Cullen’s Birth Story: Part Two.
Continuing from part one…
After being admitted, the first thing they did was get me started on monitoring my contractions and Cullen’s heartbeat. I met my nurse, Heather, and saw my midwife, Mia, when she came on duty – our whole team was excited for the day ahead. People came and go and checked on me as needed, but for the most part Casey and I were left alone to just be together and work through each contraction.
I imagine most new moms feel this way after delivery, but I can’t say enough good things about Casey. He was attentive, supportive, so loving, and managed to make me laugh in the few minutes I had between each new round of pain. I didn’t know it would be possible for us to get closer, but this experience made me see him in entirely new and wonderful ways.
The two of us rocked, swayed, walked, and did whatever we could to just keep going one by one. Casey set up my Alison Krauss playlist, and for long stretches of time our room was silent other than the music. He could sense when the contractions were coming without me saying a word.
Around 10am, I had been laboring for two hours and was really starting to feel drained. I was starting to shake badly during each contraction, and I knew I needed to try something else. I asked our nurse if I could move to the jacuzzi tub in hopes that it would help ease the pain. When I had been laboring at home, I had taken several warm baths which helped, but my tub at home was so small it was hard to get comfortable. The tub had to be cleaned and prepped since someone else had used it that morning (they just have one in the birthing center).
We waited a long two hours for the tub to be prepped, while I continued to try to deal with what was becoming intolerable pain. Because of the strength of my contractions, I was bending over and bearing down hard on my arms to get through each one. Somehow in my coping efforts, I managed to strain a back muscle that only added to my difficulty. Now with the new muscular pain, I felt no relief between contractions.
Right around noon, Mia came in to check me one more time before I headed to the tub. I was right at 5cm, and progressing – but very, very slowly. She walked over to the wipe off board and said, “you are having a baby today! We’re going to get through this.”
As we waited and labored, Casey kept me constantly hydrated and helped me with fuel. I snacked on dried apricots, raisins, and graham crackers – the only things that seemed palatable at the time.
I finally got into the jacuzzi tub around noon, so excited to feel relief and a change of environment. It’s amazing the difference in how I thought things would be ahead of time, and how I actually felt once in the situation. I found myself standing naked in a bathtub in a room full of people, without a care in the world who was there or what I looked like. All I could think about was bringing this little boy into the world safely.
I climbed into the tub and immediately things went south. The water felt soothing, but suddenly my pain escalated to a level I could barely breathe through. The pain in my back was unbearable, my body started violently shaking, and finally for the first time in 40 hours…I started to cry. Big fat tears poured down as I begged for relief and started apologizing – I just simply could not do it anymore. Casey rubbed my back and assured me that any decision I made was the right one.
I cried and cried and finally told the nurse I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. She went and got Mia who came in, squeezed my shoulder, and told me that she thought getting an epidural was the right decision. The policy of the midwives is to let mothers labor naturally as long as needed if that is their wish, and not to push medication unless it is asked for. My nurse had already suggested it several times, and when I finally shook my head and said I was giving in, they all sighed with relief and said it was absolutely the right decision to make.
In my head I kept wondering if it was ridiculous to give in to interventions after I had made it through 40 long un-medicated hours, but I had promised myself before that I would not hold myself to any sort of promise or plan. I felt completely reassured that Mia and Heather said that this was the right decision for both my baby and my body.
The anesthesiologist came and I headed back to my room. After what I had been through already, getting the epidural was a breeze. Casey stood in front of me and touched his forehead to mine while I squeezed his hands through contractions. After about ten long minutes of trying to stay motionless through the pain, I felt it start to subside as the epidural started working.
Once the medicine was in, I was confined to my bed from there on out. My legs felt heavy and awkward, but I could still move them and feel them as much as needed. At 1pm, Casey and I settled in for some much needed rest. We had both been awake for almost 30 hours at that point, and we were feeling it.
Casey slept across the room from me on a sofa bed. It felt so strange to be so far apart, and I wished he could climb into the hospital bed with me. We turned down the lights and both slept for two hours.
At this point I only had the epidural, and the hope was that my body would continue to make progress on its own, while I was relieved from most of the pain of contractions. After two hours of resting, Mia checked me again – still 5cm. Since Cullen’s heartbeat had never even wavered and we knew he was fine, she said there was no reason we had to rush the process with any additional interventions at that point. She gave me another two hour window, and Casey pulled a chair over to my bedside so we could just sit and talk.
At some point in that two hours, I rolled over to adjust myself and Casey noticed that my epidural had become disconnected. They hooked me back up and we continued to wait for the next check. At 5pm, four hours after getting the epidural, Mia checked me again – still 5cm. My body was doing absolutely nothing.
At this point she said we would need to start pitocin. My ultimate goal through all of this was to deliver a healthy baby, and my hope was to avoid a c-section if at all possible. Pitocin sounded like the next logical step towards getting this baby out sooner than later, as risks were going up with each passing hour. At 5pm they started the pitocin drip, and shortly after I started feeling intense, paralyzing pain. The nurses rushed back in to discover that my epidural was once again disconnected.
I was there for so long that I went through several shifts of nurses. My new nurse, Bonnie, would come in from time to time and report different levels on the contraction monitor, letting me know if it seemed like my body was starting to respond to the medicine. She was looking for numbers in the range of 100, and kept giving me results more like 35. I felt so frustrated, and helpless laying there in my bed, unable to even get up to go to the bathroom.
At 7pm Mia came back in to check me and said I was making barely any progress, even with the pitocin drip. She told me she had talked to the OB on staff, and was letting them know about my situation in case a c-section became my only option. At this point she said that she was down to the last tools in her bag – we needed to break my water, increase pitocin, and basically say a prayer. I started mentally preparing myself for the fact that despite my 45 hours of labor, there was a serious possibility I’d need a c-section.
Two more hours passed that felt like an eternity, and when she came back into check me, our whole room lit up when she announced I was 7cm. Finally we were getting somewhere! Mia gave me a glimmer of hope and said that she still thought I could do this. Bonnie continued to increase and monitor pitocin, and Casey and I watched the world get dark again as we entered into our third night of hospitals and waiting.
Around 11:45, while still waiting for another check, Casey walked over to the wipe off board without saying a word, and corrected Mia’s early morning proclamation.
At midnight I was checked again and my heart jumped – 9.5cm. This was going to happen. Our labor had been so long and so dragged out that what seemed so close at the very beginning, had retreated back to feeling far away and endless over the 48 hours of waiting. Casey and I anxiously waited one more hour, letting my body make the final adjustments to prepare for the delivery. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember feeling like we had never been so close.
At 1am, Mia and Bonnie came back into the room and told us it was time. Casey had a look on his face that I couldn’t really read, and I kept asking him what was wrong. He shrugged me off a few times, but I could sense there was something more to it. Finally he squeezed my hand and said, “I’m just nervous. We’re about to meet someone really important.”
At the risk of writing a novel, I think three days of labor probably warrants three posts. The wonderful conclusion – in part three!