At my 20-week ultrasound, we were notified about a slight complication with my pregnancy. The good news was the baby looked completely healthy and was growing just fine. The bad news was my pregnancy would require additional monitoring and a medical induction at 40 weeks if the baby didn’t come on her own. At my 35-week appointment, my doctor told me I was 60% effaced and half a centimeter dilated. I remember laughing and crying out “already?!” Weeks 36-38 didn’t show any change, and I began to accept an inevitable induction. At my 39-week appointment, I learned I was 70% effaced and between 1-2 centimeters dilated. Despite this minuscule progress, we scheduled my induction for Thursday, March 27 – my due date – with our arrival at the hospital scheduled for the night prior.
On Wednesday, March 26, I stayed home from work and finished packing the last of our things. Billy worked a half-day and met me at home to make the trip to the hospital. We stopped at McDonald’s where I got a chocolate milk shake and french fries. I wasn’t nervous, just impatient and anticipating a night of no sleep.
At 4:00 p.m. we arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital and buzzed the door at the entrance of Labor & Delivery. “I’m here for a scheduled induction,” I said into the speaker. We were buzzed in and met by a nurse named Sara. She showed us to LDR Room # 11 – our home until the baby arrived. I was asked a few questions about my family medical history and my preference regarding my IV. I opted to skip it that night, preferring to wait until the next morning to have it done. After a quick blood draw and insertion of Cervadil, we were free to relax in the room. Billy headed down to the cafeteria to grab us some dinner. We watched TV, read, browsed the Internet and called a few family and friends. My bed was incredibly uncomfortable, so sleep did not come easy.
At 4:00 a.m. the next morning, I was greeted by Kay, the next nurse. She brought me a breakfast of Cheerios, applesauce and orange juice (hey – most patients get nothing at this point, so I was overjoyed!) Afterwards, I was allowed to shower before getting hooked up to Pitocin at 6:30. I’d never had an IV before, and the nurse remarked that I have “beautiful veins!” before sticking me with a needle. Typically, I’m OK with this as long as I don’t watch, but this one hurt. Never in my life have I been hooked up to machines in a hospital, so the lack of freedom and feeling of being tethered to something was foreign and anxiety-inducing to me. Despite this, I’d opted to take the “wait and see” approach for pain medication, so I was permitted to move around as much as possible. The early hours from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. were boring. Only at 8:30 did I start having tiny contractions. Every hour they upped the dosage of Pitocin and tried to get my contractions to establish a pattern of one every 2-3 minutes. It was a slow, boring, and difficult process. The monitor that was measuring my contractions kept slipping and a nurse would have to come adjust it periodically. Meanwhile, I was moving around trying to keep gravity working in my favor. At 9:30 my doctor came to perform an exam to assess my progress. This was, by far, the worst physical exam I’ve ever endured. I actually cried out from the pain and had to restrain myself from crawling backwards on the bed away from her. Finally she said “You’re at 3 centimeters and 80% effaced,” which made me burst into tears. The tears came partly from the painful exam and partly from a feeling of frustration. That’s all?! I began to think to myself “She’s not coming today. I’m going to have to go through this all over again tonight.” Billy held my hand and tried to cheer me up. The doctor told me “getting to 5 centimeters is the hardest part. After that, it goes much faster. Just keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll be back to check you later.”
So the process continued: movement, trying new positions every 30 minutes and trying to relax. The contractions got a tiny bit stronger, but the pattern refused to remain stable. There was another nursing shift change, but mostly the staff left us in peace, coming in to check on me every 30 minutes and make sure we were comfortable and taken care of. Finally, around 4:00 I was happy to see Sara’s return. She was my favorite nurse. She had a good sense of humor, and she was calm and patient and encouraging in the best way. At 4:30 she returned to my room with the doctor, who checked me again. At 4 centimeters, I was making incredibly slow progress, but so far had only had minor intervention: Cervadil the night before and a slow, steady drip of Pitocin. It was important to me to maintain a low-intervention induction, but I was growing impatient and seriously questioning how long I could keep up with the lack of progress. My doctor suggested that we could break my water, which would speed things up and hopefully allow my body to take over naturally. They left the room for a couple of minutes so Billy and I could discuss it, but I’d already made up my mind. I wanted to do it. So at 5:00 that evening, they broke my water and I braced for things to pick up speed.
To be continued…