At 2 a.m. on a Friday evening, I woke up with labor pains. My husband, Greg, and I started timing them, and by morning they were five minutes apart. We raced to the hospital only to be told that my cervix had dilated just half a centimeter! My options, according to the doctor, were to suffer through the labor while my cervix dilated naturally, a process that could last up to seven days, or he could insert a catheter and balloon into my cervix to soften and open it. This procedure could last six hours. While the thought of a catheter didn't thrill me, the idea of labor for a whole week made my decision abundantly clear: I chose the balloon.
I immediately regretted my decision after not one but two nurses failed to get the IV tube inserted into my arm. I couldn't tell which pain was worse: the cramps or being punctured with needles over and over again. While I winced in pain, Greg, who I know to be squeamish about needles and blood, squeezed my hand. I looked up to thank my husband for his support and was surprised to see that his face had turned pale. "I don't feel very well," he mumbled just before his eyes rolled back and he passed out!
I screamed at the nurses, who were still fiddling with my IV. Doctors and nurses came running from all directions with smelling salts. Once Greg came to, they carted him off to the emergency room to make sure he didn't have a concussion from hitting his head on the hard floor.
Moments later, my parents arrived at the hospital. My mom stayed with me while my father, who is a doctor, went to check on Greg. In the meantime, my doctor inserted the catheter balloon into my cervix. "This might be a little painful," I remember him saying like it was yesterday. Now I have a very high threshold for pain, but once that balloon was in there, it felt like a gun had gone off in my head. I shrieked in agony.
Tossing my original drug-free birth plan out the window, I begged my doctor for pain relief. With morphine drip in hand -- a brilliant invention -- I settled back to wait for my cervix to open. By then, Greg had made it back to my room with a bump on his head the size of my belly. Once my cervix ripened, I was given Pitocin to speed up labor and an epidural replaced the morphine. Did I mention my drug-free delivery plan?
Just as everything seemed to be moving along well, the baby stopped progressing. Since I had already been in labor for 20 hours, the doctor gave me a 30-minute deadline before he would perform a C-section. Luckily, the baby advanced before time ran out.
Finally, some 20 hours later, it was time for me to push. What a powerful feeling! For the first time since the whole ordeal began, I felt in control. I was more than ready when the doctor said, "Go!" Forty-five minutes later, our baby was born. Whatever pain and agony I had experienced was quickly forgotten when I looked into my little Stella's eyes for the first time. Greg was just so happy to see his little girl safe and sound that he didn't even mind his embarrassment at having passed out or his throbbing headache.