On Sunday, my little man turned 5 weeks old. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, and yet, I can hardly believe that there was a time that he wasn’t a part of our lives. They mean it when they say that this year is a blur. Days meld in to each other and I rarely know what day of the week it is, unless I have my phone or an appointment to remind me.
This is long overdue, but until now, I haven’t had the time to sit down and write this out. As it stands, I’ll probably have to walk away from this several times, so who knows when it’ll be posted. I am going to be honest and raw here. If you are squeamish or want a sunny version of the labour, this is not the post for you. I might write a happy summery afterwards, but this specific entry is the raw “how it went down” version.
edited: Tracy has posted about her experience on her blog here
As my due date approached, Pat and I discussed using natural methods to induce labour. I had read about a bunch of them so I gave them a shot – hot sauce on my food, taking Evening Primrose Oil capsules orally and vaginally, enjoying some sexy time, and nipple stimulation. So far, I hadn’t even been having any Braxton Hicks.
On Wednesday April 11th, Liam’s due date, I had a midwife appointment. My sister, Tracy, came along with me. There, I asked about ways to get labour started, as Tracy was going to be leaving on the 26th and I wanted her to get as much time with Liam as possible. The midwife offered to check me and do a Stretch and Sweep aka an S&S if I wanted. I agreed. An S&S is basically the midwife using her fingers to stretch and sweep the cervix open. First, she started with a check – I was 2 cm dilated, and my cervix was “as soft as warm butter”. I was definitely going to be having him within the week! So, she did the S&S and off I went home.
At home, I started to feel “off”. I can’t really describe it. I just felt different. I called Pat to let him know. Then, rather than sit around and focus on it, Tracy and I decided to go out and distract ourselves. We went to a local family-friendly cafe. There I had a sinfully awesome latte and cinnamon bun, and sent all the texts and emails to my close friends about what was going on.
Nothing else happened that night. Or, really, the next. It was Friday evening, while watching Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta, with Tracy (while Pat played video games nearby), that I started to get contractions. They were really mild and I could barely classify them as anything, but we all decided it was time for bed, just in case things happened. We doubled checked the labour bags, texted out peeps and went to sleep. That night I got a bit of sleep, but was woken up occasionally by uncomfortable cramps and back pain. By the time Saturday morning came, I was definitely feeling contractions.
My birth plan included staying home and labouring there as long as possible, so Tracy, Pat and I did just that. They kept me fed and hydrated as the day went on. The contractions got stronger and stronger. I kept my discomfort (and I mean discomfort. It wasn’t really painful, per se) by pacing up and down the hallways. Eventually, I felt like I was going to be sick and barely made it to the bathroom. I remember thinking “This is it! I remember reading that you throw up once you get near 6cm!” Ha! Silly me. When the midwife came to check me, I was only at 4cm. I was so disappointed! The contractions were so intense, I started to worry about getting to 10cm without meds. I think, in total, we called the midwife to the house several times, though they only came, in total, twice. I remember moaning and groaning and Pat calling the midwife saying “Remember those noises you told me to listen for? Well, she’s making them!”. I remember grasping on to the banister in the hallway to ground myself during really strong contractions. I tried staying hydrated with water and coconut water, but I kept throwing up. We tried using the TENS machine, but I didn’t find it did anything for me, so I kept taking it off.
After getting checked again, I walk talking to the midwives in the dining room when I felt a gush of fluid. We were all sure my water had broken, so the midwives gave me the option: Did I want to stay at home, or get to the hospital? We opted for the hospital, because I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to stick to my “No Drugs”.
The drive to the Montfort was NOT fun. They had hooked me up to the TENS machine again, and while it helped a bit, I was still incredibly uncomfortable on the drive. Luckily, we had just missed some crazy traffic on the highway (there had been an accident), so we got to the hospital as quickly as we could. I remember thinking “This is the only time in my life that I won’t care at all about being in my PJs, with my hair unbrushed and no makeup on my face, out in public”.
Once we got me inside, they brought me to my room. For the next few hours I paced around the room in figure eights. The midwives recommended I try the tub. For the rest of the night I was in and out of there. We tried all sorts of comfort methods, but the only ones that really worked for me were walking, swaying and the tub.
I remember thinking I had to be so far along now, but when they checked me, I was only about 6cm. I think it was around then that I was asked if I wanted to try the gas. I said yes, but warned them that at the birth I attended, I had been nauseated when the woman in labour used it around me (I had breathed in the off gas). Well, let’s just say that wasn’t an issue (probably because i had already been puking for the whole day). The gas was my very best friend. To the point that it had to be taken away from me at times because I wasn’t giving it up. I had an impression around my face of the mask, because I was holding it so firmly against my mouth. It made a world of difference in my labour.
I can’t remember when things started to shift, but I know I was in the tub when Brianna, the midwifery student, told me I could try pushing. It didn’t feel good, so we backed off of that for a bit and I got checked again. It was then they realized that my water hadn’t broken and that it must have been my plug finally letting go. They broke my water and within half an hour I felt the urge the push and couldn’t help myself.
I’d like to say, here, that thus far my labour was great. Baby was healthy, I was healthy, our heart rates were good, my blood pressure was perfect. I was managing my pain well and everyone thought that we would have a great delivery. Despite feeling like it took forever, I was actually progressing really well. Before I knew it, I was at 10cm with only a slight lip. I was getting incredible support from Pat, Tracy and my midwifery student, Brianna. They got me through the worst of it.
It must have been the middle of the night at this point, so technically Sunday, when the pushing got intense. I tried every position you could think of. Kneeling, squatting, on my side, on my back, my legs supported, my legs unsupported, in the tub, standing, etc…etc…. but no matter how hard I pushed and no matter what position I was in, baby wasn’t coming. I pushed for 5 hours, which included one hour of “free pushing” and the single most painful experience of my life before I was sent for an emergency c-section. So, what happened?
The big issue was that Liam’s head was tilted back and to the side, essentially making his head stuck and in a position that the skull couldn’t do its natural plate-squish or whatever you want to call it to get through the birth canal. We didn’t know this until he was seen by the OB during the c-section.
So, When they noticed I wasn’t progressing, they put me on pitocin. This ramped up my contractions like crazy. Like, they were CONSTANT. And extremely intense. To the point that I couldn’t stop pushing and my heart rate was going a little nuts, so they turned it off. During the pushing, baby went tachycardic (though we were never told this. Pat knew because he was watching the monitors) and it was obvious that things weren’t going as planned, so my midwife, S, went to go find a nurse to ask for an OB consult. She discovered that all of the nurses were in a meeting. Yes, a meeting. They couldn’t spare one to help us. Also, the OB? Busy with an emergency. She was told that another OB was being brought in to help. Hours passed. That second OB? Another emergency. Basically, the hospital couldn’t provide us with the people we needed to get me checked out, so, I was left to push for 5 hours straight while my baby’s heart rate raced and I developed a fever and my blood pressure started to drop.
Finally, an OB was found and brought in. I was given the following options: Try forceps and get a natural birth or go straight to C-Section. I was exhausted at this point. I hadn’t slept well in days, I hadn’t eaten, I was done. Like with everything else, all of those positions, all of that pushing, I said “Let’s give it a shot”.
***If you don’t want to read about what I found traumatic in my delivery, please stop here. I’ll let you know when to pick back up, ok?****
I know forceps have been a great tool and have delivered a great many babies over the years. I know that they are a good option for those who are set on “natural” childbirth. Having said that, I will never recommend them to anyone. Ever. Maybe my experience was not the norm, so take this with a grain of salt, but it was the most traumatizing and horrific experience I’ve ever had.
Firstly, I’d like to restate that I was done. Physically, I had almost no strength left. Emotionally and mentally, I was in survival mode. I just wanted Liam out and safe, so I would have agreed to anything. We were not really told what “trying forceps” entailed or what it would be like for me. All I knew is that it was a possible alternative to being cut open. I went for it. I was by no means a “Natural or Nothing” kind of girl. We had discussed our stance on birth without midwives and thought they understood that we were “Natural if possible, but open to all options”, especially in the case of emergencies. I made it clear I was not willing to suffer for the sake of bragging rights. Or, at least, I thought I had made it clear.
So, when they offered forceps, I figured they understood me. I agreed, thinking that this was an option that would help, rather than hinder or hurt. They put me back on pitocin, to help get me pushing stronger again. Unfortunately, my body just couldn’t get things sorted out. It took almost 10 minutes for the contractions to start again and even then, they were slow and I was too weak to do anything with them. The OB told me she was going to give me 2 shots, to numb me. I remember thinking “This is going to be bad, if they have to numb me”. What I didn’t know is that the numbing didn’t help for crap AND that the needles were about a foot long. Getting them sucked really badly, but luckily, I was so far gone that I barely cried out. I will say that seeing me get them was pretty awful for my sister and Pat. It would only get worse. Next, she inserted the forceps and I thought I was going to be stretched apart. It was incredibly painful. I sobbed and begged her to stop. When the next contraction came, I was told to push with all my might. I tried, I really did. The OB pulled so hard that I was dragged down the bed, despite being held by my entire labour team (which included two midwives, the OB, two nurses, Pat and Tracy). The pain was incredible. In fact, it crossed my mind that I was dying, but could only think that it would be worth it if Liam was born safe and sound. This continued with every contraction. At one point, the forceps caught on something (it felt like my pelvic bone) and I remember thinking “She is tearing me apart”. Eventually, the OB realized and unsnagged it. I can’t remember how many times we tried (Pat tells me it was only maybe 3 times, but it felt like a million to me) eventually I was told that I needed a C-Section. I was so relieved to have the forceps out, I think I cried. I know I was weeping on the inside.
***OK, you can start reading again***
It happened so quickly that we barely had time to adjust. Tracy and I snuggled and kissed. I told her I loved her a few times (remember, I thought it was possible that I was going to die. I wanted her to know how much she meant to me), did the same with Pat, and then we were whisked away. Tracy was abandoned to our room, where I was later told she had a break down in the bathroom.
I was taken to the surgical room and prepped. The trip there was terrible, as I was still getting intense contractions (I had just been taken off the Pitocin) and was told I wasn’t allowed to push anymore. They gave me the spinal and my world became right again. The relief was immediate. I think I even fell asleep. Pat came in and they got started. I tried to stay awake, to talk to him. I wasn’t scared anymore. I was too tired. Not too long later, we heard the scream of our baby boy. He was brought over to us and we both fell in love. I felt so numb, so shocked, that he was mine. My first thought was “God, he’s so big. He can’t be mine!”.
We were told later that he was screaming in me before they even got him out. When he was handed to the nurse, he peed on her twice. He had pooped and had breathed it in while he was inside me, so after we saw him and he was checked out by the pediatrician, we were told he had to go to the NICU. I sent Pat with him. I was whisked off to Recovery at the same time. Unfortunately, it was at this time that my sister, Tracy, was forgotten. I had told a nurse to let her know where I was and what had happened, but nothing came of it. She was left, for 2 hours, by herself worrying about what was going on and where we were, in the bloody mess of a room that we had left behind. It wasn’t until the cleaning crew had come in to flip the room for the next patient that they found her and brought her to me in my new room.
While I was in recovery, I tried to rest, but they had to check me every 30 minutes. I passed out a couple of times, due to exhaustion, but never really slept. Finally, around 8am, I was brought to my room (where I would spend the next couple of days) and Tracy was brought to me. We had barely had time to talk about what had happened before Pat walked in the room with a nurse and Liam. He brought Liam over to me. I held my son for the first time, and held him, skin to skin and breastfed him for the first time. There were a lot of things that happened, that we’ve talked about and wished that we had known better, wished that we had said something to the midwives, wished that the midwives had done better or that the hospital staff had been there. In that moment? It didn’t matter how he got to me, just that he did.