We went to our 39th week OB appointment in the morning. Dr. Karen Wells examined me and announced that I was now 4 cm dilated and 95% effaced. She let us know that I was on the schedule for my induction on the 31st, but she was obviously doubting we would need to wait that long. Since we live far away from the hospital, we went over some "what if we don't have time to get to the hospital" procedures. As we were leaving, Karen joked that since she happens to be on call that night as well as on Christmas, perhaps we will see her soon. She clearly did not think we would make it to the 31st.
Chris went to work just as a terrific windstorm blew into the area. At around 11 AM the power began to fluctuate on and off. A little after noon it went out and didn't come back on. So there I was: an hour away from the hospital, alone, and with no power. The phone lines were still working, but I kept the cell phone next to me at all times, just in case. I was expecting to go into labor at any moment just because it would be rather inconvenient. Chris came home early as a result and we filled all our oil lamps and prepared for a night without power.
Still no power. Chris decided it would be a good idea to get the generator going so that we could have some heat. First, he built a nice cozy fire in the library wood stove and I "moved in" with a book. Then he worked on our generator problem, which involved a bit of rewiring and making a new plug. We had already purchased all the parts we needed, but what should have been simple turned into a many hour project. In the end, Chris triumphed and we had power wherever we needed it at any given time.
Power came back on in the morning. We spent the day in "wait" mode. We even installed and played an entire video game. I was starting to get antsy because the more that I thought about it, the more I was uncertain about whether or not I wanted to be induced. We talked and agonized over this some more (which we had been doing for weeks now). I was especially disturbed because Rachelle, my nurse, had called to reconfirm the induction for the 31st and had told me I would be called the night before the induction with instructions and a time for when to be at the hospital. I asked her what approximate time to expect and she said "around 7 o'clock in the morning".
Since I am not a morning person, and we would have to wake up at 5 am in order to get to the hospital by 7, I was certain that such an early wake up/driving time would make me very nauseated and that I would be ill even before I went into labor. After much discussion, Chris and I agreed that I would call the doctor in the morning and discuss postponing the induction until January 2nd, in order to give the baby a chance to "decide on his own" when he wanted to be born, still have a cool birth date, and not wait too long to be induced as I was more than ready to be done with this phase of my life.
December 30th (Middle of the night):
Satisfied that we had finally reached a conclusion I could live with, we started to think about heading to bed.
Meanwhile, I had been constipated for the last 3 days and had been taking Ex-Lax regularly, but to no effect. Earlier that evening I finally began to feel the effects of the pills, much to my relief. After finally getting into bed at around 2:30, I couldn't sleep as my mind kept returning to the induction issue. I was filled with guilt at wanting to change things since I knew Karen had already gone through some trouble to schedule a "holiday" induction for me. So after tossing and turning for an hour, when I suddenly found myself in serious pain, the only thing that occurred to me was that the Ex-Lax was continuing to work and that I may have taken one too many. But caution told me to ask Chris what time it was: 3:34 AM.
I waddled off to the bathroom, but with no success and the pain seemed to pass, so I thought "gas". I waddled back into bed and finally got settled in when another pain hit me. Running to the bathroom again without having had a chance to get warm from last time, I shivered uncontrollably in the cool night air. It was 3:39 AM. Once again the pain passed, and somewhat confused, I waddled back to bed again. This time I didn't have enough time to get properly positioned and I jolted out of bed at 3:42 AM. Just as I made it to the bathroom, I felt what I simply knew was my water breaking.
By this point Chris was suddenly dressed. I stayed on the toilet cringing in pain and shivering with cold as he held me and we talked about what to do next. He was also timing the contractions, which appeared to be coming like clockwork every 3 minutes. In all of our parenting classes we have always been told that we should head to the hospital when contractions were around 5-7 minutes apart; the fact that they were already 3 minutes apart really worried him (though he didn't show it). He wanted to get me dressed and into the car right away, but I was so frozen and so much in pain that all I wanted to do was crawl into the bathtub and get warm. I convinced Chris that it was the best course of action for me to soak while he brought the remaining bags from the house into the Jeep and warmed up the car so that it wouldn't be freezing. He came back every 3 minutes to hold me while I breathed deeply and attempted to convince myself that once I was warm there would be less pain. Wishful thinking.
When the car was warm, in between contractions Chris helped me out of the tub, dressed me, bundled me into the Jeep and we were on our way. By this time it was about 4:45 AM. He called the hospital as we were driving, as well as his Dad, my Mom, my Dad, and Sophia. It was all I could do to stay focused on my breathing exercises and to try to relax.
We arrived at the hospital at around 5:30 AM. The doors were open, since they were expecting us, but just at that moment there was no one at the desk and a contraction hit me. I collapsed to the floor, where I tried to find a more comfortable position on all fours and then on my side. When a nurse showed up with a wheel chair, she clearly did not believe that I was very far along since the contractions had just started a while ago, so she took me into an observation room to chart the contractions. The monitor soon reported that my contractions were, in fact, now approximately 2 minutes apart. I was also "almost 6 cm" dilated and "paper thin". It was clearly time to move me into a real Labor and Delivery Room.
Once in my hotel-room-like LDR at Evergreen Hospital, all I could think of was getting back into the bathtub. Chuck, Sandy, and Sophia arrived at approximately the same time. My hypno-birthing breathing exercises were no longer enough to keep me sane. I invented my own pain mitigation technique by accident, however. I discovered that if I concentrated, I could inhale very slowly and deeply and then exhale slowly by effectively sustaining a single loud tone that did not vary in pitch. This probably sounded really strange to everyone around, but it really helped me. The contractions were more and more frequent and I had virtually no time to rest in between them. The nurse checked and rechecked me what seemed like a lot of times and I began to feel like I wasn't making any progress. The Jacuzzi tub was keeping my brain from exploding, but I was losing it and all thoughts of having a natural childbirth began to evaporate. I began questioning whether or not I was insane for wanting to do this naturally. Chris held me and kept reminding me how important it was to me to do this naturally, and that with each contraction I was one step closer to having our baby. All I could think was "I can't do this".
At some point the nurse announced that I was at 9 cm and that I had to get out of the tub. I began to feel my body convulsing a little bit at the end of each contraction, which worried the nurse, who thought I was going to start pushing and have the baby in the tub. Somewhat relieved that I was at 9 cm, I joked that at least I was far enough along that it was too late for me to get an epidural, since most hospitals won't give you one once you are past 7-8 cm or so. Unfortunately, there had been no time for the nurses to read through my birth plan, so she unknowingly caused me a great deal of grief by saying "Oh, no, not at all, we can give you an epidural any time, if you want". That was NOT what I wanted to hear and I felt my resolve fall apart as I endured the pain of getting out of the tub, drying off, and getting into bed in between contractions that were so frequent I was essentially in constant pain. I found myself begging for the pain to stop, and really needing for the pain to stop, though Chris says I never actually asked for an epidural.
Back on the bed, the next few contractions did nothing to get me closer to 10 cm, and I was definitely losing it. The nurse suggested that during the next contraction she could manually help stretch me out to 10 cm and then I could start pushing. Eager for a change in status, I agreed and it worked.
For the next two hours I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was pretty frustrating because the baby kept rocking back and forth inside of my pelvis. I couldn't feel any progress after a while and it was getting more and more frustrating. At some point Karen arrived even though it was her day off. She helped direct my pushing in specific ways, which made all the difference to me. Poor Sandy was recruited to help hold my head during each set of pushes. I finally started to figure out what I needed to be doing to make more and more progress, but I was exhausted by this time. No sleep and constant pain takes a toll on your body and mind and I felt myself getting weaker and weaker. Chris had been holding me and talking to me the whole time and both Karen and he could see that I was tired.
And then suddenly everyone could see a tiny bit of the baby's head. I could feel the excitement growing in the room. At some point Chris exclaimed, "He has hair!!!" Sophia added, "He has RED hair!" With this sudden burst of renewed excitement, Chris resumed talking to me with even greater vigor and telling me more and more how with each set of pushes the baby was getting closer and closer and how I really was making progress.
And hearing about progress was all that I needed to keep going. To everyone's surprise, I gathered the last bits of my strength and pushed 4 times in one contraction, which enabled Karen to get a hold of the baby's head. With that last bit of head, I felt like I was passing a watermelon. The rest of his body came out with a giant surge as my body collapsed in a teary, sweaty, exhausted, but very happy mess.
Almost immediately (after suction and a few seconds of clean up), the baby was placed on my belly and I watched as Chris cut his umbilical cord. We were then able to cuddle for the first time as a family. Karen sewed me up (I was slightly torn but less than if she had had to give me an episiotomy) and waited for the placenta to arrive as the baby was examined, weighed, measured. At this point everything felt like a whirlwind to me and in no time the baby was back in my arms and everyone kept asking, "So, what's his NAME?" So Chris and I took a good look together and confirmed that the name we had picked was in fact his name.
And thus, Dante Maximillian Hays was born on Dec 30th, 2002 at 9:04 AM after a very painful but reasonably quick five and a half hours of non-medicated labor.
I couldn't have done it without the coaching, support and love of my dear Husband, Chris, who knew that even when I said I couldn't stand the pain, I didn't really want that epidural.
Thank you also to Chuck, who videotaped the entire event, to Sandy who held my head and pushed so hard with me that her abdomen hurt for days afterwards, and to Sophia, who took tons of photographs (most of which I can't put on the web site :-)).