Labor is Beautiful...HAHAHAHAHAHA

While on Facebook yesterday, I noticed an acquaintance had posted an article about natural childbirth. As these articles often do, it described labor as "beautiful" and "magical," and said that "women's bodies were built to labor effectively." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

As someone who recently experienced labor, I can testify that for me, this is not true. I know that some of you are thinking, "But my experience was magical! I felt no pain and my baby slid out of me effortlessly, smiling, with a full head of beautiful hair that was not covered in gunk!" Good for you. However, for the rest of us, let's not pretend that childbirth is not at least an intense experience.

I'll be honest, I was expecting an easy labor. My mother had four children, all with no pain medication, all in eight hours or less. She is one of those women the articles supporting natural birth are describing. My plan was to go natural. I had nothing against epidurals (besides the fact that they terrified me, but more on that later) but I wanted to do it without one if possible. I discussed this with my doctor and he agreed. I practiced my breathing. I thought of other things to focus on. I was ready. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

When I visited my doctor for my 36 week checkup, he told me that we were in it for the long haul; I was maybe 1cm dilated and 0% effaced. That baby was sticking around for a while. "It is possible that your water could break spontaneously," he said, "but that only happens in about 15% of pregnancies. I'll see you next week." That was Wednesday. Around 2am Saturday morning, my water broke spontaneously. I'm going to be honest with y'all. I woke up and needed to fart. I was pregnant, it happens. I did and felt a gush like I had peed. I hadn't yet hit the peeing your pants stage of pregnancy, so I thought that we had reached that point. I sighed and got out of bed.

Well, that's not pee, I thought. I screamed for Spencer to wake up as I ran into the bathroom. I called the doctor standing in the shower, fully clothed, while Spencer mopped up the path I had made between the bed and the shower.

We got to the hospital and checked in. They kept saying if my water had broken, I would get a room. If my water had broken, they would call my doctor in. I'm not joking, guys, I was standing there, dripping through my pants onto the floor and they didn't believe that my water had broken.

When they confirmed that my water had indeed broken, we were checked into a room and I was attached to a million wires. Just a few things no one told me about labor from the start:

  1. If your water breaks, it does not stop leaking. I was in a constant state of wetness from 2am on. Unpleasant.
  2. You will need to go to the bathroom a lot because the only thing you're allowed to consume is ice. This is good, because it actually helps you labor faster (in theory). The problem is that every time you want to get out of bed, you have to call the nurse and tell them that you're not dying, you just have to unplug the millions of things you're plugged into. "Hey, uh, I have to pee again," was something I said about a thousand times over the course of my labor.
  3. Everyone will tell you that you can watch TV to pass the time. Unfortunately, I somehow found myself uninterested in the infomercials on every channel at 3am.
Incidentally, another good representation of my water breaking

After about an hour, I had not gone into labor naturally. Once your water breaks, they kind of need to get the baby out, so I was told that I would have to be induced. I knew that this was bad news bears. The only labor that my mother has ever complained about was the one that was induced. It was also the longest of her labors (8 hours, don't you feel so bad for her?...) But, I knew that for the safety of the baby and myself, we needed to get her out as soon as possible. They started the pitocin.

The contractions came on quickly. Every few minutes, it felt like the worst muscle cramp I'd ever had, starting from the top of my abdomen and going all the way down to my knees. I tried sitting. I tried standing. I tried lying down. I even tried squatting for half a second. Every time I had a contraction, I would think, "The pitocin is working. This is a good thing." I would chant that over and over in my mind while I breathed in my nose and out my mouth like they always say to. I'll have you know that all the nurses complimented me on my breathing, soooo.

After about five hours of this, the doctor came in to check on me. I won't go into details, but that in itself was fairly unpleasant. I had dilated an additional.........half centimeter. I was 1.5 cm dilated after five hours of what felt like excruciating labor. I was aware that there are three stages of labor, early, active, and transitional, each one becoming more painful and intense than the last. I was still in early labor. The doctor told me that I needed to prepare myself to be here for 24-36 hours. It was going to be a long labor. Everyone who talked to me when I was pregnant knows that this was my basic birth plan: If anything is going wrong, cut me open. I had heard too many stories of women suffering through terrible labors only to get a C-section anyway. I told the doctor this. He said that he wouldn't do that. A vaginal delivery is the most healthy for mom and baby and they'll do everything they can to insure that before they'll do a C-section.

So, I kept going. Spencer and I watched Parks and Recreation on my laptop for a while. I tried to read a book. I honestly don't remember how I passed most of the time. After a few more hours, the doctor came in to check again. 2 centimeters. He said that we were going to have to double my pitocin levels, which would mean even harder and faster contractions. It was at this point that my fear of an epidural was overcome. We called the anesthesiologist.

Side-note: Why is it that the blood pressure cuff always seems to go off in the middle of a contraction? So, not only are you in crazy pain all over your body, you're also having the life squeezed out of your arm. Then the nurses come in and say, "Your blood pressure was a little high there.." Yes. I feel like I was maybe slightly stressed at that moment. Anyway.

When you get an epidural, they tell you to sit up on the side of your bed, and then hunch over with the worst posture you've ever had in your life. Then, while telling you to not move under any circumstances, they stick a giant needle into your back. Which, believe it or not, hurts a ton. Meanwhile, contractions were still coming on strong. The anesthesiologist told me that it should start to feel warm and then numb in my legs and then work it's way up. It would be fully effective within twenty minutes. None of that happened. I was still having terrible contractions, shooting all the way down my legs. The nurse had my try hitting my "extra juice" button a few times, but to no avail. The epidural hadn't taken. I had to do it over. 

So, the anesthesiologist came back. They made me hunch over the bed again. They pulled the catheter out of my back, and stuck another giant needle into me. "I was wondering if the last one wasn't quite right," the doctor mused very calmly. "It didn't feel right to me." Awesome. Thank you for pretending that it was going to work last time, then. I remember thinking, if this one doesn't take, I don't know if I can do this again. What are my options? Pass out? Die? Yeah, that sounds good.

Thankfully, my second epidural worked. And, let me tell you, epidurals are awesome. I felt nothing. I need another steroid shot? Sure! Need to check me again? No problem! I am a female warrior. I can conquer all. I am Beyonce.

Keep in mind, I had been awake for a very long time at this point.

We turned off the lights and Spencer slept while I dozed (kind of hard to sleep with a blood pressure cuff going off every fifteen minutes) for several hours. At around hour 22 of being in the hospital, I was finally 100% dilated and effaced. We were ready to push.

Side-note Two: I was so exhausted at this point, I kept thinking, "I'm so excited to be done with labor, then I can get some sleep." Then I would remember that when I was done with labor I would have a baby and never sleep again. Then I would regret every decision in my life that led me to that point.

With every contraction, the nurse had me hold up my noodley legs and push. She would say, "Great job! You're doing so good! Exactly like that!" and then I would plop my legs back down and breath, waiting for the next one. After about an hour, I started to think, "but am I doing 'so good'? If I was doing such a 'great job' wouldn't this gosh dang baby be out of me by now!?" After the second hour, I started to think, "You LIAR! I am NOT doing good! I am NOT doing a great job! GET THIS BABY OUT OF ME!" Or, you know, something like that.

When I had not produced a child after two and a half hours of pushing, the doctor was called in. He sat down, looked at me, and immediately said, "Yeah, no, we need to do a C-section."

He started this whole spiel about how "if we had a crystal ball and could've known this was going to happen.."  I am not the type to do this, but I was so past my limit (and bedtime) at this point, I interrupted him and loudly said, "I asked you twenty hours ago if I could have a C-section because I thought that this exact thing would happen." I was your crystal ball and you ignored me!!!

So, they dressed Spencer in surgical gear, wheeled me down to the operating room, and pumped me full of even more drugs to numb me further. Did you know that the anesthesia they use to perform C-sections makes you shake uncontrollably? I didn't. Did you also know that even though you can't feel any pain, you can still feel everything they are doing to you? I felt them slice open my stomach. I can't even think of a better way to produce imagery for you, so I'll repeat it. I FELT THEM SLICE OPEN MY STOMACH. I heard my baby cry, and I'd like to tell you that it was this magical moment and everything was suddenly worth it and I looked like all the women in movies meeting their babies for the first time.

I was slightly distracted by the sounds of the doctor saying things like, "We need to stop that bleeding." I kept thinking, "This is it. This is how I die." Obviously I didn't die and it's pretty normal to lose blood during surgery, but I was finding it difficult to think clearly in the moment. Apparently, after they closed me up (which I felt too, by the way), the doctor came around the curtain to congratulate us, still covered in my blood. Spencer tells me this happened, I must've blocked it from my memory.

All in all, it was worth it. Everything they say about forgetting labor pains is true. I only have vague memories of what it felt like and the whole 24 hour experience now feels like a blur. I didn't cry when I met my baby and even for a week or so afterwards, it still felt surreal that she was my baby, but I would do it again for her.

But, when a week ago someone asked me if I was going to try to do VBACs for the rest of my children, I had one thing to say. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


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