For those of you who are a touch emotional right now (so probably most of you) this may be too hard to read. The birth story is scary, and the postpartum has been so good I haven't been sharing it with anyone because I don't want to make any other moms feel bad.
Our child was born 18 days late on Oct 19th.
My mom had an 82 hour labor and I grew up hearing horror stories about it all the time. My mom still love to declare: My vagina still hurts just thinking about it! My mother has a flare for drama. On the flip side, I was born at home and my mother is very pro-home birth. My siblings, from a different mom, were born at home, which I got to see, and my cousin was born at home too. So I grew up feeling both that birth was scary, but also normal and beautiful. As a doula I worked through my notions and fears of birth and came to believe that my mother's labor was so long because she was young, in a bad marriage, had no family support, and was scared to be a mom. That seemed like plenty of reasons to not open up and be able to birth smoothly.
We live and we learn. Once again I learned not to make assumptions about other's situations, and I learned that we can't really control the big things in life. Seems I need to be reminded of these things a lot.
My labor started with contractions about 3 minutes apart on Sat afternoon. By midnight they had slowed down a lot and I was able to sleep, though I did get woken up a few times with pretty strong contractions. By late Sunday morning they had stopped. I walked a lot and tried to get things moving. I would have been content to be patient and wait for things to start again on their own except my water had broken and being over two weeks late I really didn't want to get the medical system involved. I'd had a biophysical and baby was doing great so I was eager to keep things at home with my midwife. I was scheduled to transfer to OB care the next day if things didn't really get moving. So Sunday afternoon I took some blue and black cohosh tincture. That got things going again pronto. Again my contractions were 2 or 3 minutes apart. Late that night my contractions were really strong and I was shaky and throwing up, so we called my midwife and she came over and I got in the birth tub. I was reluctant to be checked because I didn't want to any discouraging news, but finally decided I felt far enough a long that I wanted an update, but told her I didn't want to know if the news might be discouraging. After checking me she told me I didn't want to know. She checked my vitals and told me I was dehydrated (no surprise as I'd thrown up anything I tried to swallow) and gave me IV fluids and suggested I try to sleep. No such luck. I tried, but to no avail. My poor husband passed out between contractions, and I woke him up, sometimes harshly to insist he press on my back during the contractions. The next morning my midwife came by again to force fluids and calories on me and insist I walk around in my backyard. It was beautiful and sunny and it did help.
Around 4pm on Monday I called my doula friend and asked her to come by because my husband was too tired to be much help and I too was too tired to come up with any creative solutions to help me progress. At this point I was having 4 minute multi-peak contractions with 10 to 30 seconds in between. My doula massaged my back and sat beside me as I tried to sleep between them, and I did sleep, or rather pass out successfully for 10 to 30 seconds at a time. Before I knew it it was 10pm. I really wanted to bear down with the contractions for much of this time, but I could feel I wasn't fully open. Finally I had them call my midwife again and she sent over her assistant to check me. I didn't really want to be checked because I was sure I wasn't close to full dilated and I didn't want that to be confirmed. When the assistant checked me I was only 2 centimeters dilated. Yup, that was indeed discouraging. My midwife suggested I go to the hospital for an epidural. She later said she thought I was looking for permission to go, because she said I was dressed and waiting at the door before she even called the hospital. If I had been told I was at 8 centimeters I would have been happy to stay home, I would have LOVED to stay home, but knowing I was only at 2, I was done. And it was a good thing I went because I labored another two days. The epidural allowed me to sleep and I got IV fluids. I also had a nurse who checked and saw that they hadn't put on my chart that I was restricted to liquid so I could order food and pretend it was for after labor and actually get some calories. Bless that nurse. I continued to dilate very slowly and I was developing a swollen anterior lip of cervix. The baby's head was transverse. Whew. My epidural was light enough that I was able to get on hands and knees and rotate my hips. I got my bum above my shoulders to try and back the head up off my cervix and continued to swivel my hips to try and turn the head. I did that a couple of times for long periods. Finally I put the bed totally flat and just slept until I felt enough pressure that I had to get up and lean over the back of the bed (I put the bed up into a chair like position) and swiveled my hips and moaned. The epidural seemed to have worn off. Around this time my blood pressure sky rocketed to 195 over 110, and I was spilling protein in my urine. They were pretty concerned about seizure or stroke at that point. I could feel the blood pumping through my veins like the pressure of a fire hose. They came in to tell me I needed to really think about a cesarean and magnesium. I told them I felt a LOT of pressure and when they checked me low and behold baby's head was almost peaking out. I later found out a wonderful nurse convinced them not to give me a bolus of magnesium, but rather to start just a drip and give me a bolus after the birth so that my muscles wouldn't go limp, which would have prevented my uterus from pushing the baby out. I believe that wonderful nurse saved me from a cesarean.
Pushing lasted half an hour and I loved it. I felt competent and strong and it was lovely to watch her come out of me in the mirror. The only part I didn't like, ok, hated, was some nurse who kept trying to shake my hand and introduce herself while I was crowning! Because there was meconium present I had asked them to suction the nose and mouth while the body was still inside me and the umbilical cord was still attached. They refused. They pulled the body out of me, immediately cut the cord and had the pediatric team start working on our baby. I could hear them saying our baby had aspirated meconium and couldn't breath. They did CPR for a few minutes and I could hear them talking about air lifting the baby to children's hospital to refrigerate the body to save the brain. No one would talk to me or my husband about what was going on. My husband couldn't even get close enough to tell the gender. Some stupid nurse slipped up and said "she". I had asked that we be the able to discover the gender ourselves. And then they whisked her away to the NICU. It was 7 hours before they let me out of the room to go see her. It baffles me that hospitals think it's ok to separate mothers and babies. It's so wrong.
Looking back, I should have insisted that they suction out her nose and mouth with her body still in me, and I should have made a bigger fuss about visiting her after the birth. I was drugged (magnesium is nasty stuff) and I had nothing left in me to really advocate for myself, or her. It's a very helpless state. The whole reason I wanted to avoid the hospital is because over and over again I've seen how the system is designed to keep people complacent.
She was so beautiful when I finally got to see her, even with all the tubes. God, I could just go on and on. She was intibated. She had a central line in her belly button, and was covered in electrodes. I hate to think about it. It makes me feel so helpless. And I believe it's because they wouldn't suction her while in me. I don't beat myself up, but I made a mistake not taking a stand on that one.
She improved drastically every day. My hormones and mood improved drastically after I got to hold her. Soon we were breastfeeding exclusively. We bonded beautifully amidst all the chaos. She was scheduled to stay in the NICU at least 7 days, but after I found out the antibiotics were prophylactic, I busted her out early on day 5. They did a horrible job of keeping us informed and had never asked our permission to do any of the interventions they did on her. It was only upon discharge that they told me one of the antibiotics they put her on, gentamicin, is a neurotoxin, and may have destroyed her hearing! She didn't even need the antibiotics! Talk about being pissed! Long story short, and a two hour test later, her hearing is perfect.
Postpartum has been wonderful. I really anticipated the labor being a task I would enjoy and postpartum being really hard. I've seen up close and personal as a doula how hard it is for most women. Pepper has a wonderfully laid back personality, she sleeps very well at night. I usually get 5 hours followed by 3 hours followed by 2 hours. After taking care of babies for so many years it comes very naturally and I don't have to guess what her signals are. We've bonded beautifully. I felt completely healed vaginally by day 5. After brief constipation (for the first time in my life. And prunes REALLY work, far better than meds) I poop copiously. I'm rested. At six weeks I've lost most of my tummy, though I'm still twice my normal pant size. My relationship with my husband has been reinforced instead of stressed. I just feel really, really great. I feel like myself. The only difference from my pre-child life is that I'm totally in love with a new person. That and it's WAY harder to get out of the house on time. And I'm dead broke.
But I seriously question having another child, because I know it would break my heart to lose one, and because this pregnancy and postpartum has gone so well. I know my hormones could be different next time, I could have a colicky baby who doesn't sleep, and so on. It seem too perfect to f**k with. So for you moms that are having a hard time, I really empathize with you, and I believe it's a matter of circumstances and hormones and sleep. It's definitely not because you aren't excellent mothers. I'm so grateful postpartum has been easy, because after the events surrounding my labor/birth, I would have absolutely lost my mind.
Deep breath. That's my story. Thanks for letting me share.