Sunday, November 7, 2010

Our Birth Story

Friday, October 22nd was a clear autumn day. I woke up feeling as good as could be expected for someone 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I ate some breakfast and talked with a friend on the phone. Around noon I noticed some bloody show in my underwear. For those of you that haven't been to Babyland, bloody show is a mix of blood and mucus that appears when labor is impending. It could mean that labor is hours or days away, so I didn't think much about it. I did however email my doula Kathy and tell her about my exciting underpants discovery.
I went over to another friend's house to walk his dog. My whole plan for my maternity leave (which just started the day before) was to take lots of long walks and hopefully encourage baby X to make a prompt arrival. So Bosco the dog and I set out on the trail and walked. The trees were changing color and I was listening to Wilco on my ipod, really loving the crisp air and the smell of fall.
I started having what felt like menstrual cramps during our walk. They were very low in my abdomen and pretty mild, so Bosco and I kept cruising and we walked about four miles that day. At this point I was dismissing these as Braxton Hicks contractions. Weeks earlier I resolved not to get my hopes up for a early baby.
After our walk I went home and took a nap. I was still having intermittent contractions, but nothing too strong or regular. Matthew got home from work around three and by now I was timing the contractions and starting to wonder if I was in labor.
We went out to eat and I continued to time the contractions over cheeseburgers, fries, and a milkshakes (the most fabulous pregnancy indulgence ever). They were still irregular, so I gave up recording them after dinner. Once we got home we watched "Nightmare on Elm Street". I know, that's the weirdest thing to watch when you're in labor, but whatever.
Kathy called around ten to ask how I was feeling, and I assured her that I was just having a few Braxton Hicks and most likely wouldn't be calling her tonight. She told me to call her if anything changed, and we rang off.
Around midnight I woke up with contractions that were too painful to sleep through. I got up and sat on the yoga ball in the living room, breathing through the contractions and rolling around on the ball.
By 2 am I wasn't coping as well as I would have liked and I woke Matthew up. We went back and forth about calling Kathy. Amazingly, I was still doubtful that I was really in labor. We timed the contractions and found them to be consistently three minutes apart, so Matthew called her at 3 am.
Kathy arrived at our house thirty minutes later and we settled in and labored together through the dark hours of the early morning. Matthew went back to bed to save his energy for what laid ahead.
Mostly we talked. In between contractions Kathy told me about her son in Spain, and the other births she attended. We watched Planet Earth DVDs with the sound off. We breathed through contraction after contraction. I sat on the yoga ball and walked around the house intermittently. I tried to breath through contractions standing up, leaning against the couch, and even on the toilet, but nothing felt as comfortable as sitting on the yoga ball.
I was increasingly uncomfortable but still felt that the pain was manageable. I even thought to myself that this labor might not be as bad as I feared. Funny eh?
At around 8 am Matthew got up and resisted asking us to turn on the football game. I know this is what he was thinking because I just asked him. That's love people. Instead, he went to the bakery on his bike and came home with pastries for the three of us.
We three continued to breathe and walk and roll around on the yoga ball. In fact, I found the more uncomfortable I became the harder it was for me to get off the yoga ball. I started to seriously worry about the car ride to the hospital, when I would have no yoga ball under my butt. We could call this "ball attachment disorder".
Anyway, around noon we decided to go to the hospital so I could get over there in the car while I was still coping relatively well. My fear of having strong contractions in the car was starting to overwhelm me at home, so we packed up and left.
We checked into the childbirth center at the hospital after I had the most intense contraction yet in the parking lot. Ouch. When I waddled inside, panting and groaning, the woman at the front desk actually asked me:
"What can I do for you today?"
Jesus lady, what do you think? Don't ask a woman in labor stupid questions. Ever.
The admitting nurse whisked me into the triage room and got me into a gown so they could check my cervix. I was 2-3 centimeters, which was pretty much what I was expecting. My contractions quickly become more painful and difficult to manage. I believe this was partly related to the change of environment from the comfort of my home to the sterility of the hospital. At this point, the triage nurse asked me what I wanted to do about pain management.
I told her I was going to try to skip the epidural. "Try" was to operative word here. I had no solid birth plan. In cooperation with Kathy and Matthew I decided to try to have this baby with a minimum of interventions, but I wanted to keep my options open. I didn't know how things would go. I didn't know what my pain tolerance was like. All I knew is that I didn't want to be chained to the bed, or to try to push the baby out from a reclining position. I wanted to be free to move around the room during labor, and when the time came, to push the baby out from any position I chose.
They admitted me to a delivery room and I was shocked to discover that I was the only woman in labor at the childbirth center. It was a full moon, and I assumed that full term women all over town would go into labor that day.
The room was large and pretty nice, as far as hospital rooms go. We settled in by setting up our music and my beloved yoga ball. Kathy rubbed my back while the nurses hooked me up to an IV bag of fluids.
Since I was a low-risk pregnancy I asked them to leave the fetal heart monitor off for the time being and they were agreeable to that plan. The nurses, who were all very nice, left us to our own devices and the three of us spent the next few hours doing our thing- breathing, bouncing on the ball, and listening to a lot of Lilith-fair type music.
The nurses came in and offered to check my cervix every few hours. Before labor began, I decided that I didn't want these continual cervical checks, because I was worried I would get hung up on the number and get discouraged and upset if things weren't progressing as quickly as I would like. But I found myself accepting the offer every time they came in. As my pain became more and more intense I needed to know where I was at, because I wanted a realistic expectation of how long this labor was going to last.  Luckily, every time they checked me I was dilating more and more. I was at 4 centimeters by 4 pm, and 6 centimeters at 6 pm.
I got in and out of the tub a few times and labor seemed to pick up and move along every time I got out of the tub. I suppose the soothing effects of the hot water helped my muscles stretch and relax, thus speeding up the process.
By around 8 pm I got out of the tub again and found myself not managing the pain as well. Every time the doula told me to breathe through the contraction I would try, but I was whimpering and even screaming a little bit and I couldn't control it. The nurse checked my cervix again, and I was at 8 centimeters. I asked the nurse what my options were for pain medication, and she offered me some fentanyl. In retrospect I'm glad she didn't offer me the epidural at that moment, because I was definitely considering it, but the diversion to fentanyl was a better place for me to start.
The nurse gave me the shot of fentanyl through my IV, and it immediately relaxed me. I still felt the pain of the contractions, but the panic I was feeling died down considerably, and again I was able to breathe through the contractions. The pain medication helped tremendously for an hour or so, but as soon as I felt it wearing off the panic crept back, and the pain was becoming overwhelming.
My doctor came in and offered to break my bag of waters, which still had not ruptured on it's own. She told me it could speed up the labor process, but that the pain and pressure would increase because the baby would drop right into my cervix. Ouch. I thought about it for about 5 minutes and then accepted her offer. At this point it was 9 pm and I was determined to have this baby out before midnight, at which point I would have been in labor for 36 hours. I was over it.
I asked for and received another shot of fentanyl, and the doctor got out her creepy crochet hook and broke my waters. I felt a huge gush of fluid and a tremendous feeling of relief when it broke. And then just as she said, the pain and pressure increased. While the fentanyl helped a bit I was at the point where I could only scream through each contraction. I felt a bit like a fox with it's foot in a trap. I could not control my fear or the sounds I was making.
That was definitely the worst part, trying to deal with this pain at 9 centimeters and wanting so badly to push this baby out, but not being there yet. At this point I decided I would get the epidural.
"It's not too late!" My mind chirped hopefully.
But of course it was.
When it was finally time to push I tried everything- on my hands and knees, with my feet up on the birth bar, and squatting on the bed with the birth bar in my hands. (FYI- the birth bar is like a set of bike handlebars they mounted onto the foot of the bed). I pushed harder than I thought was possible for about an hour and finally, while standing on the bed with the bar in my hands I felt her head moving down.
I tried to tell the room that she was coming out, but I seemed to have lost the ability to speak coherently and I blurted something out that no one heard except for Matthew- who was turning white as a sheet.
In fact, the doctor and nurses weren't looking at me at all because they were unwrapping instruments and mumbling something about an internal fetal monitor. They were getting ready to put another monitor inside me and SCREW IT INTO THE BABY'S SKULL because the one strapped to my belly was no longer picking up her heartbeat.
So I started pushing the baby's head out while wondering if I was going to have to let go of the bar to catch the baby myself. Finally, the doctor looked up and saw Ceci's head crowning. It was pretty comical to see her and the nurses drop all their monitor equipment on the floor and get into postion to catch Ceci.
I pushed out her head, then her shoulders, and then the rest of her body slipped out like a little fish. She was born at 11:20 pm on Saturday, October 23rd.
The doctor put her on my belly and she looked at me, blinking and squinting in the bright lights of the delivery room. Matthew came around the side of the bed and we both just stared at her. It was surreal to think that suddenly now, we make up a family.
And that's how Ceci met the world. Pretty neat huh?


  1. Oh gosh Emily, I know I am pregnant at the moment but I was tearing up just reading your story. It's just beautiful. Such an amazing moment when you meet that person you have been wondering about for 9 months. I am so proud of you for not having that epidural. It's not that I think they are horrible but most women think they can't do it without one and you can, can't you? Our bodies are built for it and so are our minds once you accept that you don't need it (or can't have it when it's too late). A funny and wonderful birth story. It made my day reading it and I seriously and honestly cannot wait to have another birth day in April. I love the whole ordeal of giving birth. Something magical about it, pain and all.

  2. Beautiful! Good work, mama!

    I'm glad Ceci didn't have to have the IFM. Both mine did, and with Timothy they missed when putting it in, so he ended up with a huge scab on the side of his little head. :(

  3. you are tough as nails girl. my hero.

  4. Wow, amazing story! Sounds like you did everything right to have the low intervention birth you were hoping for - including the long dog walk! I wonder what J's birth would've been like w/o the pitocin and epidural - maybe if there's a baby 2 I'll find out. Thanks for sharing!!


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