forgive the length...A long journey….
Some history on this pregnancy might make the birth itself more interesting. This was my 2nd pregnancy after an eleven year break, and I was already 12 weeks and scheduled in a few days for the first heart beat appointment. My husband and daughter were out of town on an overnight field trip and I was at a restaurant with my parents.
All of a sudden I realized I felt a gush and thought, OH, my water broke, WAIT, I am only 12 weeks!, OH, I started my period, WAIT, I AM MISCARRYING! I remember clearly that thought process. No cramping, just gushes of blood that went on for about 30 minutes. I rushed to the car with my confused parents following but it didn’t take long because I was obviously miscarrying. No warning. We skipped the hospital after calling and explaining what passed. It was a miscarriage. I spent that night cramping and bleeding without my husband, grieving this loss. 12 weeks was enough time for me to have been completely attached to this baby.
The doctor appointment the next day determined the same thing, a miscarriage, and we scheduled an ultrasound to be sure there was nothing left to be removed by D&C in case of infections. Later at the ultra sound I laid on the table thinking about how I hadn’t even gotten to hear the heat beat, and here I was having an ultrasound to be sure I lost the whole pregnancy. It was surreal. I cried while being prepped and didn’t even look at the screen until the technician, aware of the nature of the appointment from my doctors note, said “you aren’t going to believe this…. there is a baby in here!” The technician had to wait about 5 minutes for me to stop screeching and shaking. I know it is dramatic, but after a 24 hour grieving period, it felt like a miracle. Like the baby died and came back to life. I didn’t realize then, that I had miscarried the twin. And even now the gratitude for the surviving baby overrides the feelings of loss over the twin I didn’t realize I had.
Still cramping and bleeding at the time, the risk of losing the remaining one was great. I was immediately put on bed rest and there the long pregnancy began.
Back and forth to the hospital with more bleeds, more cramping, a large separation between the amniotic sac and my uterine wall, which threatened to lift the placenta and compromise the baby’s development. Bed rest alternated from strict (bathroom breaks only), to modified, (sitting up a bit for small periods of time) and then back to strict from mid May to the end of October- 24 weeks, nearly 6 months. In my late 20 weeks, I was put on meds to stop the contractions that were causing my cervix to change. Very challenging, very scary at times, and for my husband the worrier, very stressful. And needless to say, this ruled out my idea for a home pregnancy.
Off of meds on Halloween, I was free finally to start moving around very slowly at first, and with all of the uterine activity, we were prepared that I might go into labor right away, but also prepared that it might just carry itself out another 4 weeks or so to my original due date of 11/29. Having worried about pre-term labor for so long, those last 4 weeks made the pregnancy seem like 2 years rather than 9 months. But when 11/26 rolled around and I felt the usual contractions become more consistent, I finally felt safe enough to be excited at around 9pm that night when my mucous plug began escaping. This told me my contractions were doing something constructive. I gave a heads up to Mom who would be there, as well as my husband and 11 year old daughter before going to bed. We actually slept until around 1am (myself off and on with the contractions) and then headed to the hospital on my midwifes instructions when they became six minutes apart.
My first pregnancy was induced and lasted only 6 hours, and my drive was over 30 minutes away, so my midwife didn’t want to risk a car delivery when she advised to go at 6 minutes apart. It was very important to me to experience going into labor on my own after the inductions experience, and I was so excited to tell them it was time. We all calmly gathered the last minute things and arrived at the hospital.
I wish I could say from here that my timing was perfect and the labor progressed within hours, but no, it drug on for quite some time. My Mom brought a rubber ball that was very nice to sit and roll my hips on, but I arrived at the hospital dilated to almost 4 cm, and immediately the contractions started spacing themselves out a little. We even took a nap for about an hour where my contractions seemed to stop, but then they proceeded as soon as I woke up! Strange. So on and on we went, the contractions went to 5 minutes and my cervix stayed the same.
Midwife showed up with my birthing pool and got us into the large birthing room. Very cool. She felt less distractions were better to get things progressing, so husband and Mom kept the visits short with family and friends beginning to arrive in the day.
By Noon, my midwife broke my water for me (which I now question), and it took some time to get the water past baby’s head all lodged into my pelvis. At this time I was still very focused and calm with my contractions, and found the pool the best relief of all. I would stand up and stimulate my nipples for the next contraction to make it strong, and then sink down to concentrate through the contractions. This went on for hours, and each hour I had to get out and be put on the monitors for 20 minutes since I was still considered “high risk” with the previous hemorrhaging. Getting out was hard and laying on the bed through the contractions even harder. I much preferred the water, but it became apparent that the water was almost too relaxing, so eventually I had to forego the water completely to progress. (which thinking about right now makes me wish even more that I could have done it at home- to not feel the hospital rush that I was progressing too slow).
My contractions were much more intense, like they were bordering transition, but it was now early afternoon and I was still not beyond 5 cm. This caused concern to my midwife that my uterus might be tired and unable to stretch my cervix further. She began suggesting pitocin which I strongly declined. I started analyzing my contractions and my bodies response and realized that I was still unconsciously holding my self tight in my bottom through each pain. She checked me before and after my experiment with relaxing my bottom through the contraction and actually felt a little difference. This was great to avoid pitocin, but a lot more painful for me. I was going to have to work to progress. I kept at it and felt much more pain. More time passed with these new and improved contractions but no more progress.
My midwife had me get on the bed so she could help my cervix through a contraction. Here is where I felt real pain. She was actually helping to stretch my cervix while having me half push through a contraction. It was white pain. My mind felt like it had no place to go with it. We tried it for a while, and while the pain was now waaaay more intense, I was still not progressing. She could stretch it to 7, but it wanted to stay at 5/6.
Again, looking back, I think I should have stayed with it, but in that delirium, I finally agreed to the pit and after serious haggling between contractions, a 3 mg dose of a muscle relaxant. It was like being stuck in transition, but not going anywhere. It was questionable where I would find the energy to push.
Now from here things get hazy, but my husband insists that the muscle relaxant gave me a “bad trip” because I became hopeless about my situation and expressed it several times that I was going to die, I didn’t feel safe, I was going to die, and finally – give me a c-section. The pain was unbearable. It is all I can say.
I didn’t get to birth in the pool, but ended up screaming on my back on the bed. I still cry thinking about that.
Once the pitocin hit, things moved rather quickly, and they gave me a counter shot to the muscle relaxant to help the baby’s reaction. (exactly why I was avoiding any drugs in the FIRST place!). And I learned, that this shot also inhibits your own natural endorphins that help you deal with pain.
So I pushed this 8#5oz boy out with no pain killers, not even my own! I could feel the hair on his head. I could feel his nose. His chin, his shoulder, his other shoulder. I could see only through a dark tunnel of pain, this joyful look on my husbands face as he assisted the baby out, my Mom crying and my daughter watching.
It wasn’t until I heard my midwife tell me “Reach down and get your baby”, that the tunnel cleared, and I actually pulled the remainder of his body out and laid him on my chest. I couldn’t look at anybody in the room. I could only see the squirming little boy prepping for his first breath which turned to a scream and immediately felt sorrier for him then I ever did for myself. He was the only soul that knew what we had just gone through, yet he was so little, how could he understand? I was so sorry he had to be uncomfortable at all. What a transition. Exhausted, split and wounded, I could only feel his pain right then.
So he ends up with the longest umbilical cord my midwife has ever seen. Not all big and sinewy, but sort of thin and frail. It measured a whopping 47 ½ inches (almost a foot longer than the long ones!) and it was wrapped around his neck 4 times. Another record for her. She and my husband explored the placenta to find the cord was coming from the side of the placenta rather than the middle and on the opposite side of the placenta, a fibrous clump that indicated where the twin had been. After months of wondering what the heck was going on in there, I could care less at that point. But my husband was good doing the inspection and reporting it all to me later.
I never let him out of my sight. They wanted to keep him for observation of his labored breathing- but I told them I’d observe, and he slept on my stomach the whole night. As sore and tore up I felt, his perspective was crystal clear to me, and he needed only snuggles and breast.
Amidst sore cracked nipples, full blown mastitis, and eliminating every food on the planet to ease his gas, I remember the worry of losing him, thinking of how difficult it was to get him here, and how we welcomed our little Ulysses Cole. Home from his own long journey.