Ok, so as promised, here's the labour and delivery story.
First of all, let me preface this by explaining my birthing philosophy going in. I wanted the most natural birth possible, which is why I went with midwives. I was hoping to be able to find a good position to handle the contractions, and to not deliver reclined in bed (to prevent tearing). I was determined not to have an epidural, because I wanted to experience the whole thing (plus I also wanted to spare the baby from drugs). Well, that all turned out to be wishful thinking...
So it all started Friday night. I started getting serious contractions, though in no particular pattern. But it got me thinking that labour was coming soon. So on Saturday, we went out to get some spicy food, just to help things along. Well, most of Saturday the contractions were quiet, but overnight they became steady and regular, 10 minutes apart. Needless to say, I didn't get very much sleep that night at all. DH actually slept in the guest bed, because I was tossing and turning so much I was keeping him up (and we thought it would be a good idea if at least one of us got some rest). Again, in the morning the contractions slowed down a little, only to intensify and become more regular and closer together in the afternoon. I called my Mom to let her know that we would most likely be going to the hospital that night. She grabbed her bags and headed to Ottawa.
When we reached the "5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, sustained for 1 hour" mark, we called the midwives. By the time the midwives showed up, my Mom was already here. A quick examination showed that I was 3cm dilated, so we decided to head to the hospital (this was around 8pm).
The delivery room in the hospital was really nice, and it actually felt pretty cozy. My labour progressed nicely, and a few hours later I was at 6cm dilation. Things looked pretty good :) The contractions were gettting harder and harder, though still 5 minutes apart. I was using the birthing ball to get through the contractions, holding on to the bed rail and rolling around. Apparently, even though the brake was on the bed, I managed to move it a bit (and noone was able to move it back). By that time I was pretty tired, so I don't remember all that much detail. But basically, at the next check a few hours later, I hadn't dilated any more, still at 6cms. The midwives were checking me every few hours, and the verdict was always the same: still 6cms. They tried breaking the waters. Still nothing. They gave me some oxytocin to stimulate the contractions. Still nothing. At this point I was definitely exhausted and completely discouraged. The official status at around 5am: stalled labour. The recommended solution: epidural + more oxytocin. Which meant a transfer of care from the midwives to the OBGYN on duty.
And so the anesthesiologist came in and administered the epidural (during a contraction I might add - and he insisted I sit still). I lay down and basically dozed on and off while the nurse played around with the oxytocin dosage trying to get me to have the right amount of contractions for optimal dilation. A few hours later, good news: I was finally fully dilated. So now all I needed to do was push. Ha! Easy enough to say. Because of the epidural, I didn't really feel my contractions, so I had no idea when to push. I had a contraction detector thingy strapped to my belly, but it wasn't working all that well, so we were all guessing at when the contractions were happening. Also, they still needed to play with the oxytocin dosage, because the contractions were not even regular or close together. It was very confusing.
To make matters worse, the baby heartrate monitor was showing that every time I pushed, the baby's heart would slow down to a crawl. I can tell you, through the fog of exhaustion and drugs, that was one thing I was keenly aware of. I kept gulping on oxygen, because I noticed that that would bring the baby's heartrate back up faster.
So here I am, lying on my back, with Mom, midwives, nurse and sometimes the OBGYN, with numerous liquids dripping into my IV, the monitors beeping, baby heartrate dropping... For 2.5 hours I was pushing, all the while expecting to be whisked away for an emergency C-section. Luckily, though, in the end the baby's head emerged, with umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (same thing happened when I was born!). The clamped and cut the cord, baby slipped out, and there was silence. Immediately I froze, not daring think anything. Luckily a few seconds later, the baby let out a strong cry. She was doing so well, that they immediately put her on my chest - and at that point, the whole ordeal seemed so worth it. Who cares I didn't get my dreamed labour and delivery - I got such a precious, beautiful, healthy daughter out of the deal!
And that's when they told me that they would have to put stitches in, because I had a third degree tear. Of course I didn't feel any of it because of the epidural. But it was a bad one. I only know I got "lots and lots" of stitches, no actual count. They're starting to heal now, but they have been a major pain, and the reason for my prescribed bedrest.
So that's the labour/delivery story. Not the hippy, tree-hugging story I was hoping for, but it's certainly an experience I will never forget. I was very lucky to have my Mom there the whole time, she really provided me with lots of support, and having DH at my side for most of it made it even easier to handle. It's hard not to overanalyze and play the "what if" game trying to figure out if I could have avoided any of the interventions. But it is what it is, and I figure it's time to move on. Next challenge: getting breastfeeding right.