Incidentally, my two "requests" regarding labor were Please Lord, let me be well rested and Please Lord, don't let me throw up. Both were granted. :)
In the morning, I made myself a milkshake with bananas and coffee ice cream. I figured that I was going to need all the calories I could get since I was having a baby that day; if there was ever a time to kick off the morning with a glass of caffeine and sugar, this had to be it! Then I called the birth center and told one of the midwives that my contractions were 10 minutes apart, only mildly uncomfortable. She told me to come in so we could try to get things moving. My water had broken 12 hours before, and if I wasn't in active labor by 24 hours she'd have to recommend a hospital transfer due to risk of infection.
Okay. I packed up my bag (exciting things like a toothbrush and Larabars) and Ellie's bag (clothes in varying sizes, diapers, blankets, hat, and other sundries). Jared did a few things around the house and put the carseat in the car.
Earlier I'd also called my mom to let her know what was up, and soon she arrived with my sister Rachel get our house in order. While we were gone they cleaned, did laundry, arranged things in the nursery-- my dad even came that evening to put together the changing table and install some window blinds. I can't express how wonderful it was to have our family so close.
Anyway, off we went. It takes half an hour to get to the birth center from our house, and on the way we just joked and talked. We actually finalized her name en route. We checked in around 11:15. The midwife on call, Sabrina, took us back to one of the rooms and let us get settled.
Upon walking into the room, I remembered another reason why I had wanted to give birth here, as opposed to a hospital. This felt more like a bed-and-breakfast than a medical facility. Queen-sized bed, flowers, art on the walls, candles flickering, comfortable chairs, the blessed hot tub right there in the corner. No machines that went ping.
Sabrina suggested that I get a Foley catheter, a little balloon which would put pressure on the cervix and hopefully encourage my body to start dilating on its own. This sounded like a fine plan to us, so she inserted the catheter (it felt weird) and I also took castor oil (nasty but not quite as bad as I thought it would be-- we mixed it with a blood orange San Pellegrino!). My contractions immediately got stronger and closer together. Yay, I guess.
Sabrina told us that I needed to hit 4 centimeters to be officially admitted. In the meantime Jared and I walked a block up the street to a small cafe for lunch (salad, cheeseburger soup, potato chips, mocha cheesecake) and walked back, by which time I had to stop, hold Jared's hand, and close my eyes through each contraction. I knew that I still had some time before I reached the required dilation, but didn't want to go home because our still-messy house would be much less relaxing than the birth center
Sabrina agreed to let us stay. We waited in the quiet, peaceful room, working through contractions together.
Jared read me Psalm 139, which was a tremendous encouragement.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
If I take the wings of the morningand dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,and your right hand shall hold me.
Maybe an hour and a half later, the catheter bulb popped out. Translation: I was at 4 centimeters and considered "in active labor," and I could get into the hot tub. Magic, I tell you. The water blunted the pain of each contraction significantly.and the light about me be night,”the night is bright as the day,for darkness is as light with you.
Speaking of pain, let me say that it was very bearable. Even at the worst, I did not freak out, lose consciousness, or want to die. The whole way through, I knew I could handle it. Mind you, I'm a bit of a wimp, so don't think of me as some superwoman immune to pain. :) It hurt a lot! But I was pretty determined to do it naturally and I was confident in my body's ability to deliver my child. God had given me a great deal of peace beforehand; I prayed like crazy while I was pregnant. Besides, I had an excellent husband helping me out. I never could have done it without that guy.
In fact, here's what Jared contributed, more or less in order of importance:
1) Kept me hydrated. I would have forgotten to drink if he hadn't been there handing me a water bottle every chance he got.This stage of labor lasted hours and hours. I wasn't watching the clock, so I can't give a precise timeline. Several different midwives and nurses popped in and out, taking my temperature and pulse, then listening to Ellie's heartbeat for a few minutes each time. Apparently she had a slight irregularity that concerned them for a while (you could hear her heart speed up and then skip a beat every so often) but they told me that there was no need for a hospital transfer yet, and as long as everything else continued normally they would not worry too much. Sure enough, her heartbeat settled down by the end of labor and she is fine now.
2) Breathed with me. Whenever a contraction started he would remind me to breathe evenly, deeply, and slowly, and he'd do it with me whenever I started to lose it. This conserved my energy and calmed me down-- and yes, concentrating on deep breaths really does take your mind off pain!
3) Told me over and over again what a good job I was doing, that we were going to meet our little girl soon, and that I was doing exactly the right thing to get her out. When Jared says things like that I believe him.
4) Put pressure on my hips and/or tailbone during contractions. Sabrina showed him how to do this early on in labor, and it was wonderful. I am thankful for a husband with strong hands.
5) Helped me make decisions when I was too tired to think, like Do you want the jets on in the tub? Do you think you should get out now and walk around? You look really warm, should I turn the fan on? Would a snack be good right now? I was the body and he was the brain.
So what was I doing this whole time? Well, I ate some cheese and half a granola bar at one point, but mostly, I concentrated hard on breathing through contractions and relaxing between them. I spent plenty of time in the hot tub, especially when I wanted a "break"-- it slowed my contractions down, which I needed. (I suspect that Ellie would have been born even sooner had I stayed out of the tub. However, I am glad that I used it so often, because I think I had more energy for the final stage of labor than if I had just let things barrel along.)
Though I was tired and definitely wished that contractions wouldn't hurt so much, I didn't feel overwhelmed or discouraged.
Then. Oh, then. Sometime after midnight the fun began.