A few fun facts about me before we proceed: I was married at age seventeen and gave birth to my first son three months later. I had my next babe, a girl, two and a half years after that and I found myself a mother of two before I could legally purchase alcohol. My third little honey came along twenty two months after her sister. As a mom of three at twenty three, I felt like my days of pregnancy were well behind me. Surprise! Two years and one month later enter my most recent, and my last (I mean it this time) birth. This is where our story begins.
After previously being induced into labor three times, I was determined that my fourth (and probably last) birth was going to be as natural as possible. I drew up a nice juicy birth plan, complete with all my wishes and hopes for my dream labor and delivery! Things like laboring in the water, no pain medication, dim lighting, few people, and no interventions. Then after delivery, delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin, breastfeeding right away, and delayed first bath. I spent my entire first trimester picturing how lovely it all would be! I spent my second trimester genuinely enjoying the pregnancy and all the attention my sweet little belly garnered. The third trimester arrived and I was honestly quite tired of being so large and uncomfortable. I was sure that my little son would arrive before his due date...after all he was measuring two cm larger than the norm!
At thirty eight weeks I began to despair that he would ever decide to be born! Two other mom's who's babies shared the same due date had had their babies already and I was impatient to see my son and not to be caught in pre-labor limbo any longer!
As the wife of an elementary school employee and the mother of a kindergartner, preschooler, and two year old, sickness is never far from my doorstep. At thirty eight weeks of pregnancy I caught a particularly vicious stomach virus that rendered me helpless and attached to the toilet for twenty four hours. Somewhere in between the vomiting and...other more unpleasant emissions, contractions began and seemed to be very regular. At five minutes apart I decided that it was truly labor and after calling in his mother to keep the kids, my husband drove me to the hospital. A more wretched car ride I had yet to experience.
Upon reaching the hospital and being escorted to the labor and delivery wing, my husband and I were stashed in a tiny triage room to await admittance. I was severely dehydrated and was given three bags of water through an IV and a shot of something to stop the nausea and vomiting. As I began to feel myself again, my contractions slowly became more spaced apart and then stopped completely. If you have ever been close to the end of pregnancy and more uncomfortable than you ever thought possible then you can imagine my dismay when the labor began to stall. After waiting in the small room for six hours the doctor finally showed up and preformed an exam to determine if the contractions I had were productive or not. My cervix, I was told, was seventy five percent effaced and two centimeters dilated with no change in the time we had been there.
It was at this point all my lovely plans for an intervention free birth went soaring out the window, and I admit it, schemed for a way to get some pitocin and perhaps an artificial rupture of membranes. I had been very uncomfortable for a month and in excruciating pain for a whole day so I made my excuses to myself. Although now I admit that I was definitely only considering my needs and not so much my little babies when I asked for my labor to be augmented. Fortunately (or unfortunately as I felt at the time) my doctor told me that he wanted me to go home and see if the labor would begin on its own. He told me that the last few weeks were really good for baby and it was preferable to let baby choose his birthday.
It was with great disappointment that we left the hospital and made all the calls letting people know there was no baby here yet. I do believe I cried a bit with bitter disappointment at being denied the opportunity to see my boy after all the waiting. Logically I knew it was for the best, but emotionally I felt cheated.
The next two weeks that followed came with thousands of calls and texts requesting how soon I thought I would be before I produced my child. My nerves felt raw as I monitored every single sign my body gave, whether it be a gas bubble or Braxton Hicks contraction, assuring everyone that it couldn’t be long now! Nothing was more exhausting then waiting for something to happen. Honestly I felt I was letting people down. First by having the “false alarm” and then by not going in to labor as soon as I hoped I would.
I went to my forty week doctor appointment, absolutely certain that I would never ever have this baby. I recall saying to my husband that I would be pregnant and uncomfortable forever. After the initial weight, blood pressure, urine check, I asked to be checked to see if two weeks of walking about and thousands of Braxton Hicks contractions had done anything. I also requested a cervical sweep, with the knowledge that it probably wouldn’t do any good since I was going to be pregnant for the rest of my life. The check proved me to be three centimeters and a little more effaced than before! At the end of the exam I asked when she would do the sweep and she replied that she had done it already! I hadn’t even noticed. Leaving the appointment I felt encouraged and hopeful that just maybe I would have this baby one day after all!
Since my sister had kindly offered to keep the kids for the afternoon, my husband and I grabbed lunch at Five Guys. To this day, that was the best burger I have ever eaten. Then we moseyed over to Walmart to go grocery shopping. I had a few contractions while shopping but none that I felt were important. Upon reaching home and putting away groceries, I had a few more; still nothing painful or intense.
The contractions began to hurt while I cooked dinner and I felt an inexplicable need to clean the dog’s food dish and scrub the kitchen floor, which I did while dinner cooked in the oven. Haha. All the signs were there but I refused to see them because of my previous “false” alarm. I ate a HUGE helping of dinner (BAD idea FYI) and began to time the contractions. I don’t think I actually realized I was in true labor until I couldn't stand to be around the kids and their noise. I needed to be alone. Seeking silence I went to my dark bedroom and suffered some pretty bad contractions there. None were further than eight minutes apart but none were uniformly five minutes apart either. I sat on the birth ball and rocked away the pain, alone in my room. After an hour of active labor, four hours after my cervical sweep, I alerted my husband of the need to get to the hospital. We were lucky my sister was still there or while waiting for someone to come, I would have had an accidental unassisted home birth.
Another FYI, if you are in active labor, do not sit in the front seat and suffer the contractions in silence. In retrospect I knew kneeling behind the passenger seat and holding on to it was the best way. But I was in transition and not thinking clearly through the pain, so I buckled in to the front seat. I suffered the now most wretched car ride of my life. Twelve minutes away from our destination I felt the urge to push and began to mentally prepare myself to delivering my boy myself. My husband punched the gas and we made it to the emergency room entrance in seven minutes. I dislike remembering my trip out of the car and through the emergency room. Those steps were so hard. I remember looking at all those sick people sitting there and telling myself that my baby couldn't be born in front of them. There was no safe place for me. I was vulnerable in the worst and best way a woman can be, and I was not in a safe place to birth my child. Panic is a good word to describe how I felt, as we rushed to get me up to the L&D floor. I was chanting in my head “Do not have him in the elevator” over and over as we made the elevation to the second floor. Through the doors of labor and delivery we sped and my husband said “we need a room NOW” to the man that met us for registration. And they rushed us into the closest room available.
The room was full of scurrying nurses, and the check in man, but my shoes we shucked off followed by my pants. One nurse attempted to usher me on to the bed and I recall telling her no emphatically. That was the last thing I said before birthing my son. On my own. Standing next to the hospital bed. With one push he was born. I caught him as he arrived and I will never forget how he felt in my hands. I was delirious with relief and the rush of hormones that overcome a mother who has just birthed her child. I am pretty sure I spoke things that didn't make sense like “This one is mine” and “I got him”. My husband laughed because I called our son like I would call volleyball during a game. Haha!
I lie on the bed and let the nurses rush about and clean stuff. I ignored them. Birth is messy (Do not stuff yourself with dinner before labor) and it is tempting to apologize a lot for all the yuck that comes out during it. But I told myself not to pay it any mind because I was giving my son the perfect place to spend his very first moments of his life earthside, on his mommy.
I declined when the nurse tried to put a hat on his head. I told her I needed to smell him. She gave me a weird look but left us alone.
Doctor finally showed up a few minutes later and asked me if it was alright to cut the cord. I expressed my wishes to wait until it was through pulsating and my wish was granted. My hubby cut the cord as he had for our other children. Then the doctor delivered the placenta. I was given a shot of pictocin in my leg, to help with the bleeding, so I was told. I could have done without that, but allowed it because I was focused on my newest baby boy. When I put him to my breast, he latched right away and I was so proud of him!
My little guy spent his first hour skin to skin with me. I requested that his first bath be delayed and his little checkup be done while I held him. I felt completely in charge of the proceedings.
So despite my very short and intense labor, I feel that the birth of my son and the hours following were just as they should be. And I have a kick butt story to tell him when he is grown. How he was almost born in the car, and then in the emergency room, and then in the elevator.
I would like to encourage any moms who are waiting in pre-labor limbo. Those last few weeks will pass I promise! Also a natural hospital birth can be achieved. Keep calm and trust your body and things will happen how they are meant to.
Can a C-section be healing? I believe so. Not because I have to believe, but because I experienced one just about two short months ago. Would you like to hear the tale? Let’s begin with the birth of my first child.
Well, it actually has to start about four weeks before he was born. It is September 2011 and I am just about 35 weeks pregnant with my first baby, a very exciting time indeed, when the scariest thing possible happens. I go into preterm labor. Or so I thought. The first thing, of course, that I did was call my provider at the time. I told them I felt cramps that spanned all the way around my abdomen just below my belly button. I was restless and cranky, but had no other signs. They listened to me on the phone and when one 'thingie' as I called it at the time hit, they told me I was having contractions and to come in immediately. So, I did. After spending an hour at the hospital it was concluded that, yes, I was having contractions; but, no, they were not doing anything. My response was SERIOUSLY?!
I was told I was having prodromal labor (no text can do it justice). Prodromal labor is not, as some would tell you, Braxton Hicks contractions. Having had both, I know. Prodromal labor is all the fun of labor without any progress or baby. It sucks because it comes and goes and is as tiring as actual labor.
For four weeks I went through this. Contracting sometimes for six hours straight at a time and then nothing. Nine days into October I went into labor. I was in labor!! I was dilating and everything. Then we were crushed again. After 18 hours in labor I stalled out. Once again at home I would contract for eight or more hours. I was absolutely exhausted but nobody knew of anything that I could do. I was told to just 'tough it out'. Finally, that Friday I went into labor and stayed there. We went to the hospital and were released about six hours later with the doctor saying there just was not enough progression to warrant admission.
Here is where the story gets infuriating for my birth team with my second child.
When we were sent home, still in labor, our doula said she was going home and not to bug her until we were admitted to the hospital. When I told her the reason we hired her was to be with us during this time, while we were laboring alone, she said she was tired and her daughter had a game the next day she wanted to go to. We were horrified but what can you do? We went home and I labored Saturday and Sunday with the blurry help of my tired husband. Finally, with him facing a Monday of going to work as a zombie he forced me to go to the hospital to take them up on a morphine drip so I could get some rest and he could get to work. When we arrived at the hospital I was checked and was found to be four cms dilated. We called the horrible doula, mainly because my husband desperately needed relief, and progressed from four to seven fairly quickly. Then my body gave out. I did not know what to do so I was not moving or changing position. I was just breathing trying to will more strength into my body while sitting on a birth ball. My doula was checking her Facebook and email. My husband was passed out on the other side of the bed, sitting up, with a death grip on my hand. Never once was it suggested that I switch positions or even lie down in the bed.
Another hour later and I was sleeping through contractions. Yup. That was me. My doula took my exhausted husband aside and suggested I get an epidural to get some rest. By this time I had been laboring naturally for over 69 hours on top of the prodromal labor, I was exhausted. I got the epidural and sent my husband to the 'in-room' couch for a nap. My doula disappeared. I have no idea where she went.
The hospital staff did what they could and my doctor violated hospital policy by letting me labor two extra hours. You see when my waters broke there was meconium in them and this meant I had a 12 hour window in which to give birth. However, my baby was doing so well he let me go two extra hours. Finally, with a body that, on Pitocin, had made it to 9.5 cms, I began to shut down. I was swelling shut. Worst of all my baby was crashing. I was rushed into a C-section where my baby came out with an APGAR of 1.1! Warrior that he was he bounced back four minutes later to have an APGAR of eight. At 11:30 pm I was wheeled into my maternity room and left alone to ponder what the hell had just happened.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2012, about 13 months later, I am staring at a stick not believing the little blue plus sign. I shake the darn thing like it is one of those old time mercury thermometers. The lines do not go away. Though I am not certified, I have taken all my doula training courses, researched, read and most importantly, located good resources outside the hospital. This time I get a midwife and go with an OB who is not only VBAC friendly and highly recommended by every midwife I interview, but is personal friends with my midwife and she has him on speed dial. I get a new doula, who just so happens to be my mother-in-law. I have prodromal labor, but this time am encouraged to take calcium-magnesium daily and Tylenol when it gets bad. With the exception of the stomach flu every month for seven months straight my pregnancy is about as eventful as watching paint dry.
The day before I hit 38 weeks, a Sunday, I am cranky, achy and generally pi**ed off. Hey, it is July and it is hot where I am. Plus, my husband refused to take me to the pool that day. He remarks on how agitated I am and I tell him I have been achy all day, standing up folding a ton of baby laundry and still have to get the nursery together. Did I mention we had not gotten anything ready with the exception of home birthing items, the crib in the correct location (which was already there because my first born was sleeping in it while we were fixing his room) and the co-sleeper ready? Everything else was in pieces. My hubby jokes that it is good that nothing is really happening. Only a man would call what I was going through nothing. Then at 3 am Monday morning I have show. I yell at my husband, take two Tylenol PM to sleep and think nothing of it. With my first I had a show at 36 weeks and he was born only two days before his due date.
Since work is 60 miles away (and my boss had been begging me for weeks to do this) I telecommute that Monday. I get about two hours of work when I just cannot sit still any longer. I walk. I lie down. I take calcium-magnesium. I tell my midwife I am having some bad Braxton-Hicks and ask suggestions. She is skeptical but contractions are about 20 minutes apart and 45 to 50 seconds long. To be fair to her I tell her they have no pattern. See, I have OCD so when people say they have to be consistent I naturally think they ALL have to be 45 seconds long. I labor the rest of the day away. When my husband comes home he immediately calls the midwife. I really do not believe this is labor at all so go to take a shower. When my midwife arrives she comments, as she is checking us, that she could hear me moaning from the front door. I was moaning? I am two cms dilated and not very effaced but definitely in labor and had been so since I saw the show that morning. Everything looks good and she wants us to get some sleep so I take Tylenol PM and she goes home, which is about a mile from my house.
I get no sleep. The contractions, which had been a breeze, suddenly become extremely painful and my hips shoot with pain during each and every one. My husband, bless his soul, holds my hand during each contraction. At 6 am Tuesday morning he calls the midwife to see if she could stay with me while he went to work. By 7 am my first born is at daycare and my midwife has arrived. I am still 2 cms dilated but I have effaced to about 60% and the baby has moved to below my pubic bone. A lot of progress. Then comes the bad news. He has turned so that he is facing my right hip and therefore his shoulders are at a 90 degree angle to where they should be. That means that every contraction has been forcing his shoulders down on my hips and flexing my hips a bit. However, I feel I am in a good place at home so we stay. My husband gets up to get ready for work. The midwife asks what he is doing and when he asks should he go to work she tells him not to if he values his marriage!
We continue to labor at home until about 2 pm. My midwife is concerned. I have not rested. I have not been drinking much nor have I been eating. In fact, the quarter of a sandwich that I ate was hard bargained for by my husband. She is afraid that my body is going to get too tired to push especially since I cannot stop moving about long enough to rest a little. She is calling my OB, my husband is packing us to leave (I told you I was not ready!) and I am screaming at my back-up midwife to put something waterproof on the bed. She is trying to convince me nothing is needed because I am going to the hospital when my water breaks. All over my bed. With no rubber sheet on it. Excited, I am checked again and again found still to be about a 2 cm dilated. The sheets are then tested with some strip that could tell the midwife if it is amniotic fluid. The strip turns dark purple. Not only is it amniotic fluid but there is a good chance there is meconium in it. Now the hospital is not open for debate. We have to go.
At the hospital I try position changes and the fabulous jetted tub. My mother-in-law arrives (we flew her in from Oklahoma) and I labor a little longer without any pain medications. My problem is that I have lost a hold of the contractions and cannot get back on them. It is not the actual contractions or the baby moving up and down, it is the fact my hips were completely destroyed by laboring so long with the baby so low in an unfavorable position. I am, I will admit, screaming for an epidural but am not allowed one until I am six cms. I am a TOLAC (trial of labor after c-section) after all and that is my OB’s orders to maximize my chances of a VBAC. Though I curse his name I am deeply grateful for that edict. I now had a chance to get on top of the pain. Unfortunately, I could not.
When I hit 6 cm I get the epidural. I can still feel and move my feet. I ask the anesthesiologist if this is normal and am told they do not heavily medicate TOLACs; but I do have my joy buzzer if I need more meds. Here is where things go south on rails. The epidural does not hold. (Psst, no one is worried about my slow progress, they are worried about my epidural not holding.) I get the first dose of the epidural again. My blood pressure tanks. It is so low I am starting to pass out lying down. I get medication to boost my blood pressure. The epidural stops working again. I get a new first dose but I think the doctor is just adjusting my joy buzzer. So, at the same time he gives me the first dose I hit my joy buzzer, effectively giving myself a double dose. It is while he is doing this that my nurse registers that I have a fever and subsequent blood work reveals an infection. I fall asleep, though pass out might be better a better term. About an hour after I fall asleep the nurse comes banging in waking everyone up and shakes me. Freaked out we ask if the baby is okay. She is more concerned about me as my oxygen saturation rate is at 65. I should mention here that my baby is a tank. NOTHING WAS EVER WRONG WITH MY BABY. Go figure.
By now my fever is not responding to medication, my blood pressure is staying way too low and my epidural has worn off again. My OB wants me checked in 30 minutes and if no progress has been made I am to be given a C-section or he is afraid I might have an emergency while trying to push. The anesthesiologist is called in again to re-up the epidural. We can hear the disbelief in his voice. The reason? I am on all fours in my bed laboring. With as many times as I had the initial dosing my legs should be jelly. He cannot put in more of the medication because I am having a contraction. It is 3 minutes long with very little, if any, rest in between. My nurse, bless her heart, is sure that this is transition and I will be pushing soon. I think she is more excited than my husband and I. It was a belly drop then when we found out that no, it was not transition but hyper-stimulation of the uterus. Not only that but my vitals took a dive during that contraction. My tank? He was doing just fine.
Once again the anesthesiologist is called in. He pulls out my epidural line and puts in a brand new one for the C-section. Not only is it a hurry to get me open and baby out because my vitals are not great but because we are not sure if the epidural will hold. Baby comes out screaming with a lovely APGAR of eight. The epidural holds until the last few staples are going in. I felt those.
So, how, you ask, is this a healing experience? Some would say it was worse than the first. It is healing because everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was on my side. My midwife answered every question and helped in every way. She made my pregnancy easy by helping me identify when I needed to take something and being superwoman would do me no good. She helped me keep my Braxton-Hicks/prodromal labor under control and was with me every step of the way. My OB worked with her to maximize the efficacy of my care. He ENCOURAGED the home birth but informed me of his practices surrounding a hospital VBAC should I need to come in. He told me only his VBAC success stories, medicated and non-medicated. That built my confidence that he’d do everything to see my wishes through should I have to come in. The nurses at the hospital left us to our own devices and only came in if absolutely necessary. They hid all the monitors so we could not worry about numbers or lines. They cheered me on through tough contractions, were excited when it looked like I might make it, comforted me when another C-section was ordered and delayed checking me even when directly asked by my doctor. Our night nurse 'forgot' to check on me at the required 30 minute interval because I was doing alright and baby was great. Why mess with what is working? Everyone was working for me, cheering for me and wanting this as bad as I did. The support I had this time around was not given to me my first go around. It did heal me.
What are my OB and I planning? A VBA2C. Well, in a few years. ;)
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