At 4 am Tuesday morning I awoke to the sound of my daughter crying. She had been having a bad night already, crying multiple times at the beginning of the night for seemingly no reason. I now look back on that as her having some psychic clue as to what was about to happen to her mother. Too bad I didn't get the clue! This time, though, she was crying because her diaper had overflowed onto her pajamas. As I lifted her onto the changing table I felt a warm gush, like getting my period, but not much more than that. It occurred to me that perhaps when I lifted her again into her crib the entire bag of water might explode onto the floor of the nursery, but I took that risk and thankfully nothing happened. I put her back to bed, comforted her and headed to the bathroom to check out what happened.
After verifying that my mucous plug had come out AND my water had broken I called a nurse. I left the husband asleep in bed because I figured I had a couple of hours before we really had to head out. Wrong. The problem with me is I was a VBAC (vaginal birth after ceserean) and I was positive for group B strep (which requires more explanation than you need here but is common. It just means you need antibiotics in your system before you pop out the package.) These two things meant I had to get my arse to the hospital immediately if my water was truly broken. The baby could not start coming out without monitoring.
So I woke the husband and called the emergency babysitter. I felt horrible waking her for a possible labor when I wasn't 100% sure but I had no choice. By 5 am we were at the maternity check in. Frustratingly enough I couldn't prove my bag of waters had broken. They have these test strips that should turn blue when the fluid is amniotic and mine refused. Even when they called in a dr and took a sample from way up inside me it didn't turn blue. Bad nurse lady says "well you know there's a lot of pressure on your bladder from all the weight so maybe it was just that." Um, nurse lady? I know when a fluid has exited my vajayjay versus my pee pee. Come on! I did not like that nurse lady. I know a bunch of women think their water has broken when it hasn't but don't act like I'm too stupid to know the difference between urine and vaginal fluid people. Honestly.
I was presented with the choice to go home or walk around upstairs in the labor ward for an hour. I chose the latter. I was so frustrated that somehow I had to prove myself valid. It didn't help that my contractions were randomly regular. In other words, they were there regularly but at random intervals. That does not mean real labor to these people. Not at all. Thankfully, at the end of my hour walk, my doctor showed up to check out the scene. Apparently, his exam was quite positive. The difference in my cervix opening was nada, but the feeling of the cervix was totally different. He was convinced, I was in labor, water broken or not. I was in.
I walked upstairs to the last room available on the ward and sat in what was to be my labor bed. The minute I sat down, I mean the minute I sat down, 8 oceans gushed from my uterus. I mean really? You couldn't have done that in front of the doubting nurses body? Well, at least I was finally sure. And so began the process. The contractions started hitting harder and were only a few minutes apart but they were all in my back. The husband was fantastic at talking me through the contractions, keeping eye contact, reassuring me and letting me lean against him when I needed to. But the truth was I was in trouble. I was only at 3 centimeters dilated and the pain was out of control. We tried the rocking chair, the toilet, and finally on all fours in the bed. Each position gave me one contraction I could stand and then dissolved into hell. The pain was all in my back, it felt like the baby was coming out my rear end for goodness' sake people. This was just not right.
All I can say is that after about 3 hours of that crap, I was done. The husband did his best to hold me to my wishes, he knew I wanted no epidural and reminded me of that again and again. I tried my best but it was just not going to happen. In retrospect, I think it was just not meant to be. This kid fought tooth and nail not to come out of me as it was so doing it all 'natural' was not likely to be. I totally forgive myself for this one because the pain was unbelievable. Those of you who did it without help, I salute you.
The epidural sucked. It sucked differently than the last one but it sucked all the same. Nothing about sticking needles in one's back is fun so let's leave it at that. Plus, it only took on the left side, so I had to lay on my right side for the contractions to be numbed on that side too. Hilarious, no? When I lay on my left side the juice slowly drained out of my right leg and hip and the contractions came back after about an hour in that position. And so began the long wait on my right side. Meanwhile, my MIL had shown up with a bag full of bagels for me to eat. Immediately I was informed by my nurse that I was not to eat a bite. Already starving I started arguing. I had read that this practice of starving people due to the possibility of surgery was archaic and unnecessary. So I took a bite of bagel. Oh holy heck people, the nurse freaked out. She called my dr and called the anesthesiologist back in to lecture me about not eating. I felt like a child all of a sudden and I had no way out. I didn't want another 24 hour starvation birth scenario like last time. I was going to be damned if I was going to starve when I didn't have to. Sadly, this made things awkward with my nurse, so when she was called away to do a surgery and replaced by a seemingly warmer, funnier one, it was a good thing.
At about lunch time I was still at 5 cm. But my friend Ellen, who was going to be there for the delivery, was too eager to wait and got herself allowed out of work early. She showed up at 3 and brought a new energy to the room along with the new nurse. We started joking and chatting and everyone had their iphone out texting and facebook posting like some crazy internet generation scene out of a movie. But it was great. We were excited and impatient for things to progress. It was weird to have so much waiting. The husband felt odd that we had those three hours of work work work at the beginning and then suddenly sit and wait. And it was so passive. There was nothing I could be doing to hurry the process along. Either the cervix was opening or it wasn't. And frankly, it wasn't.
At 7ish I was still between 5 and 6 cm dilated, but most frustratingly, the boy wouldn't move. In other words, as your cervix opens the kid is supposed to be making downward progress. Kind of obvious that he is supposed to meet me halfway instead of staying stubbornly lodged way up inside me. His head is supposed to be helping make the cervix open, so it stands to reason that if he's staying up high and my cervix is staying at approximately the same opening, we are making no progress. By 9 pm the doctor had to say something. He knew how much I wanted a VBAC but all signs were pointing to failure. We could sit all day and wait but since my bag of water had broken I was at risk for infections and other complications, so it was time to decide. He very kindly said that we would get me all prepared for the surgery but he would check again at the last minute and see if anything had changed.
Apparently a little threat was all it took.
By the time I was shaved, totally numbed with a huge dose of juice making my lower half totally unresponsive, and had signed all the forms, the world had changed. I was 7 cm dilated. Then I was 8 then 9 and by 11:30 I was ready at full 10 cm dilation. Funny thing re-wrapping my brain around a VBAC after only an hour of thinking a cesarean was a given. I was scared again. I had given up and thought of all the reasons it would be better with surgery and now I was back facing the bowling ball coming out of the vajayjay again. It was pretty funny. But I prepared myself again, we all got into position and once the doctor informed me that there was a race now as 4 women were all ready to push at the same time for him I was off and running. I'd be damned if I was going to lose that race.
No, I really didn't think about the race, but I'm happy to announce that I won.
I apparently push like a pro. And considering Mr. Stubborn did not move an inch down the canal on his own, I had a lot of work to do. Not to mention that he was huge. But I grabbed on and pushed like hell and rested in between and felt their surprise at the speed at which I was making progress. I felt far away mentally but kept an ear open, hearing the nurse and the resident making comments about how well I was doing. I knew it wasn't near over until the doctor was near but I could tell they were touching the top of the kid's head already pretty quickly. At one point the dr came in and said he had another woman neck and neck with me but she was on no meds and so I might have to stop pushing for a minute. I thought to myself 'hell no' and pushed harder. He came back in and said 'Let me see what you can do.' I pushed, he said "you win!" and gowned up. It was time.
He moved in and started helping the head come out while I pushed and I thank goodness for all the books I read before I gave birth because I knew exactly what he was doing down there and it gave me a great idea of how far along I was. I could tell when the head was moving out, I could tell when he was pushing the shoulder down to get the other shoulder out. It was fantastic. I couldn't believe how fast it was all over. I only pushed for an hour and 20 min! I would have told you it took 30 minutes tops, that's how fast it felt. The fun atmosphere never left, jokes and sarcastic asides continued between contractions and that, my friends, is how it was meant to be for me. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
You know, it really makes sense in retrospect. I had this dream, based on reading a lot of midwife books, of some earthy, hippy, mellow and deep experience of birthing. But you know, that would not have been me. I am a funny, sarcastic, laid back, use humor to deal with hard things kind of person. And that's how I dealt with this too. I had my husband and my best friend there, both of whom have their own sense of humor that mesh with mine. The doctor was also picked and fit well because of his own great sense of humor. We were the fun room on the ward that day. The resident told us he had his choice of which birth to attend and he chose ours because we clearly seemed like we might be entertaining.
Pain and discomfort aside? I will remember this day as fun. It was scary at times, sure. When they pulled him out of me and set him on my stomach he just flopped there like a doll. They realized pretty quickly that he needed a bit of help and the magic button was pressed somewhere in the room. Suddenly 87 nurses swarmed the place and my kid was being rubbed and smacked and encouraged to yell by all of them. No one was talking to me telling me what had happened, what was happening or that it was all going to be ok. I was in a state of shock that it was all over that fast. The kid was apparently 'stunned' and just wouldn't yell. I have found out in later days that he is just not a yeller. But they tortured him until he yelled enough, and slowly the nurses filed out one by one until a normal amount remained. I was given back my kid and he was fine.
I was done. I had done it. The magic IT. I gave birth the way I wanted to (mostly) and it was great. And that's my story. Since then I have struggled and had good days, cried happy and frustrated and overwhelmed tears, and felt like I have it together only to be knocked down the next day, but that's motherhood for you. I'm happy to report that the kid is still alive and well. And I am sure done making babies.