I have started and stopped writing this story too many times to count. I know I should have written it down as soon as possible after it happened so that time and speculation could not cloud my memory. Even in the immediate days after my first child’s birth, the details were pretty fuzzy. This is my attempt, five years later, to document for her her unique and special birth story.
Side Note: if you have never had a baby, I am giving you fair warning right now, you may not want to read this birth story—I promise you this is NOT a typical birth story, but I don’t believe there’s any use in scaring anyone!
Pregnancy Weeks 1-39
My whole pregnancy was smooth and uneventful. Healthy. “Normal.” Not that I had anything to compare it with, since it was my first. But I felt like the 39 weeks plus 2 days had been pretty easy. It definitely did not prepare me for what was ahead.
Speaking of prepared, I am a planner. I knew I wanted to have a natural birth with no drugs and as few interventions as possible. This had nothing to do with wanting to be a hero or a martyr and everything to do with helping to ensure breastfeeding success AND believing wholeheartedly in the strength of a woman. So I read. I read everything, including my favorite and most-recommended book if you are curious about planning for a natural childbirth: “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” by Susan McCutcheon.
But as you will see, nothing prepared me for the events that actually transpired.
I had my regularly scheduled weekly appointment with my OB. This was back when they still checked your cervix every week at the end (and before I knew better than to politely decline this unnecessary check). She told me I was not dilated in the least OR effaced at all. She even tried go ahead and just get me on the schedule for an induction. I declined and told her I would see her next Monday at 40+2 weeks.
On this beautiful December day, I started to feel real, hard, consistent contractions. Being the planner that I am, and knowing I still had plenty of time, I went to the courthouse to renew our vehicle license and registration because I KNEW there was no way I was taking a newborn with me to stand in that line later. At home that evening, my husband and I did some walking and then relaxed and went to bed. Well, he went to bed. I was awakened by contractions every nine minutes. Every. Nine. Minutes.
Now do you see why cervical checks are pretty useless??
I got up, showered and got ready for work. I am not one to sit around at home. I figured that since the contractions were not getting any closer, I had decided it was just false labor, and I might as well go to work. After all, I had just been to the doctor on Monday and there were no signs of labor.
However, my mom had called for an update and I could not even talk through a contraction. So she and Matt forced me to call in to work and tell them I was in labor. My plan was to labor at home for as long as possible (we only lived about three minutes from the hospital) because I knew I would be more comfortable at home. I made Matt go to work, because I didn’t want him pacing around. I got myself as comfortable as possible on the couch and tried to take a nap.
I wish I would have kept my contraction log. I used SHEETS of notebook paper. (Yep, this was before handy contraction apps!). ALL day long I was having contractions anywhere from 3-4 to 10 minutes apart. Never consistent.
Matt came home from work early and we walked and walked some more that evening. Again, we went to bed. Wednesday night at about 2am I woke Matt up and told him the contractions were so close and so painful that I thought it was time to go to the hospital. We got up, did a few dishes, finished packing our suitcases, and then…….the contractions slowed down. So we went back to bed. I tried to get some rest, but the contractions were a pretty steady seven minutes apart. We decided to see what I felt like in the morning.
I called my mom. She said “honey, I really think you are in labor. Can you please just call the clinic and go have them check?” So I ate a big breakfast, showered, and waited until office hours so I could call my doctor’s office. We went in, and sure enough, I was 3-4 cm dilated and partially effaced. I was so relieved to actually be in labor that I cried.
Our plan was to go back home and continue laboring there, but the OB doctor wanted me on the monitor for a few minutes just to make sure baby was doing ok. Unfortunately, the strip showed that she was having some heart rate decelerations with my contractions. Which meant that we had to head to the hospital. We made a trip home to get the suitcase (because when we left home I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor), called my mom (because she lived 4 hours away), and got all checked in.
And Now the Real Waiting
Once there I was instructed that I could walk, coming back to the room every hour to be on the monitor for a few minutes to check on baby. Well, that was at around 11am. By 5pm, after walking I’m sure MILES that day, the OB doc came and checked me and I was only at 5cm. I was crushed. So little progress in SO MUCH TIME. I was starving. I was exhausted. I had not slept a full night’s sleep since Monday night.
It was now Thursday evening. We decided to have my water broken in the hopes of speeding up labor. It worked. The contractions were finally much closer and much more painful. My mom had made it there, so I had two great support people with me along with 2 or 3 wonderful nurses. After a couple more hours of contractions, I was finally dilated to about 9.5cm. I was having TERRIBLE back pain/labor, and the doctor discovered that baby was posterior, or sunny-side up, which was causing my back labor AND probably part of the cause of the slow labor. She also felt that the anterior lip of my cervix was still not all the way effaced and was preventing baby’s head from moving down the birth canal.
At around 9:00pm (I think), we decided I would start pushing with the contractions. I never felt the urge to push, but baby’s heartbeat was dropping and taking more time to recover between contractions. I could hear it, and can still hear it. It scared me, and I refused to push until her heart rate came back up. My pushing was completely ineffective, and after an hour of pushing and the doctor trying to rotate her unsuccessfully (which to this day is still the most painful thing I have ever endured in my life), we decided to take a break.
It might have been at this point that I asked for pain meds. I wholeheartedly wanted a drug-free delivery, but I was beyond exhausted at this point and needed some strength to try to push again. Unfortunately, it was too late for pain meds.
After trying different positions to try to get baby in a different position, we decided to try again to push.
By this point I needed oxygen to help myself and to try to help baby. Her heart rate was still slowing down with each pushing effort. I pushed and pushed and still little progress. By this time midnight had come and gone. Now, along with being exhausted and starving, I was scared. Actually I think I was delirious too.
We discussed using vacuum suction. I was open to almost anything at that point. It was applied, and I pushed and pushed and the vacuum popped off. By now the delivery room looked like a war zone.
Still little progress. I pushed more. By now, I had three nurses in the room and noticed that more and more baby nurses were silently appearing to wait.
Just after 3am, the vacuum was applied again. I pushed and pushed. It popped off. Her heart rate kept plummeting. My mom looked at the doctor and asked, “what happens if she can’t get her pushed out??” The doctor said, “well, she’s really really low in her pelvis but I would have to do a c-section.” I looked at my husband with new determination in my eyes, shook my head, and said, “NO.” I had not been through all that to have a c-secion.
I pushed with every ounce of my being, and I screamed, and I cussed, and I saw the doctor reach for the scalpel and I didn’t even care or feel the episiotomy but I pushed my baby out. Until I heard the doctor yell “Stop pushing!!!” I looked down and my baby was partially out, purple, and had a tight nuchal cord. The doctor cut the cord, handed the silent baby to the nurses, and I am really unclear on what happened in the next moments.
My mom was crying, I collapsed back on the bed, trying to breath, and I couldn’t see or hear my baby because of all the nurses around her. I told Matt to go over by her. I still don’t know to this day, even after requesting and reading our hospital records, if she was away from me for 5 minutes or 55 minutes. I know she needed oxygen for awhile. But when I finally heard her cry and they finally brought her to me and put her on my chest it was the happiest and most relieved I had ever been in my life. I knew the meaning of love without end.
39+6 days of pregnancy. 52 hours of labor. One perfect and healthy baby by the grace of God. I had no idea though that even though I got the unmedicated birth story that I wanted, (although not intervention-free), I would still be haunted years later by the sound of her slow, slow heartbeat during my contractions. So much so that I chose to decline continuous monitoring when I was in labor with my second baby.
I know what you’re thinking—and I agree. It IS a miracle after that labor and delivery we decided to have another baby! I also didn’t know this until days later that at some point Thursday evening, my husband was so scared that he left the room, went to the hallway and prayed a prayer he never thought he would have to pray and never wants to pray again. I won’t tell you the specifics, but he was pretty convinced that he was going to go home from the hospital with only one of us.
It was therefor not difficult to convince him to let me hire a birth Doula for our second baby’s birth. It made all the difference in the world! I hope to have our son’s birth story written soon too.
Despite all my planning, nothing prepared me for 52 hours of labor and a posterior baby. I went into my second birth, and will have the same mindset for my third, that you have to accept that there are factors that you cannot control. I just thank God every day for my healthy babies.