Birth stories. Everyone’s got at least one.
I don’t know much about my own birth. During the impending birth of my son, I really wanted to know how my own birth went. Was it a natural birth? Any medical interventions? How much did I weigh? How long was I?
The only women who could tell me have both passed.
I know I should have asked sooner, but the truth is that the information wasn’t in any way relevant until the Wednesday I went into the hospital to be induced.
I spent my entire pregnancy talking about how I didn’t want any medical interventions. We even took an additional birth class to learn labor management techniques. I also have a very odd relationship with discomfort and pain. I have a high threshold. I knew labor wasn’t going to be a breeze by any stretch of the imagination, but I figured I would do ok.
The boy was late. The Irishman and I did what we could to induce labor on our own. We followed as many old wives tales as we could. I even took a chance and had a few sips of red wine. Nothing worked. The boy was way too cozy where he was (can you blame him?)
The trouble with being overdue is that the placenta could stop working and complications can occur. I trusted my midwife on this one. I agreed to the induction. The boy and I were both in good health, and I wanted to keep it that way.
You know that song by the Fixx? Yeah, well, that is generally how I feel about medical interventions for birth. My worst fear was sliding down that slippery slope that would lead me to a cesarean section.
Induction, to me, originally meant Pitocin, a synthetic version of oxytocin, until I found out that my sister in law, who was also induced, went through a process called “cervical ripening.” For her, the process brought on labor without her having to take the next step into Pitocin country.
There was hope for me!
We got to the hospital at 8:30 pm on Wednesday, July 23. There was a whole lot of fussing around, including inserting a line for an IV (which wasn’t successful until the third try, mind you…) They didn’t even get to the misoprostol until 11:30 pm. The process was: 1/2 hour hooked to the fetal monitor, the medication, another hour on the fetal monitor. I had to stick with one position, too, for the entire time I was on the monitor. They went through this process with me every four hours so you can imagine how much sleep I got Wednesday night.
They let me have breakfast on Thursday morning, but, after that, I was cut off from solids.
I started to feel some cramping, which could probably be considered contractions, but they were nothing really to write home about. Thursday was a long day of waiting and hoping for labor to begin on its own. By the time 9:30 pm hit, it was obvious I wasn’t going to dodge the Pitocin bullet. Suddenly, I was saddled with not only a fetal monitor (thankfully, wireless,) but also an IV (not wireless, and horribly annoying.) I had some freedom of motion, which helped, especially when the contractions started to hit hard and heavy.
It was pain like no other, but it came in a pattern, which is what got me through a few hours.
Unfortunately, 24 hours of little sleep and over 12 hours of a liquid diet was starting to take its toll. By 1:30 am, the contractions were so bad that I couldn’t see straight, and I could work through them because I was so desperately tired. That is what did me in. The nurse came in to discuss pain management options, and I still wanted to try to avoid the epidural. We started with a painkiller that basically did nothing, and after another stretch of time (by this time, I’d lost track of minutes,) I told the Irishman that it was time to get the nurse so they could hook me up with an epidural.
I don’t regret this decision.
My memory of getting the epidural is blurry. I was halfway between sleeping and intense pain. I was literally nodding off in between contractions. The nurse was talking me through each contraction, helping me stay still during the procedure. The whole procedure felt both very fast and very slow. There did not seem to be a lot of lag time in between the time they got the epidural going to the time I felt pain relief.
Relief takes on a whole new level of meaning when one is both exhausted and in serious pain. I felt as if epidurals were a gift from the gods (and I’m a Humanist…) I was finally, finally able to relax and even sleep. I was still hooked up to the fetal monitors and was stuck on either one side or the other for the night. I woke frequently but still felt as if I was finally getting the rest I needed.
While I couldn’t feel the pain, I could feel the pressure of the contractions, which was not an unpleasant feeling. It was really awesome. I still felt part of the process, even though I couldn’t feel much below the waist.
At around 6:30 am on Friday morning, the midwife examined me and discovered that I was 10 cm dilated. She told me that I could start pushing, which surprised me because I felt no urge to push. The midwife had to teach (for lack of a better word) me how to push, and apparently, even though I couldn’t feel much, I was doing a good job of it.
Unfortunately, the epidural had worn off a bit, and I was feeling strong contraction pain on the right side of my lower back. The pain would come on so strong that I skipped pushing through a couple of contractions. After about two and a half hours of pushing, our midwife realized that the boy was in an awkward position. I tried pushing for another half hour, but he seemed to be stuck.
Suddenly, my worst fear seemed so enticing.
Outside of me being exhausted from three straight hours of pushing, we were both in great health. We were able to discuss a c-section rationally, and there was no rush to administer the proper anesthesia (more epidural medication and something stronger that numbed me from the waist down.) They asked if I wanted to watch the surgery (um, HELL NO,) but they did lower the curtain a bit so I could see my little the boy as soon as he was born.
He was 9 lbs, 12 oz, and 22 inches of absolute perfection.
I made the Irishman stay with the boy while they did what they do with newborns: clean him up, give him his vitamin K and eye ointment, and because he was such a big baby, they did some kind of blood sugar test on him, too. I didn’t find out until after the fact that the Irishman cut the cord. 🙂 Finally, finally, they lay the boy on my chest. I had a hard time looking him in the eyes because I was flat on my back and in an awkward position. I was annoyed because they still had to work on me (remove the placenta and sew me up, essentially.)
I was so happy to get back to the labor and delivery room. I was finally able to really hold my newborn son and look him in the eyes.