We took a taxi up to the hospital and were immediately whisked up to the Labor and Delivery floor. The place was packed; apparently, a bunch of babies in Manhattan decided they wanted April birthdays! I had to wait close to an hour to get a room, during which time I was still totally comfortable and texting friends.
I finally got situated in my room a little after midnight, about 2 hours after my water broke. They checked me and I was unsurprisingly only 1cm dilated (10cm is fully dilated and ready to push), so they told Matt and me to get some rest in preparation for a LONG day ahead. I was also told that if things didn’t start moving by 6am – 8 hours after my water broke – that my doctor would have to intervene and induce labor with Pitocin.
While I didn’t go into the hospital with a birth plan (other than healthy baby, healthy mom), I was hoping to keep medical interventions to a minimum if at all possible. I have a low threshold for pain so I assumed I’d ask for some sort of pain medication during labor, but other than that I figured things would go smoothly. I had a low-risk pregnancy, baby was in great position at my last ultrasound, and I have nice and wide childbearing hips.
After a few restless hours of sleep – if that – I saw it was approaching 5am, and labor was still not happening. After getting the okay from the nurse I decided to take matters into my own hands and walk the halls of the Labor and Delivery floor, hoping the movement would spur baby along. Not only did my walk do NOTHING to progress labor, it also caused baby’s heart rate to drop a bit, and I was informed that I had to stay in bed for the rest of labor. Ugh.
At 6:00 I was still only 1cm dilated and so they started me on the lowest dose of Pitocin, a drug that stimulates labor. Everything I’ve read about Pitocin made me hesitant to take it – I was worried about one intervention resulting in another and another, plus the possibility of Pitocin causing fetal distress – but it wasn’t doing me or baby any good to sit around with my water broken for hours, not dilating; the longer your water is broken, the greater risk there is for infection, which could be really dangerous for me and the baby. Usually the rule (for deliveries in hospitals) is baby has to be out within 24 hours of water breaking.
Every 30 minutes or so the nurse would come in and up the Pitocin dose when contractions still weren’t coming. I was starting to get more and more uncomfortable and felt what I sure thought were contractions; unfortunately, they weren’t being picked up by the external contraction monitor strapped to my belly. Eventually a nurse came in and checked the monitor while I was contracting to see what the reading looked like; when there was no measurable change in the reading, my doctor decided to order an internal contraction monitor. They checked me before inserting it (btw, OUCH) and I was dilated a whopping 2cm. I was getting pretty frustrated at this point.
After a few hours of the doctors finally seeing my actual contraction pattern on the monitor, I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and asked for an epidural. They checked my progress before the anesthesiologist came in and, surprise surprise, I had progressed to what the obstetrics resident called “almost 3cm.” With a hefty dose of Pitocin and plenty of contractions over the course of a few hours I still had hardly progressed. AARGH!
I was scared to get the epidural at 3cm – getting an epidural too early in active labor can slow down the process – but in the end the contraction pain won out and I decided to go for it. Unfortunately, getting an epidural meant I was even more bed-ridden than I was before; along with the contraction monitors (internal and external), IV, and fetal heart rate monitor that were already strapped to various parts of my body, I had to get a catheter, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter (the little rubber thing that clips onto your finger) and, eventually, oxygen because my O2 levels weren’t where they wanted them. Somehow my intervention-free labor experience turned into me being strapped up to more machinery than I ever thought possible.
I’ll be honest; at this point I was getting ridiculously discouraged. It was close to noon on the 30th and I had progressed barely 2cm in the 14 hours since my water broke (and 6 hours after starting Pitocin). I was exhausted, uncomfortable – the epidural never really took completely, so I had some “hot spots” where I still felt contractions…and I felt every second of the catheter insertion – and concerned what the next few hours would bring.