That day went well, despite my lack of sleep. I enjoyed getting to see my mother and we got right to work on finishing all the cleaning projects I had been attempting to complete single-handedly (okay, I used two hands. Also, Ben would help when he was home). My mother is like a force of nature! And praise God for it because over the next several days "us" cleaning turned more and more into "her" cleaning while I tried to sleep or lounge in some manner. I was pretty consistently tired in the days leading up to D-day because almost every time I rested my body decided it was time for more contractions.
It seemed like almost every morning I would wake up (if I got to sleep at all) with news of how many hours I'd had contractions the previous evening and how convinced I had been each night that this was the time we would be heading to the hospital. It was especially convincing because of how increasingly intense (read: "painful") the contractions were. Then each night would end in disappointment as my contractions would cease with the arrival of daylight and I would spend another day tired. It's not that I didn't rest a lot, I definitely did, and I am a huge proponent for naps even when someone is not pregnant or a new mother -- it's just that napping usually brought on at least one very painful contraction that would wake me up, and that'd be it! I'd be awake with no going back.
Finally, on the morning of 9/20, I knew this had to be it. My contractions were equally as painful as I recall them being when I was at least 6cm dilated in my previous two deliveries. I timed them. They were more regular than they had ever been. I got out of bed and walked around and they stayed consistent! The spacing moved closer and closer from 10 minutes apart to 5-7 minutes apart. At 5:30am I made the call to wake up the household so we could head to the hospital. A friend from church graciously took Liam and Darcie in so we could go do the day's hard work (thank you, Christine!).
Based on my previous two experiences I fully expected to have Adelaide by noon. I was aware that it was in no way guaranteed that this would happen, but given the "leg up" I had supposedly been getting I was sure that now that I was in "real" labor things would progress quickly. You can imagine my chagrin then when we arrived at the hospital and I was only (barely) 4cm dilated, not the 6cm+ I had thought. To add insult to injury my contractions stopped! So we did what any woman trying to jump start or progress labor does: we walked. We walked a lot. Despite the tiny, warren-like qualities of the labor and delivery wing I walked those halls like I was on a mission (which I was). The contractions continued to come so long as I was walking, but if I sat or stood still for any length of time they would stop again. We were given the choice between walking at the hospital some more or getting discharged so I could walk wherever I wanted. We opted for the latter and went to the mall across the street.
I had a fun time shopping! I did manage to get some more contractions via walking around but they were not regular enough to return to the hospital. I was starting to suspect the culprit for all this trouble was my level of tiredness. Too many nights (and nap times) in a row of not getting enough sleep. Thankfully my mom and husband were very gracious and kept up good spirits when I suggested we go home and take a nap. It seemed clear to everyone that I was indeed in labor, my body just didn't want to acknowledge it for the moment.
Taking a nap really did the trick. I started contracting after two hours of lovely sleep and they were getting toward the high end of the pain scale in intensity. The contractions were 5-7 minutes apart and I decided to walk around the house some more to see if they would become more regular. They did! They jumped to around 3 minutes apart and I was feeling pressure low in my pelvis. I was sure that I was at least 8cm and that if things picked up I could only be a couple hours from pushing! We returned triumphantly to the hospital.
That's when I found out I was only 6.5cm dilated and not anywhere near pushing. Also, once in the hospital, my contractions slowed down once more. That was okay though, we could do this! I had a great team who helped rally my spirits. My contractions were about 7 minute apart but at least they were consistently coming! And they were clearly painful enough to be doing good work. After almost four hours of hard laboring I was looking forward to getting my progress checked and having some good news. My contractions were still 7 minutes apart but I was feeling increased pressure in my pelvis and the contractions were so painful that I knew we were getting close to pushing -- which was just as well because I was almost out of juice. Not the literal kind, there was plenty of that stocked in the snack room, but the emotional & physical kind that gets you through tough situations. It was then that we found out that I had only progressed a single centimeter. We were nowhere close to pushing!
At this rate I would be laboring all night, no question. The doctor offered to break my water, which was certain to make the contractions more painful, but if my body somehow resisted being regular even after taking this measure I knew the dreaded Pitocin was next on the horizon, and there was even a faint hint of possible c-section in the mist. Furthermore, despite having snuck food at different points during the labor, I was so weak from how hard and prolonged labor had been that I was trembling and weak. The truth was that I hadn't just been in labor since that afternoon, or even 3:00 that morning, and I didn't have a "leg up" from the contractions before that day; I had been in labor since the previous Thursday (5 days beforehand) with weird and demoralizing breaks in between laboring sessions. I was exhausted in every sense of the word. It was then that I said the words I never thought would sincerely cross my lips.
"You want an epidural? Are you sure?" my husband asked. I had spent months, if not years, telling my husband never to let me talk myself into an epidural. It was a decision no one, least of all myself, was comfortable with.What I knew for certain was that even if it had been time to push at that very moment, I would have barely made it through. Though my will power was strong, I was too physically weakened. The reality of having to choose between dragging out labor for longer, or making it even more intense with the possibility of unwanted complications, made me face some hard truths. I was letting my pride impede the delivery of my daughter. I delivered both my previous two children without epidurals and I labored mostly in silence, with low lights, etc. It was common for nurses to remark how well they thought I handled laboring. Perhaps they say that to everyone, I don't know, but it's very encouraging to hear when you're in labor. I was especially pleased with how proud I made my husband with each successful, natural childbirth. Saying that I wanted an epidural was like admitting defeat. In my mind, Ben could no longer be proud of me if I got one and I did not want that. I wanted his praise. But I could no longer deny that I needed serious help in the form of some medical intervention, so, in a spectacular display of weeping, I announced that I was indeed getting an epidural.
I'm not sure what this all looked like to my husband and mom. They probably thought I had some break with reality. I wanted an epidural? Hadn't I spent years talking about the health benefits of not getting one? Sure, I knew friends and family who had gotten them and even thought they had made wise decisions for themselves, but I was not an epidural person. Or so I thought.
Turns out getting an epidural was (har, har, har) just what the doctor ordered. My body had been too exhausted to labor properly and I was too worn out to relax enough to even let my contractions do their business. Once I had the epidural my contractions sped up to 3 minutes apart and I shot to 9.5cm dilation within an hour. They broke my water for me then and within minutes it was time to push! Three painless pushes later and my daughter was born. I cried again (tears of joy this time, of course). We had a beautiful, perfect baby girl with a full head of hair! Praise the Lord!
It has been a big lesson in swallowing my pride and learning to trust the Lord's timing and looking to Him -- not the praise of other people -- for my validation. Not only was I reinforced in an important life lesson through this experience, but I also got a beautiful daughter! And Percocet. I like the daughter best though.
Also, as a note, my husband is still very proud of me and cheers me on like I am champion among women. I am so thankful for Ben and his support! And thankful for my mother and all her hard work! I couldn't have done it, epidural or not, without you two.