I went into labour with my daughter four days after my due date. I noticed a bit of “show” when I went to the bathroom first thing in the morning, which is also when the contractions started. I didn’t leap to any conclusions right away, since they were pretty irregular and I’d had several hours of false labour a few days previously. But as the day wore on, the contractions got a little more regular and more intense, my husband started pacing, and we started planning to go to the hospital. Still, things took a long time to develop: by late afternoon the contractions were still manageable, and more than 5 minutes apart. I called the doctor and she asked me a few questions, and then told me to call back when they hit the 5-minute mark. BC Women’s was doing a study on early labour support at home, so I called the number to speak to a nurse and got ‘randomly assigned’ to get a home visit from the nurse. She arrived in the early evening and did an internal exam, telling me (to my intense disappointment, after almost 12 hours of ‘early labour’) that I was about 2 centimetres dilated. That exam seemed to get things going, though, because shortly after she left, my water broke, and the contractions immediately got more painful. We decided that it was time to head for the hospital — an excruciating process, as walking to and from the car brought on intense contractions.
Once at the hospital, my husband and I were put in an assessment room, where I was examined again, and eventually moved to a labour/delivery room. I was wheeled there in my bed, having refused to set off more contractions by getting out of the bed and into a wheelchair for the journey. By that time, my arms were shaking from trying to lift myself off the bed during each contraction. I had asked for some pain relief, and the doctor advised starting with the nitrous oxide gas, which I did once we got to the labour/delivery room. It did seem to take the edge off the contractions, and although it made me lightheaded and a little out of it during and immediately after each contraction, clarity seeped back in between contractions so I didn’t feel completely drugged out. At some point, though, it stopped being enough, and I remember saying something like: “I can’t take this, I need something more.” That was probably after I hit the transition stage and had a double contraction that seemed to go on forever! The labour nurse was great – she narrated the whole thing for me, so I knew roughly where I was in the process, and what was coming next. When I asked for more pain relief, the nurse checked with Dr.__, who was on her way back to the hospital. She recommended a narcotic, saying that I was far enough along that it was probably too late for an epidural. At some point, I was remember feeling blissfully pain-free and thanking the nurse for the extra drugs, only to be told that they hadn’t given me anything yet. It must have just been the contrast between the ovewhelming pain of the contractions and the calm period in between.Soon afterwards, the nature of the contractions changed and I began to get an irresistable urge to start pushing. At that point, in fact, I would have had to expend a huge effort NOT to push — my body just took over. I was initially told that I should wait, that I wasn’t dilated enough, but I was positive that I was, and an internal exam proved me right. For the pushing, Dr.__ brought the top of the bed up to resemble a chair and recommended getting up on my knees, turning around, and hanging on to the top of the “chair” to support myself. My husband also helped hold me up, in between passing me ice water to gulp — I was sweltering and desperately thirsty by then. My mom, who had driven down from Kamloops that evening for the big event, was sponging my face with cool water and assuring me that I was doing spectacularly well, keep it up. Once the pushing started, the pain seemed more manageable and I stopped using the gas. I guess I ended up pushing for about an hour and a half, but it seemed to go quicker than that. When the baby crowned, Dr.__ told me to stop pushing for a minute, and then the next thing I knew she was out, and looking up at me from the bed with big, round eyes.