It has taken me a while to be able to put my birth experience to paper. For the most part, it was a positive birth experience. But it is still shrouded in so much anxiety and a bit of regret (and even embarrassment) on my part.
I often wonder if this is normal. Do most women have such strong emotions surrounding their births? Do most women experience these anxieties? Or am I more prone to these feelings as I struggle with anxiety outside of pregnancy? And, to add insult to injury, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I wanted my birth story to be as I had imagined.
Regardless, I am finally at a point where I want to share my birth story, even though it didn’t end up the way I had planned.
If you’ve read my previous posts, you may remember that my OB was concerned about me going past 39 weeks, due to my age. She said there was an increased risk for stillbirth if the baby stayed in the womb for too long.
Leading up to my due date, I had tried everything to kickstart my labor: eating pineapple, drinking raspberry leaf tea, walking, and diffusing clary sage oil. These brought on a week of prodromal labor, but nothing more.
At 39 weeks, I was having constant contractions, but nothing was happening. I didn’t want to lose my baby. I was in a state of panic. So I contacted the OB and she scheduled us for an induction that Friday. We were to be at the hospital at 5:30 am to begin the process.
My parents came down to stay with our son that night, so we could get up early and head to the hospital without waking him.
Jack had other plans.
At about 1am on Friday, Brooks woke up, as usual. I laid next to him in bed until he fell back asleep. While I was laying with him, however, I felt an enormous, jolting movement in my stomach. My whole body moved with the force. I was a little worried, and wondered if the baby was in distress.
I laid back in our bed and, within a few minutes, I had to use the restroom. But, when I stood up, I noticed my pajama pants were wet. I nudged my husband, and told him I thought my water had broken a bit. But, when I got to the bathroom, my water really broke. It was definitely the kind of thing you see in the movies. I felt a pop, and the floor was soaked.
As I was cleaning up, I noticed that there was meconium in the water. From all of the stories I had heard, I became concerned. Was it going to cause respiratory issues? Was it a sign of distress? I rushed back to the room to let my husband know that my water did break, and it was full of meconium. We agreed it was time to head to the hospital. Just after 1:30, we let my parents know what was happening, and we headed to the hospital, which was only a few minutes away.
My contractions were mild. And, surprisingly, I didn’t feel any fear about the labor process. I was so relieved that my water had broken on its own, and that I wouldn’t have to be induced. I was only worried about the health of our baby.
We got to the hospital, and went through the intake process. I was four centimeters dilated, and my contractions were steady. Everything looked great, so they moved us to our labor and delivery room. The intake nurse assured us that the meconium was nothing to worry about.
I chatted with the L&D nurses about my desire for a natural labor, and not wanting an epidural. Unfortunately the first nurse wasn’t as supportive as I’d hoped. She repeatedly suggested that I just take the epidural now, while I could. I declined. I also let them know that I wanted to be really mobile to help labor progress.
At first, Shane and I did laps around the L&D floor. It was late, so the area was quiet, and littered with sleeping visitors. My contractions had come to a halt.
After about an hour, they realized that I wasn’t making any progress, so they suggested the use of Cervadil to help move my dilation along. I would have to be monitored for 30 minutes, then I could move around. This isn’t what I had wanted. I was hoping for an intervention free birth. At the same time, I hoped this would prevent having to use Pitocin, so we agreed.
Thirty minutes passed, and my monitoring period should have been over. My husband had to go out to the nurse’s station to ask them to remove the monitors so that I could move around. The L&D nurse came in and removed the monitor. I walked around, and noticed that the contractions were definitely getting stronger. I could feel them more in my back. But they weren’t unbearable, and they weren’t consistent, but they were coming in 2-5 minute intervals.
When they checked me again, closer to 7am, however, I still hadn’t made any progress. They suggested that I take a second dose of Cervadil, and spend another 30 minutes on the monitor. I decided to take the second dose. Unfortunately, however, I ended up being on the monitor for almost 3 hours, unable to move around. I feel like this is where everything went south.
The L&D ward was really busy that day, and the nurses didn’t come in often, to check. My contractions began to pick up and, by 10am, they were unbearable. Because I was hooked up to the monitor, I couldn’t walk around as I had hoped, to move things along. By 11am, I wanted an epidural. I couldn’t handle the pain, and I wasn’t able to use my coping strategies at that point. Panic had set in.
It took forever for the anesthesiologist to come in. And, once he did, the process was horrible. Mind you, this was not my first epidural. I thought I knew what to expect. They had me bend forward, leaning on my husband. But my contractions were strong, coming every few minutes. I had to just breathe through them. I wasn’t able to move, as he was trying to place the epidural.
The anesthesiologist had a hard time placing my epidural due to the thickness of the cartilage in my spine. He placed it, and then had to remove it and place it elsewhere. The contractions were excruciating the entire time. And, as the anesthesiologist worked, I felt the urge to—poop. I panicked. The nurse insisted that I try not to push. The epidural was almost done.
Once the epidural was placed, I realized that it wasn’t working–at all. Only my left foot was numb. I felt everything else. Everything.
And, when the nurses checked, they realized I was fully dilated. I had gone through transition, tightly curled over my husband’s shoulder, unable to move. That explained so much. And I screamed through the rest of labor like a maniac. I think my exact words were: “Somebody help me! I can’t do this!” And I might have said, “I am going to die!” This still makes my husband chuckle. To this day, however, I am so embarrassed.
It was time to push. I could feel the urge to push, and it was uncontrollable. But my doctor wasn’t there to catch the baby yet, so they told me to wait. I breathed, trying my hardest not to push. And, luckily, my doctor was there in minutes.
Just a few pushes, and Jack was born. Even with my epidural, I felt it all. Jack was born with a head full of hair, and long fingernails. He spent his first hours of life snuggled in, nursing furiously.
Our post birth hospital stay was actually amazing. The postpartum nurses were sweet, and kind.
They adored Jack, and took great care of both of us. My parents brought Brooks to meet the baby that afternoon. He was not thrilled, and refused to look at the baby. But I understand that this was a huge change for him.
The nurses were happy to send us home as soon as they could, 24 hours later. They checked on us routinely, but were gentle and helpful. Jack passed all of his screenings, and so did I. At noon on Saturday, we were on our way home to enjoy life with our new baby.
After writing this, I realize that, for the most part, our birth experience was a positive one. Our baby is beautiful and healthy. I walked away unscathed, and my postpartum healing was so much easier.
Looking back I only have a few regrets:
- I wish I had been more insistent about being mobile during labor. I think that would have been a game changer. Instead, I didn’t want to be a “squeaky wheel.”
- I wish I had asked the nurses to check my progress before asking for the epidural. I think I was likely at 7 or 8 centimeters at that time. Those contractions were horrible because I was transitioning. They were as bad as they would get. If I had known, I wouldn’t have asked for the epidural.
- I wish I had been able to use all of those hypnobirthing/mindful birthing strategies to manage the pain, and the panic.
At the same time, however, I was to look back at this birth with relief, and with pride. Yes, I had an epidural, but “luckily “it was unsuccessful. This birth was, in essence, a “natural” one,