One week ago today I was being induced. It was an intense week, but it went by very quickly. Before the memories completely forsake me, I want to get them written down, mostly for my sake, although I know many others love to read birth stories and I’m willing to share mine.
Due to my gestational diabetes, I knew that we might induce labor early. The initial week mentioned was 34 which was scary, then it moved to 36 or 37. In the end I made it to what the midwives thought was 38 weeks, but ended up being 39 (which incidentally coincided exactly with what I’d thought was his due date all along – the correct week is n parentheses below).
At 36 (37) weeks I was dilated to a 2 and the midwife said he would probably be born by the 28th. We began to work towards an early delivery with homework: evening primrose oil, squats, walking, and sex. Our efforts led to two weeks of prodromal labor which is labor contractions that don’t proceed into active labor. It was painful, but exciting to know that the end was near.
At 37 (38) weeks, things had progressed a little and Elijah was looking good so we kept waiting. That weekend we had Nathan stay with my parents for an overnight so we could get one last “vacation” together and some rest. We ate at La Duni, Cheesecake Factory (a little GD diet cheat), California Pizza Kitchen, and Breadwinners. Yum! And we walked Northpark to get in my exercise. We watched a movie and tried to get sleep. It was a lovely weekend.
On Tuesday, March 25th I had a sonogram and the doctor saw some things that were concerning, but Elijah looked healthy. My glucose numbers were also completely out of control despite a recent increase in medication. It was obvious my body was not tolerating this pregnancy any longer. She said he needed to be out by the weekend so we began to prepare for an induction which we thought would be at my scheduled appointment on the 27th. I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want everyone watching and waiting. After that appointment my Mom, Grandma, Nathan and I went to Cafe Brazil in Deep Ellum to eat and talk about it. It felt surreal to be talking about the baby coming so very soon.
Wednesday was full of preparations. By bedtime we wanted the house in order and our bags packed. As was everything those last weeks of pregnancy, it was a challenge to complete due to how tired I was. I was averaging 4 hours of interrupted sleep every night for weeks. That night I got very sick to my stomach and ended up vomiting and only sleeping three hours. I don’t know if it was a virus or nerves, but Nathan ended up throwing up 4 times the next day and my mom got sick later that weekend so maybe it really was a virus.
We woke up early on Thursday and got Nathan ready to head out with Poppop. Then we got in the car and headed down to the birth center in heavy morning traffic for my 9:00 am appointment. I was still very sick to my stomach and was concerned they would delay the induction.
My test that morning showed that I was spilling protein in my urine for the first time. Another sign that Elijah needed to come out. Once I got settled in the exam room my nausea went away. I was so ready to just get started and I convinced the midwives that I could do it despite being sick. They weren’t hard to convince considering how many signs there were that we needed to induce.
I was given three options for induction: nipple stimulation to start contractions, a balloon catheter to open the cervix and start contractions, and cytotec. I was adamantly opposed to the medication because I am so sensitive to side effects so I chose the first two. We did 30 minutes of nipple stimulation and then they inserted the balloon catheter at 10:30 and sent us home to labor until 3 at which point they would break my membranes. I immediately started having crampy contractions and in the car on the way home and by 11:30 I was in early labor with regular contractions coming 5 minutes apart and then getting closer and closer.
I labored around the house and outside and in between Jason finished up little things around the house and did some final packing of bags and then the car. I also made myself eat some scrambled eggs which was very difficult because of the nausea which had come back and my general lack of appetite. Our Bradley classes taught us to relax completely during the contractions allowing my uterus alone to do the work. I tried many positions, but my favorite was to walk around outside and then lean fully on Jason, leaning forward, during contractions. They were definitely painful and required conscious relaxation, but I could definitely handle them. I kept track of my glucose numbers which were staying steady. The hours flew by. In what seemed like no time at all it was time to head back to the birth center. My mom was meeting us there and my friend Kimberly stopped at our house to follow us down there. I will always remember how comforting her hug was when she got to our house. As we drove away I started to cry because I knew that when we came back we’d have a baby with us.
Having contractions in the car while flying down the tollway was not comfortable. Even worse was having contractions while bumping along potholed streets in downtown. But we made it there and I was excited. And nervous. The closest thing I could relate to was how I’ve prepared for long overseas trips – I did my best to plan and prepare and then when the day came I just lived in the moment, barely thinking about what was coming next.
At the birth center, they checked my protein again and it was still spilling into my urine. And they checked my dilation. I was a 4 or 5 and my contractions were coming every three minutes. They took out the balloon catheter and then artificially broke my water. What felt like 12 gallons of amniotic fluid came out. The midwife was surprised at how much it was. She also guessed that this baby was bigger than the most recent estimate of 7 lbs. Immediately after getting the fluid out, I was dilated to a six. The midwife on call was alerted (my favorite midwife – Rachel) They checked his heartrate and then sent me outside to the park next door to walk for 30 minutes. I was told to walk quickly and not stop for contractions. I set out with Jason and we marched around that park. At first I though, “I can totally do this”. It was hard, but doable. And then it was suddenly not doable anymore.
About 10 minutes into walking the contractions changed dramatically. I could barely walk through them. The pain was intense and felt like it was taking over my body. The midwife intern checked me at 15 minutes and said I had to keep walking. I was not happy. And I’m pretty sure I scared some people at the park. The Birth center is right by Baylor Dallas and medical personnel walk through that park. Jason said one guy looked like he was about to stop and try to help me. I didn’t even notice. I couldn’t look up. I just kept focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I started to say things like: “I can’t do this” “I’m going to throw up” “I don’t want to do this”. Jason knew these were classic signs that I was entering transition. I asked him to get Kimberly to come help and she came and walked the last part with us. And as soon as my 30 minutes were up I charged inside. I have no memory of entering the birth room. I was just completely focused on finding the midwife intern, Tessa. A couple contractions hit while I was just standing in the front of the room and I felt like I couldn’t even stand up. And then I puked. And I started to feel like I needed to go the bathroom. I was obviously in transition. They got me to the bathroom and Tessa checked me and said I was an 8 and could get in the bath. Finally! But my midwife hadn’t shown up yet!!
The water felt so nice and hot. The pain was there, but the water really did help. At some point Rachel and the nurse got there. My memories are fuzzy about some of what happened, especially since I couldn’t see everything from where I was in the tub. They checked again after a few minutes in the tub and I only had a little bit of cervix left before full dilation. I also overheard Tessa saying that she’d told me I was an 8 so I wouldn’t freak out, but that I’d been more dilated than that when I came in. This means that between 3:30 and 4:30 I had gone from a 4 to almost a 10. No wonder I had been so overwhelmed while out walking. Labor pretty much hit me like a Mack truck.
Unfortunately as I was starting to get ready to push in the tub, Elijah’s heartrate went up indicating we were overheating. I had to get out of the tub and I was completely overwhelmed at this point and didn’t know what to do. They wanted me to use the bedframe to squat and push, but I really hated the squatting position and didn’t want to. I tried it, but I was still damp from the tub and couldn’t grip well and I was freaking out.
At that point I was still aware enough of what was going on to know I needed to say something. In reading Ina May’s book I’d found that women who keep back from expressing fears in labor can actually prolong their labor. I knew I needed to tell everyone I was afraid of pushing. I’d been afraid of it all through pregnancy. I’m not a woman who enjoys physical exertion and I wasn’t sure what it would be like. I think expressing that fear was helpful, both for me, and also to let everyone know that I needed encouragement.
After a failed attempt at squatting I got in the bed and tried a few positions – side lying, all fours, and then eventually just reclined back on pillows. I was surrounded by the nurse, Tessa the midwife intern, Rachel the midwife, Jason, my friend Kimberly, and my mom. The pain was excruciating. I have had a prolonged gallstone attack and a tooth abscess and wondered how labor would compare. Now I know there is no comparison. It was pain like I’d never felt before and I hated it. I now know why, if you have no convictions about the dangers of epidurals and are in an environment where they are readily available, you would definitely get one. I mean, duh. Because you will do anything to escape that pain. But, alas, for me it wasn’t an option and of course I’m glad I did it naturally as I planned because I do have strong convictions about it.
They kept encouraging me to push because they knew that last bit of cervix would move and then he could come. Looking back, though, I think I was told to push too soon. Nobody could have known that but me, and I was too far gone in pain to think it through, but I think if I’d waited for that undeniable urge to push I could have saved myself a lot of wasted effort.
Side Note: This type of labor was not made for introverts. I like to have time to think about things and reframe my perspective. There was no time for that because the contractions were coming one right after the other with just 30-60 seconds between and some were double peaking. There was no time for Bradley relaxation or controlled breathing. And certainly no time to just think about things for a minute.
When the pain would take over, I had a tendency to close my eyes and Tessa kept telling me to open them and stay focused outward. Then she’d hold my gaze through the contraction. It was so helpful as closing them just made me focus on the pain.
They finally convinced me to try squatting again as they planned to manually move that last bit of cervix. I got in position and tried for a few contractions, but at this point I had barely slept for days, barely eaten since the day before, and was physically unable to support myself on the post. So I headed back to bed.
It was also around this point that I asked for something (I can’t remember what) and Jason headed off to get it as he’d done a few times. I remember yelling, “No! Not you! Never you! You never leave me!!” Ha! He’s so used to running and getting things for me he’d forget that wasn’t his job in labor. I also remember at this point that they made me drink some Dr. Pepper for quick energy even though I did not want it. I was afraid of the sugar which I’d carefully been controlling and they all laughed and said, “It doesn’t matter at this point!”
I ended up pushing for about 2 hours off and on. Towards the end, though, I felt like I finally got the hang of it. They all were seeing his head coming for what seemed like forever and I felt like they were lying to me. I even asked Kim if she was lying to me at one point and she very seriously told me she’d never lie to me. Jason was supporting my right leg and the nurse held me left. The midwives were in front and Kimberly stood taking pictures while Mom stood in the background.
I remember at one point hearing pop music drifting in from outside the open window. I was thinking, “I can’t believe I’m giving birth to pop music.” It was Rhianna. So annoying. I asked Kimberly where in the world that music was coming from and she promptly went outside and informed the bodybuilders next door that a woman was giving birth and could they please keep it down. I’m pretty sure it was about that point I started screaming and I bet they could hear me.
I also remember looking at Jason during one of the few longer breaks and saying that it reminded me of the hike in Colorado. He knew what I meant, but I explained for everyone else. There is this hike we’ve done twice and both times I’ve gotten to a point on the way out where I feel that I cannot go on and sit down saying just that. One of the times Jason said, “Well, what are you going to do? Just stay here and die? Or slide down the mountain on your butt?” Everyone laughed at that story and it did relieve some tension and give me some perspective on what was happening and how I’ve handled difficult physical challenges in the past.
When Jason got excited because he could see his head I finally knew that he really was coming. That gave me energy and I remember talking to myself saying, “I can do this, I’m going to do this.” Everyone says I seemed so calm. I did NOT feel calm on the inside. I was frantically trying to figure out what to do to get this over with. I didn’t begin to get excited with everyone until I could feel the famous “ring of fire” because I knew that meant the end was near and frankly that burning sensation was much preferable to the bone breaking pain of a contraction. After what seemed like forever, they finally said his head was born. Then things got very scary for the longest minute or two of my life.
To be continued…