Birth Stories: Laura
To help fill in posts while I recover and adjust to life with a newborn AND a toddler I have some friends who have agreed to share their birth stories. Laura of the adorable And Two Became One kindly volunteered to be included in my week and I’m thrilled she did. Although I should tell you, if my new bebeh is already giving you baby fever, DO NOT click over to her blog and check out pictures of Shelby. Fair warning: it’s a birth story so it’s rated PG-13. And don’t get all shocked if someone says “vagina”.
I really resisted getting Pitocin, mostly because I had heard so many horror stories about how it made your contractions really strong and hard to endure without an epidual. Also, that it had the potential to lead to a C-section, which I did not want. But my water had been broken for about 20 hours and I wasn’t making much progress. The fear was infection setting in, which really could have led to a C-section, so I caved and was okay with it.
I was relegated to my labor and delivery suite but not to the bed. In fact, I didn’t even get in bed. We realized pretty quickly that every time I even leaned over the bed or sat down on the birth ball my contractions would space out, so I mostly stayed on my feet swaying back and forth. I passed several hours like that, occasionally hopping online to pass the time. My contractions were really tolerable and I was beginning to think that a natural birth might just have been possible!
Then all of a sudden while Chris and I were playing a game of gin I felt something pop and drop, and the result was a huge burst of pain. Turns out it was the rest of my amniotic sac rupturing. I guess originally only the outer layer had been punctured. Now the whole sac was completely broken and Shelby had dropped a little bit. The contractions that followed were out of this world. I didn’t hold out long before I asked for the epidural. There was NO WAY I could’ve birthed her naturally based on the pain I experienced. Hats off to moms who go all the way. You are amazing.
Fortunately, the anesthesiologist came quickly and got the epidural in without any trouble. It was hard to hold still, in the perfect rounded position, but I did it. The relief was almost immediate, although it took a good 15-20 minutes for it to take full effect. When it did, my legs felt drunk. Seriously! You know that warm sense of well being you get when you drink? That’s exactly how I felt from the waist down.
They finally did a cervical check on me after the epidual was in. They had wanted to minimize those since my water was broken. I was at 5cm, so I had made some progress on my own prior to the epidural, but I still had a long way to go. It was about 10pm by this point and I was tired, but I knew there was likely little rest to be had.
I was now confined to bed, lying basically on my back, although I managed to lay on my sides some, but it was really hard to move even a tiny bit on my own because I was so numb. My doula was wonderful and helped me all through the night as I needed to change position and drink fluids. Chris was great, too, although he passed out for a while. At least one of us got some sleep! I can’t say I really got any, but I at least rested.
Suddenly, around 3:30 or 4am I had to vomit. It came out of nowhere, and my doula found me a bucket just in time. I hate throwing up and, believe it or not, this was the first time I had to my entire pregnancy. After that I started feeling some pressure in the lower right part of my back that persisted. It turns out I was fully dilated! The nurse on call had me do a practice push just to make sure I was really ready and then she went to call my midwife, who I was told would be there by 5:30am. This gave me a chance to rest some more; I actually fell into a light sleep for a while, which was fabulous.
My midwife was supposed to arrive by 5:30am, but she didn’t actually get there until a little after 6:30am. I had gotten a nice doze in, which I needed. When I came to and realized how much time had passed, I knew we needed to get things going. When the nurse came in, we told her we were ready. I had Simone, our doula, wake Chris up; he had been out like a light. He was totally startled and then, when he realized it was time, he jumped up and sprang into action, albeit a little dazed.
Pushing at first wasn’t that bad. I was pretty groggy, so for the first 20 minutes or so it was more like a warm-up. My contractions, which had been about 2 minutes apart, started to space out a bit, so I got some good rest in between. I was even making jokes and laughing. But as time went on, the pushing got serious. My contractions got longer, and my push cycles also got longer and more intense. Simone would hold one of my legs while Chris held the other. My midwife and the nurse would coach me. Oddly enough, it didn’t even phase me that all these eyeballs were staring at my vagina.
I tried a few different positions, but what worked best for me was to lay on my back and put my feet together, kind of like butterfly position when you’re sitting on the floor. Then, with help from my team, I would curl my neck up, pull my feet in, and push like hell. I would get one short cycle in of about five counts, take a breath, do a second cycle of 10 counts, take two breaths, do a third 10-count cycle and a fourth 10-count cycle after another desperate breath. Sometimes I even did another 5-count cycle or two. It was exhausting.
I lost track of how much time passed. I became immersed in the cycle of pushing and the relief of relaxing in between. I had no idea I had been pushing for hours until I realized how tired I was. I had five people (the charge nurse had joined the team) staring at my vagina and yelling, “Push harder! Come on, you can do it! Push! You’re so close! PUSH!”
Let me tell you, I WAS pushing! I was giving it all I had, but I was running out of steam. At least a half hour went by where my team was telling me how close I was. I wanted to swear at them and kick them in the face. I know they meant well, but I could NOT take it anymore! As long as I kept having to push, I was clearly NOT close as far as I was concerned, no matter what they thought. I needed to rest. They finally did let me skip a couple of contractions to get my strength back.
One of the reasons pushing ended up taking 3-3/4 hours is because I developed an infection as a result of my water having been broken for so long. The infection essentially made my uterus less effective and contributed to my exhaustion because I had started running a fever, which I didn’t even know. After being told I was so close for so long, I finally got Shelby’s head around my pubic bone and in mere seconds she slid right out! They put her on my chest right away and I didn’t even know what to think. It was so surreal! She was all slimy and goopy and yet amazingly sticky. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see her very well because she was right under my nose.
Right away my midwife and Suzanne, the nurse who actually had been a very effective coach as much as I had wanted to hurt her, went to work on getting me to deliver the placenta. It was not a pleasant experience. They started massaging my uterus from the outside, and I don’t mean that in a nice, relaxing way. I mean they went to town on it as if they were kneading bread dough. Hello, this was my body and it HURT LIKE HELL! I yelled out loud in agony as they did it over and over again.
It was only at this point that I was told they needed to get the placenta out so they could work on getting my bleeding to stop because it was at a somewhat dangerous level. So I focused on Shelby, but even that was hard. I ended up giving her to Chris after the cord stopped pulsing and he cut it. I had wanted to have lots of skin-to-skin contact with her, but I couldn’t tolerate it with the action going on to my body below.
Even after I delivered my placenta the rough massaging continued as Suzanne tried to staunch the blood flow. I had torn a little, so Cyndi worked on stitching me up. Fortunately, I didn’t feel the tear happen or the stitching that followed. I did, however, want to absolutely throw Suzanne against a wall and pummel her. I was in excruciating pain from the uterus massage. I understood it was necessary, but that didn’t mean I liked it. Chris said he could barely watch it happening to me because my reaction was so extreme. I thought I had passed through the worst, that being the pushing, but the worst was by far the post-Shelby activity.
They finally got me to a point where they were fairly certain I would recover okay, but there was talk of me possibly ending up in the OR depending on how well and how quickly they could get my uterus to contract. It wasn’t doing it on its own they way it should have because of the infection, so they had to put me on meds to get things going. I’m just glad I had Shelby as a distraction, although I still couldn’t focus on her very well.
It took quite a bit of time for me to get cleaned up. Chris packed up our things and transferred them to the post-partum room while I was tended to. I finally got the green light to move to a wheelchair, which was quite difficult to do. I could still barely feel my legs, so it was like standing on jello. Plus, I was wearing the equivalent of a diaper; it was super awkward. I got wheeled to our post-partum room to begin life as a new mom.
Random details I forgot to include:
I lost about 650 (mL? not sure the unit of measurement) of blood during and after labor. Apparently the average woman loses 200-300 during a vaginal birth. That’s why the nurses were so worried about me. They actually mentioned that if they couldn’t get the bleeding under control there was a chance I’d end up in the OR for a hysterectomy. When they said that, a few thoughts raced through my head:
- I just had my first kid; that means I wouldn’t be able to have more!
- Holy crap – that’s serious surgery!
- I have to endure the external uterine massage no matter how painful it is
Once labor was over and I had been cleaned up, I thought I was in a different hospital room. For some reason the room I was in didn’t look like the one I had originally been admitted to. Maybe it was the lighting; I don’t know, but I felt fairly disoriented, which is unusual for me.
During labor, once I got my epidural, I went through a spell of serious shakes. It started as spaghetti legs (like when your legs are exhausted after a long run or a good workout) and progressed to the point that my whole body was shaking out of control. It was as if I was freezing cold, only I wasn’t. But my body shook so hard that my teeth chattered. Even trying to breathe deeply didn’t work, but finally after some time they passed.
I was starving by the time I started pushing. I hadn’t eaten in hours and had thrown up anything that had been in my stomach to give me strength. I was craving hash browns and scrambled eggs. I finally got them, several hours after I had been admitted to the post-partum room. By the time, though, I wasn’t really hungry for them anymore, but I’m really grateful to Chris for going out to get them!