I suppose I have to decide where this story begins. I had been contracting for weeks. Starting on Thursday 3.22 I was experiencing broken sleep at night because my contractions would wake me up in the middle of the night, I was still 2cm dilated as per my 38 week appointment. Friday was a good day. I drove to a birthday party (an hour away from my house, an hour and a half from my midwives) and I promised the hosts I would wait to go into labor. That night a low pressure system rolled in the rain was tremendous. I woke up in the morning feeling not well rested (again) and crampy. My contractions were consistent, 5 minutes apart and I lost a golf ball sized chunk of my mucous plug. They were the real deal, but they weren’t too hard to breathe through. I decided to call my parents and have them take their time coming up but I had a feeling that later that day or over night would be “time” so having them already here would make that easier.
I called my midwives and they said to come to the office and they would just check to see how things were going and confirm labor. I called my doula, Jocelyn, and she agreed to drive me to my appointment so I wouldn’t have to drive myself (I don’t mess with nap time if I can help it). At the appointment that Saturday I learned that I was 4cm dilated and my contractions were tracking on the monitor. The midwife said “not today, but probably tomorrow.” I agreed and went home.
While back at the homestead…
I decided to kill some time by working on Maggie’s blanket. I’m still shocked that I’m not in pain and begging for an epidural.
We took one final belly shot, 38 weeks and 2 days.
There might have been a bit of controlled chaos, but it didn’t bother me at all.
At 2:00am that morning I woke up to contractions 3 minutes apart. They were certainly stronger and longer than before, and since giving birth in the car wasn’t actually part of my birth plan we decided to call Jocelyn the Doula and the midwives and head to the hospital.
When I got there I was 5cm, but the contractions had slowed down again. This seemed to be the way of things this time around. Speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. So long as I was still feeling okay and able to breathe through the pain I was comfortable with labor moving a little slower.
We used a mobile fetal monitor which looks exactly like the first generations of cell phones. It had its own purse to carry the thing in. I made the Husband or Jocelyn the Doula carry it, because that thing just screamed “Cancer Risk” to me.
We changed positions.
We walked the halls.
We breathed deeply and remained loose during the contractions.
By 7am I was 6cm dilated. Still feeling good, still feeling like a person. Then I had a decision to make: do I let them break my water and hope that helps to encourage things along or do I check out of the hospital and go home and wait for another day. Thinking about my lack of sleep for the several days prior and looking at my husband make his “Please don’t go home and accidentally have this baby in our living room or in my car” face I decided to let them break the water.
While I will argue that research concludes that home birth is safe, I don’t feel comfortable gambling the possibility of an unplanned unattended by a professional midwife home birth. I don’t have any equipment needed to birth at home or in the car. Not that you really need much, but a nasal bulb and a towel does not a home birth make.
Pop goes my water.
So we shower and walk and squat and pelvic rock from 7am till just about noon.
This is what 7cm looks like.
At this point my midwife’s supervising physician puts him between a rock and a hard place.
The OB doesn’t like that my labor is taking so long. Who cares? I feel fine. Baby looks great. There are plenty of empty L&D rooms on the floor, I keep walking past them- I’m not taking up a bed that someone else ‘needs’. Who cares if this labor lasts another day? I’m totally rocking this labor? But OB’s are limited in their scope of knowledge, they think that using modern medical intervention makes labor safer. There is an obscene amount of medical research indicating otherwise, but who cares about a little thing like data, when signing an order for Pitocin feels sooooo good.
My midwife comes to me and says “I don’t like the position I’m in, but the OB would like to speed things up. How do you feel about pitocin?”
Honestly, I feel like that’s a stupid idea. But I say “How about I take a shower and do a few laps and then we can start it?”
It’s a deal.
My doula and I walk the hall in silence.
I keep flashing back to letting them break my water. Wondering if that was the wrong choice. Could that have been the decision that lead to this? Technically I can refuse care. Technically I can leave the hospital. I have rights, I’m not impaired. These medical decisions are mine to make. What have I done? This is my only chance for a med-free birth. I’m not doing this again.
We get back to the hospital room. I get ready for the shower. I ask my husband to go and talk to the midwife, explain that we don’t want to get him in trouble but that we aren’t really comfortable with this course of treatment. Can we have more time? My doula says “I totally agree!”
Yes, I’m starting to get tired. My bones are starting to ache. I’m starting to wonder how many hours more I have in me before I decide that a long nap with an epidural sounds like a brilliant method for coping with the pain of transition.
We have until 2pm.
No real change.
I agree. Pitocin it is. The smallest dose they can give me. With a scar across my uterus from Jack’s birth pitocin is a risky choice. Natural labor is only marginally more risky to a VBAC mom than an unscarred mom. But pitocin isn’t natural, it doesn’t creat the same contractions that my body would on its own. I’m worried about the increased risk of rupture, but I’m more worried about how much pain I’m about to be in because I know what’s coming. I know what 7-10cm is. This is about to be transition. This is what separates the women from the girls (proverbially speaking). I’m not going to wander into transition with a smile on my face. They want me in bed. They are aware of the increased risk of rupture, they want to VERY closely monitor my contractions and her heart rate.
Into the bed I go.
I occasionally glare at that little bag of saline and the drip drip drip of pain.
I lay on my left. Husband and Doula take turns providing counter pressure to my sacrum while I breathe in deep and blow it out. I’m still okay. It’s starting to hurt, but I’m tapping on the side of the bed like a rhythm. Like a drum from the start to the end of each contraction. Because I know that each contraction will end and then I will be okay and I will breathe. For 40 minutes I breathe and tap.
Then I feel it coming.
I just want to give up. Where is the nice man with the epidural? I can’t do this anymore. Someone get me some drugs. Tears are running down my face and I’m crying. Trying to keep my body loose and my face from tensing up I sob slow deep sobs. I want to tell the Husband and the Doula everything I’m thinking. They need to go get someone to stab that needle into my back. But I can’t even speak. I know if I start to try and talk I’m just going to scream.
Then a nurse comes in and tries to tell me that I can’t cry. I’m not allowed to labor with my eyes closed. I’m not allowed to hold on to the rail of the bed and tap. I seriously want to kill this woman. My doula is trying to convince me to change positions. I’m willing but completely unmotivated. This nurse walks in and pushes the button on the bed to force it upright. If I could have walked or moved at all I would have tackled this woman and beaten her to death. She was totally damaging whatever last shread of calm I was holding on to. She pages my midwife. I’m one of those non-compliant patients.
David, my David. Deliverer of my Henry comes back in. Looks at me and gets the birth tray. He’s being too optimistic. I’m totally still 7cm. I’m going to have to cave and get the stinking epidural. After all this work too.
“Let’s check you.”
“Okay, with this contraction, I want you to push.”
“You’re a 9.” Okay, 9cm is good but it ain’t no 10.
“Lets push with this next one too. Lets try to push you to 10.”
“Okay! Great!” David, we’ve been here before. I pushed for 2.5 hours with Henry. I was happy to do it. I was happy to get to push at all. But you sound a little too excited. This is going to take a while. I don’t think I have a while left in me.
“We’re having a baby soon. Get ready.” He’s placating me. I mean blow a little smoke, sure, but you’re…. wait… why are you putting on the delivery gown?
“Hey, Emily, lets not have this take too long. These gowns are kinda hot, okay?” He’s making fun of me?! Seriously, what is wrong with people?!
The third contraction comes. “Oh no” Is all I can say. “Okay, push! That’s it. Reach down. Feel her head! Breathe in and push again!” Same contraction. Second push. Her head is coming out. Third push. Her head is out. Oh, what the hell…. I breathe in and push just a little and out she comes. Right into my arms.
High fives all around.
And then there were 3.