I started having rounds of “pre-labor” contractions as early as 32 weeks. More defined prodromal labor kicked in on June 16th. I even had bloody show! But true labor didn’t start until June 24th…. and I didn’t deliver until 72 hours later. Here is a peek at what those last few days were like. (apologies in advance for the extreme length!!!)
June 24th— After a week of on again off again contractions, I was prescribed black and blue cohosh by my midwives. I was overdue at that point, and my blood pressure had been climbing, and this was seen as more “natural” induction than a hospital induction later that week. That afternoon I started the cohosh regimen. I also went for a very gentle jog with my husband, hoping the "mild stress" would trigger labor.
I don't know if it was the cohosh, the run, or both... but regular contractions began that night. I sent DH back to bed to sleep and spent many hours with my mom, a maternal/fetal specialist, pacing the kitchen and living room. She and my dad had driven 600 miles at the first signs of our labor the week before. It had been a long wait, but here was true labor at last!
During this late night/early morning period, mom helped me develop a routine to my breathing and movement, and find good positions for getting through contractions. She also made me an early breakfast. :)
June 25th-- Dawn came and I went walking with mom to try and help things progress. We watched the stars fade and the bats flap through the street lights. I’d have to stop everything during contractions, sometimes fall into a squat… or to throw up in a neighbor’s yard. At one point someone came out of their house to check on us. “It’s ok!” I told them, “Just having a baby!” Contractions were 6-8 minutes apart. When I didn’t feel like I could walk any more, we returned home for me to spend time in the shower/bath. I was starting to feel pretty drained … but then my water broke at about 10:00 a.m. and I perked up, encouraged. Little did I know, however, that our baby was still a few days away!
Contractions continued all day, but we weren’t hitting the magic numbers that would justify going to the birth center to labor. I walked, spent time in the shower, on the birth ball-- rotating through everything just to pass time and stay on top of the contractions.
Because I was GBS positive, I did have to go to the center that night to get a saline lock in my arm and an NST. I was given a loading dose of antibiotics at the center and sent home with additional doses to give myself via IV. Contractions lasted through the night, spacing out to about 8-10 minutes apart. I managed to doze between them while in my rocking chair. We hung my IV bags from the light fixture in our dining room and my mom would wake me up and administer them. The night went by….
June 26th— Another dawn came. Contractions continued ….and so did we. My mom had me walking, on the stairs, birth ball, squatting... once again rotating through each "station" to try and encourage progress and stay on top of contractions, which stayed 5-7 minutes apart for most of the day. I ate popsicles and chicken broth when I could, but really couldn’t stomach much.
We drove to the birth center for another NST that afternoon and I continued to have more antibiotics. Since everything checked out on the NST… we simply returned home to labor on with the encouragement of my midwives. My husband and parents ordered Chinese food that evening. By this point my contractions were too strong for me to do anything other than be in a dark room by myself. My husband would bring me cool wash clothes soaked in lavender water, but I mostly wanted to be alone.
June 27th--- At about 1:00 a.m. my mom suggested we go to the birth center. I remember throwing up in the yard on the way to the car, and also seeing the moon and the stars as we drove down the high way. We met my midwives at 2:30 a.m. I was dilated to 6 which I found encouraging at the time… but looking back it seems absurd to only be at 6 after so much labor.
At the birth center I labored in the tub, in the shower, on the birth ball. I was having intense pelvic and back pain. It felt like my pubic bone and tail bone were being crushed simultaneously and I kept having to apply counter pressure. I don't have a clear memory of where my husband or mom was at different times, but they would take turns sitting with me and applying pressure to my back or offering cool washcloths for my neck.
By 8 a.m. I had dilated to 8 c.m….. but I was exhausted and losing it. I’d been in labor for close to 60 hours and I was starting to get a sense that something really wasn’t right. At some point the midwife said she thought the baby was posterior and would need “different plan of action.” She tried a rebozo technique where she wrapped a sheet around my belly, stood over my holding both ends of the sheet, and shimmied to try and adjust the baby’s position. It was unbelievably painful. Between contractions I was vomiting and shaking uncontrollably. I was starting to feel depleted, desperate, and I didn’t know how I could continue.
My mom and I discussed our options with my midwives. Instead of transfer right then, I opted for IV fluids and stadol to allow me to try and rest for a few hours. The stadol allowed me to doze between contractions, and I did wake on the “other side” feeling a little bit better and ready for battle again....
But a few hours later (and still no progress) my contractions started to space out. My body was simply giving up.
Once again we discussed our options with the midwives. We decided to try everything in the midwives’ arsenal to get things going again -- blue and black cohosh, IV fluids, walking, breast pump, and more rebozo moves, massage, and ligament release. It was agreed that if I made any progress at all by 5 p.m. – whether by dilation or baby’s position-- I could continue at the birth center…. if not, I needed to be transferred to the hospital for augmentation.
The hours ticked by, we continued to try everything the midwives could think of—including one technique called “shaking your apples” where they shoved my hips while I was in an inverted position. It must have been quite a site to see me naked and miserable and being beaten upon my midwives.... Ultimately, though, while contractions came and went, no progress was made. :( And so we were off to the hospital.
I labored for 4 more hours with Pitocin (3 of those without an epidural). In the haze I remember my husband telling me “Good job, sweetheart,” and me responding very calmly, “Baby, you’ve been telling me this for three days…. You’ve got to come up with something else!”
At this point, even with pitocin, I had still not dilated beyond 8 cm. The backup Ob was willing to let me keep laboring a little longer.... but the baby’s heart rate started to drop …. so we were off for a c-section.
I remember crying while on the OR table. I had to reassure the anasthesiologist that I was not in pain, but that I was simply overwhelmed by everything, especially the fact that I was actually going to have my baby. I had spent days just focusing on labor-- the notion of actually having a baby seemed so abstract and foreign.
At 10:04 p.m. my DH was able to peek over the c-section curtain and announce that we had a little boy. The entire c-section took 22 minutes before I was entirely stitched up and wheeled into recovery to try and nurse.
3 weeks postpartum now and the recovery has gone rather well, especially when I consider how little sleep we got the week of my labor... and then the first week with the baby. My incision does bother me still and there are other physical difficulties... but it's all within the realm of normal, and every day is a little better.
I am incredibly thankful for my family who supported me throughout such a long labor, and to my midwives who allowed me (and encouraged me) to try everything within their power for a natural delivery. I am thankful for the hospital, too, and the backup OB who also kept my goals for natural birth in mind. I am also thankful for my little boy, who stuck it out for more than 70 hours before showing signs of distress!
That said, although the effort was valiant and I know a c-section was necessary.... I am surprised by my conflicting emotions about it, especially my sadness. Ultimately I feel like I wasn’t present for the birth… like I missed it! After 72 hours... I missed it! And, also-- while I know this is completely irrational— I feel like my labor didn’t count, that it was a big waste. 72 hours of labor when all it took was a 22 minute c-section?! It just blows my mind.
I've started to see it a little differently by thinking of my long labor as an extended birthday party for our little boy. We were all gathered together and so excited for the arrival of our little one, and there were some really special moments tucked amidst those 72 hours-- everything from hanging the IV bags from the chandelier, driving back and forth for our NSTs... puking in the neighbor's yards.... etc, etc. It's just taking me few weeks to decipher the blur.
Here's our little man milk-drunk and chunky cheeked.
Edited by Sweet Huck - 7/17/13 at 7:12pm