By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was pretty uncomfortable. I had to stop walking during contractions and was close to the point of being unable to talk. We were taken up to Labor and Delivery where I changed into a lovely hospital gown and provided a urine sample. Sitting on the toilet was not an option, however, due to my size and the discomfort of my contractions, so I pulled a beautiful "straddle the bowl" move that I'm sorry I couldn't share with everyone else. The nurse checked my cervix and declared that I was 3-4 centimeters dilated. I have only been more disappointed in my life once--upon hearing that I was only 1 centimeter with Joshua after being in labor for 14 hours.
The nurse talked to the doctor who said that I could walk the halls for an hour (until 11:30) and that he would admit me if I had made sufficient progress. "But," the nurse said, "you look like you're really in labor. I can tell by your breathing." I was a little annoyed that there was some doubt about whether I was really in labor but relieved that they weren't going to start strapping monitors on me right away.
Jay and I wandered into the hall and started walking--because walking for six hours straight (minus a 15-minute car ride) wasn't enough. Had I known, I would have brought tennis shoes, because the $9 flip-flops just weren't cutting it anymore. So off we went, up and down the halls for what seemed like an eternity. It was really about 20 minutes. I was stopping with every contraction, doing my best to imitate a lowing cow, making the best horse lips I knew how, and generally trying not to just sink to the floor in agony. It didn't help that the hallway we were provided was populated with several men in ties who appeared to be architects. My attitude in the beginning was, "They're in my space. They should expect moaning, laboring women." But by the time I was in serious pain I started to get a little self-conscious. After all, I'm the one who's supposed to make people feel comfortable. I can't really do that when my body's trying to make a 1 centimeter hole turn into a 10 centimeter hole.
After about 30 minutes I was done. I wanted medication and I wanted it now. Jay wasn't going to convince me otherwise, and he wasn't going to fool me with his, "Just one more lap" routine. And if he tried to stand in front of me I was going to knock him down. There was one place I wanted to be--on a bed in Delivery Room 3 with an epidural jammed in my back.
Despite pleas, threats, and tears I made my way back to the delivery room and paged the nurse. When she arrived I told her I wanted the anesthesiologist as soon as humanly possible. It was only then that she informed me that I would have to have blood tests to determine whether or not anesthesia was safe, and that it would take an hour to get the results. She offered narcotics in the meantime, which I refused. In preparation for the epidural she placed an IV and hooked me up to the fetal heart monitor. I tried to make my self as comfortable as possible but I was in utter agony. Each contraction racked my body and the "downtime" between contractions was very inconsistent--sometimes I had several minutes between them and sometimes I had less than 30 seconds. I knew that I was in transition, but that didn't make the pain any less manageable.
What made things even less than optimal was the fact that the nurses had absolutely no training in helping a woman through labor without medication. Jay had given them the quick and dirty on the Bradley method when we arrived, but they were so unused to unmedicated birth that the requests and information he provided were quickly forgotten.
One of the most troublesome/annoying/disturbing moments was an exchange between one of the nurses and Jay. He was on one side of me and she was on the other. Despite the fact that I was in utter agony and wanted desperately to be left alone, she decided that it was a good time to ask Jay questions about Bradley birth. It went something like this: "So, I don't know much about Bradley except the little bit we learned about in nursing school. But I was just asking someone about it and they said that sometimes in Bradley birth the man and woman want to be naked together in the delivery room. Are you all going to want to be naked together, because I don't think that's something we can do?" Jay very quickly told her that, no, we both intended to stayed clothed. She continued, though. "Because, wow, I mean, that's like, I'd be like, I don't think I can handle that..." And it took every ounce of my being not to scream, "Shut the #$%^ up, lady!" So you can see what we were dealing with here.
When the blood tests came back an hour later Jay requested that the nurse check my progress again. I was at 7 cm. When the anesthesiologist showed up about 10 minutes later, I was still at 7 cm. Jay asked me one last time to forego the epidural but my mind was made up. He was summarily dismissed from the room while the anesthesiologist went over the risks and obtained my consent for anesthesia.
I sat up with the help of the nurse (not the "Do you want to be naked?" nurse) and whimpered to her that I was having a contraction and that I wasn't sure I could be still. She held my hand and stared into my eyes in what was by far one of the most intense connections I've ever had with another human being. She breathed with me and squeezed hands with me, and finally it was over. She instructed me to lay back down and told me that the epidural would start to take effect in about 15 minutes.
You won't believe what happened next...