With all of this “taking it easy” that I need to do to stave off a complete meltdown in these final weeks of pregnancy (7 weeks for perfect timing, 5 weeks for my preference, and 9 weeks based off of past experience), I have had some time to reflect on my last birth experience. Sharing your birth story seems to be all the rage in mommy blogs, forums, and other birth-related venues so I thought I would give it a try. The moral of my story is that when people tell you that you can’t plan/expect anything in birth, you should listen. It is great to have an idea and a plan (it’s good to feel you have control over certain aspects), but the reality is that you really never know what’s going to happen when it’s time for your little one to emerge from your nether regions.
Let me first start by sharing my “plan.” Before I even became pregnant the first time, I knew that the hospital experience was not for me. I studied human development, families, and public health in college so I had a pretty good theoretical feel for the normalcy of child-bearing. Being pregnant and delivering a baby is not a medical problem that requires surgeons, it is a normal part of the human experience that requires knowledgeable supportive others. This view of birth certainly did not cause me to look outside the medical profession because, as I said before, you never know what to expect. I knew I needed people with proper training and continuing education to monitor my pregnancy. I REALLY wanted to do a home birth, but insurance does not pay for that so I opted to utilize the PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Center here in Eugene, OR. This practice consists of a number of midwives and medical assistants who also confer with obstetricians, if necessary. This was the perfect option for me because I already had great trust in the PeaceHealth company and I would be able to deliver my baby in a birth center rather than a hospital.
I went to the orientation and watched the video from the 1980s (no, really) about the differences between mainstream medical care and midwifery. I watched The Business of Being Born on my own time and read the Lamaze guide book given to me by the birth center staff. Needless to say, I also versed myself in much research on pregnancy and childbirth. I was not going to be in the hospital with an obstetrician that wanted nothing more than to schedule my C-section in time to tee off. I didn’t bother to tour the hospital because there was obviously no need, and I attended a (as I discovered later) completely useless child-birth course. Side story: we waited until the last minute to register, the instructor was weeks from delivery and had only one class left; a 3-hour night class that was supposed to cover the same amount of information as the traditional 5-week course. Seriously? This is what I remember from that class: everyone was having a boy, we had the typical one person who had a story or question for EVERYTHING, I would lose my mucus plug and have “bloody show,” my partner needed to be there to support me, and my body would know what to do. Clearly, that is excellent prep for child birth.
My pregnancy was, as I expected, completely normal. There was quite literally nothing abnormal that occurred except contracting a cold that developed into a sinus infection that kept me out of work for a month. As we got nearer my due date, I clearly got excited for labor to begin. We hit my due date. Nothing. OK, no worries, due dates are just guesses anyway. A week later, still nothing and the midwives tell me that I need to be scheduled for an induction. WTF!?! I do not think I have ever been so scared of something in my life. It was really out of my hands because that was the policy and I had agreed to it at the beginning of my care. The midwife did her best to talk me through it, but I was a mess and if she had any stellar words of wisdom or comfort, I did not experience them. However, there was still hope that I would go into labor naturally before I was scheduled for induction. Psyche! (Yes, I am a child of the 90s, and I apologize).
So now we are at go time, and I am FREAKED out. My husband, my mother, and I head to the hospital for my scheduled induction and all the while I am terrified because I have quite literally no idea what to expect. Now, my mother could have told me, but I tend to keep things to myself and never bothered to ask. She is also quite great at minding her own business when it comes to my life, though this probably would have been a good time for her to be a busy body. Anyway, we get to the hospital at around 8 p.m. because the preferred method is to induce the expectant mother, give her a sleeping pill, and let her wake up in labor. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, let me remind you how incredibly scared out of my gourde I am. The first nurse I see over the following hours comes in to talk to me and, being excellent at what she does, can instantly tell that things are not well with me. She inquires and I breakdown in tears and tell her how terrified I am and that I have no idea what to expect and I want to be anywhere but there at that moment. She assures me that they will not do anything that I do not want and offers to get the midwife on-call on the phone for me.
By some stroke of luck, my favorite midwife happens to be on-call and she somehow talks me through the process and gets me calmed down. I have no recollection of what she said other than she would be in my room as soon as she finished up with another patient. After I get off the phone, I tell the nurse that I’m doing alright and she asks if I’d had anything to eat. Well, no. I’m in a hospital with a kitchen, right? Having never been hospitalized before, I did not realize that the kitchen has hours it does not operate (funny that I thought this, its not a hotel) so I had to send my husband out for some food. What do I order, you ask? A foot-long veggie sub from Subway, of course. We’ll return to this. So my mom and I hang out while Darren retrieves food for the three of us and the nurses get things prepared. Darren returns, we feast and then it is time for the induction. Since I’m with the birth center we use misoprostol instead of Pitocin. A staff member (I cannot remember who) uses a tool to insert misoprostol pills/suppositories next to my cervix. This is when I am supposed to take the sleeping pill, but for some reason I cannot remember, we wait a bit. It is quite a good thing that we did because within 20 minutes I had gone into labor.
Boo!!! I forgot to mention that it is now after midnight and I have been up all flipping day because I was supposed to go to sleep before the big game started. This is about the time that I, and everyone in the room, realize that my childbirth class did not help me one single iota. Things happened swiftly and, as I have mentioned a few times thus far, I was scared. Contractions are super painful (do not ask me to describe them, I have no words) and there is no escape. I think I was hyperventilating at one point and yelling (not screaming, mind you) so my midwife finally tells me to breath “low and slow.” Best instructions, EVER. Do this and you can get through the pain. I’m pretty focused on what I’m doing, but I can hear my mother and my midwife discussing my sub-par child-birth class. I finally decide to get in the “whirlpool,” which is not very big so it wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but it did help to relax me. Now, this is when the foot-long veggie sub returns to the story. Guess what? Sometimes, you get nauseous during labor. I threw up the entire sub. I think that was the worst part of the whole experience. I know it’s hard to believe because I still haven’t pushed a baby out of my vagina, but it was horrendous. My husband even sat by my side the entire time and endured it with me without even an inkling of disgust.
Finally, I come to the conclusion that I am exhausted and need to rest. The orders sent over to the hospital allowed for me to receive some Fentanyl so I could get a break. Don’t be fooled, this does not knock you out, but does feel almost like a sleepy drunk feeling. I was able to sort of doze off between contractions, which was pretty great. This was short-lived because when my water broke, it was game on and there was not going to be any dozing. The contractions before the water breaking are pretty painful and intense, but nothing compared to after the water breaks. This is where I experienced my first out-of-body experience. No, I didn’t feel like I was floating above myself and watching things happen, but I was somewhere else in my mind while still breathing “low and slow.” Eventually, my midwife had to break my trance-like state and get me on the road to pushing this baby out. Now we are really getting to the good part.
A lot of women are able to tell you how long they were in labor and how long they pushed. I am not one of those women. I have no idea how long I pushed and I am OK with that. The pushing was going great, but at first I wasn’t pushing super effectively because I didn’t know what I was doing. I did get it under control though. It was a lot of hard work, for everyone. Sometimes people helped hold my legs for leverage and other times I was on my hands and knees, but then it got scary. There came a point when Nevan’s heart rate would drop with each contraction and there was talk of a C-section. I hear that once this little word was uttered, I put on my game face and really went for it. I did need some help so the OB on-call got out the suction and got to work. To this day I still have this image of him reefing with both hands on Nevan’s head while one leg is on the floor and the other is up on the foot of the bed pushing with all his might. I am 100% certain he did not do that, but that’s what I remember! With our incredible teamwork, Nevan came bursting forth into the world. Bummer alert: he was not breathing. The doctor, midwife, nurse and my husband all rushed behind a curtain to do whatever it was they were doing to get him breathing. I was so wiped out and delirious that I wasn’t even worried about it. Then, I suddenly heard his little cries. Hurray!!
Nevan was brought back to me and I held him for the first time and we nursed. So sweet 🙂 At some point during all of this the nurses began fundal pressure (I could not find a good link for this. This is done to help deliver the placenta and aid in the contraction of your uterus). Fundal pressure is exceedingly painful and almost worse than labor because there is no longer adrenaline rushing through your veins. The next thing that is supposed to happen is that you need to go pee. This is because your bladder is super full having not peed the entire time you are in labor (at least that was my experience). By this point, I had a few visitors so the nurse just let me be so we could spend some time together. Eventually, she returned and took me in to the bathroom. I relieved myself and then she had me sit on a stool in the shower to get all rinsed off from the night’s crazy events. As we are doing this, I start getting the feeling that it looks like someone has dismembered a body in the tub. I mention to my nurse that it’s starting to look like a particularly gory episode of CSI, and she concurs. Back to my bed and time to fetch my doctor.
Best news ever: you are hemorrhaging. Do you know what that calls for? That’s right: more fundal pressure! Apparently, because I sat so long with a full bladder, my uterus was pushed off to one side and so didn’t start to heal correctly. This new round of fundal pressure occurred at various intervals to help reduce the size of my uterus and pass the most enormous blood clots I have ever seen. Literally the size of melons. I was also told that if the fundal pressure didn’t work, I would need to have my uterus cauterized. Oh yes, my uterus would have to be burned to stop the bleeding. Lucky for me, this did not happen and I gladly accepted the squeezing and pushing on my tender uterus until the clots reduced to a size of much smaller fruits.
Eventually, we moved to the recovery portion of the labor and delivery wing. Next problem: Nevan is not peeing. The only explanation that anyone seems to be able to come up with is that he is not getting enough from nursing. At one point, a nurse comes in and says to me, “the pediatrician wants to try supplementing him.” I hear, “we want you to give him formula.” I again note that this well-trained nurse sees the panic in my face and tells me that they have access to banked breast milk so formula is unnecessary. Oh thank goodness. We do the supplementation and Nevan still isn’t peeing. After two days in the hospital, the pediatrician releases us and asks that we pay him a visit the next day if Nevan still hasn’t peed. Lo and behold, that night, in the comfort of our own home, Nevan pees. That was the last time I was excited to see a wet diaper.
So here we are at the conclusion of my birth story. Everyone is fine and there are no complicating issues. It was one incredibly wild ride and I sincerely hope that it does not happen again. I am again working with the same midwives and planning for the same natural outcome at the birth center. This time, however, I am not terrified of the possibility of induction because I’ve done it and I was in a place where all the necessary interventions could be taken to keep my son and myself alive. This hospital was nothing like I had heard: no one forced me to receive interventions for myself or my son, my son only left my sight when he wasn’t breathing and my husband was there, breastfeeding was the number one priority following birth, and I was treated with nothing but the utmost care and respect. It was not my ideal version of birth, but it was still a positive experience. Here’s to hoping this next one doesn’t need any nudging to get out of me!