I need to get this down on “paper” before the gift of time dulls the experience.
Let’s cut to the chase shall we. I started having contractions late Saturday (May 7) night. They were not too strong and coming really infrequently (maybe one or two an hour), but they were definitely contractions and I knew that we were on our way (finally!), I had been assured by my doctor that this little lady would come quickly and I would not be subjected the the 36 (!) hours of labor that Aiman put me through (for that story, go here) so I was pretty pumped to finally be in labor.
By Sunday morning at about 10, the contractions were getting stronger and had established themselves at about 6 minutes apart. I thought it might be time to head to the hospital so I packed up the last few things I needed for the trip, told Riaz and Bronwyn it was probably time to go soon and even called the grandparents to let them know we were heading to the hospital. Clearly a big mistake. It was at this point that my contractions stopped — like — completely. I failed to have a single contraction for probably 3 hours. To say I was annoyed is a massive understatement.
Around 2:00, I dragged Bronwyn and Aiman out for a walk with me and I did my best to power walk the baby out. I did have a few contractions during the walk, but nothing as strong as they had been that morning. I continued to have a few intermittent contractions throughout the day, but again, nothing to write home about. That night I forced myself to close my eyes and actually get some sleep. If my experience with Aiman taught me anything it is that labor is exhausting and if I could get some sleep, I should.
The next morning (Monday, May 9), I put a call into the doctor. The little lady had not been moving around as much and I was worried that contracting for so long was stressing her out. He told me I should come in and check to see how things were going.
We got to the doctor’s office around 11, he took one look at me and said something along the lines of women in active labor have a particular kind of look, and you ain’t got that look lady (har har har). I took this to mean that he thought the contractions were all in my head and I was going to be sent home. Despite not having the requisite “look” the doctor did an exam and determined that, lo and behold, I actually DO know what contractions feel like and I was, in fact, 6 centimeters dilated. Yipee! Head to the hospital now, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
The hospital is just about 5 minutes from the doctor’s office so we drove over and I proceeded to try to check in, they asked me to wait in the lobby for awhile, again, apparently because I didn’t have the “look.” I told them that no, I really was in labor and was in fact having reasonably painful contractions and to please just take me up to the maternity wing NOW. They finally obliged and I was in my room in about 15 minutes. There was a bit of a language barrier with the nurses, but enough of them spoke good English that we muddled through. The procedures were all basically the same as in the states except that everything (labor, delivery and recovery) were all in the same room (with Aiman I labored and delivered in one room and recovered in another). They hooked me up to the fetal monitors and checked that everything was going ok. But (unlike in the states) when I asked them to remove the monitors (because they were so effing uncomfortable) they just did it. Also different from the states — no saline drip. This was a a revelation. I got the saline drip basically as soon as I stepped foot in the hospital to have Aiman and I hated the damn thing. Not only did the IV itch like crazy, the saline is kept at room temperature which meant that the saline cooled me from the inside out causing me to shake uncontrollably. The saline drip is the devil.
But I digress.
I continued to have contractions at the hospital, but they were still totally inconsistent. At one point, they were really close together, but then they would spread out again, they were strong, but not OH MY GOD! strong. This is exactly the same thing that happened with Aiman. I don’t know what is wrong with my body, but it just does not want me to have labors that last a reasonable length.
After a couple of hours of this, the doctor came by to check on me. I had told him that I did not want drugs of any sort and he was on board. But, when he came to see me he gave me a look like, I know you don’t want pitocin, but if I don’t give it to you, you will be in labor for another day. And he was probably right. So I caved, and let them give me the pitocin at probably around 3:00.
After that the contractions started coming faster and stronger. There was probably 30 minutes or so of strong, but manageable contractions, before all the breathing and visualization techniques I had been using to deal with the pain of labor gave out and I was just in delirium inducing agony.
Throughout the laboring process I had been visualizing this really peaceful scene from my childhood. It sounds corny, but it really seemed to help me get through the contractions. Unfortunately, after 30 minutes of pitocin, I’d bring the scene to mind and it would just turn into some kind of mushy, vibrating nightmare — I felt like I was in that movie Inception, except without all the hotness that is Leonardo DiCaprio (is it weird I still have a high school crush on him?)
At one point one of the nurses came in and put her hand on my head and just breathed with me, that calmed me down and helped get me through the next 30 minutes or so. It also sort of guided Riaz on what to do to help me out and for the rest of the labor he was an absolute champ. I would have got the baby out without him by my side, but it would have been much, much more difficult. He was awesome.
The hour or so before I started to push was the most painful 60 minutes of my life. I know everyone wants to hear how magical natural childbirth is, and I mean, sure it is a pretty awesome experience, but it hurts. It hurts a lot. Now that I am a week away from it, I guess the pain is just a memory, but I haven’t just forgotten how much it hurt. People who say you forget the pain are LIARS! You don’t forget that kind of pain, I don’t care how awesomely beautiful your new baby is (and mine is awesomely beautiful!) The only way I can describe it is that it felt like someone was tearing me open from the inside out. It was just so much more painful than I could have ever imagined.
At probably around 4ish, the doctor came in, checked me out and said I was fully dilated. My water hadn’t broken yet, so he did it for me and we were ready to push. I started on my back, but the doctor suggested that Riaz prop me up while I did sort of a modified squatting maneuver. That worked well for awhile, but I think my legs were just too tired to make it very effective. Then the doc suggested all fours on the bed. I did this for a push or two, but I was really just too self-conscious about my butt hanging out in the air to do that for very long (yes, I realize the irony of that statement considering what was going on in my nether regions). Finally, I got back on my back and did the final bit of serious pushing.
Like a lot of ladies, I was happy to get to the pushing stage. It didn’t hurt as much to push and the contractions came farther apart so I had a chance to collect myself in between.
Another side note about the differences between the U.S. and Costa Rica — At one point in the middle of the serious pushing I was doing, my doctor’s phone rang. He proceeded to answer said phone and carry on a jovial conversation in Spanish in which there was a lot of fast talking and laughing. I don’t remember this but apparently the on-call pediatrician was also answering texts and two of the nurses were standing in a corner telling jokes. All I can say is … not cool Costa Rica, not cool at all.
Anyway, I think I pushed for a total of about 45 minutes to an hour before Sofia made her appearance. The last few pushes were pretty painful, but for me, they were nothing compared to the last hour before the pushing stage. She didn’t cry right away, but the doctor, nurses and pediatrician all kept telling me (in Spanish) that she was fine. And she was.
She was 8 pounds, 12 ounces and nearly 21 inches long. Costa Ricans are a small people and I don’t think they get many babies that size in the hospital because all of the nurses and doctors kept saying how huge she was and at least 4 different nurses came to my room with their eyebrows raised and said “natural?” in totally incredulous voices as if to say they couldn’t believe a human being could birth a nearly 9 pound baby. For the day I was at the hospital I was definitely some kind of super star. Also funny, Sofia had to endure probably 4 glucose tests to make sure she wasn’t diabetic. I kept telling the nurses that her parents were mucho grande and that she was fine, but I guess they just wanted to be sure.
So there you have it … my (mostly) natural birth story. So now the question on everyone’s minds? I’ve done it with the epidural and without so what will I do if baby number 3 comes around? For the first few days after the birth I would have said EPIDURAL! Like seriously, EPIDURAL! (!!!) I don’t need that kind of pain in my life again. But, now that I am a few days away from it … I don’t know. We’ll see. I have healed slightly faster from this birth than with Aiman’s, Sofia is really very alert (though I can’t say that has anything to do with the natural childbirth), and (probably most importantly) Riaz was totally awestruck by the whole experience and he has literally been fawning over me for the last week, which I could learn to live with. So … I guess just check back in a few years and we’ll see how we go.
But for now … behold … beautiful baby Sofia!