When we got home, per Ashley's advice, Benny and I got in bed to try to get some sleep (yes it is possible to sleep during labor!). This is when our Hypnobirthing classes really paid off. Through Benny's light touch massage and our breathing techniques, I was able to fall asleep between each contraction! This actually slowed down the interval between each surge to eight minutes apart for about five hours. Being suddenly woken every few minutes by the peak of each surge (an incredible amount of pressure and pain) wasn't fun at all, but at that point my body really needed the rest to prepare for what ended up being another entire day of active labor.
The next day was one of the most physically and mentally exhausting of my life. Contractions picked up again in the morning and were becoming almost unbearable. Serious thoughts of going to the hospital to see if I could get an epidural began to run through my mind during every brutal surge, and I began to express that to Ashley and Benny. But being the incredible partner he is, Benny was firm on reminding me of my desire for an unmedicated birth and tried to shut down those conversations quickly. The whole day consisted of walking around the house and seeing what contractions felt like in different locations and positions: in the bath, in bed, hands and knees on the floor, standing up, squatting beneath the counter, straddling the toilet, and bouncing on the birth ball. The pressure and tightening in my abdomen and back were most manageable in the bathtub, but the problem with staying in there was that the relative relaxation between surges kept slowing my time intervals down, and we needed to be moving things along to get this baby out! It became a grueling, emotional mind game of wanting the comfort of the warm bath water and dreading the thought of purposefully setting my body up to endure longer, more frequent, more intense contractions.
By that afternoon, I was serious about needing some relief and was becoming more and more unstable emotionally. The thought of having to go through this level of pain for who knows how much longer was becoming debilitating. I finally told my coaching team that I needed to get to the hospital to re-check my dilation and to at least start the process for getting some pain relief. It took time for Benny to allow me to let go of my plan for an all-natural birth, but I knew in my heart that because of the abnormal length and intensity of my labor so far, my body and mind were no longer capable of enduring increasing amounts of pain without any form of rest. In theory, if I was progressed/dilated enough by the time we got to the hospital, I would be able to order the epidural and potentially get the break I knew my body needed to prepare for pushing the baby out. So, we packed up once again and got in the car.
We arrived at the hospital for the second time at 7:50 p.m., and for the first time all day, I felt some peace and hope that my labor may have an end in sight. The check-in desk was crazy busy, and every four minutes I was dropping to the floor, loudly moaning through each contraction in the middle of the lobby. All the labor rooms were filled up that night, and the nurses had to order a bed from another wing of the hospital to triage me in the operating room, where they do the emergency C-sections. The operating room—the last place I wanted to end up—the room where my womb was cut apart two years ago, where I could see my tiny Zanden being taken away from me the moment I first saw him while the surgeons and nurses gossiped over my open body. As I began to yell through the excruciating pain with an eye mask on to hide from the surgery flashbacks, I prayed that my labor this time would not end in that room again.
We had the sweetest nurses caring for me that night, but the report they brought after checking my cervix was not good: I had only dilated from one to two centimeters the last 24 hours. This was not enough to prove that my body would progress on its own if I were to get an epidural, since often pain medications can slow labor down, causing a “failure to progress.” Dr. Cap was concerned that an epidural this “early” in terms of dilation would likely end in more risky interventions that we didn’t want: induction methods and/or another C-section. He needed to see a three or four centimeter dilation to feel comfortable admitting me and ordering an epidural, so he suggested I walk around the lobby for two hours and then have the nurse examine my cervix again. We complied and did everything possible in those two hours to get my body to progress. I did not sit or lie down—I walked around, stood up for my contractions, did squats, and basically tried to make myself as uncomfortable as possible. It worked, and my contractions started coming three minutes apart and at a 9/10 pain level. The nurse let us know it was time to check my cervix again. We went back to the operating room and received the worst news of my life: no progression—still only two centimeters.
At 11:00 p.m., Benny got on the phone with Dr. Cap again and explained that we felt that without an epidural to rest my body from the overwhelming tension and pressure, I was not going to relax enough to dilate. This theory wasn't scientific, but after two days of labor, I really felt that my body was too exhausted to progress without help at that point. I started throwing up, and Benny let the doctor listen to me screaming through a surge over the phone, and that's when everyone agreed that I was in active labor and could go ahead and stay to order that epidural!
The nurses wheeled me from the operating/triage room into a labor room to start the process of admission and anesthesia. Praise God! I was in agonizing pain but knew that within a couple hours there would be some relief. After two excruciatingly long hours and two attempts to get the epidural to work properly, I could no longer feel my contractions and was almost totally numb from waist to feet. The nurses lay me on my side, put a big inflatable pillow between my thighs to keep my pelvis open, and hooked me up to everything possible—fetal monitors on my belly, an oxygen mask on my face, an oxygen monitor on my finger, a blood pressure cuff on my arm, an IV in my hand, and a catheter. Now it was time to rest, wait and see if my cervix would open despite the anesthesia. Benny and Ashley caught some good sleep, while I dozed on and off between nurses checking my vitals. After about two hours, it was time for a vaginal exam. I had opened to four centimeters and lost my mucus plug! Two more hours went by...six centimeters and my water released. It was like magic. Another couple of restful hours passed, and voila! I was fully dilated and began to feel the urge to push. This was it!
Dr. Cap arrived and sat down below me, with our nurse and Ashley at my sides holding my legs and Benny by my right shoulder. I lay on my back, holding my knees up and began to bear down at the peak of each surge. We were told that the baby's heart rate was dropping, so I really needed to drive him down with all my might to get him out quickly. Within 45 minutes, I pushed for the last time and was holding my baby in my arms! He came out grunting, and after a few minutes of hugs on my chest, he had to be taken to the other side of the room for a little while to be put on a CPAP respiratory machine to assist his breathing. Meanwhile, I delivered the placenta, had an inner tear stitched up, and tried to recuperate from total fatigue and nausea.