This is Part 2 of my birth story. Click HERE to read Part 1.
The prospect of being in real labor helped me push past my exhaustion and continue with my plan of a medication free birth. I had my exercise ball in the car, I've been practicing my breathing for almost 4 days now, I could do this.
The hospital's policy for intermittent monitoring was 15 minutes on the machine, 45 minutes off, every hour. We went through several cycles of this before a doctor came in around 11 am to check me again.
I had progressed to 5 cm.
This was immensely encouraging, because it meant I was finally dilating on my own, despite still having fairly irregular contractions between 3 – 8 minutes apart. Most of the morning was spent in anticipation of being told we still had prodromal labor, so this was a huge, unexpected step forward.
I was doing well coping the contractions – they averaged a 4 - 6 on the pain scale, which was manageable, considering I had dealt with similar ones for the past 3 days, and 8's all last night. Walking around the hospital room made a huge difference too. It was laying down for those 15 minutes of monitoring that pushed them to the 7 – 8 range.
Unfortunately, even though I progressed to a 5, the doctor did not like the contractions being so irregular. Additionally, the baby's heartbeat dropped during contractions, which can be normal, but apparently mine varied too much for their liking and thus wanted to do continual monitoring and start me on Pitocin.
I was asked if I wanted to get an epidural.
Continual monitoring meant I would be stuck in bed for the rest of the labor, and Pitocin has been known for making contractions much more intense than they would be if naturally occurring. I was also relatively close to the “transition” phase of labor (7 cm – 10 cm), which although usually only lasts 30 minutes – 3 hours, is notorious for being the breaking point for most women and the most painful.
Initially I did not even entertain the idea of receiving the epidural. Despite being physically and mentally exhausted, I generally felt like I was holding out alright and could manage a few more hours. I told the doctor that I did not want one, at least at the moment.
She suggested that if we do decide to get one, not to wait too long, because it was a busy day and the anesthesiologist might not be able to come for a while.
Once alone, my husband and I talked about what we wanted to do. Although I felt ok at the moment, we ultimately decided it was best to just go ahead and request the epidural. The thought of being pain free was only mildly tempting; what really convinced me into getting it was the prospect of sleep. I decided it was probably more beneficial to my health to try and rest than to keep going on without it. It had also been our experience for nurses and doctors to take upwards of an hour to respond to our calls, so I'd need to hold out for a while by myself yet anyways.
When a nurse came in 20 minutes later to setup the continual monitoring, I went ahead and requested the epidural.
It ended up taking about 2 hours for the anesthesiologist to arrive.
The feeling of the epidural kicking in was heavenly. I remember describing it like a warm, fluffy blanket being laid over me. My muscles finally felt like they could relax and I slept for 4 blissful hours.
It was late afternoon on Friday, May 18th, I had just woken up from my long nap, and the doctor came in to check me for progress. The Pitocin drip had been going for a while now, so we were interested in seeing how much progress was made in those 4 hours.
I was at 7 cm and 90% effaced!
We were not expecting to have made that much progress, so this was another very happy surprise.
Transition usually starts at 7cm, so it really felt like we were in the home stretch. Every book and article online says transition typically lasts 30 minutes – 3 hours, so this was the first moment in the whole week that we actually felt like we'd be having a baby soon – and probably today!
It was 5 pm. We asked the nurse when she thought the baby would be arriving, and she said we could probably expect to have a baby in our arms around 11pm. That would leave 3 hours of transition and 3 hours of pushing, both conservative estimates of what are considered normal ranges of these activities for first time moms.
We were thrilled to finally be able tell our families the good news and have them expect to head on over to the hospital late tonight. My family lives across the state, 5 hours away, so we wanted to give them as much of a heads up as possible, while at the same time only after we knew delivery was imminent.
At this point, the doctor also suggested that he break my waters. Typically, this causes the body to bear down harder and makes things progress more quickly. I was far enough along and the baby was low enough that I agreed.
My waters were clear, which means baby did not have a bowel movement yet. Everything was looking good and moving along well!
The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur.
Shortly after the doctors left, I tried to go back to sleep, but my epidural was starting to wear off on my right side. I pressed the button that administers more medication and positioned myself such that gravity would make the medicine rush to my right. However, shortly afterwards I began to feel shaky, unwell, and still feeling contractions.
I spent several hours just trying to get comfortable.
I was checked again at 9 pm, several hours after they broke my water, and we were surprised to discover that I was still at 7 cm. This caught my husband and I off guard, as everything was moving along nicely up until this point. They started me on Pitocin again and I continued trying to get comfortable. At some point the epidural felt good again on my left side and I no longer felt sick, but it continued to fade on the right side until I was feeling stronger and stronger contractions.
I was checked every 3 or so hours throughout the night, and every single time there was minimal to no progress. Come 4 o'clock in the morning I was still only at 8 or 9 cm and I wasn't sure how much more of this I could take. I was beyond exhausted from lack of sleep, I had been starving since before we even arrived at the hospital over 24 hours ago, and I felt sore and in pain for all but the first few hours of having the epidural.
I was worried at several points that I would be labeled as a failure to progress and shipped off for a C-Section, but thankfully that was not the case.
It wasn't until 7 am on Saturday, May 19th that we finally got the good news that I was at 10 cm; 14 hours since we had been at 7 cm. Several of the nurses and doctors said they couldn't believe I was still here.
Unfortunately, the baby was still a little high, so they said we needed to wait 3 more hours to let the baby drop naturally before we could start pushing. I seriously didn't know if I was capable of surviving those 3 hours with my sanity still intact. I felt like I was at my breaking point. I was so incredibly worn down beyond what I thought was humanly possible.
Thankfully, it was only 20 minutes later that the doctor came in and said it was time to push. At this point, my sanity was saved and adrenaline kicked in.
I didn't even care that the epidural wasn't working and that I could I feel contractions. I just wanted it to be over. 5 days of painful contractions, only about 12 hours of sleep total since Tuesday, starving... I just wanted that baby out and finally be able to take care of my basic needs.
As I was pushing, they noticed some meconium on the baby, and that the cord was wrapped around the baby's neck a little tighter than usual. For this reason, I was told the NICU would need to evaluate him as soon as he is born and that they wouldn't be able to put him on my chest right away.
I pushed for 2 hours.
At 9:20 am, on Saturday, May 19th 2018, my son was born weighing 7 lbs 10oz, and a very long 22 inches in length.
Thankfully, his evaluations looked great and he was placed on my chest 5 – 10 minutes later to do skin to skin. He was pink, crying well, and alert.
One of the first things my husband and I noticed about him was that he looked hungry, sucking on his fingers. I remember reading that it is good to feed babies as soon as possible after birth, so I suggested to a nurse that we feed him. She helped me get him latched on properly.
I am happy to report that he's had a great latch from birth and we never had any issues breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, after he was done eating, he was taken away for his other tests to be done, so I didn't get much skin to skin time with him. It was only 5 minutes or so that I had him before nursing him, and he ate for maybe 10 or 15 before being whisked away. I hadn't even realized it in the moment, but looking back, I wish I would have had more time initially after birth.
I think part of the rush was that it was a busy couple of days for the hospital, as they mentioned when we first arrived, so all the rooms were full at several points. I'm sure they were itching to free up one of the labor rooms.
The bright side to this situation was that the only postpartum room available was the “special” one, usually reserved for women having multiples. It was easily 3 or 4 times larger than the standard rooms, plus it had a couch instead of a single recliner; so we definitely lucked out there! (It may have been the only lucky part of the whole experience.)
I ended up getting some quality skin to skin time in the postpartum room, and my first meal was a very satisfying stack of whole wheat pancakes and bacon. Unfortunately, my sleep deprivation didn't get much better with a newborn around, but at least I was no longer in pain and could start caring for myself again.
I believe having my body in a sleep deprived, starving, painful state for so long is a large part of what caused my postpartum depression and anxiety. The brain rewires itself when under stress for such a long time, and the typical hormonal imbalances of delivery don't help either. Let me know if you'd like to hear about my PPD and PPA experience!
I'm happy to report that I'm doing well now, we have a happy, healthy son, and I am hopeful that if and when we have another child that the labor will go much more quickly. In fact, I'm calling it now that we're going to end up having the baby on the side of the road or at home, because after this experience we have no idea when to head to the hospital.
So... that's my story!
Did you have extremely painful prodromal labor? A very long or stalled transition phase? Let me know!