Maggie’s Birth Story
This is going to be long – but it was a r-e-a-l-l-y long labor.
I had had a cold for a couple weeks and we kept saying that I had to get better or labor would never come. Or so we thought. We were also talking about starting several measures – cohosh tea, walking/stairs, even a special salad at a local restaurant rumored to start labor – so that she’d come a bit early, allowing her to make it to graduation and me to have her a bit longer before school started. I even had a long talk with her and God the night it all began, explaining how it would be really wonderful to have her arrive early so I could spend more time with her, how I couldn’t wait to meet her, but I wanted her to come when she was ready.
That weekend was terrifically busy – we actually had a baby shower, of all things, on Friday night, then Saturday I went to a choir rehearsal most of the day, then Sunday was my choir concert. I was completely wiped out, but at least the concert was the last thing on my agenda before I was basically uncommitted (save for a few papers to grade). I guess my body was waiting for that, because it swung into action after the concert. Rather than feeling tired, as I had all weekend (and the week before, in bed), I was energized and started organizing everything around the house, and cleaning and stuff. I didn’t know if I was nesting because labor was coming or I was trying to make labor come by nesting, but either way, I had the energy.
That night, weirdly since I’d been sick, I couldn’t sleep. I was just restless. I felt “up” and jittery and kept staring at the clock all night, then snoozing, then noticing it had only been 10 minutes and I felt awake again. Finally around 1:30 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning I got up to pee, then was thinking maybe I wanted to try eating (I’ve never been a night eater) or at least get some water, so I grabbed my water bottle and was leaving the room…and then, just like in the movies, like they say never really happens in real life, my water broke in a massive gush. Cursing, I grabbed a “puppy pad” (not actually but they’re like that for humans) and put it under me and was rather shocked as the gush didn’t stop at all. I was sopping. And I was completely freaked out.
I yelled at John something about my water breaking (with a few more choice words thrown in) and he was like OK OK calm down! But my very first thought was that now I’d have to be induced because once that water breaks, it’s tick tick tick until the hospital decides you better not wait any more to be in labor. Since I was going to the hospital I started envisioning all the interventions I wouldn’t be able to avoid and got really scared. Finally made it to the toilet and gushed for a while there, called Mom and my childbirth educator, and they calmed me down.
Then I listened to my childbirth meditation cd which, like buying diapers and other little things, was an activity I’d planned to begin the next day. And it really mellowed me out, and in fact I started having contractions. John was awesome – he never went to sleep, just got up and started doing dishes and making me food and cleaning the house. He knew we’d be gone for a while. He prepped the cats, got cds out for me to take the hospital, and helped pack my bags (which were another project for the following day).
We knew we had to get into the hospital after a couple hours or they’d be mad we waited so long, so after I showered, ate a decent breakfast, and drank several cups of cohosh tea, we were off. It was actually really exciting by this point. I really thought I’d kick into labor soon and we’d have the baby that day.
Monday at 4:30 a.m. we arrived at the hospital. Because I’d had some trouble with high blood pressure during the pregnancy they were very concerned, and then my stupid urine had protein in it, so they told me I’d have to labor in the high risk area instead of the birthing center with the midwives, which really made me sad. For six hours I stayed on a monitor (external) and tried to lay on my left side and bring my bp down, tried to sleep, and had docs and nurses tutting over me and checking my bp every few minutes. I tried to read the paper too but that wasn’t happening. Then a nurse came in to put me on an IV (damn! My first intervention) for saline drip. I can’t remember why they thought I needed that. But anyway I was on it about an hour and I thought it seemed weird because it didn’t look like anything was moving through the IV. So I called in the nurse, who had forgotten to turn the thing on. Well, great. That was an hour wasted. And once the stuff starting flowing I definitely could feel it. Ay yi yi. I’d never been in the hospital at all so I didn’t know how these things were supposed to go, but I was not pleased with the incompetence. I was also hungry so I snuck a protein bar and a honey stick.
Around that time a nurse came in who was really on her game, and she read my birth plan and knew how bad I wanted out of that section of the hospital. So she worked with me to make it happen. Finally I had a clean urine test and my bp went down enough that I was officially cleared from the high risk area and allowed to go to the birthing center. HUGE answer to my fervent prayers!
Unfortunately after six hours stuck in a bed, what contractions and momentum I’d had were lost. I saw the midwife around 10 a.m. on Monday and she wanted me on the monitor for an hour, but then said I could walk around which I was DYING to do. I so just wanted to be free of the monitor and to try my various natural ways to get labor going. So we tried them - walking, nipple stimulation, making out, stairs, everything we could think of that we had available. The one thing I didn’t get to try was castor oil – a friend tried to get some but couldn’t find it. I don’t know if that would have helped.
Anyway the hours passed and no matter what I couldn’t get the contractions to show up regularly on the monitor, and one line or the other (baby’s or mine) was always doing something they didn’t like. It was frustrating because I could sense that things were moving along, but they only would look at that damn ticker tape. At one point the contractions got quite strong and low in my back, and we started timing them ourselves at around 3 mins, but they wouldn’t show up on the monitor as consistently as they wanted, so the midwife asked me to consider the p-word…pitocin.
Pit is a fluid made up of oxytocin, which is the thing your brain secretes to put you in labor. I had heard many horror stories of how it causes miserable, too-quick contractions, and how it puts you down the road to an epidural and c-section. I was terrified of pit, and it was something I was dead-set against going into the hospital. However. It was coming up on 13 hours after my water had broken, which was 5 hours more than they usually let people go. The risk of “infection” kept growing, I guess, although I had no fever and no sign of it yet. We had a long talk with the midwife about the risks and benefits, particularly of the infection itself. They wouldn’t give me antibiotics now to stave off the risk, but if an infection happened, both baby and me would get them. The main reason the midwife wanted me to get it was because she was going off work at 7 and then I’d be alone all night with doctors, who could be a bit more eager to move things along FOR me. That made sense. Also, she explained that if I did get an infection, they would take away the baby at birth and I wouldn’t see her for 24 hours. THAT was the thing that put me over the edge. I didn’t care what it did to my body, I couldn’t handle the possibility of not having my baby with me every moment after she arrived. So after a very, very difficult, traumatic decision, involving many calls to other women (including my little sister who mommied me very well) and a lot of tears, I caved and let them put me on pit.
4:30 p.m. Monday we started it. It meant I was stuck on the monitor from then on, although they were nice about letting me move around from birth ball to bed to rocking chair. And I could still do many of my contraction positions. Plus, whenever I wanted a break, I could say I had to pee and they’d take me off everything for a while. I peed a lot.
The contractions did start to get more regular, about 5-6 mins apart (by our timing – again the monitors wouldn’t show every one of them). They wanted them 2-3 mins apart though, so they kept turning up the pit. Now they started it at 2 ml/hr which is really quite a tiny amount, and they would turn it up 1 ml every hour (it goes up as high as 20 ml before they start talking about things like c-sections). So I never got it above 6, and even then that was only during pushing much later. For that I was grateful. It was up to 5 right when my midwife and good nurse went off duty (about 7:30 p.m.) and then nobody checked on me for hours, and the pit stayed as it was. That was a relief. For a while.
Around 9ish my contractions got really intense and I asked for a doctor. I wanted to see if I could bargain for a little less pit so I could sleep for a while. Remember I’d been up since 1:30 the night before, but really hadn’t slept before that either. So I started hitting the wall. Anyway, despite asking at 9 I didn’t wind up seeing a doc until after 2 a.m.! And a lot went on in those hours.
From 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. I was in what we are sure was transition. I had all the symptoms and it was my keen, well-trained husband who called it. Besides the big-time contractions, which were moving lower into my back, I started shaking really hard between them. I also was burping and hiccupping, and was in the worst pain. The self-doubt started and I said over and over that if it got any worse I couldn’t do it. John was sure this had to be transition, except for one thing: those damn contractions were still not showing up on the monitors as the right consistency. They had never gotten much closer than 3 mins and were usually at 5, and during the transition they were 3-5 and not super regular. But I think I’m just not a digitally-monitorable person (one friend said I am “analog”). Because boy howdy, I knew they were there. So we took the time to just ignore the machines and we were left alone and could focus on getting through it. It was LONG though – 2 hours – and it didn’t wind up being right before the pushing as it usually is. So maybe it wasn’t transition – but it was the closest I ever got.
The only way I could deal with those contractions was on all 4’s, or sometimes with head on the birth ball and on my knees. John or Kelly (awesome friend who stayed all day and night!) would do the “double hip squeeze” on me and rub my back or roll cans on it to alleviate the pain. The hip squeeze worked wonders, as did the position on hands and knees. Unfortunately it would make the monitors fall off or get knocked off balance, and usually a nurse would come in a scold me. They’d make me lie down on my BACK (worst position every) and take a few contractions, then they’d leave and I was back up again. I was very naughty, but luckily there were a bunch of deliveries happening all around me so they mostly left us alone.
So FINALLY at 2ish the doctor came in, and the first thing out of her mouth (despite my birth plan that said, in bold and underlined, “Do not offer pain medication”) was “I know you don’t want an epidural but we can give you morphine…”. Well friend Kelly was quite pissed at her for that, and tried to help me think through it carefully. John was more willing to go for the drugs, probably because he saw my level of tiredness and pain. I was pretty much out of my mind. But I heard a few important things: morphine isn’t going to deaden you, just take the edge off; it’s not going to last until the pushing stage but will definitely wear off; and it doesn’t get to the baby (or so they say). These sounded OK to me. Of course when I asked for the risks they said “none” which isn’t true exactly. We did a vaginal exam and I was 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Not super progress considering how long we’d been going (and 10 hours on pit). So I went for the morphine - just one dose, to get some rest (it takes the edge off the pain but doesn't numb you like an epidural). My second compromise. But the one I am SO glad I did. This was at 2:30 a.m., 25 hours after water breaking.
Because, to me, I conked out for the next 5 hours. Apparently I actually did not sleep but got up for every contraction, on all 4’s, and John got up with me and squeezed my hips. Then I’d collapse and snore for a minute or two in-between. I have absolutely no memory of that. I do remember puking up my last power bar at one point. But clearly the morphine worked its wonders. Poor John was a mess, but I “woke up” (came out of my morphine haze) around 7 and felt awesome. I think the contractions were about the same intensity but I could handle them SO much better. So it was really, I think, a good choice to have gone with the morphine. I needed that rest so badly, as we headed towards the 30 hour mark. I also had some Recharge and some coconut water which helped my strength a lot. I was having broth but it was causing me to puff up (combined with my saline drip) so we stopped that. I had to hold my hands above my head – they looked like sausages! Luckily they could tell it was from the saline drip so they didn’t start going all freaky on me about eclampsia. My bp had been high off and on, but I managed to keep it in a safe enough range.
Finally at 8 a.m. a doctor came in to check me but I knew my midwife (Susan who I’d seen all along – and who is only in 2 days a week – but I’d prayed my whole pregnancy to have the baby on a Tuesday or Thursday so I could have her and God obliged) was coming on, so I asked to wait for her. There was pressure moving lower and lower inside, and I was definitely feeling that distinct urge to poop – I mean, push, but it feels like you have to poop.
At 9 Susan walked in and it was like seeing the face of God. I was so incredibly relieved. I knew she’d advocate for me and she’s not into the medical stuff. We talked for a minute and then she checked me, and wouldn’t you know, I was 8 cm, 80% effaced and the baby was at -1 station. She was shocked because the docs had all told her I was “not progressing at all” – she said, “I’m going right out there and telling them off!” I told her it was because the monitors weren’t showing my contractions, and she completely ignored the monitors and listened to me. Hallelujah. I guess word really had gotten around, though, because later as they wheeled to the other area where we recovered everyone who saw me (nobody I knew) was like, “finally!” Thanks people.
Anyway, Susan went to check on some other people (including another friend from my prenatal group visits, also due in 2 weeks – and we both got Susan delivering us same day!) and said she’d be back in an hour or so. Well in half an hour I had such a strong urge to push that I just went with it. And I told them to go get Susan right away, that I couldn’t wait anymore.
So she came back at 10 a.m., checked me (a bit skeptically), and her eyes got huge and she said I was fully dilated and effaced and the baby was at 0 station and we were ready to push! Well I knew that, but finally everybody else caught on. J At 10:05 a.m. I started pushing. It was the hardest part, really, because it was harder than I expected. Everyone says it’s such a relief, but in fact it was so long after my transition that I wasn’t relieved, I was like, OUCH. It really took so much effort (no drugs, remember) and burned like crazy. Fortunately I had awesome cheerleaders – John and Susan and a new nurse who was great too. And Susan let me lie on my side to push her out instead of on my back, thank God. I had wanted to do squatting but after 34 hours I was in no shape for it. So I lay on my side, which was very comfortable and relaxing, and held my legs I swear above my head. John and Susan helped me with my legs, and she helped by telling me to pull up on the leg while pushing down, which was good advice. I pushed with and without contractions, but they were coming REALLY fast anyway. And I was tired but when she’d say “push or rest?” I nearly always chose push because I wanted her OUT. Not only did it really hurt to have her halfway there, but I was so ready for it to be OVER. Plus the resting didn’t feel good at all. The whole pushing part was harder than I thought.
But then at 10:55 a.m., that little head finally came out, and then her body flew out on the next contraction (John compared it to the opening scene of “Big Fish”). She came right up onto my chest and was so alert and I was so happy that I had done it without any drugs to that I could have those beautiful eyes looking all around, and she was so calm and content. Susan went on and on about how I hadn’t seemed like I was in labor at all – my face was so placid and I barely made a peep. Well I chalked that up to meditation practice. I knew that sending my energy out through my mouth by screaming wouldn’t do any good; I instinctively was sending it down into my pelvis, along with all my sound and grimacing and everything. I think I was making some sounds, and I sure felt like I made faces, but Susan said I just seemed completely focused and really peaceful. She called in people to watch me, which felt so good. Everyone was so proud of me, and I was too.
My sweet little girl stayed on me for 40 mins, which helped with the pain of being stitched up (the intern wasn’t used to stitching women without epidurals and didn’t realize I could feel EVERYTHING, so Susan sent her to do paperwork and finished me up with a lot less pain!). Oddly being stitched and the recovery pain from that has been one of the harder things as well. Anyway, the baby was ready to suck, and we had a wonderful time just staring at each other, and I had that great moment of bliss, being completely in love and in every way committed to this little life. Which I found I would need in the days to come! John went with her as she was measured and weighed and checked (7 lbs, 19 inches), and then we all stayed together in our hospital room. The first nurse who came in told me she’d prayed for us, and I realized that really, through my 34 hour ordeal, I had been held up by so many people, and me & Maggie & John were always, every moment, in the hands of God. Although it’s not an experience I’m keen to repeat anytime soon, I really did feel like it was a blessed birth, and my joy in the gift of my child is beyond any words to describe.
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what a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing.
I am very, very happy that you got to experience some of the serenity despite so many hours of hard labor beforehand. You SHOULD be so proud of yourself!!!
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