This story has been on my to-do list since Baby was born but it was a long one and I couldn’t decide how I wanted to approach it. With all the horror stories about inductions out there I wanted to share my story so that women could hear a positive experience. Then, a few days ago I stumbled upon a really interesting read and decided it was finally time for me to share my birth story. The aforementioned article was about a mom who ended having a C-Section despite all of her preparedness. As I was reading it, I felt like she was telling my story. No, I didn’t have a C-Section, but I did have a birth that didn’t align with my birth plan. I won’t parrot what she said, that’s what the link is for, but I would like to emphasize the following. Similar to Sally, I thought (note: the past tense) inductions were for women who hadn’t prepared enough, who didn’t educate themselves enough, who were too impatient, or who let their doctors control their birth experience. I felt that only in a SMALL minority were inductions medically necessary. And with all the horror stories about women who’d been pressured to have inductions and then ended up with un-planned C-Sections, I was determined not to become another statistic. I spent hours each day listening to podcasts, reading articles, browsing forums, and remembering back to the days when I worked in the medical field. With all that preparation, I knew I was guaranteed to have my ideal birth.
Yes, this is a long post and for that I apologize, but it has a lot of nitty gritty details in there that may help you if you are expecting or planning on having a child. I go into details about epidurals and catheters and lots of other stuff. So if you want to know how things work in the Labor and Delivery room this might be a worthwhile article. If you don’t feel like reading it, then here’s the TLDR version: I had an induction. It was long. It ended well. I survived. I became a mom. I’m happy. Also, in case you hadn’t realized up to this point, I had an induced vaginal birth. So this post is about that. It’s not about C-Sections or un-medicated vaginal births or passing judgement on those. The only thing this post has to do with C-Sections/un-medicated births is that I, personally, did not want one.
So what was my ideal birth? In the Winnie Palmer Hospital, for one. I was less-likely to contract illnesses from other patients if they only cared for women and babies; there was no ER room filled with who knows what kind of viruses and bacteria. No MRSA for me and my unborn child, thanks! Besides location, I wanted to go into labor on my own, then promptly receive a walking epidural upon arrival so that I could numb the pain but still walk. Then if necessary, I’d like a full epidural so I wouldn’t be in pain. I wanted a quiet and calm birth and I have a very, very low pain tolerance. I didn’t want my child’s first moments to be preceded by me screaming bloody murder, and I didn’t want to be so preoccupied with managing my pain that I was too busy to see my child emerge into the world, so I was okay with the epidural and the interventions that would accompany it (more on that later). But besides the epidural, I didn’t want any other interventions. I didn’t want pitocin to deliver the baby or the placenta. I didn’t want forceps or vacuums used on me. I didn’t want IV pain medication. And most importantly, I didn’t want an induction or a C-Section. Inductions are known to increase the risk of C-Sections and the thought of a C-Section scared the living daylights out of me, since it would affect not only my postpartum recovery period, but subsequent pregnancies as well, should I choose to have them.
So that was my birth plan. Not too different from many women. I mean, no woman goes into pregnancy thinking “I want to be knocked out and cut open and then not see my child for days. That seems like great fun!” In fact, most of the women I know, planned to have un-medicated childbirths.
Going into my pregnancy I was on the healthier end of the spectrum. I had previously run several half marathons but due to an injury I had to take a hiatus from running. When I found out I was pregnant, I had just begun a rehabilitative program to get myself back in shape to run long distance. Unfortunately, for multiple reasons, I stopped exercising immediately with the exception of prenatal yoga. Despite my increased sedentary lifestyle, I maintained a healthy pregnancy until stressors at work began to appear. Suddenly around 28 weeks, I had elevated blood pressure and my doctor began to discuss the possibility of induction and the risk of pre-eclampsia. Silly doctor, didn’t he know that I was just stressed because of work. I did not have pre-eclampsia because I didn’t have protein in my urine and my baby didn’t have growth restriction (in fact, she was larger than average, but still within normal range). All I had to do was take time off work and my blood pressure would go back down to normal. Piece of cake; except for the fact, that I kind of needed a paycheck so I couldn’t just take time off. So I stayed at work, with my elevated blood pressure. Then, around 34 weeks, my doctor prescribed me blood pressure medication and sent me to the lab to get a full urine workup (forget that in-office dipstick test). He said that if the meds didn’t work, I’d need to be induced at 37 weeks, but if they did work, he’d “allow” me to gestate until 39 weeks, assuming my labs came back normal.
I wasn’t one for medications; I don’t even take cold medicine! So I was hesitant to start on blood pressure medication. I went back and forth and finally realized, if I didn’t take it and my blood pressure spiked, the only person I was hurting was myself (and potentially my baby). If I wanted a chance at a spontaneous delivery, I had to take the meds. So I did. Fortunately, my blood pressure responded well to treatment but when the test results came back my stomach dropped. It showed protein in my urine, indicating the beginning of pre-eclampsia. I knew this was the end of the line for me and I’d be forced to be induced early … all because of a stressful work environment.
When I went back in for my next appointment, my doctor was happy to see that the medication was working. When I asked him about the protein, his response surprised me. He said that because it was so low it wasn’t really a concern at that time. He dropped the 37-week induction recommendation and gave me a 2 week reprieve.
Since I wasn’t in immediate danger of stroking or something, the husband and I had a serious discussion as to whether it was safe to pursue our destination birth. At the end of the conversation, we decided that as long as my blood pressure stayed normal, we’d continue with the initial plan.
A few weeks later, we were in Florida meeting with a new doctor (we shall call her Doctor A). She suggested I stop the medication to see what would happen in order to accurately determine the best course of action. Wouldn’t you know it, all that warm weather and sunshine really did wonders for me: when I stopped the meds my blood pressure stayed low! Unfortunately, because I had been diagnosed with gestational hypertension, I was told I’d have to be induced at 39 weeks if I didn’t go into labor on my own. I spent the next two weeks trying get the doctors (I saw a different doctor at each appointment) to change their minds, but it was no use.
The day before my induction, I reconnected with an old friend and realized I wasn’t ready to have my baby yet. I still wanted to be “carefree” and enjoy my time with friends and family before my life was changed forever. So I called the doctor’s office mere hours before I was supposed to be at the hospital and attempted to reschedule the induction for a few days later. That didn’t go over well. Next thing I know Doctor A is on the phone with me telling me the worst case scenarios of my decision (e.g. death). I told her I felt that she was strong-arming me, that she was trying to control my birth experience, and that I felt like I didn’t have a choice. She reminded me that I always had a choice, I was perfectly able to go against medical advice, but that that could cause problems. At that point I started crying, so she asked to speak to my husband. I don’t know what they talked about but when he got off the phone, he reminded me that I chose to continue my medical care in Florida (rather than just going rogue and showing up at the hospital in labor) in the event that something went awry, which was exactly what was happening. I had high blood pressure, protein in my urine and I had gained four pounds in just one day; in other words, all the signs of pre-eclampsia. The husband told me “if you weren’t planning on listening to the doctor’s advice then why did you spend so much time looking for a doctor and spending so much money to go to appointments!?!?”. He was right. I did the smart thing by making sure I was continually monitored by a doctor so that something bad didn’t happen. It was only logical that I followed their advice now. (Side note: If I had been anyone else, I might have went on Yelp or something and gave Doctor A a bad review for her bedside manner, but honestly, she did what she needed to do to save my life and the life of my un-born baby. Screw bedside manner. Had she let me have my way or spoken to me more gently so that I could have manipulated the situation to my liking, I could be childless today or the husband could be wife-less. I’m happy she treated me the way she did. So five stars to that Doctor A!)
Day 1 – Wednesday
Note: During my stay in the hospital, I had multiple doctors and nurses. To keep things simple I haven’t differentiated them unless specifically indicated. So just know that. I didn’t have the same nurse through all my stories.
After agreeing finally to the induction, I took a shower, crying the whole time. I looked in the mirror and took a long hard look at my belly. It had been so many days that I’d had the belly and I’d become used to it. I’d come to look forward to the kicks inside and the hiccups. In just a few short days, that belly would be gone. Yea, I’d have a baby, but it would be … different. Despite my intense feelings of sadness over the loss of my “pregnancy status” and the forced induction, I didn’t want my child to grow up and look at pictures of her birth and see me upset. I wanted her to know I was happy to meet her, even if the timing was not what I had planned. So we took photos as we left the house, as we arrived at the hospital and some in between, and with each photo I made sure to put on my happiest face.
Our appointment was at 4 pm but we had to wait almost an hour to finally get shown to our room, during which time we had what I dubbed our “last meal”. My room was located in the Antepartum unit, and when I arrived I got changed into the hospital gown and non-skid socks and got comfy in the bed. Before anything happened, we had to review paperwork, sign consent forms and do the pre-epidural questionnaire (the epidural couldn’t be placed until this was done so I made sure that was the first thing we did!). Once the administrative matters were taken care of I got hooked up to the fetal monitor and got to hear my baby’s heart beat in real time. Very comforting. Since I was in a hospital, I had to get an IV placed. The nurse, nice as she was, was either new or had no idea what she was doing. Now, listen, I don’t like pain and I don’t like needles, but I’ve usually gotten through the pricks uneventfully. This time was different. I scrunched my eyes and held my breath and squeezed the husband’s hand but it didn’t help the pain. When I thought the nurse was done, I opened my eyes to see a band-aid on my wrist where the IV should have been. She mentioned something about getting another nurse and left the room. Sure enough another nurse came into the room and placed the IV in a different location on my arm, and with much less pain. (I didn’t know it then, but that nurse had hit a nerve in my wrist which caused pain at the time and also caused numbness that has never resolved.)
Once the IV was placed, it was time to start the induction. The nurse (the first one) started by performing a cervical check to see how dilated I was. Having had my first two cervical checks performed the week prior, I was well aware of how uncomfortable they were and was NOT looking forward to this part. (If you aren’t familiar with cervical checks, it’s a procedure in which a medical professional sticks their finger into a tightly and purposefully-so closed muscle. If that muscle isn’t dilated, they must force their finger through the opening to determine just how open and squishy it is.) The previous week I was dilated to 1 cm, so I’d hoped that I’d dilated a bit more since that time. Nope. I was still at 1 cm and let me tell you on the pain scale of 1 to 10, I was at an 8. The husband likens me to the girl in “The Exorcist” crawling backward up the bed with tears streaming down my face. Seriously, it was so bad that it was the only time I asked my mother to leave the room. I didn’t want her to see me in that amount of pain. Moving on though: still not dilated and time for the induction medication: Cytotec (misoprostol). The pill was cut into quarters and I was to be given one piece every so many hours. Since my cervix had just been accosted by the nursing staff, the insertion of the Cytotec was not as painless as it should have been, (oh you though it was taken orally. Ha!) but we made it through. The only thing to do was wait.
Nothing really happened the rest of the day except for one thing. Apparently, the Cytotec caused my contractions to come too fast and/or too strong so I had to get another medication to counteract the Cytotec. I say “apparently” because I wasn’t really in any discomfort during the contractions, so I had no clue that something was off. Eh, I guess I shouldn’t use the term “off” as it implies something was wrong. Everything was fine at that point. I went to bed only to be awoken midway through the night to get my next cervical check and painfully inserted dose of Cytotec. I also got my vitals checked at some point during the night. That was the first night of MANY nights that I wouldn’t have a full sleep (I think the streak ended when Baby was 6 months or so.)
Day 2 – Thursday
This day was pretty much waiting and playing card games with the husband and my mom. After the second or third cervical check which resulted in me almost breaking the charge nurse’s arms with my thighs (who knew I was that strong!?!), I was allowed to skip the checks and Cytotec insertions for the rest of the day. I wasn’t progressing any as far as dilation or effacement so the on-call doctor from my practice came in to speak to me. She mentioned using a Foley catheter. (From here on, please excuse me if I misspeak regarding the catheters. I can’t remember with 100% accuracy which catheter was which, I just know that two different catheters were discussed/used.) Since I still wasn’t completely on board with having my child forced from my womb before she was ready, I declined the catheter. The doctor seemed to have heard about my tolerance for pain, so she offered IV pain medication, which I also refused since those affect the fetus via the bloodstream. She wasn’t pushy and allowed me to decline, but left the catheter in the room for the nurse in case I changed my mind. The nurses suggested I use a birthing ball to help move things along more naturally, but it wasn’t until the end of the day that I finally followed their suggestion.
That night I was woken again to for vital checks and maybe another Cytotec dose.
Day 3 – Friday
First thing Friday morning, the nurse checked me and happily reported I had progressed. I had gone from 1 cm “and a wiggle” to 2 cm. OH THANK GOODNESS! The check still hurt but it was nice to know I was progressing and that my screams of pain weren’t for nothing. Then I was informed that I’d be moving from Antepartum down to Labor and Delivery so we could continue with the induction process. I’d be moved down as soon as a room became available so I took some time to take a half-assed shower (it’s hard to shower when there’s an open catheter in your arm which you can’t get wet) and make myself somewhat presentable.
Around 11 am, a nurse came by to wheel me downstairs. When I arrived to my new room, another nurse gave me the low down on the rules and regulations of the LDR unit. We went over my birth plan in its entirety and discussed what was possible and what wasn’t possible. Then Doctor A came in with a cook catheter and told me she’d be using it to manually dilate my cervix to 4 cm. Since this was the same doctor that strong-armed me over the phone and had officially nicknamed me “rebel patient” I did not want to argue with her again. I asked her if I could avoid the cervical check but that was no use; it had to be done. Fortunately, either she had small fingers or was sensitive to my situation (despite her sharp tongue) … or maybe it was because I was more dilated then the previous days, but regardless. I didn’t feel much discomfort thankfully. The cather insertion was a breeze too. The only uncomfortable part was that the plastic tubing that connected to the catheter had to be taped to my leg so it made moving around a little awkward. I felt like one misstep could pull it out. Eek!
I also got set up with pitocin to get contractions going a little more. Doctor A and nurses were super supportive and suggested giving me the lowest possible dose and then increasing it the minimum amount at the maximum time interval. In other words, they were barely giving me pitocin. My body reacted wonderfully to it and I was happy that, contrary to what The Business of Being Born would have you believe, I wasn’t being forced to have the baby NOW NOW NOW.
The next few hours were spent waiting and playing more games with the husband and my mom. At one point, we heard the blood-curdling screams of a woman next door yelling “Help me! Help me!”. My nurse explained she was going through an un-medicated vaginal childbirth. We all looked at each other in fear. I could feel my face turning white as I thought “that’ll be me in a few hours”. The yelling continued on for what seemed like hours. The woman was yelling. The nurses were yelling their coaching instructions. I imagined total chaos in that room. When the noise subsided, I turned to the husband and my mom and said “I want a quiet birth. I don’t want anyone in here yelling. Just. Be. Calm.”
Eventually, my contractions became a little stronger but nothing I really couldn’t handle, I’d just take a beat, breathe, and be on my merry way. At meal time, my husband and my mom took turns going to the cafeteria to get food. (Hey! If I wasn’t allowed solids, there was no way in hell that they’d bring yummy food in to my room for me to smell. They were banished to another floor to eat in silence.) When it was the husband’s turn to get food, I was left to chat with my mom at which point I realized that my contractions were getting a little too strong for comfort. I knew I wanted an epidural but I wanted to wait a little longer; the only problem was that if I waited too long I seriously doubted I’d be able to sit still through the contractions for the insertion procedure. I went back and forth with this for what seemed like forever but was actually only two minutes and finally asked my mom to call the nurse.
From the time she pressed the buzzer to the time the anesthesiologist was in the room prepping me for the epidural was maybe 10 minutes. It was FAST. We decided to try the walking epidural (e.g. a lighter version than the full epidural) first to see if it took the pain away. She had me sit up in the bed and bend toward my knees. This was easy to do until a contraction came when I suddenly had the strong desire to arch my back and bend to the side, not really conducive for a doctor trying to place a needle in your back. After a contraction or two, I buckled down and really focused on staying still. The anesthesiologist rubbed iodine on my back and then used a small needle to inject some numbing medication into my back. That first prick felt like a bee sting, but it wasn’t too bad. (Around this point, the husband came back from his lunch break and freaked out about all the people suddenly in the room that weren’t there when he had left. He thought something had gone very wrong.) Next, she used her thumb nail to feel my vertebrae and kept poking in different areas. She’d ask me if I felt pressure in the middle of my back or if it felt like it was off to one side or another. (“Umm..I don’t know! Aren’t you looking at me back? You tell me if it’s in the middle!”). When she stopped poking me, I mentally prepared myself for the gigantic needle they use for the epidural and instead of feeling another prick, I felt a rather weird sensation. I can’t explain it but I knew it was the catheter tube being inserted into my spine (okay maybe not my spine, but I don’t want to get too technical for the non-biology majors out there). Apparently what I thought was her thumb nail was actually the needle going in. Well, that was a nice surprise! (Pro tip: If you’re afraid of needles like I am, don’t EVER look at the epidural kit. Just “enjoy” the mystery of it all.) Once the catheter was in place, she pushed a test dose through the catheter to make sure the placement was okay and that I would respond the medicine appropriately. Now, I’m not sure if this was a rare occurrence or not, but when the fluid got pushed into my epidural cavity, it felt as if every muscle in my back locked up. Not in a painful way but it was somewhat uncomfortable and unsettling. The anesthesiologist said it may have been because she pushed the fluid in quickly, so the next day when I needed another manual dose, it was done much more slowly. That spasm feeling went away pretty quickly however and within minutes the pain of my contractions were gone. It was wonderful. She taped the catheter to my back and set me up with a button that I could push if the contractions got stronger and I was good to go.
At this point, I must have looked like a puppet. I had wires attached to the fetal monitor on my belly, an IV coming out of my arm, a catheter coming out from my back, and another catheter coming out from .. well, you know. But it was okay. I could still walk around the room, get on the birthing ball, use the bathroom on my own terms, and whatever else I wanted to do … except for eat solids.
I had to keep the catheter in for 12 hours, which meant it didn’t get removed until later that night. It was too late to do the next step of the induction so I got to rest. And by rest, I mean get woken up every so many hours to change positions because my baby’s heart beat was doing weird things.
Day 4 – Saturday
My first visitor that morning was the head anesthesiologist. He looked at my chart and noticed that I had been hooked up to the epidural for over 24 hours. He calmly told me that he’d seen this situation before and that it was not looking good for a vaginal delivery. He further explained that I needed to prepare mentally for a C-Section and that I’d almost surely be sent to the OR later that day. HOLD UP! C-Section?!?! I hadn’t passed the point of no return yet so if that’s what was on the table, I was prepared to put my clothes back on and go home.
The next on-call OB, Doctor B, came in to let me know it was time to break my water. In case you didn’t know, once your water breaks you can’t turn back; the baby has to be born within a finite amount of time or you risk infection. Before I let her near me, my husband and I explained what the anesthesiologist said and I told her if a C-Section was imminent I didn’t want her breaking my water. I will never forget what Doctor B said: “Well, he’s not your doctor so he doesn’t call the shots.” I love her so much. She went on to explain that as long as I was progressing and I didn’t show any signs of infection, I’d be allowed to labor on my own. (Take that, Ricki!) So I let her break my water and off she went, leaving me to play more card games with my family.
Around the time I had my water broken, I asked the nurse to stop my epidural. I knew I’d be shifting to the full epidural but before that happened, I wanted to experience what true contractions felt like. While she understood what I wanted to do, she advised me that my contractions would get worse despite me being on the walking epidural so I should wait and see how things went. If I still couldn’t feel the contractions in a reasonable amount of time, she’d let me stop the epidural. Man am I glad I listened to her. Within an hour or two of Doctor B breaking my water, the contractions went into full swing. I was in bed when I noticed them getting stronger and thought to myself “this is it, I should start getting ready”. So I pulled myself off my bed and walked to the bathroom to put my contacts in, brush my teeth, go to the bathroom (hey, I’d never been through labor and I was afraid of going on the table!) and taking a spit bath to freshen up (again, I’d never been through labor before). I put my contacts in stopping every 60 seconds to breathe through the contractions. By the time I started brushing my teeth, my contractions had me doubled over just to get through them. Going to the bathroom was futile as the contractions preventing me from relaxing appropriately, and I gave up on trying to do the spit bath because I couldn’t stand up long enough. Instead, I got back into bed and made the husband help with the bath. Even considering all my drunken nights in my life, I think having to have my husband help me clean myself was an all-time new low for me. It only took five to ten minutes to get cleaned up but by the end I was in tears from the pain. I laid back in the bed begging over and over for the pain to stop, so the husband rang the buzzer and asked for the full epidural. Since the catheter was already in, changing out the the meds was only a matter of switching out the bags connected to the machine. No more needles and no new catheters, in the back at least.
The anesthesiologist came in and switched the bags and asked me to tell her when the pain stopped. It must have happened pretty quick because the next thing I know, the husband was waking me from sleep saying “hey, you’re gonna tell her when the pain stops right?”. I love epidurals. They make everything great. Anyhow, with the full epidural you may not become numb from the waist down, so it’s hospital policy that you get a urinary catheter until it’s time to push. So I got to get another catheter and a nifty round see-through bag that attached to the bed so that everyone who walked through the door could see my urine. I take that back about the spit bath being my new low. But in all seriousness, with all the hubbub about the contractions and new baby coming it didn’t take long before the urine bag was the last thing on my mind. The insertion of the catheter was a sinch, I couldn’t feel anything because of the epidural. After an hour or so, the intial super dose of epidural wore off leaving me with a smaller continuous dose of epidural being fed through the spinal catheter. That meant that feeling came back to my legs and I could move them again. Yay!
Then it was time to wait. Again. I made sure to set aside some time to listen to my labor playlist and really absorb the magnitude of what was about to happen. It was also during this time that we had the honor of hearing a second woman screaming in pain. This time the screams were “Make it stop!”. (Seriously, they need to sound-proof these rooms. It’s torture making a mom who has yet to push her baby out listen to that. It’s like watching Poseidon Adventure right before you take a cruise!) Again, we looked at each other in fear and my nurse said that this woman, too, had opted for a med-free birth. Look, I have nothing against moms who can do it naturally, but I had never been more sure of my decision to get an epidural than I was when I was hearing those women.
At some point in the late afternoon, the nurse came in to check me and announced I was fully dilated and fully effaced. It was time to remove the urinary catheter and do some early pushing to get the baby lower in my pelvis. That nurse was super helpful and allowed me to get in different positions in the bed. Pushing was easy at that point. Seriously! I wasn’t even out of breath. I remember thinking to myself I’d have that baby out in no time. After trying out different pushing positions, the nurse asked if I wanted to get on my hands and knees (yes, you can do that with an epidural!) in the bed, but before I could readjust fully, the baby shifted and it went from early push time to go time meaning I had to get back on my back.
I was in the early pushing phase for about an hour when the room went through a massive transformation. Up until that point, it was quiet with just me and my two support members and the occasional nurse. Suddenly, bed warmers and baby equipment were coming out of hidden compartments, mirrors were coming out from closets and lights were descending from the ceiling. The bed broke apart like a transformer. A doctor, multiple nurses (I went into labor during a shift change), and some student EMT who wanted to observe a real vaginal birth showed up to participate in this event. Unbeknownst to me at the time, due to my hypertension and my prolonged induction, I had been flagged as a high-risk patient so I had much more spectators than normal, but honestly, it didn’t upset me. I knew they were there to make sure I was taken care of medically and I would have rather had ten medical staff in the room then not enough and have something go awry. And despite the large head count of the room, it wasn’t loud and chaotic. Everyone was calm and quiet, just as I’d wanted.
I spent the next 30 minutes or so pushing with the contractions. Even with the full epidural, I could feel the contractions in my back so I knew when to push. Between pushes, I was offered oxygen gas, which I inhaled like it was nitrous. I used a mirror so that I could see the progress being made and my two support people helped by holding my legs when I pushed. This still amuses me because prior to going into labor, I made my mom promise that she would stay above my waist and not look at “the action”, but once pushing started and I realized it would be a long process, I wanted her involved. Funny how you’re perspective changes, isn’t it? In any case, labor was happening just as I’d hoped. Unlike the women in the rooms next to me, I was not screaming at the top of my lungs. There might have been some grunts here in there at the end of a pushing session, but that was it. I was fully focused on getting my baby to descend down and not on managing my pain. Perfect.
As I approached the two hour mark of pushing, something scary happened. My temperature started rising and my baby’s heartbeat became tachycardic (it was beating too fast, indicating my baby was under stress). I didn’t hear it, but my husband swears they started discussing C-Section; they probably were speaking lowly so I wouldn’t get stressed. The only thing I heard, besides my baby’s rapid heartbeat on the monitor, was Doctor B informing me of the situation and that they were having the NICU nurses come upstairs from the NICU department to be ready when my baby was born. “Nothing to worry about, just a precaution”, they said. Well, now I’m worried and I’m thinking “I have to get this baby out!”. The baby had been stuck on my pubic bone for some time and I had a hard time getting her past it. I was so close to asking for vacuum or forcep assistance, anything just to get her out without going to the OR. I start pushing as hard as I can, pushing extra times, doing whatever I can do. I’m running out of breath and pretty much living in the oxygen mask. The baby starts to crown and let me tell you no amount of epidural could have killed the pain of crowning. It was bad. She was still in the process of crowning when I felt that not-so-good feeling you get right before you pass out. I even told the nurses “I’m gonna pass out” to which they replied “no, you’re not.” I pushed one more time and immediately heard the doctor say that her head was out and I just needed one more push. I couldn’t do it. I was exhausted. I told the nurses “I can’t push again” to which they said “yes, you can”. So I gathered what little strength I had left and gave one more push and I saw my daughter for the first time at 7:47 pm.
They laid Baby on my belly while the husband cut the umbilical cord and they cleaned out all of her orifices. Prior to this, I was grossed out by the idea of touching a baby that was covered in blood, goo, and fecal matter (yes, you do poo when you’re in labor … and it doesn’t faze you), but in the moment, I did not care. She was my baby. After a few minutes, she was carried to the other side of the room to get checked out by the NICU nurses; she passed both of her APGAR tests. Whew! Finally, she was brought back to me for mommy-baby bonding time.
While all this was going on, the clock was still running to get my placenta out. Apparently, you have thirty minutes or so from the time you deliver the baby to deliver the placenta or you can risk hemorrhage. The beginning of that time span was spent suturing a natural tear that occurred during the hectic delivery, but once I was stitched up, full attention went to the afterbirth. The doctor had tried massage, gentle pulling, even Pitocin but nothing was working. The nurses even tried to knead (read: it hurt) my abdomen to dislodge the placenta. Doctor B was just about to officially recommend the OR when the she decided to try one last time. She reached up and used her hands to take it out, ripping my previously placed sutures in the process. Fortunately for me, I still had the epidural in so it wasn’t as painful as it could have been. Equally as fortunate, she was able to get the entire thing out so I wouldn’t have to have another doctor “explore” my uterus the next day after the drugs had worn off.
One by one the spectators vanished and we were left in the room with a single post-partum nurse. It was quiet again. The anesthesiologist came in and removed the spinal catheter which was super easy. Doctor B stopped by again to check up and say “you got your vaginal birth, are you happy?” (Okay, that kind of sounds snippy when I type it out, but she was very supportive when she was saying it. I mean, they had given me the maximum amount of time to do each step in an effort to let me have my ideal birth. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.) A pediatrician also came in at some point to help with the first breastfeeding session. Umm…OUCH. No one told me that breastfeeding hurt?!?! I thought it was supposed to be peaceful and loving and … NO, it hurt.
Anyways, we got through that first session and were wheeled upstairs to our post-partum room. I’d talk more about that but this post is long enough as is and I still have the wrap-up to do. Maybe I’ll do a “My Post-Partum Story” one day, but it will not be today.
The Aftermath and Lessons Learned
It took me some time to get over the fact that I had an induction. I was upset that I had forced Baby to be born on someone else’s terms and not her own. It wasn’t until I took a step back many months later and realized that many women (some who were close to me, even) plan to have a vaginal birth and can’t even get that, or even worse, the health of their unborn child is threatened. Who was I to be angry over my birth just because I had an induction? I had the quiet, low intervention vaginal birth that I wanted, where I wanted, and with whom I wanted. I was lucky, and I needed to be thankful. So that’s one lesson.
The other lesson loops back around to the first paragraph way back up there (Remember it? Good, because I barely do). You read forums and watch, ahem, documentaries about doctors forcing inductions and other interventions on moms and you think “that’s how all doctors are”. So when I found out that most of the moms I knew had had inductions and that my doctor was recommending an induction for me, I thought the induction was just a convenience for them, the doctor. I thought I could negotiate my way out of an induction because I knew my body and my situation. I thought if I did everything right, I could do things on my terms. But sometimes, your body has other plans. The doctors didn’t give me hypertension. That’s a fact. The doctors wanted me to labor on my own, but with my medical condition it was too dangerous. At the time I thought they were overreacting. It wasn’t until five days postpartum, when I was re-admitted into the hospital that I realized just how right they were to force the induction. My blood pressure spiked so high that a stroke would have been imminent without treatment, possibly resulting in brain damage or death. And that all happened after Baby was born. My case was so serious that delivering my child (and the placenta) didn’t cure my condition, as it should have. Had I insisted on postponing the delivery, I could be dead today.
Negative thoughts aside, I’m not dead. Neither is my child. We are both doing well. So whenever I hear a mom asking about induction or hypertension or pre-eclampsia, I feel the urge to speak up. Like me, those moms may be concerned that inductions will lead to C-Sections or other unwanted interventions but it doesn’t have to. You may not be able to control whether you have an induction, but with some education, some preparation, and lots of communication with your care provider you can control how the induction proceeds. Had I not been so adamant about a vaginal birth, I may have found myself in the OR by day 2 or 3, but instead I was very vocal about wanting a vaginal birth and I had a supportive and understanding medical team that was willing to let me do that within reason. Some people not like the idea of laboring for four days and would have jumped at the idea of just being done with it, and that’s fine. But if you want to know whether you can have a medically-indicated induction that progresses on your terms and ends in a successful vaginal birth, the answer is yes. I’m living proof of that.
So that’s my birth story. If you made it all the way through, thank you for your time and I hope that I was able to provide some benefit to you: amusement, education, support, what have you.
Come back next week/month/whenever for my post-partum story! (I have no idea when I’ll get around to writing that but I’ll try to make that happen!)