I had several more contractions along the way, but eventually we reached the labor and delivery area of the hospital and were put into the triage room. I was wearing the purple sweatsuit I’d chosen to labor in, but they had me put on a gown for a few minutes while they did an examination. The pelvic exam really hurt, much more than the ones at the clinic, but she told me I was a strong four centimeters and that they would admit me. I admit I was a little aghast that after three days of contractions, I had only opened one centimeter. But there was no going back now; at three minutes apart, I most certainly wasn’t going back home. We were shown into a room and I was put back onto the external fetal monitor, so they could get a test strip, I was told. They said I couldn’t get the labor tub I’d hoped for, all those rooms were full. It was disappointing, but I didn’t have much energy to think about it. Being in bed and on the EFM was awful, and the nurse wouldn’t let me off, even after 20 minutes, She said the strip wasn’t clear enough yet, and they had to be sure the baby was doing well.
My savior, Sister Kay, showed up at that point, thank God. I’m not sure when the last time was I’ve been so glad to see anyone. She asked me how I was doing, and I said I was having a hard time coping with the pain. When she asked what I needed, I said I needed to be off the EFM, and she took me right off and let me stand up. It helped. She suggested the shower, which seemed like a good idea. I was filled with restless urgency, but exhausted at the same time, and it was hard to think. I stayed in the shower for nearly an hour, clinging to the grab bar and letting the water pound down on me. M was right there the whole time, sitting just outside and reassuring me, sometimes putting his hand into the shower to rub my back. I couldn’t hear what he was saying most of the time, and I wasn’t really paying attention, but I knew he was there. He admitted later that he was so exhausted, sometimes he didn’t even know what he was saying.
After an hour, I was starting to feel dizzy from the heat, so I got out, and Sister Kay and M wrapped me up in a huge bath sheet, maybe a blanket. I got to put my clothes back on, and I had M find my labor beads, and fill the water bottle. I had the okay from Sister Kay to eat if I wanted, and we had easily-digested snacks in the bag, but I didn’t want to eat. I was very thirsty, though. I don’t know how women could get through labor with nothing to drink. It must be torture. I did throw up once, into the room’s big trash can, but it wasn’t much and it was just another sign of the progression of labor. I’d done my homework beforehand and knew that throwing up is actually good, because it’s a vagal reflex and actually helps dilate the cervix. Still wasn’t pleasant, but I certainly wouldn’t have given up being able to drink water to avoid it. She checked me, and the news that I had dilated to eight centimeters while in the shower was enough to give me new courage. Things were moving along!
The next part of labor is blurry in my memory; I spent what felt like a great deal of time leaning against the room’s broad windowsill, staring down at my labor beads and remembering to breathe as I swiveled my hips relentlessly to try and move the baby down. When it became obvious that I was too exhausted to remember and use my Hypnobirthing techniques, Sister Kay got me started on purse-lipped breathing instead, which is basically just blowing raspberries on every exhale. I would’ve thought it sounded insane, but I’d actually read about it just a couple of days before in Ina May Gaskin’s book about natural childbirth, so I knew it was actually something people do for pain management. I tried it, and it was oddly effective. Not in that the pain stopped, but it became more manageable because I was thinking about how weird my lips felt, and because it gave me some noise to make besides moaning. I did quite a bit of that too, the low guttural moaning that is supposed to be more effective in labor than screaming or squealing. I’m sure I must’ve sounded quite strange to anyone passing by, but they probably hear it all on the maternity ward.