When: Friday, July 6, 6:00pm – 40 Weeks, Exactly
Where: The local Mexican restaurant, eating a spicy steak burrito the size of my head
In between bites, while discussing nothing in particular, my body began to tremor, uncontrollably. My skin was warm to the touch, and I did not feel cold. It was difficult for me to eat, as I couldn’t hold my hands steady, and I couldn’t focus on anything but the inability to control the tremors occurring throughout my entire body.
We packed up our food to go and came home. M tried to make me more comfortable, and we tried to watch one of my favorite shows: Bob’s Burgers, but I couldn’t focus through the tremors. We decided to call the doctor to be sure this wasn’t a sign of something going wrong. Labor & Delivery (L&D) told me to take my temperature (96.6 degrees! Holy crap!). They told me to take a warm shower, and lie down to rest since I didn’t have any other symptoms. I did, the tremors died down enough and I was able to sleep fairly well.
When: Saturday, July 7, 5:00pm – 40 Weeks, 1 Day
We had done some routine things around the house all day, and outside before it had gotten too hot. I had eaten my leftover spicy steak burrito and been drinking water all day, no sign of the tremors from the night before, thankfully! I sat down on the couch, and all of a sudden felt as though I’d been hit by a truck! Could I have come down with the flu today?? Oh, great, I remember thinking, just what I need with my approaching childbirth!
M & I agreed I should try to get some rest, just in case!
When: Sunday, July 8, 9:00am – 40 Weeks, 2 Days
Where: All over Champaign, IL
I woke up with a bug in my ass: We had THINGS TO DO today! We went to Michael’s, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club – Where I ate a hot dog, loaded with ketchup, mustard and relish and M and I split a salty pretzel with jalapeno cheese sauce and a gigantic root beer. After my due date, I just couldn’t resist the cravings anymore. I put up zero fight when the baby told me what to eat. We had one more stop to make at the grocery store, but my ankles were swelling in the heat, and I just couldn’t do much more walking around. I let M go in for the last few items while I waited in the car.
My partner, my best friend, my other half, emerged shortly thereafter with an arm full of grocery bags, and wielding a bouquet of baby’s breath – our wedding flowers! He knew just what would bring the biggest smile to my face!
We got home, unpacked our new goodies, and sat down to play a board game.
When: Sunday, July 8, 4:30pm – 40 Weeks, 2 Days
We were 4/5 through our game when twinges in my abdomen started. I immediately whipped out my app for contraction tracking. My very first contraction lasted 25 seconds. It was uncomfortable, but I worked my turn in the game through it.
My second contraction happened 23 minutes later, lasted 36 seconds, and was so uncomfortable I couldn’t focus on M’s turn in the game.
My third contraction happened 21 minutes later, lasted 39 seconds, and was the worst of the three.
Then, five minutes later: contraction #4. Abruptly, they started coming rapid-fire, every ~5 minutes. They lasted anywhere between 25 seconds and a minute. I could no longer focus on the game we were playing, even in the time between the contractions, because I was anticipating the next wave, and anxious that this was kickoff! It was time to call L&D.
L&D assured me that this was probably the beginning of labor, but didn’t seem too alarmed that the contractions had escalated so quickly, seemingly out of the blue, like I was. They said, “Have something to eat, lay down and take a rest, take a shower if you haven’t already today, be sure to empty your bladder continuously, make sure your bags are packed, and call us back when your contractions are lasting 30-60 seconds, and occurring every 3 minutes or so.” I hung up, slightly confused because weren’t my contractions fitting this description already??
I couldn’t think straight, I knew I’d already showered today and couldn’t bare the thought of eating while feeling like this, so I went upstairs, emptied my bladder and laid down as they’d instructed. Trying to pass the time, I popped open my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book to the Labor & Delivery section to attempt a quick review. YEAH RIGHT! At this point, contractions were escalating, coming harder and faster. The words seemed to blur on the page, each time a wave hit. M was attempting to hold it together while asking me what all needed to be added to the bags. I couldn’t answer him. What?! How was that possible?! I had created a mental list a million times over again, since my third trimester started, of the last minute things to add to the bags!! This must be serious.
When: Sunday, July 8, 6:15pm – 40 Weeks, 2 Days
Where: Carle Hospital
We called my parents and L&D just after 6, letting them know that things were progressing beyond what I was comfortable handling on my own at home. Remember, I’ve never done this before! We arrived, waited in the car for a contraction to pass, walked halfway into the hospital, sat on a bench for the next contraction, and finally made it in the door. A nurse had just wheeled someone out of the ER doors, spotted me, pulled a U-turn with the wheelchair, and whisked me up to L&D! Phew! We made it!!
Upstairs, we were swept into a room, where a nurse began all the preliminary questions. In the meantime, I was contracting away, barely able to hold myself together. In my delirium, I noticed that some of my contraction sounds resemble Tina Belcher in a hilarious way. I pointed this out to the phlebotomy nurse starting my IV port, and she burst out laughing, immediately making the connection.
My nurse did a cervical check, and I was at 2cm dilated (out of 10, before I could push), which meant I had a long way to go. He noticed what he thought to be Meconium (the poop that the baby makes while in utero) which shouldn’t be present until the water has broken, which mine had not. He was concerned with a leak, as well as Meconium entering my system, so he called the doctor in, who didn’t seem nearly as concerned as the nurse had been. I was semi-relieved, but a voice niggled away in the back of my mind that this was not good.
Once they strapped monitors onto my belly, one for the baby (to monitor his heartbeat and stress/distress) and one for my contractions, I felt a little more at ease, but the contractions seemed to be neverending! The computer screen corroborated my sentiments. I was having what’s called “cluster contractions”. Normally a contraction has one peak and falls. A cluster contraction has multiple peaks before any relief is felt. Lovely.
In our Labor & Delivery classes, the nurse who taught the class was a retired L&D Nurse who had worked for over 30 years delivering babies. She’d seen it all and wasn’t afraid to share her stories with us. She was wonderful. She had described the point in Labor that usually occurs in the Transition Phase (this is the last phase of dilation, approaching 10cm, just before you push) where contractions escalate to the point that, as this nurse put it, “The Mom sees the face of god.”
At 2cm dilated, with cluster contractions, and as an atheist: I was seeing the face of god.
I looked at Martin with what I assume is desperation and hopelessness in my eyes, and said, “I think I need an epidural, now.”
My birth plan was essentially: “Do what feels right when it feels right, stay as active as possible, and end up with healthy baby & healthy mom” The only thing I knew I did not want, under any circumstance, was IV painkillers. I wanted to be present in the room, not as high as a kite. An epidural was never off the table, but I knew that I was trying to last as long as I could without it.
M agrees that it was the most sound decision I’ve ever made. Within minutes, my anesthesiologist was in my room, and I was sitting up, bent over my pillow, breathing through cluster contractions, and a 3 inch long, 4mm thick needle being delicately placed between my vertebrae in my lower back. And slowly but surely, the pain went away. I was able to breathe, and relax, and take stock of how quickly all of this had occurred. It wasn’t even 9pm!
My parents arrived at 11:30pm to say hello, check on my progress and let us know they would take care of the cats and dog until we got home, whenever that would be.
I labored through the night, barely sleeping at all, and through the next day. I ate ice chip upon ice chip upon ice chip and got hangrier. My dilation progressed, as did my Pitocin dosage in 2ml increments, to 6/10cm and 16/20mg per hour, respectively.
When: Monday, July 9, 4:30pm – 40 Weeks, 3 Days
Where: Carle Hospital, 24 hours into my labor
It just so happened that my own personal OB/GYN was on call in L&D on this particular day, so she had come in to check on me multiple times and exchange encouraging words that we’d have a baby by the time her shift was up. At some point, she came in and broke my water for me, to help progress. Which it did!
Martin had gone down to the cafeteria, my parents were hanging out with me, and nurses were called to my room because I had pressure. A pressure that made me feel as though I’d go #2 in the very near future, right here on my bed, because my epidural took away all ability to control anything from my abdomen, down. I told the nurse, “I think I feel like I might need to push?”
The nurse did a check, and I was still at 6cm. I had stalled out. This was not good.
She took my temperature, and it had risen to 100.1 – The magic number for concern in a fever is 100.4 – I was too close. This was not good.
My nurse paged my doctor. My Mom texted Martin with a delicate balance of urgency and calm, “Come on back up when you’re done, the Doctor wants to talk to you both.”
End of Act I