Warning! This may be a little long, but it did take FOREVER for this little girl to grace us with her presence. And she was worth every bit of agony I went through.
My due date was November 12th, 2003. From the very beginning of my pregnancy, knowing my due date, I had hoped my first baby would share her birthday with my Dad’s birthday, November 14th. So, I never got that “itchy” feeling as I neared the end. I was so hopeful that as the 14th came, I began to feel contractions. Since this was going to be the first grandbaby in my family and everyone was very excited, I called them.
They all showed up, (my sisters, my brother, my parents) and proceeded to watch me closely for two days straight. With bated breath, ready to rush to the hospital at any moment. I tried everything I could think of over that weekend to get labor going. I have never felt more like a zoo animal in my entire life. But things did not go as I had hoped, and everyone headed home to Milwaukee. It was at that point I should have realized this kid had her own plan.
I should preface this by saying that my goal was to have no unnecessary medical interventions during my pregnancy or labor. My husband and I had spent 12 weeks in Bradley classes diligently preparing to have a natural childbirth. We were equipped with our two-page birth plan detailing everything the nurses, midwives, and doctors needed to know once we arrived at the hospital. I am certain they appreciated my instructions. And with most people telling me I was crazy and would never be able to do it, I was more determined than ever.
Needless to say, I did not want to be induced, and over the course of the next week I once again tried every trick in the book to get labor going. Unfortunately, nothing worked. As the following weekend approached, now 9 days overdue, I was scheduled to be monitored just to make sure the baby was still doing okay. I was having some contractions that Friday morning, and I decided that at my appointment, I would ask the midwife to strip my membranes in the hopes that it would help things along.
Since I was contracting, I was told to meet the midwife at the hospital so I could have my appointment in triage (just in case.) I was put on the monitor and checked. Baby looked good, I was almost completely effaced, but I was barely beginning to dilate. It was confirmed that I was most likely in the very early stages of labor. The midwife agreed to strip my membranes, and then sent me home.
On the walk to the parking ramp, my contractions began to increase in intensity, though they were still too irregular and too far apart. Besides, I was resolved to labor at home as long as possible to avoid any embarrassing send homes from triage. The next time I was sent home from the hospital it would be with a baby in my arms.
On the way home, I stopped off at Walgreens to purchase a bottle of castor oil. This would be my “last case scenario” effort to induce labor if things did not proceed quick enough. I did not want to drink it, but I would if necessary.
My contractions continued throughout the day, but they still weren’t painful enough to warrant action. I was trying to stay on my feet as much as possible, going for walks, vacuuming, cleaning the house, in order to keep labor progressing. As the evening approached, my contractions became more uncomfortable. I was having to stop and breath through them. So, around 10PM we made a trip back to triage.
With bags in hand, I was sure I would be staying this time. I was checked, and was only dilated 2-3cm. I was told to walk the halls for an hour or so, and come back for a recheck. I walked and walked and walked, but when I was rechecked, I had not changed enough to be admitted. Much to my dismay, I was once again sent home.
I did not sleep a wink from Friday into Saturday. My contractions were much stronger at this point. I was doing a lot of leaning on walls and swaying. I even tried a bath to relieve the pain. After 8-10 hours of pretty regular, painful contracting, I finally decided to head back to triage Saturday morning. Just my husband and I this time, since we didn’t want to bother anymore people with needless trips.
At last I was worthy of admission! Though I was a little disappointed to hear that after all those hours of contractions, I was still only 4cm dilated. Once I was settled in my room, we made the calls to family. This time they could come; we had been admitted. There would finally be a baby at some point.
After a couple hours of laboring in the hospital, I was checked again. Not much progress. At this point, we discussed breaking my water to move things along. My husband and I decided this would be a minimally invasive intervention which could hopefully send me sailing towards birth. So, we did it.
Once my water was broken, it was apparent that meconium was present. I was now 10 days overdue after all. This led to more interventions I had originally not wanted. Namely, continuous monitoring. I was strapped to a machine and basically confined to my room.
At this point, my memory gets a little jumbled. I had a lot of visitors throughout the day, since the entire family had returned to see this baby born. I was in a lot of pain, so the movies I brought to distract myself basically served no purpose. And every time I was checked, I became more frustrated because I was just barely progressing. The baby was occipital posterior, which means she was face-up, the opposite of optimal for delivery. It also means her skull was basically grinding against my lower back with every contraction.
Because of her position, she was not moving down fast enough. She was not putting enough pressure on my cervix to dilate it. And I was having horrible back labor. Just to relieve the pain slightly, my husband was having to put all his weight into pushing on my low back during contractions.
Not In The Right Position
At some point in the evening, nearing 24 hours in labor, we agreed to a low level of Pitocin. We were hoping to make each contraction more productive, in doctor speak. It was also at this point, we decided to try an internal version. This is basically where the midwife puts her entire hand into my vaginal canal, and attempts to grab the baby’s head in an effort to flip her into the correct position. Mind you, I had not had any pain meds at this point.
I was told to get on all fours on the top of the bed. My husband and one of the midwives held opposite ends of a bed sheet that was positioned cradling the base of my belly. They were told to pull up (basically to disengage the baby from my pelvis) while the other midwife reached in to turn her. No kidding, I still cringe when I think of this. To this day, this is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. The entire birthing floor heard my scream. My family thought I was giving birth the scream was so loud.
And despite my extreme efforts, the baby would not turn.
I was now reaching my limit. I was going on roughly 30 hours with no sleep. I was only 7cm dilated, I had just experienced the worst pain of my life, and I had no idea when the end would come. I needed to rest. The midwives feared that at the rate I was going, I would not have the energy to push once I reached that point. In addition, the baby’s heart rate was beginning to concern the them.
Things were definitely not going according to plan. My husband and I discussed our options with the midwives. We decided it would be best to get an epidural. That way I could rest. They could increase the Pitocin, and hopefully by morning, I would be ready to deliver the baby.
The most difficult part of getting the epidural was having to stay completely still through my contractions. But it was worth it! Sweet, sweet relief! I could finally relax for a few hours. But without the pain to distract me, my emotions slammed into gear. The slight disappointment of things not going as planned combined with lack of sleep and anxiety about what was next finally hit me. I will never forget the wonderful nurse that sat with me, listened to me cry, and gave me her words of encouragement. She definitely helped me get through the night.
When morning came, roughly 5 or 6AM, I was rechecked. And our prayers were answered; I was finally 10cm! It was time to push. The midwives decided it would be a good idea to turn the epidural down a bit so I could better feel the contractions. BIG MISTAKE! When the pain was incrementally increased over a long period of time, I was able to handle it. But take that extreme pain away for several hours, and then bring it back? No fucking way!!
Time To Push
After an argument with the anesthesiologist, the epidural was increased. And after some instructions from the midwife and nurses, I was pushing effectively. Though, that also meant I emptied my bowels (much to my husband’s dismay.) I pushed and pushed and pushed, for roughly four hours.
Although her head could be seen with each push, she was not coming out. The doctors thought she could use a little assistance. Plus, I had already been laboring for more than 40 hours and pushing for 4 hours, and they were not sure how much more I or the baby could handle. They wanted to get her out as soon as possible.
We decided to try a vacuum assisted delivery. Once everything was set up, they attached they suction cup to her head, and with the next push, they pulled. The vacuum popped off. So, they tried again. And it popped off again.
At this point, I knew where we were heading. I had tried everything. I was tired. I was ready to meet my baby, and I was prepared to do what it took to get her out. I signed the consent for a cesarean section. I talked to my family, who had been waiting for nearly two days in the waiting room, and they reassured me. And with that, I was rolled towards the operating room.
A C-Section It Is
Once in the OR, things moved pretty quick. They got me prepped, and then it was time to test whether the epidural was sufficient for surgery. It was not. I could just barely feel the sharp prick on my abdomen. I needed to be put under. I would not be awake to see my baby born, and my husband had to leave the room as well. It seemed throughout this experience I could not catch a single break.
Of course, I do not remember anything past this point, though I am grateful for the video my midwife was able to get of the event. Yet, I do recall the first moments as I was coming out of anesthesia. I distinctly heard someone say, “It’s a girl!” I was beyond ecstatic. And when I was in recovery, and at long last got to hold my baby, it was all worth it.