Birth Story #1
The birth of my first baby was about as typical as it gets in terms of the progression of labor. My story is a good example of a first time parent giving birth. A very long labor and a long pushing phase. We had taken a 6 week Lamaze class and a weekend yoga/birth workshop in order to prepare for labor and delivery. Orginially we wanted to plan a home birth and decided it wasn’t practical at the time. I was finishing grad school and I walked for my diploma and hood when I was 37 weeks pregnant.
The morning after my due date I was sitting on my couch watching TV and I felt what I thought was my water breaking. It soaked through my clothes leaving a little puddle on the couch. Immediately called my husband and told him the news. He suggested I call the doctor, and I said I didn’t want to because we were going in for an appointment that afternoon. Contractions had not started, but after an hour my husband’s advice got the better of me. I called the office, and the nurse said, just wait until we come in for our regular appointment. That pretty much validated my initial feelings.
At 3pm we saw the doctor, she checked my cervix which was still 1 cm and 70% effaced like it had been for the past 3 weeks. Then she checked my fluids with an ultrasound which indicated that I still had enough fluid. When she checked the fluid under a microscope she did not see the tell-tell sign of “ferning” that shows the presence of amniotic fluid. So, conclusion, my water didn’t break…
That evening my husband and I went on a date, and while at dinner I started having mild contractions about 5-7 minutes apart. This lasted for several hours, and I went to bed expecting to wake up in more active labor. The contractions eventually subsided and I slept quite well. On Saturday I had contractions every now and then, but without any regularity. Finally, on Sunday morning at 4am I woke up with what I could tell were regular contractions. They were about 10 minutes apart. After two hours they didn’t act like they were going to go away, and were getting somewhat stronger. Not too strong to eat pancakes, go for a long walk, and go to the grocery store for some last minute items to have on hand. We returned home around noon and my contractions were still about 7-10 minutes apart and increasing in intensity. My husband worked on a cheesy casserole while I ate a light lunch and began settling in with the contractions. I could still talk through a contraction but they would stop me in my tracks. Eventually they were about 5 minutes apart and pretty strong. So, I ate some of the delicious cheesy casserole and I called my doulas. They arrived around 5:30pm. I bounced on my birth ball and in between contractions we gossiped while my husband got a pool of warm water ready for me.
I noticed the contractions weren’t very consistent. Sometimes they would be 5 minutes apart, then 8, then 3, then back to 5. In addition, the length of the contraction would change. Sometimes they would last a minute, sometimes 2 minutes. There were times when it felt like I was having back to back contractions. We were using an app on my phone to keep track of the contractions. Another thing I was noticing was the large amount of fluid that had been leaking out of me since Friday night. Since this was my first baby I was doing tons of research about my labor signs. I looked up fluid loss on the internet and what I was experiencing was considered normal for someone who is in labor but whose water has not broken. The fluid was somewhat mucusy and slightly pink or red. I had no reason to believe it was amniotic fluid.
Finally the pool was ready for me on the back porch. It was so relaxing and soothing during the contractions. At this point I could not talk during them and I was getting increasingly uncomfortable. Being in the water was helpful because it kept the weight off of my hips and legs. I stayed in the pool for about 2 hours, and then I became cold, even though the water was still warm. The contractions were very strong at this point. It was about 8:30pm and many of the contractions were lasting more than a minute or coming right on top of each other. I was having a hard time staying focused because of the intensity. I utilized my yoga training and tried to breathe deeply through each contraction. One of the doulas suggested focusing on a point in the distance during the contractions rather than closing my eyes. I found this advice to be very helpful throughout the rest of my labor. For the next two hours I could not get comfortable. The birth ball felt like torture, hands and knees was worse, and I was having a hard time standing. I laid down on the couch to get warm, I got up and tried to walk around, and I tried leaning on my husband for support. The contractions were really strong to the point where I felt nauseous,and my knees were buckling under me when I was standing. However, they were not coming with regularity. Finally I got back on the couch and tried to rest. I was getting very tired, and we were waiting for the contractions to be about 1-2 minutes apart before going to the hospital.
My husband sat beside me and rubbed my head, and held my hands while I tried to get through each contraction. They were lasting over a minute, and I wasn’t getting much relief between them because I was experiencing pain even when I wasn’t having a contraction. I remember thinking that something didn’t seem right. What was clear to me was I was getting more and more exhausted. I tried drinking some coconut water but it made me feel like I was going to throw up. Finally, the contractions were about 2 minutes apart.
At 10:30pm we decided it was time to go to our hospital in Greensboro, Women’s Hospital. I assumed since the contractions were so strong I was approaching transition. My doula seemed to think so too. I couldn’t move very well and my doulas helped me get dressed while my husband loaded the car. I was so glad we live close to the hospital because the ride there was pretty bad. In order to help get through the long contractions I was starting to vocalize a little bit while I did my deep breathing. When we got to the hospital they took me right away back to triage and checked my cervix. I was on the verge of tears because of the pain. When the nurse told me I was only 2cm I starting weeping. The hospital would not admit me and the doctor on call wanted to send me home. I grabbed my husband and said I was NOT going home! The nurses told the doctor I was in a lot of pain and he suggested I take a Vicodin or start walking the halls. I decided to walk. I thought, maybe my cervix had closed up on the ride to the hospital, and with a little walking it would open back up to the 7 or 8 cm that I thought it should be with the level of pain I was in.
We got up and started shuffling through the halls of the hospital. I could barely walk. When I had a contraction I fell onto my husband and rocked, breathed deeply, and focused on his shoes. He held me through every contraction. I was so grateful to have his strong arms keep me from falling on the floor. It took an hour to do two laps around the hospital. It felt like I was going to pass out from exhaustion. We went back to triage hoping for some good news. At this point I had decided to get an epidural if I had not progressed very much as soon as I was admitted to the hospital. I was afraid I would be too tired to push when it came time and I really wanted to get some rest since we were going on 20 hours of labor with no end in sight. Unfortunately, after an hour of walking I was only 3cm and they still would not admit me to the hospital. I was too tired to walk anymore, so I labored in the bed in triage. Every contraction I dreaded and I was pretty vocal trying to breathe through each one. After the longest 45 minutes ever, the nurse checked me again, and she said I was almost 4cm, and they would admit me to the hospital.
They wheeled me to a room and we had to stop so I could have a contraction. We still had to wait another hour for the anesthesiologist to arrive, and that meant more intense contractions. My husband held me through each one. I tried as hard as I could to breathe deeply and calmly which was nearly impossible. The doctor arrived and I had three contractions while he put the epidural in my back. Those were the hardest ones to get through because I could not move during the procedure. I felt immediate relief after the epidural was in and I was in a much better mood. Since it was the middle of the night we all decided to get some rest. I never went to sleep but I was able to get rested and relaxed, and with each hour I was dilating bit by bit.
The next morning our families came to visit us in the labor and delivery room. I tried to keep my energy up with juice and high calorie soda because the nurses would not let me have anything to eat. One nice thing about the epidural is we had time to go over the birth plan with the nurses and the doctor in detail. Also, we had time to narrow down our list of names. We had a list of 30 names that we were able to narrow to 6 names. I knew I would have to see the baby before I could decide exactly what to name it.
By noon on Monday I was dilated 8cm. We were getting very excited, because it looked like the birth of our baby was just around the corner. At some point when the nurse was doing a cervical check she asked if my water had broken. I said I did not know and I told her what had happened on Friday. She said, “Well, I think it has because I feel hair”. She meant the baby’s hair on its head! This fact was an indication that the bag of membranes was no longer surrounding the baby. So, at some point, (probably Friday) my water broke, and I had a slight leak for two days and while I was in labor. By the time I started having strong contractions, I had very little fluid left. Which is why the contractions were so intense really early in my labor.
After 5 hours and no change in cervix the nurse suggested in order to avoid a cesarean, (which the doctor already wanted to do), I should get the lowest dose of pitocin to help me get to 10 cm. I really wanted to avoid any more intervention so I changed positions several times including from side-to-side and hands and knees. This was difficult to do with the epidural, but I wanted to have an as unmedicated birth as possible despite the circumstances. The baby was turned slightly, and the movement helped to get the baby in the right position. Once I got the pitocin things started to move pretty quickly, and I was able to feel the contractions again. This was a good thing because I wanted to be able to feel to push. It didn’t take long for my body to be ready to push.
I was so grateful for the epidural for giving me the time to rest so I could push with strength. And I was grateful for my yoga training giving me the tools to breathe and focus. Pushing took 2 hours and I made progress with every push. I wanted to take things slow so I would avoid bad tears. I sat all the way up in the bed, and my doula and my husband held my legs up so I was in a squat position. I used a mirror in front of me to focus. Everything was quiet and peaceful and I breathed out with every push. No one counted at me, or yelled “push”! I was in control and that was exactly the way I wanted it to be. Getting the pitocin was a great idea because I could feel when to push and I could feel the baby coming out. The doctor arrived just as the baby was starting to crown. The next few moments are such a blur in my memory. The doctor quickly pulled the baby’s head out and I saw him suction the baby before I had pushed it out. Then the doctor pulled the baby out the rest of the way, and all I wanted to do was grab my baby. What had happened did not register with me, until my husband said, “Amelia, we have a son!” Then I could see why the doctor did not immediately give the baby to me. He was completely brown from head to toe because he was covered in meconium. As soon as they determined he had not inhaled the meconium he was given to me. After 37 and half hours of labor my baby was born at 5:35pm on a Monday. He was 7lbs, 9oz, and 20 inches long. We were able to breastfeed right away, and we stared at each other for hours.
Even though I did not get to have a unmedicated birth as I had planned, the birth of my first baby was perfect. I knew what my body was capable of because of yoga and marathon training and I could tell the pain I was feeling was way more than I could handle. Everyone is different and we all experience pain differently. Sometimes I wonder if I had taken a more extensive birth preparation course, such as HypnoBabies or Bradley, if I would have avoided the epidural. At the time I thought I was doing everything I could to manage the pain naturally. In the end, the epidural was a huge relief and the birth of my first baby was perfect. I had the best support from my husband and my doulas and I have never felt like a failure for getting the epidural. I am glad I was able to be rested, strong, and present for the birth of my beautiful baby.