One year ago today, I woke up to my alarm clock ringing at 5 a.m. I remember thinking that it was pretty rude to make a woman wake up at 5 a.m. in order to get to the hospital by 7 a.m. for a scheduled induction. Shouldn't you let the woman have one last morning of sleep if you are purposely going to send her into labour today? That was my thought as I drug my tired butt out of bed and got into the shower.
But once the water started pouring over me and I started to wake up a bit, the butterflies started in my stomach and the nervousness kicked in. Just how much was this going to hurt? I really, really wanted to avoid the epidural, but how do you know how you will feel in the moment while you're gripped with pain?
An hour later we were in the car, bags packed, headed to the hospital in Calgary. We arrived, parked, then wandered and wandered until we finally found the right room for the induction. I was the only woman scheduled that morning, so hubby and I had the room all to ourselves. I went to the bathroom, put on my gown, went back the room, heard they were going to strap me to the monitor and make me stay still for an hour -- so I went to the bathroom again.
She applied the gel to my cervix and I stayed put for an hour. "Come back at 2 p.m., whether you've started contractions or not," the nurse told us. If you haven't started yet, we'll give you more. Often, we have to do this a couple times for it to work."
I started having contractions in the car before we even made it out of the city. By the time we reached Airdrie, I could hardly sit in my seat. Hubby decided we should stop at Blockbuster and rent a movie so there would be something for me to take my mind off the pain until we went back to the hospital. I thought it was a good idea, but wasn't sure I'd be able to walk through the store. Turned out it wasn't open yet so we just went home…
I love the TV show Friends, and we own all 10 seasons on DVD, so hubby put one of the seasons in for me. I have no idea which one, because for the first time in my life, I couldn't care less. All I could do is kneel on the floor and put my head on the couch, because that was the only comfortable position I could find. Hubby went to McDonalds to get some lunch for me, but I just couldn't eat it.
Finally, at 12:30 p.m., Nate decided he better put me in the car before I started refusing to go. I thought we should wait a bit longer, 'cause I didn't want to drive all the way there and then find out it was too early and have to go back home again. Turns out hubby made a good decision. By the time we got the hospital again, the contractions were close enough together that I could only go about 10 steps before I had to stop. When we reached the labour and delivery ward, all I could do was drape myself over the front desk.
"I'm guessing you're in labour!" the sing-songy nurse trilled. I wanted to say something really nasty, but all I could get out was a very breathy "YES!" She helped me to a bed in a small dark room, gave me a gown to change into and pulled the curtains around me. As soon as I had changed into the gown and managed to get myself on the bed, my water broke. The contractions suddenly intensified about 10 times, and I found myself hardly able to breath through them.
I was trying to find new coping mechanisms for this new development, and I must not have been doing a very good job, because from the other side of the curtain, I could hear a nurse say to another woman: "I'm sorry honey, these are just Braxton-Hicks contractions. When you're really in labour, you'll sound like her!"
Soon after that, my nurse came back to check me and decided it was time to put me in a delivery room -- they were really slow that day so there were a bunch just sitting empty. Might as well put me in there where there was lots more room and Nathan could be a bit more comfy too.
And I must confess, after that, the events are a bit of a blur. I remember refusing the epidural and deciding to try the laughing gas, since that was the only pain relief option that wouldn't do any damage to Gracie. I don't think it worked all that well, but I did notice when I had sucked the whole tank dry. Mostly, it helped me with my breathing because I had to really concentrate and breathe correctly through the contractions -- if I started to hyperventilate a bit through a really bad one, the nurses would have a fit and come and make me slow my breathing down. Then I remember saying: "Maybe I will try a little morphine now…" about 12 times, and nobody making any move to get me some. Oh well.
After what hadn't seemed like a very long time to me, I started to feel that overwhelming need to push. A doctor checked me out and said that it was okay to start, so I did -- and Oh My God did that ever feel good! I have never felt such relief in my whole life.
And then a different doctor came to check and said I was only 9.5 centimetres dilated and that I would have to wait and stop pushing. I could have cried. I think I might have…I'll have to ask Nate. The next hour of trying not to push through each contraction when every single muscle in my body was trying to push that baby out was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I will never forget those muscles gripping my body, pushing, tightening, hardening -- and being told to try to relax them and do nothing. Like I had some kind of control over it or something.
Finally, FINALLY I was allowed to push again, and the relief was blissful. I remember that the pushing part was extremely hard physical work, but I don't really remember it being painful, to be honest. It was just such a relief to get to work with my body instead of trying to work against it, that it felt like heaven. I pushed for nearly an hour before I finally got Gracie's giant head out. Once her head was out, I remember thinking "Okay! I'm almost done! After the head, the shoulders are just a couple pushes and I'm done…right?"
Wrong. Oh so very wrong.
Gracie had her arms crossed in front of her, with her two little hands touching each shoulder. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed and I pushed and nothing was happening. Nobody would tell me what was going on -- just to push a little harder. Then suddenly, with the next contraction, I felt an absolute searing pain. I remember screaming that this hurt SO MUCH and the doctors saying I just had to keep pushing. I couldn't see what they were doing, but afterwards my Mom told me that the doctor had had to reach a hand in and first grab one of Gracie's arms and pull it out, then pull out her other arm with the next contraction because her face was starting to turn blue.
A few more pushes and she was out. They grabbed her and ran, and took her to a corner of the room where I think three different pediatricians were waiting to look at her. Which totally freaked me out -- and once again, nobody would tell me anything. "She's just fine, they're just checking her," is all the doctor still with me would say. Gracie wasn't making any noise, and Nate and I were getting really scared -- and then she finally started to cry. (Five days later, we would find out that the doctor had broken her collarbone while yanking her out of there, but that's another story…)
They let Nate and my Mom go over there and take pictures and hold her, but I was still in the bed. The doctor was stitching me up -- and stitching and stitching and stitching -- and everybody else had seen and held this beautiful girl but me. I WAS STARTING TO GET ANGRY. (As a side note - the doctor who was stitching me up didn't know I hadn't had an epidural or any painkillers of any kind, and just started stitching me up. And when I yelled, she looked up and said: "That hurt?")
Then eventually, when they were done stitching me up, I got to hold my sweet Gracie, and it was love at first sight.
Grace Amelia Elizabeth Anderson was born at 6:57 p.m., February 5, 2007. She was 8 lbs, 10.75 oz.