The story of DD3's birth is really a story about induction and labor and birth...and a lot about my husband, who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. And it is a long story for such a fast birth.
Through the whole pregnancy, I steadfastly resisted any intervention that I felt was motivated only by fear. I refused genetic testing (as I had with the first two) and despite ominous warnings about placenta positioning, I refused the 20 week ultrasound and all ultrasounds. Each time I weighed a decision to intervene or not, I felt like I was chasing a newfound faith in my body and it's divine, maternal purpose. It was liberating. The one intervention I agreed (and I was hardly given a choice on this one) was a baseline 24hr urine test plus bloodwork; as a precaution due to my history of pre-eclampsia.
Fast forward to the end – at my 38 week appointment (Friday 5/11) I had protein in my urine. They ordered another 24hr urine test and sent me for monitoring. My bloodwork came back normal and I “passed” all the antenatal testing stuff. I spent Monday and Tuesday thinking everything was fine. On Wednesday 5/16, I went in for my 39 week appointment (I was 39 weeks and 5 days) try and haggle my way out of post-dates testing since I assumed by that point I would inevitably go past my EDD of 5/18. Instead, the midwife said “I have bad news. You have pre-eclampsia. We need to induce you today.”
I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. All of my fears, anxieties, insecurities and lots of bad memories from DD1's birth came washing over me in the seconds that followed. They discussed my “options” (walk over to L&D and get induced now or come in at 8pm and do it then; induce with cytotech or pit, breaking water, sweeping membranes, etc) and told me to call my husband. All I could think was how much I wished he was with me. I called him and told him the news and cried for a bit. I felt panicked because it seemed like I was going to be forced to make a huge decision before I was ready.
They did a cervical check and membrane sweep. I was only 2cm dilated. I told the midwives I'd go home and talk to my husband and come back for induction at 8pm. Agreeing to an induction felt awful.
I told myself I would get my head in a better place, try to get labor started naturally and prepare myself to have a baby that night.
I called a trusted friend and told her the situation and she helped me direct my energy to making plans to have the induction happen on my terms (refusing things I thought were unnecessary, planning for things that might happen, etc).
I wanted to get a second opinion so I called the office when I got home and asked to speak with the midwife on call to get my actual numbers from the tests and ask a few more questions about the induction. She ended up talking to me for quite awhile and assured me that based on my results, inducing wasn't a conservative choice at this point. She said “we're not just being over-careful here.” As I talked with her I realized that what I really wanted was at least to have more time to settle into the new reality and asked her if we could push the induction to the following morning. She said she'd talk to the physician on call and get back to me.
I made some lunch for everyone and tried to work on last minute things around the house but I felt completely frayed mentally. I felt the birth I'd envisioned for so many long months slipping from my grasp and was devastated to feel so robbed of my ability to have any say in the matter.
My husband came up to me as I sat in a fog at our kitchen table and put his arms around me and said “Everything's going to be okay.”
The midwife finally called back and said “Sure, come in tomorrow at 8am.” This gave me a sense of purpose. I could sleep in my own bed. I had at least 12 hours to get myself in a good place mentally and maybe even get labor started – or at least to make a good plan for how to navigate the various induction options.
I called and talked to Cristeen who was a HUGE help. Seriously. She told me things like ask for cervadil instead of cytotech and try EPO and things like that. I also talked to a friend who's a childbirth educator and she gave some really helpful advice too. I began to feel a glimmer of hoping about re-claiming charge of my baby's birth and that felt amazing.
I grabbed some EPO capsules at Trader Joe's thinking it couldn't hurt to try. I'm so glad they had them that day!
When I got home...I actually remember very little about the next few hours except DH was working hard trying to get the house ready. And perpetually reading something on his cell phone. I do remember obsessing about making food for us to take with us to the hospital. I managed to not make dinner for the kids until around 8 which didn't go over well with anyone. DH left to run some last minute errands and told me I needed to have the kids sleeping by the time he got back. Before he left we sat them down and told them we were going to be having our baby the next morning. DD1 was very agitated by that news...she'd suddenly developed a total complex about babies.
I fed them and got them ready for bed and tried to console them both about all the craziness from the day. We read Bread and Jam for Francis and I snuggled with them for a bit and put them to sleep. The weight of our last night as four felt very heavy to me, especially as I kissed my 3yo goodnight.
DH got home and ate some food and we were finally able to decompress a bit. He “ordered” me to take a shower and put on hot water for a foot bath. When I got out of the shower he put on 50 First Dates (he knows I love that movie – yes, I have terrible taste) and got the foot bath ready. After soaking my feet, I learned what he'd been reading on his phone all day...he'd given himself a crash course on inducing labor with accupressure. He focused on the spleen 6 point (four fingers above the ankle?) and one on my feet (kidneys?). We did that for awhile...the spleen one hurt SOOOO bad! I howled that he was bruising my leg and apparently I was retaining more water than I thought because his thumbs left big indentations. Still, I started feeling some contractions pretty quickly. They were inconsistent but painful enough to feel like they had potential. I was hugely skeptical but my husband was utterly convinced that it was going to work and promised me – “you're not going to need to be induced tomorrow.”
After awhile we moved on to more romantic methods of labor induction. ;-)
After sex, I decided to try the EPO capsules. Why not, right? I read online the dosage was five capsules inserted vaginally which seemed like a lot, so I used four (they were 1000mg each). I couldn't fit any more anyway. Then I went back to the couch, feeling some mild contractions consistently and we watched Love Actually while DH did more work on my pressure points. The second round of massage definitely seemed to get things going and by about 3am I was having contractions every 2-4 minutes. I was still skeptical. I was sure that if I went to bed, they would stop and I went to sleep around 3:30 talking nonsense about labor stalling and saying how I was hoping that I could go in the next day, negotiate a cervadil induction (which requires 8 hrs of waiting) and then maybe get it pushed back to the following evening.
I slept on my left side, still feeling the baby very high, hoping he or she would go anterior and drop already. The contractions settled down a bit, enough for me to fall asleep, worrying about 8am and half-plotting to “sleep through” my 7:30 alarm and no-show for my induction time.
At 4:40am my eyes flew open to a very painful contraction washing over my body. I had to get out of bed. I headed to the bathroom, and peeked in on DH who was thankfully sleeping soundly on the futon in the living room. I sat on the toilet and felt two more contractions. I got my iphone and quickly downloaded a contraction-timing app. They were coming like clock-work: every two minutes. Lasting for a whole minute. And SO very painful. I thought about getting in the shower but standing made them more painful, so I continued to sit on the toilet, breathing and feeling very afraid that something was wrong. I put on my labor music and I tried breathing “open open open open” through the contractions and that helped. For a fleeting few minutes, I felt like I was laboring...the way I wanted...collected, focused, zen. Not flipping out. :-)
Then DD1 woke up and came into the bathroom smack dab in the middle of a bad contraction. She was already rattled from the whole “we're having the baby tomorrow” talk and hearing me breathing and moaning (quietly!) through that contraction freaked her out. I told her to go back to bed but she wouldn't; nor would she go get her daddy. She just planted herself outside the bathroom door shaking and shivering and I was so slammed with contractions that I couldn't even think of getting off the toilet to help her back to bed. I was feeling cold and shaking so I turned on the heater in the bathroom and fantasized about those warmed blankets they drape around you at the hospital after a shower. Thinking about the hospital made me want to cry because I knew the second I went in they'd be wanting to do cervical exams and monitoring and I DON'T WANT ANY OF IT!! I was convinced that I was not really in real labor and that if I was, something was still wrong and going to the hospital would just set me on the path to all kinds of interventions. My mind was clearly wandering into dark places and I was losing grip.
Meanwhile, back in reality, DD1 was still sitting outside the bathroom, wimpering as I breathed loudly through contractions. Somehow DH woke up...I can't remember if I woke him or something else did. Either way, when I said “I'm having contractions every 2 minutes” he wigged out. “WHY DIDN'T YOU WAKE ME? We need to get to the hospital NOW!” I continued to insist, at least mentally, that this was not It. DH called his mom to come and stay with the girls and began madly packing and getting our bags ready. I vaguely remember getting my underwear on just before MIL knocked on the door.
DD2 woke up just before we left and kissed me goodbye. MIL helped me out to the car and told me she was sure I was in transition. In the car DH put on my Guitar by the Sea music (ocean sounds are good for laboring!) and even though I had several contractions in the 10 minute ride to the hospital, they felt more manageable – which made me even more convinced that I was heading to my “doom” at the hospital.
We got to the hospital at 6:30am. They put us right into a labor room and blessedly didn't mention a word about cervical exams. They did bring out the monitors and told me I would have to wear it for 20 minutes, but then I could take them off. The nurse drew some blood quickly and painlessly while I labored, getting more and more cranky about the monitors with each contraction.
At some point I got the monitors off. DH was keeping me sane and breathing. I needed to pee so he helped me move to the bathroom. As with my last birth, that trip to the toilet made me lose it. Contractions were coming steadily, almost on top of each other and so very intense. I remained convinced that pushing and baby were still hours away. Instead of taking contractions one at a time, I began saying “I can't do it any more” as I envisioned hours of hard labor bearing down on me, and oh, how I wished I had slept the night before! I started begging him to get me an epidural – a first for my three births. By this time I was laboring standing, hanging on for dear life to DH's neck and sometimes crying like a baby through contractions. I was aware of how badly I was handling things and I was in denial about what was happening and in between contractions all I could think was how stupid the whole idea of having a baby without an epidural was (not kidding). DH insists it was all pretty funny the way I was handling things. He was amazing. He held me and believed in my body and urged me to breath and told me all the right things to tell a woman in labor. Except when he said “You're so strong” I yelped at him that I was tired of being strong and I was too tired and at the peak of that contraction “I want a c-section.” As it died down, I looked him in the eye...I remember thinking about how deep blue his eyes were and how much I loved him and how I would quite possibly kill him if he didn't get me some drugs now. I said “You're not listening to me. I want an epidural now!”
I think at that moment, or somewhere close to it I felt a flash of confusion and then, oh wait, I remember this feeling. “I need to push!!” A nurse was in the room, try to put a monitor to my belly and listen to the baby through a contraction and I know I was snapping at her about touching me. DH told her to get things ready and some things were said about cervical exams (I asked for one). Still, I began to feel my body pushing without my help. It was pretty unreal. I rested my head on DH and felt his sweat from the exertion of supporting my laboring body and in the midst of everything, I felt so much love and gratitude for him. A few contractions I tried to push through and that felt good, but DH told me later I was really holding my breath during those ctx. I continued to say “I can't do it” and everyone around me continued to assure me “Oh yes, you can. You ARE doing this.” They arranged the birthing stool and I remember hearing DH tell the midwife to get her gloves on because this baby was coming fast (she was nonchalant about how fast things were going and apparently he felt she was not acting with sufficient urgency ;-)). My water finally broke with a giant pop and splash and the midwife told me it was nice and clear while the unfortunate nurse put a monitor to my belly as I yelled at her not to touch me. She gently said “We HAVE to monitor your baby for one contraction now that your water is broken” and I gave up protesting. Sometime soon before or after my water broke, in the middle of a contraction, I suddenly knew with total certainty that our third baby was going to be a girl (and told DH as much). Funny thing after spending so much of my pregnancy believing I was carrying a boy.
After that contraction I moved to the birth stool and quickly tried to recall how to push from there (amazing how I forgot that part!). The next push and the midwife said she could see a lot of the head. I was shocked not to feel the baby move back up the birth canal when I stopped pushing between urges (I don't remember contractions at this point). One push later her head was out and the next, I put my hands down and lifted my third-born child into this world. Sure enough, she was a girl. Bright pink, head full of (red!?) hair, covered in vernix with a loud, lusty cry. She was born on May 17, 7 minutes before our scheduled induction. 7:53am.
After awhile we moved to the bed and I delivered a very tiny placenta, cord was cut, and she got to work nursing. I had no tearing which I thought was amazing given how quickly she came out. After awhile, we got curious about her weight. I was sure she was in the 6lb range, she seemed so small to me. Not so much – 7lbs, 10oz. Not my biggest but not nearly as tiny as I thought. And after that we were left alone for quite awhile to enjoy our new little one and marvel at the whole event.
It seems kind of wrong that the birth of my third child would be so much more of a joyful revelation than my other kids (and their births were absolutely joyful) but...there it is. I cannot remember another moment in my life where I have had such an overpowering and instant surge of unadulterated joy and happiness. My husband laughs when we talk about it. He says it's always his favorite moment of labor – seeing me go from utter misery to pure happiness.
And just like that...3.5 hours later, our third daughter joined our family. My only regret now is that I have no pictures from those moments right after she was born. In fact, it all happened so fast, we have very few pictures at all from her first few hours. Next time – and at the moment, I feel very certain that there will be a next time – I'm bringing a friend just to photograph those moments.
Edited by lightheartedmom - 6/15/12 at 10:49am