My doula arrived quickly, probably between 10:30 and 11:00 AM. I brought her up to speed on the Pitocin, the continuous fetal monitoring, and the conflict over eating. None of it surprised her. She said we would still move around the bed as much as possible and do all of the pain relief techniques we had discussed before, minus walking the halls of the labor ward and using the shower. My contractions had started not long after the Pitocin had started, and it wasn’t very long before they were only 2-3 minutes apart, though they still weren’t very hard. I could still talk and joke around them and sometimes through them. Over the course of that morning I watched an episode of Breaking Bad, most of a Korean film called The Good, the Bad, and the Weird, and maybe half of Happy Gilmore.
Meanwhile, my doctor had left for church, saying he would be back around noon. I was fine with this. We’d talked about religion enough for me to know that he was teaching senior high Sunday school that day and it was kind of important to him, and it was unlikely I’d deliver within 2 hours of being on a 1 ml Pitocin drip. I think he had also come in on his day off to deliver my baby, having not pushed me to induction the day before when he was scheduled to be there. Around 12:30 PM, my contractions were getting a little more intense and I said, “Where the hell is Sark? Tell him church is over, time to play doctor!” He came in around 1 PM to check my cervix, and he also brought me what I thought was a piece of Eucharist bread in a napkin. “I didn’t think you Greeks were supposed to give this to us heterodox Protestants,” I joked. (I later found out from my very high-strung Orthodox pal that it’s called the andidoron — Eucharist leftovers — and they’re allowed to share it with anyone. So that was a nice gesture on his part since I couldn’t go to church that day.)
He wanted to check my cervix, and it’d been over three hours since the last check, so I went ahead with it. I was only just past a 3. He said that was fine though, we were seeing cervical change so that was good. Inside I was a bit discouraged. 3 hours of contractions had only gotten me a lousy 1.5 cm? Then I reminded myself, Just get to a 4 like last time and see what your body does… We increased the Pitocin dosage to a 2 mL/hr drip just the same. It never got higher than that.
Some time over the course of the morning, we had my husband inflate my exercise ball. The staff offered to bring me one, and I said, “I’m betting your exercise balls are for little women.” I’m 6’0″ tall and I’d brought in my 75 cm ball. I don’t know how big their biggest ball was, but sure enough, it was way smaller than that, so I stuck with my own.
The pain relief techniques we used throughout those early stages of labor included bouncing on the ball, hip squeezes, counter-pressure, and leaning against my husband. I would feel the contraction coming, stand up off of the ball, throw my arms around my husband, my doula would squeeze my hips or apply counter-pressure to my lower back, and I would try to visualize something to help take my pain away. For a lot of those contractions, I thought of Christ on the cross. I would see myself putting my arms around Jesus instead of my husband and think, My yoke is easy and my burden is light… Sound melodramatic? Like pretending your vagina is a flower that’s opening is any better! Anyhow, it worked for me. I also found myself sighing or moaning loudly as the pain became more intense, which I hadn’t planned on doing, but it really was helpful and it soon happened that I did not care who was in the room when I did it. I was the star of this show and if they didn’t like the noise I was making, they could leave.
The worst part about all of this was those stupid monitors on my belly. We had to unhook me from them every time I had to go to the bathroom (which was frequently). I found it relaxing to be sitting on the toilet though, and was able to work through any contractions that I had there by myself, which just made me hate the monitors even more. They kept on sliding around and off of me as I stood and sat and moved around my bed, and occasionally we’d have to call the nurse to come fix them. Really, continuous fetal monitoring just wasn’t designed for natural childbirth. It was designed for taking the epidural, staying in bed, and shutting up. I was trapped awkwardly between those worlds.
As far as eating goes, in addition to the protein bar and the trail mix, I ate 5-6 slices of cheddar cheese and a hard-boiled egg. I drank water and fruit punch Gatorade. The last thing that I ate was the egg, which was eaten maybe around 2:30 PM or so, and my doula cautioned me to hurry up and stuff it in my mouth, because they probably wouldn’t like seeing me eating that at that stage in labor. I never threw up though, and was glad that I had snacked during the first half of labor.
By just before 3 PM, large quantities of bloody show and pink-tinged mucus plug had begun coming out, and I was beginning to feel some serious pressure when I was contracting. In fact, at that point the contractions were really more pressure than pain, and it was intense. I was surprised when the nurse came in and unhooked my IV (which had been a Hep-lock the entire time — they had honored my request), took the monitors off of my belly, and told me I could get in the shower for “10 minutes, no more.” She said her shift was ending and wished me good luck.
Happy Gilmore was playing in the background as I headed off to the shower, and though my contractions were intense, in between them I was still in a good enough mood to shout out, “The price is WRONG, bitch!” as Adam Sandler slugged Bob Barker. I had been in labor for 5 hours at that point, and things were about to get real.
To be continued…