You can read part one here.
I was 4-5 cm. Sigh. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed and "dancing" with Stephen through the next couple of contractions until a really painful one hit. Stephen says it went something like this: Hard contraction. Me: "I need Staydol!" Next hard contraction. "Nope, epidural, epidural!" (emphasizing that I did NOT yell but I did convey a strong sense of urgency in my voice). At that point my mom (who went through 8 natural labors) said "Ok, Ok honey!! Let me get the nurse and tell her!" and Stephen proceeded to ask me three times "Are you sure you want the epidural?" He knew how much research I'd done, all my opinions on epidurals, all my talk of not wanting one. I looked him and my mom straight in the eye and said defeatedly, "I'm sorry, but I want it. I know I do." The sweet nurse told me that I didn't did to apologize to anyone and I remember thinking vaguely that it would be slightly embarrassing to get the epidural after my soapbox against them but pride was definitely not enough to stop me, ha. I guess I could take this moment to say that labor pain was nothing like I imagined it. I have fairly painful periods and never really feared contractions, mostly I feared the pushing and the potential tearing. But the contractions were horrific. At times it felt like my body was ripping in two...(annnnd I'm so sorry for any pregnant ladies reading this...every labor is different).
The nurse had to call the doctor to see if I could still get the epidural and when the on-call doctor came in, I was laying in a ball on my right side. I was hoping she could check me just like that because the pain of the contractions felt like too much to move at all. She couldn't, and laying on my back was the.worst. She checked me...8 cm. Well, I knew what that meant. I still had to ask if it was too late for the epidural...which it was. She agreed to give me a small dose of Staydol though.
The next chunk of time was a blur of pain. I remember having a couple contractions in the bed and crying out. Stephen said that at one point I yelled "Please God, help me!" (I don't remember that) and he said it was just awful being in the room and feeling so powerless to help. I wouldn't look at anyone in between contractions, keeping my eyes closed most of the time, and continuing to say Memorares silently and desperately. I got a small dose of Staydol at 9:30 a.m. (which didn't seem to affect the pain but did help me to rest/relax between contractions) and at 9:50 I was complete and ready to start pushing (sidenote that I dilated from 3 cm to 10 cm in only a little over three hours, which I'm sure contributed to the pain).
If the contractions were nothing like what I expected, neither was the pushing. My contractions suddenly spaced apart, which meant that they had to start Pitocin. I had expected (from Ina May, among others) that pushing would feel right and almost good in a way, but instead I felt like I didn't know when to push or how to push...so I just pushed and cried and pushed and cried with every contraction. I had tried to be stoic at first and internalize the contractions, and I remember the nurse giving me 'permission' to yell - afterward I was slightly embarrassed about whatever doctors/medical students/nurses heard me carrying on, although Stephen insists I wasn't that loud and even if I was, it was labor! People always reference the "ring of fire" when the baby's head comes out, which was my greatest fear going into labor, and it honestly felt like a "ring of fire" with just about every single push. In between pushes, I was almost able to sleep (maybe the Staydol or maybe not) and then I would feel another contraction coming on and push, push with all my might through the pain.
I wasn't really aware of much during the pushing, but I do remember saying that I didn't think I could do it...and asking again and again if he was almost out (no he wasn't). The on-call doctor (mine unfortunately didn't make it back in time from the clinic because of how fast I progressed) had a perfectly calm polker face but the baby was firmly wedged and occiput posterior (sunny side up) in my pelvis. She told me later that she was getting ready to get out the vacuum and had Stephen Jr. not been so tiny, she thinks I would have needed a C section (I'm so very glad I was spared that end to my hours of labor).
After a little over an hour of pushing, it became clear that sweet little Stephen wasn't coming out on without some sort of intervention. It's funny because I was worried about the fear of knowing too much as a physician and being in labor, but the searing pain and exhaustion had caused me to retreat to a place inside myself where I don't think I could feel that fear. I was vulnerable, and as traumatic as I felt like the labor/delivery experience was, I did feel secure in the hands of my doctor, my mom, and Stephen. Even when I heard a faint slow beeping that I knew in my mind was the baby having a deceleration, it didn't cause me to fear. At that point though, I heard (or at least I thought I heard) the doctor get out the scissors...an episiotomy was on my list of "please God no" things for my delivery, but I knew that something had to be done and I really, really wanted him to come out. I couldn't keep pushing through so much intense pain. She cut the episiotomy (a second degree) and two pushes later, he arrived.
This is the part that I still have to reconcile in my mind, because in Ina May's book and a lot of the birth stories I've read, the baby arrives and a powerful rush of endorphins happens, taking away a lot of the residual pain and causing a strong and immediate bond with the baby. I didn't feel much of anything though at first. I was exhausted and I felt sort of stunned from all the pain, and it still wasn't comfortable with the episiotomy and the placenta still inside (it didn't feel anywhere nearly as painful as before, but just like a lot of pressure). I remember looking down at little Stephen Gabriel...he came out screaming and squirmy and healthy looking, despite his cone head...and then looking over at Stephen and seeing his chin quivering and his eyes tearing up and his whole face just full of so much love for his son. And that's when I looked down at our baby and knew in my heart of hearts how much I loved him and how blessed we were.
We were able to do skin to skin right after birth, which I'm so happy we were able to do even if I don't remember much about it now. Also, I just have to mention that probably my favorite part of the afterbirth was them bringing in the birth certificate and Stephen looking my straight in the eye and saying "After that, you can name him whatever you want" despite our many months of deliberating over the baby's name. We stuck with Stephen Gabriel (although now I wish that I would have said Juan Pablo just to see his reaction).
So that is the long and drawn out saga of Stephen Gabriel's birth. So different from what I thought, such an experience, and so gloriously worth it.