I was totally unprepared for my first labor and delivery experience. It was a very unplanned pregnancy, and I was so overwhelmed by the thought of being responsible for another human being that I spent very little time worrying about how that little person was actually going to get here. When my water broke six weeks before my due date, I headed to the hospital without attending a single childbirth class, without a birth plan, and with no idea at all what was ahead of me.
Fortunately a lot of planning isn’t a requirement for giving birth, and I brought into the world a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I was only in labor for about eight hours, and I delivered with no pain medication or medical intervention. The whole ordeal was pretty painful, of course, but I didn’t think I was too scarred by the experience—until five years later, when I found myself pregnant again.
About 20 minutes after I saw the positive line on my pregnancy test, I started to dread labor. I know that some people would consider my first labor to be short, but it still hurt, and no normal person looks forward to being in pain. I would have given anything to have been able to enjoy the ignorant bliss that saved me from months of worry during my first pregnancy.
I knew what was coming, though, so I spent all my time getting prepared. When I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was debating an epidural and concocting ways to trick my obstetrician into a C-section. Yes, the recovery might be worse, but I was perfectly willing to forgo the mind-bending contractions and sit in bed while my husband did everything for a few weeks afterward. (Note: I’m not saying these were logical thoughts. Now that my hormones have settled, I can see that my thoughts and behaviors were a little irrational.)
I decided that when my labor day arrived, I would have to overcome the fear of a needle in my back and have an epidural. (My OB shot down my C-section dreams pretty quickly. Good man, he is.) I’m not a fan of needles, so this was a big decision for me … but I’m also not a fan of pain, so on the other hand it was almost a no-brainer. My friends told beautiful tales of pain-free deliveries, and that’s what I wanted. No. Pain.
A week before my due date, after another a-little-too-high blood pressure reading in a series of several, my doctor mentioned induction. I was on board. In fact, I suggested I head over to the hospital right that very minute to get the process started. My pregnancy had been a long, uncomfortable one, and quite honestly I was ready to get it over with. Plus, my doctor felt sure that my body and baby were both ready for action; I was dilated to a 4 and my womb-mate was measuring almost 9 pounds, so he thought that rupturing my membranes would be all it would take to get the ball rolling. We agreed: No pain-inducing Pitocin unless absolutely necessary.
The day after that appointment I waddled into the hospital at 6 a.m., my husband and overnight bag in tow. My doctor did his part around 7 a.m. And for the next six hours I walked, watched TV, played cards … and my little man continued to hang out in his watery abode. Apparently he had different plans for the day.
Around 1 p.m., my doctor said the words I’d been fearing for the past few hours: “I think we need to start a Pitocin drip.” I had been having mild contractions all day but hadn’t really made any significant progress, so it was true induction time. About 30 minutes after the drug hit my veins, contractions started ripping across my abdomen so suddenly and violently I thought I would die. It felt nothing like my first labor; this was far, far worse. It didn’t take long before I asked for something for the pain, but I decided to hold off on the epidural a little longer. My nurse quickly put a shot of Demerol in my IV, which helped calm me down between contractions. The trouble was, there was very little time—about three seconds, it seemed—between my contractions. Within 20 minutes I decided that the pain had overtaken my fear of needles: I wanted an epidural, and I wanted it NOW.
My doctor checked my dilation before putting in the order for an epidural, and as luck would have it, a pain-free delivery was not in my cards. Apparently I was fully dilated, and although I insisted that I was not pushing anything until I was numb from the waist down, my body had a mind of its own. The urge to push was overwhelming, and surprisingly, it felt good to push. Before I was simply sitting there in pain; now I was doing something about it.
After just a few hard pushes, my sweet little Brice made his grand entrance into the world at 3:42 p.m., weighing 8 pounds and 10 ounces and sporting head full of dark hair. He was perfect, just like his big sister had been, and he was absolutely worth every second of pain.