*Warning: this is long & detailed. I wrote this over the course of the last 6 months,
whenever I found the time. Turns out life with a baby is busy!*
whenever I found the time. Turns out life with a baby is busy!*
On my due date (Saturday), I lost my "plug"... I warned you, details...! I was so excited about this; I just knew that labor was not far off! I had been swimming every day and Conor & I were taking long walks all over West Seattle every evening. I was really hoping things would get started right away, but that was not the case. I went about my day as usual, even made it to the gym. Nothing more happened until late Sunday night; I started having somewhat regular contractions which became painful quite quickly! My labor started around midnight...
My contractions were anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes apart which made sleeping impossible. I was in no hurry to get to the hospital, especially since I had no plan of receiving any pain medication. Therefore, I planned on laboring at home for quite awhile. Around 4 am, I decided to shower to help with the pain and also so I would ready to go to the hospital when the time came. It took me quite awhile to get showered and dressed, because each contraction would derail me temporarily from whatever I was doing. At 6 am my contractions were still inconsistent... I would have a few really close together and then not have one for 15 minutes...so frustrating! Conor & I decided to take an early morning walk on Alki Beach in hopes that my labor would progress. Throughout my pregnancy, I had pictured myself on the beach in the early hours of labor so this is exactly what I wanted to do as part of "the plan." It was a beautiful calm morning. We walked very slowly, stopping frequently to get through a contraction... Sometimes I would keep walking through a contraction because that helped with the pain. Conor didn't want to walk too far from the car, but I was on a mission to get my contractions closer together. We walked about 5 miles that morning, wow!
After our walk, we called our families to let them know I was in labor and would probably be having my baby later in the day! Back at our house, Conor worked from home while I tried to relax and get some rest. This was still impossible with how close my contractions were. Each time I felt one coming on, Conor would come lay with me, hold my hand, and help me through each one. They were getting more & more painful but still tolerable. I was very focused on the natural birth that I wanted. Late that afternoon, my parents decided to drive over from Spokane since we assumed things would start speeding up at any moment.
After spending the entire day on the couch, I was ready for some fresh air, even though I was in plenty of pain. I decided I wanted to stock up on some snacks for the hospital! Apparently this is top priority when you're in labor and waiting to head to the hospital. So there I was in the middle of Safeway, picking out strawberries & grapes and leaning on Conor during a contraction. People probably stared, but I was in my own little world. In hindsight, I can't believe I did this!
That evening my contractions were starting to become more consistent, anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes apart. My parents arrived around midnight with lots of snacks, love, & support! My mom brought fresh raspberries from our lake cabin to my bedside table and then laid down with me. She & Conor helped me get through the next few hours as my contractions finally became 5 minutes apart for an hour straight! I decided I was ready to head to the hospital!
I was so exhausted at this point, so I was more than happy for the next "step" towards having my baby. Even though we had gone over what route was best to take and what parking garage was best, Conor still missed a turn... All the excitement was getting to him I suppose. Once in triage they hooked me up to the monitors for half an hour to see what kind of progress I was making. Time ticked by so slowly in that tiny room. I was frustrated and just wanted to be admitted already! When the nurse came to check on me, she informed me that my contractions were 6 minutes apart and they would like them to be closer to 2 or 3 minutes apart. Then she checked my cervix and told me I wasn't dilated at all!!! How was this even possible?! I had already been laboring for 24 hours! This was devastating. She offered me morphine for the pain, but I told her that I was planning a natural birth so I declined. Putting my bags back in the car and driving home really crushed that initial "high" I had been experiencing. I began to wonder if it was possible that I could labor like this for days...
We were back at my house about 4 am so I once again tried to get some sleep. This was still impossible since my contractions were too close together. I took another hot shower to help me get through the pain while my Mom & Conor got at least a little sleep. That morning (Tuesday), I had my weekly check up. So at 8 am, Conor & I drove back to the hospital. We brought our bags just in case I had made more progress. My contractions were still about 5-8 minutes apart and painful. My doctor could immediately tell that I was very uncomfortable, in pain, and having contractions. She checked my cervix and I was 4cm dilated! I was so happy I think I cried. This was great news considering I wasn't dilated at all just hours earlier. She called over to the main hospital and told them to get a room ready for me; I was going to have my baby today!!! She assured me they would not send me home this time. :-) Just to make sure things were still moving along, Conor & I took one last walk outside before checking into the hospital.
My Mom & Dad met us at the hospital shortly afterwards. The original plan was for Conor & My mom to be my labor partners, to encourage and support me through a natural birth. I didn't think I would want my Dad to be there for the actual birth; however, when the day came it didn't seem like a big deal, and I wanted him to also be a part of this beautiful thing that is childbirth. Little did he know what he was really in for...
My nurse, Deidre was amazing! She bonded with Conor & I right away and was very supportive of my natural birth plan! She had all sorts of plans for me and things to do to keep my mind off the pain and my labor progressing. I wanted limited interventions which made my entire experience that much better. No hospital gown, no IV, no monitors, and I could eat whatever I wanted. So what did I do right after being admitted....order some lunch! I wanted to order everything off the delicious menu, but Deidre told me I should probably keep it light.... I settled on a sandwich and a smoothie even though I wanted about 5 other things too! (Good advice in the long run... the pain left me with a minimal appetite, so I had a few bites of my sandwich but pounded the smoothie!)
Since my contractions weren't as close together as they would like, Diedre told me that walking around the hospital would be best to keep things moving along. I was so exhausted from lack of sleep and in plenty of pain, so this was the last thing I wanted to do. However, I was so excited to meet my baby boy that I would do anything. So we walked... My mom, my dad, Conor & I. I would walk for about a half hour at a time and then rest; those 30 minute stretches seemed to last forever. After a few hours, my contractions still weren't any closer together, but they were so long...crazy long! My doctor (well not my actual doctor, it was the on-call doctor, who happened to be my doctor's husband) came and checked me and I had dilated to 6 cm! They were pleased that I had made progress, but it was not going as quickly and they (or I) would like. We decided to have him break my water.
I was really hoping this would be the thing to get my contractions closer together, to get to my labor on a more "normal" path; the ridiculously long contractions were killing me! Next, I decided it was time to get in the jacuzzi tub because I sure as hell could not walk any more...I needed a break! A few women had told me that being in a tub had taken much of the pain away, lucky them. This was not the case for me. Originally, I had planned on Conor getting in the tub with me, but I was so uncomfortable the whole time. Instead, Conor & my Mom just held my hand, massaged my neck, and talked me through each contraction. While in the tub, I broke down for the first time... Tears started rolling down my face as the exhaustion and intense pain settled in. This is one of the more vivid moments I have from my birth experience. I remember seeing Conor & my Mom's eyes getting a little watery as well. I didn't stay in the tub too long, because it really didn't help me feel better and it was somewhat uncomfortable in there. I much preferred to labor in someones arms.
So the walking began again, so much walking. Conor & my mom were so helpful in the process. They always had loving & encouraging words for me, and were right there for me to lean on during a contraction. Swaying back & forth with me, wiping my face off with a cold washcloth, offering me something to drink. They were my rocks. It was getting increasingly difficult to keep up the walking, when all I wanted to do was lay in bed. At times, the exhaustion seemed worse than the pain. I reached a point where I had no energy to continue walking the halls. I was hoping that my labor would continue to progress even without my constant moving around. Back in bed, a huge wave a nausea hit me! It came on so quickly and I thought I was going to throw up instantly. Instead I just dry heaved for a few minutes and asked for an epidural. Both Conor & Diedre knew this isn't what I really wanted, so they continued to support me while making no actions to get an anesthesiologist. Once the nausea passed, I was back on track and more driven than ever to have my baby naturally!
Around 6pm, my doctor came to check on me once more, hoping that I had made progress. My contractions were still not close together (despite all the pain), so he wasn't expecting much. When he told me that I was dilated to 8 cm, I was so happy! Somehow my body was doing this on its own, although at a slow rate. Then came the bad news... at the rate I was going, he expected it would take me another 4 hours til I was fully dilated and ready to push. My excitement quickly subsided... How would it even be possible for me to last that much longer. I didn't have even one ounce of energy left in me. I could barely keep my eyes open or talk to anyone. I wanted to enjoy the birth of my baby and be able to remember it. Suddenly, my want of a natural birth was slowly becoming less of a priority. Instead, I wanted Liam to come into this world a healthy baby and to be aware in that moment. I shared these thoughts with Conor & Diedre and then asked for epidural so that I may get some rest. It wasn't in the middle of a contraction or in a moment of extreme pain. Diedre told me that hearing my words about wanting to enjoy Liam's birth were all she needed to know that this is what I truly wanted, and that I no longer needed a cheerleader to push me through my plans of a natural, med-free delivery. I had already been in labor for 42 hours without pain medication, and that was enough. From the moment I made the decision to get an epidural, the pain became intolerable. I am quite certain that the pain didn't actually worsen; but that instead, my mental state had changed. The pain was no longer for a purpose, and I just wanted it to stop! The 10 or so minutes it took for the anesthesiologist to arrive were awful!
From this point on, everything was different. Now I had more doctors & nurses constantly monitoring me, I was hooked up to various machines, had an IV, wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything, and was obviously restricted to my hospital bed. It went from being this beautiful, natural thing that Conor & my parents were supporting me through, to a "hospital procedure." This is not what I wanted, but instead what I needed at this point. I was having a terrible contraction right when they were ready to give me my epidural, so I had to fight through it and stay as still as possible. This moment was incredibly difficult, but I knew that in a short amount of time I would be able to relax and focus on bringing a healthy baby boy into the world.
Along with an epidural, I also received Pitocin to try and get my contractions close together. This was something that I absolutely did not want during labor initially. I had done my research, and I considered this a last option. However, things had changed and I knew that my body could not handle many more hours of labor, so I agreed to this as well. Much of birth plan had been compromised, but I had to do what I thought was best for me and Liam at this point. Even with Pitocin, it still look me almost 3 hours to become fully dilated and ready to push. I had hoped I would be able to rest during those three hours, but even as tired as I was, the excitement was too much and I stayed awake relaxing and thinking about what little Liam was going to look like.
It was just before 9pm when I began to push. My doctor (Dr. Levine) told me that on average it would take about 30 minutes to 2 hours of pushing. I of course thought I would be one of the lucky women who have their baby after only a few pushes... I could not have been more wrong! On top of it all, there was a shift change at this point, so the wonderful Diedre had to leave me and I got a new nurse who wasn't nearly as good. In fact, I can't even remember her name, because she wasn't much help nor a memorable part of my experience. They prepped my room for delivery, and I thought my little boy would be in my arms shortly.
Pushing was much harder than I ever thought it would be. Each push took every bit of my energy, and I felt like I made little progress. I expected it to be a much quicker process than it was, which became very frustrating for me. The first hour went by relatively quickly, but then the minutes ticked by. I kept my eyes closed most of the time, trying to get in any kind of rest between pushes. I was so thirsty, and the ice chips just weren't doing it for me. I was also extremely hot & sweaty, so Conor & my mom took turns wiping my face with an ice cold wash cloth. Everyone was so encouraging; I can distinctly remember hearing their voices with each push. I even felt my Dad's presence as he cheered me on from the back of the room. I pushed for 2 1/2 hours and Liam was still no closer to being born. He was stuck behind my pubic bone and wasn't budging.
At this point, I spiked a bit of a fever and Liam's heart rate started slowing slightly. Given the new circumstances and my utter exhaustion, Dr. Levine recommended that I get some assistance with this birth, or I may be needing a c-section. Assistance?! What kind of assistance? I remember looking into Conor's eyes and thinking this is not what we wanted, but knowing that I needed help. This was so far from what I had wanted this day & moment to be like. However, I had complete trust & faith in my doctor and respected his recommendations. He told me he could use a vacuum extractor to assist me in delivery. Conor and Dr. Levine went over the options and risks and throughout our brief discussion Dr. Levine was very supportive of whatever we were to chose. Conor ultimately asked the Dr. what he felt was the best decision and he informed us that the vacuum would give me the extra 20% push assistance that he felt I needed. We learned from him later that roughly 1 of 4 births use vacuum assistance. I felt confident in Dr. Levine as he was very experienced and we set forth with this new plan of action.
There wasn't much time to think about it all, because they had the necessary equipment in my room right away. An extra nurse from the NICU also arrived... just in case there were any complications. The mood in the room definitely changed; we were all nervous & anxious. My dad stepped out of the room twice as he was extremely concerned about the well being of Liam & I, but he didn't want to scare me or say something out of place. With the vacuum placed on the small area of Liam's head that we could see, I did two rounds of 4 pushes and still Liam was not coming out. At one point, the vacuum even popped off Liam's head, which was incredibly scary. I later learned that the vacuum could easily pop off so that doctors were not able to pull "too hard". Finally, during what would be my last round of pushing, Dr. Levine looked up and told us quickly that he needed to "make a little more room". Although we were dreading this possibility, I trusted him and knew that meant I was at that moment getting an episiotomy. At this point, all I wanted was my baby boy to be brought into this world healthy & strong. I nodded my head, even though I knew my epidural was wearing off and that this was definitely not part of the plan. After the Doctor's cut, I ended up tearing even more... "3rd degree" tearing (through the vaginal muscle). But I wasn't thinking about the pain one bit, because...
With that very push... at 11:17 pm on Tuesday night, July 24, 2012... after 47 total hours of labor... And more than 2.5 hours of pushing... Liam entered into the world! My handsome boy was so perfect in every way. He weighed 8 lbs. 2.6 oz. and was 19 in. long. I immediately brought him to my bare chest, snuggled him, and showered him with kisses, completely oblivious to anything else going on around me. Conor & I kept looking at him and then each other with huge tears of excitement and love in our eyes! Conor quickly placed his hand on the back of Liam's head, so I was unable to see the large purple circle and swelling that was there from the vacuum. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Searing blue eyes. My Little Liam!
There was no better feeling than having my brand new baby boy snuggled up on my chest. I loved his warm soft skin. I was so in love and could not get enough of him. I barely even noticed the doctor stitching me up; although, perhaps during one of my better moments, I remember glancing down while he was stitching and said with a smile "only your best work Doc!" It was just the humor we all needed to move past the traumatic entrance Liam had made. Liam was an excellent nurser right away, and I required minimal assistance from the nursing staff. Breastfeeding was just as incredible as I thought it would be! I love the instant bond it created between Liam & I, and 6 months later I still feel the exact same way.
After Liam & I were both cleaned up, I was more than ready for sleep and laid down my pretty little head as soon as the nursing staff was done checking our vitals for the upteenth time. Conor watched over Liam that first night, fighting through what would end up being his 3rd night in a row awake since our journey started, so I could get some much needed rest. The next day was spent oogling over our new baby boy and toasting with a glass of champagne... right in my hospital bed. Both Liam & I were doing great, and we felt that we didn't need any further assistance from the hospital staff. In fact, we were so anxious to just get home so that we could rest without being constantly bothered in post pardum. We asked to be discharged early, and were back at our home with tiny little Liam less than 24 hours after he was born!
I had a fairly difficult recovery that I'll touch on in a post partum post. Many people have asked how I feel about natural birth now... They ask if I wished that I had just gotten an epidural sooner knowing how it all was going to turn out? The answer is that I am disappointed that I did not have a completely med free birth, but I am happy with every single minute of it that was natural and at peace with the difficult decisions that we had to make that diverted us from our plan. My experience completely changed once I decided on an epidural. For the birth of my next child (when the time comes), I will definitely plan a natural birth again. My doctors have assured me that I will never have another birth like Liam's; they have all the confidence in me, and that I will get the birth experience I want. Having said that, Liam's birth story is unique to him and something I will always remember and treasure. It took me a couple months to feel this way, but now I am at peace with the unexpected way in which he became a part of our family.