Celeste is my second child and I really wanted a different experience for labor and delivery this time around. When I had my firstborn, James, I chose to get the epidural as soon as I was five centimeters dilated and I was on a constant drip of pain medication. This was probably the best way for me to go with my first pregnancy; I was younger and nervous.
But this time with Celeste, I really wanted a different experience, so I found a midwifery practice that offers water births in a hospital setting.
When my water broke on October 2, 2005, we dropped our son off at a friend’s home and then headed to the hospital at 6:30 PM. I was looking forward to a calm and natural water birth and figured I'd be holding my new daughter by midnight and sleeping peacefully by 1 AM.
I had imagined everything to be perfect, and for the first few hours of labor it was. I labored naturally out of the tub until well into the morning, and my hopes for a quick labor vanished. I walked the halls and the parking lot, listened to music, and danced with my husband, having no problem dealing with the contractions. By 3 AM, I figured the time was getting closer as my contractions were getting stronger. The midwife checked my cervix and I was still at five centimeters after almost eight hours of labor! We decided to get in the tub for a few hours to see if the water would speed up my labor, but after sitting in there for two hours I still had not progressed.
From then on, all my dreams of the calm, natural water birth I'd so hoped for were over.
Twelve hours into labor, and still only six centimeters, my midwife ordered Pitocin to get my labor going. After the Pitocin I wasn't allowed to reenter the tub again due to the hospital's regulations, but even so, I continued on without pain medication. As the morning progressed, I did too, thanks to the Pitocin, but it hurt. I was so adamant about not wanting an epidural, when we first got to the hospital I had asked all the nurses not to even offer it to me. I think at that point if I had been offered it, I might have gotten it, but I was too focused on getting myself through the contractions to even think about asking for one.
Around 10 AM, I started pushing, but very slowly. I was so worried I would tear that I tried to hold back, but my body wanted that baby out! At 10:30, to the tune of The Call of Ktulu by my favorite band Metallica, my daughter was born; and though nothing went as planned (no water birth, plus a horrible Pitocin IV), I was happier than ever. Sixteen hours was twice the time I spent in labor with my son, and it was probably 200 times more painful, but she is so worth it.
The disappointment and letdown of the whole situation was really not as much as I'd expected either. Even though I wasn't able to have my dream birthing experience, I instead focused on what I'd accomplished. I went through 16 hours of labor, plus Pitocin for the last five hours, with no pain medication. I endured what so many women cannot, and it is empowering. When friends came to offer their congratulations, they didn't just congratulate us on the new baby, they also commented on what a strong person I was for accomplishing what I did. I almost feel more motherly now that I've experienced labor and delivery fully. But, if there's a next time for me in that delivery room, you can bet I'm getting the epidural!