The entire third trimester of my pregnancy, I was warned by every doctor I saw that this labor could go really fast. Some were even saying 3-4 hours maximum (since I had such a fast labor with Bates). I was worried they were jinxing it. I was also concerned because I wasn’t progressed AT ALL – not dilated, not effaced, and the baby hadn’t even dropped into my pelvis - as of July 2nd. As a point of reference, a week before Bates was born, I was 3cm dilated. But – they’re the doctors and they see pregnant women every day – so we prepared for a fast labor.
Well, I woke up at 2am on the 4th of July and started having contractions. They were only 30 seconds long and weren’t super painful. They were also pretty far apart, so I just lay in bed and breathed through them (and tried to rest my eyes between each one). I looked at the clock and thought, “I’m going to have a baby by this afternoon!”
Around 6am, I woke Jonathan up and said, “we’re going to have a baby today!” (note, this is already past the “3-4 hour labor” predicted by the doctors). At that point, the contractions were still only 30-ish seconds long, but maybe slightly closer together. I moved out of bed and started rolling on the exercise ball and watching tv in the bedroom. We called my mom to come over and be with Bates.
And then we kept laboring. Once my mom got to our house, Jonathan moved into the bedroom to apply counter-pressure to my back during each contraction. They were pretty solidly 45 seconds long, but they didn’t seem to be increasing that much in intensity and I certainly wasn’t in a bad state of mind. I was eating, drinking, watching the Today Show, and chatting in between each one. The whole experience felt a little strange because we had been expecting things to go like they did the first time (or faster!).
After lunch I was hit hard with exhaustion since I’d been up since 2am. I lay on the floor of the bedroom and the contractions slowed way down. So while I rested, Jonathan googled how to get labor moving again. We decided to walk around outside (it was a gorgeous day).
Walking was definitely the jumpstart we needed. Things picked up right away – the contractions lengthened, got closer together, and got more intense. I didn’t necessarily want to go to the hospital right that second, but at the same time, we were worried that once things got going it would be really fast (and we would have a baby on the side of the road or something crazy). So off we went – around 2:30pm, I think.
When we walked up to the desk in L&D, I had a contraction and had to lean on Jonathan and breath through it. After seeing that, and since the triage rooms were full, they said they’d just take me to a delivery room because they were pretty sure I’d be admitted anyway. (Note: we got the nicest delivery room they have! Really big with two huge walls of windows!)
The nurse immediately set me up with an IV to drip in an antibiotic (since I’m GBS positive). After that, I was so anxious to see how far I had progressed since I’d been at it since 2am that morning! And the answer was….3 centimeters. And the baby still hadn’t really dropped into my pelvis. To say this was disheartening is an understatement. We talked about different ways we could labor at that point (birth ball, tub, shower, etc.) and we decided to walk around the halls since we’d had luck with that at home.
I’m not sure how long we did this (maybe an hour? Two?), but I can say the contractions got really intense at this point. Like, big, strong, long contractions coming often and sometimes on top of each other. These were so strong they reminded me of when I went through transition with Bates. I could barely stand and had to completely lean on Jonathan to breath through them. After some time, I wanted to have my progress checked again because, like I said, these felt like the last contractions I felt with Bates before it was time to start pushing.
She checked me and…3+ centimeters. No good.
So at this point I asked the nurse to talk to me about an epidural. She explained it a little bit and asked what my biggest hesitation was about getting one. I told her I didn’t want to have a c-section. (Honestly, c-sections are a huge fear of mine. And I know tons of people get them and are totally fine and have wonderful experiences– but to all you guys who have had one, my hat goes off to you, because I just don’t know how I could handle going through that.) She explained that many, many people have births with epidurals that don’t end up in the OR.
A couple more contractions and I needed no more convincing: I wanted the epidural. Stat. Jonathan kept reminding me I was doing awesome and that we were almost there (things he learned to say from our natural childbirth books), but I needed the epidural! He asked the nurse to give us so time alone – so we discussed it – and I was like, “there is absolutely no way I can keep going like this for 7 more centimeters!” And there wasn’t – no possible way. So we called the nurse back and she called the anesthetist.
She put in the epidural, which was slightly uncomfortable, but was nothing compared to the big, nasty contractions. They also put in a catheter and dripped a huge bag of fluid through my IV. This was way more medical intervention than I’d hoped for, but again, I needed that epidural, so it didn’t really matter. It kicked in after a contraction or 2 and I couldn’t feel anything. I didn’t even know when I was having one, which was fine by me at that point. (I believe I got the epi around 6-6:30pm, for a reference point.)
The nurse checked me at one point soon after the epidural and unintentionally broke my waters while doing so. Out came meconium (which also happened with Bates), which had everyone on alert. Then, since I was sedentary, they were able to get me hooked up to a good fetal monitor (vs. the remote one I had on when we were walking the halls), and we noticed a troubling situation: the baby’s heart rate was dropping every time I had a contraction. And thus began a very stressful 4 hours until the baby was born…
It’s hard for me to remember the exact sequence of events during the four hours. Time seemed to go really slow, but also really fast. They wanted to speed up labor with Pitocin (again – exactly what I didn’t want) because of the meconium, but they couldn’t do Pitocin until the heart rate sitch was in control. So basically, everything they were doing at that point was to try to get the baby’s heart rate stable. They put me in different positions. They gave me an oxygen mask to wear. They put a bag of sugar water in my IV – and nothing worked. It was becoming more and more troubling as each intervention they tried failed.
An interesting side note is that Jonathan had just taken a class on reading fetal monitor strips (which is useful for some of his cases), so he was able to see what was happening with each contraction more than the average non-medical professional. For better or for worse.
Anyway, we discussed at one point that the problem was most likely related to the umbilical cord. It was probably being pinched and/or was possibly around the baby’s neck. So they decided to do this internal flush thing where they send water into the uterus to try to get the cord free. It was at this point I felt like a total medical trainwreck. I had an epidural, an oxygen mask, a bag of IV fluid, a bag of heartburn medicine (because I kept having heartburn that made me feel like I’d throw up), another dose of the antibiotic, an internal fetal monitor, the tube sending all the fluid in for the cord, and the catheter. And on top of that, the baby was in distress during the contractions and they were saying the cord might be around his neck. It was a low point of the labor.
The nurse came in at one point to discuss the situation and basically said if we couldn’t get the baby to do better, we would need to do a c-section. While I didn’t want to hear that, I wanted a healthy baby above anything else. There were a couple contractions where the heart rate went down and didn’t recover right away (Jonathan noticed them on the strip) and he and I talked about how we would probably need to just go to the OR, even though that wasn’t how we wanted labor to go. Soon after that, there were 3-4 nurses in the room (one being the head nurse) all trying to do different stuff. The head nurse got a shot of something ready “just in case” (not sure what that was, as we didn’t have to use it – adrenaline, maybe?).
Anyway, at this time, too, I started to feel pain again. So the nurse showed me how to give myself another dose of epidural. We did that twice and then I had to lie flat on my back so it would distribute evenly. As I was lying flat on my back, I started to feel fluid leaking out of me. And as I was on my back, the baby’s heart rate was stabilized during the contractions! They said since the fluid was dripping out, the baby must have shifted, and in doing so, he shifted off the cord. Hallelujah!
I could tell the contractions were heating up (even though I couldn’t feel anything) because my whole body started trembling. The nurse checked my progress a bit after the cord situation resolved and to our surprise I was completely dilated! It was such a blessing as the situation had gotten really precarious. They called the doctor to come. Before she got there, we did a couple practice pushes. I said since I couldn’t feel anything, I’d prefer not to push too hard as the baby comes out so as to try to avoid tearing.
The doctor arrived (not my own, and actually, a doctor from a different practice who shares call with my practice) and they put me into the horrendous labor stirrups (again, exactly what I didn’t want for my birth experience, although it didn’t really matter since I couldn’t feel anything anyway).
My body trembled so much I told the doctor I just wanted to stop shaking, ha. She said it was the adrenaline. The first contraction came and I pushed through it. Then another and everyone was really hyped like, “YEAH! Good job! Push!” And then on the third, the baby was coming. She told me to slow down a little, and then, just like that, the baby was out…only, I didn’t know it! I literally couldn’t feel anything, so I looked down and was like, “is that the baby?” Jonathan said, “it’s a boy!” But because of the cord, which was around the neck, and the meconium, the baby was whisked to the pediatrics team before he was put on my chest. There were probably 7-10 medical people in the room during the labor (all women – except for one random guy who I think was a student, ha). Everyone was commenting on how big the baby was – and he turned out to be 8lbs, 14 ozs, and 22 inches long! Everyone also commented on a huge tinkle he took before they could weigh him – they all felt confident he would’ve been over 9 pounds had that not happened.
Soon he was brought back and placed on my chest, and despite a 20-hour horrendous, stressful labor, he was 100% healthy. I actually tore less with him (just a 1st degree that the doctor wasn’t even sure she needed to stitch) than I did with his brother who weighed a whole pound less.
It was a pretty crazy experience, to say the least. But honestly, I feel like God was with us during the whole thing and helped us deliver a healthy baby (outside of the OR). I’m so thankful the epidural stopped working so I needed to lie flat on my back! And even though it was no 3-4 hour labor, I feel stronger for having gone through it. The doctor started to give me a speech after the birth about how I’m not a failure for wanting to do a natural birth but getting an epidural and I was like, “thank you for the sentiment, but I don’t need to hear that” because I know there was absolutely no way I could’ve gone on without the epidural.
I’m going to do another post on natural birth vs. medicated birth since I’ve been through both now (and sort of understand some of the positives and negatives of both). And I’ll also answer the question I’ve received now quite a few times, “if you do it again, will you go natural or get the epidural?”
I have a baby waking up now, though – so back to it! Welcome to the world, baby Griffin! (And an added bonus to giving birth on the 4th of July in the swanky birth suite: we got to see 2 different fireworks displays out the different windows!)