At the midwife's suggestion, I opted to transfer to the hospital for the epidural. In between contractions (which were 2-3 minutes apart and a minute long) I managed to put on some clothes and a pair of flip flops and get out to the car. During this time Hubs helped the doula pack a diaper/hospital bag and tossed our car seat into the car. I'd briefly considered packing one earlier in the week, but thought "Oh no, I am having a home birth so I won't need a bag packed." Silly me. The midwife called the hospital to make necessary arrangements and we were on our way.
The cool night air felt so good on my face. I climbed into the back of the car on all fours. I asked Hubs to please roll down the back window. I'm sure he was freezing, but the cold air helped me feel better. In between contractions I was able to talk some to him and sip some water. Then I was back at it. On one hand I was so disappointed that my home birth was not happening, but on the other hand I knew that the hospital might bring some relief to the agonizing pain of my post-broken-water contractions. During the car ride I mostly yelled through contractions and didn't even try to relax. I was discouraged but hopeful that the end was near.
You know those unrealistic movie scenes where ladies give birth like they're dying? I'm pretty sure those movies are based on my last few hours of labor. As we got out of the car, I yelled. As we walked through the hospital lobby, I yelled. As we were in the elevator and waiting room and signing consent papers, I yelled. I just didn't care anymore. I was upset and ready to have all of labor and delivery done with. As we signed in, Hubs fished around in my purse for my drivers license. I shoved my fist into the right pocket and shakily dumped a bunch of cards on the counter in an effort to make things go faster. Then I had to lean on one of the waiting room chairs and yell some more.
After what seemed like hours, I was in the labor and delivery room. The doctor checked me and to everyone's surprise, I was almost nine centimeters dilated! The car ride had done more for my progress than 13 hours of laboring at home. The doctors said that delivery could be as little as 15 minutes to an hour away. The general consensus was that I should just finish laboring and give birth without any medication. I still wanted my epidural, but what would another half hour of contractions hurt?
Unfortunately for me, delivery was not 15 minutes away. After two more hours of excruciating contractions, the doc checked me and announced that I was just eight centimeters dilated and worse, my cervix was beginning to swell up because I was inadvertently pushing instead of relaxing through contractions. He dropped the "C-section" word and recommended an epidural to try to relax things as a last-ditch effort. Well, that's what I'd come in for to begin with! I wanted my epidural NOW!
After an eternity of paper-signing and other hoops, the epidural guy was finally ready to stick the needle down my back. "Now it's very important that you're perfectly still when I do this. You cannot move at all." At this point I WAS determined to get my epidural, but contractions were still three minutes apart at most. I had no idea how I'd manage to be perfectly still for four minutes. I prayed so hard that God would help me stay perfectly still regardless of how bad it hurt.
"Okay," I whispered to the epidural guy. I gripped Hubs hand on one side and the nurse's hand on the other. The nurse's hand was softer. I dug my fingernails into her wrist and kept saying "okay" over and over again like a broken record. Somehow I made it through the procedure sitting perfectly still. I didn't even yell like I had been doing for the past four hours.
The doctors and nurses said it would take up to 20 minutes for the epidural to have an effect, but I felt relief immediately. It was probably psychological, but it was relief nonetheless. I slept on and off for the next 45 minutes. It was wonderful. Another hour or so later, the doc checked me and announced that it was time to push. Yes! I had made it without needing a C-section.
They said that pushing could last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, and of course I took the whole entire hour. Pushing was still very painful even with the epidural. I'd wondered before what the "ring of fire" would feel like. About 15 minutes in I was sure I felt the ring of fire. I told myself that a few more pushes and our baby would be out. Silly me. For the next 45 minutes it felt like Baby Girl was playing peek-a-boo with her head... or someone was blasting a blow torch down there during every push/contraction. I thought it would never end. The doctor and nurses kept telling me to touch the baby's head, but I didn't want to. I was afraid that the head would go back in and I'd have to push for another hour. Finally they got me to do it, and I'm so glad I did. Her head was wet and soft. I'm pretty sure I started crying at this point and telling everyone how hard pushing was and how tired I was. The doc told me to take a break several times after this and just breath through the contractions. I didn't notice a difference in pushing after the breaks, but Hubs said it really did help.
Finally, finally, her head popped out. Then I felt the rest of her body slither out and before I knew it, she was lying on my chest. For the first few minutes I was just shocked at how big she was. I couldn't believe that something so big could have been inside of me, let alone find its way out! The rest of what happened was a blur. I remember pushing out the placenta, my husband cutting the cord (it took a couple tries- lol!) and the midwife and nurses trying to help me breastfeed. The doctors stitched me up. My legs were still numb from the epidural, so Hubs and a nurse helped me into a wheelchair and set the baby in my arms before wheeling us down to our room. It all happened so fast! Finally Baby Girl was in my arms. Everything was going to be all right.
In a nutshell, my beautiful home birth dream turned into a very long, painful and rather normal hospital birth. One of the reasons I wanted to write Baby Girl's birth story is because I got to experience part home birth and part hospital birth. I also got to experience a "hospital transfer", or what happens when something in a home birth goes wrong.
Honestly, I feel like I got the best of both worlds. My midwife and birth team made laboring at home comfortable and low-pressure. I got to be part of the decision-making process and didn't feel rushed to perform. The benefits of a midwife continued when we transferred to the hospital. Hubs and I didn't have to make calls or figure out where to go or what to do. Furthermore, our midwife (who acted as a doula when we got to the hospital) was able to tell the hospital our preferences when we were too busy and distracted (and frankly, I was just completely out of it) to remember what we had decided about the different newborn procedures. The midwife arranged for the hospital to keep the placenta, which is something I really wanted but probably wouldn't have bothered with after the birth.
The hospital, on the other hand, offered what the midwife could not: blessed pain relief from those awful contractions. That was the main reason I loved my hospital birth and would consider doing it again. The epidural was just so easy compared to non-medicated labor. The other thing I really enjoyed about the hospital birth was having a few days of recovery time. For two and a half days we didn't have to worry about food, cleaning up, visitors or knowing what to do with the baby. Nurses were at our beck and call if we had any questions or needed anything. One of the hardest things about going home was feeling pressure to look and act my best- or at the very least, normal- around visitors (or feel pressure to "go out" when I wasn't up to it), whereas nobody expects you to look great in a hospital gown. They don't even expect you to get out of bed!
If I were to do it again, I'm not sure if I would choose hospital or homebirth. Being kind of "crunchy", this is something I NEVER thought I'd say. I'm 100% sure I would want a doula or someone to speak on my behalf if I did go the hospital route again, but the hospital birth was actually a lot better than I expected. Instead of laboring on my back, I was allowed any position I wanted on the bed. They also had different things like a birth ball and bar to hang from during contractions.
Apart from a little bit of fear-mongering and prescription-pushing, I had a much better experience at the hospital than I'd hoped for. Most of the doctors and nurses were very nice, the food was great and I had zero worries about something being wrong with the baby. I've heard several stores from friends about "traumatic hospital births" and how they'd never go back, but I've also heard friends say they enjoyed being in the hospital, looked forward to the pain relief and being pampered, etc. Now I can see both sides. In the end, I didn't really care what my birth experience was like. By the time we got to the hospital I was about as mature and rational as a five-year-old (and this was my NON-medicated self, people!), and all I cared about was getting the baby OUT, whatever it took. Everything turned out okay despite the fact that it was a medicated hospital birth- just what I hadn't planned.
I think births are kind of like weddings: sometimes they go according to plan and sometimes they don't. Sometimes they are blissful and other times everything goes wrong. In the end though, what matters isn't how the birth/marriage happened. It's about the many months and years that follow.