So, a full 48 had gone by and zero contractions. I was so happy, though. My mind/body/soul felt so tired and I was happy to be sleeping and not laboring like a semi-normal human being. That Friday I had my scheduled 39 week appointment (I was 39 + 3 days) and had already planned to have my doctor check me and (if it was possible) strip my membranes to see if that could get things going. I was really hoping this little plan would work because A. it was day time and that would cancel out middle of the night frenzy which I was already feeling -___- about and B. it would maximize Kirby's time off work (weekend + week off+ weekend). So, I drove off early the morning of Friday, June 12 to get to my 7 am appointment (I know, worst/earliest appt time ever). Kirby and the kids were still asleep as I snuck out and I had a super good feeling about the day. You know when your mood just shifts? For the first time since the hospital fail I imagined going into labor that day and I felt happy.
In the office my ob checked me and I was 2 cm so he was able to sweep my membranes. Woo! Step one. He offered to have me come back at 11:30 to sweep them again if things hadn't gotten started by then and I said yes, please and thank you. I got back home around 8:15 and started having contractions by 8:30. They were mild but steady and much closer together than my Tues. night special. Kirby left for work but I told him I thought the strippage (word?) had done the trick so I would be in touch. Side note: In the weeks prior Kirby had accepted a job at another company so this Friday was to be his last day with his current employer. We both wanted him to work as much as he could that day so that he could finish off all his projects, etc. I had fully expected him to get a full day in anyway as my labors are not the quickest, so off to work he went. My plan was to get the laundry going, re-pack my bags, get the kids set up with the sitter, and head back to Ventura around 11. If I was still contracting, at least my ob could check me again and see if anything was really happening. If I was truly in early labor, I figured I could walk around and kill time and be near the hospital and ready to go when things got serious. As I got the laundry going and kept moving, the more my contractions kept coming. I loaded a contraction timer app on my phone and took all the kids on a walk around the block. They were coming every 3-4 minutes on average and I had been home for almost two hours. YES. This is really it, I thought. I'm in labor.
My mom came by to walk a bit with us and hang till the sitter could come. I put my bags in the car and tucked Petey in for his nap and drove off. Maybe it seems crazy that I was alone but it felt GOOD. I felt like a wild birth adventurer and I liked it. I got in to see my doc around 11:45 and I told him things were def happening. He checked me and I was a 3. Even though I was still in the cervical dislike zone, I was so pumped to know things were putzing along. I told him my plan was to hang out, maybe walk the mall (so basic), and keep things moving until I was really, really in active labor. My contractions were getting stronger but they were still totally manageable and as much as I didn't want to be the lady giving birth in admitting, I also didn't want to be the lady jumping the gun cause I already did that and unfun. He told me to hang close by and make sure I called him when I was heading over so that he could give the nurses a "heads up" aka do not send this poor girl home. I jumped in my car around noon and made a little mental checklist- I would go drop a prescription off at the pharmacy, drive through the bank, finish saying the rosary, pick up the 'script, and re-access my situation after those things. As I drove off I had a string of pretty good contractions but I knew I was still only 3 cm so I tried not to get too hung up on how I was feeling ((eyeroll)).
I drove down the street into the pharmacy parking lot and sat for a minute for a contraction. Then I drove up the road to the bank and had a few more contractions. Then back to the pharmacy while I pitifully and speedily muttered the last sorrowful mystery, contraction, park car, contraction. It struck me that I was "ooooooohing" with my head back on the headrest and I thought to myself DO NOT BE THIS GIRL. Do not be all alone, in labor, moaning in your car, very much NOT in the hospital, all because you don't want to go there too soon.
You are being this girl, you are moaning in your car, all alone, running errands, in labor.
And this is your sixth baby.
And you want an epidural.
Right, I told myself. I'm going in. It was about 12:30. I picked up my meds and drove across the street to the hospital valet drop.
I very awkwardly told the post-pubescent valet that I was in labor and I slithered my wide, XL body out of the drivers seat. I grabbed my bag + pillow and waddled into admitting. I texted Kirby and let him know I was headed in but to stay put for now, I was fine on my own and only 3 cm and I would keep him posted once I was upstairs. I felt oddly confident/like a bad ass b and still really happy to be alone. I also figured I could spare Kirb the hour in triage with the monitors and the potentially heavily laboring stranger. That dude needed to finish the work day and I could take triaging on my own for a while.
I signed my name on a few papers, tried to look not awkward through a few contractions and felt very *all the single ladies* as I got into the elevator with my bag + pillow. Back up to the second floor, back to the nurses station, back. But guess what? Boom! No triage! I realize what that warning call to the doc meant. Right this way, Mrs Fike, we have your room ready for you. It all felt very fancy and upper clazz in a hospitally sort of way. I got into my room and my nurse met me there. I felt all those wild, fun emotions I felt when I first came to the hospital a few days earlier. I was here, in the place I would have my baby. It was all happening! I got on my gown and hopped on the bed for my intake questions and all that (total pro now thanks to false alarm night test run). I hummed my way through a few contractions while she typed and strapped monitors on me and then came time to check my progress. 3.5! It was 1 pm. Well, this is totally me, I thought. Slowish progression but HEY! actual progression. I texted Kirby that I was in the room and 3.5 and to keep working and I'd keep him posted. I knew we would be here a while.
Then came the most specialist question of all questions... Epidural?
And since she was so sweet and chatty I decided to ask her if she had any special, nurse-knowledge advice on when the best, most perfect window to get an epidural might be. I told her that this was to be my first medicated birth and I wanted to avoid any and all other intervention if at all possible SO if there is a magical epidural window that I should know about I would like to know! She turned to me and said, "Do you want me to be honest with you?" And of course I did! I assumed this meant she had some secret expert knowledge to reveal to me. Bring it, girl! Drop the knowledge!
DON'T DO IT.
Don't get the epidural, she said.
Of alllllll the nurses. Of all of them.
She said she had had three epidurals and they were ALL terrible and they were ALL the worst and you're stuck on your back and you can't feel a thing and you can't push (my biggest epi fear) and she'd never wish her experience on anyone and yadda yadda and if you can do it without, do.
I chuckled in my head and thought... Well, um, (clears throat) I *CAN* do it. I have done it five whole times. The point is I don't WANT TO DO IT. That's actually the entire reason I am even here in this hospital. And now here I am, all alone, in this den of intervention and medication and I'm stuck in a room with the naty birth nurse queen. May the odds be ever in my favor (with nurses).
I started to panic. Is this a sign?? Is naty birth nurse queen a guardian angel sent to warn me?? Do I change all my plans right now?? But I don't want to change my plans right now! Frantic texts to epidural having friends commenced... Please, help me. Boost my confidence. Tell me it will be ok! Tell me to steady the course. STEADY THE COURSE, WOMAN.
One of my dearest friends, Jess (who had started as a homebirther, too) responded to me with this..."I can be there in 5 minutes if you want me to come." YES.
The nurse had left me alone a bit and I reminded myself that I had not made this decision lightly. I had allllready thoughtfully considered all the possibilities, the risks, the pros and the cons and I had already made the decision. I knew it shouldn't be swayed by encountering one nurse with a bad track record and with poor epidural manners. I would steady the course (just with kinda a bit more insecurity...). My nurse came in once while I waited for Jess. She chirped, "Still smiling, I see! You don't need an epidural!" (grrrrrr.......allthewords).
But then I heard the door crack and Jess' voice and my heart sang. MY PEOPLE!!! (It was here I realized I should probably have Kirby come now, since he is, like, my person.) It felt suddenly SO good to be not alone. And to have someone there to knew both sides of the coin and who was on my side. An advocate. How hilarious. Here I was, five time, unmedicated, out of hospital birther, needing an EPIDURAL ADVOCATE during my first hospital birth. God bless Jess. Oh, and wtf.
When the nurse came in again I said to her that yes, I for sure wanted to get an epidural and yes, you can let the anesthesiologist know as soon as he is done (he was in surgery at this point) and yes, I would love total positivity and support from here on out. DONE DEAL, LADY. And you know, she was actually the sweetest, best nurse aside from her epi vibes. So, no complaints once we jumped that hurdle. Anyway, hurdle jumped. I felt renewed excitement for my hospital adventure. Onward and upward.
Jess was fantastic. Gently encouraging me through contractions as they got more moany. At around 2 pm she heard the voice of the anesthesiologist in the hallway and I felt a rush of relief knowing that this will happen! Turns out I really didn't want to be moaning and groaning through labor in a hospital bed! I could maybe even take a nap now, like everyone says they do!! HOO-RAY. The anesthesiologist came in around 10 min after 2 and started to prep me for the long awaited, much stressed over, shrouded-in-mystery epidural. My nurse showed some fabulous charity and nestled herself at the edge of my bed to support me as I was prepped. The placement was NO BIG DEAL! I had been so nervous for the poking and all the possible sensations. It was less uncomfortable than getting a lidocaine shot at the dentist. My nurse rubbed my shoulders and talked me through it. I felt a rush of fluid running down my back which was bizarre but not really painful. I felt the cold everyone told me about. And that was it! I was taped up and I laid down and it was ovaaaa. The nurse then reminded me that actually my most biggest epidural-related fear was getting catheterized. Even as she started I think I was saying things like "ACK WHY DOES THIS HURT?" and she was all "Because I am xxyyzzzz (fill in all the blanks)." Anyway, it was uncomfortable on the verge of painful but it was over quick and surely horrified Jess to witness more than it horrified me to experience so, all's fair. After that I had a quick checkeroo which logged me at 4.5 centimeters dilated and (lucky nurse) a broken water bag as she was exiting the place of checkery. Ok, I thought, I've been in here about an hour and 20ish minutes and I've dilated A centimeter. Right on track.
Catheter in, epidural in, blankets up. I was ready to lay back and enjoy the soothing effects of my medicated experience. Except for after like ten minutes I realized that I was not soothed! Why was I not soothed?? I asked the nurse what this could mean/WHY AM I FEELING THIS CONTRACTION RN? And she just kept saying these words, "maybe you just have a pocket where it just won't work"(dig that knife deeper and deeper, nursey). All I could hear was "wah, wah, wah" like the headless teacher in Charlie Brown. YOUR WORDS MEAN NOTHING TO ME. All the anethesiologist could do was furrow his brow and suggest that I turn on my side to let the meds distribute evenly. But I did that and still contractions. If I thought super hard about it, I could tell the right-ish hemisphere of my uterus was not seizing in pain, but that didn't really matter very much. I imagine it would be like if you smashed your thumb with a hammer but your second knuckle was numb. It just wouldn't really matter that much.
The more time I spent on my left side trying to will the meds over my whole uterus, the more I realized it wasn't working. "You may just have a pocket where it won't work" like a ghost voice in my head... "it won't work." It isn't working. And this labor was increasingly becoming different than the rest. Hard, transition-like contractions with very little break. "I can't believe this is how bad it is at 4 centimeters, it's never been this bad at 4 centimeters," I said to myself. I can't believe I'm laying here in the middle of what could be the worst labor of my life with a non-working epidural. Work. Work. PLEASE. Work. (Moan, moan/wail, etc.)