So, I’m 3 weeks postpartum, and every time I close my eyes, I still replay the hours that brought my beautiful boy Eli into this world. In an effort not to forget the crazy events that led to his arrival, and the scary moments afterwards, I am going to try to put into words our story. Please do not let my exhaustion induced incoherence scare you off!
First, let me say that Eli is my 5th baby, but my first where I desired to have a natural birth. All my others had been aided by pitocin (or induced entirely with it), and I caved and had an epidural. Since my
retired, this time around I chose a midwife group, and I was clear that I
wanted to avoid the epidural most definitely, and try to avoid the pitocin at
Though this pregnancy was the hardest as far as aches and pains, I think it was the easiest because it had been complication free! The only thing that crept up on me was a recurrent uti-turned kidney infection during the last 5-6 weeks, which led me to have to take a once a day antibiotic until I delivered…that’s right…5 weeks of antibiotics!
I am a pretty early laborer. I usually start having regular, painful braxton hicks around 30 weeks which turn into closer, stronger contractions that start dilating me around week 36. This was no different. Aside from these being incredibly distracting, they are exhausting! Still, I was waiting for my body to kick in and get this baby out! I had all the typical “signs” of labor around 38 weeks, and I truly thought it was going to be “any day now.” You may laugh here.
I saw my midwife at 39 weeks, 4 days to do a membrane sweep. At that appointment, we had a good talk. She, being a naturalist who has encouraged me this entire time I can indeed do this, was seriously suggesting pitocin. My body was ready. I had regular contractions, I was dilated, effaced and ready to go. I had 4 small children at home to take care of, and I have been wasting away on antibiotics for over a month. She told me to think about it and call her on Saturday, when she was on call and would be ready for me at the hospital.
We talked, we prayed, I cried. I was uncomfortable and contracting every 8 minutes round the clock for 2 more days. Saturday morning, we made the call and went into the hospital to meet our baby boy.
We entered labor and delivery around 11:45 and was admitted (which always takes such a long time!). They hooked me up to the monitors for about 30 minutes to determine what was going on. Sure enough, there I was contracting, but just stuck.
I had the most wonderful nurse named Faye. Faye was such a huge support and we laughed together during those prepping hours. Because we opted for pitocin, I had to have an iv bag of fluids before we began. Around 12:30 or so we started the iv bag. And then my hubby and I walked the halls. It was actually really nice. I wasn’t in a lot of pain (yet!) and we walked hand in hand trying to kick start labor.
At about 1:15, we finally were able to start the pitocin. On the lowest dose, it definitely kicked in right away. Immediately, my contractions jumped to 5 minutes apart and were getting more uncomfortable. Still, we laughed, we joked, we talked and we reminisced about all our other children coming into the world. I was checked at 1:45 and had progressed, so they charted this as my official time I began labor. By 2 p.m., I was up another dosage, and I was really starting to get uncomfortable. I was texting with my friend who was on her way to be with us and I remember around 2:30 having to pause while texting. Faye kept telling me I was getting closer because I wasn’t as giddy as I had been.
My midwife came in about 2:45 to talk about breaking my water. I was really against the idea, just like I was against the pitocin. However, I really wanted a water birth this time around and if I was still using the pitocin, I would have to be constantly monitored in the water. Her plan was to break my water, ease off the pitocin, and get me in the tub. At that point, I was getting pretty uncomfortable and that big, beautiful tub was beckoning me. I asked her to give me like 20 more minutes and she was fine with that. She didn’t push me either way, just explained my options and what she thought was best. I should also mention that she had worked with my previous ob years ago and trusted and respected him. I felt a continuity of care going from him to her and really valued her opinion.
Somewhere in the 3 p.m. hour, they turned the pitocin up for the 3rd time and wowsers! That was intense. Like I said, I had pitocin births with all my previous labors and never took the epidural until close to the end. This time, it was different. I immediately could not focus on anything else any longer but getting through the contraction. I asked my nurse to get my midwife. I was ready for her to break my water. I was SO hoping that meant we could turn the pit off right away! My contractions were coming every 2 minutes and were lasting over a minute.
She broke my water, and noted that I had progressed again. Things were going fast! I used the rest room, and could barely make it back to the bed. Within minutes, I could no longer talk in between the waves, and was humming through each and every one. Faye was trying to move me in different positions to make me more comfortable and it just wasn’t working. I do remember looking at the clock and it was 3:45. I kept thinking I would have hours of this and started to doubt myself. Doubt, I learned, is a natural laborer’s worst enemy. The pain is so much more intense when crowded with doubt.
As promised, they backed off the pitocin, turning it down to the second dosage level. Immediately, my contractions spaced out to 3 minutes apart, which gave me some time to breathe. I remember looking at my husband during that time and telling him that pitocin was from the very pit of hell (see what I did there? Pitocin…pit of hell?). I remember being so relieved that I would be able to get in the water soon. I was told that all we needed is a full 30 minutes of monitoring the baby to make sure he was handling the pit well before I could get in.
At 4:15 p.m., my midwife came in to tell me that she thought it would be better to turn the pit back up. Because I went from 2 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart for a half hour, she didn’t think we were moving in the right direction. With a smile on my face I told her I hated her. She laughed and told me she knew that was coming. Faye brought in an essential oil diffuser and started diffusing eucalyptus into the room. We had my ipod playing my favorite calming songs.
After that, everything became a blur. They ended up turning the pit back up by 4:30, after another check. I was only 5, maybe 6 centimeters dilated, but fully effaced at the time. I admit, I was discouraged because things were so intense for the past couple of hours, I thought surely I would be farther. But Faye reminded me I had progressed so much in under 2 hours. Her shift ended at 7 p.m., and she kept assuring me that she was going to meet the baby.
Things got so much more intense, it was unimaginable. I kept asking to get into the water, but Eli was descending so fast that we kept losing his heart rate. We played the “find the baby’s heart rate” game for about an hour. At 5:15, my friend arrived. At this point, I could barely speak. I talked to her in broken, one-word-at-a-time sentences. I was really hot and nauseated and could not get comfortable. My midwife was holding a straw with some juice to my lips, which was such a beautiful way of taking care of me. My dear husband was dipping his hands into a bucket of ice water and constantly keeping cool rags on my forehead and neck. My friend was softly encouraging me through each wave, which lasted over a minute and were coming just under 2 minutes apart.
I had no break, and this is when I started to blurt out “I can’t do it!” And as soon as those words were uttered, I started shaking. Ah! Transition! It was a blessing and a curse all at once! Probably about 5:45, I insisted I absolutely couldn’t do it anymore, and after a quick check, we learned I was at a 7. My midwife said we were headed to the tub! I sat in it as it filled and was in agony! The water felt good, but it was almost too late. Just a few minutes more and I told my midwife I was ready to push. I don’t think she necessarily believed me seeing as it had only been a few short minutes, but sure enough, I was complete. Oh, how I love the number 10!
I powered through a few more contractions, making some oddly strange barnyard type noises. I remember focusing every ounce of energy trying to breathe through the pain. So much so, that I did not open my eyes almost the entire time I was in the tub. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. But as I was sitting there willing the good Lord to take me, I at the same time felt an incredible amount of peace. I breathed in the eucalyptus, I felt my sweet husband’s hands washing me with that cold water, I listened as my ipod played a familiar tune that played over and over “It’s gonna be worth it.” My friend was encouraging me, my nurses were whispering to me how great of a job I was doing, and my midwife was faithfully at my side, letting me know exactly what was happening. Despite the incredible pain, I felt very cared for…very peaceful.
I probably started to push somewhere around 6 p.m., give or take a few minutes. But in the water, I couldn’t really feel like I was progressing. We had suspected that the baby wasn’t in the correct position most of the time because I had intense back labor. Sure enough, it seemed baby was turned sideways. After a few valiant efforts, my midwife calmly, but confidently, said we need to change our plan and head to the bed. Baby needed to turn and I was going to tire myself out if I kept trying this way.
I remember thinking that there was NO WAY I could walk back to the bed. I literally just had been pushing and they expected me to walk? No way! This was an out of body experience. Somehow, with the assistance of my birth team, I got there. When I stood up, I felt the baby turn. I knew that this was it.
I got back to the bed and my midwife knew it was time too. The next thing out of her mouth was “Dad, do you want to deliver this baby?” To which my husband excitedly answered “Yes!” I couldn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t answer the nurses’ questions. I had no idea what was going on around me, all I knew is that the baby was coming. I started involuntarily pushing as she was explaining to my giddy husband what to do. I could hear his excitement in his responses to her. Admittedly, I was really irritated that at the moment that I was in the most intense pain of my life, I could literally hear his smile. I thought of kicking him, as if I had the strength to do anything but breathe and think I REALLY can’t do this!
It felt like an eternity…I felt like I was in that bed pushing for hours. But it was only a few minutes before my sweet Eli Joseph came into the world, right into his daddy’s hands. I did it. 6:23 p.m., 4 ½ hours after labor started, only a really intense hour or two, and really not very long pushing, and I realized that labor and delivery is even more intense, more excruciating, more lovely, more thrilling, more amazing, than I had every thought before.
Eli was our biggest baby, weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces, and 21 inches long. He lay on my chest gazing at his daddy and I as we waited for the cord to stop pulsating. And daddy cut the cord as well. It was a beautiful experience. The staff was amazing, my support team was amazing, and my baby is amazing.
But the story isn’t over there. Things got intense again, in a different way. Things got scary. There’s more to come…but I have to go snuggle my baby for a bit now.