Well, wouldn't you know it, homeopathic remedies do work! We spent that night at my parents again so that we'd be near the birth center just in case. The next day, I wasn't having contractions, but I thought it was possible my water had broken. So I called and asked if I could come in and have it checked before I drove an hour home only to wonder if we should have stayed in town. I figured I was probably wrong though, so we went ahead and packed up as if we were going to leave.
A quick stop at the birth center revealed that, while my water hadn't broken, I was a good 4 cms dilated and in a great place to have a baby that day! The midwives said to go somewhere close and come back when contractions picked up.
We headed back to my parents' house (they were quite surprised to see us!) and settled in to wait for things to start happening. Mon Amour turned on his computer so he could do a little work and I paced/lounged around the house while the contractions started to pick up.
Before long they seemed pretty consistent - 5-6 minutes apart and getting stronger. I interrupted Mon Amour's conference call and we headed off to the Birth Center again. This time, for the real thing. My sister came along to be there for the big event.
I don't remember exactly, but I think I was only about 5 cms when we arrived. They said we could stay, or go and come back later, whichever we preferred. I was feeling terribly indecisive, so Mon Amour decided we should stay. I believe it was about 3 or 3:30 pm when we officially settled into a room at the birth center.
For a couple hours I bounced around on a birthing ball. Chatting with Mon Amour and my sister between contractions and focusing during contractions. Mon Amour and my sister were doing a lovely job keeping track of the contractions on their handy dandy app, and kept updating me when my stats got more impressive. "Now they are averaging 5mins 36 seconds apart!"
I think a part of me still didn't believe that this was "it" and I don't think I really shifted into 'go-mode'. I felt kind of silly being there, and wasn’t really taking my own pain seriously. This may have been the beginning of my undoing in this labor. I believe being mentally engaged is essential to pain management, and I most certainly was not.
One huge difference about delivering at the birth center vs a hospital is that they actually allow, nay, insist that you to eat and drink. I didn't really feel like eating, but the nurses and midwives kept strongly encouraging me to do so. Apple juice and trail mix (truthfully, mostly the raisins and M& Ms from it) were my snacks of choice. At some point I realized something that totally makes sense, but hadn't occur to me until then; when you drink during labor, you also have to pee during labor. Having not drunk anything in my previous labors (ice chips are more obnoxious than they are worth), this was new to me. Just something random that I learned.
Eventually the contractions were hard enough that the breaks in between felt more like recovery time then rest time. Which is a feeling that I don’t remember with my past pregnancies until the very very end. I don’t know if I realized it then, but looking back, I see how my ability to manage the pain was fading fast. It’s got to be over soon, I started to think. With my previous labors as the pain increased, I figured it was going to be long and it was going to get worse; so I focused and just dealt with each one individually. With this one as the pain got worse, I hoped/assumed it was nearly over and I just wished for the moment when it would shift into overdrive and be done with.
This seemed like a good time to fill up the pool. Truth be told, I was a little hesitant to get in lest it slow labor down, but I was convinced to get in and I am sure glad I was! Being in the water was AMAZING! Where moments before, I was feeling mildly miserable even between contractions, suddenly I felt 100% fine between contractions. In fact, I felt so fine in between contractions, it seemed a little silly to be sitting in the water when I wasn't having a contraction. The contractions themselves were so much better. In the water it was so much easier to tell what my body was doing. The contractions were very clear and focused rather than being an all over generalized kind of pain.
Despite the amazingness of the water the contractions were getting pretty intense. We asked midwife M to come in a check on me. She sat with me for a while. Again, I don't remember how dilated I was when she checked me, but I suspect I was entering transition because I started to have those thoughts of "I can't do this". And after a contraction I felt like I wanted to cry. At this point, perhaps I should have given my labor coaches permission to use their firm voices and tell me to keep it together. I remember recalling the doula I had at Hibou’s birth snapping at me to “don’t cry”; I hated her for such a ferocious command at the time, but in retrospect, crying at that moment would have been a terrible thing. Control was slipping away from me…
I asked midwife M if she thought it wouldn't be much longer and she used some classic midwife line about "not knowing when, but knowing we were getting closer". I think I tried to pretend that was encouraging but I knew that was code for "It could still be many hours", and my heart sank.
Shortly there after it really shifted into high gear. Even in the water I could no longer find a comfortable position. I ended up on my hands and knees for most of the contractions. Resting my head on the side of the tub between contractions. Mon Amour kept me well stocked with cool wash rags, which, as with past labors, was just what I needed.
In my previous, lightening fast labors, I recall having a few (perhaps as many as a handful, though probably less) of contractions that felt really and truly 100% excruciating, before I felt the urge to push (and by urge, I mean uncontrollable pushing). Then it was 2 incredible pushes, and - shazam - it was over.
This time around with every terrible contraction I kept waiting for my body to take over and the pushing to just happen! But it wasn't happening. And with each passing contraction I started to panic a little bit more. Why wasn't the pushing just taking over! It was time to push and be done!
At last (and really, not that much later...we were still progressing quickly by normal standards), I thought I felt the hint of a desire to push. So, being desperate to be done, I tried pushing. This was the first time I felt like pushing was largely voluntary. I could tell it wasn't as effective. The next contraction or two I pushed again, trying to keep it together, though I think I was full on screaming with the contractions at this point. I was ready to be done.
Can you see him? I asked (or perhaps begged)
Not yet, dear; but I know he's coming. (Another thing midwives say to try and be encouraging but that is really a thinly veiled "it could still be a while")
I believe that's the point at which I totally panicked. I needed to be done. In previous labors I had had that moment where you think you are going to die; it's short lived, and you survive. This time I am pretty sure I was actually convinced of it. Between pushing contractions, I wasn’t resting; I couldn't think straight. I just wanted to get away from the pain. If I could have climbed out of that tub and run away from it all, I would have. A contraction would come again and all I knew was that I needed to get him out right then. I pushed with everything I had; and yes, screaming does make it seem more effective.
3 or 4 pushes later his head was out. The mere seconds (and it was just seconds, I am sure, though it felt much longer) of time between that and when I pushed and his whole body was born were terrible. I heard someone say "He's here" and all I could think was "They must be lying, because it still hurts".
With the next push, he really was here! Up he came through the water and into my arms and I began to weep with joy and relief. He was here. A moment before I had felt like I was going to die from the pain, now I literally felt like I was going to collapse from happiness. I have no idea what anyone else was doing; I wasn't even really aware of what I was doing I don't think. Holding him felt instinctive; as compulsive as the contractions had been in a way. He was here and I was not letting go. The joy I felt in that moment, like the panic of the moment before, wasn’t just emotional; it was physical. An amazing amazing moment that there really are no words for. It was 8:41pm
When we first checked into the birth center, the nurse gave me a heads up that after the baby was born, I'd have to move from the pool to the bed. I looked at her like she was crazy and was said "I am assuming I'll have lots of help for that". Remembering back to that shaky exhausted first moment post-birth with the girls, I didn't think there was anyway I was going to be able to manage that without serious help. Moments after Triton was born, they told me it was time to head to the bed. (It seems they usually let you wait a little longer, but they had a bleeding situation they wanted to look at pretty urgently.) And I have no idea how it actually happened or how much support I really got, but I felt like I floated on a cloud from the pool to the bed. If they'd asked me to fly, I am pretty sure I would have given it a try; I was pretty high on happiness and hormones.
Unfortunately, my hormone high was burst pretty abruptly. The placenta was delivered without too much trouble - though I didn't actually have to push, which is not something I remember having to do previously. And sadly, I had torn pretty badly (only 2nd degree this time); so what followed was an hour and a half of the most unpleasant repair-work ever. Apparently it was a "creative tear" so the fix up job was not straight forward. The bleeding also wasn't slowing up like they wanted it too, so they started me on some pitocin. And they couldn't get the IV in me. The first one missed the vein and left me with a little bruise on the back of my hand. The 2nd one didn't go in right, so I had to hold my arm still while someone held the IV in place so the pitocin would actually drip.
I tried to focus on Triton (who, wonderfully, was still in my arms and was even trying pretty successfully to nurse!). But without the use of my one arm, and as time kept stretching on and on, I was waaaay past the point of being distracted and just wanted it to be over! Being oh so creative with my outbursts, I am pretty sure I simply repeated "ow" over and over again, occasionally looking and Triton and saying "Momma's tired of being poked". I really do hate needles. And it didn’t hurt all that bad; the worse part was just that it seemed never ending.
At last it was over and with the help of about a million pillows, I got comfortably settled in with my little man.