Anyway, I've been reflecting on what labor and delivery were like for me with Lizzy...I wrote about it shortly after she was born, but in having a couple years to think about it and read about a gazillion other birth stories, I think I have a slightly different take on things now than I did then...and some of it I just want to get out of my brain and down on paper.
First, here's a summary of how things went with Lizzy:
My water broke about 4am on a Sunday morning. I got in the shower almost right away, and noticed that my contractions were coming really fast and furious. I'd have contractions that were about 3 minutes long, then a thirty seconds in between, and then another 3 minute contraction...so we headed to the hospital basically right away.
We got to the hospital at about 5am. I was dilated to 4cm, and was super discouraged, because I'd been dilated to a 3 for a few weeks (I think!). I felt like I hadn't been able to catch my breath since we had left home, and the contractions just kept coming and coming with no break, and I was getting hysterical. I was lucky to get 15-20 seconds in between each 2 or 3 minute contraction. In retrospect, if you look up the textbook definitions of transitional labor, that was exactly how I felt from the time my water broke up until this point...which is weird, because if I were only dilated to a 4, I wouldn't be in transition yet. Anyway, I asked for an epidural.
The anesthesiologist came around 6:30am. After he gave me the epidural, I mostly felt better, but almost as soon as he administered it, I couldn't stop shaking uncontrollably. Justin kept giving me blankets, and I kept telling him that I was NOT cold, I just couldn't stop shaking. Sometime shortly after that, shift change happened, and I had a new nurse, who Justin really liked and I really did not. I kept telling her that I was feeling a lot of pressure and thought I needed to be checked. She kept telling me, "Oh honey, it's your first baby, you're going to be here for a very long time." She also kept telling me to eat something, and that Justin needed to take a nap...neither of which I thought were good ideas, and totally ignored her when she brought me some food.
Sometime between 8am and 9am, I finally convinced the nurse to check me...and I was dilated to a 10. I remember commenting that I was starting to feel a lot of pain again, and her responding something about how my IV had gotten bumped and I'd been given way too much fluid. Something like 5 bags since I'd been there.
I sort of remember a doctor (not mine) coming in, and I remember being given the okay to push. Justin and my mom kept asking if I was okay because I was basically silent the whole time (in my own world, I guess). I remember not being sure if I was pushing the right way, and also Justin telling me that I actually needed to inhale in between pushes. I remember being in quite a bit of pain, and being surprised about it--doctors have always told me that I have a very high pain tolerance, and everyone had told me that with an epidural, I should expect pressure, but not pain. But I felt PAIN, and remember wondering if there was a problem with the epidural, but being told that if there was, it was too late to do anything about.
And then, at 10:25am, she was born. 6 hours and 25 minutes after my water broke. I needed a few stitches, and I totally and VIVIDLY remember feeling those. I remember wincing and saying "Ow! Ow! I can feel that!", and the doctor saying that I shouldn't be able to feel that, and that he'd hurry up.
I think I was up and walking around by noon or shortly thereafter. I'd heard horror stories from people about how long it took them to feel their legs again after an epidural, and I was surprised that I could totally feel mine pretty quickly afterwards. That said, recovery was awful. I was in a lot of pain for weeks. I was SO SO SO swollen, everywhere (apparently due to the incident with being given too much fluid). I remember feeling like everything hurt all the time, and wondering why no one had told me how awful the recovery was. Looking back, I really don't remember much of the first week, other than it was terrible and I was miserable.
So. That's that. Now, given some time...here's what I've been wondering:
I remember that in the week before my water broke, we had almost gone to the hospital 3 or 4 times. I'd been having steady contractions, but they just never got any closer together. Looking back, I wonder if I'd been in early labor for a day (or two even) before my water broke, and just didn't fully realize it. I've been a little stressed about the fact that they say labor is shorter with each subsequent baby...and if labor is much shorter than it was with Lizzy, I'm worried about getting to the hospital in time! So, thinking that I'd been in early labor makes me feel a little better, for some reason.
I also wonder whether or not the epidural actually worked for me...or how long it worked for? I think it worked initially, and may have allowed me to relax and fully dilate. But then after that point, I'm not sure that it worked for much longer, and I have no idea whether that was due to the amount of fluids I'd been given, or something else. But I really don't KNOW for sure whether it was working or not...I have nothing to compare it to. I've wondered since shortly after Lizzy was born whether not getting an epidural would have made a difference in how I felt postpartum...if I'd have had an easier recovery if I hadn't gotten one. I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if knowing then that I'd only have another couple hours in labor, if I couldn't have gone without it. I think I freaked out initially hearing I was only dilated to a 4, and thinking that I'd have another 20+ hours in labor and that I couldn't handle contractions like that for another 20+ hours. But 2 or 3 hours? I wonder if knowing that it was only like 2-3 more hours would have felt more do-able. Then, on the other hand, I sometimes feel like the reason I dilated to a 10 so quickly was because the epidural allowed me to finally relax. Or maybe that first time I was checked, I was measured incorrectly, and I really was starting to approach transition, like I felt. I just don't know...
I find myself going back and forth between thinking that I should really try to go without an epidural this time...but then again, who knows whether labor this time will be anything like it was with Lizzy? It COULD be 20 hours for all I know. I could not get the epidural only to be miserable and have problems progressing because I can't relax. Or, I could not get the epidural, and find that it really makes all the difference in terms of recovery. Or, I could get an epidural, and find that it's a completely different experience than last time, for better or for worse. I have no idea.
Feel free to chime in y'all...because I'm really feeling torn. Did anybody have an epidural with one kiddo and not with another? What was that difference like for you?