It's Tuesday evening. I'm in a room, sporting an IV port but not hooked up to anything, suffering in a corset of monitor belts, my blood pressure elevated but not alarming, my contractions regular but not too painful yet. I've hit this point in labor before, with contractions five minutes apart, and things have always progressed forward from here. I know my body. I know these babies are on their way.
Except, then, they're not.
As the evening progresses, my contractions slow and then disappear almost entirely. Cessia has warned me that she heard the team of residents talking about inducing me if my lab results show any preeclampsia signs. (There's a team of them, four young women, who all seem friendly and down-to-earth but whose names I can't quite recall.) No induction tonight, though, as one of the residents comes in around 10:00 to tell us that my lab results are "stone-cold normal."
I'm relieved to avoid the Pitocin drip for now, but since no one has mentioned any possibility of being released, I assume I'll be inpatient until the babies are born. Which makes my irritable uterus's suddently refusal to contract all the more, well, irritating.
Bryan and I chill for a while, playing games on our iPods and watching an episode of Gilmore Girls. Eventually I suggest he go to bed, and he gets comfortable(ish) on the room's fold-out couch-chair hybrid. I decide to see if getting out of bed will help things move along, so I stand next to the bed, swaying and watching the contraction monitor. When I'm on my feet I have long contractions and my back aches horribly, but the contractions aren't getting stronger or more regular. And I'm miserable on my feet and so happy lying down that after a while I can't resist getting back in bed.
Cessia was replaced at 11pm by my night nurse, Danber*, a middle-aged woman who's not particularly charismatic or encouraging. She tells me grumpily that if my contractions aren't regular it means my cervix isn't dilating. She also seems annoyed at how often she has to come in and reposition my monitors. (Twin heartbeats are hard to track.) We're both relieved, I think, when at 2am the resident in charge decides the babies can come off the monitors for now. The single belt of the contraction monitor feels beautifully light in comparison.
(Since it's hard to keep two monitors in place, L&D nurses often like to use two belts on the heartbeat monitors, meaning with two babies plus a contraction monitor I was sometimes wearing FIVE straps around me. I'm not kidding that it feels like a corset.)
I can't sleep, so I stand up for another little while around 1am. The contractions still don't become regular, though, and my back hurts so much that I don't want to keep it up when lying comfortably in bed is the other option. (It occurs to me in retrospect that I was feeling back labor, which I'd never had before because Camilla and Blaise were so nicely positioned. But with two babies, no wonder my back hurt!) After about an hour, I lie back down and go to sleep for a while. Three hours then another two, the best rest I've had in a while.
7am shift change and a new nurse with an (apparently) unmemorable name comes in to catch a 20-minute strip of monitoring on the babies. They're active and reactive, just perfect on the monitors as they always have been and will be. (Amen.)
Except, as perfect as everything looks when we can get the data, we're having a hard time keeping track of the babies in utero. Baby B seems to be in an entirely different place than he was yesterday - he's been breech on the top left for weeks, but now it seems like he's farther down, farther to the left. He's been kicking differently too, so this seems right to me.
Blah blah whatsit and general hospital-type waiting around while a resident tries to track down an ultrasound machine and figure out exactly where the babies are, and then out of nowhere Dr. Happy Chatty shows up and takes over.
She surprises me by telling me that with my bp just borderline and nicely stable, and my lab results perfect, that she's going to send me home this morning and see if we can get a few more days out of me. I'm conflicted about this - I know that it's best to give the babies more time in utero, but at the same time I'm worn out and emotional and kind of want this whole thing to be over.
(In retrospect, if I'd understood what NICU time is really like, I'd have been fully in favor of more pregnancy time no matter what. But I didn't know then.)
Before she releases me, though, Happy Chatty does a routine cervical check. I'd mentioned seeing some reddish signs of dilation during nighttime bathroom trips and she'd raised one eyebrow; as she checks my cervix both of them jump toward her hairline.
"You're at... seven centimeters. Eighty percent effaced."
She strips off her gloves and grins. "You're not going anywhere today."
It's a weird, defining moment of the whole ordeal. I'm surprised to find my first feeling is relief that I don't have to go back into bed-rest and possible-preeclampsia limbo where I wonder each morning if I'll have to be induced that day. Instead, my body is stepping up, leaping toward getting those babies out. It doesn't even need a real labor patttern to get things moving. 7cm, baby!
HC does a quick ultrasound and discovers why my labor has stopped: Baby B, the stinker, has flipped head-down. He and A are "battling it out," in her words. She's seen this before and says that, while we'll give things a chance to move along on their own, it might take "a whiff of Pit" - a tiny amount of Pitocin to get my uterus contracting hard enough to force one baby down ahead of the other. But it's my choice if/when I want to try that. With the babies looking as good as they do, she's willing to let things ride as long as I want.
I'll be moving to full-size Labor and Delivery room (since I have to deliver in the OR anyway and the ward is full, they've had me in a smaller overflow room where they keep patients who need L&D care but aren't delivering imminently - the same kind of room I had during last week's preterm labor episode).
Dr. HC wants me to eat a good meal, relax for a while, do whatever feels like it might help to get things moving. But it's nice - there's no pressure on me, no worry about the babies, just hanging out and seeing what my body does. The babies are a little early but they and I are healthy and there's every reason to expect this delivery should go beautifully.
But will it?
*I'm going to keep anagramming the names, but if you can't guess it, the correct order of those letters is 465312