At around 1:15 am on October 31, 2013, I heard/felt a tiny pop and then what felt like a little bubble of water flow out of me. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom as more fluid rushed out. My underwear were soaked and once I sat on the toilet, I found I also had to pee. The sensation of peeing was entirely different from the feeling of the fluid that just flowed with no muscle control. I woke J and told him my water broke. Because of our false alarm and first trip to labor and delivery, J asked if I was sure. I told him I was sure my water broke. About 15 minutes later I started getting contractions. They were definitely more painful than what I had previously mistaken for early labor contractions. We drove to the hospital and contacted our doula who came to meet us. At L&D, they did a test and told me it was negative for amniotic fluid. I was like “you’ve got to be kidding me; this cannot be another false alarm.” While in triage, my contractions really kicked in and they were strong enough to make me vomit once. The doctor offered me morphine and gravol. I turned it down saying I didn’t want it to affect my baby. He told me I likely had a long road ahead of me and it would wear off by the time of delivery. He also said it would help take the edge off so hopefully I could sleep and conserve the energy I’d need later. I still said no. He said that it seemed like I was in early labor but I was only 1cm dilated and 90-100% effaced. It was also possible that the contractions would just stop. I was feeling pretty frustrated and defeated, as well as in pain. I was about to ask the next nurse/doctor I saw for the morphine when someone came in and said, “Are you sure you don’t want the morphine?!” So I jumped at the chance – strike one against my birth plan.
We returned home and the doula went to her house to await our call that we needed her. I labored on the floor, leaning over a yoga ball and on the bed for a bit, then on the toilet and in the shower. Time had no meaning to me during labor. Hours passed without me having any understanding of it. So eventually (no idea how long it was), we went to the living room where I continued to kneel over the ball. I was laboring in just my bathrobe because I had been in the shower, but when Jeff called the doula to come, he suggested I put on some underwear. So I switched to a bra and underwear. Definitely less modest than I expected to be in front of the doula who I still didn’t know well.
I alternated between the living room and the toilet while laboring at home. Pressure on my lower back and massage were definitely my friends. I can’t remember the specifics of how the pain felt, but I remember feeling the need to push during contractions and constantly being reminded to breathe deeply. Finally, our doula suggested we get going to the hospital. J got me some clothes and helped me put them on. I was dreading the car ride because I had heard and figured it would be toughest being locked into one position with less access to my support people and massage. However, I actually found I calmed down in the car. When we got to the hospital, the main parking lot was full, so J dropped me and the doula off and went to find a spot. I remember having 3 contractions along the length of a bench, needing to stop to grip it each time. Then we waited in the hospital lobby for J and I’m pretty sure my guttural, primal moans were frightening a child nearby (sorry little girl). When J came in, they got me a wheelchair and we headed up to L&D. This time my trip to triage was very short! I was asked by the nurse if I had the urge to push. When I said yes, she gave a little laugh and said that’s because I was 9.5 cm dilated and they might even be able to just push the little lip that remained aside while I pushed. I was so excited because for once I was further along than I had expected. When we got to the hospital I told myself that if I was less than 7-8 cm, I’d ask for an epidural. I feared they’d say I was only 4 cm (or maybe even less). So here I was, almost past transition, without realizing I was even in it!
I expected that stage 2 (pushing) would be over in as little as 20-30 minutes since the average is apparently 30 mins-2 hours. At one point, oxytocin was recommended to increase the frequency of my contractions because throughout my entire labor I had clusters of very close together intense contractions and then nothing for awhile (strike 2 – I didn’t want IV fluids). I also needed continuous fetal monitoring because of meconium in my mucus (strike 3). There were two in and out catheters as well. Again, I didn’t feel like as much time had passed as it had, but 4.5 hours later, the doctor advised forceps and if I was going to go that route, he strongly suggested an epidural. I looked at J, feeling so exhausted, and said, “I just can’t do it anymore.” I think I was looking for permission to consent to it all and he more than freely gave it. He later told me he wanted me to take the epidural and wiped tears away while I pushed because he hated seeing me in so much pain. Again, I don’t really remember what the pain felt like (a blessing I’m sure).
So I had a one shot epidural, which I do remember hurting as it went in. Well a combination of pain and pressure. I could still wiggle my toes, but everything felt numb. After apparently 18 hours of going without, I had committed strike 4 for the purposes of strike 5 (forceps). During the forceps delivery, strike 6 happened – episiotomy (2 little snips that happened so fast because her heart rate started to drop and I heard the doctor say he wanted the baby out now). As a result, I ended up with a third degree tear (for those who are new to tear degrees as I was, it goes up to 4 – my anal muscles were spared).
When Lyla was pulled from my body, it was so surreal. I didn’t cry at first because I couldn’t fully process that she was real and she was mine. I looked at her and then J and he was crying. Just picturing his face when he saw her is enough to make me cry tears of joy now. Then I looked back at her and burst into sobs. They were sobs of joy and relief. I even saw our doula crying. She later said the doctors probably thought she was nuts.
The things I wanted to try that I got to included different pushing and labor positions, showering, massage, warmed compresses to prevent tearing, delaying the routine tests and medications (eye drops and vitamin K), and, most importantly to me, immediate skin to skin and breastfeeding as early as possible.
As a bit of an aside, I LOVED our nurse but when she went on break, the replacement drove me nuts. I have to say, I think I was a very polite laboring woman. I said please and thank you when asking for water or ice chips, I didn’t swear, and I consciously held back from snapping a couple times when people were not there to massage as quickly as I wanted or were annoying me with the way they were telling me to breathe. My doula later said she thought I might have been in transition at home but normally women are much more vocal at that point. The one time I snapped was at this nurse. She asked me a question, I think about if I wanted to change positions while I was in the middle of pushing and totally in my zone. When I didn’t answer her, she moved around to my head, got right in my face and asked me again. So I yelled, “No!” J and the doula thought she was annoying too.
I feel like our birth story is a positive one, despite it not following the preferences I had laid out. I was definitely sore after from the tear and I remember the pain of the first bowel movement (cried so loud my roommate called the nurse) more vividly than the pain of labor and delivery. The tear means I need a referral to the pelvic floor clinic and I was super afraid of what it looked like (I pictured ground beef all sewn together haphazardly). But it’s healing and hopefully my new hemorrhoids will soon too! Regardless of the recovery, everything was and is worth it!