My pregnancy was uncomplicated except for feeling nauseous for the first 5 months and gagging easily for the full 9 months. As the pregnancy progressed I logged on to the internet regularly to look for information on pregnancy and delivery (spent lots of time checking out the "Pregnancy week by week" site) and reading as many books as possible.
I was due on 12/26/97 but my visits with the doctor in December showed no sign of dilating nor did the baby drop and I was mentally preparing myself to go over due. I was emailing regularly with a friend of mine who was due roughly the same time as me but was expecting her third baby while I was expecting my first. It was great to have someone to commiserate with and I actually sat at the computer crying at times, wishing the pregnancy was over.
On Christmas Eve my husband and I had a turkey dinner with some friends and the food and festivity made me forget about my discomfort. I never did get very large, the baby seemed to sit quite happily on top of my internal organs, making breathing difficult and pinching nerves in my groin which made walking painful.
The next morning I felt as if the food had not agreed with me, my guts were hurting. No one else had this reaction but I have always had a sensitive stomach so this did not surprise me. I was also having Braxton-Hicks contractions regularly every day and now it felt as though with each contraction my guts were being squeezed. That day (the 25th) we went over to my in-laws for dinner. I was feeling poorly and when people asked how I was doing I told them I had "gut cramps" but was positive that this was not labor. I picked at my dinner but managed to eat a large quantity of fudge, being a hopeless chocolate addict. As the evening wore on, the pain, still in my guts, got worse. I called my doctor and he said to lie down and time the contractions. I did as told and the contractions were 5 to 7 minutes apart but becoming hold-my-breath painful and for the first time I began to suspect that labor might indeed feel like intestinal cramps rather than menstrual cramps like I had imagined. When I called my doctor back he told me to go to the hospital to get checked, just in case.
My husband and I arrived at the hospital at about 9 pm and I fully expected to be sent home again but was told I was 3 cm dilated and fully effaced! My mother had a horrible delivery with me, ending in an emergency caesarian after 3 days of labor. I was expecting my own labor to be long. Checking into our room (labor and delivery are all in the same room. These rooms are decorated to be cozy and look the least "hospital-like" as possible) I began to feel a slight sense of panic as there was no way to back out of this now. However, I got comfortable and was breathing through my contractions and after one hour was at 5 cm. At this time my doctor arrived and said it was time to break the water. I knew from my reading that labor would really begin in earnest after that and felt frightened and overwhelmed. I weighed the options of having an epidural and though my husband was opposed to it, it was ultimately my decision and I asked for one. Labor quickly became far more "medical" as I was hooked up to an IV, and later a catheter, and I wondered about my decision. I have no fear of needles and IV's do not bother me, nor did the idea of having a needle inserted in my back frighten me. Having an epidural was very easy. I had to lean forward and while I was still breathing through contractions, the epidural was administered.
I felt no more contractions and could watch the peaks on the paper print-out. A fetal heart monitor was also attached and we listened to the baby's heart beat and I completely relaxed. All doctors and nurses involved were very supportive and informative. They broke my water and dilation progressed at a normal rate. I was a bit concerned that labor would be slowed by the epidural but this never happened. At one point I was breathing oxygen as the baby's heart rate seemed to slow but it was due to the monitor slipping rather than any difficulty the baby was experiencing.
I was told that once the baby started to move downward he would eventually move below the epidural block and I would begin to feel the contractions again for the pushing stage. I never did lose the feeling in my legs, they just sort of felt tingly. The hours passed and I sat and watched TV while sipping water and ice chips. I began to get some feeling on my left side along with an urge to push and about this time (4:45 am) the nurse announced that I was fully dilated and instructed me on how to push. I soon got the hang of it and after one hour had regained full feeling, labor was no longer about sitting back while my body did the work for me! The last half hour was work and it was painful and though I am a whimpy person when it comes to pain, I have to admit that it was bearable, just. At this point I found myself groaning with each push and being oblivious to what was happening around me. The last 10 minutes were the hardest and have a recollection of saying something to the effect of "just get this baby out of me" when the doctor was encouragingly relaying the baby's progress.
Kevin was born at 6:15 am on his due date, the 26th of December, 1997. I remember the overwhelming sense of relief that the pain was gone and the baby was crying. I got the shakes and did not initially want to hold the baby for fear of dropping him. My husband had a chance to sit and look at our new baby and I remember him commenting on all the facial expressions Kevin was making. Though I had sworn during pregnancy "never again" it was then it hit me that I could endure this again, one day if we choose to have another baby.
My labor lasted a total of 24 hours, the first 12 of which I was unaware of being in labor. I was up and walking when I felt like it, a few hours after the delivery. The first thing I felt like doing was EATING as I was ravenously hungry. The only pain medication I took was regular Tylenol, the day after the delivery because my back go stiff from the hard hospital bed. (I had forgotten to bring my own pillow!) I do not regret having an epidural, it was the easiest thing and allowed me to relax. Now I can look back on an experience which was very joyful and very easy. The sleepless nights of motherhood are far more challenging!