Continued from Part One...
The induction started off around 11:45pm on May 30. The process started off with something called a balloon catheter. This fun little device gets inserted into your cervix then filled with saline. It is used to apply gentle pressure to both the inside and the outside of the cervix which encourages dilation. At first, it doesn't feel like much is happening, but after an hour or two the pain becomes reminiscent of extra spicy menstrual cramps - the kind that would keep you rolling around in bed and calling out of work.
I also had an IV started, which involved a fair amount of drama since my veins are not too fond of being stabbed. They literally jump away when a needle comes toward them. I've seen it with my own eyes, and have been covered in bruises from blow out veins pretty much every time I get an IV. Naturally, I was nervous about getting stabbed repeatedly while the nurses tried to get one into my arm, but I did not expect the process to trigger a full-blown PTSD breakdown.
But it did. I cried. I hyperventilated. In short, I lost my shit completely as the poor nurse tried spot after spot then finally called in a backup. The second nurse was finally able to get the IV into my right hand, but it hurt SO much. We tried icing it, and I decided to give it some time to see if I could learn to cope with the discomfort. But by the next morning it was terribly sore, so much so that I couldn't use the hand at all.
Speaking of that night. Here's how it went. I spent several hours pacing around the hospital room while the balloon did its thing, then when the cramps finally started to mellow out I crawled into bed and did my best to get some sleep. Unfortunately, the monitors on my belly kept going in and out all night, making staying asleep difficult as every half hour or so my nurse would have to come in and adjust something. I did sleep a little bit though, and soon enough morning arrived.
The Obgyn on duty that morning came in around 7:45 am and removed the balloon. After a quick cervical check she let me know that I was now dilated to 6, which she seemed to think was great. Now that I was dilated enough the petocin drip could get started and labor could begin. In order for that to happen, I needed that IV. I knew that getting through labor without the use of my right hand would really suck, so I asked the nurse to please find another place to stick it in.
While they tried to move the IV I lost it again, and the nurse thankfully stopped stabbing and called in another nurse who was trained to use lidocaine while starting an IV. After a short break to recover my emotions we tried it and it worked like a charm, and they were finally able to hook up the petocin.
The first few hours of petocin were no big deal. They started me on a very low dose to get things moving, then increased the dose a little bit every hour. The early contractions came pretty regularly, but they were never super painful. By the early afternoon they had started to become more intense, but even then they never lasted very long. I was able to cope with them by walking, bouncing up and down on a yoga ball, and breathing deeply when they hit.
When they really started to ramp up I asked Scott to pull out his guitar and we spent an hour or so practicing all the songs we could think of. It had been part of my plan to sing the baby out, and this was one part that really did go exactly as I'd hoped. Singing not only took my mind off of the pain, it also helped me control my breathing without even thinking about it. I would definitely do this again and would recommend it to anybody who loves singing and making music.
For the most part, this portion of labor went really well, but I ended up having another emotional meltdown when one of the doctors came in to give me a cervical check. Now I've had cervical checks before (I've had a whole baby before, in fact) but I was NOT prepared for what this woman did to me. She shoved her hand into me so fast and so hard that my entire body was shoved up in the hospital bed. I shrieked in pain and shock, and was clearly in distress, but she did not stop. Instead she kept right on going - shoving her fingers into my cervix, and digging her knuckles painfully into my perineum.
I cried my eyes out. It felt like I'd been assaulted. I couldn't catch my breath. I was shaking and crying and just basically a big mess for a while. Eventually I got hold of myself again, but having two meltdowns in one day was already leaving me feeling exhausted and unhinged. It robbed my of my confidence and my courage, and for the life of me, I just couldn't get those things back after that.
The staff quickly concluded that I had some kind of PTSD triggering going on so they promised they would get a different doctor to do my checks after that and reassured me that she would perform the checks more slowly and more gently. I'll never understand why slow and gentle isn't the standard, but I dud appreciate them trying to accommodate my needs after my run in with "Dr. Angry Hands".
At some point in the early afternoon the doctors began discussing how and when they would break my water. Since I had a lot of excess fluid around the baby there was a concern that if the water was broken too quickly baby could turn or twist the wrong way. Even with all the measures they had taken to induce labor, Sidney still wasn't as far down the birth canal as they would have liked. She wasn't fully "engaged" as they put it. So, they decided to break my water using a small needle, which would allow the liquid to drain slowly, letting the doctors try to guide baby down in the correct direction.
As soon as my water broke everything changed. I went from having consistent but bearable contractions to going almost out of my mind with pain. One minute I was bouncing on a ball singing Bob Dylan tunes and the next I was laying flat on my back trying to disconnect my mind from my body. It was the only way that I could find to cope with that amount of pain. The contractions were so intense and happening so quickly that I couldn't fathom trying to get up and move around or even reach up toward a squat bar. It felt like it was all I could do to just hang on and keep living.
That's when I made a decision I never thought I would have made. I asked for an epidural. At first, nobody seemed to believe that I really did want one. My husband called for the nurse when I asked him to call the anesthesiologist. The nurse thought I was in transition. The chorus of voices surrounding my bedside just kept singing "are you sure? are you sure? are you sure?"
I was sure. And I tried to explain it as quickly and simply as possible. "I've been through enough.", I said. And it's true, I have been. Losing four babies in the past three years has taken a lot out of me. I've endured a huge deal of both physical and emotional pain, extreme stress, doubt, and fear. I didn't need to feel every moment of this birth. I was tired. I had been brave long enough that I didn't need to prove anything to anybody - not even myself.
Oddly enough, I came out on the other end of this experience feeling brave and feeling strong for being able to ask for the help that I needed when I did end up needing it. I was scared to get an epidural because I was scared of giving up control, of not seeing myself as the tough birth warrior that I wanted to be. But I was brave enough to put my pride aside and give myself what I needed to make it through, and THAT was badass. At least, it was if you ask me.
Getting an epidural is probably not particularly fun at any time, but getting one toward the end of active labor was pretty freaking intense. Scott kneeled in front of my while I sat up in bed, legs dangled over the side, with my back curled over my belly while the needles were put in place. The process took about ten (very very long) minutes, during which you are not allowed to move whatsoever. Ten minutes meant about twenty contractions at this point, and I spent every one of them holding on to Scott's shoulders and leaving my body for the calmer air space above us.
When it was finally done I laid back down and waited for it to kick in. It would be another ten or fifteen minutes, or another 20 - 30 contractions before it was fully in effect. Since my body often requires a little extra medicine to numb up, the anesthesiologist ended up having to up the dose after ten minutes or so. Finally, the medicine kicked in and I could no longer feel pain below my waist.
OK, so I lied. Continue on to Part Three, in which I actually have a baby! (For real this time.)