October 13, 2010
3440 grams / 7 lb. 9 oz.
52 cm / 20.5 in
I felt pre-labor for about a week, with occasional moments where the contractions seemed strong enough and regular enough to be for real, but then I’d change positions and they’d peter out.
On the morning of the 12th, I woke up around 7 or so and thought I was having gas pains. I realized the gas pains were coming and going regularly, so I started timing them. I walked around, sat down, had some water, ate some breakfast… they just kept going. After a few hours, they hadn’t stopped and were getting stronger, but still weren’t bad. I was told since I was a VBAC to come in as soon as I knew they were real contractions, and not Braxton Hicks. I called the hospital and explained what I was feeling, and they said to come in.
Thomas left work and tried to call his dad to come get Dagmar, but he wasn’t answering. We took Dagmar with us on the bus to the hospital, which is just one stop away. We finally got a hold of him and he came and got her from us at the hospital.
(I’ve never given birth in an English-speaking country, so I don’t know if or how some things translate from Danish, but I hope you can bear with me!)
When I finally got checked into the fødemodtagelse, I was 3 cm dilated and fully effaced. I was thrilled! I had been through significantly less pain than with my early labor with Dagmar, but was further progressed. I was on a CTG for a while, and everything looked normal. The midwife said it was early labor and I should try walking around for an hour or so to see if I can get things going. There are some nice walking paths on the hospital grounds, so we bought some sandwiches on the way down and then went out there and walked around a bit.
I asked Thomas to take a picture of me while I could still smile, so he pulled out the camera and realized the Memory Stick wasn’t in it! He bussed back for it and I kept walking around until he got back. We got my picture and then we headed back inside.
The same midwife checked me again, and said I was a bit more than 3, but I hadn’t changed much. I was still thrilled with this because I was progressing on my own and still feeling good. I was really irritated when she said, “you’ve just forgotten how much it has to hurt before they start working.” Firstly, it hurt way more last time and they still weren’t working. Secondly, I never said I was expecting more than I was getting. I came in because I was specifically told to! Not because I thought I’d be 10 cm after walking for an hour!
I was put on a CTG again and everything was still normal. There was a shift change and I was glad to see Ms. Killjoy go, but it took a long time for someone else to come in. We were wondering if we had been forgotten, but finally someone came. I hadn’t dilated more, so she suggested more walking around. We walked to the city center, had dinner, and walked back to the hospital. I had dilated a bit, but it was still very slow and the contractions were not strong. The midwife said we were basically just waiting for it to take off, so if we would rather wait at home, we could. I figured I had a better chance at getting a bit of sleep in my own bed, so home we went.
We watched some Veronica Mars and then settled down for some sleep. When I woke up again, the contractions were definitely stronger, I felt so well-rested, I thought it must have been a long time, but I’d only been asleep for about an hour and a half! We timed my contractions for a bit and called the fødemodtagelse with an update to how things were going. They said it was up to me if I wanted to come in. I knew I would want pain relief soon, because the contractions were already requiring a lot of effort to get through, so I wanted to go in. We called a taxi this time.
About the same time I got there, another woman came in being pushed in a wheelchair and breathing heavily. Several people ran to her right away, and someone asked me if it was ok for them to see her first. I nodded. It felt like forever before someone was able to check me in. A couple of other women, obviously not struggling with contractions, were in the waiting area, and it was a bit awkward to be groaning and breathing and everything with an audience, but I didn’t really have a choice.
When I finally got called back, I wasn’t on the CTG long before being transferred to the fødegang. The midwife hoped to find me a room with a tub but they were all taken. She said a warm shower would have to do. Thomas held the shower head so I had nice, warm water on my back during contractions and it did help. I eventually got tired of it though, and jumped at the chance to try my beloved laughing gas, which was such a huge help in my labor with Dagmar.
It was just as amazing as I’d remembered. It was much less stressful to get through each contraction and time seemed to go by faster. At some point, I realized it was the 13th, and that this would be her birthday. It made me happy to have a date, even if I didn’t know how much longer it would end up being.
The rough thing, though, was that sitting or lying down made the contractions 1000 times worse, so I was on my feet all the time. The midwife brought me a birth ball, and I tried to like it, but it was just awful. I was getting really tired, but kept standing. The laughing gas was helping, but it wasn’t enough anymore. The midwife suggested acupuncture, and I said I’d try anything. I felt a bit silly, but remembered that the placebo effect still works even if you know it’s a placebo, plus I’d never be willing to pay for it so it was probably a once in a lifetime chance to try it out. lol
I felt her place a few needles in my back, and she said I may feel heat coming from them. I didn’t, but it didn’t hurt or anything so I figured nothing was lost. I waited through a few contractions to see if anything would feel different. I was disappointed that it didn’t. So much for the placebo.
I wanted to ask for an epidural, but I didn’t want to ask too soon. I thought I’d try to wait it out a bit more. I wasn’t progressing past 6 cm, and my legs were more and more just turning to jello. The midwife wanted to ask a doctor if they should break my water and/or give me pitocin, so she left to find one. I told Thomas there was no way I could have either of those done to me without an epidural. The midwife came back and said the doctors were busy and they were still waiting for an answer. I asked for the epidural, because I really, really needed to lie down and I couldn’t do that without more relief. She asked if I could wait until they got an answer from the doctor and I said ok.
We finally got an answer: try breaking the water first and then pitocin if necessary. The order for my epidural was put in, and she said she was going to go ahead and break my water. I would have rather waited for the epidural, but I didn’t argue. The water was clear, I was informed. Every contraction, I took the gas mask, stared at a point on the ceiling, and counted. I was trying so hard to focus on the numbers instead of the pain, but it was impossible.
It was over an hour before I got my epidural, and it felt like so much longer. When the anesthesiologist finally arrived, she kept asking me questions and I just wanted her to get on with it. How tall are you? How much can you open your mouth? Have you ever been under general anesthesia before? Blah blah blah. I don’t care! I know she’s doing her job, but every single contraction was awful and I wanted each to be the last one before I got my epidural. It was even worse because I had to lie down in preparation for it, so the contractions were the worst yet. When it finally started to take effect, I actually smiled. After a few minutes, I felt no pain, just pressure, with every contraction. Bliss! I fell asleep.
When I woke up, not only did I feel tons better, but I’d dilated to 7. Not much, but hey, I was asleep! The midwife said I should get up and try to pee, so I did. While sitting on the toilet, I realized the epidural was no longer working. I hobbled back to the bed and told the midwife. She said she could try to get something to help, but first she’d check me again. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t even feel excited when the midwife said I was almost fully dilated. Getting out of bed must have been exactly what I needed, but it meant the epidural could no longer help.
There was a shift change, so the midwife said she’d just pass on my info to the next midwife, who should be in in a few minutes. A woman came in after a few minutes and shook my hand, saying, “Hi, I’m Fie. I’m the next midwife and the one who will deliver your baby.”
She asked how I was feeling, and I said it was really hard. She asked if I had the urge to push yet, and I said yes a bit. She asked me to describe the contractions and I said “It’s like I have a really, really big poo.” She said she was hoping I would say that, because it was exactly how I should feel. She examined me and said I was fully dilated and the head was low and ready. I could push whenever I felt the urge.
I started crying. I didn’t realize until right then how sure I was I’d never get this far. It was going so slowly, and there was just so much time for something to go wrong, but now I was really doing it. I was having a vaginal birth, and I was so happy!
Up until that point, I kept having to remind myself why I was going through all this. It was so, so hard, and it would have been so, so easy to just cut her out. I wouldn’t have had to go through all this. I had to force myself to think about being able to sit up, walk around, and pick up Dagmar. In that moment when I realized it was actually going to happen, I didn’t need to remind myself anymore. I knew exactly why I was doing it. I think before, I was so scared I’d have that worst case scenario of recovering from both labor and surgery, which would defeat the whole purpose of going for the VBAC for me. Those fears were finally gone.
Fie asked if I’d rather stand or squat or sit a birthing chair, but the thought of moving unnecessarily scared me more than the thought of not being in the best possible position. I felt like things were going ok where I was and I didn’t want to mess with it. With Thomas holding my left leg and Fie holding my right with each contraction, I pushed with everything I had. Fie offered pointers between contractions, and encouragement during them. I hated pushing. I hated it every time but I kept thinking it would be over soon. At one point, Thomas exclaimed that she had dark hair. I tried to be encouraged by that but I hated it so much!
Then I had a push that brought on a whole new world of incredible pain. I screamed. Really loud. Fie said I was doing great and just needed a bit more, I screamed “NOOOO!” I didn’t think I could, but I also knew I didn’t really have a choice. One more incredibly painful push later, and I felt her slip out and then she was on my chest. I looked down at her, and was just in shock at what I’d just done.
I was vaguely aware of talks of pitocin shots to deliver the placenta, getting Thomas to cut the cord, and other mess, but I was concentrating on this little perfect girl on my chest. I loved her huge blue-grey eyes looking up at me. I was asked to push to get the placenta out, and felt a floppy, squishy thing slide out with little effort. “Why couldn’t you be that easy?” I asked Maggie, but she didn’t answer.
I asked how bad it was down below, and Fie said she would need to give me stitches, but it wasn’t bad at all. I was so excited. Just some stitches. No big deal. I’m going to have a good recovery!
Getting the stitches wasn’t bad at all. She gave me a local first and I didn’t feel much of anything. Since I wanted to breastfeed, she said Maggie should stay on my chest until nursing the first time. I held her a bit and just admired her until she looked like she was rooting. I had to help her latch on but she nursed like a champ once on. Fie seemed impressed with how quickly we got it working.
We could be discharged as soon as I peed, so I was advised to drink a lot. A tray was brought in with sandwiches, cake, and lots of juice, I ate both sandwiches. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until I started to eat. I let Thomas eat the cake, which looked ok, but not that appetizing. Thomas got me another sandwich instead.
I kept the juice coming, partly because I like it, and partly because I wanted to pee and go home. I was able to sit up on my own, and it didn’t hurt at all. I couldn’t help but be struck with the difference from my cesarean recovery. I stood up, and realized not only was it better than my cesarean recovery, it was better than being pregnant! All my pelvic pain was gone! I was so delighted.
My first attempt to pee was unsuccessful. I was surprised at how hard it was to try to pee. More juice. And more. And more.
While waiting for the juice to take effect, Fie went over a bunch of information and gave us a bunch of brochures and stuff. I was surprised to receive a copy of all the records from the fødegang. We didn’t get anything like that last time. She also gave us a present: a little knit hat in red, white, and blue for our half-American baby.
I kept downing juice until I felt I’d burst. It was still difficult to pee, but I managed. I got dressed and Thomas dressed Maggie. We packed up our bag and rang Fie to say our final good-byes. Just four hours after giving birth, I was holding my baby and walking out the door to go home. Though tired and a bit sore, I felt on top of the world.