Our Birth Story (part two)

warning: I don't think I get too graphic, but this is the story of Jack's birth. You were warned.

Click here to read part one of our birth story.

We got checked in at the hospital, and quickly learned that L&D was busy that day! We didn't see our doctor until 11:00 a.m., and at that point we all agreed to let labor progress on its own for the next few hours. Dr. Carr told us she'd be back in 2-3 hours to check my cervix. My contractions were still very manageable, and I was excited and optimistic. John and Sara and I were having fun, doing laps in the hallways and hanging out in the room, working through contractions as they came. By 1:30 p.m., things were getting more intense – I was starting to have trouble talking through contractions, and I had to stop if we were walking and do hula hips. I found that leaning up against someone (think slow dancing in middle school) or against the wall and sticking my butt out felt really good. I also started doing some birth singing – low “oh's” and moans – and picturing my cervix opening. It was incredible to me how well the things I'd learned in yoga were working to help keep things manageable. I guess maybe I had hoped they would work, and it was awesome to see that they actually did!

Our nurses were amazing throughout the whole process. They were so receptive and accommodating to our wishes. We talked about our plans to have a “normal” birth, and all of our nurses were completely supportive of it. Instead of being continually monitored, the nurses would let me sit on the birthing ball and hold the monitor on my belly for 15 minutes. They would just sit with me and help me work through contractions. It was awesome and so encouraging.

At 1:30, Dr. Carr came to check our progress. I was only dilated to 4 cm, but the baby was moving down and the cervix was thinning out. We made a plan to dilate to 5-6 cm by 6 p.m. It sounds funny now, but I really feel like the baby needed to have these little deadlines or goals to reach. For the next four hours, we continued to walk, do hula hips, and sit on the birthing ball as the contractions became longer and closer together. I focused on each one as it came. John held my hand and rubbed my back. We listened to the yoga music. Things were still relatively manageable.

Dr. Carr came back at 5pm and checked – I was at 5 cm. We'd reached our goal, so we decided to strip the membranes again, and then to continue to labor without intervention. By now, the contractions were becoming very intense. At some point, I got into the tub and thought I had gone to heaven. The warm water felt so good, and it really helped ease the pain of the contractions. I was in the tub three times during labor, and each time felt better than the time before!

By 9pm, I was dilated to 6 cm and I was feeling very tired and nauseous. I was beginning to have trouble staying in the moment. By that I mean that I was anticipating each upcoming contraction before it even started. I would be at the start of one contraction and be worried about how much the next one was going to hurt. John and Sara did a great job of helping me stay focused on each one as it came. After each contraction I would think to myself, “I never have to do that one again!” But about this time, I really started to feel physically exhausted. I hadn't eaten much, and I hadn't really slept much in the last few days. My body was drained. I felt nervous that if I didn't get some sleep that I would be too exhausted to push the baby out, and it seemed like there was still a lot of work to do. I asked what the options were for sleep, and decided to try a half dose of dilaudid. Twenty minutes later I asked for the second half, and was finally able to get some sleep. (Sara wrote in her notes: “sleeping at 9:30 – snoring, so resting well.”)

I think I slept for about 30 minutes before Dr. Carr came back in to check on us. The dilaudid wasn't really doing anything for the pain – it just made me feel disconnected and loopy – and at that point, I asked about an epidural. Prior to labor, I was planning on giving it my best effort to get through without one. But I also knew that it would be okay if I changed my mind. At this point in the labor, I really felt like I needed some sleep so I could be rested and ready to push when the time came. John and I agreed that it was a good option, so the nurses began the process of pumping me up with fluids. My water broke on its own at 10:30, and the contractions intensified greatly. I received an epidural at 11:30. The anesthesiologist was so good – I didn't even feel the lidocaine going in. The dreaded pitocin was also started at this point at a low dose to ensure that I would continue to progress even with the epidural.

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur to me. I was able to sleep a little bit between contractions, but the baby's heart rate took a few dips and I had to change positions to get it back up. An internal catheter was inserted to measure my contractions because the external monitor hadn't picked up a single one since we'd been there. It was kind of fun to watch each contraction happen on the screen. Somehow, I found the little paper readout soothing -- like proof that I really was working hard to get this baby out.

I'm not sure if it was the exhaustion of labor or what, but every time I would fall asleep, I would forget to breathe. Then my oxygen levels would dive and an alarm would sound. Whoever was in the room with me (mom, John, Sara) would remind me to breathe and the alarm would turn off. It was quite the cycle. The epidural made me really itchy and pukey (is that a word?) so I also got some Benedryl and Zofran. I guess I was way past the “natural” childbirth I had pictured for the last nine months. To be honest, even in the moments of making these decisions that weren't part of my "ideal" birth plan, I knew they were the right choices. I was doing what I needed to do to get the baby out.

So, things weren't going according to my original plans, but the baby was doing well, and I was doing well, and that's where my focus was. I managed to get a little sleep, and soon enough it was time to push...

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