Tuesday, April 03, 2012


I fully expected to birth this baby early. For weeks before his due date, I kept thinking there just wasn't any more room. Surely I couldn't be expected to carry him any longer. Surely he would come any day now.

At a work meeting the week before my due date.

I would have a few contractions here and there--mostly Braxton-Hicks. But the weekend of my due date, which was January 22, the contractions really kicked into gear. Friday morning I woke up early with contractions. They stopped after about two hour, but I was exhausted from having been awake so much, so I called to let work know I would come in after lunch. They called back to tell me to just stay home and rest. After all, surely I would have the baby that weekend. I was due on Sunday!

Then Friday evening as I was picking up the kids from school, I started having contractions again. Lower back pain, contractions that started there and radiated around to the front. I timed them for an hour and they were consistently coming about 7-10 minutes apart. They weren't overly painful, but they weren't Braxton-Hicks either. Surely this was it. I even told the girls, as we were picking up Noah, "I think I might be in labor."

Now. A bit of background. I was induced with Noah, so that labor experience is not a measuring stick for much of anything except suckiness. But with both of the girls, I realized labor when it came. I didn't start and stop, there was no false labor, I wasn't confused by Braxton-Hicks. When labor came, it just came and I recognized it for what it was. We all--I and my caregivers, anyone who knew I was pregnant--just figured it would be that way with this one, too. After all, this was number four. My body knew what to do.


Contractions stopped by around 8 that night--after having gone for around 3 hours but never getting more intense, only getting farther apart--and I was really bummed. This continued throughout Saturday and Sunday (which was my due date), and each time I was more upset when the contractions would stop. During this same time, two friends of mine (who weren't due until Feb 5 and 8) gave birth to their babies. The emotional roller-coaster of the start and stop labor, the yes-it-is-time!, no-it-is-not-time-I-will-be-pregnant-forever, was exhausting. Throw in the birth of two babies whose time was not yet come, and I was just discouraged, jealous, frustrated. I had an appointment with the midwife on Monday and discovered I was still only at a 2. More frustration. We made an appointment for that coming Friday to have a sonogram and a non-stress test, but the midwife encouraged me to think of it as a long shot. Surely the baby would come before then.

But no. I had considered returning to work that Monday afternoon, but I just couldn't do it emotionally. There was simply no way I could go sit in my office at my desk and wait for labor the week after my due date. I hated to "waste" my maternity leave on the remainder of my pregnancy, but I just could not go to work. So I stayed home that week doing housework, getting naps, walking, climbing stairs. Waiting.

The contractions had pretty much stopped at that point, too. I wasn't sure which was more frustrating--contractions that didn't lead anywhere, or no contractions at all. I went to my Friday appointment and all was good. Amniotic fluid levels were good, his heart rate was good, his cheeks were very chubby and they estimated he was around 9 lbs 14 oz. "He's probably not really that big," we thought. "After all, these sonograms are never really that reliable when it comes to weight."

We met with another of our midwives that day, and she asked us what we wanted to do. Now after Noah's delivery, I had vowed I would never, never ever, no not ever be induced again. Pitocin is from the devil--I still maintain that--and I wanted no part of it. But neither did I want to sit around for another week waiting on this baby. I had to go back to work after spring break, and I did not want to spend that time being pregnant. I wanted to spend that time holding my baby and looking at his tiny fingers and his face and hearing his noises. I wanted to have my baby. If that meant one day of extraordinary pain from pitocin, okay then.

(At this point I should tell you that I was planning--as I did with my three other births--for a natural, drug-free birth. I have not had epidurals with any of my births. I had Stadol with Halle and with Noah, and I did not like the way it knocked me out. I wanted to be mentally and physically aware with this birth--the way I was with Chloe's birth. And in fact, my experience with Chloe's birth was fantastic. I labored in a tub and was able to relax with each contraction, which made the pain very bearable. I got to a 10 with her and didn't even realize it. Great birth experience. I was aiming for this again. The pitocin with Noah's birth, combined with the fact that I was confined to the bed the whole time, meant I couldn't move around to find positions that would allow me to relax. No relaxation equals great pain. But I was assured that this time I would be able to move around. I could walk, use the birthing ball, sit in a rocking chair, etc. Plus I had midwives this time, not an absent doctor. I knew these things would make this birth better. I was expecting pain because of the pitocin, but I hoped it wouldn't be as bad as with Noah.)

The midwife set us up to be induced Monday morning. I had a few contractions Friday afternoon after the exam, but nothing exciting. And then, over the weekend, Aaron talked to our friend and family doctor, Jackson. He suggested asking the midwives to break my water instead of administering pitocin. I had talked to one of the midwives about this possibility and she sort of shot it down, but we figured it was worth another try.

Monday morning, January 30, we arrived at the hospital around 5 am. Part of me was wondering if being in the hospital setting, with the beds, the IVs, the oxygen, would bother me. After all, it was only a couple of weeks after seeing my dad in the hospital and hospice facilities. But this turned out not to be an issue at all. We asked the midwife about breaking my water, and she agreed to do that, especially since I was at a 5 and 50% effaced by this time. Our midwife talked to us about the possibility of shoulder distocia, which is when the baby's shoulders get stuck coming out. She went over the possible complications and let us know that a doctor from the same practice would be there during delivery just in case anything were to happen. (This doctor also happens to be the doctor that my cousin, Brooke, has used for years, so I was very encouraged to hear he would be there if anything were to go wrong.)

After she broke my water, I had to be hooked up to an IV so they could give me antibiotics every 4 hours until he was born because I had tested positive for Group B strep. The medicine burned a bit going into my arm, and I knew that it was really going to irritate me later in the day when contractions got stronger. But they were able to hep-lock the IV when i wasn't getting the meds so that I wasn't tethered to the machine for most of the labor. Had I been induced with pitocin, I would have had to have been hooked up to the IV constantly the entire day.

They also monitored contractions and the baby's heartbeat for a while, and then monitored intermittently (around every half hour) throughout the rest of the day. I definitely would have preferred less monitoring, especially later in the day, but the nurses were great about working around whatever position I was in; they didn't ask me to move to make their job easier. I was also able to wear my own clothes. I wore a maternity tank and skirt that were both very comfortable--much better than those horrid hospital gowns!

My water was broken around 6:30 and labor progressed pretty steadily for several hours--I was still concerned that the contractions would stop and I'd have to have pitocin--and around mid-morning or so the midwife suggested I get in the shower. I did that for a while, until it was time for the next round of antibiotics.  Throughout the rest of the morning I sat on the birthing ball, leaned on the edge of the bed, crouched in the bed and leaned on the birthing ball--any position we could find that would allow me to relax as much as possible. But as the day wore on and the contractions got stronger, I found I just couldn't relax.

I've always had pretty bad back labor, and this time was no exception. As things intensified, we kept a heating pad on my back constantly and then Aaron would push on my lower back to provide counter-pressure during contractions. I cannot overstate how much this decreased the pain. The problem was, I was also having a lot of pain in the front. In the past (except with Noah's birth), I could relax into contractions; that became more and more difficult in the early afternoon. Aaron and I had each gotten only about 2 hours of sleep the night before, so I was very tired. That and the pain meant I was also emotionally exhausted. There were several times that I just felt overwhelmed, like I couldn't do it. I cried through some contractions, but Aaron and the attending midwife, Christy, were very encouraging without being annoying.

Around 2 or 2:30 she checked me again and I was at an 8. This was extremely frustrating to me. After all of this time and pain, I'd only progressed 3 cm?!? She suggested giving me just a bit of pitocin to help finish things off and I agreed. Funny thing is, when all was said and done, I thought they hadn't gotten around to giving me the pitocin because I hadn't noticed any increase in pain. It all just really hurt.

We were still trying different positions when she suggested I try laying on my side in the bed. In retrospect, I think she was getting me ready to push without telling me that. This hurt like hell, even with Aaron pushing on my back, and I was getting very vocal during contractions, moaning and even yelling a bit. I don't think I'd ever done that before. I was definitely in transition. She encouraged me to try pushing to see if that would help with the pain, and it did. So I pushed through the next several contractions; as Christy put it, I was pushing through the 8 to get to the 10. During this entire time, I was just shaking all over, feeling extremely exhausted. I felt that I couldn't keep going. But within around 10 minutes or so, I began to feel his head. It felt like forever before his head finally came out, but it was really only about another 10 or 15 minutes. All of this pushing must have worked even better than expected, because Aaron told me later that Christy had turned to get on the gown and gloves, looked back at me, threw the gown to the floor and rushed over to catch Micah as he was born. We had no problems with shoulder distocia, and in fact, they didn't even have time to call the doctor!

Of course I cried when they handed him to me. His head wasn't distorted at all from being born, although he did have a burst blood vessel in his eye (no big thing, just a red spot that has since gone away.) Aaron started snapping pictures as they cleaned him off, and then they weighed and measured him. The nurses were all placing 'bets' and they asked what we thought he weighed.

And that estimate of 9 lbs 14 oz? Yeah. Try 10 lbs 4 oz, 23 inches long. Big. Freaking. Baby. But oh, so cute. And my midwife called it exactly.

After delivery I just couldn't stop shaking. At one point a nurse asked me if I wanted a blanket, and I told her, "I'm n-n-not c-c-c-cold, I just c-c-can't s-s-s-stop shaking!"

After it all, my cousin Brooke asked me if I'd do it the same way again. Would I go drug-free? And I told her I didn't really know. I know I still wouldn't want an epidural in the future. I don't want a giant needle in my back, plus I wouldn't want to get one, get catheterized, and then possibly have it not work, or only work on one side of my body. I wouldn't want to be confined in the bed for all of that. And I like knowing what's going on with my labor. I like knowing when to push without having to be told. I don't like the pain, but I liek the awareness.

I also wouldn't want to have Stadol again. I slept through a lot of both of those labors, and when Noah was born, I still had enough of the drug in my system that I was falling asleep instead of being awake to hold and look at my baby. No, thank you.

I do wonder if the pain in the last couple of hours--pain I didn't feel nearly as intensely with Chloe's birth--was due to a larger baby, my being older, not being in the water, or my body just not being ready. It's quite likely it was a combination of several or all of these things. So would I do it the same way? I might choose to wait another day or two if I could do it over, see if my body would have been more ready. But I also can't say I regret anything.

Micah has been such an easy, happy baby. He nurses well, sleeps well, and is growing like a weed. It's hard to believe it's been two months!

*Side note. Isn't technology wonderful? Halle took this picture with her phone. She texted it to me, I shared it on Facebook, downloaded it from there to my work computer and uploaded to my blog.

1 comment:

andreajennine said...

Thanks for sharing the story! Fun (is that the right word?) to see some similarities in our experiences (but I won't share yet and spoil my own birth-story-in-process).