Let me preface this all by saying I am really thankful in the end for my birth story. It was not the one I would have written to be sure, definitely did not match my birth plan, but I know it strengthened me and probably helped prepare me for the challenge of motherhood in some ways. I had to be stronger than I have ever had to be before to get this little girl into the world, I didn’t know I was capable of doing anything that difficult! Having said that, this entry may not be for the faint of heart. The whole thing was a little traumatic! (oh and this post will be a bit on the long side too 🙂 At 6:00 AM Thursday April 7th, I woke to my water breaking. I suppose that was when labor started. I had mild contractions all day and was in really good spirits, even when it got a little more serious in the evening I felt I was managing everything great and had high hopes for my birth experience. I was pretty calm and collected and happy she was coming early! Our doula Gracie Davis valiantly agreed to attend our birth even though she had just come from attending a difficult two day birth right before ours! I was so glad I waited at home for labor to get going all day Thursday as opposed to rushing to the hospital as soon as it broke. There was no need for me to go in (and little did I know how long I would be there in real labor anyway!) and it gave Gracie a chance to rest up a bit so she could be with us. So far my plan was on track, I wanted things to be progressing a bit quicker, but what pain I had I was on top of and I was calm and not running to the hospital. We headed to the hospital around 7:30 after traffic had died down. I was admitted, but not very dilated which discouraged me a bit, but I was still calm. The doctor’s and nurses were perfect, everyone read my birth plan right away and was so respectful towards us. Through what ended up being about 30 hours of hospital time I saw a lot of doctors and nurses, not one was grouchy or condescending. Every shift change I was assured my birth plan had been looked at without being asked and never did a doctor talk down to me or ignore me, they all patiently explained everything to me and why they recommended what they wanted to do. I am so thankful for my experience at Kaiser Sunset! I am not sure exactly how long, but for probably at least 20 hours or more I handled my contractions with out any medication. Things got really intense and hard. Gracie and the nurse couldn’t be sure, but thought my baby was probably face up as opposed to the normal face down because all I had was “back labor” during that whole time. They ended up being right, Leia was sunny side up. If you are not familiar with this problem, normally babies come out with their faces down so what goes against your tail bone is the face and belly, the soft stuff, but if a baby is faced the other way what is going against your tail bone is her spine. You can probably understand how this could complicate things and bring a lot of pain to your back during contractions! Gracie kept encouraging me and we tried different positions to see if we could alleviate the back labor and get Leia to turn. For a while having Gracie or David push on my lower back or squeeze my hips did help, but at some point it just got too be too much, I could hardly think straight enough to even try new positions and I felt so tired. I knew I was a long way off still from pushing and didn’t see how I could make it when the time came. I was shutting down and getting scared. Despite everyone’s efforts I asked for some help. The nurse suggested we try some morphine and then maybe I could get some rest and get back on track. I accepted and I knew I was deviating from my birth hopes and wasn’t sure what would happen next. I was kind of thinking I just didn’t want the pain to come back ever and I didn’t know if after some drugs I could kick the habit! Plus, the thought of morphine making it into my baby’s system didn’t excite me either, but I was feeling so exhausted at that point I felt something had to be done. The nurse Erin that was with us through the night was awesome, lots of energy and very positive. She sat down by the bed after I decided to have the drugs and looked me in the eye and proceeded to tell me how amazing she thought I was and that she told the other nurses about me and how hard I was working, etc and basically made me feel a lot better about my decision to accept some interventions. Gracie and Erin both talked to me about how difficult this kind of labor is, and Erin said most women wouldn’t have made it this far. I took the drugs and got the sweetest thing in the world at that point – some sleep! Erin stood guard out front to make sure no one bothered us.
When I was coming to she and a doctor came in. The doctor explained to me that it had been 24 hours since my water broke and for some reasons my contractions had slowed down. She said she strongly encouraged the pitocin at this point, but said I was a part of this team too so she wanted me to make the call. Now going into the birth pitocin was one of the big things I wanted to avoid. Pitocin is a drug used to induce or augment labor, and it actually makes your contractions more intense and much harder to survive without drugs to help. One more nail in the coffin of my birth plan! The doctor really wanted to do it because I was getting into the zone of possible infection for me or the baby since it had been so long since my water broke. I didn’t feel I had the knowledge to go against that and I consented. Again the staff was so great it really helped me feel better about the decision. It seemed like almost immediately the pain got worse, my morphine had worn off and the pitocin was kicking in, yuck! I was still totally exhausted, I don’t know the time but it was the middle of the night, I had technically been in labor since 6 AM and had hours of painful back labor I was crumbling. I was going to go for that darn epidural. I mean hey I had already had morphine and pitocin at that point anyway! So crying and hugging my arms around Erin’s neck I made it through those awful contractions while the anesthesiologist got the epidural going. I just wanted the pain to stop! FYI I didn’t feel any pain as far as the epidural went in case anyone reading wants to have one, I know the thought of a needle in your spine sounds awful, but it was no big deal. Of course at that point I don’t know what would be? I felt better but even after all that it was like it didn’t take in one side, the pain was still coming, I felt a little desperate, they called in another anesthesiologist and gave me a stronger drug and had me lay on my side, finally the pain went away and aaah more sleep!
Surely I was on my way to at least some kind of end right? So things didn’t go as planned, but what was done was done and how bad could that pushing be after the drugs anyway, and that part shouldn’t take too long right?
I started pushing at 11:00 AM. I don’t know if the epidural wore off on its own or if they turned it down or what, I do remember at some point overhearing a nurse say “her epidural is out”, but anyway this part was NATURAL. I pushed for three hours. When it started I heard it would be like an hour or less, but it never seemed to stop. I vomited, I had to wear an oxygen mask, I have never experienced anything like it! It was the most frustrating trying time of my life. Somehow, I wasn’t pushing correctly, it was so hard to even stay lucid at that point let alone remember everyone’s directions about how to push. I was crying, I just wanted to escape, but there was no escape from those contractions so close together and strong. I felt so out of it. I felt for sure if this was Little House on the Prairie or Sarah Plain and Tall I would be dead by now! Could I still die in childbirth?? I pushed with everything I had and did it again and again and again. In my mind I thought surely three more pushes and they will get the doctors in and get the baby out right? I can’t do anymore, this has to be almost over, but it just never came! Finally, after three hours of this, the doctors were in and Leia just wouldn’t come out, I just couldn’t push her out. The doctor asked if they could help me by using the suction device that they cup on the baby’s head and sort of vacuum her out while I push. I heard a voice that didn’t even sound like my own wail “yes” and they got the device out. Here again, the vacuum thing or forceps major things I wanted to avoid, I was afraid of making the birth extra traumatic for the baby, but I barely knew where I was at this point and knew there was nothing else I felt like I could do. I think I remember being told just a couple more pushes with that and the baby would be here, everyone could see her little head after all. Well it wasn’t a couple more pushes, it was soon but it felt like a million more pushes. I felt panicked at this point and remember screaming “It’s not working!” a couple times. I didn’t know what they would do next! The doctor was having difficulty because she was in fact turned the wrong way as we found out then, but finally finally finally she was born!!!
I don’t remember much of her actually coming out, I didn’t see anything, but I remember feeling what I knew must be her body come out. I expected her to be put right on my chest after delivery, but she was rushed away and I didn’t know why. I was still having pain and looked down to see the doctors working away down there, Gracie explained to me that I had torn and they were stitching me up, then I hear “No he is not OK” from one of the nurses and look over to see David collapsed on the floor! Talk about a circus, would the drama ever end?? Gracie looked me in the eye and told me he was OK, and took a picture of Leia where the doctors were looking at her and showed it to me while we were waiting for her, they just wanted to look her over because it was kind of a traumatic birth for her and she was fine.
I am sure it was all very quick, but it felt so long before my baby was in my arms! Then everything melted away, I felt clearer and totally emotionally overwhelmed. I hoped I hadn’t done anything to make her journey more difficult, I remember saying “I’m sorry” after she was out because I really hated that I hadn’t been able to push her out without the vacuum and I was afraid I had given her a cone head lol! I couldn’t believe she was there in my arms and was mine. David hobbled over to the bed as the nurses were telling him not to stand up and we sat there and stared at our amazing gift from God! David was so overcome at this time ( I mean fainting twice probably demonstrates that) it was so touching to see him becoming a father before my eyes, and he has been so wonderful and calm with her since then.
Looking back, pretty much everything I didn’t want to happen did, but I don’t have regrets. My husband and Gracie and all the staff were so supportive and this was a tough birth. Besides, the way I look at it I did have a natural childbirth, if you add all the time before I took the morphine and then the three hours of pushing, it is really like I had a natural childbirth and one with drugs! I handled a lot of contractions, I am no wimp! I have nothing to compare this too, I just have never done anything so difficult before, and have never had such an amazing reward for my efforts.
So, of course there could be so much more to write, but I knew I had to get the labor and delivery story down while it was fresh in my mind and it is something I have needed to process. I am not the same woman I was before it happened that is for sure. I am Leia’s Mommy now. If you read all this thanks! next post won’t be so long 🙂