December 1, 10:00 PM: 4 cm
The pain and discomfort were increasing. It was worse when I was lying down, so I walked around, Oneal and Ros trailing me. The contractions were coming in faster now. Whenever the nurses attached the fetal monitoring things to me, they saw that the baby’s heart rate was regular and strong, and my contractions were regular, like clockwork! Everything was going well. “Ganda ng contractions mo!” said every nurse and resident who came and checked.
I remember getting bored with the area I was allowed to walk in the OB complex, and I asked to go and see my mom and my brother. The pain wasn’t in my abdomen, but in my back, and my pelvis. In the waiting area, I walked around as Mommy and Oneal talked. When the contractions came, I leaned into Oneal and closed my eyes, trying to calm myself with steady breathing. It felt like my pelvis was swelling, and flexing. I could no longer talk or laugh through the contractions.
December 2, 00:15 AM: 5 cm
Then came the pain.
Thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know if ‘excruciating’ is sufficient to describe the pain. I remember it was mind-numbing.
I couldn’t think of anything else. Lying or sitting made it worse, so Oneal and I walked around. Ros made me try a labor position similar to Child’s Pose, to ease the pain in my back. It seemed like all the pain I had ever experienced in my entire life came back, a hundredfold, and converged on my pelvis, breaking it into a million pieces.
Occasionally the nurses would come back and hook me up to the fetal monitoring again. That meant I had to lie down, and that meant the contractions felt worse. When the contractions came, and I couldn’t walk, I started crying out, reaching for Oneal or Ros, gripping their hands tightly. Ros would remind me to breathe, and I would just close my eyes and pray for the minute or so to be over.
Then thirty minutes would pass, and Ros would ask the nurses if they still needed to monitor. They’d take off the monitors, and I would get up again so I could walk.
Oneal and I walked around the OB complex. I held his hands, pausing when the contractions came, crying out, squatting, bending over. Ros told me to hang on to Oneal, to let him carry my entire weight, when my contractions came.
I did that, and thank God for Oneal’s steady stance and strong arms. I could barely stand on my own legs while the contractions rocked my body, the pain arriving in waves, with each peak feeling like it would be the last, greatest pain.
I don’t remember my breaking point. I remember we were walking, and between contractions, Oneal cracked jokes, and I still managed some feeble laughs. Then the contractions got stronger, and I thought my body would break in two. I thought, how could women endure this multiple times? How could women do this back when they didn’t know what was happening in their own bodies? How did women do this without yoga or breathing exercises, or doulas and supportive partners, or painkillers?
I remember a particularly strong contraction, and hanging on to Oneal, my entire weight on him. I remember crying out, and exclaiming, “Ayoko na, hindi ko na kaya. Give me the epidural.”
December 2, 3:00 AM: Epidural
It must have been Ros who told the nurses that I’d asked for the epidural. I was brought to the operating room, and they inserted the epidural catheter. Then they administered the medication, and almost immediately I felt relief. The doctors and nurses joked about the look of absolute relief one got after the pain went away. “Ayan, heaven na,” they quipped.
They wheeled me back to the labor room. The fetal monitoring was resumed, and thankfully the baby’s heart rate remained steady. They gave me oxygen, because they were worried about my asthma. I had an IV drip too, and they monitored my blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels.
I could still feel the contractions, but with the epidural, they felt more like pressure on my pelvis, and I didn’t feel pain. It was blissful, and I was able to sleep. When I was awake, I could talk a little. It felt like I had space in my mind again.
Oneal and Dr. Jayjay went out to the waiting area, to explain to my mom and my brother what was happening. Ros stayed with me, comforting me when I was awake. While I was asleep, Oneal rushed home. He had to feed our other cats, get some things we’d forgotten. I don’t even remember how long he was gone. I was just so relieved that the pain was gone.
Unfortunately, the epidural only lasts two hours. As the medication wore off, I felt the contractions again, and the pain came back. Soon I was crying out again, struggling to breathe calmly through the contractions.