Jeb will be 3 tomorrow. My baby. Three. (sigh)
I wrote this years ago, but thought it was a good time to post :)
I never thought I'd make it to my due date, let alone go 15 days over. Having been an L&D nurse, I was all too aware of the risks of induction, and of hospital birth in general. I chose a midwife for my care, and specifically chose a hospital that was natural-friendly even though it would cost considerably more than going to a different facility. So, at 41 weeks I was getting really nervous. I started trying my own "induction" methods: walking, sex, spicey food, eggplant, evening primrose oil, relaxing, talking to the baby, bouncing on the birth ball, castor oil, enema, and even cohosh. Nothing worked. I had been contracting on and off for weeks; it felt like I could kick into active labor at any minute, but I didn't. By 41w5d, I was so deflated, exhausted, nervous, and uncomfortable. I agreed to come in for a cervidil induction at 42w, as I didn't feel comfortable going past that. It was such a hard decision; I knew how quickly the cascade of interventions could happen, and in the back of my mind was a tiny voice wondering what if my body just won't labor? I had been preparing for a natural birth for months, I'd had such faith in my body and the birthing process, why wasn't it happening? What if it just wouldn't? I hated the doubt. I hated that my faith was being shaken.
Somehow I got some sleep the night before we went in for the induction. Clothes, music, snacks, and cell phones were packed and ready to go. The car seat was in the car. I had a little moment of panic standing in the nursery before i went to bed. We would be bringing a BABY home in a few short days! It didn't last long though, being on the cusp of 42 weeks, I just wanted to not be pregnant. We woke up at 5 the next morning, and i took my last pregnant shower. For days leading up to this one, I had wondered is this my last pregnant shower? Now I knew: this was the last one. I spent an extra moment washing my belly and imagining my babe out of my body and in my arms. On our way out, I had bennett take one last picture of me pregnant, we loaded the car, and left. It was still dark as we drove, both of us so full of anticipation. I stared out the window and felt sad that things were already going differently than i had planned, or hoped. During my pregnancy, I had fantasized about laboring at home before going to the hospital. I pictured myself in the nursery, in the tub, breathing and moaning through contractions on the birthing ball. I pictured bennett and I walking through our neighborhood, leaves crunching beneath our feet, stopping on the sidewalk during contractions. I wondered what drivers-by would think, and imagined reassuring bennett that i was ok, that this was all normal. And here I was driving in for an induction.
We arrived on the L&D unit with all of our bags and Important Things. 2 nurses got us settled and admitted in record time. I mused about how nurses help each other with a 6am admission: no one wants to be stuck there late after a night shift. I tried not to let on that I was a nurse, let alone that I had been an L&D nurse. My midwife came in, and placed the cervidil noting that my cervix was still only 50% and 1cm. I thought the cervidil would surely put me into labor as I had continued contracting all night and had even passed some pink mucous. So we began waiting. I made sure to drink fluids regularly. Bennett paced. We watched tv. We each took a short nap. My contractions were showing up nicely on the monitor, but were not very painful. Around 11am, the baby started having some late decelerations. They were the kind you see in the text books: very little variability, the decel starts as the contraction is ending and takes awhile to recover. A nurse came in the room just as I was expecting. I changed positions, which helped. Bennett was hopeful that the tracing looked better, but I was nervous. The baby was having trouble tolerating these contractions and I wasn't even in labor. I kept thinking about my "old" placenta. At that time I honestly believed I had about a 50/50 chance of getting sectioned.
The day dragged on. The baby would occasionally have some nasty looking decels, but always recovered with position changes. I could tell that the nurses were nervous. at 4pm Nadine (midwife) came to check me. I was 2cm, but I think she was being generous. She offered to do another cervidil, or rupture my water. She assured me that the head was well applied, so I opted for the rupture. She had to be somewhere late morning the next day, and I really wanted her to deliver me because I felt the covering OB would surely not be as laid back as Nadine about some decels. So she broke my water, which was pretty uncomfortable, but I wanted so desperately to get into labor. After the my water was broken, I got out of bed and sat in the rocker. my contractions got more painful pretty quickly. We called my doula and agreed that she should come in within the hour. I filled her in on some of the heart rate issues, and she said to me "it's time that you stop being the nurse, and start being the laboring mother". I took those words to heart and didn't look at the monitor again. She got to our room around 7pm and I was having to breath through the contractions, but they still weren't difficult. We walked for some time, bounced on a birth ball for some time, and she showed bennett how to give me some acupressure. At first i thought the acupressure was kind of lame, but it really worked. So much so that during one contraction I pushed Bennett's hands away. We continued alternating between walking and bouncing for several hours. I kept up with my fluids and sneaked snacks. I hated going to the bathroom, as the following contractions were always more intense. We listened to Donovan, and reminisced about being teenagers together. I went on the monitor for 15 min out of every hour, and the baby was cooperating beautifully. I was constantly checking in with the baby, reminding him that he was safe, and that we would work together to have a beautiful birth.
The contractions started demanding my attention around 9pm and I was so glad to see nadine at 11pm to check me. I was terrified that there would be no change. I could handle the pain as long as I knew it was doing something. I was 90% and 3-4. I was elated! From my first prenatal appt, Nadine maintained that "once you get effaced, your labor is going to fly." That cervical exam brought on a wave of contractions that I had to moan through for the first time. I remembered to make low pitched noises; it was one of the only things I remembered from class. The baby's heartrate went to the 80s with a few contractions, but again recovered with position changes. I agreed to stay on the monitor for some time. I spent the next 2 hours in the bed on the monitor moaning with contractions. I visualized an eggplant with each contraction. I pictured holding it in my hands with my thumbs on the top of the fat part and my fingers on the thin part and pushing the bulk through the smaller "neck" while pulling back the skin. Tt's a hard visual to explain, but it seemed similar to pushing down on my fundus and pulling my cervix up and back, allowing the baby through. I focused on staying soft and limp and allowing each contraction to do its work. I concentrated on keeping my mouth loose and relaxing completely in between contractions. I got that "woozy" laborland feeling. At 1am Nadine came back to check me, and I was anxious to get in the water. I was 4-5 cm and completely effaced, so I headed to the tub.
As i lowered myself into the warm water, I thought I was in heaven. I could handle anything in there! It was bliss! Bennett sat next to the tub through a few contractions that were starting to push me to the edge. He remarked that Melissa (doula) and Nadine were commenting on how awesome I was doing. I said "really? because I feel like any one of these might make me lose it." My stomach was starting to feel uneasy, and my gatorade-water mix no longer sounded good. I wanted small sips of water. Ice cold water. The nurse did some intermittent doppler-ing, and it took all of my concentration to stay in control and not bat her hand away. I don't know why, but her touching me made EVERYTHING hurt more. I asked "is it going low?" she said no and I almost yelled "then get your freaking hands off of me!". I had been in the tub for maybe 15 minutes when I started having that I-can't-do-this feeling. I got on hands and knees in the water, but it didn't help. I started saying over and over that I couldn't do it, that I didn't care about going natural anymore, I just wanted it to stop. Melissa tried bargaining with me: just 5 more contractions and then I would get out of the tub. It worked in the sense that I needed something to fight against, I needed to argue with someone. Then I started throwing up. Bennett brought me a tiny spit basin and I looked at him and threw up all over his chest and extended arm. None made it into the basin. I threw up all over Melissa's arm and felt terrible about it. Finally she put a pile of towels in front of me which was exactly what I wanted but couldn't say with all the puke coming out of my mouth. I threw up into the towel pile and was just pummeled with wave after wave of crazy contractions. I didn't know when one was ending and the next starting. I thought I was dying, and then realized I wasn't, but wanted to. I was panicking, but also knew it was normal. I looked at Bennett and mustered all of my strength to gather the control to "check in" with him. I aked him if I was scaring him and he said no, but his eyes said yes. I told him I was going to be okay, and then I was sucked back down. I was terrified of thinking I was in transition. What if this hell wasn't transition? The thought was too scary. I started begging for a new plan. Something, anything. Nadine showed up and I told her I wanted a gun. She said with a big smile "oh! when women ask for a gun they are usually 8-9 cm!" She told me to get out of the tub and into bed and she would check me. I agreed, only on the terms that if I were anything less than 8 cm, I would get drugs. I even commanded them to get the OR ready. "call anesthesia! intubate me! I don't care!"
Somehow I made it to the bed. Being upright was much easier than hands and knees. I got into bed and Nadine checked me, sure enough, I was 8-9 cm. I got a huge smile and actually laughed. I looked and Bennett and said "oh my god, I'm going NATURAL!" I knew there was no turning back and was elated, but also frightened: there was no turning back. By this time it was 2am. I went from 4/5 cm to 8/9 cm in one crazy, intense hour. I spent the next 40 minutes working on that last cm or two. Not one position helped. The contractions spaced out a bit (they had been every 2-3 minutes for hours), but when one hit, I screamed to Jesus for dear mercy. Melissa tried everything. They told me to surrender and give in to my baby's descent. I told them I didn't care about a baby. They told me to relax and stay soft. I told them I was already doing my best and that everything was involuntary, I had no control anymore. Finally I got into a position to push. The position that felt the best was actually on my back, pulling my knees back. I didn't feel any great urge to push, I just wanted to get this over with already. Although, when I started a push, my body would then take over. It took me a few contractions, which were now a good 4 or 5 min part, to organize a good pushing groove. I was out of my head by this time, I felt like I was going to pass out. All of a sudden, my mouth was bone dry, and I couldn't talk. Melissa wiped my head with a cold cloth and i thought she was a genius. Never in my life had I had a need fulfilled so perfectly without asking. She gave me ice chips, and Bennett stroked my head. When a contraction would come I would whimper and dig down for strength I didn't believe was there, but it was. I was holding back a bit though, it felt like I would break in two if I pushed the way they were telling me to. Finally, with one contraction, I made the decision to push with reckless abandon, and POP his head came out. I looked up at Melissa in sheer terror, it was the most unnatural feeling I have ever experienced. A few seconds later I felt someone adjust my bed, Nadine was looking at the monitor, and the vibe in the room changed. Nadine looked at me and told me to get this baby out, now. I thought there was a stuck shoulder. It was a tight nuchal cord. I gave one last heave, and he came out. I thought for sure i had ripped from my meatus to my anus, but I was actually somehow completely intact. I fell back in bliss and just said over and over I did it, I did it. Bennett leaned into my face with tears in his eyes, and said "it's a boy!". I did it. I did it. They put Jeb on my chest for a moment, and he was blue. His first apgar was a whopping 5, so they took him to perk him up a bit. I sent Bennett over to take pictures and meet his son. I was suddenly more concerned with Bennett getting to see him than anything else. I felt like I'd had the pregnancy and birth, and these first moments were for him. I birthed the placenta, which hurt more than I was expecting. Jeb was brought to me and latched on beautifully. We made phone calls and revelled in our son. He was born at 3:19, and by 4:30, I was up to the bathroom and putting my own clothes on. I felt a little sore, but so great, so high. I did it. I did it. Bennett fell into a deep sleep around 5. The nurses were done with me for a while, and the room was cleaned up and calm and quiet. A glowing mama, and wrinkled newborn were the only evidence that birth had just happened in that very space. I held Jeb and we gazed at each other for over an hour as the sky changed from night to dawn. The sun was rising on a new life. His new life and mine. I declined the erythro ointment, and I am so glad I did. He was wide eyed for hours, and we just poured our souls into each other. It was the most perfect, sacred hour of my life.
For several days I didn't know what to think about natural birth. I felt a little bit traumatized, and couldn't remember why I had wanted to do this thing. Looking back, I'm so glad I did. I really believe I would have been sectioned if I'd had an an epidural and couldn't move around. I also believe it absolutely gave us a unique bond . I'd already been to the darkest, most miraculous place for him, before we'd even met. And the fast recovery was awesome. I am so proud of myself, and look forward to doing it again, hopefully at home next time:)