The shower was heaven. There was a chair in the shower, and I sat on this backwards with my legs straddling it, leaning on the back of the chair and letting the hot water roll over me. Having pressurized hot water sprayed on my back while I was contracting made it so much easier to work through my pain. I did feel my contractions slow down a bit now that I was off the Pitocin, but they did not stop or decrease in intensity. I immediately decided that if they wanted me to stay in the shower for only 10 minutes, they would have to come and tell me to get out themselves. I wasn’t going to time myself for them. I could still feel my baby moving while I was in the shower, so I felt pretty sure that he was okay.
I’m not sure how long I was in it, though I’m sure it was somewhat longer than 10 minutes, but I did get out when they came and told me it was time to get out. We tugged a new gown onto me and they said they wanted to check me again. I had one contraction while I was laying on my back being checked, and it was torture. My doctor announced (sounding a little surprised) that I was a 7 now. “Told you I was fast,” I said. He said there were two other things to discuss with me. One was that they had decided that it would not be necessary to put me on magnesium for my high blood pressure, so that was good news. The other was that they wanted to give me the option of breaking my water and putting an electrode on my baby’s head. They said this would “improve [my] mobility,” and I just thought, “say what??? How would an electrode coming out of my vagina improve my mobility?” I think they were really just tired of my monitors sliding around and falling off and wanted to keep my baby soundly monitored for the rest of the labor and delivery. I declined the AROM and the electrode just the same.
I noticed that they did not hook the Hep-lock back up to the IV cart (I’d already had two doses of GBS antibiotics by this point). I was off the Pitocin and on my own for good. My doula later said that this really surprised her, that she almost never sees deliveries where a patient is taken off of Pitocin once it’s been started. I think it goes to show that my team really was trying to respect my wishes for a natural birth, even though some interventions were needed.
My sense of time passing for the remainder of the labor is really distorted. I know that after getting out of the shower, I spent most of the time in my bed lying on my side because my contractions were so intensely painful or pressurized that I really just needed to rest as much as possible in between them. I knew that my waters had not broken yet and this was driving me crazy because the pressure was so intense. At some point I felt my body give a little shudder and then push involuntarily, and my doula said, “Proserpina, you’re pushing! You’re in transition!” My doctor’s attending checked me again and said I was at an 8 and my waters were “bulging.” It wasn’t long after that, I had a contraction and felt a little “pop” and then liquid running down my leg, and felt pretty certain my waters had just gone. I got up, got off my monitors, and went to the bathroom one more time, both to relax and try letting my body push there, and in the hopes of having a bowel movement so that I wouldn’t fill the bed with poo later on (no such luck!). The next time I said that I had to go to the bathroom, they said to get a bed pan, and I realized they didn’t want me getting off of my monitors any more. I also realized that there were a lot of people in my room now—my doula, husband, doctor, his attending, the nurse who had come on shift after the other nurse had left at 3 PM, and a new nurse whom I hadn’t seen before, standing off in the very back of the room. My doula must have seen my confused look when I glanced over at her, because she said, “That’s the baby nurse.”
After my waters went, I actually got a little bit of a break. The contractions were no longer insanely pressurized and the pain was bad but manageable again. Unfortunately, my body went back to trying to push involuntarily, and that became the worst part of my labor because I wasn’t fully dilated yet. There was a “lip” of cervix that just would not go away, and my body was slamming my baby’s head into that. The pain became excruciating, and I began to scream for the first time in the labor. I was screaming and praying and not caring who heard me, and I’ve never screamed like that before in my life. They were telling me not to push, and I had no idea how to get my body to stop. My doula was trying to coach me on how to force myself to stop, but I’m not sure I was any good at it.
They finally said that I could push, and brought the squat bar in so I could try different positions. I had tried all-fours earlier and did not like it. I also tried squatting with the squat bar and was not finding it effective, so they put me on my side. As for what pushing felt like: I didn’t feel the “ring of fire” that so many women talk about. It just felt like there was something huge and hard stuck in there that wasn’t supposed to be there, and I wanted it to come out. It was painful but less painful than the cervix-slamming had been.
I don’t think I had been pushing very long, but it sounded like people were starting to get concerned. My doula later confirmed that my son’s heartbeat was starting to decelerate, though they weren’t telling me that at the time. I heard my doctor’s attending say, “If you don’t get the baby out on this push, I’m going to have to use the vacuum.” I thought I had heard them say “episiotomy” at some point, and had screamed “No episiotomy!”, but they said they weren’t talking about doing one. When I failed to get him out on that last push, she said “I need your permission to use the vacuum,” and I said yes. They tried the vacuum on my side for one contraction, and when that did not work, they flipped me onto my back and pushed my legs up. I was surprised to find myself in lithotomy after dreaming about delivering in another position for months, but I was getting desperate and worried that they were about to call for a c-section.
I did one more push on my back assisted by the vacuum, and I felt my baby burst out. I don’t even think it took a second push for the body; the head and body all came out in one push. I immediately heard two things:
My husband said, “It’s a boy.”
And my son started to cry.
To be concluded…