A little over an hour later I was up again. I had not been able to sleep at all. The cramps were just getting stronger and more frequent. I called my doctor's line again and spoke to a physician's assistant again, with pauses to breath through what were obviously contractions at this point. They were coming every three minutes or so at this point. The woman on the phone wanted to know how long they were lasting, but I couldn't tell her -- finding a stopwatch wasn't exactly high on my priority list at the moment. She decided to talk to the on call doctor and call me back. She called back about half an hour later and told me to go to the hospital. I had Warren call our doula, Ananda, while I quickly threw a couple of things in my half-packed hospital bag, had Warren dump out my gym bag to put his change of clothes in, and we headed out. Around this time there was a lot of noise outside on account of some basketball game, but luckily for us he streets between our house and Mt. Auburn were deserted.
We'd never taken the hospital tour, so we were clueless and went to the main entrance even though it was nearly 1 am by this time. It turns out we probably have gone to the emergency entrance and checked in there, but we still managed to get in through the main entrance and up to the correct place. They knew to expect us at least, so I got sent to an exam room and Warren got sent back down to check me in. Luckily Ananda showed up right around then, so I wasn't alone.
The first thing they did was hook me up for a non-stress test. As usual the test showed that the baby was fine. The test also showed that I was having real contractions frequently. I'm not entirely certain the folks at the hospital were convinced until they saw the chart. The doctor came in and did an internal exam that showed that I was three centimeters dilated and 90% effaced. Later Tracy, the labor and delivery nurse who was on at the time, confessed that she was surprised at how far along I was at that point.
I was given a birthing room and got hooked up to these cool wireless monitors that they have at Mt. Auburn. They are exactly like the normal monitors that are used, only completely cordless. I would even be able to wear them in the tub (which I would later do). I just hung out for a while since the contractions weren't bad, trying to stay hydrated and stay relaxed through the contractions. In my mind staying relaxed was key. My natural tendency is to tense up, and I knew I needed to relax in order for my cervix to dilate and for the baby to work it's way through the maze of muscle I have down there. My biggest fear was that I would be unable to relax enough and end up both stalling things out and causing the baby distress by tensing up.
I'm not sure how long I just hung out breathing through the contractions. At some point I asked Warren to fetch me some juice. I wanted something sweet because I was feeling mildly nauseous and thought a little sugar would be just the thing to settle my stomach. It tasted great at the time, but sometime later when I was making a bathroom trip a more intense contraction hit and I ended up throwing it up over most of the bathroom. At least the cranberry color made cleanup easy for the nurse.
I don't remember the exact timing on things now, but Warren ended up taking a nap sometime after he brought the juice, and I headed for a good soak in the tub with Ananda keeping watch. This is where I was really glad we'd hired a doula. Since we were clearly pulling an all-nighter I wanted Warren to have that nap because I knew I'd need him to be rested later, and I doubt he would have napped without Ananda there to look after me.
The tub was great. When I first got in the hot water was so soothing that I could suddenly talk through contractions again. Sometimes being in water during labor will slow down contractions, which is a concern. That wasn't the case for me. The water certainly help make the contractions less uncomfortable, but they clearly continued to intensify. After a couple of hours in the tub I got out and asked to be checked again. I was 4 to 5 cm dilated and 100% effaced. I knew it was more progress than it sounded like because early labor is all about thinning out the cervix, and once that's done dilation happens faster. Still, I had been hoping to be a bit further along. Ananda said something about dilation happening at 1 cm an hour, and then left to take a brief nap. That seemed like a good plan since it sounded like I'd be pushing at around noon, and everyone would need to be awake for that.
Warren did a good job a labor support, though he might not feel that way since I wasn't so appreciative at the time. Not too long after Ananda left the room things intensified yet again. I got back in the tub and we turned the water jets (which apparently hadn't been cleaned properly) on. It soon became apparent just how good Ananda was a labor support. About half the things Warren tried either didn't help or were actively irritating. Luckily I married the kind of guy who doesn't take being snapped at in that situation personally. It was probably particularly vexing because things like having hot water poured over my belly would work well, and then labor would change and they'd suddenly become irritating. Ananda always seemed to just know what would work when, but Warren was at least a quick study. I would heartily recommend hiring a good doula to anyone, it really made a huge difference. I'm not sure how long Ananda napped, it was probably less than an hour, but by the time she came back I definitely needed both her and Warren with me as I'd gotten to a point where one support person just wasn't enough.
I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point I stopped having separate contractions, and instead I just had one long contraction that varied in intensity but never went completely away. We were told that shift change was happening, it was 8 AM. It occurred to me that I'd better let my boss know I wasn't going to make it in, so I had Warren call him on my cell phone since I was not capable of conversation. This is roughly the point at which I lost track of time.
So there I was sitting in a tub of warm water and my own blood having a pretty much constant contraction. It was had waves of increased intensity, and the peak of each wave just got higher and higher. I was not exactly having a good time. Ananda was trying to get me to make certain noises during the peaks. I knew they were supposed to help, but it didn't seem that anything could help. When I managed to make them they did help a bit. Suddenly the peaks got really, really bad. This was when I said, "I want drugs now." Screw this natural childbirth thing, I was thinking, I can not cope with this for another four hours or whatever it's going to take. Then there was a really strong peak that I couldn't help tensing up and pushing during. There was a popping sensation and I started screaming. When I could use actual words again I mentioned that my water had broken. Then there was more screaming, another urge to push, and increased repetitions of "I want drugs NOW" at increased volume on my part. I was told the doctor was in a shift change meeting and would come when it was over. I have never been more disgusted with a meeting in my life, and that is saying something. The post shift-change nurse, Nikki, showed up. In response to my latest demand for drugs she said, "You don't need drugs, you're going to have a baby." She then demanded that I get out of the tub.
The contractions actually slowed down a bit at this point and I was able to make it to the bed under my own power. The doctor was apparently summoned rather hastily. (This happened to be the same doctor I ended up seeing about the polyp, I was glad it was someone I knew and liked.) The doctor had me essentially doing crunches around the baby to push. Four contractions after getting out of the tub the baby was out. I hadn't been aware of it at the time, but the cord was looped around the baby's shoulder causing the heart rate to drop rather alarmingly during the pushes. I'm glad I didn't know that until after, and very glad that I got her out fast. The actual pushing wasn't so bad, the scary part had been when I was in the tub not knowing if this was the end or if it was going to get worse and go on for hours.
As soon as the baby was out they confirmed that it was a girl. They put her on my chest right away, suctioning her airways while she was there. She stayed there while the doctor sewed me up a bit where I had torn. They left her there until after I'd fed her a bit on both sides. Then they took her to the nursery to get checked out and cleaned up while I stayed put for the nurse to clean me up. Warren went with the baby to the nursery at my request.
The baby is named Margaret, after my sister. She was born at 8:35 AM on Wednesday, June 18th. She was 6 pounds 14.6 ounces at birth and 20.25 inches long. She is absolutely the most beautiful baby ever born, though I might be slightly biased.
I could post pictures, but Warren already has a page up.