I really wanted to have a natural labor and delivery. Why I wanted such a thing is the subject of a whole different post. To sum it up I can just say that I'm not a masochist. Rather I think that one intervention usually leads to another and many women end up following that cascade all the way to c-section. I wanted to try to avoid that scenario. I did succeed in avoiding a c-section but did not have a natural labor in the least. However, considering the outcome, I can't complain:
Here's what happened (it's a long story):
I was over 40 weeks and hoping to avoid medical induction. A colleague of mine practices acupuncture in addition to being a nurse anesthetist. We had discussed that if I went past my due date that I wanted her to work some prickly magic on me and get my labor started. Unfortunately for me she was in Italy on my due date so she couldn't help me. But I went ahead and looked up another acupuncturist in SLC and made an appointment with her. I went to her office on the afternoon of Tuesday May 11th. As I was getting into my car after the appointment, I felt a little leak of fluid. I thought it might be my water breaking but waited to see if I felt any more before I was sure. About an hour after I left the appointment, my contractions started to pick up in intensity. I'll never know, of course, whether or not the acupuncture actually caused the contractions but, if not, that's quite a coincidence. I thought I was in early labor and felt confident that I could certainly progress before Monday the 17th which is when my midwife was planning on inducing me.
On Wednesday morning, the 12th, I went in for a non stress test which my midwife's practice routinely does if a woman is beyond her due date. They informed me that my amniotic fluid was low enough that I would need to be induced that day. Low amniotic fluid can indicate that the placenta is not functioning well. I explained that my water might have broken. I wasn't sure. I kept thinking during the pregnancy, "I'm not going to be one of those women who doesn't know if her water has broken. I'm a nurse and I should know better." Ha. I had felt some leaking but it was never continuous and I really couldn't tell. Regardless, due to the low fluid, I was going to be admitted to labor and delivery.
Upon being admitted to L&D I was informed that my cervix was 75% effaced and 1 cm dilated. I knew that I was in for a long road at this point and my hope for a natural labor and delivery begin to wane. However, I was contracting every 2-4 minutes so my midwife gave me time to see if I would begin to go into active labor on my own. For the next, oh, 10 hours or so Peter and I walked and climbed stairs, walked some more and prayed for active labor. In between our walking sessions we went back to the room where we watched Pride and Prejudice (the 6 hour A&E version) while the baby's heart rate was monitored. We climbed so many stairs that my legs were shaking. (Perhaps all the walking made my body think that I was in some sort of danger? Fleeing a band of slow-moving bears or some other menace which made it determine to hold off on active labor?) I also ate snacks. I had to do that covertly since it's against the rules in L&D. But I'll be a monkey's uncle if I was going to go more than 24 hours without food (and it was looking like I was going to be there for quite a while). Plus it was fun to be subversive. My contractions did get more intense but apparently they were no match for my titanium reinforced cervix because at 9 pm, I was still 1 cm. It was determined that we would start pitocin.
Pitocin was started at 9 pm. For the next four hours I worked through the contractions as they got more intense. Around 1 am I was getting tired and having a difficult time. The contractions came so quickly that I didn't get much of a break. My midwife wanted me to sleep and emphasized that I would need rest to get through the intense labor yet to come. I knew the only way I was going to sleep at that point was if I had an epidural. I asked the nurse to check my dilation. Peter and I had decided that if no progress had been made, I would get the epidural. So the nurse came to check me and I was still 1 cm. So I got the epidural and went to sleep.
The next morning, May 13th, my midwife came in and checked my cervix at about 7:30 am. I was dreading that she was going to say I was still 1 cm dilated- I had heard that so many times it almost seemed like a given. However, I was 4.5 cm dilated! From then on I progressed pretty steadily. Even though I was progressing, I was anxious and emotional during these hours. I was afraid that after all of this time that I would end up with a c-section anyways either because his heart rate would become troublesome, I would stop dilating or I wouldn't be able to push well. Also, I found the epidural to be really uncomfortable. It did allow me to sleep so I suppose it was better than pitocin contractions. But I didn't like feeling numb and unable to move. It didn't completely take the pain away either. I kept feeling contractions on my right side. Between the anxiety and the discomfort, part of me wanted to have a c-section and just get it over with. Thankfully that wasn't necessary. And I wasn't so upset that I couldn't appreciate my favorite movie Sense and Sensibility which we watched that morning. At 2 PM- 28 hours after I'd been admitted to L&D- I was 10 cm dilated!
I started pushing at 2:15. This was the hardest part but also the best part. It was hard because I was pretty uncomfortable, my bottom half was completely numb and I kept throwing up. I had no idea if I was pushing or simply making pushing faces and doing a lot of grunting. It was the best part because I felt like I was actually doing something rather than laying around idly waiting for things to happen that were totally out of my control. Also Peter, my midwife and the L&D nurse were so encouraging and kept telling me what a good job I was doing. I wasn't sure if they were telling me the truth. But I began to trust them because Peter looked so excited. This was hard work and it got to the point where I was praying in between each contraction that I would have strength for the next one because I was so worn out. The next day I was more sore than I have ever been. I was using every muscle in my body even though I couldn't feel half of them. I am proud to say that 1.5 hours later at 3:46 PM John was born. I thought that was pretty good pushing out an 8 lb 10 oz first baby in only 1.5 hours (if I do say so myself).
I was so relieved to leave the L&D floor. The rest of the day was a daze of happiness. We went to the nursery to give John a bath, spent a lot of time snuggling and eating. John eating breast milk and Peter and I eating pie from Marie Calendar's which was conveniently across the street. It was so nice just to be together. I'm hoping to have an easier, or at least shorter labor next time. But looking back I have nothing but fond memories about those days.