Zeke's Birth Story – 8/19/13 12:20am
My due date was 8/27/13. I had a doctor's appointment on Wednesday 8/14, 38 weeks. At that time I was 2cm and 80% effaced. I had been faithfully taking my evening primrose oil and drinking red raspberry leaf tea. Due to my previously long and stalled labor, I wanted to ensure I was doing everything possible to have a smoother (and shorter) labor. Because of my husband returning to school full-time (and continuing to work full-time as well), I desired to have Zeke a little early to ensure we could have some family time before all the chaos began. My doctor suggested I try castor oil to possibly “naturally” induce labor, along with traditional induction methods such as sex, nipple stimulation, activity, etc. My husband and I talked it over and decided that we would give the castor oil a try that upcoming weekend. My brother and sister-in-law came over on Saturday so that we could have a date night before Zeke arrived. We went out on our boat and really enjoyed what would be our last date night before becoming a family of four.
On Sunday 8/18, I woke up at 4am to take the castor oil. I mixed 2oz's with 6oz's of orange juice, and went back to bed. About an hour later, I felt the need to use the bathroom. It gave me four bouts of very tolerable diarrhea and some gas, but nothing horrible like many women complain. I woke up at 7:30am with my 2 year old little boy and we sat in the living room, enjoying our Sunday morning. I felt some light cramping throughout the morning, but nothing that I hadn't been feeling for the past couple of weeks. I thought the castor oil was a fail. About 9am, I got up to pee. I sat on the toilet and felt a little gush. I thought it felt different than urinating. There was a little pink on the toilet paper when I wiped. I thought surely my eyes were deceiving me. But I continued to leak the pink fluid. My water broke! I started yelling for my husband, but he was outside meeting our new tenants moving in that day. I met him on the side of the house and told him what happened. Just then, more leaked out and I knew I wasn't just peeing myself. It was “go time”! I was so excited! I couldn't believe the castor oil actually worked! I had planned on laboring at home for as long as possible. However, because I was GBS positive, the doctor wanted me at the hospital to start IV antibiotics. We took our time showering, getting dressed and finishing packing. Then, we drove our son to a family member. As our little boy walked away, I watched him toddle up the stairs into the house. I knew our lives were about to change and he had no idea the joy in store for us as a family of four. And neither did I.
We arrived at the hospital around 11:30am. Once there, the staff did their general intake, put in an IV and put me on the monitor. They required intermittent monitoring, and were respectful of my desire to be up and moving. I was having light contractions, but they were very mild and tolerable. I wasn't timing them, but they seemed to be between 7-10min apart. The doctor arrived around 2pm. I chose my doctor carefully. Unlike several other OB practices in the area, she performed all of her own deliveries. And although she is a physician, she practices like a midwife and encourages a good balance of natural versus traditional medicine practice. She checked me and I was 3cm (I was 2cm in the office earlier that week). She suggested I walk around the unit, and take a warm shower to stimulate more labor. She said she'd be back at 4pm to check me again. If I hadn't made any progress by then, she suggested using pitocin due to my previous stalled labor that was 31-hours (24-hours spent at 2cm). I expressed my hesitance to use pitocin and she understood, but also didn't want me to have a similar birth experience that I'd had 2 years ago.
We walked the halls for about an hour. My contractions intensified, but as soon as I sat down, they weakened. The nurse suggested I get in the shower and allow the water to do belly and nipple stimulation. This worked fantastically. My husband added drops of lavender essential oil to the shower, which helped remind me to keep relaxed. My contractions intensified quite a bit, and were about 5 minutes apart. At 4pm, the doctor checked me and I was 4cm! I was so excited to be progressing on my own without the help of medicine! The nurse inquired about my pain management plan. I shared with her my hesitance for an epidural, given my previously poor experience (including a dropped blood pressure and feeling paralyzed for hours). She was very reassuring that I could labor and deliver naturally, if I chose. She also noted that there was a different anesthesiologist working that day, and I may not have a similar experience with an epidural this time. Never again was an epidural mentioned throughout my labor. I appreciated their respect for my birth plan (although I never officially wrote one out). Just to note- I really wanted a natural birth. However, I wasn't sure I was “strong enough” to get through it. I had prepared for it through education and reading informative books, and I tried to calm my fears throughout my pregnancy with positive birth affirmation. My husband prepared to support me through reading The Birth Partner. He even brought the book to the hospital for “quick reference” comfort measures, laboring positions, etc.
After the shower, my contractions were intensifying, and I was needing to focus more. I asked to do some laboring on the birthing ball. My husband was incredibly supportive through his calm presence and sweet words of encouragement. I felt most of my contractions in my low abdomen and around my back (even though Zeke was not positioned posterior). We tried applying pressure to my back during contractions, but that felt terrible. I labored for the next hour or so on the birth ball, and in the rocking chair. It felt better to be squatting during contractions, so I would drop down to the floor when it started. We took another set of walks in the hallway to keep my body moving with position changes. The doctor suggested I get back in the shower, since that seemed to stimulate things the first time. It was around 6-ish at this point. Getting in the shower this time really kicked my contractions into high-gear. My husband added grapefruit essential oil to the shower to help keep me energized. He also kept me hydrated with ice water. When in the shower, I would lead my head against the wall, or squat to the floor during contractions. I would also remind myself to keep lose by “melting into it” and slow breaths. My husband peeked in on me every couple of minutes. Occasionally in between contractions we would share a soft, sweet kiss. His presence was all I needed. No words, just being there. I occasionally asked for his hand during harder contractions. During those, he would whisper that I was doing a great job and remind me to release tension and relax. I was in the shower for about 45 minutes again. I started to lose my sense of modesty and I was moaning with each contraction and breathing loudly. My Mom and mother-in-law were in the hospital room (which I invited them to be). During early labor I kept myself fairly modest (covered with the hospital gown at all times and not making much noise), but the deeper I got into “labor land”, the less I cared about any of that. I felt like I needed to do anything in order to keep my mind peaceful, and my body comfortable.
When out of the shower, I noticed I had increased amounts of bloody show. This was encouraging to me, as I knew labor was indeed progressing. Once dried off, I returned to the rocking chair for a rest. My body was suddenly feeling all the effects of labor. My mind was in a fog, and I could barely keep my eyes open. “Labor Land” was in full swing. I wanted very little stimulation in the room. The TV was on, and I found this highly annoying. I asked for my iPod, and listened to the labor playlist I had created to keep me calm. I was overwhelmed with how tired my body and mind were. Throughout this part of my labor, I tried to flood myself with positive things, to overcome the “negative” (i.e. by using aromatherapy, water/shower, music, and having my husband sit next to me). This was extremely powerful in helping me keep comfortable during the mid-point of labor (i.e. 4-7cm). However, as I would soon find out, very little helped me during transition.
It was around 7-8pm and change-of-shift time. The new nurse I had acquired was a little more zealous in the need to monitor me. I found this extremely annoying and it seemed like every hour she wanted me to be monitored for 30 minutes, leaving me only 30 minutes to labor in peace. I felt trapped to the bed, which was horrid. I wanted to be up moving, and squatting during contractions. The doctor assured her I was OK, and she seemed to back off (but only for a little bit). Despite this new nurse's over-zealous monitoring request, I would soon find her to be an incredible support and positive energy.
My contractions quickly intensified. It seemed like they went from a 5/10 to an 8/10 pain-scale, in a matter of a few contractions. Once done monitoring, she suggested that I stand next to a chest-high hospital bed and allow me to lean over it to rest in between contractions. During these contractions I still preferred to be squatting. The nurse really encouraged this, and started saying things like “That's right, bring your baby down”, and “You're doing it”. She also put a pillow on the floor so I could comfortably rest one knee on the floor during the contraction. My need to moan and have support during contractions increased. I would reach for my husband's hand, and he was ready to support me however I needed. I started to feel more pressure during contractions which was good, but also more painful. I also started to feel the contractions everywhere (down my legs, full belly, and in my back and rectum). Squatting started to not feel comfortable, so I would hold onto my husband's hands and press my face into his chest while I swayed back and forth and continued to moan. The nurse suggested a breathing pattern of “hee, hee, whoo, whoo”. The doctor came to check me and I was monitored again. Contractions were hard to manage in bed, and I found myself trying to rock during them. They lowered the legs of the bed, so it resembled a chair. This made it a little more tolerable. The doctor wanted to check me during a contraction, and she found I was 7cm. It was 8pm. I felt so accomplished. It was amazing! I knew my body was doing this on it own, and even more impressive, my mind was doing this! I was going to have a natural birth! Once I heard I was at 7cm, I remember saying to myself “You've got this, you can do this naturally, its almost over, you're at transition”. From everything I'd read, transition could move fairly quickly in second births. I expected this in my mind, and was very disappointed when this didn't happen for me.
The next 4 hours were some of the hardest of my life. I'd always envisioned a water birth, however none of our local hospitals allow for them. However, they do allow you to labor in them. The nurse filled the tub and came to get me. As I was preparing to get into the tub, I had such an intense contraction that I felt I couldn't stand. I grabbed for my husband's hands, and they lowered me to the side of the tub. Once the contraction was over, I stepped in and got settled laying on my back. Unfortunately the next two contractions were some of the hardest of my whole labor. I hated the water, and I hated being on my back. I was no longer moaning, but screaming, “I'm dying, I'm dying!”. Dan looked at me and reminded me of the “hee-hee-whoo-whoo” breathing. However, I couldn't focus on anything, but the pain. I couldn't even rest in between contractions because I was anxious with dread for the next contraction. I felt like I was losing control of my body and my ability to get through each contraction. The nurse suggested I get out of the tub and come back to my room to find a more comfortable position to labor in. She was sure I was progressing quickly. I got into the room, and decided I needed to rest on the bed for a while. It felt horrible to be laying down during contractions, so with each contraction I would lean back just a little to relax my belly. I also needed someone's hand to hold. Anyone's. At one point Dan wasn't next to me. I grabbed for the nurse's hand and just squeezed it. I knew she could sense my desperation and she starred into my eyes and told me to “just breathe”, “you're doing it, Maureen”, “you're going to meet your baby soon”. I found her presence and words to be incredibly supportive. She also gently reminded me of the breathing pattern. The next hour's of contractions, although difficult, were more manageable than the few I'd experienced in the tub. I actually fell asleep during one of them. I felt like I needed this time to gain strength and recover a little. However, my contractions did slow down. Two hours into transition, and I'd only progressed to 8cm. I was so discouraged, and I couldn't believe it. Over the next two hours I labored in whatever position could get me through each contraction. Some were standing and swaying with my husband (which required him to bear my full weight, because I couldn't stand during the contraction), and some were sitting and swaying. During each contraction I needed a focal point. For some reason I chose the pupil of my husband's eye. During each contraction I would stare deeply into his eye, squeeze his hand/arms, and breathe in the “hee-hee-whoo-whoo” pattern. Sometimes I would say, “I can't do this anymore”, “I'm so tired”. He would remind me that I was doing great, that I was doing it, and I can do it. This was my only way to cope through these last two hours. I felt powerless to each contraction. It was a wave of pain that came and rode through my whole body. All I could do was melt into it. I had to rely on my husband for support. I found each contraction I drew incredible strength from him, and I felt myself closer to him than in any of our 9 years of marriage. My doctor checked me about 3.5 hours into transition. I was 9.5cm with a little lip of cervix left. She suggested I push through a contraction and she would try to push my cervix to a 10. This was incredibly painful. I screamed and kicked my legs out. I told her I couldn't do it, that it was too hard and too painful. I felt everything in my rectum and my hips, just squeezing so tight. I think she sensed my desperation of labor to be over. She firmly told me to get out of bed and sit backwards on the toilet to try and move the lip of cervix and bring the baby down more. These contractions were incredibly intense and painful. I felt everything even more intensely in my back, hips and rectum. The pressure in my rectum was unreal and indescribable. At one point my husband stood behind me, using his legs like the back of a chair, and I yelled at him, “stop pushing on me!”. It was too painful to be bent forward during contractions, so my husband would wrap one arm around my back, and the other arm for me to hold onto. I still needed his eyes as my focal point, and my “hee-hee-whoo-whoo” breathing pattern. I needed more support, so I called for my Mom and she was there on my side to hold my other hand too. I hated these moments during contractions. In fact I dreaded them because of the pain. But looking back, and beyond the pain, I can see there is something beautiful in so much sweat, pain and agony; and someone giving you their full love and support during these moments of intense vulnerability. These moments are some of the most beautiful gifts of life. Its in moments like these that we are really alive.
Earlier in my labor (once out of the tub), the nurse had offered me nubain. I declined at that time. However, I was desperate for relief now, and it was all I could think of. I also remember saying, “I want to go home, I'm done with this”. The nurse and doctor informed me it was too late for nubain, and I was doing this naturally, as I had wanted. The nurse was also whispering, “You're so close to meeting your baby”, I told her I didn't care and I just wanted to go home. I was done, and calling it quits. I remember at one point, begging for the nubain. My doctor sternly said no, and told me to move to the bed because she was sure I was going to have this baby in the next few minutes. I don't remember walking to the bed. I remember being in the bed and my mom and husband holding my legs to push. I had envisioned squatting to push, but while on the toilet the doctor had me do a practice push and I again told her I couldn't do it because it was too painful. Being on my back wasn't comfortable either, but I couldn't imagine moving into another position at that point. Everyone says “you'll know when you need to push”, but I never had that sensation. I never felt like I needed to push. I just knew I needed this to be over. My doctor and nurse told me to push through the pain. And the pain was unreal. More intense that I could have ever imagined. The pressure in my rectum was overwhelming. I was grunting in ways I'd never known were inside me. All sense of modesty gone. Somewhere in those moments I found my strength. Somewhere inside me, I have no idea where. And. I. Just. Pushed. With everything I had, with every ounce of my strength, through all the pain. I pushed three times, and I felt my baby crown. I knew I was so close to this being over. The doctor instructed me to “just breathe”, and I felt my baby's head slip out. The cord was around his neck, and they removed it. With the next contraction I pushed with every once I had left and my baby boy entered this world. He was placed on my chest as soon as he came out. I was surprised at how warm and wet he was. I collapsed back on the bed, and surrendered to the sweet relief of labor and pushing being over. My baby boy was here, “earthside” as they say. I was a mother to two boys now.
I had planned on delayed cord clamping, but he was having some grunting respiration, so he was clamped, cut (by my husband) and taken over to the warmer for some stimulation. My eyes were closed, and I fell into a deep relaxation. Some women describe feeling invigorated after they deliver. However, I felt such relaxation and calm, that I could barely keep my eyes open. I remember hearing my baby cry, and lifting my head to say, “He's so cute”. And that was that. My babe was he here. As it turns out, I was strong enough. I did it. The oxytocin rush, was absolutely overwhelming. I have never felt such peace, and calm. Ever. For the next week, my heart and my mind were in perfect peace.
As I look back, I sometimes feel failure for begging for nubain, that somehow I was weak for asking for it (and repeatedly, at that). However, I've learned that in our weakness, we are perfected. I learned that despite my mind telling me I was “done”, my body wasn't. I'm the story of someone who doubted themselves and their ability to birth a baby. But I learned I can. And I did. And it was beautiful.