Originally Published- January 15th 10:11pm
I’d been having false and early labor contractions for about a week, maybe even over a week. My uterus felt like it was in a constant state of contraction for the last few days prior to labor starting. We saw Dale on Thursday for our 40 week appointment and she checked my progress. I was 50% effaced (The cervix had thinned out half way) and 1 cm dilated. Okay, something. She said that her checking me would probably leave me a little crampy and might even get things started sooner. I’d take it.
On Friday, I had contractions nearly all day, on and off. Nothing ever consistent, but definitely different. We went about the day normally. Mom, Sammy and MJ were visiting. We went for a walk in the light snow, we went to the mall where I bought a couple of cute items on sale at Baby Gap, we went grocery shopping and stocked up for a weekend of dinners and got ingredients for cheesecake. "Maybe it will be a birthday cake!“ We exclaimed. Over pizza and salad the contractions grew a bit. Mom and MJ worked on the cheesecake and Sammy and Matt looked for a movie to watch On-Demand. We ended up settling on The Kids Are Alright and sat down to watch.
I was pretty uncomfortable for most of the movie and found myself more focused on rolling on the ball, wandering the downstairs and breathing through some contractions that while still incosistent in their time, were definitely consistently more intense. At this point I had started timing them and they were coming every 5-7 minutes and then some not for 10+ minutes.
At about 10 we called the Doula and gave her the heads up and followed up that with a call to the midwife.
I tried to lay down and get some sleep, but the contractions were getting closer together. We called in the Doula at about 1AM and the midwife soon after, she arrived around 3:00.
A lot of the rest of the labor at home is a blur. Time really does fade in to the background and it is more about focusing on the process and just moving along with it in the way that makes sense for you.
I had thought at one point after reading the home-birth story of another woman that it would be nice to be able to have a house full of people, kind of like a birth party. When it came my turn, when I started laboring I wanted a quiet house with no distractions or anxieties to pull me away. I’m a consummate hostess and I would have worried about people waiting for me to give birth, people hearing me. When it was just Matt, my Mom and me it felt really right. Looking back, I didn’t "need” a doula.
I moved throughout the upstairs. I was on the ball a lot, I walked the stairs. I got in the bathtub to relax and close my eyes for a bit since I’d gotten no sleep. I was in a zone. When it came to morning we were able to send my Brother out to get a hose to fill the birth tub. Laboring in the tub was lovely. I was able to squat easily and it felt like a great position and like I was really doing some great work at open my cervix. My breathing was steady and productive, I was vocal in a way that felt very natural.
Here’s the thing about my labor. Things felt right. Things felt the way they were supposed to, sure they were a little slow in getting there, but I felt the contractions strengthen, I felt like I was making good movements, I felt pressure, I even at some points felt a little bit of pressure to push at some points. The house felt right, I felt like we were in a little cocoon and all was moving. I was so happy to be at home, I’m still happy I got to spend so much time at home.
But things weren’t right. When the midwife first arrived I was 4cm. Later in the morning, after laboring in the tub I think I was 7cm. But, my water hadn’t broken. After another couple of hours we made the decision to break my water. After it broke, my cervix was really only 5-6cm as the water bag had been pressing on the cervix. I labored with hard contractions for about 2 hours. It felt like transition. I walked the stairs, I walked all over the house, walking through contractions, doing lunges up the stairs, really giving in to the intense contractions pulsing through my body.
Then I laid down for about an hour, letting the contractions wash over me and being very vocal as I worked so hard to not work at all, to let my cervix do the work it needed to. Giving in to something has never been so hard.
Dale checked me. I was hoping for 7-8. I hadn’t changed at all. Even more importantly, the baby hadn’t moved any more, he (as we now know) was just sitting in my pelvis at 0/-1 station. I believe I let out a, “Fuck.” Dale was concerned.
“I think we need to make the transition to the hospital now and try some pain relief and see if we can get these contractions to do something more. But, Adrienne, I’m not promising that it will be enough. We have to seriously start thinking about the possibility of a c-section.” I will say now how wonderful Dale was. I’m so thankful to have worked with such an experienced midwife who throughout the entire process balanced so beautiful my desires, the baby’s health and my health.
I was ready to go, I knew it was the right thing to do. We moved quickly, grabbed the hospital bag I had packed just in case, throwing more items in as we thought of them. We caravaned the 10 minutes to the hospital Dale has privileges at. Since it was a non-emergent transfer I would still be in her care. I had about a 30 second moment in the car when I sobbed and said, “All this for nothing.” And then another contraction hit me and I got right in to the mindset I needed to be in, “I did everything I could have, I want this baby to be healthy.”
Oh, the hospital. By the time I got there my contractions had gotten even more intense and were reaching a point where I wasn’t sure how to keep just breathing through them and letting them take over. At this point I knew there was drug relief coming and that I needed it, so I just wanted it. NOW. I wasn’t so lucky. By the time they got me in a bed and had sent my blood off to the lab for testing needed prior to an epidural being given, the pressure I was feeling during each contraction was so intense it was making me shake and shiver in a way I had never experienced before. I couldn’t just let it be and take over, I had to push against it to manage it and it wasn’t easy. I wasn’t in a good mindset. I knew that the contractions weren’t doing the good work they were supposed to, I knew that I needed help and yet I still had to try and breath through them and be part of the process, a process that wasn’t working.
After another 2 hours the blood work was back and I could have the epidural. I had to sit up and stay still during 2-3 more of these contractions while they gave me the pain relief my body needed. I felt the electric shocks as the needles went in and then I lay down and the next contraction was a little easier to manage, and the next even more. Sweet relief. I could breath again. I could let go of some of the anxiety again. I could rest. At some point I started to feel them still in the side of my pelvis, so they topped me off. I slept. I hoped for a vaginal birth still. I envisioned it like I’d envisioned a water birth. In the back of my mind I prepared for a c-section.
Joni, the NP that was working with Dale in her midwifery training came in a few times and had me move to different sides, had me put on oxygen, watched the heart rate. In the moment, I wasn’t worried. Talking to my Mom after, she was worried. "Get this baby out,“ was what she was thinking.
It had been about 7 hours and Dale came in to check me. I was hoping for good news. It wasn’t. I hadn’t moved at all and neither had the baby. It was time to talk about a c-section a lot more seriously, and I was prepared. Dale mentioned that we could try a bit more pitocin for another hour if we wanted, but I could tell she wasn’t enthusiastic about what it would do. She talked about what it could mean if we waited longer, the baby being in potentially bad shape, and needing to be away from me for longer because of medical interventions. She explained the decelerations the heart was doing and the lack of good variation as my body contracted and the baby moved with it, or didn’t as the case currently was. She left to get the OB to look at the charts. Matt, my Mom and I talked. We all agreed, we needed to get this baby out. The OB agreed too.
Throughout so much of my pregnancy I was so nervous about having to have a c-section. I was so worried about what kind of mindset it would leave me in, about how disappointed I would be. In these moments, I was so far from any of those thoughts. I just wanted the baby to be healthy. I didn’t care if I didn’t get the birth I wanted if it meant the baby coming out healthy. Sure, epidurals, pitocin, c-sections aren’t the best way for a baby to arrive, but if it means the baby arriving safely then it is necessary. I hope in all I’ve talked about and written about when it comes to interventions I never made it seem that I thought they were bad, or something that shouldn’t exist. When they are necessary they are a blessing. Thank God for the advances medicine has made because it means I was able to have a healthy baby and birth, overall.
The OB talked about the small incision he makes so that when they take the baby out it feels more like the birth canal, something I wanted. He also talked about the stitching he does that makes VBAC much more likely. 85% success rate I believe was mentioned. I felt comfortable with him and comfortable with our choice.
I was rolled in to surgery and prepped. My arms strapped down, my belly washed (God the antiseptic stunk!), a large dose of pain meds administered and testing done to ensure I was numb, I couldn’t feel my legs. And then the shakes and shivers hit me. Dale talked with me gently, helped me envision my strong motherhood place, helped me go there to keep me calm and focused. My blood pressure was so low though and my anxiety level so high the shivering took over. They put up the blue curtain and Matt was allowed in to the room to sit next to me.
I didn’t feel a thing for a while, and then they said they were at the baby. I felt pressure as they moved him out of my body and then the sweet sounds of his cry. "What is it? What is it?” I asked through the shivers and then I heard someone say, “A boy.” "A boy, a boy" Matt and I looked at each other, we had known it. I started to cry, All I could see were Matt’s eyes welling. They had him on the tables behind us cleaning him off and getting him ready for us to meet him and all I could think about was, “That’s our baby boy and he’s finally here.”
Matt got up and trimmed the cord and then brought him over to me all swaddled up. "He looks like my Dad,“ I thought, or said, I can’t remember. I was shivering so hard I couldn’t focus on taking him in, but oh he was beautiful. And then, they went to put my uterus back in and the pain relief had worn off a little bit on my right side, and it hurt. A lot. There was yelling. They took the baby to weigh and measure him. Matt and I talked about how he looked like an Emilio. They brought him back with the news of his weight. 10lbs 6ozs. Wow. Dale and Matt tried to get me to focus on the baby as they maneuvered my uterus back inside me. The pain was intense and the pressure overwhelming. Then Matt had to leave so they could focus on finishing and get me cleaned up. I was left alone as they stitched me up and I tried to focus on breathing through the shivering. I wanted my baby back.
The anesthesiologist was very kind as I lay there alone and anxious. I was asking questions about his length and the time of birth and he was answering them for me.
After 3ish hours in recovery, at 6:30 that morning (Emilio was born at 2:02) I was finally wheeled in to my room and Emilio was right behind us. At 6:30 on Sunday I finally got to hold my sweet baby boy. I was so happy, I was so overwhelmed. The only thing I knew to do was feed him, so I brought him right to my breast and he latched. I felt good. I had a baby. Finally. And nothing else mattered, not how he got there in my arms, just that he was.