Get ready for a long one….
(NOTE OF CAUTION: if you are having a baby in the next few months or are thinking about having a baby, please proceed with caution. This is not an Ina May approved birth story.)
Last we had left off we were laboring at home after the castor oil experience. Unfortunately the castor oil had me up for most of the night (I maybe registered 5 hours of sleep) and then went into labor at 5 am on Monday. And that was the last sleep I would see for two full days. Or the next year depending on how you think about it. In case you hadn’t figured it out, this is not the kind of rest you want to have going into an intense labor experience.
The first day laboring at home was pretty uneventful. Lots of walking and resting. I went into active labor around 7 pm, right around the time we were eating out at my favorite Cuban restaurant. Contractions started picking up and were getting more intense so we went home and started to get ready for the night. I was hoping I would be able to sleep a little between contractions but no such luck. I managed to get to midnight on my own but woke Jacob shortly after that. We were doing the “labor dance” for most of the night interspersed with time in the tub. I was trying to eat as much as I could to stay fortified for what was ahead.
By 3 am we were ready for Carissa our doula to come over. She did and we stayed at the house for another 2 hours. Contractions were coming every three minutes with some only a minute apart. For those of you who know what this means, I can’t believe I missed it. My back was also starting to feel worse and worse. Yes, that’s right. I had the dreaded back labor. I think that mostly I was trying to convince myself I didn’t.
We were at the hospital by 5:30 am on the 26th. We did some initial monitoring and I got an internal exam. I really only wanted one because I figured my body would tell me when I needed to push (in retrospect, dumb move #1). I was 7 1/2 cm dilated. You only have to get to 10 cm and after 24 hours, it seemed like the end was near. I was elated. (Ominous music plays in the background….)
Jacob and I got in the birth tub and I overheard one of the nurses say “we may have an unintentioned water birth today” (The Kaiser does not want you to have a water birth). The tub was great and I stayed in for a good 2 or 3 hours. After a while I felt like I needed to stand through contractions. Also, my back was starting to hurt bad. Jake would rub it pretty vigorously and had been for 27 hours and this point so I was feeling a bit raw. But I figured the end was in sight (cue the music).
Nothing seemed to happen for many long hours. The contractions were just as steady and long but I never felt any change past that. Around noon I decided to get checked again. NO PROGRESS. I had gone into transition (the all-hell-break-loose stage of labor) without budging from 8 cms. I was crushed. My bag o’ water, which apparently was made of steal, had not broken. Now my body was just going crazy. I was getting discouraged so contractions slowed down and the midwife was not happy about that. We also found out to my horror that the baby was indeed posterior (face up instead of down). This is really bad because baby’s need to take a little bit of a dive to get under the pelvic bone. It’s basically the Fosbury flop if you have to get through the other way and most baby’s just won’t do it. This leads to the dreaded C-Section.
Then it dawned on me. Not having a C-Section was the entire goal of this labor. All my other birth plan points went out the window. Getting to this goal, however, would be somewhat of a challenge. In order to turn the baby I needed to get into some positions that would help her move – hands and knees and sidelying. These positions did not allow me to use basically my only useful coping mechanism, the labor dance with back rubbing and sounding through the contractions. I was also completely spent at this point. We were at about 3 pm and I had been in labor for about 35 hours. My will power was shot and I didn’t even know if this would work.
I’d also had a few contractions that were so strong I vomited, once all over The Kaiser’s garden. It’s a strange feeling to lose control of your body and I was there. We tried to take a walk outside but I almost fainted. We decided to get an IV with some fluids since I wasn’t keeping anything down (goodbye birth plan). I went back inside to try my labor positions.
They also put something in my IV to “take the edge off the contractions” but I’m not convinced that ever happened because there was certainly no felt change in the pain. The contractions were starting to shut me down and the new labor positions were excruciating. By the end of the attempt to turn the baby I was hysterical. The pain in back felt like tiny gnomes with corkscrews were burrowing through me from the inside to the out. I thought the baby had made a right turn and decided to come straight through my back. And I felt like I had giant stones had been placed on top of my butt.
I’m no fool and the idea of an epidural was certainly entering my mind. But to do it at that point would put me on my back for the rest of the labor and I wouldn’t have been able to be in the positions that would keep the baby turning. There was nothing to do but go through with it.
Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. The midwife checked me and said that the baby had turned enough that we could try pushing but that the bag of water needed to go. She thought that would help me feel the urge to push. So she broke it easily (it was bulging out of my cervix) and I stepped into a closer circle of hell. The bag which had been protecting me from the baby being directly on my cervix and pelvic bone was now gone. Contractions got stronger (I am still amazed that there was a “stronger” category) and there was literally no break in between. They came one on top of the other. I reached a new level of hysteria. I would try to push (Brazilian squatting style!) but I would fall over with the pain every time I reached the top of the contraction which made my pushing ineffectual. I still felt no urge to push. I had forgotten why we were even there. There was no baby, no reason, no purpose to life, nothing but pain, weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Looking back this seems a little dramatic, but that’s where I was. I also knew that unless something changed, they were going to cut me open. The baby was now sideways and the pain was in my back and side. I couldn’t keep it up anymore.
We got a consultation from an anesthesiologist (whom I think is scarred for life) and decided to get a test dose of the epidural. This is what they give you to see how much you need for your labor and it’s injected, not on IV. I was feeling a little stupid for having to do this at this point since I was supposed to be pushing and no more than a few hours from the birth, but I didn’t know what else to do. So we went for it. The next half hour I exercised the most self-control of my life. To get an epidural and not be paralyzed for life you have to sit perfectly still for 15 minutes. This meant 15 contractions and you can imagine how this sounded to me at this point. Jacob was a champ at keeping me calm as I sat leaning forward on the edge of my bed.
The epidural kicked in at 6:30 pm and I instantly fell asleep. For 15 minutes. When I woke up I heard the midwife say that the baby’s heart rate was dropping. This is also something you hear right before women say, “and then they gave me a C-Section.” So my ears perked and I said, “let’s get ready to push.” Everyone was a little startled because they thought I would sleep for hours. By now I could feel my feet and calves again. I started to push but the midwife stopped me. Turns out that the way my pelvis is constructed there’s more room at the bottom than the top. So the babe had to make an extra big dive to get under the pelvic bone. Thank God by now she had turned completely so it was just a matter of pushing the right way. I would either have to be flat on my back, no sitting up at all, or standing. Alas for me and the Brazilian women squatting birth. Looks like I’ll never get to do that.
Pushing ended up being fine because the babe was already at the +2 station when we started. She descended quickly and we could see her head after only 30 minutes. It was shockingly quick after how long and drawn out everything else had been. I felt amazing pressure in my rectum. We started to see a round head with black hair and she stuck after only a few bobs in and out. The midwife was amazing at helping me not tear by massaging my perineum and putting on lots of oil. She was a really wonderful midwife and kept talking about the new baby elephant that was just born at the zoo. During contractions she would say, “okay, we’re gonna have a baby!” It was very encouraging.
A few more pushes and her head was out. One more push and her white body covered in vernix came sliding out. She cried instantly and they put her on my chest. She had her eyes open immediately and Jacob checked and announced her sex as we were snuggling. She was crying a cry that I already could pick out of a million babies. We got some good time together before they did any tests and I breastfed her in the first half hour. It was truly awesome.
But it is bullocks (for me any way) that you immediately forget all the pain and think, “I could do that again.” This very well could be the first and last child to whom I give birth. Of course I am kidding. Hahaha. Ha…. ha……………
So, folks, that’s how it went down. 40 total hours of labor, 6 hours of sleep, 10 1/2 hours of transition, one fantastic baby.