While waiting for the doula(s) to arrive, I figure that I'll try the bathtub, despite the membrane rupture. Sadly, it doesn't do much for me. I displace too much water to really submerge, and the contractions themselves are not eased. "Eh," I think, "it was worth a shot."
At around 6 p.m. on the 19th of January, Zoia (Doula #1) arrives. She has her doula bag of tricks, and she spends the first 15 minutes or so observing me as I work through contractions (mostly standing up, swaying). She suggests that I try to get through contractions while lying down, and that I eat, though I have no appetite. Dave pulls together a variety of munchable things like hummus and pitas, and I try to snack on them during the contractions which are still 7 or 8 minutes apart. I don't eat much, but I do try.
I then settle in to a nest of blankets and pillows on the family room floor. Zoia breaks out the absolute BEST trick for this part of labour - counter pressure on my lower back, which combats the pain due to the pelvis expanding as the baby dropped lower. This, along with Dave holding my hands and encouraging me, helps immensely for the next couple hours. I am coping so well that I spend the time between contractions asking Zoia about her adolescence in Bulgaria and her wedding plans. As the time wears on, though, I ask fewer questions between the contraction and I rest more.
At 8 or so, the phone rings; it's my Mom. Dave and I had decided that, while we wouldn't lie if anyone called while I was in labour, we wouldn't call anyone with the news. Dave relays this fact to my Mom and promises to update her when things happen.
After 9, Shannon arrives. She's more hands-on than Zoia, and she wants to see evidence of the 'bloody show', etc. She's a little surprised that so little is happening on that front, as well as the fact that my contractions are still only 7 minutes apart. She also observes me for an hour or so, then she suggests that I take something to relax and help me sleep (as recommended by my midwife a few hours before). I take a gravol (the only meds I'll take; incidentally, it does NOTHING) and Dave and I head up to bed while Zoia and Shannon crash on the couches in the family room.
Dave and I are upstairs for about 20 minutes when the contractions start intensifying. I try to get through them on my own, but the breathing turns into moaning and the moaning just gets louder and louder. After 45 minutes or so, Shannon and Zoia head upstairs. They've noticed that the intensity of the contractions has increased (based on the moans) and they have devised a new plan. Shannon will do the first shift with me while Dave gets some sleep in the guest room and Zoia on the couch. Then, after a couple hours, they will switch.
Shannon hops into bed with me and my Chux pads and spends the next two hour applying counter pressure and giving me vocal cues while I labour. She starts guiding me in my moans, suggesting a particular tone at which to emit sound; I echo her. This is amazingly helpful. I write around during the contractions, and sometimes suggest changing positions. The position changes are awful, but Shannon reminds me that you need to go through 3 contractions in a new position to see if it's helpful. None of the positions I suggest feel more comfortable than standing up or lying down. The toilet contractions are not fun, but a necessary evil as I needed bathroom breaks ever half hour or so.
The contractions continue to intensify but do not get closer together. At around 2 am, Shannon tags out and Dave and Zoia take her place. Dave applies counter pressure (ineffectively at first; I am short with him and feel awful about it) and Zoia coaches me. After about half an hour, they trade roles. The contractions continue to get stronger and I struggle to relax through them, trying to snatch a few minutes of sleep in between. The tension in my body is leading to serious lactic acid build up and my muscles ache and shake. But the contractions do not get closer together. At around 3 am, the intensity level hits a high and stays there. I fight panic, as I start to doubt my ability to persevere, to get through.
Right around this time, Shannon comes back and gently verbalizes my suspicions - she is worried that I stalled in prodromal labour. She and Zoia fear that I may not be progressing and may be getting exhausted, and I totally agree. Shannon and Dave head to the phone to check in with the midwife on call (Ann) and describe the situation. She thinks the same thing, and suggests that, if nothing changes, we meet at the hospital at 8 am. to discuss options.
I labour for another hour in the bed, moaning and writhing. I develop a terrible case of the shakes. The contractions, however, continue to be 6 or 7 minutes apart. This period of time is the low point for me, frustrated and fearful that this, after nearly 24 hours, is only the beginning of the process. I fight panic and despair. Finally, I can take labouring in the bed no longer. I move to the toilet in the ensuite and stay there, trying to fend off the immense pelvic pressure I feel. Dave, Zoia and Shannon crowd in the doorway. It is 4:45 am.
"Guys, I am not sure how much more of this I can take!" are the first words out of my mouth. It's true; my uterus has now been contracting for 24 hours while I have only slept in 3-5 minute intervals in between the pain. I am shaking, on the cusp of exhaustion and my contractions are still not in the 'active labour' timeframe. I admit that I may need to consider interventions, specifically pain relief so that I can sleep. Despite my previously stated desire to avoid interventions, all three completely understand my views and are incredibly supportive. Shannon volunteers to call Ann again. Despite the late hour and the fact we'd called her one hour before, I acquiesce.
Shannon, I discover later, is totally stymied. The contractions are off, but I am showing signs characteristic of transition. She and Ann know each other well, having worked together hundreds of times. She fills Ann in on the situation and tells her "I need her checked!". Ann agrees that things sound a bit weird, and agrees to meet us at the hospital at 6 am. (Had my contractions been more consistent, Ann would have come to the house to check me there.)