Monday, January 9, 2006

All about labour: Stage 1

If you are looking for updates on Rebecca, this is not the entry for you. There will be updates on Rebecca in future posts.
So... as promised, I will tell my labour story. This isn't one of those scary labour stories, so you don't have to worry about being turned off the notion of ever giving birth.
Anyhow, as you will be taught if you take a prenatal class, there are three stages to labour.
Stage 1 consists of the latent, active and transition phases. In stage 1, the cervix thins and dilates to the full 10cm.
Stage 2 consists of the pushing part and the delivery of the baby.
Stage 3 is the delivery of the placenta.
This particular blog entry is about the experience of stage 1.
My labour was technically pre-term labour and my baby was technically premature (a premie). Fortunately, Rebecca was "near term" and therefore she was not a whole lot different than a full term baby. In fact, her weight (7lbs 3 oz) was average for a full term baby. One shudders to think of how big she might have been had she arrived in January as originally anticipated.
As previously described, after my work Christmas party at the raceway, I went home, fell asleep and awoke in the wee hours of the morning to the breaking of the waters. I should point out that the vast majority of women don't break their water before they are well into labour (about 90% of women don't break their water before the onset of active labour, despite what mass media may have led you to believe). In fact, sometimes women have to have their water broken for them using something that looks like a crochet hook (but this is supposedly painless). At any rate, a word of advice for any women reading this blog who intend to have children in the future. Be ready early! And on the off chance that you break your water before your labour starts, make sure you have stocked up on pads - not the wimpy ass kind you might normally use, but the mega kind. They will also be of use post-delivery. And there is nothing like coming home from the hospital and having to wash amniotic fluid out of your clothing.
So, once my water had broken and my group B strep turned out to be negative, I was given the option of walking around the hopsital to see if my contractions would start, or going home. Since I live a two minute drive from the hospital, I elected to go home. Besides, we were tired. They told me I should rest. How was I supposed to rest when I was so excited? In retrospect, I should have. Instead, I watched videos with Greg, including the excellent "March of the penguins". In the late afternoon, I started having contractions. I had asked Greg for a new digital watch for Christmas, and he gave it to me early so that I could time my contractions. When they first started happening, I wasn't sure what they were. They were not regularly spaced and felt like menstrual cramps - a dull achey pain that came in waves. The reason I wasn't sure if they were was because i had been told the feeling would start as a wave from at the top of the uterus downwards. Instead, things would start in my lower back. As the day progressed, the pain became more intense and the intervals of time shorter. Sometimes the intervals were as short as three minutes, sometimes six minutes - things never became regular (even at the very end of delivery this was true for me). It got to the point where the pain made it impossible to concentrate on anything else. I dutifully practised my breathing exercises, but it didn't seem to help that much. I was uncomfortable enough that I decided to return to the hospital at midnight. It was almost 24 hours since my water broke anyhow - so they would want to induce me. Unfortunately, there were so many women in labour that particular night, that they wanted to wait a bit before inducing me. So Mom, Greg and I hung out in my delivery room and various nurses checked up on me at random intervals. At this point, I was in a great deal of pain and I was looking for some manner of relief. I was offered three choices: morphine, nitrenox, or epidural. What I really wanted was an epidural. Nitrenox can only be administered to a limited extent and limited number of times and I was not keen to have morphine at all. In order to administer an epidural, they had to check how dilated my cervix was. This is done by a nurse or resident using their fingers. You can imagine how much fun that is. Sometimes the process of checking the dilation results in further dilation. Anyhow, I am already a person who doesn't enjoy annuals and I was told my cervix was "far back". I found the dilation check so painful that I ended up taking nitrenox just so I could endure the pain. And ultimately, while it was a trippy and dissociative experience, it did little to alleviate my discomfort. And guess what - I was only 1cm dilated. In the end, they decided to induce me and then proceed with an epidural "early than usual" because they didn't think I could endure more dilation checks. That was fine by me. To insert the epidural, they stick a needle in your spine (technically in space around your spine). The area was frozen first but the procedure felt quite odd. I had to sit on the end of the bed and lean forward while it happened (despite enormous prego belly). I also had to let them know when contractions were coming and I had to avoid moving. Well, the first attempt gave me a jolt down a nerve and I jumped. They actually had to make several attempts before the needle was well positioned (it kept nicking something and making an uncomfortable sensation on my lower left side). Once the needle was in and the drugs added - it was like heaven. My lower body was numb and the pain was gone! I could sleep - thank God - I was already so tired (and Mom and Greg got to sleep too)! And I also found the will to be pleasant to my long-suffering labour coaches. Of course, I was now bed-bound and my blood pressure was regularly monitored. They also had to empty my bladder using a catheter, but frankly I didn't care anymore. I didn't feel pain and by that point, so many strangers had been glancing at me that I didn't even feel embarassed anymore. The oxytocin (inducing drug) was very effective, and soon I was dilated even more. Before I knew it, I was through the active phase and into the transition phase. By now it was morning of the next day. They wouldn't let me eat anything but ice chips (they didn't even want me to drink water). Mom had fed me a cheesestring at one point, but when I hit the transition phase (dilation of the last 3cm), I was hit with terrible nausea and a threw up twice (quite common at transition). I felt so much better after vomitting. It took almost no time for me to become fully dilated (10cm). It was time for the hardest part.

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