I called my midwife again, and she suggested we come to the office for monitoring at 9am. In the time between when my water broke and when we got out the door, contractions had started coming again, and this time they were shorter (about 30 seconds) and much sharper than they had ever been in early labor. I found it helpful to lean over whatever countertop, table, or person I could find first when they would come. Tim was worried about me getting down the three flights of stairs of our apartment building, so I waited until I finished one contraction, then practically ran down the stairs as fast as I could and made it all the way outside before another one hit. We were getting savvy at this whole labor thing.
First of all I had to prove that my water had actually broken. My story about all the soaked towels wasn't enough. They needed a sample of residual amniotic fluid, which was hard to provide because I had taken a shower and gotten all cleaned up. I also didn't appear to my midwife to be in established labor, since I wasn't grimacing or vocalizing through contractions. At that point I was just closing my eyes and breathing deeply through them. And lastly...I wasn't going to be able to find out how dilated I was. She said she could check me if I really wanted, but most women develop a fever about 18 hours after their first cervix exam if their water has broken, and I needed as much time as possible to labor and deliver without showing any signs of infection, or I would be transferred out of her care. I opted to not get the exam. And we went back home.
The next nine hours were pretty static. I just had to labor. There were no shortcuts, no ameliorations, nothing to do but wait and breathe. I labored all over the house. Once I got tired of seeing the four walls in one room, I'd move to another. My mom made soup and did my laundry. Tim sat with me wherever I was. I timed contractions.
In the beginning of the day I tried to rest, knowing I wouldn't be able to later. Contractions were about five minutes apart so I was able to doze off during the breaks. After a while they progressed to where it hurt worse to lie back while I was having one, so I had to sit up and lean forward for every one from then on.
I gradually started to need Tim more and more. At first I could breathe through the contractions on my own, but then I started to need to squeeze his hand through them, to lean on him, to rest back against him when they ended. My mom hung back and let him be my support and help.
The sun started to set around 4pm, and I looked out the window and saw a couple on a walk with a baby in a stroller. That sight encouraged me to think beyond the moment, beyond the pain and the unknowns of the rest of my labor. I had a clear, if not short-lived, vision that my momentary trouble was achieving a great outcome for us that outweighed the difficulty. That bit of inspiration was well-timed, because I hit an emotional slump as it got dark outside. I knew there would be no sleep for me that night, and I wondered if I would still be laboring by the time I saw sunlight again.