First there was the trip to the ER during the winter storm while my husband was in North Carolina.
Then there was the labor, plane delays, and watching my blood pressure jump up again.
After speaking to my midwife, we decided it would be best if I birthed at the hospital. So I packed my tooth-brush, a sleeper for the baby, and the blood pressure monitor, hoping that through some miracle, I could return home to birth. I found someone to watch our children and headed to the airport to pick up my husband.
As soon as I picked up my husband, I expected labor to return full force and for my blood pressure to come back down. It’d been 16 hours since my contractions started and 13 hours since my water broke.
My husband drove us to the hospital and I checked my blood pressure, which was normal. Ugh! Was all of this down to the stress of the plane drama and fear of having my baby without my husband?!
Contractions began to feel more intense, and we wondered if we should go back home. But we’d come this far and knew it was wise to be assessed.
When we walked into the hospital, we were warmly greeted by an ER person who checked us in. I learned that I’d see the doctor on call, rather than the OB I was familiar with. Fortunately, the nurse was wonderful! She was the mother of 8 and said she always wanted to be a midwife.
I gave her the brief birth plan that I put together in about a minute, and she immediately became our advocate and explained that the Pediatrician on call was very accommodating to naturalist parents. After confirming that my water had broken, we learned that I was only 3 cm. dilated.
They wanted to give me antibiotics but I asked to wait a little longer, since I wanted to believe that with my husband home, we would have a baby within the next few hours.
The doctor told her that I could do whatever I wanted–walk around, call in a doula, etc. I was excited, especially since so many say that women aren’t to walk around once their waters break. I texted my friend to see if she was willing to come down to doula with me. My thought was that with her help, we would have a baby before morning!
By the time they admitted me, the contractions were picking up but I noticed they weren’t growing in intensity, and I felt tired. Once we got into a room, the nurse agreed that I needed to get some sleep and could talk to the doctor about pitocin in the morning.
The last thing I remember was looking at the clock and reading 11:00pm, which reminded me of a few nights before and our trip to the ER.
At 11:20pm, I was jarred out of sleep with contractions! Labor was back in full force! Even through the tiredness, the nurse and I cheered.
My husband was asleep and would sleep the rest of the night. I didn’t wake him because I knew he’d had a hard trip and the nurse and I were handling things well. I breathed through the contractions, asked for assistance to visit the bathroom–everything I could remember from my other births. Contractions were strong and I said she could cancel pitocin. She agreed.
After helping me back to my bed, she checked me again, and I was only 4 cm. At this point it’d been 24 hours since contractions started.
The exhaustion was setting in more. The pain wasn’t intolerable, but I was mentally and physically exhausted. I asked again about the anesthesia, in case I needed it, and she said he already left and wouldn’t be back until 6:30 but that I was doing well.
And then things turned.
Interrupting my calm silence, she ran into the room with bags of fluids saying, “I know you didn’t want this, but you’re not having a c-section tonight!”
What?!? What happened?
“Baby had 3 minute decels.”
I noticed that around that time, I felt more water coming out and wondered if that was affecting her. I trusted her judgment, especially since this nurse had already been such a strong advocate for me in ways that would make this story so long, it’d require parts 6 and 7!
The baby liked the extra fluids, and I liked seeing her heart rate stable.
While the pain was still tolerable, the exhaustion was getting worse. But I was hanging in there, breathing through contractions and focusing on relaxing.
The machine started beeping. What now! Is the baby having decels again?
My blood pressure was acting up.
After this, I had to stay on my left side. While I was concerned, I was happy to stay down since I was growing more tired.
At 7ish, I was 5 cm. dilated, and the baby was still at a zero station. My husband woke up just as the nurse walked in, asking if I wanted to speak to the anesthesiologist about my options.
By this point, my head was throbbing, everything was echoing, I was exhausted, and they were keeping a close eye on my blood pressure.
The anesthesiologist explained the epidural. The nurse asked if I was sure I wanted to do this, and all I could get out was a weak, “I’m so tired.”
While the physical pain of the contractions was still manageable, everything that had happened during the past 3 days had taken its toll on me mentally and emotionally.
I recalled stories of women who passed out or who had shaking from low blood pressure after getting an epidural, so I asked the nurse if she would stay with me for a few minutes in case my blood pressure dropped.
From behind, I heard another calm, sweet voice say, “We want your blood pressure to drop.” I also noticed the nurse looking at me and then back at the monitor and saying that it would help.
Sure enough, whereas women with normal blood pressure may experience a dangerous drop, mine went back to normal. My husband left to get our oldest daughter, and I slept for a good two hours.
Two hours I needed! I woke up feeling like a new woman. The nurse checked me, and I was only 5 1/2 cm. dilated and baby was still at zero station.
And so the day continued. Fortunately, as they continued the fluids, her heart rate stayed stable, and my blood pressure remained steady too.
36 hours into labor, I was growing more concerned. My 2nd labor was a solid 36 hours but at least he was born at 36 hours.
I asked to speak to a doctor about pitocin. I hadn’t had pitocin since my first birth, a birth in which the baby needed to be resuscitated.
The OB I saw during the pregnancy showed up (YAY!), and he understood my concerns. His thought was that he would be happy for me to continue laboring for hours and hours if my water hadn’t broken. Since we had decels and my high blood pressure, they were already watching us closely. He explained that the antibiotics I had weren’t the greatest for preventing infection and after having five vaginal births, he would hate for me to start having c-sections now.
Feeling that the pitocin was the “lesser of two evils” and since we were both stable, it was a good time to start it at the smallest dose.
An hour after pitocin was started, I was 7 cm. dilated, she was coming down, and the nurse said some women just need a whiff and that she wasn’t going to increase the dose.
Less than 30 minutes later, I pushed the button telling her she needed to get in there.
Here’s the cool part! I have long labors (not usually THIS long), but I push really, really, really fast! Three minutes (such as my water birth) or less. I usually only push for around a minute. In the past, I was told things as, “Well you can’t push until the doctor gets here,” or “You can’t push until I check you.”
But what did these ladies do when I told them I push quickly?
They rushed into the room to get ready! They called the doctor, who came straight over. When a nurse asked another nurse, “Gloves? What are you doing?!?” She replied, “I’m getting ready to catch a baby, if I have to!”
They listened! They listened to me! I’ve often felt that the ideal birth isn’t only about having a healthy mama and baby but also being respectful of a birthing woman’s feelings and concerns. Even though my labor hadn’t gone according to plan, these nurses were turning what could’ve been a scary situation into a positive birth experience.
The nurse checked me and I heard the unimaginable:
“Oh yeah, you’re complete but that’s not a head.”
“What do you mean it’s not a head?! Is it a foot? Is the baby breech? Am I going to have to have a c-section now? NOW?”
“It’s a bulging bag of waters.”
“But the baby is head down?”
“Oh yeah. It’s good.”
This nurse became one of my favorites!
It seemed a piece of the sac had slipped under the baby’s head, which gave the baby some protection against infection. How awesome is that!?
So the doctor walked in and said, “You can go ahead and push,” with a tone like they were just there waiting on me to do my thing. They were there to assist me! I was birthing the baby and they were there to help me do it!
And in less than a minute, she was born!
We asked that she be given to me immediately but they went a step further and unbuttoned my gown so we could have skin to skin contact. They did her apgar scores and everything right there on my chest. She was never taken away until they weighed her and that was only because they couldn’t move the scales, and my husband went with her.
So the baby was born! With everything that had happened, we were thankful for a safe arrival!
And is this the end of the story? Nope! There’s more!
Onto Part 4!
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