Usual caveats apply; I’m not too graphic, but if you don’t like birth stories as a genre, don’t expect much else from this post.
Birth is such an amazing process, not only because it brings a new and beautiful life but also because it’s a test of one’s ability to adapt to changing conditions and expectations. Harlan’s birth story had some unexpected twists and turns, but none of it overwhelmed me this time. The things I was nervous about, I also knew were well within the realm of possibility and that I might have to work with those things. For instance, because I’m always GBS positive (despite cutting out sugar and taking probiotics), I know the risks associated with that; on the flip side, I know what mitigates that risk as well. Anyway…on to the story!
On Sunday morning, the last day of my Spring Break, Patrick got up with Porter and let me sleep in. I was making breakfast for Seamus and Gilbert about 8:00, when I felt a little pop and small gush. I went to check, and I was about 90% sure my water had just sprung a leak. I texted a friend, and she said call the doctor and try to rest a bit. “Don’t chase labor yet,” she said. I set up the menu plan and grocery list. I went for a walk with the kids, and oh man, Seamus and Gilbert needed to get their jollies out. Kevin came to get the older boys for pancake day; Patrick went to Trader Joe’s, and I hung out with Porter. I was comfortable waiting, as I know that 45% percent of women are in active labor after 12 hours, and 70% after 24 hours. However, I wanted to not get too worked up because getting on a clock is not a good thing for me in general. So I read, ate, made these cookies, rested, and admittedly, waited anxiously.
Porter and Patrick napped. The older boys came home. We messed around and went for another walk. The second walk I started having some contractions. Not very regular, but they were starting to be predictable in that they would show up. Gilbert kept tugging on me, and I think Porter stared to sense something was happening because he got super clingy and fussy. We talked about the idea that the baby would probably be born the next day. We got the kids to bed around 8, since it was Daylight Savings Change day. Then my friend and labor support doula showed up around 8:15. She and I chatted and then I was just so tired, so I said I was going to go to bed and try to sleep. I felt a little silly making her sleep on the couch for (not nothing, but not much of anything yet). Contractions when I went to bed were about 7 minutes apart. I slept in between them and then around 11:20, I had a huge contraction. For an hour, I laid in the bed meditating through them as they sped up to 3-4 minutes apart immediately. Around 12:30 I got up because I needed a change and I couldn’t sleep. I went to the new baby’s room and rocked in my chair, and then I moved to the floor and watched some you tube Friends videos. Around 1:45, I woke Kathy up, telling her they were about three minutes apart and had been for a while. We talked, and they slowed down, but they were still intense. I rested between some of them.
By 4 I was getting a little anxious again, because I knew that the kids would be starting to get up around 6, and I wasn’t sure how I would handle having them be part of the morning. Frankly, I had planned to go ahead and have had the baby already around 1 am. That didn’t happen, obviously. I wanted to go out for a walk to see if I could speed things up. Kathy offered to accompany me and we walked in a very misty morning. I did some stairs, and we came back to the house around 5:00. I woke Patrick up, and this was when we started talking about calling Kevin. Even though I wasn’t officially on a clock (because I hadn’t called the doctor), I can see now that I was acutely aware of the time, and the pressures associated with it. I also was holding back a little because I was coming to terms with this being the last time I’d feel baby move in my belly and that this is my last pregnancy and baby. Once he was out, this part of my life would be over, and while I don’t really even like being pregnant that much, it was a very emotionally wrought sensation. I think we called Kevin around 6:15 or so, and he arrived around 6:30. We got to the hospital around 6:45.
Here again, it was helpful to have Kathy point out that even though we were at the hospital, we didn’t have to go in yet. And perhaps we shouldn’t since shift change happens at 7:00. So I did stairs in the parking garage. Things were going well. I felt good and strong, and while I knew that there would be some intervention in the hospital (continuous fetal monitoring, antibiotics, etc), I felt like baby was going to be out really soon. In triage, the nurses were very helpful; in fact, I’m pretty sure I heard them getting into it with the resident and student doctors who keep trying to intervene. I had been very adamant that there should be no pelvic exams because of my GBS positive status with the water broken. Exams do increase the possibility for infection, and I was concerned that there would not be enough time to get the antibiotics to prevent infection. (To be honest, I was less concerned about infection and more concerned that it would take me a while to get out of the hospital if they wanted to monitor baby.) After I had four times refused pelvic exams, from a nurse, who backed down immediately, to the student, who insisted twice, and from the chief resident, who said they couldn’t admit me without it, the really awesome triage nurse called my doctor. I had met this doctor for the first time on Friday, and I’m so glad I got a chance to study her affect without being in labor. I find her oddly reassuring. Or as Patrick commented, “She makes me look verbose.”
The student and resident said they had to do an ultrasound to make sure baby was head down. Looking back, I think I probably could have refused this, but I knew he was head down, so I figured it would be fine. The student was so rough with the machine that I was really glad I had told her she could not put her hands on me otherwise! My doctor arrived, I was assigned to a room and a nurse, and I started all the other stuff. Continuous fetal monitoring, antibiotics. I did let the doctor check, and with all the hullabaloo, I was 7 centimeters. Hooray! I felt like it would be no time, and indeed the nurse prepped out the room quickly for delivery. (With Seamus, it took nearly 12 hours to go from 5-10; with Gilbert it was 2 hours from 5-10; and here I was at 7!) Somehow, though, with all the change, (Kathy noted that whenever things changed, I slowed down until I felt safe again–this is also very Ina May Gaskin philosophy) I was not moving as fast as I had been. Two hours later, we asked for a check since I felt ready to push sometimes. 8-9. I was SO discouraged. Another two and a half hours, only 9; but this time I hadn’t expected to make as much progress. I have to give the nurse credit. She must be an advocate for natural birth, because she must have been telling the doctor I was still handling the contractions well and while she kept coming in to reset the monitors, she did let me go nearly 45 minutes off the monitor at one point.
The doctor was also good. Their model of care is to interfere. My doctor did not come into the room, ever, unless we asked our nurse to bring her in. That’s amazing. When it was 2:00 and I was still at nine, she suggested Pitocin. I had Pit with Seamus and I hated it. I had also already considered that that might be in the cards for me, and I had told Patrick earlier in the day, “I can get through 5-10 centimeters with Pitocin without an epidural. If I have to do more than that, I might need drugs.” We asked for another hour to keep trying. I was getting really tired. I had to walk in between contractions to get another one to come. Kathy was suggesting really productive positions, and staying super positive with me. All dignity was out the window. I had absorbed another dose of antibiotics, so baby would be in the clear to leave hospital in 24 hours.
At 3:30, we asked the doctor to come back, still nine. I agreed to Pitocin. It went in at 3:40. Immediately, Kathy and Patrick noted that my eyes were clearer and more open. I started to feel good! I no longer had to chase a contraction. I could sit on the edge of the bed in between them and rest, knowing that the next one would come soon. By 4:20, I felt ready to push again. The doctor checked and there was a bit of cervical lip left. Kathy asked if the doc thought she could push it back during a contraction. She tried, but the position was terrible.
At 4:30, she and the nurse left the room, and us to our own devices. I got off the bed to squat on the floor. On the next contraction, I looked at Patrick and Kathy and said, “Baby!” Three times. Kathy looked, told me to put my hand down, and she sprinted to the nurse call button and then out in the hall to say, “We have a baby here!” Meanwhile, I got to catch my baby’s head coming out! It was the most trilling feeling! I waited a moment, as everyone came rushing in. Kathy and Patrick say they heard the nurses discussing trying to lift me on the bed, but the doctor said no, and she squatted down next to me to catch the body with the next second. And there he was!
Oh, my God. What just happened?!
I have many take aways from this birth experience. Some are above. I think I have perhaps pinpointed why labor stalled out for me, though. I did not have coffee on the morning of the 14th. I always have 2 cups of coffee. By 12:00 on the 14th, I was so tired that I felt drugged. I was actually in caffeine withdrawal.
I was grateful for a nurse and doctor, who despite their medical training, supported my efforts to have a natural birth. I know that pit isn’t part of natural birth, but to me avoiding the numbing drugs is what’s important. I hate the feeling of pain medication.
I was tremendously grateful for Kathy who helped me (and Patrick) work through our personalities to get this baby here. Her support and love were well-felt. I was so happy to know the other boys were taken care of by their grandfather. And I was beyond overwhelmed when this little guy showed up, after 17 hours of work.
Born 3/14/16 (pi day!) at 4:39 pm. My smallest baby at 7 lbs 7 oz, 21.5 inches.
I have more to share, but this post is long enough!