In the car, the contractions were really really awful. I could tell that my entire body went rigid every time I felt one coming on and knew that was just making it worse, but my very best deep breathing skills did little for this problem. That might have been when I started to think that giving birth would be harder than I had been anticipating.
We got to the hospital at maybe 4:15 and parked next to the ER and walked in. I told Scott not to bother trying to drop me off by myself at the entrance, because it was a really short walk from the parking lot and I needed him with me.
Anyway, we walked in and the first thing I got asked was if my water had broken. I said no and gave them my name and maybe a few other details. The ER desk person asked if I wanted a wheelchair. I said, "No, sitting is bad." (Recall I had just been in hard labor in the car for about 20 minutes.) So she drew on a hospital map with a highlighter and sent us on our way to L&D.
It was kind of hard to navigate when we had to stop 2 or 3 times to work through contractions. Fortunately we ran into a helpful janitor about halfway who kept us from getting lost.
We got to triage and just as the front desk person there asked something or other, I started having another contraction. So I told her, "Sorry, I can't talk to you right now" and leaned against the wall while Scott rubbed my back. (Can we just assume from now on that Scott rubs my back during all contractions in this story unless I specify otherwise?) When it was over I asked Scott without looking up, "What does the nice lady want?" After another second I got off the wall and answered her questions about who my doctor is and who the baby's pediatrician is going to be and whatever else it was that she asked. I don't remember.
Then Scott had to wait there while I was taken back to my triage room. The childbirth class instructor had warned us about this part a few hours previously, which was good because I probably would have lost it on the nurses if I hadn't been prepared for being briefly deprived of my husband.
Back in the tiny triage room, Young Triage Nurse introduced herself and asked if I had anybody with me. I told her my husband. She asked all in one breath, "Is there anything you can't talk about with him in the room any history of STDs do you feel safe at home?" Me: "No, no, yes, can he come back now?"
I was given a hospital gown to change into and Scott was brought back and the nurse said she had to check me now. I remembered that I should probably take off my underwear as well and felt bad briefly for the fact that I was probably going to get their bed all messy. (No, my water hadn't broken, but I'd been having bloody show for 2.5 days at that point and I didn't figure it was going to stop.) Then I remembered that the whole point of giving birth in a hospital is making a mess on somebody else's stuff. So I de-underweared and clambered up on the bed.
I started having another contraction in the middle of being checked and asked the nurse to stop. When that did not produce a response within 1/10 of a second, I told her, "You need to get out NOW." She obeyed like her hand was on fire. After the contraction was over I asked if she had finished and she said no apologetically, so she had to start over but managed to finish really fast before the next contraction. At that point I was at "5 or 6", so it was pretty much a given that I was going to be admitted, but they still needed to get a strip and start an IV and all sorts of other stuff.
At this hospital, they don't exactly have monitor belts in L&D. Instead they have this thing that's like a big cylindrical Ace bandage that you're supposed to step into and pull up around your waist, and then they stick the monitor leads underneath.
Ha ha ha. Have you ever tried stepping into a very tight-fitting garment when you're very pregnant and in active labor?
Still, I managed it, and then I sat cross-legged on the bed, facing the side with the monitor. Scott stood on the other side of the bed and...well, you know the drill. I also tried to get him to tell me comforting/encouraging things, but that didn't work as well. I think he didn't know what to say and felt awkward. Maybe we should practice those before the next baby.
The nurse went off to do whatever and we sat there and watched the monitor. At first I just watched the baby's heart rate (I think it was in the 140s or so, but I don't recall.) but then I figured out which number it was that went up and down with my contractions. It actually helped to watch, because then I could see it going up and prepare myself, then see it going down and know for sure that the contraction was almost over.
In the last few minutes on the monitor, Scott said, "Hey, you're in the bonfire now." It took a minute to figure out what he meant, and then I remembered that he had described the third line on this chart as a "bonfire" during one of our childbirth classes. (I can't remember what he thought active labor was, but early labor was some gently rolling hills and pushing was volcanoes.) And he was right that the numbers on the monitor would go up (way, way up) and then bob around for a while before finally going down. I didn't get too excited, though; neither of us are experts in monitor interpretation and surely I wasn't already in transition. That would be too easy.
Also, at some point in here I got a cup of ice chips. I didn't want to bother asking for any "real" food or drink before getting settled in L&D, so I just went with the ice chip rule for a moment. This will become mildly important later on.
After I finished my 15-minute strip, Young Triage Nurse came back and started trying to get an IV in. She asked if I wanted an epidural and I said no; she asked if I wanted a bag of fluids just in case and I said no again. (I had not yet been fully disillusioned about the difficulties of childbirth.) It was decided that she'd draw blood for whatever they needed to do with my blood and then give me a saline lock.
So she tried three times to get the IV in. After the third time she had one measly vial of blood sitting on the spattered sheets. I asked her if she had what she needed yet. Her, apologetically, "No." Me: "Is it okay if I think I hate you a little bit?" Her: "Yeah."
Young Triage Nurse then went and fetched Older Triage Nurse, who managed to wedge an IV into my left wrist and draw the necessary blood. Partway through I noticed my hand felt warm and sticky and looked down to see that blood was dripping out at some point between where the IV entered my wrist and where the nurse was drawing blood. I pointed it out and she said, "Oh, that's never happened before." I always feel so good when medical professionals say that.