On Tues. 6/7 (at 40 weeks, 2 days pregnant), I woke up feeling off, with achiness across my lower abs. I'd felt like this on a number of other occasions upon waking up, but it would usually go away once I got up and got on with the day. So at the time I didn't have a "this is it" feeling.
But this time I did feel like the discomfort was the most it had been so far, and once I got out of bed it stuck around. Micah headed off to Master's swim and work at my encouragement, and I stayed home because I had just decided the previous day that I would spend any remaining work days working from home. It was getting a little draining finding new ways to respond to "You're still here?!" at work.
The previous day at my 40-week appointment it had become obvious that I needed to change things up. My blood pressure had shot up after being nicely low for so long, and I'm sure it was in response to a lot of things combined. Blood pressure aside, it was still pretty obvious that I needed to take what would be my first sick day of the entire pregnancy (at 40 weeks, 1 day!). My midwife told me to stay home and rest but I knew I really just needed a change of scenery.
So I spent the day with family, which included lunch at an adorable restaurant called Tilia in Linden Hills, followed by Pavarotti ice cream (banana, chocolate chunk, caramel) at Sebastian Joe's, nap time, a manicure, and a little shopping at Southdale with my sister. After this I felt a lot better. I had already wrung out every possible to-do I could think of, and all of these things were different enough from my mindset in the last few weeks to have a really positive effect on me. (And yes, I was the very pregnant woman walking around on this very hot day in a dress and flip flops.) All along in the pregnancy you think you'll just tough it out until the end doing what you always do--and hope the end doesn't keep getting dangled out in front of you only to be pushed out day after day. I have a hard time recognizing my limits sometimes because I like to hang on until the end without needing special treatment, but all this was a good timeout for me, and apparently what was needed!
Anyway, Tuesday morning, I had gotten up and logged on to my work computer to tie up some things. At 7am, I'm sitting there on the sofa with Gus (the pug) and randomly burst into tears but didn't know why. (This should have been a sign!)
I ate breakfast and decided I should probably send family a 40-week update email. I'd been sending them weekly updates for a while (which out-of-state family particularly appreciated) and figured if they wanted any update it would be the 40-week one. Basically I said that my Monday appt had revealed good signs of progress, but that there was no baby yet.
Ten minutes after writing the email (8:45am), I walked upstairs and when I got to the top of the stairs I felt what I knew immediately was my water breaking. I could feel a wave of adrenaline go through me once I realized what that meant--that whether labor started on its own or with some help at the hospital, we would have a baby within no more than 48 hours. I also couldn't believe my water had broken because apparently this only happens before the onset of contractions in about 10% of cases.
Since I wasn't having contractions yet, I went about some household tasks (laundry, packing last-minute hospital items, talking Gus for a walk--though I realize now how ridiculous that sounds, at the time it seemed as good a way as any to bring on contractions). I called Micah at work around 10:30am and told him to come home around lunchtime. Then I called my midwife, who told me to continue to rest at home and wait for labor to start. One of the scenarios in her mind was that labor potentially wouldn't start on its own, and if so we would want to be at the hospital within 12 hours of my water breaking. But I didn't have any concern that labor wouldn't begin on its own.
Around 11:20am I started to feel some tension across my lower back and some very mild contractions. I focused on taking in a ton of fluids and eating what I could since I knew I wouldn't want to eat later. Micah got home and helped me time contractions. My midwife had said to contact her once contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, 45-60 seconds and when each one was of greater intensity than the previous--for an hour straight. Well, that actually happened a lot faster than expected! By the time I was on the phone with her to confirm that this was happening, I was having a hard time talking through them.
Micah and I headed to the hospital around 3 or 3:30pm. Things were definitely getting more intense by the minute. We got to the ER entrance and had to wait about 15 minutes for transport to take us up to the maternity unit. By this time I was pacing the lobby, leaning against the wall, and completely (apparently) scaring the heck out of one lady sitting there with a mixed look of pity and fear on her face.
By the time we got up to the maternity unit around 4pm, I was pretty amazed at how intense the contractions were. I was having a hard time just lying there in the hospital bed for the initial 20-30 minutes of fetal monitoring they do upon being admitted. Baby was looking good, though! And the nurses and midwife pronounced me 3-4 cm dilated.
My midwife was the one on call (nice!), and we tried some different labor positions like the birth ball with counter pressure and tub, neither of which did much of anything for me! Most of the contractions were in my back, but if I leaned forward at all, like on the birth ball, all that pressure shifted to my front and doubled in intensity. The tub in the room wasn't very comfortable and of course, tiny. I could feel the strongest contractions as this intense circular pressure that occasionally sank down into my hips. Some of the counter pressure that Micah helped with did seem to help but I knew it wouldn't see me through multiple hours. The best contractions were when I was standing/pacing and pushing my weight against a wall or Micah.
But luckily every time they checked me I was more dilated, much to my surprise. I had just assumed everything would take longer. At this point I was 5-6cm and now understood how anyone would ask for an epidural, especially if you didn't know how long you had left. I think I even expressed the desire once, even though I ultimately wanted to avoid it if possible, and I remember thinking it would take too long too administer and not help me at that very moment. That's how hard it was to think rationally. I was too out of it to think how close to 7cm we were--which is when you can get into the actual waterbirth tub in a separate room, as opposed to the tiny in-room tubs where you can just labor but not give birth. I opted instead for a pretty mild analgesic that would last only 30 minutes "to take the edge off." Well let me tell you, I don't know what edge they were talking about; I was still pointing to 11 when the nurses asked me to gauge 1-10 intensity. It did help me to relax somewhat between contractions, but the contractions themselves felt no different.
But quickly (again, surprisingly) I was 7cm and we moved to the big tub. The tub had inside handles to hold onto, which really helped get through the contractions, and the buoyancy from being in water helped me relax as well. Micah was at my side the whole time, handing me water or juice and offering encouragement. I knew I was really tensing up in my hamstrings and biceps, in a way where you think "These muscles are going to be so sore when this is over," not unlike how it feels toward the end of a marathon! I was eternally grateful that I'd focused on consuming tons of water and fluids earlier in the day; otherwise I could have been getting some intense calf cramps at this point.
7 to 9.75 cm in the water happened quickly, too. Before I knew it they said I was "complete" (about 3.5 to 4 hrs after getting to the hospital), but not much about it felt like we were closer to having a baby, despite starting to feel a strange and totally uncontrollable urge to push around 8cm. The nurses and midwife (now a different one due to a shift change) kept telling me to focus on my breath, which I will admit was a bit frustrating because you're like, "I'd love to, but I feel like there's an elephant sitting on me."
But once they told me I could push, I felt so much more focused. It just becomes so much more obvious what you need to do. This is where I felt like being in good physical shape made the most difference in the labor because I was really able to capitalize on endurance and make the most of each contraction.
At 8:28pm, after 46 minutes of pushing, Zanna Cecilia was born! Within seconds of being born, she was put in my arms, before I even knew what had happened. She had great coloring and I immediately asked if she was okay and if the cord had been around her neck. She was very calm but made a few peeps right away and they said she was fine and that the cord had not been around her neck.
Micah cut the cord, and then I got out of tub and moved to a hospital bed for the rest of what needed to be done (while Micah held her). I was shivering pretty intensely so they warmed me up and then I got to hold her immediately after that. I did have to have some repair, but I was told that it wasn't surprising given the quickness of the labor...AND because she had had her hand up next to her face!
All of our immediate family got to meet Zanna soon after. What a day! The slice of pepperoni pizza from Cossetta's tasted pretty good at 11pm.