Having failed to send myself into labour by spending my due date, 22 October, at an action-packed kids party at "Toobtown", my doctor Cynthia and I adopted a wait-and-see policy. My BP was excellent, my cervix was fully effaced (though not dilated) and a fetal stress test and ultrasound to monitor amniotic fluid levels were both fine the following Thursday, 4 days overdue. The stress test faithfully recorded the regular, mild contractions I was having, which of course stopped as soon as I got up.
Cynthia rang me the next morning and said eagerly "Well?". "Nothing's happening yet" I replied. She was sure, after viewing the stress test results, that I was "ready to go any minute". No such luck. A nice hot Thai chicken curry that Friday evening did produce such a good pattern of contractions, 7-8 minutes apart, that I said to Jonathan "it looks like it might be a wee small hours job, so I'm going to bed while I can" only to wake disappointed the next morning having had an undisturbed night's sleep (oh those were the days... but I digress).
On Monday the 30th the same tests were repeated with the same results, contractions and all. Cynthia suggested that it might be a good time to give Mother Nature a gentle push, while the baby and I were strong and healthy, rather than waiting until he showed signs of distress or my placenta started to fail. Jonathan and I could see the logic in this, although we weren't keen on the idea of breaking my waters to induce labour, in case it failed to do so and we were forced into "techno takeover". Marvellous as Merinda turned out, I didn't want another birth experience like that. Cynthia assured us that 9 times out of 10, with a pregnancy as advanced as mine, breaking the waters is all it takes to bring on full labour. In the event that I was one of the stubborn 10 percent, a little pitocin might be needed to augment, but nothing like the thundering amount they pumped into me last time. I discussed it with Jonathan and my doula (birth companion) Debbie, and in the end we agreed that if we were going to hurry things along, it was better to start by breaking the amniotic sac rather than with pitocin so that I could still walk around the labour ward rather than have to be connected to an IV and continually monitored in bed.
Cynthia wanted to proceed that afternoon and I think we were so much more concerned with whether we should intervene that the question of when got rather ignored. With hindsight, it would have made much more sense to start the whole process at 9am on Tuesday morning and thereby have a whole day to let things happen more slowly, rather than proceed on Monday afternoon, as we did, with the feeling that it would be nice to have it all over before midnight so that we could all get a good night's sleep!
Anyway, off to the hospital we went at 1pm, leaving Merinda in the excellent care of our neighbour Charlotte and her daughter Mary, Merinda's bosom buddy. After the usual check-in procedures the nurse Kathleen examined me and found me to be already 3cm dilated. All those contractions had not been for nothing! It was obviously going to be a shoe-in from here on. Cynthia arrived and broke my waters around 2.30. I elected to labour in my purple "A real woman is Sexy" nightshirt and a cozy dressing gown rather than those drafty impersonal hospital gowns which make you feel like a patient; thus equipped, Debbie, Jonathan and I began our laps of the labour ward.
Some time passed and it became obvious that a thundering labour was failing to set in. Jonathan was becoming twitchy as he is apt to do when bored, so we sent him home to check on Merinda, with a promise to call if things started happening. After some discussion with Cynthia, nurse Stacey and Debbie, I decided to go ahead with some pitocin to speed things up, on the condition that I be allowed out of bed once per hour to use the bathroom and do some more laps. We started with the lowest dose (2) at about 5.30. The mild, irregular contractions I had been experiencing gradually became stronger and more regularly patterned. We increased the dose to 4, and then 6, and I began to find that the number of times I needed to lean on the wall or Debbie to let a contraction pass was increasing on each lap. They were also stronger as well.
Around 7pm on one of our shuffles I said to Debbie that I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. This can mean either of two things in labour; that the baby's head is descending (in which case things were progressing rather more quickly than we had anticipated) or that yes, the woman actually does need to use the bathroom. We prudently decided to head back to the labour room to be prepared for either eventuality, and to have Stacey check my progress. Cynthia wanted to be called when I reached 7cm dilation.
Stacey examined me (and we won't even think about how that feels when you have a contraction at the same time) and found I was 5-6 cm dilated. The contractions were now so strong that I was starting to tense up and to think about pain relief. Epidural was the first thought that came to mind, because it had worked so wonderfully with Merinda's birth. Both Stacey and Debbie wanted me to try something easier first, suggesting Nubaine which would take the edge off the pain, make me feel a bit "dizzy" (read stoned in hospital speak) and wear off in about an hour, so as not to affect the baby. While I was hesitating I had another contraction (they were now only a couple of minutes apart) and when I could speak again I asked how long it takes for Nubaine to take effect. Two minutes says Stacey. Sold! It was wonderful, a good call for which I heartily thank Debbie and Stacey. I felt pleasantly stoned, and although it probably didn't really lessen the pain, I was able to relax and stop worrying about the next contraction and just take them as they came.
I enjoyed the Nubaine for a while, practicing breathing and relaxing through each contraction. Debbie said she wished she had a video camera so could use my labour as a teaching aid at the birth centre, she thought I looked so relaxed and serene. Just give me the drugs, man. She called Jonathan around 8.30 to say "things are hotting up" and he arrived about a quarter to 9. By this time I had a pistol grip on Debbie's thumb for each contraction, and Jonathan had to take up the exact same position on the other side. For some reason it was terribly important to me that their thumbs be exactly right so I could squeeze them really hard without hurting. I had to tell Jonathan not to squeeze back. I was very focussed on what my body was doing and I didn't want any distractions.
Very soon after Jonathan arrived I started to feel an urge to push with the contractions. Debbie's instinct was right, things were hotting up quickly and no-one had called my doctor yet. Stacey hurried off to make the call. The resident doctor was called in on stand-by. I was trying really hard not to push with the contractions but to pant through them. Debbie said afterwards that she was amazed, she would have said to hell with the doctor and just started pushing anyway, and that Cynthia ought to be honoured that I worked so hard to wait for her. I don't know that I was waiting for her really; maybe I was just putting off the really hard part as long as possible!
After about 10 minutes of this I felt that I really couldn't control the urge to push any longer. Cynthia arrived in the nick of time. Suddenly everyone was saying "now you can push - push, push!". It was hard to change mindsets that fast. Suddenly I didn't want to push anymore. The Nubaine had worn off. The baby was crowning and IT HURT!! It felt like pushing made it hurt worse (which it did) although in reality it would have hurt less to get it over with quickly. Instead I managed to make the crowning phase last about 3 contractions (!) which was agony but probably accounts for the fact that I had an 8 lb baby with only one slight tear which required no stitches. On the 3rd contraction I got my head around the need to push and put all my energy into it. Edwin's head emerged, his body on the next contraction, and literally 5 minutes after Cynthia arrived it was all over bar the shouting and the Moet. Our son Edwin Jarrah had finally arrived at 9.16pm on 30 October, 2000.
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