My first birth was full of surprises in 2017 - as all births are! I share this story as ONE example of birth. Since then, I have witnessed and been a part of so many other birth experiences and have learned so much about pregnancy, delivery and postpartum.
I woke up on October 5 in a fairly large puddle. I laughed and called to my husband to tell him I thought my water had broken. We called our provider and they said to come in to be assessed. Being first time parents, we rushed to load the car and head to the hospital ASAP - even though I had no contractions.
We checked in and got wristbands and were shown to the triage room. When I was checked, I was dilated 2 cm, 60% effaced. At this point, we were admitted since my membranes had ruptured. The midwife who checked us in did say unfortunately for someone who wanted no interventions in their birth plan, we were in a really crappy situation. There were slight blips on the contraction monitor but I wasn’t feeling anything except pressure.
We walked the halls of the L&D ward for the next five hours – doing circles and figure 8s. I was routinely hooked up to monitor my contractions and baby. The nurse thought I was having contractions from the feel of my belly but I still wasn’t feeling them. Eventually, I was hooked up to a wireless monitor which gave us more freedom.
Finally around 3 PM, the midwife caught us in the hallway and asked if we could have a private conversation in our room. The staff were really fabulous about not mentioning that we were “on the clock” but we knew we were. We were told we had to do something to speed things up since it had been almost 8 hours since my water had broken. Hospital policy called for interventions after 6 hours. Being a first time parent meant I did not understand that natural labor could take 24+ hours to start. We agreed at this point to start Pitocin. Every half hour it would be increased if contractions were not evening out. If contractions were even and regular, they wouldn’t increase the dosage. We continued to walk around the ward.
Some check in sessions went really well and others didn’t progress at all. We spent a lot of time on the birth ball. Contractions were consistent about 2 minutes apart but still not very strong.
Around 10:30 PM, the new midwife on call decided we needed to have a cervical check to see what had been happening all day. I was only at a 3 after walking for about 12 hours and 7 hours of pitocin – we cried and were so discouraged. The midwife stripped my membranes and encouraged us to try to get some sleep over night.
During the night – the monitor tracking baby girl started acting up. The nurses were going to replace the monitor on my belly but when they took off the original, the skin was very irritated. The nurses did not feel comfortable adding another one back on. So, from then on, I had to be hooked up to the external monitors in bed to track baby.
In the wee hours of the morning, the midwife returned and checked me again – only to still be at a 3. Since baby was doing well though, the midwife suggested we take an hour off and walk around the halls to get the Pitocin out of my system. Then, we would start fresh and rebuild the Pitocin to see what another round might do. They also decided that I needed an internal fetal monitor to make sure baby really was doing well. They inserted this vaginally and taped it to the inside of my leg. We tried to continue walking around L&D but because of the monitor, there was a lot of bleeding and it was very uncomfortable. We went back to our room and just paced back and forth in the room. I vividly remember hanging onto my husband as the contractions hit harder and harder.
Overnight our nurses had gotten the room ready with all the delivery materials expecting baby girl to arrive. At one point, another nurse came in and had to take the supplies away for another delivery – what a discouraging thing to happen as I was trying so hard to make things happen.
Around 10 AM, a new midwife came in to check on us. After two full rounds of Pitocin and countless hours of walking, I was only at a 5 – technically, not even considered active labor. We knew we had to make some tough choices at this time. We discussed pain medication options and decided to go ahead with an epidural. I was very discouraged and felt like my body was failing me. However, we did feel so much relief once the decision was made. I then of course started getting nervous that the anesthesiologist wouldn’t be available and the contractions were very, very strong – somewhere between a 7 and 9 on the pain scale.
About an hour later, the anesthesiologist arrived. The epidural honestly felt like the hardest part of the whole process – I had to sit absolutely still while he stuck a catheter into my spine during intense contractions. When he started the epidural, I could feel it so he stopped and gave more local anesthesia. Finally, the catheter was inserted and I felt almost immediate relief with the next contraction. Within 15 minutes, I couldn’t even feel the contractions happening. It was such sweet relief after so many hours. The nurses instructed both of us to sleep and they would come back in 2 hours. We both passed out almost immediately. Time seemed to work very strangely during this whole experience – some hours flew by in moments while other moments seemed to last a lifetime. These 2 hours of rest flew by. When the midwife returned to check at 1 PM, I was pretty discouraged. The midwife was extremely encouraging and quickly checked – a huge grin appeared on her face as she announced I was at a 9 and 80% effaced. I burst into tears – I finally felt like we might get the birth we wanted. The midwife said she would be back in a couple hours to see what additional progress was made and encouraged us to just keep resting.
Around 4 PM, I was completely ready (10 cm and 100% effaced) but baby girl was still just at station 0. So they decided we would labor down for an hour to let the contractions move her as much as possible.The nurse got the room all ready and set up (again) for delivery. We had been waiting so long at this point that it seemed so surreal that we would actively start something in just an hour. Shortly after 5 PM, I started pushing. On just the first push, my husband exclaimed that baby girl’s head was there and they could see her hair. He looked shocked!
The contractions were coupling so I would have 2-3 contractions back to back and then a long 5-6 minute gap. This gave me plenty of time to rest and recuperate between pushes. The whole pushing phase lasted about an hour and 15 minutes but it went by so quickly and those breaks were so helpful. Near the end (which we didn’t realize was the end), the nurse called the OB on call to deliver as all the midwives were delivering other babies. Crazily, they told me to stop pushing until the doctor arrived and as a first time mom, I felt obligated to comply. Finally there was one huge feeling of release, no pain due to the epidural, just release and baby’s whole head and body slipped out all at once. We both remember the OB flipping baby around in acrobatics to untangle the long cord that was around her. Baby barely even cried at all. They started rubbing her and encouraging her to cry but she was just so content. The nurses all started laughing because baby was fine and happy and gaining color like she should but just wouldn’t cry. They commented that it was because we had such a peaceful labor and delivery room and she was relaxed and calm like her parents. We hadn’t realized until that moment how calm and focused we were the entire 35 hours but we really had just gone inward with each other and were so focused on the task at hand – to bring our daughter into the world safely - that everything around us kind of faded away.
After baby was delivered, the OB and nurses went to work to repair a second degree tear I had. My placenta was delivered quickly and we were given alone family time to bond. When baby girl was finally assessed, she weighed in at 7 lbs 10.8 oz and measured 18.5 inches long. She never even cried during all of this. The nurse helped baby girl latch on and I nursed her for the first time. She did so well latching and it was such a sweet moment.
Late that night, we moved to postpartum and some of our family members were able to meet our new daughter. She didn’t receive her name for at least another 12 hours but finally we were thrilled to call her Abigail Kate.
Thinking back to my first birth story, there was so much I didn’t understand about myself and my baby. I am so thankful I had the vaginal birth I had wanted even with all the interventions I had hoped to avoid. Everyone’s birth experiences are so unique and powerful - thank you for sharing in mine and I look forward to every birth I have the honor of attending.