By around 8:00 PM of the 19th, though, my contractions appeared to be getting stronger. Jacob encouraged me to call my doctor, but I knew he wouldn't send me to the hospital until the contractions were 5 minutes apart. The first time the contractions were separated by 5 minutes, I made the call and learned my favorite OB was on call. Dr. Placide told me to come in, so Jacob and I headed to the hospital.
We were sent to the triage center, where I had my vital signs checked and my dilation checked for the first time. (I'd not seen the point in checking my dilation at my previous OB appointments, as 1) I thought my due date was at least a week too early, so I had a while before I'd deliver, and 2) I didn't understand the point if the doctor wouldn't see me until my contractions were 5 minutes apart anyways. Once at the hospital, though, it may have been useful to have a better idea whether the 3-4 cm I was at was the work or a night or a week.) At any rate, our nurse Krista sent me to walk around until 1 AM to see whether I'd progress or not.
My contractions were worst when I was standing up, so I wanted to have a chair available when the next contraction came. I made my base at the waiting room and walked about 30 feet down the hall and back between contractions. By 1 AM, I'd progressed to a solid 4 cm, and I was admitted to a room.
At this point I was asked whether I wanted an epidural. The original original plan was to take an epidural the minute it was offered to me. After learning at birthing class that an epidural before 5 cm could slow down labor, I decided to wait until I was at 5 cm. Once I was actually experiencing contractions, I decided 4 cm was close to 5 cm, and I asked for my epidural. Also, I was told that I'd need to get hydrated with an IV, so it would be at least 45 minutes before the epidural would be given, so I could make progress in the meantime. Indeed, by the time I walked to my room, was hooked up the IV, was sufficiently hydrated, and had my water broken, it was 3 AM, and I was at 5 cm. So, I unwittingly met both of my birthing plans.
The baby initially responded poorly to the epidural, as her heart rate decreased. This was scary of course, but her heart rate improved quickly when they gave me some medication through the IV and changed my position. The doctors also decided to better monitor the baby's heart rate by sticking a probe into her head. I was glad we'd talked about this in childbirth class, as Jacob and I at least knew what was happening.
The epidural effectively blocked any feeling I had of the contractions, so I was able to get some sleep between 4 and 6 AM. Around 6, Krista told me I was at 10 cm and could push soon. She reconfigured the bed to get my legs in the right place and gave me a quick tutorial on how to push (Grab my legs below the knees, breathe in quickly, and hold the breath while pushing out. Repeat three times for each contraction.)
I expected to wait for Dr. Placide before pushing, but Krista had me start earlier. After only ~4 contractions, she saw the baby's head, and we then waited for the doctor. After about 3 more contractions with Dr. Placide, Pia was born at 6:47 AM. They placed a blanket on my chest, slightly cleaned her off, and placed her on the blanket. This was slightly awkward, as Pia was still somewhat bloody, and I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to touch her or not. I ended up just smiling at her and talking to her. Jacob declined to cut the cord, so Dr. Placide did that, and then handed Pia off to the nurses in the room for washing, weighing (6 lb, 5.4 oz), and measuring (19”).
Aunt Amber and Uncle Jason visited over lunchtime, and all four grandparents arrived by dinnertime.