The Fentanyl made my entire body feel like it was full of sand which was quite an achievement at 41 weeks pregnant. I felt deliciously heavy and the contractions weren't as intense. Amanda was able to catch a few z's while a drowsy Kris took the chair next to the bed and kept me company. After about an hour I noticed the effects wearing off and I was still feeling more exhausted then rested and I opted for another dose. Which brought me another hour of dozing in and out, grasping the rail on the side of the bed whenever I felt another wave of pain.
At around 4 am, I was officially drug-free, and I was beginning to squirm a bit. Each time a contraction hit I would shuffle my feet and rock back and forth, gripping the side rail until my knuckles turned white. Tricia mentioned that it would be better if I tried to hold as still as possible and focus, really FOCUS, on my breathing. This sounded exactly like what I didn't want to be doing. Writhing was the only thing getting me through this, how could she take that away from me?! I didn't have to wait long before I got to test her theory and guess what? She was totally right. At first I was able to just close my eyes and focus on my breathing but after a while that just wasn't enough. Amanda woke up just in time to have Tricia show her how to apply pressure to my lower back to relieve some of the pain. It was the most brilliant recommendation she made the whole night. I had one hand wrapped around the side rail and the other was holding Kris' hand, who would obligingly return the bone-crushing pressure of my grip. The contractions were coming much more quickly now and lasting an eternity. The only comfortable position for me was on my side and moving was becoming more and more difficult.
My water still hadn't broken and my cervix was taking it's sweet time and was only at about 6cm. The good news was that the baby was in the right position and my labor was progressing as well as it could. Tricia mentioned that I was doing as well as could be expected for someone who wanted a drug-free (well, almost drug-free) birth. I was the poster child for pain management. HA! I felt more like the poster child for unabashed writhing and moaning. However, I was still stubbornly holding to my guns that I didn't want an epidural. So for the next several hours this was how things continued, Amanda rubbing my lower back with each contraction and Kris holding my hand, my eyes squeezed shut.
Around this time I became overly concerned that I was whimpering too loud and I totally blame this absurd apprehension on an episode of MTV's "Sixteen and Pregnant", the one with the girl SHRIEKING in agony and she was only at 1cm. And I SO didn't want to be that girl, causing everyone else in the Labor and Delivery ward to silently pray for someone to shove a sock in that girl's mouth because people are trying to have a civilized AND quiet labor over here. Amanda and Kris assured me that my moaning was barely audible much less something that would echo down the halls. Thank God I still had that tiny shard of dignity left.
About 6:30 am Tricia introduced me to her replacement, Angie, who would be my nurse for the duration of my labor. Before the shift change at 7 am I had Tricia give me one more shot of Fentanyl, the pain was beyond anything I'd experienced and I needed just one more hour of relief. That last shot lasted about 15 minutes when I was hit with a contraction so strong, so intense that no amount of massaging or focused breathing was going to alleviate this pain. My eyes flew open and I was grasping and clawing at Kris' shirt, vision blurred, my whole body contorted in pain and in that moment I asked for that epidural, begged for it. I wanted that damn epidural. Give it to me NOW! Except when Angie came in and checked my cervix she said that I was already at 9.5cm and there wasn't much point in having the epidural because by the time the anesthesiologist arrived, paperwork was signed, and the drug hooked up, the baby would be here. Gaah! I really didn't think I could make it through another contraction like that but at this point I didn't have a choice. I was having this baby without any form of pain-relief whether I wanted to or not.
And in the midst of everything I noticed the soft gray light of sunrise filling my room and it was beautiful.
I don't remember having another contraction like that again, they were still intense, still coming every minute and lasting for three but I had hit a wall and things just couldn't get worse, with Amanda and Kris coaching me, and a renewed focus on my breathing, I was doing it and there was a teeny tiny bit of me that was proud of myself for that.
Out of nowhere around 8:15 am I was suddenly filled with the urge to push. I had Amanda call Angie in because I couldn't fight the impulse, my body was taking over. Angie appeared, did the ol' check the cervix and, glory hallelujah, I was finally a full 10 cm. My water broke, with a little help, and Angie told me that I could start pushing and the most amazing thing happened. The pain and delirium of the contractions was counteracted by the pushing. Each time a contraction hit, I would bear down and their was no pain or discomfort. Until Angie got this terrible idea that I should move to my back and try and bend my legs. I really wasn't ready to be on my back at all. Each time she would try and reposition me the pain and pressure in my lower back was excruciating. I just wanted to stay curled up on my side because that's what felt best and after several failed attempts to do it her way, Angie gave up and let me do it my way.
Unbeknownst to me, there was a bit of a predicament taking place outside of my room. There was no doctor to deliver my baby. My own obgyn had taken that Monday off so she was unavailable and nobody seemed to have a clue who would be available for the birth. So phone calls were made and someone mentioned that my doctor, Dr. Hoch, was actually going to be coming in. And then someone told me she wasn't. Then she was. It was finally determined that she wasn't actually coming in and the Dr. on call, Dr. Gallagher, would be doing the delivery. Except no one seemed to know exactly where she was or when she would arrive. During all of this Angie is checking how things are progressing and in spite of the fact that there was no one to deliver my baby he was making his way into the world. The good news was that Dr. Gallagher was on her way.
The moment Angie informed the staff that I was ready to deliver our room filled with a crowd of people, nurse, techs, and assistants. These two giant spotlights were turned on, my bed fixed into a sitting position, drapes were secured, and Dr. Gallagher was fully outfitted in her scrubs and protective eye gear and everyone was saying PUSH! Someone politely asked if I wanted a mirror and, dear Lord Jesus, I so did NOT want to see what was going on. I was pretty sure I would change my mind about this whole giving birth thing if I did. So I said no and continued to push, but then it turned out that I wasn't pushing the right way, so it was explained to me just exactly what they meant when they said PUSH! So I gave it another shot, and everyone's talking, telling me that the next push is it, just one more. I'm holding onto the bed above my head for dear life, my face resembling a beet and I'm pushing. C'mon, you can do it...PUSH! PUSH!
And at 9:02 am, with sun streaming in the room, I felt the most bizarre sensation and after an incredible release of pressure someone plopped a baby on my chest! A little shrieking purple baby boy with a head full of hair. And everything went from a hundred miles an hour to zero in an instant. Here he was! After 41 weeks of waiting and anticipating and 12 hours of hard labor he was actually here! And he was perfect.