I'll just pick up where I left off here.
So Zach went to pick up Mom from the airport, and I tried to get some rest as I figured I could be in for a long day/couple of days/next several years. At 2pm I decided to time my contractions again, to see what the progress was-- I sat through 4 that were all 7-8 minutes apart, then I walked downstairs to get something to eat and realized they all of a sudden were coming every 3 minutes or so... and stayed that way. Mom and Zach came back and we sat and talked for a bit, and when I realized it had been 45 minutes of every-3-min contractions I called Nathalie and she came over to check me. The first thing she said when I answered the door was "You look so calm, women are usually screaming and crying."
As it turned out the birthing center we'd originally planned to use was not available, but there was another one, a bit further away, that we could go to instead, so off we went. At first Nathalie had thought I was already at 4-5cm dilated, but when she checked me again upon arriving to the center she realized I was closer to 3-4cm. My contractions were getting more intense by this point, and when we got to the center the first thing I did was get into the bathtub which was heavenly-- I knew relaxing my muscles and body were key to helping deal with the pain, and as soon as I immersed myself into the warm water I could feel myself relaxing and loosening up instantly. I don't know how long I stayed in the tub, but eventually I got out as I started to feel too warm. I think by then I was closing in on 5-6cm, and Nathalie offered me the TENS machine for a bit of pain relief. It worked ok for a bit, and I tried out some different positions for dealing with contractions to see what worked best. Zach was great, trying to encourage me to keep moving and trying different things.
Eventually the TENS started to feel more like an annoyance than a relief, so I took it off and got back in the tub. I don't think the water helped much with the contractions themselves, but while in the tub I was able to relax more fully between them and let go of any remaining tension so that was pretty great. That is one nice thing about labor pain-- the contractions suck, but inbetween them you get a break and almost feel like normal. I mostly dealt with the pain by breathing-- taking deep breaths in, then blowing out slow while repeating "breathe" in my head, over and over until the contraction was finished. This helped distract me enough from the pain in my uterus and be able to wait it out till it was over.
I think Nathalie said it took me about 6-7 hrs to dilate fully from 3cm to 10cm. The last hour or 2 were pretty bad-- I stayed in the tub pretty much the whole time, and more than once I thought to myself how I never want to do this again. The most frustrating thing, though was when I got to 10cm-- all the books pretty much tell you when you get there it's time to push, and meaning you're over the hurdle and on the downhill slope as far as labor is concerned.
Except that Donovan's head was still not engaged, and was possibly turned a bit funny. I kept waiting for the urge to push to come, not really knowing what it was supposed to feel like, and we tried pushing even a few times, but it didn't do anything. So I had to keep laboring for another 30mins-1hr, I think, while Donovan got into the proper position and descended enough. Needless to say I was pretty ready for it all to be over by then, so it was frustrating having to wait longer.
And then everything was finally in place, and it was time to push. And, um, yeah, that thing about being "past the hurdle?" What a bunch of bullcrap. The pushing was the hardest part, and I didn't feel that prepared for it b/c I swear everything I read said the transition phase (dilating from 7-10cm) was the worst part of labor. I did not find that to be the case.
The urge to push, once it came on, was unmistakable. We got me set up sort of squatting at the edge of the bed, sitting partially on Zach's lap, and holding on to a rope hanging from the ceiling for extra support. My water finally broke during one of my first few pushes. Nathalie I think was concerned about the baby and his heartbeat and asked me to only push every other contraction, which MY GOD was that difficult to hold back. I can't remember how long the pushing stage went on for, somewhere between 30 mins and 1 hr. And then he crowned, and his head and body then all came out in one (very painful) push, and I was able to lay down and they out him on my stomach and I don't think I have ever been so grateful to have something be over before in my life. I then still had to push a few times to get the placenta out, which by the way... Holy crap I had no idea it'd be as big as it was. Zach was also suitably impressed, so much so that he took a few pictures of it, though I don't think I'll be posting those anywhere b/c, well, they're kinda gross.
Immediately after he was born I could not believe that this baby laying on me had actually fit inside my belly. Zach was incredible, he was head over heels in love at first sight. We cuddled with him for a while and did an initial feeding, and then Nathalie took him to get cleaned and checked. Then she checked me for tearing, and ironically my perineum was intact, but I wound up instead needing somewhere around 4-6 stitches for small tears around my labia (my first time to get stitches ever). After getting sewn up I tried to get up and was completely surprised by how lightheaded I felt... to the point where as soon as I stood up I had to sit right back down, and before I knew it I was being woken up from passing out. That was kinda crazy. So I laid back down and they brought me some food to eat and eventually I felt better and was able to get up and take a shower and then cuddle some more with Donovan and Zach. We stayed at the center for a few hours after the birth, then around 5 or 6am we came on home.
I have mixed feelings about my labor and delivery. On the one hand, everything went according to my plans and wishes. I'm so glad that I chose to use the birthing center, as I am fairly certain that I could not have continued on unmedicated in a hospital setting. The center gave me the freedom to move around and keep trying new ways to deal with the contractions, and the tub helped so much too. I also know that anytime I had to lie down horizontally it made the contractions that much harder to deal with. I cannot imagine having to labor on my back in a hospital bed. I'm proud of myself for having done this and done it the way I wanted... at the same time I think of doing it again and cringe. It was hard, and it was painful, and I'm sure when it's time for baby #2 I'll go the same route for the same reasons I did it this time, but I'm also quite happy waiting a good long while before doing so. I think this labor, and particular the difficulty with the pushing, traumatized me somewhat, or certainly took me by surprise and knocked me on my back.
I was surprised at how relieved I felt at the end of it not to be pregnant anymore. I think most of that relief was in knowing that at the end of pregnancy comes the birth, and the birth was now behind me. Maybe I had been more anxious about how everything would go than I had realized.
I don't know if I'm doing a great job of putting into words how I'm feeling about the whole experience, probably b/c it is complicated and there's positives and negatives and they can be hard to explain. I wrote this post out over several sessions (when I had the time) and I don't think I've done the best job of it, but at least it's all written out and recorded.