a birth – labour and delivery

We set the alarm for 6 am. At 7, we were to call the hospital to find out what time we were to drive in for our induction. I barely slept – such a confusing set of emotions that night. I was excited, I was terrified, I was sad, I was elated. And I was exhausted. I ignore the alarm and let hubby get up and make the phone call.

I woke shortly after to a gentle tap on my shoulder. ‘They said not today,’ he said, ‘They don’t have the space.’

I was indescribably sad. I had worked so hard to come to terms with this induction. I had resisted, I had accepted, and I had counted the days. I could not comprehend how I could not have my baby this day. I sobbed big confused sobs – why was I so sad? Why did it feel like such an awful thing? I didn’t know why. I just felt.

The nurses told hubby we could be induced the next day. I knew that meant we would be with the OB on call, who would be a stranger. All my fears came back, and I absolutely did not want to place myself in the hands of an OB I had never met, who’s philosophy I did not know. I knew I would not go in the next day for an induction.

My midwives called shortly after with the same news. And shortly after that, my OB called. He gave me a glimmer of hope. He assured me that he knew how I felt, and he was doing everything in his power to make some room for me there. Again I was surprised and touched by his personal commitment to me. He understood. There was no pressure to just accept the on call OB the next day. Just respect and an assurance he was feet on the ground in the hospital doing his level best for me. I held on to that hope until about 1 pm, when he called. There’s a room. Come in at 3 pm.

The highway to the hospital was not unfamiliar to us. We drive it several times a week. Often, we are gently bickering because my hubby speeds and I am adverse to the almost $300 tickets. This day, in an 80 km/hr zone, he drove 60. We were driving to meet our baby, but we were driving into uncertainty and we were both nervous.

When we arrived, the nurses seemed surprised. My impression was that they usually did not do such late admission for induction, but they inquired and sure enough, there was a room set aside for us. My OB checked my cervix and said it was 2-3 cm dilated. I was told that they would insert some Cervadil, which is a cervix softener. The expectation is that it will take several hours to work, and if we were in our home city, we would be sent home, but because we were far from home, our room would be held but we were encouraged to leave and come back later. They would check me 12 hours after and give me another dose, if necessary. Some women have up to 3 doses. First, though, they hooked me up to the same monitors that I was familiar with from the NSTs, and we all listened to baby’s heartbeat for an hour. I was given the Cervadil at about 4 pm, and we monitored for an additional hour.

One piece of advice I have for any mum who is doing either NSTs or is hooked up onto the monitor during labour: bring a recording device. The sound of my baby’s heartbeat was one of the most comforting things imaginable, and I wish I had recorded it so I could listen to it forever.

Everything looked  healthy on the monitor, so I got dressed and we left as planned. The hospital was close to many shop and restaurants, so we decided to walk – especially since walking is known to help speed labour. I walked slowly, my pelvis bones aching and my belly weighing heavily. But I was happy. I began having cramping and we started having fun trying to decided if the cramps were ‘real’ contractions. Can you speak through them? Can you walk through them? Can you breathe through them? Yes, yes, yes, but all of that was becoming more difficult.

We walked up the street, me rubbing my belly and pausing for cramping. We stopped at the town square, with benches and a sculpture, we stopped into Starbucks and shared some lemon loaf (me sneaking in the sugar knowing soon my sugar levels wouldn’t matter.) I texted a bit with our older boys and my mom, everyone waiting to hear news. I was very aware of how special this was, these last hours with my husband, strolling in the sunset, preparing to meet our son. The cramping continued, and we downloaded and app which showed that they were between 3 and 5 minutes apart. At about 8 pm, I decided I’d feel better in the hospital so we headed back.

The interesting thing about labour & delivery is how everything is so normalized by the staff. When I arrived they asked how I was and I said I was surprised to have cramping so soon and they said they weren’t surprised at all. They were so matter of fact about everything. The nurse checked me and I was still 2-3 cm, so though I was in pain they weren’t calling it ‘labour’ yet, just ‘cramping from the Cervadil.’ I went back on the monitor and the nurse acknowledged the peaks on the printout that indicated contractions, suggested I sleep, and left.

I was began struggling to get through the pain, so I asked hubby to call our doula – we had connected with her very late in the pregnancy so hadn’t had a chance to meet her in person yet, but I knew I needed some help so we called. I’m very glad we did. She showed up at about 10 pm, with small lights so we could dim the lights in the room, and taught me how to moan lowly as I breathed out. She also brought relaxing music and balls that roll and massage. She suggested I lay on my side, and when the pain came, she or my hubby would massage my lower back with the balls to help me through it. When I wasn’t  in pain, I was relaxed. The room was dimly lit, almost like candlelight, there was soft music and something lavender scented I think. For brief moments, it felt like I was in a spa – until the pain came again. Still, I managed, with moaning and massages, for a few hours. At about 2 am, our doula left, with instructions that we should both rest (at this point hubby was snoozing on the chair beside me) and call when we needed her. My back massages stopped, but I was managing with  moaning alone. Hubby slept. I was in a trance-like state that felt outside of time. Through it all, I could hear my baby’s heartbeat.

At 4 am there was a great gush of fluid from me. I was certain my waters had broken, so I woke hubby and we called the nurse. When she checked, she informed me it had not been my waters but blood. The lights went up, phone calls went out to the OB and the midwife, and the birth took on a much different feel. She checked me and despite my hours of pain I was only at about 3-4 cm dilated. I was very concerned about the blood, as there had been no explanation.  I asked hubby to call our doula back (poor thing had just gotten home when we called her) as I began to completely lose my composure. When our midwife arrived at 5 am, I was sobbing through my contractions and quite panicked. I was offered laughing gas to help with the pain. The way it was administered was via a tube with a long mouthpiece. When contractions come, I would breathe deeply both in and out of the tube, still moaning on the out-breath. It helped. I’m still not certain if it was the gas or simply the requirement that I focus so much on my breathing to get the gas into me that was the biggest help. But I calmed, and the tears passed. At around 6 am my midwife checked and we had some progress – I was now 5-6 cm dilated.

Before the midwife arrived, the hospital nurse kept pushing me back to bed. I tried walking, I tried leaning on the bed, and every time, she would come in and tell me to get back in bed, lay down,  rest.  This wasn’t my first birth, and I knew laying down was not the best place for me, but I complied mostly because the effort to argue with her was beyond me. When my midwife arrived, however, she got me out of bed.  We raised it and I leaned forward on it, resting my chest on the pillows and rocking from one foot to the other, breathing through my contractions, still with the laughing gas. Time became irrelevant again, I was simply focused on my task. My doula and my husband took turns placing cool cloths on my forehead, bringing me ice water, and putting lip balm on my lips. For the most part, nobody spoke, though between contractions I remember joking that a vasectomy clinic could open next door and do a very tidy business!

Eventually, the pain became unbearable again. Low moaning wasn’t helping, I was now moaning loudly and grunting to get through them. I asked for an epidural at around 7 am. My midwife said she would never deny anyone pain medication, but she wanted to review the risks with me. She slowly explained them, and I was frustrated that she was taking so much time – I just wanted the meds! She asked if she checked me and I had progressed would I change my mind. I insisted on the epidural and the nurse was sent to find the anesthetist. When she returned, she informed us that he had just gone into a c-section and would not be available for roughly 90 minutes but knew to come to us next. In retrospect, I think my midwife delayed intentionally. However, in retrospect, I think that’s OK – because I made it through what was next without the meds, and that made recovery a lot easier for me later.

Somehow I got through the next hour. I know I was yelling by this point. I know I was lost in the ‘flight or fight’ place in my head, desperate to end this pain. I remember asking to be killed. For some reason, everyone in the room thought it was funny, but I was serious. Looking back, I can see how vulnerable I was at this time, and how lucky I am that I was in the hands of excellent practitioners.

Sometime near 8 am, in desperation, I asked to be checked again. I was 7-8 cm dilated. My midwife tried to assure me that this was good progress (looking back, I can see that it was) but I did not agree. I  had noticed I was dilating about a cm an hour, and the thought of two more hours of this kind of pain was unbearable. I was panicked. She mentioned that she could feel a pocket of fluid, and she said, ‘I think if I broke your waters, you’d have a baby.’ My reply: Do that. Please.

Waters must be broken during a contraction, I learned. I don’t know why, but so it is. The midwife asked the nurse to prepare what looks like a long crochet hook, which took a few minutes, and then we waited for a contraction. The process was painful, but it didn’t really matter, I was in so much pain already. At 8:20 am my waters were broken, and the nurse left the room again. The midwife explained that with every contraction now there would be pressure, and to let my body do what it needed to do. It felt like forever waiting for a contraction, like time had stopped, and yet the anticipation built. And when it came, it tore me apart. The pain … indescribable. A brief break, then another, the pain and pressure building. I’m sure I was screaming. On the next contraction, my body pushed. I say my body did it because it came through me, a force I could not have stopped if I tried. My midwife sent the doula running for the nurse – nobody had expected baby to come so soon!

‘I can see your baby’s head,’ she said, but I knew. I could feel it there. Time froze and I lay there waiting, with baby’s head partway out, knowing another contraction was coming, and idea I both welcomed and was terrified of at the same time. It occurred to me I could assist, so when the next contraction brought more pushing I added my own push too, and with one effort, one gush, one amazing sense of relief, I could hear the crying.

He came out crying, arms flailing and legs kicking. He came out waxy and white from vernix. He came out perfect. And he came out tiny (to me! my last baby had been almost 10 pounds!). I sobbed and I reached for him, then he was on my chest and his daddy, with tears in his eyes, kept saying, ‘He’s here! He’s here! Honey, you did it! He’s here!’

9 minutes, I’m told. That interminable time between breaking the water and delivering my son was 9 minutes. 9 minutes to birth him after 9 months of growing him. There’s something beautiful in that. And there’s a lot beautiful in my labour and his delivery. My fears – of back to back contractions and complications and c-section that could stem from an induction – none of them had come to life. I had had a beautiful birth – even medicine free (though I can’t brag, I begged for it, it simply wasn’t there.) Induced births can be beautiful, they don’t have to be scary. Yes, I was in pain, and yes, when I was at the end I panicked, but that’s normal and expected for births, that wasn’t caused by the induction. My hope is that mums who are feeling afraid right now, who like me are searching the internet for scraps of hope when facing down a induction will read this. Your birth can be beautiful too.

There’s more to our story. I’ll tell it soon.

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