Let me start this by saying that I had such plans for my childbirth experience. It was going to be this beautiful and natural experience. I was going to labor at home for as long as possible. Maybe take some walks. Spend time outside. Take a bath with candles and soothing music. Be with my husband. In my head, it was perfect. Now, I still believe this type of labor experience is very possible for some, but here’s what I will say… 1) That was not my experience… at all… although there were definitely elements incorporated. 2) I could not have planned for the childbirth I experienced if I tried. Even if someone told me what was going to happen specifically, I wouldn’t have been able to prepare. Now, that’s not to say all my efforts were in vain… my workouts and meditation and mindset were essential. I just had no idea what it was going to be like, how it was going to transform me, and how much of a test I would be putting my mind through. So, with that, our birth story…
To give you a preview… despite what I had researched about labor, I thought labor would be like this…
Look at me all pregnant and giant in my new little nightgown, hair and makeup done…
And this is what my labor actually looked like…
Yes, this might be TMI, but it makes a point, right?
Night 1 in the Hospital – Doula Drama
After literally trying EVERY natural induction method, every which way, it was finally time to turn to medicine. So, on the evening of July 14th, we went into the hospital to begin our medical induction process. We got into our room very quickly, which was nice. The nurses told me to change into the gown, put on the belly band and buzz them when I was ready. I was pretty slow moving, as it was my first hospitalization in my life, and I was a bit overwhelmed. The nurse on staff that evening had a different pace and, before I buzzed, waltzed in to check me and put in my IV plug thing. I immediately felt a little on edge, but tried to relax as much as possible.
Once hooked up, they could see that I was still having somewhat regular contractions. Not very strong ones, but definitely contractions. Because of this, they had to check with my doctor before administering the cervadil, as I was on the border of not being a candidate for the drug. While the nurse waited to hear from the doc, she decided to stir up some drama. She had reviewed our birth plan and recognized the name of our doulas. She informed us that it was her understanding that our doulas had been banned from the hospital due to a post-birth situation a few months back. We were aware of the situation, but had heard nothing from our doulas regarding a ban or any lasting issue with the hospital. Of course, Mark and I are immediately uncomfortable, stressed, worried, etc. These women that we had hired to bring us strength and guidance and peace during our experience seemed to be hated by the hospital. Not a great start.
After a lot of deliberation, we decided to call my acupuncturist, who is also a doula and who is familiar with our doulas, to get her opinion of the situation and to see if she might be available if we needed to let our doulas go. She encouraged us to call our doula and talk through the situation with her. In conjunction with that, our nurse informed us that there was not actually a ban and that our doulas are welcome as long as they do not cross the line of trying to provide medical advice (THANKS A LOT, Nurse Lexi, for stirring shit up for no reason). So, we called our doula and explained the situation. We told her that whatever happened is in the past and that we need her there to support us – everything else was irrelevant. First crisis averted.
Medical Induction Time
After the doula drama, we finally heard from the doc and upon her recommendation, had the cervadil inserted (it’s pretty much a shoelace shoved up in your lady parts, against the cervix, to help soften and sometimes even induce labor). Then, it was time to rest, which we were somehow able to do. We were woken up at around 6 or 7 in the morning on July 15th to have the cervadil removed and to get a cervix check by my doctor. While I was no more dilated, effaced or lower, things must have softened because during my exam, my doctor accidentally ruptured my water bag. We had discussed the possibility of her rupturing my waters as an option and had opted against it… oops. Because of that, my doctor decided to hold off on administering the pitocin until 9:30 to see if that would be enough to kick me into labor. During the next couple hours, we climbed up and down the 4 flights of hospital stairs and walked all over the hospital. While I was contracting, it was nothing to write home about, so at 9:30, we started the pitocin.
We had spoken with our doctor ahead of time about how we wanted to administer the pit. While it is typical to start at a level 4 and increase every 15-30 minutes, we would begin at a level 1 and increase only once per hour. So it began.
My acupuncturist came to work on me at around 10 am and already at that point, I was pretty inside myself. The pain was increasing quickly and honestly, my memory of her being there is so faint. BUT, it really was a perfect way to start. I was nervous and it was just what I needed to find some peace from within. And here is where things get really blurry for awhile…
From about 11 when our acupuncturist left until around 1:30 when our doulas arrived, I had the most intense/horrible/excruciating/nonstop/terrible contractions. Pitocin is the biggest bitch ever. At that time, I was only at a level 3, but because of the intensity of the drug, I was having nonstop contractions. Most women get a 5-15 minute break between their 1-5 minute contractions during active labor, but I literally had 40 minute contractions. I thought I was dying. I was screaming and grunting and swaying and just in total agony. Terrible. The pain is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
When the doulas arrived, I was checked and was only at 3 cm, 90% effaced, and baby in -2 position. Are you kidding me??? This is about the time I started BEGGING for the epidural. We had talked about this moment and I had told my husband not to give in and to just keep redirecting me. But holy shit. I was in so much pain. As he suggested other things, I tried to look deep in his soul and beg, but he stayed strong. Either Mark or the doula suggested turning off the pitocin, as it seemed as if my body had kicked into labor on its own, which they assured me would help. But, at this point, I was SO tired. I just kept begging for a break. I think in their attempts to distract and redirect me, I went in the tub to try and labor there, which I absolutely hated, and tried some other birthing positions. Maybe on the toilet, too? Mind you, my eyes were closed and I was pretty much a zombie holding on for dear life. I was also walking around stark naked… except for the belly band holding my monitors in place. Now, I am a pretty modest lady, but I was ass out, boobs hanging, and lady parts leaking all sorts of amniotic fluid and blood and such all over the room. I can only imagine I was quite a sight. (Not quite the cute pregnant lady in the new nightgown anymore.)
At this time, they decided to give me Nubain, a pain medicine that would last about 45 minutes and wouldn’t change the pain or intensity of the contractions, but would just allow me to relax during the breaks (which I was now having since stopping the pitocin). So, I laid in bed on my side and moaned through each terrible contraction and closed my eyes during the breaks. And honestly, this was so necessary. After some amount of time, the doulas helped me up and Mark and I went to the shower. My little Nubain break definitely gave me strength to continue. In the shower, Mark applied pressure on my lower back and rocked with me for 2-3 hours. Ugh, he’s amazing. Towards the end of our shower, I was starting to feel a lot of pressure. The doulas suggested I move to the toilet to take a few contractions there before heading to the bed. They thought I might be ready to push.
I sat on the toilet as both Mark and our doula in training, Jenissee, knelt down to see what they could see (bye bye, shame! Later modesty… you want to take a peek? Sure, I’ll straddle the toilet and just feel free to have a looksy).
They both seemed so optimistic that this was it! I could feel such a wave of relief. Soon, I would be pushing. This was it! So, I very slowly made my way to the bed (changing positions was absolute hell… so painful) to get checked. This time, I was at 7 cm. While this was great progress, I was SO disappointed. I wanted to be done. The pain was so overwhelming and I was already so tired.
I believe we went back to the toilet after that. Contracting there was terrible. It was so much pressure, but I was in it to win. I wanted this shit to be over with… or maybe I didn’t have the strength to put up a huge fight… but regardless, I obeyed. Over the next couple of hours, I had progressed to 8.5 cm, then it was 9 and then 9.5. We were getting so close. All the while, I labored in every position and in every inch of the room. I was on all fours on the bed, I had the ball on the bed, I was on the toilet, back in the shower, back in the tub, leaning up against the wall, on the ball on the floor… I was everywhere.
This position changing game lasted for another 9-10 hours, during which I remained at 9-9.5 cm. Towards the later hours, I remember it getting so calm in the room. The lights were very dim and it was somehow very peaceful in there. I had Mark applying pressure to my back, and I was squeezing the thumbs of our doula in training, while our doula gave me water. We were in perfect harmony.
The C Word
At around 1:30 or 2 in the morning on July 16th, my doctor finally came in and said she thought it was time for a c-section. I was so tired, so deprived of food and energy, so in a different world, I couldn’t even think. I just looked at my husband with desperate eyes – as I swayed with him through a contraction – and asked him what I should do. I wasn’t ready to be done trying. My doc gave us a half hour and came back for another check… still no progress. Then, Mark went out in the hall with the doc. He asked her if we NEEDED to do the surgery right away or if we could keep trying. He did not want either of us (baby or I) to be in harm’s way. The doctor assured him that we were both fine and they agreed to give me another 2 hours.
Upon hearing the news, I immediately demanded more nubain. I needed another break. I was 17 hours of very HARD labor in and I was so exhausted. So, with another dose of nubain, I was able to take another short rest. Mark let me “rest” for an hour (remember, the contractions don’t stop). When it was time to get up, Mark suggested that we take a short walk to gain a little perspective (life was bigger than our room) and help to start fresh. He also had the nurse clean up the bloody, fluidy mess that had taken over our room. So we walked to the family visitation room (this was like a weird dream).
When I got back into the room, Mark and I spent some time in the shower. We rocked, I drank juice (throughout my labor, Mark and the doulas were constantly trying to get me to take small bites of granola bars or apple sauce or drink some juice for energy – all I wanted was water), and I labored. Then, we went to the toilet (TERRIBLE) and the worst of all, we did the Walcher‘s position. Mark and I had done this before labor, but during labor, in hour 20 something of hard, horrible labor, this was pure torture. I think I made it through 1 or maybe 2 contractions in this position before I just couldn’t. It was too much pressure. So, we went back to the toilet. At that time, it was just Mark and I and again, things were so quiet and dim. During a break, I looked at him and told him, “if I still haven’t progressed, I have to be done.” I think with a bit of relief, he agreed, and our doulas came in and agreed as well.
Unfortunately, the check had shown that not only had I not progressed, I was starting to backtrack. Along the way, one of the nurses had said I could start pushing a little (as my body kept pushing automatically anyway). This, in combination with all the labor and the status of my cervix, was making my cervix swell… aka, I was backtracking. It was time to call it.
So, over the next 30-45 minutes, they prepped us for surgery.
Okay, Okay, I know I did this before, but this is going to have to be a To Be Continued… C-Section details to come later this week!