Okay, I’ll admit it: I had an epidural while 1.5 centimeters dilated. Twice.
With my first, the anesthesiologist just happened to be available to administer the epidural and I had heard that if you miss your window in which to receive one, you could end up screwed. So I went for it. Thirty hours of labor ensued and, don’t hate me for saying this, but it was a breeze.
With baby number two, I was going for the same thing. I felt slight cramping and – boom – epidural! Only this time it didn’t totally work. I wasn’t dying from pain, that’s for sure, but I could certainly feel the contractions on one side of my body, and I wasn’t mentally prepared for that at all. I also wasn’t prepared to be rushed into an operating room for an emergency c-section.
What happened until that point was fairly typical. In a nutshell, it took me half a day to dilate from zero to three centimeters. I called my parents to tell them that nothing was happening, that I was stuck at three, that they were welcome to come by the hospital but not to rush. My doctor’s shift was over and she had said her goodbyes, told me that one of her colleagues would be taking over until the following day. When said colleague came by to check on me, she told me exactly what I expected to hear: I was stuck at three centimeters but that everything looked good, just hang in there, she’d be back later.
Then, as she was leaving, a bunch of machines started beeping. Loudly. The nurses looked panicked. The doctor looked panicked, too, as she came running back towards me. “Your baby’s heart rate is dropping,” she said matter-of-factly. “He’s in distress.”
Next think I knew, I was sobbing uncontrollably while being wheeled into an operating room for an emergency c-section. I was only three centimeters dilated and, with the baby’s heart rate dropping like that, they didn’t want to take any chances for another 10 or 12 hours – or however long they guessed it would take me to become fully dilated and ready to push.
So there I was, screaming, “I can feel everything!” to anyone who would listen, as I found myself being prepped for surgery under the glaring lights. My husband was outside the room at this point (I think they let your partner in just before they are about to begin surgery). I was surrounded by at least eight or ten people – anesthesiologist, doctor, residents, nurse – when one of them said, “Let’s do a final check.”
“Ohmigod, you’re 10 centimeters dilated!” I was told. “PUSH RIGHT NOW!”
And that’s when I found myself pushing out a little five-and-a-half-pound baby right there on the operating table.
Nobody could believe I had gone from three to 10 centimeters in a mere five minutes, but that’s precisely what happened. And it was really freaky. Had that “final check” happened even one minute earlier, I would have had a c-section. But I was spared at last second.
At the end of the day, I was grateful to have healthy baby; I didn’t care how he came into the world. But I was also grateful to have avoided a c-section after hours of labor. Oh, and that someone answered my cries to grab by husband, who had been waiting patiently in the hallway for surgery to begin.