4.5 centimeters, Jess there, husband not there, epidural in, epidural not working, much despair.
Well, actually, almost much despair. I was mostly laying on my left (as the authorities that be so instructed), with my hands clenched around the bed rail, just begggggging God for this epidural to spread all over my whole belly like a thick, rolling fog that swallows up the land. Teetering on the edge of my right shoulder was a tiny baby angel voice that kept whispering "I am the handmaid of the Lord etc..." but mostly that sweet little voice was getting pushed way aside by WORK, DRUGS, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, WORK!
At some point in there (maybe around 2:45ish) the anesthesiologist repositioned the catheter in my back ("maybe it veered to the right," he said) (it probably just won't work said nursey).
Gosh, the more I think of it, she wasn't a very nice person in those moments, was she?
So, the cath was repositioned but there was still no change. I was moaning and groaning on my left side as the contractions kept slamming me. Sweet Jess was there with her soothing words... You got this, you got it... My ob came in a few minutes to 3 o'clock to check on me. He was clearly upset that the much awaited for epidural was a flop which made me love him so much in that moment. He checked me and I was a 6. In hindsight, I realized this should have surprised me. I went from 4.5 to 6 in 45 minutes. But I was so intensely focused on my current predicament, simultaneously trying to beg my epidural into submission and handle my intense contractions that I didn't want to be handling, that it didn't register to me that I was progressing faster than before. I still assumed I would be laboring for hours, I still hated that I was laboring so.damn.hard.
Kirby got there at 3 and Jess took off. Between contractions I filled Kirby in on my failed epidural, and he mocked my epidural obsession by telling me that even the valet guy new I was here for the epi. Then he mocked himself for being the deadbeat dad who shows up 2 hours after his wife checked in. The nurse at the desk had asked him if we had the same last name, my nurse had asked if anyone would be joining me today. It felt good to laugh and be with him at last.
Maybe it was the laughing, or being in the presence of my baby daddy, but my contractions took a leap into another level after he got there. I was LOUD. Like, those yell-moans you do when you're pushing a baby out-loud. After a few of those in a row I asked Kirby to go ask for the anesthesiologist. He had mentioned earlier that the only other option if things still weren't working properly was to redo the epidural entirely. I was not leaving any stone left unturned here so I told K to tell the nurse I was ready for epidural try no. 2. Get it in me!
I should probably mention that the meds were def working in my legs. They felt heavy, like a thick, wool blanket was over me, but that was it! I could feel all touch and I could lift my legs and wiggle my toes and errthing. Definitely not "dead dog" style like my nurse so pleasantly described. If anything, I feel like he administered it perfectly. It just... wasn't perfect. OH! I'm also just now remembering that the battery pack on my epidural drip kept beeping the entire time. I feel like everyone that came to look at it just kinda jostled it and wacked it a few times and shrugged like they had NO IDEA how to resolve the beep (NEW BATTERIES). But you know when you're helplessly in the middle of hard labor and even if you want to communicate something you just cant? I'm pretty sure Jess had told someone to change out the battery pack but I'm not positive if it ever got done. Can there be any more epi problems happening in this short but painful window of time?? Me thinks not.
Ok, so now it is about 10 minutes after 3. The anesthesiologist comes in but I'm starting to feel some pressure during my contractions. They can't be more than 30 seconds apart at this point and are wildly intense. As he begins to prep his supplies, the nurse decides to check me juuuussst in case. 8 cm. Again- I do not register this! It's been 15 minutes or so since the doc checked me at a 6 but all I can see is a red, flashing PAIN sign. I want her hand OUT of my body and new epidural IN my back. STAT. The anesthesiologist tells me to lay on my left side and be still. OK. He peels the tape off my back and I feel him removing the tubes and cleaning my back and prepping to start allllll over, nice and fresh like. And then the contraction of all contractions hits me. And looking back, I know I've felt this contraction before but I didn't think about that then. It's the grand finale of all contractions. Do you know what I'm talking about? It peaks and starts to mellow out a leeeeeetle bit and then WHAM, PEAK, and then it mellows a bit and then WHAM, PEAK AGAIN. And it maybe does that 4 or 5 times before the intense pressure of baby takes over? Well, that's the one. It started when he began prepping me for the second epi and it lasted the entire time he spent placing it. This poor dude. He had to have been sweating unmedicated bullets trying to place this epidural. Meanwhile, I started to shout PRESSURE PRESSURE PRESSURE and the nurse gives me a very serious talking to. Do NOT push, you are in control, I need you to breathe, you are IN control, breathe. And she was convincing! I managed to stop baring down and started to breathe. In the fuzz of this forever peaking contraction and pressure and remembering how I had to stay perfectly still for this whole second epidural business, I heard her call for the doc. She sounded verrrrry cheerful and calm as she paged him to come in now, right now. And in my head all I could think of was how I needed to incline this freaking hospital bed! I knew the baby was coming and I was not pushing flat on my back, on my left side. (SO over the damn left side at this point!) As soon as I felt him finish taping all the saran wrap on my back, I rolled over and hit the incline button. The moment was like one (funny) fluid dance between the anesthesiologist, the ob, and me. In one movement, the anesthesiologist pushed his stool away from my bed, I rolled on my back and started to push while I hit the incline button, the doctor swept in, pulling on his baby-catching shirt as he walked and he sat right down at the foot of my bed.
I remember him saying "I'm here, I'm supporting you." And in those chaotic few seconds with the inclining bed and the anesthesiologist scootching back and the doctor sitting down, with that one push in that one moment where time slows all the way down, the baby's head was out. And I felt it all, without any pain! All the pressure, the relief of having just pushed a head out of your body, all of it. No ring of fire, no stretching, burning, etc. It. was. awesome. I peeked up and saw Kirby bopping around above everyone's shoulders trying to catch a good view of the birth of his child (realizing later that he had been asked to stand back for the epi placement and never made it back into the inner circle as the baby was being born. HA! Deadbeat dad move no. 47)
"One little wiggle for the shoulders" and I pushed again and my baby was born at the foot of the hospital bed. It was 3:20 pm. 2 hours and 20 minutes after I waddled into the hospital at 3 centimeters, 20 minutes after Kirby got there, 2 epidurals and 2 pushes later.
And then that post birth glory/insanity swept over me. As soon as I saw him I realized how badly I wanted him right on me, right now! My second thought was- this hospital gown is a problem!! So (naturally) I reached down to the hem and pulled THE ENTIRE GOWN UP OVER MY HEAD like a puffy Victorian collar. As the doctor was (briefly) suctioning him at the foot of the bed I started to yell GIVE ME MY BABY! GIVE ME MY BABY! with my arms outstretched. If you are wondering if this all means I was a fully naked, arms reaching, yelling, happy crying, psychopath woman with a baby at the foot of my bed the answer is YES. Just like that crazy pushing moment that felt like hours even though it was just a moment, I feel like I reached out yelling there forever. But after just a fraction of time, my baby boy was up on my chest and we were buried in warm blankets and I met Kirby's happy crying eyes, too. And it was heaven.
Oh, the glory of that moment. It is the very best.
The warm blankets were thee best. Some nurse, somewhere snuck a hat on the baby and we just laid there. Meanwhile, all the rest. Placenta, removal of tubes and tape, cleaning up, fresh chux pads, more blankets, some new lady hustling around spraying rubbing alcohol on every surface of the room. And then silence. Everyone left and it was just us three. Basking in the joy and craziness and hilarity of the entire situation. "Do you realized you almost missed the birth?" "Do YOU realize there is a giant bag of pee hanging off the side of your bed?" "Can you believe this is done?? We are done! I'm not pregnant anymore!" "Thank God" "He is so cute, huh?" "I am so happy" "I am so happy" "I am so relieved" "This is so great" "I can't believe it's over"...
After an hour or so the nurses started to trickle back in. The baby had nursed and pee'd all over my belly and I felt wonderful. I asked the nurse if the anesthesiologist had even re-hooked the epidural bag to the tubing. She said he hadn't had time and that all he could do was give me whatever he had in the syringe as he finished up the epi placement. I think it worked perfectly that time, as I had no after birth crampy pain for hours after the baby was born. I also realized later that I had no discomfort in the immediate moments after the baby was born. I always HATE being examined and checked for tears after giving birth. It's like someone rifling around in an open wound. But I didn't feel any of that! I still felt all touch and I was totally aware of everything that was going on with my body, just no pain. And let me tell you, even a semi-failed epidural is worth it for lounging with your moments-old baby, pain free, under a pile of hot blankets. It was so worth it. Exclamation point!
**(I'm actually remembering now that I did realize how gloriously pain free the post birth tear-check was because Kirby mentioned later how funny he finds me after I have a baby and am in my no shame/no social boundaries emotional state. I guess I was saying all sorts of fun things to my doctor like "OH MY GOODNESS I love that you are checking me (insert more colorful language here) and I don't EVEN CARE!" But really, I didn't. And it was awesome.)
When it was time to move us to the recovery room, I sat up on the edge of the bed and stretched my back out like I'd been asleep for months. And in a way, it felt like I had. The final months of pregnancy can turn your body into a foreign thing. Suddenly I could move and bend and stretch and it felt glorious. Kirby grabbed my bags and the nursed wheeled Joe and I up to our room and it felt glorious. He grabbed take out and I dipped my onion rings in ranch and it was glorious. Chocolate shake. Glorious. Lounging in our room together, replaying the day and laughing. Glorious. Saying goodnight as K went home to be with the kids for the night, and tucking in with my new baby in our quiet, dark hospital room. Glorious. Baby Joe, 8.1 oz, 21 inches long. Glorious. Nurse button for the endless request for Motrin and cranberry juice on ice. Glorious.