(11pm the night i went into labour — contractions 7 minutes apart)
now that i think about it, my early labour started slowly.
on the night of june 6th (wednesday), paul and i went to see a movie, knocked up, thinking “this is going to be our last date”. it’s a really funny and rude comedy about a pregnancy. about the halfway through the movie, i started having contractions. i was laughing hard between contractions, but i started to worry that i might have to go to the hospital. the contractions were fairly strong (it felt like menstrual pain – squeezing the uterus every 10 minutes or so), but they slowed down a bit after the movie. we went home and made sure we had everything packed for the hospital. i went to bed, but i couldn’t sleep well.
i woke up the next day with mild contractions, which continued all day. i had some show, so i was pretty sure i was going into labour soon. i made some sandwiches and onigiri (rice balls) for paul to take to the hospital and did some cleaning around the house since we wouldn’t be able to come home for a couple of days. i carried the baby very low my entire pregnancy, but it felt even lower that day.
after supper, we went to home depot to get some supplies for the yard and walmart for the last-minute baby supplies. while we were shopping, my contractions got even stronger. we were standing in line at the checkout just before closing time, and i was having contractions only five to seven minutes apart. they were painful, but not too much.
we got home just after eleven pm and started to double-double check the stuff that my prenatal classes recommended we should take to the hospital. we ended up packing two travel bags and two backpacks – enough supplies for four day labour, really. my contractions were steady – seven minutes apart or so. i was still having quite a bit of show. we thought it was still too soon to go in to the hospital, so we decided to take a nap. i was anxious and i couldn’t sleep. i googled for information about the start of labour, and read that my labour could start anytime in the next few days — even up to a week. it was around 3:15 am. i was too hyper to sleep, but i went to bed to lie down.
around 3:20 am, i felt that poko-chan started to move. i was thinking this might be the last time i could feel poko-chan inside of me. and then, i felt a swing of his arm and he punched me. there was a
and a gush of water leaked all over. my water broke! great work, poko-chan — he punched his way out.
i’d never felt anything like that before. water seemed to be all over the place, and i just couldn’t stop it. it was like a bucket full of water came out of me! all i could say was,
got to go to the hospital!!
i wrapped myself with a bath towel, but my water was still leaking. i started shivering uncontrollably. my contractions got much stronger. they were only two minutes apart! i managed to phone my mom in japan. she was so happy and said “run for the hospital!!” we grabbed all the bags and ran out to the car, just like the panic you see in the movies.
luckily we live only five minutes drive from the hospital. strangely enough, all the traffic lights were green – they were beautiful.
when we got to the hospital, a nurse put me in a wheelchair and the triage nurse asked me some questions for hospital admission. i gave her the admission forms that i’d already filled out (i received admission forms at the prenatal classes held at the hospital, so i could fill them out and be admitted faster — this was the whole point). but she gave them right back to me and asked me the same questions anyway. my contractions were getting stronger and stronger and i was shaking. i had a hard time answering her questions. i had to spell out my long and weird japanese last name twice. if i had a grapefruit handy, i would have thrown it at her in the eye.
paul and i got to the labour and delivery department around 4:30 am. i had a kind and protective british nurse taken care of me. the obstetrics resident checked my cervix and it was already 4cm dilated. no wonder it was painful. i was already in active labour.
the resident asked me if i wanted to use epidural anesthesia. i hadn’t decided at the point whether i would use epidural or not. i was thinking that i would be able to decide during the labour. but i was already in the active labour and the time was then.
i grew up thinking and hearing that natural labour is something you should be proud of. using drug is not so recommended traditionally. i also worried that i wouldn’t be able to feel anything if i use epidural. i read some stories where japanese women had used an epidural in canada and it was too strong for them to feel anything during the delivery. i attended an information session on epidurals at the hospital back in april, where the anesthetist explained that the epidurals used in canada are milder than they used to be. but i was still worried — i didn’t want to be completely numb, i wanted to know my baby was coming out.
i told the british nurse that i hadn’t decided yet. and she said to me, “this is not an endurance contest!”
i thought she was right. she gave me some time to think about it and i decided to go for it. but i asked paul to tell the anesthetist that i wanted a lower dose than usual.
paul and i moved to private labour room. then paul realized that he forgot to bring the battery for the camera. he plugged it in to charge the night before, then forgot it when we were hurrying out to the car. sigh… paul was really disappointed but i was too busy to care.
my contractions got really painful. if my hip bones were a gong at a buddhist temple, it was as if a thousand monks were hitting the gong with iron bars at the same time. to tell the truth, i can’t even recall right now how painful they were. all i remember is a word “painful”.
i was focusing on breathing. i was trying to make whistle sounds when i was breathing out, but i’m incapable of whistling. i always wanted to whistle, so trying helped a little bit to distract me. they taught me some breathing technique at prenatal classes, but i didn’t practice them at all. i never practice anything.
even though the contractions themselves were quite painful, i was able to have normal conversation between them. i was more surprised by the constant shivering than the contraction pain. i wasn’t expecting to shiver so much. it’s not because i was cold, it was adrenaline rushing through my body that made me shiver.
about 6:30 am, the epidural was established. i had to work hard not to move while the anesthetist was placing the needle. the contractions were so hard that they made me sick. i could feel the cold liquid running into my body from my lower back. my left leg felt numb, but i was still capable of standing up and going to the bathroom. i just couldn’t urinate. this was a side effect of the epidural.
it takes about twenty minutes for epidural to really kick in. you’re supposed to press a button to inject more medicine whenever you need. i think i pressed a couple of times, but i kept forgetting to press the button or unconsciously avoided pressing it.
even after the epidural was established, the contractions got stronger though the edge was certainly taken off. i was more relaxed and that made paul more relaxed. he was so worried that i was in so much pain. he said that he’s never seen me suffer so much. i didn’t want to make him too worried about me. that made me tougher.
he phoned our friend and asked her to go get the camera battery for us. she came to the hospital in the early morning, took paul’s keys, drove to our house and brought back the battery. thanks to her, we have thousands of photos of elijah on the day of his birth.
at 8am, the obstetrician came to check my cervix. it was 8 cm dilated. my pain was getting worse again, the worst since the epidural started. the nurses offered me popsicles. they asked me what flavour i wanted – i was thinking “just give me popsicles!” but i’m a very polite japanese. i NEVER complain (out loud). i chose the last flavour she mentioned. it was too sweet.
the nurses suggested that i should go get the epidural “topped up” since i was in such pain and the first dose didn’t seem to be working as well as it should be. i thought about it. it was already 8 cm dilated and it’d be too late if i waited too long and you’ll never know when the only one anesthetist would be available. so i asked for more epidural.
the anesthetist was the one who gave the epidural talk to our prenatal class. he’s a very friendly and funny doctor and he made me laugh even when i was in pain.
the second epidural was supposed to make me feel less pain, but it wasn’t working as well as i expected. in japan, we call it “no pain labour” when you use epidural. but for me it was actually “pretty painful but not as bad as if you don’t use it labour”.
i kept focused on my breathing and whistling. after working on my whistling technique for more than six hours, i was still no good at whistling.
at 10 am, the obstetrics resident came to check my cervix. it was almost 10 cm dilated. it was almost time to push, but not quite. nurses kept asking me if i’d feel like going to bathroom. i wasn’t sure what they meant. my contractions came differently than usual – two big contractions in a row and one break. the time between contractions were so short that i felt like i was in pain all the time.
somebody told me that nurses contacted my obstetrician and she’ll come when i’m ready to push. i felt very emotional and cried a bit just to think paul and i would meet poko-chan very very soon.
i felt poko-chan’s movement very low. i started to feel like i was going to the bathroom. i realized what the nurses were asking me about.
at 11:30 am, my obstetrician came to my room. she’s so cool and stylish. she was wearing puma sneakers. the lower part of the bed was taken off and i put my legs on the leg rests. i had paul on my right, a nurse on my left and the obstetrician right in front of me. i was ready to push.
at first, i didn’t know where i was supposed to push. i was working on my abs. the nurse told me to push as if i would do for bowel movement. when i’m calm, i could tell exactly what she was talking about. but on the delivery bed, i had no clue. then my obstetrician asked me if i know kegel exercise. i knew exactly what she was talking about even though i’ve never done kegel exercises. i just knew what they are.
so i pushed as my contractions started. everyone was shouting “YUKA! PUUUUUUUUSH!” after a few pushes, poko-chan started to descend. but then poko-chan’s heart rate dropped, so the obstetrician used a vacuum to help poko-chan descend more. the next push or so, his head came out. paul said “yuka! the head is out! touch it”. i reached down and felt a warm and wet something with my right hand. it was poko-chan. i couldn’t stop crying.
after the next push, i felt poko-chan slide out of me. the obstetrician put poko-chan on my chest – skin to skin. it’s been awhile since i cried because i am happy.
paul cut the umbilical cord. i saw a nurse weighing him and paul watching him weigh far away even though they were just at the back of the room. they wrapped him up and brought him back to me.
i called my mom. it was 3 am in japan. i told her that i just gave birth to a boy. she asked about the health of me and the baby. she said “yokatta”. it was the first time i ever heard her cry.