Doula Shmoula arrived and gave me a big hug. “See? I told you eventually you’d go into labor!” I’d been contracting since about 8am. It was now 2pm. Doula held the space while my friends watched YouTube videos and played games on their phones. It felt like a totally normal day, except that every 5 minutes I stopped participating to breathe.
At about 4pm, contractions got a bit stronger. Doula suggested I lean on my birthing ball for a while on account of the nasty back labor I was feeling. My friends, good instincts and all, decided it was time to pack up and go. My husband turned off the TV and put on some of my favorite music. He fed me melon and water in between contractions.
I was staying on top of each contraction by taking deep breaths, focusing on filling my lungs, and changing positions at least every half hour.
Doula Shmoula was key. She had all kinds of creative positions for me to try. Some of them gave me great relief, and some of them increased the pressure so much that my teeth started chattering uncontrollably. Watching me in pain was scary to my husband, but Doula reassured him that we were doing everything right. She was trying to help me position Abe’s head in such a way that would continue the forward progression of labor and make it easiest for him to make his debut.
It had now been about 12 hours since my contractions started, and things felt intense. Doula had me in the tub and I was feeling a lot more pain. I could tell David was starting to get on edge, concerned that I was now so verbal with each contraction. As she had done all day, Doula asked me a series of questions at this, what seemed like a transition point. “Are you feeling the need to bear down? Is the pressure in your back coming and going with contractions? Can you feel the baby moving lower?” She concluded that it was probably time to make our move. Her concern was that if contractions got much stronger, my water could break and labor could progress very rapidly. And while I admire home births, it wasn’t on my short list for the day.
The ride to the hospital was pretty terrible, I'm not gonna lie. I could tell my husband was driving like a bat out of hell and in between contractions I shouted from the back seat, “Don’t get a ticket!” I’d seen those shows where women were in labor and their husbands got pulled over and they ended up delivering in the car.
I slowly walked, contracted, and walked again to labor and delivery. They checked us in and forced me to do a ridiculous amount of things that no woman in labor should have to do. Pee in a cup? Right now? This doesn’t seem like the time. Lie flat on my back so that you can monitor my contractions? Lady, I can tell you myself when the contractions are coming. Just listen.
The pain throughout these hospital intake rituals was horrible. I felt like I was losing control. Then came the questions: “Who will be taking care of this baby when you get home? Do either of you use heroin? Does anyone in your family have cancer or acne?” David answered everything as best he could while holding my hand and breathing with me. I began to get so aggravated with all the questioning that I started twisting and turning in the bed to get the contraction monitor to move so she would have to reposition it and stop asking. Doula stayed at my head, reminding me to focus and breathe.
Finally, after an hour of questions and protocol, it was time to check my progress. I felt like I had to be at 8 centimeters, but I would settle for a 6. I pleaded with the nurse, “Gentle, please be gentle,” as I anticipated the pain of the next contraction. She checked. I waited. And finally…
“Four and a half, or so. That’s good.”
WHAT? I screamed fairly loudly at that point. FOUR? I’VE BEEN FOUR SINCE THURSDAY.
“Oh, ok,” she replied. “Well, let’s see if you progress over the next hour and then we’ll formally admit you. If not, we can just send you home. It’s best.”
Send me HOME?! Pardon my French, but are you FAR-REAKING KIDDING ME? I’ve been in labor for 13 hours and you want to send me HOME? I panicked, refused, insisted I was having a baby, but alas. My contractions began to slow down. We walked the hospital and tried a few new positions, but nothing kicked me back into gear. My morale was completely obliterated. I went back to the room, sunk into the bed, and cried. Doula, David and I talked to me for a while about how frustrating this was, trying to coax me out of the hospital. The nurse checked me again. Fourteen hours, and still 4 centimeters. The nurse told me this was fairly normal for a first pregnancy, but it didn’t matter. I was sunk. And I was giving up. I felt like a complete and utter failure.