Overdue by five days, Joshua had finally seen enough of my uterus by Monday morning. I awoke at precisely 5:29 to a mild contraction that was just enough stronger than all of the other mild contractions of recent weeks to pique my interest. Another followed about twelve minutes later, and another, and another--all mild, all far apart--for the next two hours. I wrote a few emails, showered and dressed and suddenly the contractions were five minutes apart, then four. And strong. Very strong.
By 8:45, with contractions between three and four minutes apart, I was eyeing the clock and hoping that our nanny didn't choose a bad day to break her year-long punctuality streak. (She didn't.)
My OB's office warned L&D that we were on our way, and would be in a hurry. Jeff packed the car, I got Olivia dressed and tried not to let her see how much pain I was in. (I failed, and she looked at me sideways with a very grave blue eye and a charming crease in her forehead.)
Then we remembered a bunch of stuff that we still needed to pack and phone numbers we needed to have, and we couldn't quite manage to get out the door. And then it was 9:15 and we were on our way to the hospital, Jeff driving exceedingly carefully and infuriatingly slowly.
Some asshole in an enormous black truck with the obligatory NRA sticker took up two "Small Cars Only" parking spaces in the hospital lot. Asshole. ASSHOLE. We couldn't find a spot. We spiraled up the structure for what seemed like twenty minutes but was, I'm sure, no more than two, and found one on the top floor. We got down (two contractions) and into the hospital elevator (another contraction) and the kind security guard who rode with us hurried me past the crowded inspection point and straight to sign-in. I wanted to kiss him but would only have reached his knees as I was doubled over with another contraction.
At 9:39 I signed in and was taken to L&D triage. After a few minutes, I was strapped to the monitors and left: there was a woman arriving in pre-term labor (32 weeks) and she, for obvious reasons, needed to be seen first. I breathed and whimpered through another few contractions and waited for the triage nurse to return, listening to the moans of women in the nearby beds.
When the triage nurse did return, she took one look at the tracings (2-3 minutes apart, peaks off the graph) and said, "We'll be admitting you." Right after the next contraction, she did an exam: 5-6 cm, 90% effaced, zero station. She asked about drugs; I said, yes, as soon as possible, please. She called our delivery nurse. We waited.
When the delivery nurse--Old Pro, let's call her--came to get us, she wouldn't let me dress. Just covered me with a robe, hastily and partially tied, and rushed me toward the delivery room. Mid-walk, I had a monster contraction and had to use her as a handrail, doubled over, butt to the breeze and a dozen or so civilians in the hallway. (I didn't care.)
Once in the room, she tried to get an IV going in my left arm with a 16-gauge needle. Said she had to get me hydrated before they could do the epidural, and that we needed to hurry. The vein blew. She rushed to repeat it on the right; it worked. The next contraction saw me writhing, vomiting and trying to break Jeff's hand, which he had foolishly placed in mine in a gesture of support. It felt like my guts were filled with exploding fire. Old Pro promised that she would get me some fentanyl immediately. She called the anesthesiologist for permission, loaded it up and within a few minutes I was drunk as a skunk. Still in pain, yes, but the pain didn't seem to matter quite as much.
Anesthesiologist arrived a few minutes later. Epidural was placed. He promised me that the birth could be "a pain-free experience," unlike the hell of the last one. Within five minutes, I was more comfortable than I had been in months. I could feel the contractions, sure, but as a not-unpleasant sensation. The nausea abated. I smiled. Jeff relaxed. Ahhh.
It was now about 11:45. The the nurse headed down the hall for a few minutes to eat her lunch. The OB on call came in to check me. She pulled back and, with a look of great surprise, informed me that the baby's head was right there. Right there. I was complete, head almost crowning, time to push.
Old Pro was retrieved from the break room, an assistant was rounded up from somewhere to hold one of my legs, and I was told that the baby would be out within two contractions.
I assumed the position, pushed once I felt the contraction and found myself seeing stars and unable to lift my head. Repeat two or three times.
Old Pro asked if I felt lightheaded. I couldn't answer. She mumbled something to the OB, the OB shook her head and I was told to push again as hard as I could with the next contraction. I did and tried not to faint. Couldn't catch my breath. OB then infomed me that, while the baby didn't seem to be very big, I am very small; that the baby was cutting off my blood return, making me unable to get enough oxygen, and his umbilical cord was very compressed. Heart tracings at 60 BPM and not recovering. I am to push, push, push or they will have to "do something." I cannot comprehend what they are saying to me and it doesn't sink in.
I push again as hard as I can muster (picture trying to sprint for 200 meters after exhaling completely), fainting once, then come around and push one more time. And then his head is there, his mouth and nose being suctioned, along with one arm, which apparently preceded the head and caused some of the trouble. I can see him! And then, at 12:12 p.m., another little push and he's on my belly, writhing and peeing. And he's right as rain.