It has been quite some time since I have updated this site (much to my disappointment), but a large reason for this hiatus was the birth of our daughter! And though she is now just over a month old, I still thought it would be fun to share the story of her birth.
On August 15th, I was convinced my water had broken and was slowly leaking. I called Labor & Delivery and told them what those symptoms were looking like for me that day and they told me to come in that afternoon so they could check. We had the car already packed since we were near the hospital several times a week for my husband’s hockey playoffs, so he and I headed to the hospital to humor the situation mostly, fully expecting to be sent back home since I wasn’t having contractions at all. Well, while they were checking the fluid to see if it was indeed amniotic, her heart rate dropped for a millisecond and the staff rushed back in declaring that they would be inducing my labor to not take any chances with that drop, and since I was so close to term (39 weeks, 5 days). That was literally the only time her heart did that, and the sample somehow was negative for amniotic fluid…but I was doing this. Now. And selfishly I immediately mourned an 8+ hour night of sleep; had I known the previous night was it I would have been so much more grateful! Alas…
We were admitted into Labor & Delivery (room 222!) and they started me on pitocin to kick-start my labor. Base measurements: 2.5 cm dilated, 80% effaced.
I had done a bit of preparation for this day – put together a birth plan, researched pain management options whether traditional or alternative, attended a childbirth class and rehearsed breathing, positions, and visualization techniques. I even viewed my frequent occurrence of Charlie Horses in the early morning hours as an opportunity to practice for labor; I breathed through the pain and tried to approach it with an understanding that it was temporary and would pass – my mindfulness goals for labor once that day came. My goal with my labor and delivery experience was to avoid an epidural. I had never pictured myself being confined to a bed throughout the process, and honestly urinary catheters just really freak me out. However, I was flexible and definitely onboard with the understanding that things do not always go as planned and what I had set forth in my birth plan may not be in the best interest of the baby or myself as labor progressed. But until I was told otherwise, or couldn’t handle the pain any longer, I was determined to try other methods to avoid the epidural.
Despite my intentions of not laboring in bed, I ended up doing quite a bit of it there as the evening wore on. Earlier in my labor, I was limited in mobility because of needing continuous fetal monitoring for the pitocin and an antibiotic to treat Group B Strep that had to be administered once every 4 hours. But it barely seemed to matter, as even changing positions in bed, like switching from my back to my side, would often knock the baby’s heart rate monitor strap off just enough to sound the alarms and alert my nurse to check on me immediately. This grew tiresome for me and the staff I’m sure, but unfortunately each nurse during my labor struggled with getting the strap to fit on just right. In my early labor, my nurse was able to track down a remote monitor so I could connect to that machine and wander the halls with my IV stand. Between walking the hall, self-administering nitrous oxide, bouncing on the birthing ball, and taking a long shower (once the midwife allowed me to take a break in my pitocin dosage), I managed the discomfort of early labor and was taken off of pitocin later that evening. Late Tuesday measurements: 4 cm dilated, 85% effaced.
The Beginning of the End?
Labor was definitely more difficult at this point, as I was experiencing pretty painful back labor. I tried another shower to counter some of this pain, had family rotate in applying pressure or massage to my back, and gave the TENS unit a try. I WILL NEVER DO THAT THING AGAIN. I tried playing with the intensity but it didn’t matter and just felt like I was adding a burning sensation to my skin ON TOP of the aches and sharp pains instigated by my daughter facing the wrong way. The nurse was taking too long to get back (it was probably a minute) so I made my husband rip the sensors off of me. I had stopped using the nitrous oxide after I threw up, fairly convinced the gas disagreed with my body after a certain amount of exposure. Getting up to head over to the shower was not going to happen anymore, so I was running out of options to manage my pain and still avoid the epidural. Around 2am (now at 6 cm dilated, 90% effaced), when we were all clearly exhausted, but my discomfort wouldn’t allow me to get any rest, the nurse suggested fentanyl, a narcotic that would be administered by IV. I accepted without hesitation, and am so glad I did because I actually managed to sleep through some of my labor with the first dose. After that dose wore off (now at 8 cm dilated, 95% effaced), I requested a second one and was advised that it likely would not be as helpful as I found the first. DEFINITELY ACCURATE. I was not able to sleep during the second dose, and was certainly in pain, but it likely took a bit of the edge off at least and helped me progress to 9.5 cm and 100% effaced. So I imagined it would be any minute that I could start pushing and finally deliver our baby.
My labor continued, but painstakingly slow. She was still facing the wrong way, and pressing on my cervix unevenly. As a result, the left half of my cervix was getting around her head, but the right half was stuck and couldn’t finish dilating. Over the next hour, I had quite a few people reach inside of me to try and turn her the right way and push my cervix over her head, to just be met with significant resistance from the baby and my body as the cervix would shift back each time. At this point I was fighting intense urges to push. I had read to be very careful to not push until you got the doctor’s go-ahead and confirmation of 10 cm, as you could damage your cervix. I was trying so hard to mind that consequence and not hurt myself, but my deepest instincts were becoming increasingly difficult to control. Thankfully, I got the “okay” to push, and the doctor would take those opportunities to try and get my cervix over the baby’s head as well as rotate her appropriately. I pushed for what seemed like forever and also not at all. Suddenly, the doctor (my midwife was juggling quite a few patients, and as it turns out, I was becoming a higher-risk delivery and needed a doctor) addressed the two of us with a very matter-of-fact tone. The baby was probably not going to get through the birth canal without help, though the help may not work either. Once I felt I was getting close to being worn out, I needed to let her know so they could use a vacuum to pull her as I pushed. I would get 3 pushes to try to make this happen, but if it was unsuccessful, they would be taking me to the Operating Room for an emergency c-section. WHERE I WOULD HAVE TO RECEIVE AN EPIDURAL AND ALL OF MY WORK AND EXPOSURE TO THE PAIN OF LABOR FOR THE PREVIOUS DAY IN ORDER TO AVOID THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN FOR NOTHING. The stakes were obviously high.
I reached that point when I felt I was running out of steam, so we gave the vacuum a shot. I pushed in tandem with the doctor’s pull – 3 times, with a room full of people yelling at me in support (but in the moment I definitely felt like I wasn’t living up to expectations and people were either mad or disappointed with me and yelling in exasperation – ridiculous, I know). Anyway – no baby. I had a moment of panic, but was told the baby was still okay so we could actually do the 3 pushes again. With that final push, and the help of a quick/unexpected/immediate episiotomy (*yikes*), our daughter was born. I practically ran the gamut of pain management options available at a hospital – with the exception of the one that probably would have made the whole process much more comfortable and simpler- and it never was easy – but after 18 hours, I finally had finished and had given birth to our daughter.
Looking back on it all now, I feel like an outsider to my own story, as if it were pretty much an out-of-body experience. I can simultaneously remember what happened from my perspective, as well as another point of view, one that is removed from self and floating somewhere between the hospital bed and the ceiling (I know…it’s weird). I am still processing it all a month later, not to mention wrapping my head around my newfound role and our additional family member. It frequently feels as if I’m pretending to be a mom, that I borrowed someone else’s baby and it isn’t real.
But it absolutely is.
Phoebe Charlotte Smith was born on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 11:30am at 5 pounds and 7 ounces.
I’m officially a mom.