At first, the pain wasn’t too bad. The contractions were almost pleasant, but that was probably because I was just happy to finally be in labor. Then gradually, the pain became breathtaking. And not in a good way. It felt like someone was jackhammering the lower part of my tailbone with a drill bit, and for the duration of the contraction, I would desperately hold onto the bars of my hospital bed, sweating and swearing and screaming through gritted teeth.
Looking back, I now know that what I was experiencing is called “back labor.” This occurs when the baby’s head is facing the wrong way. Instead of facing my spine, she was facing my belly button, so the hard part of her head was grating slowly downwards against my low back. It was excruciating. In my birth plan, I had written: “Please don’t offer me drugs. I plan to birth my baby naturally, and will ask for drugs on my own if I want them. I will use the code word: ST. ANNE.” Instead, I used a very un-saintly four-letter word when I asked for drugs, forgetting my code name altogether.
The first drug I tried was Fentanyl, which was supposed to “take the edge” off things. And it did…except that the effects wear off in 45 minutes. And you can only get it injected once every 60 minutes. And those 15 minutes in between are a VERY painful purgatory. So I did no-drugs for 3 hours and then Fentanyl for 2 hours (got two injections), and got to 5 cm dilated. I kept asking if I could sit up or get onto an exercise ball to “turn the baby,” but I was told no, because I had an IV in me. Finally, the pain got so intense that I just capitulated and asked for the epidural. So much for drug-free!
Later, a doula told me that I could have done anything I wanted, i.e., sat up, walked around, belly danced, got onto a birthing ball, etc. The IV was just an excuse. Sigh, so much for all my pre-labor determination to impose my will on the hospital nurses. It went the other way around.
Next, the epidural, which was an even scarier experience…stay tuned for Part 3.