Tag Archives: birth story

Thoughts on my unmedicated birth 

Sam’s birth story here. Caroline’s here and here and here.20151011_041329In no way do I want to put anyone off having an unmedicated birth (by which I mean no epidural or pitocin). In fact, the recovery was so easy, and my inherent (and unempirical) resistance to pharmaceutical intervention means that were I to give birth again (which Wes says I absolutely won’t, sob) I would probably go the unmedicated route if possible.

That being said, I feel the most prevalent birth stories we here are (1) I had an unmedicated birth and it was beautiful and magical and what birth should be and (2) I had a medicated birth and it was disappointing / I’m ashamed / I’m traumatized / I feel like a failure. These stories are followed by a smattering of (3) I had a medicated birth and it went well but was nothing to write home about. I just want to add another story: (4) I had an unmedicated birth and it was fine, but I didn’t like it as much as my medicated birth.

The thing I most didn’t like was the lack of control. Towards the end my body was doing things (pushing, screaming) without me even knowing it was happening. Looking back. I feel like I acted like some crazed animal. Which is fine, it’s just not my preference. Some people love this aspect of birth – they use words like ‘primal’ and dig getting back to their raw nature. I’m actually kind of embarrassed now, and I feel awkward going back to my OB. This is even though my head tells me repeatedly that I acted like 90% of laboring / birthing women, and indeed many. many pro-unediacted birth people have told me they did exactly the same and loved it. It’s fine, I just preferred Sam’s birth where I could answer questions calmly, where I decided when to push (as I got the epidural at a full 10 cm – aside of a lip – I actually lay down for 30 minutes while complete to let the epi wear off a little before pushing),  and so on. Having my water broken by my OB with Sam was a little awkward, but it was definitely preferable in my mind to suddenly finding water all over the floor and on my legs and on the birthing ball and so on. At the time I felt bad I couldn’t help clear it up – I was even about to but I got slammed with double peak contractions, os just splashed around in my own amniotic fluid. Delightful.

Yes, I like to be in control. Yes, I have a lot of social anxiety – and sure these are the factors. I’m not saying there isn’t a reason, just that for whatever reason, an unmedicated birth was awkward to me.

I also, against traditional or prevalent dialogue, I found it in no way empowering. The short story of my birth went like this: Turn up in hospital, ask for epidural, beg for epidural, can’t get it, have to give birth without it. I understand this is super common, in fact our Bradley teaching told us that the reason it is “husband coached” childbirth is that this will happen, and you will pretty much not be able to get through it without someone stepping in and preventing pain relief (which is obviously not true, because people do it on their own all the time, but the gist is there).  Or, since the real begging for pain relief comes near the end, it’s too late anyway. So. In a nutshell, for many people, unmedicated births go something like:

I want X.

You can’t have X.

This is opposite of empowerment to me. Just to explain my definition of empowerment, it generally goes:

I want X.

Here is X.

 

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Finally, I thought I would feel all proud of myself for doing this amazing feat. Sort of like how I felt after my first 10K. Time and time again birth stories finished with women saying “and I realized my strength”. Right. I screamed and wailed and wanted it to stop and my body did it’s own thing regardless. I mean, it did it very well, don’t get me wrong. But it didn’t require any mental strength or fortitude on my part. No matter how painful those contractions are, it’s not like you can turn them off and you won’t die, so you will get through them. And that baby is coming out – I am pretty sure there are almost no stories of C-sections because the mother gave up pushing (babies getting stuck is a different issue). Your body is just going to push it out whatever. So, yes, it is very cool that bodies can do this but really, just making a kiddo and having it enter the world is the cool and amazing part. I didn’t feel ‘amazingly strong’ after giving birth.

My "it's over. It's actually over" face.

My “it’s over. It’s actually over” face.

Perhaps it helps that I didn’t have any negative effects from my epidural. I could walk and squat with it, and move about. It was effective, but I was not numb. I felt the urge to push appropriately, and after the baby came out felt the same emotion as an unmedicated birth (honestly? My first thought both times was: Thank f*ck that it over. For Sam because he took so long and I was worried they would do an emergency C-section, and for Caroline because: no more pain!). And that is not everyone’s experience with an epidural, so maybe you don’t want to take the risk. And I say all this having had two amazing and faultless birth teams both times. And I could have prepared better for Caroline’s birth and prepared Wes better and we could have handled it all a bit differently (although, as I say, most unmedicated birth stories seem to be quite similar). But of course, yymv.

There was a sort of stunned silence after Caroline’s birth from my husband and I. It had been so quick, and so… violent is the word I would use. I honestly felt a little shocked and mad at the world. I think Wes knew, because the first thing he said when they placed Caroline on my chest was “Hey – you got the natural birth you wanted” [he uses natural… I think all births are natural and use the less loaded medicated vs. unmedicated]. And it’s all good. My kiddos are here and healthy, I don’t dwell on either birth, feel positively about very many aspects of both (especially that my teams respected my choices – now that is empowerment -, that they had very baby centered approaches and that they never ever got frustrated with me, in fact, both times they treated it like this was their only birth not the 5th of the day…) and am generally a happy camper.

I would go unmedicated again. But I wouldn’t look forward to it, like I would look forward to a medicated birth.

 

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Caroline’s birth story – pt 3

AKA “the part where I lost my freaking mind”.

Me. Losing my mind.

Me. Losing my mind.

Also – before we get to the nitty gritty, remember the recent hoopla over the guy who took selfies while his wife was delivering? Let’s just say he wasn’t the first.

birth - 1 (5)

Needs no caption.

Part 1 here, and part 2 here.

I was 7 cm dilated when I got to triage, and probably about the same when they wheeled me up to a delivery room since the stress of transferring to hospital slowed things down a bit. All my months of denial about birth, and hours of denial about labor made me forget all my Bradley training and pretty much everything I knew about labor and birth, so I pretty much rocked up like one of those women who mistake an 8 month nausea-filled gestation complete with intestinal punches and kicks for “the effects of holiday eating” (and I’m really concerned about how they eat on holidays). Naive, confused and completely fecking useless.

Everyone is looking at me an laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don't look so amused though... Hmmmm

Everyone is looking at me and laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don’t look so amused though… Hmmmm

Oh, addendum: before leaving the triage room I stated “I want an epidural”.

We arrive in delivery at about 3 am and the contractions are picking up steam in terms of pain. Having slowed a bit for the jaunt to hospital (an oft-observed phenomenon) they luckily got nice and regular (read: sucky and regular) when we settled in. The nurse started preparing an IV of antibiotics for the group B strep and fluid for the epidural.

Then my OB arrived. She apprised the situation. She uttered the words “but I thought she didn’t want an epidural?” and with -I swear – a sort of disappointed look responded to “she’s changed her mind” with a shrug and an “OK then”. I wanted to punch her, really hard (even though I love her really). The only thing that saved her pretty face and my jail-free life was the knowledge that she’d be poking around the business end of my body soon, and hey, I try to be nice to people who end up there, whatever their reason is.

I gritted my teeth and told her that I couldn’t deal with the pain after all. My OB’s path to redemption began when she looked at my nurses and told them to help me with the pain. She offered me a bath which I declined mid-contraction in tears and so she suggested a yoga ball. This gave me pause. Wes said “she’s the yoga ball queen” so as a contraction ended I bitterly conceded “ok, that maybe sounds good”.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

I’ll confess: it was darn good. She then got the nurse to put counter pressure on my back with the contraction and I entered his blissful phase where the contractions were pretty bearable and I got glorious pain free (completely fucking pain free) breaks for a minute or so in between but was high on the endorphins. And all with my OB was forgiven. Happy times.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

That glorious state lasted for ooohh… 10 minutes at the most and then transition started. The contractions got stronger until I was flopped over the bed from my yoga ball begging my OB to look at the contraction monitor and tell me the contraction was on its way down. At some point I think they situated Wes opposite me and got him to be reassuring… Unfortunately at that point I felt intense nausea and started shriek “I’m going to vomit” and retch at his crotch. He bore it well but later confessed he was horrified. The nurses did sweet things like ask me if I liked my hair tied up, and when I said yes, they did so. They really tried to help with small comforts.

At about 3.20 I looked down and saw fluid everywhere and felt totally humiliated by it for some reason. I miserably said “I think my water broke” and the nurse looked down and said “yes” then looked at the OB and said “light meconium staining” and I remember feeling truly miserable as I thought through the pain “I am sitting, helplessly bouncing around in body fluid and poo while crying – this is the worst thing ever”.

My water breaking signaled another increase in contraction intensity and a lack of break between them such that one would start before true other ended. I think I truly lost my mind slightly because I remember the OB reminding me to breathe and I didn’t even realize I wasn’t. I also remember the pain ripping angry yells from my body at the peaks. I was lucky – transition lasted only about 15 minutes for me. I guess it was obvious to my experienced OB that I had passed through that because after 15 minutes she looked at me and very calmly said “Alexis, do you feel constant pressure yet?”. I tried to figure it out… I thought that if the pain would just recede a little I could figure out if and where and when I was feeling “pressure”. But the pain was just unending and intense and I gave up and felt useless not being able help, and said in tears “I don’t even know”.

My team was super nice about my pathetic-ness and just gave me space to do my thing; they never questioned or pushed me or intervened to assess me. They seemed to truly trust me and my body which on some level was reassuring and must have been calming because a few minutes later I looked at them with terrified eyes and said “I need to push”. Followed by “actually, thinking about it, I think I’ve been pushing for a while”.

The OB told me to get on the bed and the thought of actually balancing and putting weight on my legs was like someone asking me fly so I declared I couldn’t do it. I looked at the resident who was evidently going to actually deliver the girl and said in a measured and dangerous tone: “my epidural?”. I swear j have never seen a doctor look so scared and she mutely shook her head. That was it. I wailed “I can’t do this” as the nurses hoiked me onto the bed. Half way up I yelled out “oh, ring of fire! Ring of fire“. My nice OB said no stirrups or anything like that, just to let me get into my own position. Basically a glorious hands off approach.

Left to my own devices my body really did take over and push with the contractions at the end of transition. My mind had nothing to do with this… My body was pushing and wailing and screaming through contractions and I was completely unaware of it… It all seemed to be on autopilot and I truly felt like an animal. A couple of minutes after getting on the bed, when my OB said “try to use your energy to push down not yell out” it brought me to my senses more. I realized that I had not even realized I was yelling and needed to pull it together a but. The contractions had more or less gone and the pain was gone. So I did what any reasonable person would do at this point when faced with the prospect of reopening the door to pain and took a deep breath, looked the staff In their eyes and calmly, but firmly, re-iterated

“I can’t do this”

Everyone - everyone - joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone – everyone – joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone joined in this team effort to convince me I could. I was highly skeptical until my OB told me that I could, because I basically already had. Caroline was almost out – she had been pushed most of the way on the ball, and was now crowning. I should have known that from my “ring of fire” yelps, but my reason had gone. Gone. Even the crowning didn’t move me – it was when my OB said “she’s blonde” (I responded “blonde? Really? Like her brother?”) that it became real to me – my daughter was here and she had hair like her brother.

My super sexy pushing face.

My super sexy pushing face.

So I pushed. And pushed. Probably only 3 pushes or so, but it hurt. It really hurt – the contractions were like the most intense I-might-pass-out type pain. The pushing was nowhere near as painful but just deeply unpleasant – I felt like my intestines were going to fall out of my butt hole. Seriously. Like I was going to turn inside out. The level of pain was bearable… The unpleasantness held it back. My OB could tell I was holding back and put two fingers in me and pressed down stretching my entrance. I got quite cross and said “you’re hurting me!” And she said triumphantly “yes! Now push past that pain” which helped – a lot. I could focus on an area and push beyond it. A couple of pushes and I asked if I could have a break to breathe… They said yes…. Then as I started up again, the other super helpful thing my OB said was “when you get her out all this pain will go” which was a good motivator. A few more painful pushes and the nurses looked excited and said “yes! She’s here”. Her head was half way out! I asked for another break…

At this point. All the pain really really stopped. I mean, I’m not going to claim that it was comfortable having half a baby’s head out of me, but it wasn’t painful. And it was nearly 4 am and I was tired and it really did cross my mind that I just wouldn’t start pushing again. I’d nap. Have a snack. Maybe start again tomorrow. Maybe.

My team began to get a bit nervous as their wailing gnashing banshee sat there serenely peaceful, doing nothing. For all the world as if she was about to settle in with netflix and some wine… Apart from the baby half hanging out of her. They made all sorts of encouraging noises (it got to the stage where even the non-medical staff such as the clean-up lady give me huge thumbs up of encouragement). I just half closed my eyes and felt peaceful. Eventually it crossed my mind that this might not be too good for my baby and that galvanized me into one last push… And out she came. Caroline was here.

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The pain did indeed immediately end. The pediatric team had been called because of the meconium staining, but Caroline came out roaring and my OB said “as she’s crying can I hand her over?” (Love my OB!). They pediatric team obviously said yes and a sticky, gooey, poo-ey Caroline was laid on my chest while they suctioned her and did a clean up right there on my chest. I had an itty bitty first degree tear sewed up and just looked at my daughter. She was here!

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Caroline’s birth story – pt 2

Read part 1 here.

Before I get to the real nitty gritty of the delivery, I have realized I can’t describe Caroline’s birth story without acknowledging my state of mind of going into it, because I have realized that it is inherently part of the story. Although it had every medical intervention possible short of a C-section, Sam’s birth went well. Due to an undiagnosed case of von willebrands (plus I suspect, some bad luck), the post-birth part did not go well. Aside from brief outbursts of emotion, this was something I realize now that I chose not to fully process.

In part, I think it is hard to process something that you are unconscious, or heavily medicated, for. In larger part, it is frankly easier, if more cowardly, to go into something that nearly killed you last time pretending that it didn’t nearly kill you last time. The first sign that I might in some sort of denial may be that I refused to believe I had von willebrands for a while. OK, I still don’t really believe it, but I do accept my smart hematologist’s edict that we have to treat me as if I have it, given my “history”. But as mild von willebrands essentially needs no treatment in day to day life, that issue didn’t rear its head too often.

Another sign might have been that if someone brought up how close the call had come, I was genuinely shocked and surprised, and little awkward. I remember my friend Taylor saying on Sam’s birthday “Hey – it’s the anniversary of you surviving!” and I just kind of stared open mouthed like a guppy at feeding time, and then scowled and changed the subject. And when I transferred to my new OB (Dr. Dryden) the nurses muttered to each other “Dryden saved her” – and I just scowled again and labelled them as “over dramatic”. But again, this was not something that often came up – people don’t generally like to bring up nasty medical experiences (at least, not if they want to keep their friends…).

Things started to change when (1) expert people telling me how serious the situation really had been; and (2) having to prepare to give birth again. When I saw my OB at my first trimester appointment she brought up my chart and started stutter as she read the history saying “I can see you had a massive transfusion“. I did. Massive transfusions are not good (well.. they are good, it’s just the situations requiring them is not good), and when I initially told people about my birth experience I would say “As I went to OR I just remember the words ‘massive transfusion protocol'”. But then I decided that I probably dreamed that, or made it up for dramatic effect. So I was kind of shocked to hear the surgeon in charge of the birth state it. And see it there in my notes for all to see.

During that visit, my OB said to me “You’re lucky to be able to have another child!” and I said “well… it’s due to YOU” and she looked confused and I reminded her “You were the one who delivered my son… you saved me and my uterus by using a new procedure… you sewed the balloon into my cervix which hadn’t been done before.. right?” and the light dawned, and her eyes went wide with recognition and then a kind of fear and I’ll never forget her saying “Oh my God… it’s you… you’re you… You came back!” [aside: of course I came back – she was the most awesome surgeon ever! And my kiddo is the greatest kiddo ever]. I nodded and my OB – my extremely experienced OB who seems to specialize in high risk cases – said “I will never forget your birth”. Seeing how seriously she took the situation was not something my “it was no big deal” mindset was ready for. I looked her straight in the eyes and said “It’s fine… you did great last time with no warning, I have no worries about this time with plenty of warning… I trust you completely”. Then I pretty much packed up my things and left. Which was nice for my OB, but essentially what I was saying was “I don’t want to think about this, or deal with it, so I am shutting the whole conversation down”.

The I vowed not to think about birth until I hit the second trimester and the highest risk of miscarriage passed. And then, at that point, I would start to think things like “do I want an epidural?” and never really get very far with my answers. And suddenly I was 35 weeks and it was my beautiful baby shower and I was telling people that ‘yes, I was totally ready for everything” but when they got to specifics ‘no, I had not bought diapers yet…’ and ‘no I had not packed my hospital bags..’ and ‘no, I had not sorted the nursery’ and ‘no, no, no’. And that triggered something in me… some deep seated awareness that holy crap, I was actually going to have to do this again. And suddenly the darkest recesses of my mind took over and would pipe up at inopportune times. Like when I was reading Sam a book, something deep in my mind would say “I hope that if you die someone will tell Sam that his Mum used to read him books and do all he silly voices with him..”. I would squash the thought but later on the voice would say “If you die, hopefully people will tell your children ‘she loved you so much, she risked everything to bring you into this world'”. It wa startling to me how strong these thoughts were.

The next day I was in Starbucks and I had to walk past my hospital and while standing in line waiting for ‘the usual’ [tall decaff PSL, no whip, just one pump of syrup] I began to shake and cry and it is very awkward when heavily pregnant women start silently bawling in public because no one thinks they can ignore them and everyone thinks it is about the baby and tries to help . And when strangers asked if I was OK, it’s not like I could regale them with the whole birth history that I was trying to deny….

It’s funny, looking back, I don’t think I truly accepted what happened after Sam’s birth until after Caroline’s birth. I was taken up to a postpartum recovery room, and the nurse in the room said “Have you given birth here before?” and I said “Yes! Almost three years to the day I delivered my son here” and she said “OK, I am going to be honest… I knew that… I remember you… No one will ever forget your birth” and I thought “Geez… even nurses not involved in the situation are freaked out about this”. And my OB came by to visit me, and everything was perfect (and as you’ll find out in part 3 she has been utterly amazing in the birth) and I was holding my sweet Caroline and fully recovered within about an hour and my OB could finally say “I’ll just never forget your first birth… it’s just emblazoned in my memory and I can’t shift it”. And I thought ‘crap.. it really was that bad’.

So I didn’t finalize the process before Caroline came along, but I did begin to accept that I was utterly freaked out about giving birth again – not necessarily because I thought the same thing would happen, but because I realized that anything could happen. So I began to accept that I was scared, and angry. I was angry at my body for letting me down. My strong, half marathon and tough mudder running body builders body. And I was angry at the ‘natural birth’ community. I was angry at their message that ‘women were made to do this and should just trust their bodies’ (because where would that have got me? Let’s say it: dead is where) and even more angry at my treatment after birth. Basically, from all the natural birth communities I engaged with while pregnant, suddenly not one of them wanted to share my birth story, which left me feeling excluded and shunned. And then angry that by purposefully denying these stories, some parts of the natural birth community are lying to their followers: they simply discount the very real, and very rare, dangers rather than acknowledge them and allow women and their partners to make informed choices.

It was a tough few weeks and probably contributed to a lot of the depression I suffered with at the end of Caroline’s pregnancy (not something I have admitted before). I was scared and felt trapped – trapped into having to do something I was scared of. But, the reason that this is so part of Caroline’s birth is that I eschewed all thinking about actual birth before going into labor (in fact, possibly while in labor, which is why I didn’t accept I was until I was fully in transition. Although sleeping through labor definitely has some up sides…). Consequently, I didn’t have any kind of plan for what I would do in labor. At all. I just ticked the ‘no epidural’ box on my hospital pre-addmission forms and that was it.

So, I went into the delivery room really quite unprepared…

I’m glad I have written this down now. I am still 28% hippie and believe in things like the damages of repressed emotions, so I am glad to have written it down and am now able to really move onwards an upwards.

 

Caroline’s birth story – pt 1

Possibly in labor... Possibly not.

Possibly in labor… Possibly not.

If you ask people how long I was in labor you can get a range of answers. My OB would say “5 weeks”. When our pediatrician asked my husband, he said “2 hours”. My Mum would probably say somewhere in between. The truth is, I have no idea how long labor was for me. At 36 weeks, Caroline had dramatically stopped moving and no amount of icy lemonade, loud noises nor pokes with a wand could get her move on the ultrasound nor even take a breath. So we had a non stress test (NST) to check she was OK at our routine OB visit. Caroline was fine and passed with flying colors – just heavily sleeping and then moving like a champ when she deigned to wake up. What surprised everyone was the fairly strong, very regular contractions I was having.

Picture perfect contractions

Picture perfect contractions

My nurse read my output and said “Did you know you were contracting? Like… for a minute every 5 minutes?” *cue awkward pause* She asked: “Are you in pain?” and I said that honestly, I was having the least comfortable pregnancy ever and was always in pain. However, I told her that I didn’t “feel like” I was going into labor, and she said “I don’t know… I think we might be seeing you tonight”. That is when my OB could count my labor as starting.

Of course, Caroline didn’t come that night and made me wait another 4 weeks and 5 days. But in discussing the results of the NST with my OB, who similarly asked me if I thought I was in labor, I did say “so what does labor feel like?”. I explained “I missed being labor with my son… I got an epidural because I thought labor had not even started after a couple of days on pitocin, but when they gave me the epidural I was actually 10 cm and it was a bit of a mistake… so I am wondering what it feels like”. My OB  squinted at me and said “Are you telling me that you think you won’t know when you are in labor??” which sounded so darn ridiculous when said like that in the cold light of day that I quickly laughed and said ‘No, of course not, I’m sure it will be obvious”.

Ha. Famous last words.

This general pattern of things happening and people telling me I was in labor happened for weeks… My high-risk OB gave me a final scan and was worried about the contractions and ordered more tests… I got actual contractions…. I lost my mucus plug… I bled… and everyone kept saying “We’ll be seeing you at labor and delivery within 24 hours…” but they never did. On Friday 10th, I thought my water had broken so Wes and I went to labor and delivery. It hadn’t… the doctor used the litmus paper type test and it was negative, but then there was so much fluid just generally about she couldn’t believe my water hadn’t broken so did more tests. All negative. She reluctantly let me go saying “it really looks like your water has broken… I am sure we will be seeing you very, very soon”. I rolled my eyes and went home.

Water *not* broken then. Sigh.

Water *not* broken then. Sigh.

At about that point, I pretty much decided I was never going to go into labor naturally. Google confirmed my fears that some women’s bodies just don’t go into labor. This was going to be me… I was going to get induced again. I tried to make my peace with that and stopped looking for clues I was in labor. So, when I started to get stomach cramps on Saturday 11th, I didn’t give them much thought. I have no idea when they actually started, all I know is that at 6 pm, I got up from dinner to get a drink and remarked that my stomach cramps were so bad I could not stand up straight. I remember hunching over as I brought Sam his juice. After dinner I took Sam to bath (we bathed together) and I remember more cramps in the bath – cramps with backache. I wouldn’t say they were rhythmic but there was relief between them. I also felt uncharacteristically grumpy (actually, scratch that, that was very characteristic of me in during Caroline’s pregnancy). I remember being shorter tempered with Sam than I should have been and lying on the bed after the bath feeling like the pain was making me very reluctant to actually go through his bedtime routine. But I did, and the nagging pain made me think that baby might have wiggled into an odd position so I did some spinning babies to try to maneuver her into a more comfortable position.

At 9 pm ish, I went downstairs and found Mum ready to go to bed. I told her about my stomach / back pains and kept trying to stretch out over my yoga ball to relieve them. Mum asked if I thought this was labor and I snapped “I am sick of this! Everyone keeps telling me I am in labor and I never am!”. So, Mum went to bed, and then came back to see me, finding me in my bedroom again trying to work out my cramps. We chatted for a while and Mum said “Sweetie, I think you are in labor. I think you should phone Wes”.

I thought about it. I knew I was supposed to go into hospital early because I needed antibiotics for group B strep, and I needed blood tests to determine the need for clotting factors. But, again, I had had so many false alarms and even dragged Wes to hospital the very day before – I’d feel such a fool if this was another false alarm. Plus there wasn’t really anything to indicate this was actually labor. I decided that I would text Wes telling him how I felt, and try to sleep. As I said to Mum “I mean, if I am in labor, I won’t be able to sleep, right? If I am not, I can sleep off the pain”. She agreed this was a good idea and I went to bed, watched an episode of Girls, and decided against a second one as it was now 11 pm and I didn’t want to be tired the next day.

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Of course I found time to snap a 2 am selfie

At about 1,30 am Wes came home from work, and woke me on his way to bed. He asked me how I was feeling and I said “Oh fine… it wasn’t labor… AGAIN”, so we chatted for a while, during which time I kept curling around my tummy saying “It hurts”. I decided to go and “walk off my cramps” but I couldn’t, so Wes asked me to at least time the cramps. I dragged out my little ‘contraction timer’ app and blow me – even though I kept forgetting to hit ‘start’ until a way through the contraction they were 1  minute apart and the little app said “You are in transition”. “My app says they are one minute apart” I yelped in surprise. “We have to go to hospital NOW” said Wes, and went downstairs to collect his stuff. Then the cramps became seriously strong – I remember yelping for Wes during one, and he rubbed my back before bundling me in the car. I remember my Mum coming in when I was fussing about the pain and saying “Breathe, Lekki, Breathe” and thinking “oh yes! breathing, that’s supposed to help”.

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The car ride was pretty harsh, although all the changes and hassle had slowed the contractions to every 3 minutes or so. At the peak, I would kind of arch my back in the seat and hold my breath and repeat like a mantra “it will end… it will pass”. And it would. Between contractions I felt great – totally normal and no pain! I even said to Wes “I hope this is really it and I am not wasting anyone’s time…” and he got a bit shirty and said that if I was still thinking like that there was nothing he could say to help me and convince me to be sensible and I thought that this was mean and not very understanding and I thought about being stroppy about it, but didn’t really have the energy and maybe this wasn’t the time to start a fight anyway. So I TOOK THE HIGH ROAD (while in labor – major points to me I think) and we distracted ourselves getting pissed off at all the drunk drivers around.

We arrived at labor and delivery at about 2.40 am and when we pulled up the valet helped me out of the car. A contraction hit and I bent over and gritted my teeth and probably wailed a little and the valet looked totally shocked and I remember thinking “Don’t you see women like this all the time? I mean, this is a labor and delivery hospital!”, so then I did get annoyed because I figured I was acting all wrong and started to feel awkward about it all.  I coldly declined his offer of a wheelchair because: high horse, and marched up to labor and delivery.

At check-in they also seemed quite surprised to deal with someone in pain, which was really starting to get my goat. But they did check me in super quickly, and put me in triage where a nurse came and got me within a few minutes, although I wouldn’t go to a room without Wes because I THINK AHEAD and could just see Wes coming out to an empty hallway and not knowing what blinking room I was in, and really – I could foresee what kind of mess that would create. So the nurse and I waited in triage while I sank to my knees in pain (50% I sank to my knees because squatting felt good and 50% of the reason I sank to my knees is because I thought that looked ‘laborly’ and what I had seen people do in sitcoms when they rocked up to deliver a baby and as no one actually prepares you for how to act when you turn up to hospital in labor I decided to copy American TV for a lack of any other ideas). She didn’t look shocked to see a woman in pain, but she also didn’t seem very sympathetic to my plight so maybe I did something wrong after all.

We got into an assessment room, they made me put all my clothes in a plastic bag, dressed me in one of the ugliest hospital gowns I had seen, hooked me up a monitor, took blood to check my clotting factors, did a check and said “You’re 7 cm dilated with no cervix and the baby’s head is right there, I can feel it with my hand.”. I don’t know what we said to the doctor… if we told her that it was only on the third day in hospital that I had actually managed to have my son, or if I started wittering on about needing blood tests and anti biotics but it still had not really sunk in that I was definitely in labor. I think, honestly, I may have said that I needed time to poop before having a baby. The doctor said, firmly,  “No, you have declared yourself by showing up 7 cm dilated, you’re having this baby now”. And I just had to wait for our nurse to show up with a wheelchair.

A moment of "OK, we are going to do this".

A moment of “OK, we are going to do this”.

And off I went in a wheelchair out of ‘labor’ and into ‘delivery’ and the fun really began.

Where, by ‘fun’, I mean ‘gut wrenching agony and me being a giant baby about it all and things did not go as I had planned (but they never do)’. Which is sort of fun I guess.

 

Samuel’s Birth Story

This is the story of how Samuel Clarke Frazier came into the world 🙂 It ends at that joyous moment, so there is no dwelling or rehashing of the difficult time that followed – just a history of the moments leading up to one of the happiest points in my life. However, it is a birth story. It is graphic. On other blogs I have seen the authors put up birth stories and readers complain that words like ‘cervix’ and ‘discharge’ spoiled their breakfast. Well… expect that and more, if you stick with this post, you may know me VERY well by the end (although note: it is safe for work, and suitable for my students to read and still respect me afterwards).

We left off when the hospital had called. I had been merrily distracted by an awesome ‘shower in a box’ but as soon as the phone rang, all the emotions hit me: fear (perhaps terror), panic, excitement. At that moment, all I could think was ‘I am not ready… I just need another day…’. I answered the call, and the nurse told me that the hospital was not sure they could fit me in that day after all – but she would call and let me know later if it was a possibility. She could call us, but if we had not heard by 9, we could call her.

Ugh. Talk about a mood changer. OK, I might not have felt ‘ready’ but I did not want to delay this. I cried, so Wes got me out of the house to a gorgeous little Italian in Bellaire (where I ate about 3 bites of pizza and boxed the rest) and we got ‘Rock of Ages’ on DVD to distract ourselves. 9 came… no phone call, and at 9.00 and 1 second I dialed the hospital. Come on in they said! Come in for 11. Woo-hoo. That was a difficult hour to kill, but we changed and packed and tidied and faffed and left ridiculously early.

We got to the hospital at 10.50 and were not turned away! This was it… it was happening! Then began wait after wait… waiting for a room, waiting for a nurse, waiting for the cervadil (I am not complaining, I utterly accept that on a labor ward, the woman NOT in labor is the least of their priorities)… the upshot was, it was 2 am (yawn) before the induction began.

Induction part 1: Friday night: Cervadil.

Induction of labor

Waiting for the first stage

Cervadil is a gel they put on your cervix overnight, to ‘ripen’ it (nice terminology, always reminded of ‘the reaping’ in The Hunger Games). Hopefully it thins the cervix and dilates it, meaning the pitocin has less to do – some women respond so well they go into labor, but that is not the purpose per se. The cervadil basically looks like a long tampon, but a doctor has to insert it (boo). Unfortunately, my doctor (the resident for that night) was very heavy handed – placing it and then pushing, and shoving more. I did get quite bruised, from the heavy-handed insertion, otherwise it would have been utterly painless. Once it was in, it was painless (I couldn’t feel it at all) and time for lights out.

Cervadil in, and no discomfort

Many hospitals give a sleeping pill at this stage, but I was not offered one (I don’t know if this is because my OB practice is as hands-off / anti-interference as possible, or because I had told them that minimal intervention was my choice) and I did not want one. Slept like a log anyway, until I was woken up at about 6 to see how it had worked.

Bed for the husband in hospital with labor

Wes’ cot

I was pleased to see my OB, Dr. Boswell, in the morning. We love her, and she did the examination to see how the cervadil had worked. The result? No effacement, no dilation. Nothing. No change. Boo. I was disheartened, but Dr. Boswell was upbeat and said it was just time to start phase 2: round 1 of pitocin.

Stage 2: Saturday morning: Round 1 of pitocin

IV for pictocin

IV line for the pitocin

The turned the pitocin on at about 9. As I had wanted to try to labor without an epidural (even on pitocin) they started, as promised, at the very lowest dose: a 2. I waited, with some fear, for the hugely painful contractions pitocin is supposed to give, but… nothing. So after 30 mins, they upped it to a 4. And I waited… and nothing… this carried on all day, until at 2 pm Dr Boswell came back. She asked how I was feeling, and I gave a very merry “Wonderful! I feel great!” but her response was “Rats. I was hoping you would be in a lot of pain by now”. She didn’t think the pitocin was working – we could see my uterus contracting on the monitor, but no nice rhythmic contractions, nothing that seemed productive. And no pain meant that clearly, nothing was really happening. I asked if getting up and walking would help, but she said, not at this stage. I was welcome to, but resting for actual labor might be better.

So… I waited… and waited.. and we upped the dose every 30-60 mins. When the dose was at a 12 (not very high, it goes up to 20), at about 7 pm, Dr Boswell recommended the pitocin be turned off. You could see that my uterus was contracting constantly, with no break in between, but I could not feel it. I was still spending my time reading, watching TV, texting, Skyping my Mum. Basically: completely ineffective contractions. They checked my cervix: no effacement, maybe a fingertip dilation. Again: basically zilch.

Here, I am very grateful to have been with The Women’s Specialists of Houston. Not only did the doctor leave me alone all day (very few internal examinations… in fact, just one, with an intern who again was extremely heavy handed until she bought tears to my eyes) but many doctor’s would have just upped and upped the pitocin, labelled it a ‘failed induction’ and gone for the C-section. Dr Boswell said that this can occur for a number of reasons and that the game was not up yet. She said that nerves / tiredness / stress / hunger (I had not been allowed to eat before being admitted) can cause pitocin to fail: she wanted me to have a relaxing evening, with a big meal, and a good sleep. She also said that pitocin causes the cells that trigger contractions in response to pitocin to be expressed on the wall of the uterus, therefore they can work better on a second attempt, but you need a rest so your uterus doesn’t get ‘exhausted’ (yes… really). So, feeling doomed to failure I agreed to take a break. At this stage, I began to feel quite depressed about the whole thing: I had really wanted as natural of a labor as possible, and this felt anything but. My body just felt like a passive vessel for medical intervention: I felt nothing, I felt my body was doing nothing. Still, when Dr. Boswell suggested one last intervention to help tomorrow’s pitocin: a foley balloon, I agreed to try it to help avoid a C-section.

Stage 3: Saturday pm: Foley Balloon

A foley balloon is another method of helping dilation, but it is mechanical rather than pharmaceutical. Basically, they insert two balloons into you, one in your uterus between the baby’s head and your cervix, one just outside the uterus resting on the cervix. They fill the balloons with water and hope the pressure mimics the pressure of a baby’s head descending in labor, and so causes your cervix to dilate. Bleugh. I will say, Dr Boswell absolutely gave me the choice of having the balloon or not. She also sad that she would stop at any point when it was uncomfortable, and if we could not fill the balloons with the recommended amount of water without discomfort – we just wouldn’t. She saw no point in discomfort, nor wearing me out more. She is awesome.

The insertion was about as pleasant as it sounds – luckily Dr Boswell is a wonder at doing these procedures and it was just unpleasant / uncomfortable more than anything. At least, that was the physical side, emotionally I felt a bit like I was sick of being prodded and poked and my body not being my own. But hey ho. Dr Boswell saw all my bruising from the heavy handed intern examinations and offered me ice, which was nice, and sympathy, which I think was nicer 🙂

But once it was in, actually, no problem. I could not feel it at all, and ended up like this moments later:

Foley Balloon not hindering sleep.

It was weird getting up and going to the bathroom with it in… but otherwise, it really didn’t bother me.

At 6 am (why so early?? Why??) Dr Boswell (phew) came to remove the foley balloon. It was simple and painless – she drained the water and it kinda slipped out. Moment of truth time: had it done anything? Had it made any difference?? YES! I was 4 cm dilated! This is the stage they will often admit you to hospital (if you are not being induced), and evidence that my body might actually respond to something.

Stage 4: Saturday am, Pitocin round 2

Nice day to have a baby?

So, we were all go on the pitocin. They worked the same way as before: starting low and increasing the dose until it was effective, but not letting it get so high my uterus got exhausted (for real… they actually said this… hence the need for an overnight break and some food). Dr. Boswell came to wish us goodbye 😦 So sad to see her go, but she handed us over to her colleague Dr. Dryden with promises that she was ‘wonderful’ and ‘very experienced’ and had delivered both of Dr. Boswell’s babies. Dr Boswell said not to start the pitocin until the change of nurses shift at 9, so that the nurse can monitor the whole reaction of my uterus, and see it’s responses and patterns. She warned me that the time was probably coming to break my waters, she emphasized that given all the excess fluid, no one, but no one was to break my water except Dr. Dryden, in case of a prolapse. Then Dr. Boswell left for some much needed sleep (she had been at the hospital all Saturday and on call all Saturday night).

Waiting… waiting… by the time the nurses had switched and done their rounds, the pitocin was started at 10… again, I could not feel much, although it did feel a little bit more like rhythmic menstrual cramps. Dr. Dryden came in at 10.30 and determined it was time to break the water. I liked Dr Dryden (and she did a wonderful, wonderful job at the birth and after) but she was quite different to Dr. Boswell – I felt everything was an option and my choice with Dr B.; with Dr. Dryden felt more that things were going to be done her way. But I did like her and felt quite comfortable around her – plus she did the most wonderful job of the actual delivery so am eternally grateful for that. I got a bit antsy when she mentioned breaking my waters – we had been taught in Bradley that this increases the risk of C-section because once your water is broken, if the baby was not out in 24 hours, it was an automatic C-section. Wes asked if this was the case and Dr. D said ‘No, you are absolutely not on any clock’ so we agreed – again, I have a feeling that was going to happen anyway 😉

Dr. D. pronounced me still 4 centimeters and broke my waters. It took all of 2 seconds, I didn’t feel it at all, and then there was just a horrible hot gush. Ugh. Dr. D left, the nurse upped the pit and left Wes and I were left to our own devices. Before the nurse left she mentioned again that she could give me wireless monitoring so I could get up and walk – AS REQUESTED IN MY BIRTH PLAN – but you know when you are in pain and all you want to do is curl up and laze around? Yeah, I was there. All I will say is that breaking the waters is darn effective. Immediately, I began to feel contractions. Painful, but spaced out. I practiced my Bradley relaxation techniques to get through them – they came about every 2 minutes. Whether they are more painful than non-pit contractions I will never know, but I will say that you do get thrown straight into later stages of labor – for example, straight into 2 mins apart, painful contractions, which is often not the case with natural labor.

At about 11, the nurse came in and told me that she had read my birth plan and was here to get me walking. I wasn’t really given a choice, but in a good way. I had given them detailed reasons why I wanted to walk and use the birthing ball (pain relief, good positioning, speeding up labor) so the nurse played hard ball and made Wes walk me up and down the corridors. Again, a highly effective way to get labor kicked up a notch. The contractions got more painful and about a minute apart. Again, although painful, it was bearable as I could get a complete pain-break as these photos taken 30 sec apart show:

Labor contraction

Contraction


Break from contraction 😉

I tried the birthing ball, which pre-labor I was convinced would be the best place for me. It hurt more, hurt my tailbone and I practically kicked the thing out of the room. I also, with Wes’ help, tried squatting, which was equally as miserable. Walking it was.

Then I needed the loo. No. 2. Wes told me I would have to buzz for a nurse, but I didn’t see why. I buzzed and the nurse said “wait! Wait for me’ which I tried to do, but she was ages coming. Ages. I was in pain, in labor and I needed to go. I tried to wait, but eventually, I figured I would either go on the floor or in the loo, so I might as well use the loo.

Waiting for the nurse so I could use the loo! Gave up and used it anyway, much to her chagrin.

The nurse busted in while I was going (see? Labor is just so not dignified – and yes, I was with it enough to be horribly embarrassed) and chastized me. She told me that needing the loo was often a sign that the baby was coming and she was cross I might have had the baby in the loo. What was I supposed to do? Holding it was not an option!! She had to come quicker if she wanted me to wait! So, she wanted an exam afterwards to see if the baby was coming. So – at 11.15 what amazing progress had I made? 4 cm, maybe 4.5. UGH. Back to labor.

When the nurse left, the contractions got really bad. They just didn’t stop one on top of another. The pain was bad (but I could cope with it):

Ow. Ow. Ow.

Then I needed the loo again. Really, like upset tummy needed to go. I buzzed for the nurse and waited and waited and buzzed and begged them to come (I was close to going anyway, but torn between my discomfort and being told off again!), when she came she wanted me to use a bedpan! No freakin’ way! Gross. So, I pointed out that just a few minutes ago I had been 4.5 at most and so really, no baby was going to be falling out of me. She agreed and let me use the bathroom (although she insisted on being in there with me! When I had an upset tummy! Told you: labor is not dignified).

While in there, I had a mental breakdown. The pain was horrific, and I was not progressing. I could deal with this pain, but given that I was dilating 1 cm every 2 hours, and had 5.5 cm to go – not for another 11 hours. Plus, if this was early labor, how bad would transition be? F that, I’ll take the pain relief. So, I asked for the epidural.

It was administered quickly (within 5 mins) and within 10 I had gone from this:

Ow. Ow. Ow.

To this:

Bliss.

As soon as the epidural had kicked in – about 11.45 the nurse wanted an exam, so they could ascertain in the future whether the epi had caused me to stall. I was annoyed: what was the point? I had been at 4.5 forever, and so finding out I was 5 was not going to help. I acquiesced, a resident Dr was called, and I grumpily let her announce that I was “9.5, maybe more, there was just a lip, and the baby was coming NOW”.

What? What the F-ing F? Some 40 hours to get get 4 cm, then to 9.5 in 40 minutes? So looking back, this:

Ow. Ow. Ow.

was transition. We had been taught in Bradley that transition was the most painful time, and the time the women find it most emotionally difficult and cry for the epidural. Our plan had been for Wes to step in at that stage and talk me out of it.. however, we just had no idea we were in transition. We thought it was too soon. I was annoyed that I had an epidural so late: I was moments away from giving birth when I got it, and most of the hard stuff had been done. I could have had a non-epidural (one can hardly call all the cervadil, balloons and pit natural…) birth, but hey ho. While I was annoyed that we had managed this slightly wrong, I was also pleased that I was enjoying this last stage. Plus, most of my fears about an epidural were unfounded: I could feel my legs, I could use my legs and I could certainly feel the contractions.

The nurse took a picture of us as a 2-some, promising to take the same picture but with the baby between us, when he was out (we never got this latter picture as everything went a bit Pete Tong, but hey ho)

Last picture as a 2-some

Doctors were called, and it was time to push. I declined the mirror and pushed – again, the epidural did not affect my ability to push as I could certainly feel quite a lot. I could tell the nurse when my contractions were coming, and she often had to help me hold off on pushing the urge was so strong, so that I could let the pressure build. Pushing went pretty well, Firework moved quickly – so quickly, they had to chase him with the little monitors.

After about 30-40 mins we could see the head, then poor old FW got stuck 😦 I had been warned about a very narrow pelvis and nothing seemed to get him past it. We tried squat bars, different positions, breaks, laboring down, I even let them get the dratted mirror. After 2 hours of pushing, they called Dr. D. She watched a few contractions and coached me. I actually said “It is OK to use forceps if you need, or cut me” but she didn’t think we needed that yet. She put her hands inside me (owww… just owwww… the epidural seemed to be doing F all at this stage) and said that FW was a slight transverse – he was facing the wrong way (up, not down – ah back labor also explains the yell for the epidural earlier) and slightly sideways. Again, I am grateful I was with the Women’s Specialists, many OB’s would have gone for an emergency C-section at this stage. Not Dr. D. Mindful of my ‘no C-section if possible’ [and now it does seem silly I was so adamant about that] scrawled all over my birth plan, she just turned him manually while he was inside me.

That. Is. The. Most. Pain. I. Have. Ever. Experienced. I swore violently – then apologized. But Dr. D was doing absolutely the right thing, using each contraction and push to slowly stretch me and rotate FW. I began to worry that FW was in danger as his heart rate was dropping, but Dr. D was wonderfully calm. I even said “if you need to do a C-section, do it!” but she said “I don’t need to see him now. I do need to see him soon, but he is OK now” and quietly called some extra pediatricians in. Once Dr D had figured out he was the wrong way and stuck in my weird pelvis it was all quick quick. Another 30 mins or so of pushing, with her help, and my beautiful boy was born:

He was handed straight to me:

and taken off for some checks as he had been stuck for quite a while. All the checks were done in the room, and Wes got to help, although he mostly took photos:

FW had become Sam! The long pushing didn’t affect him at all. He took a while to cry which freaked me out (I got slightly panicked over that) but his apgar scores were 8 and 9 and his lungs, when he decided to use them, were certainly powerful enough 🙂

Sam was little enough that I only had a minor second degree tear which Dr D and an intern stitched up, while Sam was assessed. Sadly, as I was quite ill, I didn’t get Sam back after that 😦 But, that is not this story. This is the story of how the lovely Samuel Clarke Frazier came into the world at 16.32 on November 4th 2012, weighing 6 lb and 15 oz. A wonderful, wonderful day:

Samuel’s birth story

This is the story of how Samuel Clarke Frazier came into the world 🙂 It ends at that joyous moment, so there is no dwelling or rehashing of the difficult time that followed – just a history of the moments leading up to one of the happiest points in my life. However, it is a birth story. It is graphic. On other blogs I have seen the authors put up birth stories and readers complain that words like ‘cervix’ and ‘discharge’ spoiled their breakfast. Well… expect that and more, if you stick with this post, you may know me VERY well by the end (although note: it is safe for work, and suitable for my students to read and still respect me afterwards).

We left off when the hospital had called. I had been merrily distracted by an awesome ‘shower in a box’ but as soon as the phone rang, all the emotions hit me: fear (perhaps terror), panic, excitement. At that moment, all I could think was ‘I am not ready… I just need another day…’. I answered the call, and the nurse told me that the hospital was not sure they could fit me in that day after all – but she would call and let me know later if it was a possibility. She could call us, but if we had not heard by 9, we could call her.

Ugh. Talk about a mood changer. OK, I might not have felt ‘ready’ but I did not want to delay this. I cried, so Wes got me out of the house to a gorgeous little Italian in Bellaire (where I ate about 3 bites of pizza and boxed the rest) and we got ‘Rock of Ages’ on DVD to distract ourselves. 9 came… no phone call, and at 9.00 and 1 second I dialed the hospital. Come on in they said! Come in for 11. Woo-hoo. That was a difficult hour to kill, but we changed and packed and tidied and faffed and left ridiculously early.

We got to the hospital at 10.50 and were not turned away! This was it… it was happening! Then began wait after wait… waiting for a room, waiting for a nurse, waiting for the cervadil (I am not complaining, I utterly accept that on a labor ward, the woman NOT in labor is the least of their priorities)… the upshot was, it was 2 am (yawn) before the induction began.

Induction part 1: Friday night: Cervadil.

Induction of labor

Waiting for the first stage

Cervadil is a gel they put on your cervix overnight, to ‘ripen’ it (nice terminology, always reminded of ‘the reaping’ in The Hunger Games). Hopefully it thins the cervix and dilates it, meaning the pitocin has less to do – some women respond so well they go into labor, but that is not the purpose per se. The cervadil basically looks like a long tampon, but a doctor has to insert it (boo). Unfortunately, my doctor (the resident for that night) was very heavy handed – placing it and then pushing, and shoving more. I did get quite bruised, from the heavy-handed insertion, otherwise it would have been utterly painless. Once it was in, it was painless (I couldn’t feel it at all) and time for lights out.

Cervadil in, and no discomfort

Many hospitals give a sleeping pill at this stage, but I was not offered one (I don’t know if this is because my OB practice is as hands-off / anti-interference as possible, or because I had told them that minimal intervention was my choice) and I did not want one. Slept like a log anyway, until I was woken up at about 6 to see how it had worked.

Bed for the husband in hospital with labor

Wes’ cot

I was pleased to see my OB, Dr. Boswell, in the morning. We love her, and she did the examination to see how the cervadil had worked. The result? No effacement, no dilation. Nothing. No change. Boo. I was disheartened, but Dr. Boswell was upbeat and said it was just time to start phase 2: round 1 of pitocin.

Stage 2: Saturday morning: Round 1 of pitocin

IV for pictocin

IV line for the pitocin

The turned the pitocin on at about 9. As I had wanted to try to labor without an epidural (even on pitocin) they started, as promised, at the very lowest dose: a 2. I waited, with some fear, for the hugely painful contractions pitocin is supposed to give, but… nothing. So after 30 mins, they upped it to a 4. And I waited… and nothing… this carried on all day, until at 2 pm Dr Boswell came back. She asked how I was feeling, and I gave a very merry “Wonderful! I feel great!” but her response was “Rats. I was hoping you would be in a lot of pain by now”. She didn’t think the pitocin was working – we could see my uterus contracting on the monitor, but no nice rhythmic contractions, nothing that seemed productive. And no pain meant that clearly, nothing was really happening. I asked if getting up and walking would help, but she said, not at this stage. I was welcome to, but resting for actual labor might be better.

So… I waited… and waited.. and we upped the dose every 30-60 mins. When the dose was at a 12 (not very high, it goes up to 20), at about 7 pm, Dr Boswell recommended the pitocin be turned off. You could see that my uterus was contracting constantly, with no break in between, but I could not feel it. I was still spending my time reading, watching TV, texting, Skyping my Mum. Basically: completely ineffective contractions. They checked my cervix: no effacement, maybe a fingertip dilation. Again: basically zilch.

Here, I am very grateful to have been with The Women’s Specialists of Houston. Not only did the doctor leave me alone all day (very few internal examinations… in fact, just one, with an intern who again was extremely heavy handed until she bought tears to my eyes) but many doctor’s would have just upped and upped the pitocin, labelled it a ‘failed induction’ and gone for the C-section. Dr Boswell said that this can occur for a number of reasons and that the game was not up yet. She said that nerves / tiredness / stress / hunger (I had not been allowed to eat before being admitted) can cause pitocin to fail: she wanted me to have a relaxing evening, with a big meal, and a good sleep. She also said that pitocin causes the cells that trigger contractions in response to pitocin to be expressed on the wall of the uterus, therefore they can work better on a second attempt, but you need a rest so your uterus doesn’t get ‘exhausted’ (yes… really). So, feeling doomed to failure I agreed to take a break. At this stage, I began to feel quite depressed about the whole thing: I had really wanted as natural of a labor as possible, and this felt anything but. My body just felt like a passive vessel for medical intervention: I felt nothing, I felt my body was doing nothing. Still, when Dr. Boswell suggested one last intervention to help tomorrow’s pitocin: a foley balloon, I agreed to try it to help avoid a C-section.

Stage 3: Saturday pm: Foley Balloon

A foley balloon is another method of helping dilation, but it is mechanical rather than pharmaceutical. Basically, they insert two balloons into you, one in your uterus between the baby’s head and your cervix, one just outside the uterus resting on the cervix. They fill the balloons with water and hope the pressure mimics the pressure of a baby’s head descending in labor, and so causes your cervix to dilate. Bleugh. I will say, Dr Boswell absolutely gave me the choice of having the balloon or not. She also sad that she would stop at any point when it was uncomfortable, and if we could not fill the balloons with the recommended amount of water without discomfort – we just wouldn’t. She saw no point in discomfort, nor wearing me out more. She is awesome.

The insertion was about as pleasant as it sounds – luckily Dr Boswell is a wonder at doing these procedures and it was just unpleasant / uncomfortable more than anything. At least, that was the physical side, emotionally I felt a bit like I was sick of being prodded and poked and my body not being my own. But hey ho. Dr Boswell saw all my bruising from the heavy handed intern examinations and offered me ice, which was nice, and sympathy, which I think was nicer 🙂

But once it was in, actually, no problem. I could not feel it at all, and ended up like this moments later:

Foley Balloon not hindering sleep.

It was weird getting up and going to the bathroom with it in… but otherwise, it really didn’t bother me.

At 6 am (why so early?? Why??) Dr Boswell (phew) came to remove the foley balloon. It was simple and painless – she drained the water and it kinda slipped out. Moment of truth time: had it done anything? Had it made any difference?? YES! I was 4 cm dilated! This is the stage they will often admit you to hospital (if you are not being induced), and evidence that my body might actually respond to something.

Stage 4: Saturday am, Pitocin round 2

Nice day to have a baby?

So, we were all go on the pitocin. They worked the same way as before: starting low and increasing the dose until it was effective, but not letting it get so high my uterus got exhausted (for real… they actually said this… hence the need for an overnight break and some food). Dr. Boswell came to wish us goodbye 😦 So sad to see her go, but she handed us over to her colleague Dr. Dryden with promises that she was ‘wonderful’ and ‘very experienced’ and had delivered both of Dr. Boswell’s babies. Dr Boswell said not to start the pitocin until the change of nurses shift at 9, so that the nurse can monitor the whole reaction of my uterus, and see it’s responses and patterns. She warned me that the time was probably coming to break my waters, she emphasized that given all the excess fluid, no one, but no one was to break my water except Dr. Dryden, in case of a prolapse. Then Dr. Boswell left for some much needed sleep (she had been at the hospital all Saturday and on call all Saturday night).

Waiting… waiting… by the time the nurses had switched and done their rounds, the pitocin was started at 10… again, I could not feel much, although it did feel a little bit more like rhythmic menstrual cramps. Dr. Dryden came in at 10.30 and determined it was time to break the water. I liked Dr Dryden (and she did a wonderful, wonderful job at the birth and after) but she was quite different to Dr. Boswell – I felt everything was an option and my choice with Dr B.; with Dr. Dryden felt more that things were going to be done her way. But I did like her and felt quite comfortable around her – plus she did the most wonderful job of the actual delivery so am eternally grateful for that. I got a bit antsy when she mentioned breaking my waters – we had been taught in Bradley that this increases the risk of C-section because once your water is broken, if the baby was not out in 24 hours, it was an automatic C-section. Wes asked if this was the case and Dr. D said ‘No, you are absolutely not on any clock’ so we agreed – again, I have a feeling that was going to happen anyway 😉

Dr. D. pronounced me still 4 centimeters and broke my waters. It took all of 2 seconds, I didn’t feel it at all, and then there was just a horrible hot gush. Ugh. Dr. D left, the nurse upped the pit and left Wes and I were left to our own devices. Before the nurse left she mentioned again that she could give me wireless monitoring so I could get up and walk – AS REQUESTED IN MY BIRTH PLAN – but you know when you are in pain and all you want to do is curl up and laze around? Yeah, I was there. All I will say is that breaking the waters is darn effective. Immediately, I began to feel contractions. Painful, but spaced out. I practiced my Bradley relaxation techniques to get through them – they came about every 2 minutes. Whether they are more painful than non-pit contractions I will never know, but I will say that you do get thrown straight into later stages of labor – for example, straight into 2 mins apart, painful contractions, which is often not the case with natural labor.

At about 11, the nurse came in and told me that she had read my birth plan and was here to get me walking. I wasn’t really given a choice, but in a good way. I had given them detailed reasons why I wanted to walk and use the birthing ball (pain relief, good positioning, speeding up labor) so the nurse played hard ball and made Wes walk me up and down the corridors. Again, a highly effective way to get labor kicked up a notch. The contractions got more painful and about a minute apart. Again, although painful, it was bearable as I could get a complete pain-break as these photos taken 30 sec apart show:

Labor contraction

Contraction

Break from contraction 😉

I tried the birthing ball, which pre-labor I was convinced would be the best place for me. It hurt more, hurt my tailbone and I practically kicked the thing out of the room. I also, with Wes’ help, tried squatting, which was equally as miserable. Walking it was.

Then I needed the loo. No. 2. Wes told me I would have to buzz for a nurse, but I didn’t see why. I buzzed and the nurse said “wait! Wait for me’ which I tried to do, but she was ages coming. Ages. I was in pain, in labor and I needed to go. I tried to wait, but eventually, I figured I would either go on the floor or in the loo, so I might as well use the loo.

Waiting for the nurse so I could use the loo! Gave up and used it anyway, much to her chagrin.

The nurse busted in while I was going (see? Labor is just so not dignified – and yes, I was with it enough to be horribly embarrassed) and chastized me. She told me that needing the loo was often a sign that the baby was coming and she was cross I might have had the baby in the loo. What was I supposed to do? Holding it was not an option!! She had to come quicker if she wanted me to wait! So, she wanted an exam afterwards to see if the baby was coming. So – at 11.15 what amazing progress had I made? 4 cm, maybe 4.5. UGH. Back to labor.

When the nurse left, the contractions got really bad. They just didn’t stop one on top of another. The pain was bad (but I could cope with it):

Ow. Ow. Ow.

Then I needed the loo again. Really, like upset tummy needed to go. I buzzed for the nurse and waited and waited and buzzed and begged them to come (I was close to going anyway, but torn between my discomfort and being told off again!), when she came she wanted me to use a bedpan! No freakin’ way! Gross. So, I pointed out that just a few minutes ago I had been 4.5 at most and so really, no baby was going to be falling out of me. She agreed and let me use the bathroom (although she insisted on being in there with me! When I had an upset tummy! Told you: labor is not dignified).

While in there, I had a mental breakdown. The pain was horrific, and I was not progressing. I could deal with this pain, but given that I was dilating 1 cm every 2 hours, and had 5.5 cm to go – not for another 11 hours. Plus, if this was early labor, how bad would transition be? F that, I’ll take the pain relief. So, I asked for the epidural.

It was administered quickly (within 5 mins) and within 10 I had gone from this:

Ow. Ow. Ow.

To this:

Bliss.

As soon as the epidural had kicked in – about 11.45 the nurse wanted an exam, so they could ascertain in the future whether the epi had caused me to stall. I was annoyed: what was the point? I had been at 4.5 forever, and so finding out I was 5 was not going to help. I acquiesced, a resident Dr was called, and I grumpily let her announce that I was “9.5, maybe more, there was just a lip, and the baby was coming NOW”.

What? What the F-ing F? Some 40 hours to get get 4 cm, then to 9.5 in 40 minutes? So looking back, this:

Ow. Ow. Ow.

was transition. We had been taught in Bradley that transition was the most painful time, and the time the women find it most emotionally difficult and cry for the epidural. Our plan had been for Wes to step in at that stage and talk me out of it.. however, we just had no idea we were in transition. We thought it was too soon. I was annoyed that I had an epidural so late: I was moments away from giving birth when I got it, and most of the hard stuff had been done. I could have had a non-epidural (one can hardly call all the cervadil, balloons and pit natural…) birth, but hey ho. While I was annoyed that we had managed this slightly wrong, I was also pleased that I was enjoying this last stage. Plus, most of my fears about an epidural were unfounded: I could feel my legs, I could use my legs and I could certainly feel the contractions.

The nurse took a picture of us as a 2-some, promising to take the same picture but with the baby between us, when he was out (we never got this latter picture as everything went a bit Pete Tong, but hey ho)

Last picture as a 2-some

Doctors were called, and it was time to push. I declined the mirror and pushed – again, the epidural did not affect my ability to push as I could certainly feel quite a lot. I could tell the nurse when my contractions were coming, and she often had to help me hold off on pushing the urge was so strong, so that I could let the pressure build. Pushing went pretty well, Firework moved quickly – so quickly, they had to chase him with the little monitors.

After about 30-40 mins we could see the head, then poor old FW got stuck 😦 I had been warned about a very narrow pelvis and nothing seemed to get him past it. We tried squat bars, different positions, breaks, laboring down, I even let them get the dratted mirror. After 2 hours of pushing, they called Dr. D. She watched a few contractions and coached me. I actually said “It is OK to use forceps if you need, or cut me” but she didn’t think we needed that yet. She put her hands inside me (owww… just owwww… the epidural seemed to be doing F all at this stage) and said that FW was a slight transverse – he was facing the wrong way (up, not down – ah back labor also explains the yell for the epidural earlier) and slightly sideways. Again, I am grateful I was with the Women’s Specialists, many OB’s would have gone for an emergency C-section at this stage. Not Dr. D. Mindful of my ‘no C-section if possible’ [and now it does seem silly I was so adamant about that] scrawled all over my birth plan, she just turned him manually while he was inside me.

That. Is. The. Most. Pain. I. Have. Ever. Experienced. I swore violently – then apologized. But Dr. D was doing absolutely the right thing, using each contraction and push to slowly stretch me and rotate FW. I began to worry that FW was in danger as his heart rate was dropping, but Dr. D was wonderfully calm. I even said “if you need to do a C-section, do it!” but she said “I don’t need to see him now. I do need to see him soon, but he is OK now” and quietly called some extra pediatricians in. Once Dr D had figured out he was the wrong way and stuck in my weird pelvis it was all quick quick. Another 30 mins or so of pushing, with her help, and my beautiful boy was born:

He was handed straight to me:

and taken off for some checks as he had been stuck for quite a while. All the checks were done in the room, and Wes got to help, although he mostly took photos:

FW had become Sam! The long pushing didn’t affect him at all. He took a while to cry which freaked me out (I got slightly panicked over that) but his apgar scores were 8 and 9 and his lungs, when he decided to use them, were certainly powerful enough 🙂

Sam was little enough that I only had a minor second degree tear which Dr D and an intern stitched up, while Sam was assessed. Sadly, as I was quite ill, I didn’t get Sam back after that 😦 But, that is not this story. This is the story of how the lovely Samuel Clarke Frazier came into the world at 16.32 on November 4th 2012, weighing 6 lb and 15 oz. A wonderful, wonderful day: