Birth Story-Part I

My mucous plug was lost gradually over the morning, but I first noticed it at about 8:30 am on Saturday June 30th. I started to feel what I thought might be contractions beginning very shortly after that. I wasn’t sure they actually were ‘real labor’ contractions or if it was false labor, or if the contractions were going to start and then stop a while later.

The contractions felt like menstrual cramps (I only infrequently get cramps during my period, but imagine that this must be what they feel like when they are more pronounced) and they were in my lower belly. I continued cramping lightly throughout the morning, and with more intensity as the day wore on. The key for me was monitoring the time and continuous rhythm. Since I still wasn’t sure that real labor had actually begun, or for how long these contractions were going to last, I was intent on making the best of it.

We had a bar mitzvah’s temple services to attend and a birthday party gift that needed to be dropped off. So, we dropped off the party gift and joked with our friends that our son might be born today, and headed up to the temple for Saturday Services. We arrived a few minutes late, but stayed the 2 hour service and for the kiddish, and then went back to our friend’s hotel to hang out for a bit. At around 3:00 pm, I suggested that we go home, and get changed for the party. It was again a joke that I was in labor, and everyone kept telling me to sit on a towel for fear that my water was going to break. I reminded them that often times a woman’s water doesn’t break, and that wasn’t always the next step in the labor progression. I didn’t want anyone to panic, or get all freaked out and start worrying.

I had expressed my desire for a particular bottle of pink champagne that I wanted to open after Elliott was born, in the hospital. Hubby hadn’t purchased it yet, so on our way home we stopped by BevMo and bought a bottle of pink champagne (although not the one I wanted…).

The whole day I vacillated on if this was it or not. I knew in the back of my mind that this was it, but I didn’t want to say it out loud for fear of freaking myself out. I was handling everything calmly, taking it one step at a time, and up to this point wasn’t making any assumptions. When we arrived at home I had decided that I was likely in early labor and should let my doula know so she can possibly begin planning, just in case something else happened. We agreed to keep one another posted if anything progressed, and hung up. I suggested to my hubby that he set his out of office assistant and tie up his loose work ends, and gather his things together so when I give the high sign, he is all ready. I also started to gather and pack up the last few things that I needed to take with me to the hospital. I was pretty much ready for whatever came next. Hubby was working on the computer, apparently putting the finishing touches on a few last things (though not with any sense of urgency).

I went to use the restroom. After emptying my bladder, I was just about ready to finish up, and a flow of liquid was released. I immediately knew what had happened, and there was no doubt in my mind that my water had indeed just broken!

I told my hubby what had happened, and in typical hubby style, I had to offer up all the reasons why I think that it happened, walk him through the details, and practically convince him that it was in fact true. (This is an ongoing conversation with hubby-ever since the positive pregnancy test-more on that later). I had to make a solitary decision, since it didn’t seem like I was going to get his buy in that my water had in fact broke. So, I called the Midwife hotline from our kitchen phone, which BTW is the only phone in the house. As soon as the answering service gal answers-my water really breaks. This was a main line fracture, just like every woman fears will happen while they are out in public. I start gushing amniotic fluid, and it is pouring out of me. I can’t stop laughing (I often laugh when I am nervous or don’t know exactly how to handle a situation), as I try to explain who I was and why I was calling the Midwife Hotline. I hang up the phone and turn around to a look on hubby’s face that I only wish I could have captured on camera. He looked totally freaked out-a combination of terror, shock and total disbelief (now maybe he will believe me is what I was thinking!).

In the meantime, he doesn’t know what to do, and is just standing there. What does he do first? No, not get me a towel or ask how he can help, or if I am OK. No, he gets the camera, and wants to start snapping photo’s to document the event. We are both hysterical and can’t stop laughing at the sheer amount of fluid that is freely flowing from my vagina. Once we got some sort of control over the flood gates, hubby realizes this if for real, and starts running around frantically to finish up what he needs to get ready. In the meantime, I am calmly waiting for him on the couch to leave for this hospital.

We pack up and go, and arrive at the hospital (5:30 pm). After we check in, we are notified that there isn’t a nurse available in the birth center, so they have to temporarily triage us in Labor and Delivery (bummer). We are laboring there (the 2nd floor of the hospital) for a while, and the midwife on call-Jasmine checks in on us periodically. But, we hadn’t officially checking in to the hospital yet.

Around 9 or 10pm, we are notified that a nurse has arrived and we can be moved to the birth center (4th floor of the hospital). While we are being transferred, they are filling up the tub with warm water for me to labor in. The birth center was nice, the room was big and private, and most important to me it was relatively uninterrupted. Things seemed to be moving along well, and looking back it was really all a blur to me now. We tried different positions on the ball, in the rocking chair, laying down, squatting, sitting in the bed, walking the halls, the tub, and anything else you can think of to ease the pain. I felt ultra focused and introspective. I felt very much inside of my head. I didn’t have much to say, and was really trying to concentrate on the contractions, not think about their length or time, or look at the clock. My Doula kept me hydrated and using the bathroom and she kept me active and calm.

My husband told me later that he and the Doula spoke around 3am, and consulted the midwife and guessed that based on my progress I would have the baby some time in the AM hours (9am was the estimate). Up until this point I had not had a vaginal exam (the midwives feel that exams are disruptive to labor, and are often counter productive to a laboring woman’s progress. I too was worried about having an exam, for fear that if I hadn’t progressed far enough that I would be disappointed by my own progress). Around 4:30am the Midwife comes in to check on me and see how I am feeling, and offers me an exam.

At 4:30 am I was dialed to between 5 and 6 centimeters. It was kind of disappointed that I wasn’t farther along, but I was still in good spirits and felt strong. By 9am, there was a shift change and a new midwife came on staff (the new midwife was my favorite one, so I was happy about that). Rebecca did another exam and I was dialed to 8.5 centimeters. She noted that my posterior cervix was still thick and wanted to help me loosen it. So, over the next hour or so, during a contraction she manually attempted and succeeded in bringing me to 10 centimeters. It was about 11:30 am and I was fully dilated. I didn’t feel the immediate urge to push, perhaps because she had manually manipulated my cervix, or perhaps because the babies head was only at a 0 station. During the exam she noted that the babies head was not facing the correct direction, but that it might shift during the next stage.

I began pushing to try to get the babies head to come down a few stations. So from 11:30 to 2:30pm I pushed, and pushed with each contraction trying to birth my son. However, in that time he only moved 1 station.

This is where my troubles began. I hadn’t be able to urinate for a few hours, and they had to insert a catheter to temporally assist with that. My bladder was FULL. By 2:30pm my contractions had slowed down dramatically, and I was exhausted. I hadn’t eaten since lunch time Saturday, and couldn’t eat while I was in labor as I was nauseous the entire time. The Midwife, then based on the length of time I had been pushing, the fact that I had only moved 1 station, the time that had lapsed since my water had broken, and the fact that my contractions were now 5 minutes apart–she suggested we move downstairs, and they administer pitocin (an epidural was implied as well, since I was already at 10 centimeters and pushing).

I broke down and cried for a long time, I realized then and there that my hopes of an unmedicated vaginal birth were not going to play out the way I had intended. I was grieving the loss. I thought for an even longer time about what that meant to me, what I was willing to do, and what I felt I was capable of. I had been in labor for more than 28 hours with no drugs and had gotten so far, but from the looks of it the babies head was not descending.

I agreed to go down stairs and be assessed. The labor and delivery doctor came in and performed an ultrasound, they did a blood draw and an exam. She spoke with the Midwife and then presented me with my options. They went like this:

Based on the ultrasound the babies head was crooked in the birth canal and that was why he wasn’t descending.
My white blood cell count was high, which meant that an infection could be brewing (it had been almost 24 hours since my water had broken).
I still couldn’t urinate, and my full bladder might be in the way of my progress.
They estimated the babies size at around 9 pounds. Because of his size and head position they didn’t feel that an assisted birth using forceps or a vacuum were recommended. They felt he was too high in the birth canal and assisting could cause him to get further loged as well as cause me vaginal and possibly cervical trauma (not to mention all the risks to my baby).
I would therefore have to push the baby out and they would only allow me to push for another 30 or so minutes, even with the epidural and pitocin.
If I couldnt push the baby out in that time frame, I would have to have a c-section anyway (and I increased the risk of the c-section depending on how far I was able to push him down the birth canal).

So, after I shed another 20 plus minutes of tears, and talked out every option and risk with the doctor, midwife, my doula and most importantly my husband…we opted to skip the pitocin and have a C-section. After more than 30 hours of natural, wonderful, unmedicated labor, pushing for 3 hours, and wanting more than anything to have a vaginal childbirth…I was going under the knife.

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