In my last blog post, I told you all how I planned my birth to go. Of course it didn’t go like that. For starters, my playlists I labored (pun intended) so hard over, didn’t get played till long after the birth. And yes I had two of them, labor upbeat and labor slow, both on Spotify if you are interested.
I’ll start the weekend after my due date had come and gone. My husband and I tried everything to get that baby out. I was having contractions, but they were erratic and pain free. My OB told me my fluid levels were down and to drink up all weekend. I’d been told that coconut water could help boost amniotic fluid levels, so that’s basically all I drank. By Monday I was well-hyrdrated and still very, very pregnant.
That next week, I knew something was up at my weekly check up when the ultasonographer kept tapping my belly trying to get my daughter to move….she didn’t. Then I really knew something was up when the OB came into the room with a worried look on her face. “Your fluid levels have dropped 50% since Friday, we need to induce.” NO!!!!!! This was not supposed to happen. I wanted a natural birth. After making more than a few pouty faces and discussing the situation, I finally gave in. She wanted me to head straight to the hospital. Um….no. I had come straight from work and needed to get my computer (for all the work I thought I was going to do, but didn’t, on my maternity leave), take a shower and shave my legs. You don’t want to be a hairy, stinky mess going into labor ’cause you sure are afterwards. I called my husband on the drive home. He didn’t answer. He called me back about 45 minutes later. Him: What’s up? Me: Oh nothing, just need to go have a baby. He rushed home.
One good thing about being late is that your hospital bag has been packed for weeks. I even had a list of final items to grab. Within a couple hours, we were at the hospital…no stress. This was about 4pm. In contrast to the haste my OB sent me there, the nurses in the hospital maternity unit must have felt no such urgency. We went through the intake process, they showed me around my room, took my vitals, ordered my husband dinner (I chose to eat very little for fear of it coming back up later), and placed my IV for the antibiotics I agreed to (after much debating) because I’d tested positive for Group B Strep. (See this helpful blog post from Mommypotamus about GBS) By the time all this was done, it was close to 8pm.
Finally around 9pm or so, the doctor on call and the OB resident came in to insert the Cervadil. I was only two cm dilated and this drug (which kind of looks like a wet tampon) is inserted next to the cervix to help with dilation. Knowing I was dead set against Pitocin, as stated in my birth plan, the doctor said, “This can set some women into the labor, not many, but some. Now get a good night’s sleep and we’ll check you in the morning.” What he really meant was, not many women do. That was about 9:30pm. By 11pm, I was having a minute apart contractions. I guess I was one of the few.
It was a slow night and my nurses kept getting sent home. I went through two before I went into labor and then two more during labor. The nurse I had overnight was very sweet, but very inexperienced. When she came in to check on me around 12pm, I was in excruciating pain. When told her I was having contractions about a minute apart, she replied “Oh yea, I’ve been watching on the monitor. You should try to get some sleep though.” Sleep! She obviously had not had a baby, nor seen very many come out yet.
In hindsight, what I really needed to do was move around, but with Cervidil, they make you wear a contraption around your belly to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. This wasn’t something my birth plan had contemplated. That means you have to get a special wireless monitor if you want to get out of bed. Once they’d located it, I strapped it on and got in the tub. Did the tub help, maybe a little. The warm water felt nice and I had my husband put frankincense essential oil in it. This oil had done wonders for cramps during pregnancy and I expected it to do the same here. Not so much. I was starting to see why woman turn to the pharmaceuticals. While in the tub, my contractions came two at a time. Awesome!
Once I was back in bed, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked for drugs. My young nurse said “The only thing that will take the pain away is an epidural.” I had my wits about me enough to remember I didn’t want an epidural…at least not yet. The nurse suggested Nubain instead. I took it. Within five minutes I felt woozy and drunk. The cramping in between my contractions eased a bit, but my contractions felt even more focused and intense because of it. The drug wore off in about 30 mins. When I texted my aunt, a lactation consultant and RN, if I should take another dose, she promptly replied “No more Nubain.” I guess it makes the baby woozy too and prevents them from properly latching onto the breast after they come out. So I went without.
The next several hours are a blur. I remember someone convincing the resident to take the Cervadil out since I was obviously in labor. I think that was around 5am. About two hours later, the resident and the doctor came back in. The resident checked my cervix with about the same lack of enthusiasm and haste as one might change a tire. She looked up at the doctor (not me) and proclaimed I was four cm dilated. I cried. It took me eight hours of one minute apart contractions to move two cm. With six more to go, the doctor says to me “good news, it looks like this put you in labor.” NO SHIT SHERLOCK!!! And then my sweet, inexperienced nurse tells my husband that maybe she’ll see us tonight when she returns for her next shift. Now I was sure I needed that epidural and/or I was going to die.
And that’s when the shift changed. I got a whole new clinical team. The doctor was sweet and reassuring, the resident gentle and calm, and the nurse experienced and attentive. Of course, it’s the nurses that really deliver the babies, and that new nurse made all the difference. It was about 7:45am. She burst into the room and said, “I read your birth plan. It’s beautiful and we’re going to make that birth happen. Now get out of bed.” She ripped the monitor off me, telling the resident that she’d looked at the printouts and that the baby was just fine, and pushed me up to sitting. She told me to take a breath and then stand up. Get through that next contraction and start walking. She brought me over to the bathroom and made me sit on the toilet. If I could have remembered anything from my birth classes, I would have done that hours ago. I of course had to pee (which I didn’t realize) and the squatting position helps move the baby into position. When I stood up, there was blood pouring down my leg. I cried again, but she smiled. Of course this meant I was progressing, but I was too delirious from pain and exhaustion to remember this. Seeing that blood just further solidified in my mind that I was in fact dying.
It was in the shower, with the hot water spraying my back, that I lost it. I told my husband I couldn’t take it anymore and asked him again and again why the nurse wasn’t listening to me. Based on what the last doctor and nurse said, I was convinced I had 12 or more hours to go. I needed that epidural. The nurse stalled. She kept telling to me take five more mins, get through one more contraction, take one more step. Then suddenly, I felt like I had to go, you know number two, and quickly. When I told her why I had started crawling to the toilet, she knew what I didn’t of course. That baby was in position. Again my birth classes taught there are only two times when that nerve is activated. When you have to take a crap and when you are about to have a baby. I’d forgotten.
The nurse got me into bed and retrieved the resident, who checked my cervix. I was thinking, why are we even bothering, just get me the drugs! When the resident looked up from between my legs, she said with a infectious confidence, “you’re almost at 10 cm, we’re going to have a baby.”
With those words, I went from a useless, weeping mess to a determined, attentive fighter. My nurse made me move around a bit more and then said, “you’re ready to push.” Yes! I could do this. I was an athlete and pain for gain meant something to me. Up until now the pain felt endless and futile. Push I could and push I did. I pushed with every contraction as hard as I could. They tried to get me to slow down, but I couldn’t. That baby wanted out and I wanted her out just as badly. When they asked me if I wanted to see her head crowning (per my birth plan), I declined. I’d seen enough gore already and it was time to just get her out. The doctor had to break my water and with that out the baby flew. Now you’d think the pain of pushing an eight pound baby out of a very tiny opening would be the worst part. Nope! This was the easy part and a means to an end. Madelyn was born at 9:31am, just two hours after that shift changed. I will forever be in debt to the nurse who made it happen.
Once my daughter was out and placed on my chest, the rest of it was a breeze. I marveled at her, hardly noticing while they waited for the cord to stop pulsing to cut it, delivered the placenta, sewed up my tears, and cleaned me up. While I’d be painfully reminded of the delivery the next day when I tried to get out of bed, the rest of that day I felt nothing but such an intense love that it made me cry tears of joy and washed all my pain away.