It felt like such a Catch-22 — I was petrified of the Pitocin-induced contractions I knew were coming, but I also knew that they had to get worse in order for the baby to come. I decided to spend Sunday on my feet as much as possible, or at least sitting on a birth ball doing hip rotations. This was my second morning waking up in the hospital, and by this time my chosen OB was out of town so the OB covering her stopped by around 8am to check me and decided to break my water. Everything ran clear so no extra concerns came up. I was still only 3-4cm dilated and 70% effaced. The plan was to take me off Pitocin completely for a few hours to allow me to walk around on the outside veranda at the hospital, eat and rest a bit. I paced and squatted and high-kneed my way all over that hospital wing...but with the Pitocin gone, the contractions simmered down as well. I was frustrated, but thankfully not in any pain.
The on-call OB came back in around noon to assess the situation and restart the Pitocin. His response to my disappointment was the phrase, "This isn't the Labor & Labor wing...it's the Labor & Delivery wing! We've gotta get this baby out!" Not a fan. He started me on 1 mU/min of Pitocin again at 12:30pm and then made a quick jump to 3 at 1:30pm. We spent the afternoon playing cards. I watched a little Felicity on my iPad. I bounced on the ball. I stood in a hot shower and tried to sing the baby down and out. This was the most I had felt contractions so far, but I was still using words like "annoying" and "tight" and "uncomfortable," as opposed to "painful" or "unbearable." A nurse jumped the Pitocin up by 1 every half hour from then on, per protocol.
By 3:45pm I was up to 7 mU/min. The contractions were just starting to feel like what I had imagined contractions to feel like, and according to the monitor, they were up to 2-3 minutes long and less than 4 minutes apart, which surprised the nurse. I was growing weary in my discomfort and focusing a lot more on my breath. Our doula would need a 45-minute heads-up to get to us, and we were told to call her when I felt like it was getting too tough to manage or I was checked and found to be 7cm...whichever came first.
Ground, Toilet, Bed, Baby
Around 4:30pm we were watching the 90s film The Cutting Edge (I have no idea why and I have zero interest in ever finishing it.) Within seconds I went from nonchalantly bouncing on the ball to grasping at the floor on my hands and knees, reeling in pain so deep I was stricken with silence. David's last text to our doula was, "She's on hands and knees to deal with the pain. Gonna get in the tub soon. Probably would be helpful to have you start making your way here."
Ha, the tub. Before induction became my story, I had grand visions of candlelit baths at the birth center as I peacefully breathed my baby into a world of warm water. So once the contractions brought me to the ground, the nurse on duty began filling up the tub with warm water. I barely noticed. And when I finally did notice, I said a firm "NO," although I'm not sure any sound came out. I was dizzy with pain and worried I was going to throw up.
The timeline of the following two hours is incredibly fuzzy in my memory. All of our natural birth and labor tools for pain management went directly out the window. The next 45 minutes was just David, me and our designated nurse. [Side note: We had had so many amazing nurses over our two nights there, but my appointed nurse when I finally went into labor made me feel uneasy — she was obsessed with following protocol at all costs and wasn't understanding. She kept trying to rub my back and get me to move to the bed when all I wanted was her to leave me be and leave the room.]
Our natural birth educator had been all about keeping the mom moving during labor — the dad's role was to get her to sip fluids so she'd have to pee (hydration!), then get her to walk a few feet to the toilet (movement!), and then hang out on the toilet for a while (squatting position!) before repeating it all over again. Well, that's essentially what happened (once) over the next half our before Alissa our doula arrived. The pain was overtaking me on the ground. I felt like everything was happening to me and nothing about the situation felt empowering. I was still wearing disposable underwear from when they had broken my waters that morning. I was hot but couldn't fully take off anything on my upper half because my arm was strapped to the IV pole. I felt like a dog on a leash. I wasn't in control. The peanut ball they had in the room was an awkward shape to try to lay on or lean on or even hold onto when I was on the floor. David tried to help in every possible way he could think of, but the reality was that we were wedged into a corner of the hospital room with the massive IV stand interrupting my every move.
After about 20 minutes of floor time and barely being able to talk or tell David what I needed, I remember muttering something about how I would be okay with looking into an epidural soon. When we were planning on the birth center, I knew epidurals weren't an option, and I was great with that because I knew I could do it (women have done it since the beginning of time) and it would be easier if it just wasn't an option to ask for in the first place. Going into my induction I remember telling David that all the rules of the game had changed. This was already going to be a fairly unnatural labor thanks to the Pit, and I wanted to be gracious with myself as I knew I'd be taking on a much faster and greater volume of pain potentially. My husband knows me well, and although he remembers feeling woozy watching me in such excruciating pain, he knew I was strong and that ultimately I wanted to forgo pain meds. He said Alissa was almost here and we could discuss our options with her. Between that conversation and Alissa's arrival, he helped me hobble into the bathroom, which only further confirmed that there was absolutely no chance I was getting into a tub. So, I sat on the toilet and David squatted facing me.
I truly had over a page of 'things to do to help ease labor pain' printed out, and every, single, one of them was rendered useless in the face of this pain that had gone from 0-60 in a matter of minutes. I only said about three sentences once we were in the bathroom portion of my labor. One of them was, "TURN IT OFF," as soon as my sweet husband started playing soft worship music from his phone (sorry, Kari Jobe, no hard feelings!). The second phrase was something along the lines of, "You need gum." My sense of smell was so powerful throughout labor and anything slightly off started waves of nausea — sorry husband (again, no hard feelings!).
I don't remember ever feeling a distinct 'dropping' sensation, but by the time I was sitting on the toilet, the upper, abdominal-wrapping pain of the initial contractions had focused down lower and was now coming in strong, full-body quakes. I felt helpless as I couldn't figure out whether or not to lean on David, grab his shoulders, wrap my arms around his neck, or get off the toilet altogether. But then the noises started. In past birth stories the primal screams that many women talk about always stood out to me. I was intrigued and a little terrified by them. And now I was feeling these uncontrollable, gut-wrenching sounds roaring out of the deepest parts of my chest cavity. I felt zero control over my own voice — at one point I wondered if I was actually having a seizure. The length of these contracting roars was increasing at the base of each of them I found I was struggling to catch my breath enough before the next one would start. The nurse came in and annoyingly pondered to herself that she had never seen such long contractions back to back like this so fast. Even David, who had obviously never seen a woman in active labor before, witnessed the fact that I could barely breathe in between them.
Alissa arrived (hallelujah!) and became an advocate for getting the Pit turned off since my body was clearly taking over now. The nurse came back in with the blood pressure cuff, which I wouldn't have even noticed had my hand not started to seize mid-contraction. I couldn't move my fingers. I remember David yelling at the nurse to take it off, but once she did, she started wrapping it around my calf because, "I've still got to get a good reading!" I was enraged, but only momentarily because the lion inside me took over again a few seconds later.
At this point no one had checked me since late that morning when I had been 3cm. Alissa (who was fully capable of checking me herself) knew she couldn't because she was technically just my guest in the hospital — but she wanted to. And I wanted her to. Especially after I told them it felt like I was pushing. The nurse was shocked that I already felt like I was pushing, and kind of shoved it aside in a "you're just a first-time mom who doesn't know anything" kind of way. Alissa and David were more concerned that I was indeed pushing, but possibly against a very small cervical dilation, which would be more painful and ultimately futile. The nurse wanted to check me but said she would only do it if I was on the bed, which was a good 15 feet away in the other room (in other words, YEAH RIGHT). Meanwhile, I was still barely able to breathe in between the roaring urges, my whole body shaking with each one.
Alissa brought a wet rag with drops of peppermint oil and draped it over the back of my neck — possibly the only little piece of helpfulness since the contractions had begun. Amidst trying to catch my breath, I finally reached down to see what was actually happening to my body, and I felt something that I was sure was his head. It had all happened so fast, and no one believed I had dilated that much that quickly, but lo and behold I had essentially gone through transition while I was on the toilet without even realizing what stage I was in.
I do not remember walking to the bed. Or getting on it. But they allowed me to lay on my side because I had made it clear previously that I have an old tailbone injury that would make laboring on my back excruciating (thank you, chiropractic doctor Nicole Barry for enlightening me here!). So there we were, my eyes were closed tight while the nurse and doula peered down below and quickly verified that I WAS AT A TEN AND SHOULD PUSH WHEN I FELT LIKE PUSHING!