We’ve loved having Westley here with us for a full month! Sometime a week or so after coming home from the hospital I sat down to write down his birth story. It wasn’t what I had planned and he made us wait eleven days past his due date to show up. But we are so glad he did.
the day before
My induction was scheduled for Tuesday. My instructions were to call the hospital between 5 and 7am and they would tell me what time to come in. He was finally coming – only eleven days late.
We spent the day before getting all the things done.
First on my list was a last fun outing with just me and the kids so we spent the morning at the zoo. We watched an Ostrich mating ritual, roared at the lions, and danced for an unenthused gorilla. We stopped by chick-fil-a for one last cup of ice (and lunch).
The rest of the day we did laundry, hung pictures and mirrors, and cleaned everything we could.
early that morning
I woke up for one of many middle of the night bathroom trips at 4 am, checking the clock to see if I could call the hospital yet. I felt a contraction, like I often did when I rolled over or changed positions during the night, and tried to go back to sleep.
Twelve minutes later there was another one. And I hadn’t rolled over. It was a little more intense than my regular middle of the night contractions so I grabbed my phone and timed as I breathed through it.
By 4:30 I was too awake to fall back to sleep so I got up, had a bowl of cereal, and waited for 5 am to call the hospital. I had another contraction.
The woman on the line told me to come in at 8 am. I had to wait until 8 am! Could I go back to sleep before then?
I tried, getting into bed and drifting off between contractions that were strong enough to wake me up. My IT band was hurting from all the walking at the zoo the day before so I took some acetemetophine.
Maybe I was in labor? Maybe this induction would go smoother than I’d hoped?
By 6 am I was up again, packing some final things, and making sure my sister had gotten in the night before (she came over late, planning on staying with the kids while we were at the hospital and then taking them up to grandma’s in New Hampshire).
I’d stopped timing the contractions but they were getting stronger now. I woke Ben up, hoping to get to the hospital a bit early in case things started progressing as fast as they did with Adelaide (her birth story here).
Just as we were ready to head out the door, Adelaide woke up. It was such a treat to see her one last time before everything in our family changed. She was thrilled she had woken up early enough to see us and we snuggled and giggled and chatted for a few minutes (until a contraction hit and I couldn’t talk to her).
Ben installed carseats in the car for my sister and we were finally off.
The contractions slowed down or something because I don’t remember any painful ones on the drive to the hospital.
We parked, got a bit lost finding Labor and Delivery, and finally checked in just after 8 am.
We filled out a bit of paperwork, with a break or two for an uncomfortable contraction, before Ben carried all the bags and I walked slowly to our room for the day.
Our nurse was a petite Russian woman with a marked accent and cropped blonde hair. I explained I’d like to see my doctor to make a plan to break my water before we started any kind of pitocin, that I’d like a ball to labor on, and that I’d like to be able to be up and walking around. She asked, confused, “aren’t you here for an induction?”
The doctor came in and was talking very quickly at me when a contraction hit. I looked away and focused on breathing. “Um, are you contracting?”
It wasn’t until the fetal monitor was hooked up and they could read my contractions on the computer, about 7 minutes apart and relatively strong that everyone started taking my claims of labor seriously. I was dilated to a five and it was about 9 am.
No one has any problem finding veins to draw blood from when I’m sitting in a doctors office but each time I’ve gone into labor my veins must disappear. Our nurse couldn’t find any and, BLESS HER, instead of trying she called for a specialist. At 9:30 the IV specialist arrived to get my antibiotics and fluids started.
I spent the next two hours dancing around the hospital room.
I was hooked up to an IV and did need to move around with my metal stand.
But THIS is what they talked about when they said that contractions were better with movement.
THIS is what they meant when they talked about feeling powerful and womanly.
I could do hard things. I could do this.
I chatted with Ben between contractions and alternated between “Breath of Heaven” and “Never had a friend like me” in my airpods during contractions. As one contraction was building Will Smith’s voice rang through the headphones “It’s the big part now!” and I burst out laughing (a VERY painful thing to do in the middle of a contraction).
At one point Ben was trying to calendar with me, a TINY bit frustrated I couldn’t remember the date of something in October. I got to remind him that I was actually IN LABOR.
I found swaying, bending my knees and my sides, helped the intense sensations. Sometimes squats worked really well to move through a contraction. Often, just bounding on the ball to the fast beat of the song while breathing space and openness into the lower part of my body released the painful tension, leaving just a strong feeling of stretching.
The doctor was going to be back at 11…and at 11:45 she came in for another cervical check. I was hopeful. Contractions had been 3-4 minutes for at least the last hour and I couldn’t talk through them. If I was an 8 or a 9, I could finish this without an epidural. If I was an 8 or a 9, once she broke my water, the baby would be here.
And I was a 5. Still a 5. Maybe a 5.5.
2 hours of optimistic hard work and no progress.
We made a plan for her to come back at 1:30 (when my 4 hours of penicillin was over) to break my water and talk about an epidural. Another hour and a half.
I’m not sure if the contractions actually got quite a bit worse after the doctor left or if I was just so discouraged but it was harder to focus, harder to dance, harder to breathe.
I labored for the next half hour or so with Ben holding me through each contraction. Each time it was harder not to tense up, not to try and grit my teeth and hold my breath till it was over.
At 12:15 I called for my nurse and asked if there wasn’t some reason we could have that epidural now. I was tired. I was down. My legs were exhausted from two hours of lunges + squats. I wanted a break.
And that sweet, enthusaistic, encouraging nurse responded, “You can have an epidural two hours ago. I will go call anesthesia now. You’re doing great!”
And everything was better.
The man with long curly hair came and talked to me about the risks (very, very quickly – the best use for speed talking I’ve found yet). I climbed into a wide ballet straddle on the bed, my forehead against Ben’s for one last contraction before the needle went in. There was another one afterward, just as painful, but somehow knowing they were getting easier instead of harder makes things more bearable
The epidural man tried a little small talk. I let Ben answer the questions. I didn’t tell him how much better this epidural experience was than last time (that horrible epidural man here).
The epidural hurt about as much as the IV had that morning – maybe less.
And then I curled up in bed, on my side, and took a nap.
At 2:45 the doctor was back. During the exam my water broke and I was dilated to a 7. Progress (although not as much as I would have liked -it is hard not to compare births while you’re in it – but if it had been Adelaide I would have had a baby in my arms hours before).
They said everything would move fast once my water broke.
The next thing I know is the nurse is double checking her readings from the monitor and calling the doctor. All of the sudden there are 5 people in the room and the baby’s heart rate has dropped. They turn me to my other side. The doctor checks for the cord. The heart rate stabilizes. I take another nap.
time to push
And then I’m a 9.
And the doctor says she’ll be back soon for me to have this baby.
I’m shaky and nauseaus and the nurse tells me it’s the hormones, it means the baby is coming.
And then I’m a 10.
And she asks me to hold my legs and try a push. Everything is calm. Nothing is urgent. I’m surprised, a bit confused, am I really pushing the baby out now?
The baby is still pretty high, even as I’ve dilated all day, he hasn’t moved down at all.
I can’t remember how to push. It’s been 4.5 years. With Adelaide I coughed, faked a push, and she slid out. How do I do this?
I can never hold the push as long as the doctor wants. Ten seconds feels like an eternity.
It seems odd to be straining so much in a room so calm, with people talking in soft voices.
And then the nurse is talking quickly. And the doctor is talking quickly. And she’s asking to page another provider. And someone is asking for a vaccuum. There’s an oxygen mask on my mouth. Someone is talking about dropping D cells and they’re all telling me I have to push. The baby has to come out right now.
The cord was tight around his neck. He wasn’t getting oxygen. He wasn’t moving down.
There were now 7 adults in the room, all moving and talking.
Ben is holding my hand (but I also remember holding both my legs – so I”m not sure how he was holding my hand). I want to cry. I can’t breathe. But I have to breathe to push. I have to hold it together long enough to push.
In those three minutes, I didn’t know what kind of danger my baby was in – no one talked to me about the alternatives. No one said c-section. No one said surgery. But every awful option passed through my mind and the one thing I could do was push him out. And I don’t think I have exerted more energy at anything, ever, in my life… and I’m not sure I ever will again.
They still used a vaccuum to assist.
There was something about the cord. And then something about a shoulder being stuck. And something about the doctor being needed in the OR.
And then he was out. And he was quiet.
“Shouldn’t he be crying?” I’m not sure if I asked it out loud or just in my head.
And then he was shrieking. And it was a beautiful, beautiful sound.
He was on my chest, being handled and toweled by someone. And he looked huge to me. Like those newborns in movies who are actually three months old. How was THIS inside of me just minutes ago?
The baby was cold, or maybe it was something else, but they took him to the other side of the room to be under warming lights.
The doctor talked quickly to the second provider as she stitched me up. A minor superficial tear she called it (which was actually a not so great second degree tear according to nurse later?).
They brought the baby back and we just snuggled, exhausted, and relieved – one of us still shaking.
At some point we ordered food. At some point they weighed him and measured him. At some point a nurse took him from Ben because he was wheezing.
But he was here. And breathing. and here.
Before Westley’s due date I was eager for an unmedicated birth. With this being quite possibly my last pregnancy, I wanted the chance to experience a side of childbirth I’d heard so many women describe as empowering and beautiful.
And then his due date came and went, along with all of my birth plans.
I just really wanted to go into labor on my own without being induced. I was also convinced that with him being so late he was going to be huge. And I didn’t want to deliver a 10 pound baby without drugs.
I am grateful for having an induction scheduled and going into labor a few hours before (it got rid of the hard decision of when to go to the hospital). I am also so grateful for the chance experience labor, if only for a few hours, the way I imagined it. It was hard but it was also empowering and exciting to realize how much of the sensation of labor could be changed by my mind and changing the position of my body. And finally, I am grateful for modern medicine – for competent doctors, enthusiastic nurses, and that beautiful epidural.
previous birth stories:
a few more pictures: