Part the First is here.
Part the Second is here.
As much as I was looking forward to not being pregnant anymore, I was concerned about being induced. First of all, being induced obviously meant that I’d be on Pitocin immediately, and since Pitocin was the trigger for getting the epidural the first time, I was afraid that my hypnobirthing trance would not be able to handle the Pitocin-heightened contractions. I was also worried about having to be on the monitor at all times, but less so because I was always lying on my back when I practiced my trances anyway. Still, I was determined to take the hypnobirthing as far as I could.
We arrived at the hospital at about 7:00 and headed up to the maternity ward. (May I take a moment here to comment on how odd it is to walk contraction-free into a hospital and know that you will be giving birth later that day? Because it is very odd.) It took a bit longer than I thought to get fully started, but by 8:00, my doctor was in inquiring about my last prenatal visit. (I go to a group practice, and he was not the one who had seen me.) I asked him what, exactly, they would be doing to me besides administering Pitocin, and he said it depends. “How many centimeters were you last time?” he asked.
“Zero,” I replied.
“ZERO?” he said, a bit surprised. “Who did the exam?”
“Judy,” I told him. He relaxed a bit at this news, and when he checked my cervix a few seconds later, I understood why. Judy is a nurse practitioner, and her exam the week before was essentially painless. Mildly uncomfortable, yes, but not any worse than a typical pelvic exam. This time, however, I thought the doctor’s fingers were going to come out of the top of my head.
“You’re at four,” he told me, as he scraped my membranes to get the ball rolling. “I doubt you were at zero last week. Judy probably just didn’t want to make you suffer. Your cervix is way up there.”
“LUCKY LUCKY ME!” I shouted. Except I didn’t really, because I am pathologically polite. I probably thanked him. Still, I was relieved that I had already made some progress, because zero centimeters at eight days post-date is really unacceptable, don’t you think?
The doctor started the Pitocin drip and left, and I settled down to get the hypnobirthing party started. Andrew had packed all the scripts, but since we hadn’t really been practicing together, I just wanted to listen to my hypnobirthing recording to get into the zone. The problem there was that the recording was only about thirty minutes long, and I anticipated being in labor slightly longer than thirty minutes. So once I was in a sort of floaty trance thanks to the hypnobirthing track, I switched over to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. You might think this is an odd choice, but, in fact, nothing puts me into a trance faster than listening to Jim Dale read the works of J.K. Rowling. Andrew and I listened to the books on our numerous and endless car trips up and down the east coast while we were in grad school, and it never failed to put me to sleep, as long as I was not the one driving. I would get as far as, “Listening Library presents J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the” and then….. zzzzzzzzzz. It was like magic.
I spent the next three or so hours floating on a cloud of Jim Dale and Harry Potter, coming out occasionally to check in with Andrew. I have no idea what he was doing at this point. I think reading a book. I breathed my way through each contraction, instructing Andrew that he was not to tell me what numbers they were registering on the monitor. I remembered that the contractions were hitting “45” or so when I asked for the epidural with Jack, and I didn’t need any psychological triggers to hinder my hypnobirthing success.
Everything went swimmingly until about 11:00. The doctor checked my progress at, and I was at “five or six centimeters” by then. He upped my Pitocin a skooch and by 11:30 I was feeling it. I told my nurse I might vomit (vomiting is a running theme throughout my pregnancies), and she made me roll over onto my left side which didn’t help me with my hypnosis at all. But even though the contractions were definitely still painful despite the promises of hypnobirthing, the critical thing is that I was able to keep myself relaxed. Miserable, yes. Tense, no. I breathed my way through several more contractions, but by 11:45 I decided I wanted the epidural again.
I admit that I felt a small sense of failure, but only a small one. “Don’t worry about it,” my nurse told me. “A lot of times, the epidural speeds things up, because it helps you stay relaxed,” she added, as she supported me while the anesthesiologist did his thing.
That was at 12:00. At 12:10, my left side was numb, but I still had quite a bit of feeling on my right side, and rolled over to my right side to get the drugs to spread on the advice of the anesthesiologist. At 12:15, my nurse went on her lunch break, and the relief nurse questioned my judgment about lying on my right side. “It might drain the drug from your left side,” she said. I ignored her. At 12:20, I said, “I think I want to roll back onto my back. I feel… something.”
I didn’t know how to describe the sensation. I thought it was just the epidural-numbed contractions because I was certain that I was HOURS away from delivery. After all, Jack was born almost eleven hours after I got the epidural, and, as everyone knows, all deliveries are the same.
“Is it pressure?” the nurse asked me, as she helped me reposition myself. “Do you feel pressure?”
As soon as she said the word, I knew that pressure was exactly what I was feeling. “Yes! Yes! I feel pressure!” But I tried to keep myself from getting too excited, because the pressure couldn’t POSSIBLY be from the baby’s head, since I was, as noted, hours and hours away from delivery. I’d only gotten the epidural fifteen minutes ago! It hadn’t even fully taken yet! But the increased bustle in the delivery room suggested otherwise.
By 12:30, I was pushing. I pushed for three hours with Jack after having labored for over twenty, and was so drained of energy by the end that my doctor had to use forceps. Jack came out with a bruise and a laceration on his right cheek, a laceration which left a faint scar, despite all the promises that it would heal right up. Even though I’m the only one who ever notices that scar, and even though I have to search for it because it is so faint, I’ve never quite fully forgiven myself, silly as that may be. I was determined not to let it happen again, and I pushed with all my might.
“Wait for the contraction! Let the contraction help!” said my doctor. “I don’t want to!” I cried, much to the amusement of Andrew who wisely did not laugh.
“Is she almost out?” I asked, pretty sure of the answer. “Reach down and feel her head,” said the doctor.
That was pretty cool.
I pushed once, maybe twice more, and then watched her slide right into their waiting arms. It was 12:40.
Andrew and I looked at each other, and I wept in amazement and disbelief that it was over, that she was here. Andrew cut the cord and the next few minutes passed in a blurry haze of lusty cries (Apgar scores: 9 and 9), and some activity in my nether regions which I ignored because of the soft, tiny, beautiful baby girl they had just handed me. So so soft! Newborn babies’ skin is softer than anything you can imagine.
“Did you get to finish your lunch?” I asked my nurse while Andrew took a turn holding Nora Frances who would not get her name for another day at least.
“You know, when I said the epidural speeds things up, I didn’t mean by THAT much,” she told me.