When I posted on Saturday about trying to scare the baby out with super-preppy clothing I didn’t think it would actually work. Apparently the joy of wearing tiny madras shorts was just what Baby E needed to get moving.

Saturday night I started having much stronger contractions than I’d had before, but they weren’t very regular. I decided unless my water broke I was going to wait until morning to consider going to the hospital so I took a nice warm bath and some Tylenol PM and went to bed around 11. At about 5 am the contractions woke me up. I thought about making E get up and help but figured I’d been breathing on my own for 26 years and could handle it for another couple hours. I wandered around practicing my hee-hee-hooooo techniques until I decided these were definitely painful enough to be labor. I tried to wake E up to tell him he might want to get moving but he just rolled over and muttered something about “later”. I finished getting ready to go and then went into the bedroom and yelled “You’re the worst labor coach ever! Get up, I want to go to the effing hospital!” This time, he listened. We left Mom with the dog and told her we’d call if the hospital admitted me.

Once I got up to the birthing center I did some more heaving breathing while signing paperwork and then they set me up in a room. I was thinking about all the labor stories I’d ever heard and trying not to freak myself out about what was going to happen to me for the next few days when in walked my nurse – Nurse Mustache. If you read Dooce.com, you’ll know why this is hilarious. I mean, I’d love to be just like Heather Armstrong but what an insane detail to have in common, labor nurses who have incredible mustaches. It was impossible to listen to anything she said because I was so focused on her upper lip. I think it was something like “I’ll have the mustache come in and check your mustache in a mustache, but first change into this mustache”.

At 9 am the doctor came in to check me and said that I was 3.5 cm dilated and definitely in capital L Labor, not that wimpy, useless labor I had on Thursday. They hooked me up to that stupid belly monitor again and we watched the line for my contractions make feeble little hills while I insisted they felt more like mountains and that everyone should know this was VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. When the doctor came back in at 10 am, I was at 4 cm and she broke my water to speed things up. I am wicked glad that happened in a hospital bed covered in disposable pads instead of all over my pale blue sheets, The “pop” felt like I had just lost 10 pounds, the relief of pressure was so huge. I sat there gushing for a few minutes until the doctor said that if I was planning to get an epidural I could have it any time. I was like YES PLEASE, I’LL TAKE TWO. RIGHT NOW.

When the anesthesiologist showed up, she looked at my wimpy little hill contractions and made a comment about maybe I didn’t need the epidural quite yet. I was like, but the doctor! She said I could have it! Now! She has a medical degree and fancy green scrubs, we should definitely do what she says. Between the nurse insisting I relax relax relax and the anesthesiologist telling me to hold still hold still hold still, getting a needle in my back was one of the most stressful parts of the day. First I got two numbing shots so I wouldn’t feel the actual GIANT NEEDLE or the teeny tiny catheter that sent magic fairy dust directly into my spinal column. I keep saying “ooooh this feels weird, so so weird, it’s weird!” but can’t really describe the weirdness. The official word for the whole day is “pressure”, so I’ll just say I could feel the pressure of the needle going into my spine and I was suddenly very aware of the spaces between my vertebrae. The anesthesiologist taped everything to my back and then gave me a test shot to make sure I didn’t react to the medication. Once they were sure I wasn’t going to pass out and the baby wasn’t going to have a heart attack, I got the full dose. It made my right side numb but not quite my left side so they propped me up with pillows to get the medicine dripping in the right direction. At 10:47 am, I was giddy with joy and ready to begin a long, loving relationship with my anesthesiologist. It was the most comfortable I’ve been since I was about 6 months pregnant.

Apparently I am a perfect epidural patient, since I could still feel the pressure from my contractions but not the pain. I could even move my legs around, wiggle my toes and feel Baby E kicking, so it wasn’t like being paralyzed at all. Just a total lack of pain from my crotch to my ribs. The doctor was really thrilled with this and seemed to think it was a good sign for the rest of my labor. Everyone left me alone then to give me a chance to rest and dilate. I napped until about 1 o’clock and then woke E up and demanded he entertain me. We played cribbage for a while, but I lost interest when he beat me 3 out of 4. Beating your wife at cards while she’s in labor with your child is not a sign of a good labor coach. Mom came over to the hospital to keep me company and see if anything was going on. It was not. When the doctor checked me again at 2 pm I was only at 5 cm so we agreed to start a Pitocin drip.

Dear Pitocin,
I know I said a lot of bad things about you in the past. I’m sure I made you feel unwanted and unloved. But you should know that now I know the truth and a Pitocin drip – while already on an epidural – is the second best invention in the birthing world. The first is of course the epidural and the third is stool softener. But we’ll get to that later.

I was assured that getting to 5 cm was the hard part and things should go much faster now, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up. They played with the dosage for a while, adding a little at a time until they found a good level and my nurse predicted I would have the baby before 10 pm. I decided what I needed was another nap (all that sleep now while you still can!!! talk really stuck with me) so I put some HGTV on and dozed while watching people try to sell their horribly ugly houses after really pathetic makeovers. At about 5:20 pm I realized I was dying of thirst and what I really, truly needed more than anything in the whole world was a Diet Coke – and if pushing out this baby was what I had to do to get one then I was going to do it RIGHT NOW. I noticed that my body seemed to agree. Even without the pain my contractions were definitely stronger and I felt like I was in real danger of crapping myself. Considering I hadn’t eaten anything in about 20 hours I wasn’t too worried but it still wasn’t high on my list of things to do so I concentrated on not pooping.

At 6:30 pm my nurse Pam (not Nurse Mustache, she left) came to check on me and I mentioned the pressure. She didn’t seem too concerned but said it was a good sign. I tried to make casual conversation about how serious the pooping threat was but she just assured me it was normal and no one would point and laugh at me. At least not where I could see it. At 6:50 the doctor came in to see how I was coming…and got a lovely view of Baby E’s head. Everyone scrambled to get things ready for the pushing part while I sat there being smug and saying I WASN’T KIDDING ABOUT THE PRESSURE. It’s not easy to be smug when you’re in labor, but totally possible with an epidural.

Tomorrow you get the story about the actual delivery and the (continuing) aftermath. Feel free to think of really specific, personal questions you might want to ask, since so far today I’ve talked about labor with three visitors who are a) not related to me in any way and b) probably didn’t want to hear about my placenta.