came in once, around 8am, said she was concerned that I hadn't progressed beyond 9cm in so long, my temperature was going up which might mean an infection - my water had definitely broken at that point - and Cheeta's heartbeat was rising though he wasn't moving down like he should have been.
She was recommending a C-section.
This was harsh news. We had been at this for so long, were almost there and had tried to avoid a C-section all along and why was this chick - who we didn't know - pushing? We asked to talk to Dr. Smartypants who was the next doctor on call that night/morning. (Dr. She came on-call after he was done so I really lucked out with the available professionals.) She said that was fine.
Dr. Smartypants came in about 40 minutes later, along with Dr. Beard and two other doctors, including the one recommending the C-section. It seems what I had was "failure to progress." There are many reasons why labor is long or slow but I had most of the factors on the list and Cheeta's rising heartbeat was a big concern. If it climbed any more he would have to be in the NICU for a mandatory 72 hours, however the birth developed.
So on to the C-section we went.
Having the epidural put in the wrong space was a plus for the spinal tap for the C-section - speed of preparation - and Dr. Smartypants did the surgery himself, which helped me relax a little. He was very quick; we were in and out of the surgical room in about 30 minutes. (Nearly every doctor in the hospital came by to see the incision over the next two days, all commenting on what a good job Dr. Smartypants had done.)
It was totally weird, feeling the pressure and pulling but not any of the pain or stress as they helped Cheeta out. Poor Tarzan was divided, being there for me, not looking over the screen at my lower half and wanting to see the baby, all at once. It was surreal hearing Cheeta cry but not being able to hold him for a while:
The three NICU people got peed on for their involvement - but he had inhaled some amniotic fluid and so it was good that he was born when he was and in the end we both came out healthy and safe. (Poor kid had a serious conehead too, but that's all gone now.)
Which is really the most important thing:
This is me and that's how it went.