We were up late the night before. We had been at a friend's house playing a game that went on for a few too many hours. By the time we finally got home and I fell into bed, it was probably around 11:45pm. I was woken up by Sarah's pained contraction groans around 12:30am. As I had been trained, I immediately started timing both their duration and their frequency. After a few had come and gone, I informed Sarah that they we longer and coming more frequently than the guideline for going to the hospital (5-1-1; 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, lasting for 1 hour). Her's were on the order of 2 minutes long, 30 seconds apart, and I didn't wait for an hour, I decided that we were going. I called the hospital's line for incoming pregnant women and told them to expect us soon. Then I grabbed our previously packed bags and helped Sarah to the car.
I don't remember much of the drive. It is about 15 minutes from our house to the hospital. I can't imagine what the bumps and turns were doing to Sarah, but she made it through alright. We got to the ER and I dropped her off at the door into the care of the waiting nurse. I then parked the car and grabbed our cell phone chargers (we generally charge them overnight, and since we hadn't really had a night they were both almost dead). I met up with Sarah and the nurse inside and we went up to the maternity ward and got a room. They left us sitting in the room alone for a bit. I used that time to plug in my phone and use Sarah's to call Ashley, her doula, waking her up and getting her assurance she was on her way.
After a short wait a nurse came in and hooked Sarah up to the machine that monitored her contractions. They had to monitor her for an hour to be sure she was really in labor and deserving of a room. A little bit after that Ashley arrived and talked us through what in her experience we could expect. While we were waiting for the hour to pass, a nurse from the lab came in to draw Sarah's blood. She was probably the worst nurse ever; she didn't wait for Sarah's contraction to pass before trying to stick her with the needle. Consequently, it was a very painful experience for Sarah. Shortly after that a nurse came in and confirmed that Sarah was indeed in labor, so we could stay.
The next several hours passed in a blur. When you are in labor, but not fully dilated, they come in to check up on you, but nothing more than that. If they come in to check and you are fully dilated, then they call the doctor and the pushing commences. Otherwise they leave you to labor the way you want to, and offer suggestions if asked. Sarah preferred that I put counter-pressure on her back during a contraction, but other than that, she really didn't care what we did. We sat, laid down, walked the halls, used the labor ball, etc. Anything we could think of to break up the monotony, we did. And whenever Sarah had a contraction, I would immediately rush over and apply counter-pressure.
Around 7am or so (still no sleep for either Sarah or I), Ashley said she could handle things if I wanted to go eat. I was hungry so I went down to the cafeteria to grab a quick meal. On the way I grabbed my phone so I could call Sarah's mom, Denise. I had left her a text but she hadn't responded so I wanted to make sure she got it. She wanted to be there for the whole thing, and would probably have killed me if I hadn't informed her what was going on (for real, no exaggeration). I did wait til breakfast time, however, because I figured that someone should get some sleep, and it didn't look like Sarah was progressing very fast, so Denise wasn't in danger of missing anything.
The next few hours were a blur again, between putting pressure on Sarah's back, helping her walk or change positions or whatever, and keeping Denise informed (she waited in a nearby lounge). We noticed that as time went by Sarah became less responsive to suggestions to change position or try something else. Near the end she refused to do anything but sit in bed and rub her belly, right above her hips. She would talk, but it was an incoherent mumble. We knew she was exhausted, but she wanted to try without pain meds, so there was nothing we could do. We finally asked a nurse her opinion and she told us that she had never seen a patient as exhausted as Sarah was. She recommended that we try a painkiller that was like an epidural, which would allow Sarah to get some rest and be able to push when the time came. After taking it over with Sarah, I took her incoherent mumbled response as a “yes” and let the nurse drug her.
I didn't want to be in the room distracting Sarah from resting, so I went to the lounge and spent time with Denise. We decided to give the drugs 2 hours to work their magic, after which we would see how Sarah was feeling and either give her an epidural or give her more of the other drug depending on how she was doing. Denise and I had lunch and then I called my dad and sent out a mass text message letting people know that every thing was okay and that the baby would probably be born soon.
After the 2 hour time limit, we decided to go ahead with the epidural. The other drug wasn't quite enough for Sarah. Even though she looked and sounded a lot better, she wasn't ready to push out a baby. The anesthesiologist came up and put in the epidural, and then we played the waiting game. We were waiting to see if Sarah's water would break by itself or not. The doctor said that if it didn't break by 1:30pm, she would come in and pop it. It didn't break by the specified time and so the doc came in the make it happen. When she went in to pop it, she discovered that it had broken, it just hadn't leaked out very much. She then informed Sarah that it was time to push.
The epidural had worked a little too well on Sarah. She couldn't feel when she was contracting, and so had to rely on us to tell her. I, having spent the whole pregnancy declaring my intent to be by Sarah's head and not see any of the bloody mess below, found myself holding her leg and watching everything happen in real time (and even taking a few pictures). The baby was sitting very low. Sarah didn't have to push hardly at all and I could see a mess of hair. Because Sarah couldn't feel a thing, the doctor took Sarah's hand and guided it so she could feel the hair. After that it was about half an hour of us telling Sarah when to push until that screaming, slimy, gray baby was out and on her mom's chest.
Welcome to the world, Eleanor!