We left our heroine in the valet parking at the hospital...
Matt pulled up and I opened the car door, swung my legs out, and got steamrolled by a contraction. Fortunately, I had brought a plastic container, so I didn't have to vomit onto the driveway. Don't feel sorry for me, though, feel sorry for the poor valet guy who had to witness this! Finally, I made it out of the car and to the door of the hospital. There was a woman standing next to the door who looked at me and asked if I was alright. Honestly, did I look alright? Doubtful.
"In labor," I managed to pant out, and made it through the door before another contraction hit. We opted for the elevator, and I squatted down and held onto the railing while we rode up one floor. I think I may have been making the cow sounds at this point? We walked by the information desk and someone asked if I wanted a wheelchair. I said no (what?!) and walked another 50 feet before I had to stop again. The information lady followed us, asked Matt if I wanted a wheelchair, and he said yes. I don't believe I managed to tell him this, but I was so angry that he made me take a wheelchair. While we waited, I think I had about 765 more contractions. Finally, she came back with the wheelchair. I got in it, got wheeled about 10 feet down the hall, and slid out of it so I could squat in front and hang onto the arm rests. I did put the brake on, which impressed me to no end at that point.
In between contractions I was ok to talk, so we all had a good laugh over our practice run the day before. Once we got up to Labor and Delivery, we stopped at the check-in window. She took one look at me and said she'd take care of us once we were in the room. We got to the room and I went into the bathroom so I could sit on the toilet. The check-in lady came in with her computer and I shouted out my answers to her from the toilet. At one point the nurse said I had to go to the bed so they could put the monitor on, and that was another thing that made me so angry. I really think I could have just had the baby on the toilet. It was so much better than the bed. Or the squat bar. Or anywhere.
(This part is my favorite)
They get me on the bed, monitor 'round my belly. Kiddo was doing fine. A resident comes in to check me and see how dilated I am. Picture me, ugly green hospital gown, looking a wreck, and this woman is in between my legs saying "Oh. Wow."
Not what I wanted to hear.
Evidently, I was fully dilated and ready to push. So much for the desired epidural. I think I asked her
At some point early on in all the pushing, they gave me an IV and a whole bunch of fluids. Someone asked me what the last thing I ate was. I admitted (the shame!) that it had been a big honking spoonful of Nutella around 9:30 the night before. Matt looked totally surprised - I didn't tell him that spoonfuls of Nutella had become a nightly tradition for me.
It was right after getting the IV that I realized - this birth was not going to be the birth I had sort of had in mind. I figured I'd play some music on the iPad, chat with the nurses in between contractions, smile beatifically when asked how I was doing. Fail. The only music I managed to have was the chorus of We Are Young by Fun. In my head. For three and a half hours. I present it to you here so you can understand.
I sang that song over and over and over. And that was pretty much the only thing I heard. Everyone in the room was silent, and for that, I am grateful. In this silent room, there were: a nurse, a nursing student, a resident (at times), a med student (at times), an OB (at times), and a husband. And they were all quiet. I'm not usually one for silence, but it was wonderful. It didn't help me focus on pushing, but it was soothing.
I'll spare you the details of pushing, but I will say this: that was hard. And I was awful at it. No joke - the OB repeatedly said "more like that" and I just didn't do it. What can I say? I don't like pain. When she came back into the room after 2 hours, the OB said "if she's not out in another hour, we'll probably have to do a C-section." At that point, I was pretty gung-ho about getting a C-section. When she came in after three hours, I was a little saddened to hear that Charlotte was too far down, and I'd have to just push her out. Finally, after three and a half hours of (admittedly half-hearted) pushing, my OB suggested a vacuum assist. You better believe I jumped on that chance. The casually-mentioned episiotomy made me briefly re-think it, but ultimately I happily accepted the assistance.
It was at that point that I felt pain like no other. I'm serious when I say that the INJECTION of a local anesthetic is quite possibly the most gut-wrenching sensation I've every experienced. But then, the numbness took over and it didn't hurt anymore. The slicing didn't hurt, and the actual birth of Charlotte was just beyond strange. It felt, for some reason, like giving birth to a starfish.
My glasses had long ago left my face, and the oxygen mask made it even more difficult for me to see, but I was able to watch the blurry form get whisked over to the cart so they could suck the meconium out. And then, oh, that lusty cry. My heart felt so full. They brought her over while I was being stitched up. She felt so small and wobbly and perfect and mine and oh, jeez, it's been 13 months and I'm still crying at the thought of that moment.
Somewhere I have a photo of the two of us, but I can't find it. This little portrait of her will have to do instead.