(Written in Feb. 2011)
It’s been a week since Loopy was born and I finally have found some time to get the events down on paper. I did not picture his birth going down the way it did, but the end result was still a wonderful healthy baby boy that is one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever received from God! As many of you know, I was hoping to have a natural delivery outside of a hospital at a private birth center. Before Loopy was even conceived, I’d done a ton of research on different birthing methods. I must admit, I’ve slowly turned into a hippy! While I don’t shun modern medicine by any means, I think the medical world causes problems when meddling with a healthy pregnancy and birth. Hospitals and OB/GYNs save lives every day and I’m so grateful for them. Unfortunately, the medical world often sees pregnancy as a sickness or an emergency waiting to happen. I believe that a lot of their interventions, stemming from fear, cause more problems than they solve. Anyway, that’s just a summary of why I chose to birth as naturally as possible. I felt it was best for me and my son and was blessed with a very healthy pregnancy.
But as we all know, things don’t always go as planned. Thursday morning, February 10th, I
felt some cramping while lying in bed. I didn’t think much of it since it had happened before. Andy was already on his way to work when I had my first bathroom visit. I was surprised to find blood. I’d been losing my mucus plug all week without a sign of blood. And this amount of blood alarmed me! I called the midwife and she wanted me to come in to get it checked out. With the amount of blood I described, she could only think of placenta previa though an earlier ultrasound had ruled that out as a possibility. I also hadn’t felt Loopy move that morning. So I was slightly alarmed to say the least. I frantically packed my bags, wondering if I may need a C-section! My wonderful friend Linda picked me up with her two very young children in the car to drive me to the midwife, where Andy would meet us. It was around this time that the rumor got out that I was having “serious complications”. After feeling him move, watching his activity on a monitor, and checking my progress (2 cm, 95% effaced), the midwife assured me that Loopy was doing fine. I’d been having mild contractions about 6 minutes apart all morning. We still weren’t positive that this was truly labor but my mom was already on her way to join us for his birth. Within three hours, she had left school in downtown Chicago, gone home, bought a ticket and taken off from O’Hare! By this time, Andy and I were back home, preparing more adequately for an impending birth. My contractions started getting painful at this time. Around 1 pm, I had to get down on the ground to ride out each wave of contractions. I was still in good spirits and excited by the progress as they were coming every four minutes. I had in the back of my head that I’d head back to the birth center around 4 pm so we could swing by and pick my mom up from the airport on the way. Now that I look back at this, I realize how foolhardy that was. Regardless, it worked out perfectly. As my mom frantically ran through the airport, I tried not to look like I was dying as passersby peeked into the car. Once we got the birth center, I was filled with relief. I thought the hour long car ride would be the worst part of labor. Ha! At this point I was 4 ½ cm, and 100% effaced. I was thrilled!
Contractions are quite hard to describe. A wave of an intense muscle cramp is about the best I can do. I’d been taught to relax all my muscles except my uterus to let it do it’s thing. No use fighting and causing myself more pain. Well, sometimes I was good at this strategy but wow, when the contractions start to mount, it is literally hard to remember to breathe. I told Andy that he had to model breathing for me through each contraction because I just couldn’t do it on my own. I had so many people supporting me during this. I’m not sure why I was so spoiled. It was like everyone was at the birth center that day and stayed to help. I had my husband, mom, two doulas (labor support), and two midwives! They coached me, massaged me, and did about anything I wanted! I labored in a large tub for a while and that was good at taking the edge off of the contractions. The first part of the evening went really well, I felt like time was flying by and I’d meet my boy any minute.
I didn’t have the midwife check my progress because I found the process super painful. Loopy’s head was SUPER low and my cervix was ridiculously posterior. This meant that she had to dig way far back inside of me to check my progress. It was impossible not to yelp and writhe in pain. Around midnight, my curiosity got the better of me and I got checked. This was when things started to get hard. I’d only gotten to 5 cm. A half a cm of progress in six hours! I was discouraged to say the least. I knew that transition (the period of going from 7-10 cm) is usually the hardest part of labor. Most women hit their breaking point because the contractions are one on top of another and there’s just no time to recover. I kept thinking that I’d finally arrived at the crucial time. At one point, I was puking uncontrollably (I thought I was going to suffocate), while having a “never ending” contraction. I thought, “Finally, things are happening and I’ll get to the pushing phase.” Well, I kept thinking that for hours. I eventually got to 8 ½ cm.
I kept waiting for my body to have that undeniable urge to push. Around 4 am, I thought I needed to push. My body started doing it on its own occasionally. Unlike a hospital, I was allowed to try pushing without a bunch of people confirming that I was indeed 10 cm. I only did it during especially powerful contractions since I wasn’t sure I was complete and didn’t want to swell my cervix.
I was completely spent at this point. The contractions never seemed to completely go away and I just couldn’t stay “on top of” them. My body had nothing left to give. All I could do was endure a contraction on all fours and then drop into the bed or sink into the tub. I started begging for help. I kept saying that “I can’t do this, help me, give me drugs, I’m going to die” and so on. At first I was only 90% serious. I kept thinking in the back of my head “This is transition, these are typical thoughts during this time, you’re so close.” But by 6 am I was pleading for what I felt was my life. My progress was checked again and I’d actually gone backward because of the swelling of the cervix. I was devastated.
I knew that I would be unable to summon the energy to push. I needed rest, I needed drugs so I could rest and complete this birth. Mercifully, I finally convinced my support that it was time to go to the hospital. An ambulance was called and while waiting, I was given an IV with some narcotic. It was so weird to feel this warmth fill me and my vision became narrowed and fuzzy. It took a significant edge off the pain though I still had to brace myself through each contraction. I wouldn’t have my wits about me for almost 12 hours after this point. Once at the hospital, I was quickly given an epidural. I didn’t have time to be afraid. I tried to ask questions and be informed, but it was useless. The doctor looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him what kind of epidural I was getting.
The next couple hours were splattered with interrupted sleep. I could feel each contraction, but they were no longer painful, just uncomfortable. I got check after a couple hours and had still not made it to a ten. I was so afraid they were going to give me a c-section. Thankfully they gave me another ½ hour. By that time, I felt like I HAD to push. The nurse checked me and said I had in fact made it to 10 cm! But of course, I had to wait around for a couple more contractions till a doctor could confirm it. Didn’t I say it was uncontrollable?
Anyway, it was finally time to start pushing at 10:30 am on Friday. The hospital midwife wanted me to push while holding my breath for ten seconds, 4 times a contraction. I had been taught a different way of pushing and found this way to be unnecessarily painful. I thought my face would explode! My face was so bruised and swollen afterward. I thought about arguing the point, but I knew if I didn’t hurry and get this kid out, I’d get a c-section. So I gave it my all and had him out in about 5 contractions (20 minutes). It was such a relief when he was born. I so wish I had been able to go natural so I could have had that rush of hormonal love. Instead, I was rather numb emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Loopy, but the moment just wasn’t what I had hoped for. They put him on my chest and he just looked at me silently. I frantically told the nurse he wasn’t making a noise and was quite blue. They didn’t seem concerned but took him away from me after letting the cord pulse for a bit. (I had wanted longer.) I told Andy to follow him, I didn’t know what was going on. I soon heard his cry and was relieved though I felt removed from the situation. Loopy was perfectly healthy and I thought that the terrible 28 hour labor was over.
Wrongo. The next two hours were THE most painful of the entire experience. Immediately the hospital midwife told me to start pushing out the placenta. Something in the back of my foggy head thought this wasn’t how I wanted to do things, but I just couldn’t think straight enough to make an argument. I tried pushing it out, but since I was so numb, I could only feel something the size of Loopy. I just wasn’t getting it out and I could see the worry growing on the hospital midwife’s face. She decided to reach inside me and try to manually get it out of me. At this point, the epidural started to wear off. I could feel her tugging at my inside. Not pleasant. She kept looking at the clock and the fear was spreading to the whole room. Eventually the placenta came out after a lot of tugging. I thought we were done. Nope.
For some unknown reason, the midwife thought pieces of placenta may still be inside of me. She thought the placenta was intact, but she still wasn’t convinced. She started fishing around inside of me. By this time the epidural was doing nothing for me. I was screaming. I couldn’t help it. It was the worst pain I have ever felt, hands down. She called in a resident doctor who also stuck her arm in me up to her elbow (maybe an exaggeration, but I couldn’t see what they were doing). Then they called in a high risk specialist who repeated the torture. An ultrasound was done on me and they found nothing. At this point I just wanted them to stop. If I bled out, I didn’t really care, I just couldn’t take any more. Finally they decided that nothing was wrong and that they could proceed to stitch me up.
When Loopy came out, he had his hand next to his face. This caused me to tear to the 2nd degree (through muscle). They didn’t start stitching me till after they’d done their placenta search. As previously stated, my epidural was non-existent at this point. Each piercing of the needle was felt. I started my loud cries once more. I’m so thankful that I ask the midwife how long it would take. I thought it would only take a few seconds. She said 20 minutes. It turned out she underestimated. Afterward I guessed their were 40 stitches. My mom said there were way more than that. At this time, they brought Loopy back because I had said I wanted to start breastfeeding right away. Well when mommy is screaming in his ear, it’s not the best time to learn. I hated asking them to take him away, but I didn’t want him hearing me. Andy followed Loopy to the nursery and my mom held me hand through the pain.
Once the pain was over, the epidural boost finally kicked in. Not the best timing. I couldn’t feel anything from the neck down, except miserable. The darn hospital staff was still suspicious of pieces of a retained placenta and kept me for “observation” in the L & D room till 4 pm. I felt like crap. I begged for water but was told I couldn’t even have a sip because I might still have to go in for surgery. I was alone at this point and helpless. Whenever someone came in to check on me, I’d plead for water to no avail. With no explanation, the midwife agreed to let me be and start the recovery process in the maternity ward. When I got up there, they brought Loopy in and I finally got to look my son over! I was still out of it for another two hours. People kept coming in and talking to me, but I was delirious. As fluids and food got into me, I started coming around.
My hospital stay was awful as well. People barged into our room literally every five minutes. They treated us badly and acted like we were the biggest fools in the world for not having done the birth process in the traditional way. Whenever we asked for anything, they kept forgetting. The only help I wanted was with breastfeeding. But the only thing people would do was talk at me. Theoretically I know how to do it, it just wasn’t working. I needed someone to give me hands on help. There were three nurses that stood out as caring and helpful, but they were the exception. I wanted to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. Saturday night seemed like a reasonable time to me. Unfortunately, breastfeeding was not working and they would not release me until I could get a better LATCH score. No one was actually helping so I just wanted to go home and get help from people I trusted. I stole a look at how they scored the breastfeeding and found ways to get the numbers up, (i.e. use pillows for support, two points.) It felt like breaking out of prison. But we did it! I’ve never been so relieved to be home!
I hope this didn’t come across as a bunch of complaining. I know that everything God takes us through is for our benefit and his glory. I just starting to sort through all that I learned. Shocking, but physical pain is not the worst that can happen to a person. After a while, I just surrendered myself to God and let it hit me. I trusted him and had peace. He’s my hope, nothing else. I’m so thankful that Loopy and I are both healthy. I can’t praise Him enough for that. But even if tragedy had struck, God would remain the same faithful God. I have been forgiven of my wretchedness, rescued from eternal death and I will forever get to delight in His presence. I may lose my comfort, my health, my life. I may lose my family. But I’ll never lose the reality of a future life of intimacy with God. I guess God gave me some serious perspective, taught me to be thankful, and continues to bless me abundantly!