Last week (Tuesday March 14th) I gave birth to my daughter Brynne! It’s been a magical, challenging, emotional, and wonderful past seven days and I wanted to share a little bit of all that has been going on with you.
(Please note that this post and subsequent related ones do include talk of birth, babies, and breastfeeding, so do feel free to skip on out of here if you’re sensitive or disinterested…)
I’ll start off by saying that Brynne’s birth did not go exactly according to my “plan.” And while it was mostly an incredible experience, I got my healthy beautiful baby girl after all, there are some things I was put through, and am still dealing with as a result, that I really wish I could change.
Let’s start off with Monday:
I had my last prenatal appointment on Monday. I was 41 weeks and 1 day at that point. My doctor checked my cervix and it was determined I was dilated about 2 cm. I was also beginning to feel mild cramping and the first “stirrings” of labor. There was a spring blizzard predicted for the following day and after much discussion, he strongly urged that I be induced that night. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but as he explained the process, the potential risks of going too far on my own (conventional medicine’s views, at least…) and also the risk of going into labor in the middle of a winter storm and not being able to get to the hospital should something go wrong, I felt as though my preferences on the matter would have to take a backseat to the words “chance, risk, and if.”
Glen and I headed to Women & Infants for 8:00 that night. We were admitted and brought to a spacious room with a private bathroom, a hospital bed, and a convertible sofa bed. I was induced with Cervidil at 10:00, hooked up to an IV (exactly what I had requested to NOT be done…) and attached to fetal monitors with a 3 ft cord. Literally drugged and tethered to the bed. I wasn’t even experiencing contractions and I was miserable.
The way the nurse curved the IV into my hand hurt. Like hell. I could feel it every time I bent my wrist. The fetal monitors slid all over my belly and went off whenever Brynne’s heartbeat were no longer detectable. Each time this happened, a nurse had to come in and reposition them. Think about it: two round monitors “glued” with lubricant to a pregnant belly and “belted” with a stretchy bit of fabric, and expected to stay put each time said pregnant belly moves or turns. Genius. I also had to unplug the monitors each time I needed to pee (which was often, considering the baby on my bladder and the unwanted IV dripping fluid into my body.)
Needless to say I didn’t get 15 minutes of sleep.
I had expressed my desire to birth unmedicated and had been provided with a birthing (or exercise ball.) Thank heavens for that thing. I had also thought to pack some granola bars, a couple organic gatorades, a banana and a bottle of water. I don’t even want to think about how much worse it would have been had I not. I wasn’t provided any food or beverage and was basically locked in for the night.
Around 5:00 am the contractions started. They weren’t too bad at first, gradually progressing from mild to strong to really freaking strong over the course of 3 hours. Glen was with me overnight and my mom came at about 7:00 am in order to help with labor and to avoid the snow that was starting to fall. I rode each wave of contraction on the ball right next to my bed with deep breathing and moaning exercises. I really wanted to do this my way, and was trying to make the best of what was already a change of plans. My contractions were super intense, coming in every two minutes and lasting about a minute each. It is definitely a unique and not pleasant sensation. I felt like I was a pin in a bowling alley lane. Repeatedly being knocked down by a force more powerful than my comprehension. But I was determined to stand my ground.
At around 8:00 am we finally had a nurse check me. I was 4.9cm dilated. It was time to get the show on the road.
I was put into a wheelchair (hospital policy I was told) and brought down to a labor & delivery room.
In my room I was greeted by a nurse named Martha. She would prove to be my sliver of light in a frustrating and painful process, offering gentle words, ice chips, and lots of suggestions for positions that might help me progress. I again expressed my birthing preferences and was given another ball to use and it was suggested I make use of the en suite shower. I did.
Holy cow that shower was amazing. Despite having very intense back labor, I rocked on the ball in the shower while Glen kept an eye on me and intermittently sprayed my back, my chest, whatever I requested. For a guy who has never been through anything even remotely like this before, I must give a shoutout to my guy. He was a champion birth partner. Glen gave me hot packs, cold washcloths, and counter pressure on my back throughout and stood back and let me be when I needed that too.
After what was probably a good hour and a half in the shower, I moved back to the ball and alternated between rocking with and standing/leaning into each contraction. It was really hard to keep going. I was exhausted beyond words and was losing energy fast.
I managed to work with my contractions using only my own techniques in the delivery room for about 4 hours. At that point I knew something was going to have to give. I needed to know where I was, dilation wise, and try to find some reserve energy to keep going. They brought a nurse in to check my status.
6 cm dilated.
What??? I had been going steady for four whole hours with only 1 cm of progress to show for it? I was devastated. I was so tired I couldn’t stand and was frustrated beyond words. I asked for the doctor to come give me some options for pain management.
After my “consultation” I was basically given two options: option A was epidural, which I had done research on and was trying to avoid from the beginning. They told me what I already knew about the process, and a few possible “side effects” for me that I was not aware of. The plus side was that there would be little risk of exposure to Brynne. Option B was narcotic pain medication. I was told that the pain meds would wear off and I would more than likely be right back at square one as far as pain sensation goes, almost as if all of my hard work were for nothing. I’d have to get a continuous dose, and it could cause Brynne to be drowsy and sedated, due to exposure.
I weighed my options. I needed to get her out. I decided to put my pride aside and opted for an epidural.
I won’t go into the whole process of the epidural, it really has nothing to do with it. It wasn’t pleasant but the numbness that came with it was the relief my body needed. I just lay on the hospital bed, IV bag dripping fluid and piton into my arm, the epidural pumping numbness through my back. I was experiencing your typical intervention-heavy, medicated childbirth, despite all of my efforts and research, despite my deepest desires to avoid one. I felt like a failure.
Feelings of failure aside, the epidural and contraction-causing pitocin finally brought me to 9 1/2 cm only two short hours later.
The doctor was called in and broke my waters. It was the oddest sensation, complete numbness as fluid gushed out of me. We had to wait for Brynne to descend down further. By now it was 2:00 Tuesday afternoon. I was nauseous beyond words from a combination of sheer exhaustion, the epidural, the dehydration, and hunger that all hospital personnel told me “wasn’t possible to experience.” My nurse Martha did what she could, providing me with ice chips and orange flavored jello. It wasn’t much, but it was what I was going to get.
Now came the time to get my body ready to push. One problem. The epidural had numbed me to the point where I couldn’t even move my legs. I fought hard with the rubbery, fake-feeling appendages that supposedly belonged to my body to no avail. I knew I needed to get this baby out, and what had at first provided my body with relief was now an obstacle in the way. I knew it was finally time to be my own advocate.
I demanded the epidural be shut off. I was told that they couldn’t do that, the “side effects,” the pain, blah blah blah. I asked what my options were. I was told they could turn down the epidural but they didn’t recommend it. I requested that they do so immediately. Finally, after 9 hours of labor and not having things go my way, they complied. They turned the epidural down and as I waited to regain feeling in my lower half, I worked hard to force my knees to bend, my toes to scrunch, my legs to move. It took a little while but I finally got myself in gear to push Brynne out. Glen held onto one of my legs while a nurse who had just come on duty held onto the other. My mom stood by my bed. it was go time.
I won’t sugarcoat it. Pushing sucked.
Although I still was receiving some “relief” from the dialed down epidural, I could feel my body and move my legs. I was determined. I wanted it all to be done. I pushed that baby out in under an hour. It was incredibly hard. I wanted to give up so, so many times throughout. But finally at long last I felt her emerge from my body and heard her cries. They toweled her off, and Glen cut her cord. They placed her on my chest. I held her for a minute and then my nausea unleashed. they rushed Brynne to Glen as I threw up. They smiled and laughed, told me that throwing up after labor was common. They called me a “champion pusher.” I didn’t care what they called me. They weighed her and measured her and took her away from me to “evaluate” her each time she settled down.
Finally they gave her back to me. They deemed her in perfect health. It was time to get out of there. It was 9:00 Tuesday night and after a 15 hour long labor, I had my baby girl.
to be continued…..