Before I had kids I ran marathons and half marathons. I wasn’t fast, but I could run forever. I was built for endurance.
And thank goodness I was used to digging deep and pushing through hard moments to reach the finish line, because when I had my first son I spent more than 30 hours in labor.
Yep, you read that right. 30 hours!
I had a lot of things going for me. It was my first pregnancy. I exercised regularly throughout my pregnancy. I was strong. And determined not to be induced.
I don’t know why. I know women are safely induced all the time, but the idea of being jump-started into labor terrified me. So I patiently (impatiently) waited for my due date to come and go. Five days after my due date, I began to wonder if this baby was ever coming out.
Of course, I wasn’t doomed to be pregnant forever. Just after midnight, I woke up to strong pains in my abdomen. Annoying.
Back pain. Ugh… that doesn’t feel good. I tossed and turned and couldn’t get comfortable enough to go back to sleep. Around 3 I woke up my husband and said, “I think I’m having some contractions. I’m just going to go downstairs for a while. I’ll wake you up if I need you.”
I grabbed a notebook and jotted down the timing. Hmmm… only every 10-15 minutes. They were not very regular, but DANG they were strong. I found solace in the mantel above the fireplace. It was the perfect height to lean into with my hands and let my belly wobble below. I could breathe through it.
Feeling confident that this was the start of an important day, I told my husband he should call into work because we were going to have a baby later today. “YAY!”
And then we sat and watched movies all morning. We sat and every 10 minutes I’d get up to lean into the mantel and moan. We’d write down the time. And continue watching for 10 more minutes. It was steady but never got closer together.
By lunchtime my mom had made the two-hour drive down. She was a godsend. The first time I grabbed the mantel, she put her hand in a fist into the small of my back and it was the best relief I’d had all day.
“How’d you know where to push?” I asked in amazement. She said, “I had a lot of back labor too.” Hmm… back labor. Is that what this is?
Later that afternoon, I had my regularly scheduled weekly appointment, and I was secretly hoping they’d just keep me downtown. It was not a pleasant car ride, and it took me forever to walk into the clinic. But I made it!
And the Nurse Practioner/Certified Midwife on call for that night said, “Yep, you’re in early labor. Keep it up! I’m sure I’ll see you in here later tonight.”
EARLY LABOR?!? We’re already going on 12 hours lady. Sigh…
Back at the house, my mom and husband tried to get me to eat something so I’d have energy for “later.” But food didn’t sound good, and I was getting tired. After all, I’d been up since a little after midnight.
Eventually, they talked me into a bath. I honestly don’t remember if it helped. I just remember being tired and frustrated.
Then the crazy lady arrived. I started to do the dishes. I HAD TO DO THE DISHES! Because I thought, “When I get back to the house, there will be a BABY to take care of. I don’t want to have to do 3-day old dishes. I need to focus on the baby.”
Well, you can imagine that didn’t last long. Mom took over the dishes and my husband directed me back to the couch to “try to relax.”
While my contractions at home were never closer than 6 to 8 minutes apart, my caretakers decided it was time to go to the hospital. Since I don’t remember this decision clearly, I’m guessing it was obvious the contractions were getting stronger.
This second car ride downtown was infinitely worse. Darn you, potholes! And there was no loving mantel to lean on. I had to be buckled into the front seat like a barbarian. This was torturous!
By the time we got checked into triage and settled into a room, it was after 7 p.m. They asked me if I wanted an epidural, and in my ignorance, I said: “I think I can hang on a little longer.” DUMB!
What I didn’t realize was that by the time the nurse orders an epidural and the time when they actually arrive to perform it, can feel like an eternity. And once I was ready, the anesthesiologist had to be called back to the hospital because it was a Friday night, and he’d gone home to see his family. I don’t think the nurse was supposed to tell me that.
On a positive note, I did like the ergonomics of my hospital bed. (Probably no woman has ever said that before.) But I could brace my hands on the rails and press my back into the bed during a contraction, and it was better than my mantel position at home. #smallwins
Finally, sweet relief came between 9 and 10, when I had the epidural. For the first time all day I felt like I could catch my breath and relax. I laid on my side and listened to my running playlist while my husband and mom sat watching silly movies on cable.
By this time my younger sister had arrived at the hospital too. She’d spent the day at the Omaha Zoo with friends and drove back to Des Moines thinking SURELY BY NOW there will be a baby. Nope! So she stayed to watch silly movies too.
After Midnight and Another Early Morning
It seemed as though the epidural had slowed the process down even further. So we soldiered on until after 3 am when we FINALLY got the green light to push. BOOM! Yes!! This was it. The big show. I was ready for it! Or was I?
Push. Breathe. Push push push. Breathe. Push pushpushpushpushpushpush. Breath.
And on and on and on it went.
At 6:30 a.m. my beautiful boy was born. And he had a beautiful cone head.
I later learned he had been in the posterior position, also commonly called sunny-side up. Instead of facing my back, he was facing my abdomen and his skull rubbed against the back of my pelvis. Which explained all the back pain with my labor. And why it took so long for him to progress through the birth canal. He wasn’t pointed in the right direction. And I thought it was just me!
No matter how slow and steady, he came into this world.
He was my greatest marathon. And proof that I can do hard things.