It was not. They hooked me up to a machine that measured my contractions and the baby's heartbeat and, while they could tell that the contractions were indeed strong and regular, I was only dialated one centimeter. The midwife suggested we walk around the hospital for an hour and a half to see if anything changed. We went outside and strolled around the hospital grounds while I periodically had to stop and clutch The Swede for dear life as I experienced what was, up until that point, the worst pain of my life. When we got back from our walk, though, nothing had changed and they sent us home with a sleeping pill and a codeine.
About twelve hours after they sent us home on Thursday night, the contractions were so bad that I was in tears and The Swede insisted that we go back to the hospital. We arrived in the early afternoon on Friday and this time there had been enough progress that I was officially in active labor and they could check us in and give us a room. I tried to stay up and moving as much as possible, though it was getting more and more difficult to manage the pain on my own so when they offered nitrous oxide I gladly accepted and it quickly became my new best friend. They really ought to use this stuff in the States. I found it quite effective in taking the edge off of the contractions and found that concentrating on using it correctly was an additional distraction from the pain. The laughing gas got me through several hours, but later that night I found myself begging for the epidural.
Now a little history. I spent a lot of my pregnancy getting as much information as I could about the event that I knew would be the most substantial thing I would ever do. I knew that I had little control over how my baby's birth would go, but I wanted to be educated about the aspects that I did have control over and not simply rely on convention. I had had a couple of friends who recently had babies recommend the epidural very highly, but I wanted to try to go without it because I was terrified of the needle, lasting side effects and I didn't want to be bound to a hospital bed and feel like the birth had been turned into something medical. I didn't want to feel like I was sick. This was something that The Swede and I had discussed a lot throughout the pregnancy and while he felt that I should take advantage of the medical technology we are fortunate enough to have available to us, I made him promise to talk me out of an epidural even if I begged for one during labor. I'm so glad he listened to in-labor me instead of smug, pre-labor me and went with his instinct not to argue with me when I did, indeed, demand the epidural. By supporting me rather than fighting me he spared me from feeling like I had disappointed us both and made the experience so much more tolerable for me and for himself. So I got the epidural and it wasn't scary or painful at all and I was able to get up and walk (with a little help because I did experience some numbness in my left leg), sit on the pilates ball and even take a shower.
I got the epidural sometime during the night and now that I wasn't struggling through contractions it was just a matter of waiting. The Swede and I tried to get some sleep while the midwives came in to check my dialation and refill my drugs periodically. I was progressing slowly and was on an oxytocin drip (an intervention I had wanted to avoid but had clearly needed as I was dialating at a rate of about a centimeter every few hours) and it took all Friday night and most of Saturday morning to become fully dialated. When the midwife declared that I was at ten centimeters, nearly thirty-six hours after my contractions began, instead of feeling relieved I felt terrified of the delivery ahead. I asked for a refill on the epidural, but the midwife informed me that it wouldn't make any difference. I expected someone to tell me to begin pushing, like in the movies, but instead The Swede, the midwife and her assistant and I all waited for my body to tell me when to start and it did, unmistakably, within a few minutes. And then I worked the hardest I ever have in my life and I believe The Swede worked the hardest he ever had to support me and hold on to me, and even though I couldn't acknowledge him at all, I knew the whole time that I wouln't have been able to do it without him next to me. The midwife and her assistant coached me through forty-five minutes of pushing, which felt like it would never end and somehow, when it did, it felt like it had gone so fast. And then, at 11:16 on Saturday, July 23rd, we had a baby. And the first thing I saw was that it was a boy and that seemed like the only possible outcome. And the first thing I heard was his enthusiastic scream. And the only thing I felt was absolute disbelief. I couldn't imagine that it was over and that I had done it and that he was actually ours. And that he was so perfect and so beautiful. I was in such a state of shock that I didn't even cry until I looked over at The Swede and saw the tears in his eyes.
The midwife laid Jamie on my chest and left our new little family alone for awhile. We spent those moments falling in love. And every moment since then, actually.