Part 1 of Landon's Birth Story is here.
It was the most beautiful October day, I remember. The sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and the sky was studded with puffball clouds. Justin and I parked about as far away from the hospital as we could; I wasn't willing to search for a closer spot, and the weather was just right for a long walk to calm my nerves. I'd been excited for labor to get underway, but the reality of painful contractions was beginning to do a number on my serenity.
Justin carried our supplies until I clutched at his shoulder for support. He put the bags down to hold me through two contractions before we made it to the front desk. They felt much better than any of the car-ride contractions had been, but were much closer than they'd been up to this point.
At the front desk, we were required to wait until a nurse could bring a wheelchair for me. I was horrified -- couldn't I please walk? It was torturous to sit down, and I couldn't imagine my completely healthy self being rolled through hallways like an invalid. Still, it was hospital policy, so I eased myself into the wheelchair with promises from the nurse that we could stop and stand up through contractions. She urged me not to start pushing, though. I almost laughed, until I realized that this was probably the entire reason for the wheelchair: no babies will be born in hallways as long as hospital staff can drive quickly.
There was a room ready for us in Labor and Delivery. When I got all settled and checked at 3PM, I was dilated to a 4, with contractions coming every two to three minutes. As has been my history, none of my contractions ever showed up on the monitor. Jill, my dear friend and stand-in doula, told me later that she timed each of my contractions and that they were incredibly easy to monitor without a word from me. Each time a contraction was about to begin, my whole body would shift to accept its power.
As time passed, I felt increasingly like my body wasn't in labor, but that my body had become labor. Every cell of my self was required to weather each onslaught. I curled my toes. Swung my feet. Rocked my pelvis on the edge of the bed. Strong-armed Justin into supporting my weight. Rolled my neck to relax. Chanted okay, okay... when I felt the pressure of another coming contraction.
Jill and my mom were silent bystanders, ready to give whatever I asked, only I never asked. I was completely self-absorbed and speechless.
For the next two hours, I became lost in time. With my water breaking so early, there was no steadying cushion to guard against the sharpest pains. There was only speed and intensity. If each contraction was a hill to climb in order to avoid being drowned by the next crushing wave, it wasn't long before I was completely submerged. I don't know if I spoke it out loud, but I was thinking, I can't go on like this...I can't get on top of these...they're taking me away...
As the pains became more demanding, I became louder. Childbirth is never a quiet experience for me, and I am only a little bit ashamed to admit that I'm certain I sounded more like a lowing cow than a human being a few times. Although I was mostly unaware of how my body was moving and behaving -- I simply let it go where it would -- I was always very conscious of my noises. I tried very hard to keep from becoming screechy, knowing a low-pitched tone would both calm me and help me open up to the work of labor.
At one point, I kicked my poor father out of the room with some harsh words.
At one point, I required a fan and then had it almost immediately removed.
At 5:10, I was dilated to an eight. I was almost frantic in my inability to manage the pain. I shook my head and shuffled in fear of the next contraction. Instead of prepping for a contraction by chanting okay, okay, okay, I began to chant, no-no-no-no... It was too much, and while I wanted the progression, I felt desperate for a slowing.
'Desperate' could sum up most of my labor, in fact. I was overwhelmed, more so than I'd ever been with Lauren's birth. I needed it to end so I could rest, but I was terrified of what would come next. I urgently paddled up through wave after wave after increasingly insurmountable wave...
Then, when the space between contractions held tears instead of rest, my next pain brought something new: an involuntary push.
It was 5:25 PM and I'd only been laboring for four mind-blowing hours.
Whew! I'll be back as soon as I can with Part 3 -- It's the best part, I promise :)