By Friday the 28th, a mere three days before my due date, I'd given up hope on having a baby by October 1st. I posted a status to this effect on Facebook that afternoon. While I'd been having symptoms of early labor all day (and had actually left work early on Wednesday because of cramping), none of this was anything new - I'd felt fairly cruddy for the previous two weeks. Thursday night, I'd given castor oil a second try. It didn't work, and I was good and thoroughly frustrated by Friday evening.
To make matters worse, by dinnertime on Friday, I was feeling quite possibly worse - or at least stranger - than I had at any point in the past few weeks. I started talking about calling in sick for my Saturday 5:30am shift around 6, though it took me til 8pm to actually do it. I felt massively guilty, lazy, etc, but settled in for the night and decided to simply enjoy another day of getting to stay up late and sleep in late with Chris while it was just the two of us.
I was bouncing on my exercise ball and meandering aimlessly around the internet around 11pm when the first contraction hit. It was, quite obviously, different from the intense Braxton Hicks (false contractions) I'd been having for months, though I timed a few of them before I said anything to Chris. They were about 8 minutes apart, and at that point, moderately painful. We sat up timing them til about 1am, and decided to go to bed since they weren't getting any closer together. I curled up with the heating pad, and actually managed to fall asleep.
They didn't stop that night (though I woke up twice to time them, just to make sure they weren't going to stop!). By morning, they'd slowed to slightly irregular 9-10 minute intervals but increased in intensity. I emailed my doctor to let her know that labor had started, called work to let them know the same, took a shower, and set to work tidying up the apartment and packing my bag for the birth center.
While the contractions weren't as consistent as I'd expected them to be, they were painful enough by lunchtime Saturday that I had to stop what I was doing to get through them. This continued all day - me cleaning like a madwoman, texting periodic updates to my family, and trying to decide what clothing to take for me and for the baby - all in 6-10 minute intervals.
Contractions were nearing a minute long and 7 minutes apart when I finally called my doctor about 4:30 that afternoon. She gave me the go-ahead to labor at home as long as I saw fit, or til contractions were 4-5 minutes apart. Chris and I decided to go for a walk around 7pm in hopes of getting labor to progress (I couldn't quite stay upright or walk through contractions, but they weren't budging past 6-7 minute intervals). Apparently, walking works wonders when the body is ready for labor! About a block from our house, the first contraction of the walk hit - a mere four minutes after its predecessor! This continued for the rest of the walk, with me leaning helplessly on Chris through most of them.
Chris was pretty set on to the birth center as soon as we got home from walking, though I dragged my feet til 9:30. While I met the usual criteria (<5 mins apart, >1 minute long, for over an hour), I felt good/normal enough in between contractions that I was afraid of being sent back home. Since I refused to go in just yet, Chris busied himself with changing table assembly while I sat on the floor and focused on getting through each contraction.
He finally succeeded at getting me out the door after 9pm. We were met at the door of the hospital by the oh so lovely hospital policy of sending women in labor up to the third floor (Labor&Delivery + the alternative birth care unit) in a wheelchair. I felt thoroughly ridiculous, since my contractions had magically vanished in the ride to the hospital. "Oh well," I told myself, since it was too late to turn around.
Upon arriving at the ABC, we found out that I was actually 5-6cm dilated and 100% effaced, rather than the 3cm I thought I was. Excited to be over halfway to having a baby in my arms, I hopped in the birthing tub armed with grapes, a Luna Bar, and my water bottle.
Time gets pretty hazy after this point. Contractions started back up, though the water made them far more bearable (barely noticeable for the first, say, two hours in the tub). As soon as I got out of the tub for the first time though, I realized they'd gotten far, far more intense - I hobbled to the bathroom doubled over and clutching my belly. Chris had fallen asleep by this point, and I decided to get out and stay out of the tub a few hours later. This lasted about an hour, before I abandoned my resolution to labor quietly and woke up Chris! The pain was almost unmanageable, it was a bit after 1am, and I was hoping I was nearing the end of labor. My doctor, who was sleeping in the next room (she was on her third delivery in 24 hours, and hadn't gotten any sleep the night before) came in to check on me, and we found that I hadn't progressed at all in terms of dilation.
Discouragement set in - I couldn't imagine labor getting much worse, and I still had a long way to go. One of the nurses suggested leaning on the birthing ball with the shower on my back, which did help. Chris sat next to me, rubbing my head sleepily. I stayed there for probably an hour before crawling back into the tub. The nurse checked me again around 3am, and I still hadn't progressed. The baby's head was slightly twisted in the birth canal, preventing my cervix from dilating fully (pressure from the baby's head is the primary cause of dilation). The nurse suggested trying a hip release technique (from the 'Spinning Babies' site, as I later found out), and while I wasn't feeling very optimistic, I was up for anything since labor hadn't progressed in the six hours I'd been there.
I didn't feel any different afterwards - if anything, I felt worse in the hour or so between the hip release and when I decided a bit before 5am that I needed some sort of break from the pain. Contractions had, unbeknownst to me, become 1-2 minutes apart and I was too exhausted to handle them anymore. The nurse put in a hep lock and ordered a short - acting muscle relaxant. My doctor, having noticed the frequency of the contractions, decided to check my progress before giving me anything that might slow down labor. I was at 8-9cm! As much as I wanted even a half hour break, she said I was so close that pain meds probably wouldn't help.
30 minutes later (about 6:30 at this point), she deemed me "fully dilated and ready to push when I felt like it." I don't know when I actually started pushing, but I do remember thinking the urge felt less obvious than I'd expected. I do know I felt like I was much closer to actually delivering a baby than I actually was - while it felt like I was crowning for most of it, I really wasn't sure how far I was til the nurse told me to reach down and feel the baby's head. It was so tiny! While I'd been terrified of not being able to deliver a baby, I realized that this was going to be a very manageably - sized baby and decided to do everything in my power to get the kiddo out as quickly as possible.
And so it came to be at 7:18am Sunday the 30th of September that Levi was born. He was so tiny! I'd been expecting a somewhat larger baby, and I was rather overwhelmed by just how tiny his 6lb 4oz body was. And he was so warm, slippery...it felt so right to have him lying atop the belly in which he'd resided for so many months. The nurse tucked a blanket around him to keep him from getting chilly, and he opened his eyes for the first time, squinting in the bright sunlight coming in the window. His stare was so intense, broken up only by the wobbling motion of his head as he struggled to lift it off my chest. It was unbelievable, really - I couldn't shake the thought "this is him - this is my baby boy!"
Once the umbilical cord stopped pulsating, it was clamped - Chris got to cut it. I was far too busy nursing Levi for the first time to notice by the time the placenta made an appearance. In retrospect, I wish we'd had the presence of mind to take pictures of his first hour of life - of the first time I held him, of the first time Chris held him, etc. I doubt I'll ever forget that first hour though, tired as I was.