Photo courtesy of Jesse Kitt Photography
Now on with the story...
I spent a long, uncomfortable night in the hospital. The foley bulb didn't cause much activity in my uterus, but my bladder had a field day. I probably should have given in and propped myself up on the toilet and slept there. Seriously. I peed all night long. And if you've ever spent the night in labor and delivery you know how uncomfortable those beds that break down are. Needless to say, the next morning I was tired, but ready for a change (hopefully of the cervical kind).
They started the pitocin just before 8 a.m. and shorty after 8 I began contracting slowly. Our doula arrived after a brief detour to grab our camera. Around 11:30 or so (remember this is all from memory until I find that darn baby book at which time I will record the specifics somewhere else for safe keeping) the foley bulb came out meaning I was about 4 cm. It was exciting. I was progressing.
I continued to labor with the support of our lovely midwife, who I liken to Dustin Hoffman in the most flattering way. She was kind and gentle, and quirky, and made me feel safe and confident. At one point between contractions early in labor she asked if I would mind if she knitted. There was plenty of downtime and it seemed like a perfectly good way to pass the time during early labor. My husband, doula and nurse were also by my side all day. Remember, I had been diagnosed with preeclampsia and was being induced with pitocin. That means LOTS of monitoring, which means LOTS of cords everywhere, well, not everywhere... Anyway, our doula was so good at keeping me moving I barely noticed the cords, until I had to use the bathroom, which I did frequently. I bounced on a birthing ball, I leaned on the bed, I leaned on my husband, rocked in a rocking chair, slept a little in bed, but between each of these positions I went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. The bathroom was so small, and quiet, and dark. It wasn't a conscious decision, it's just where I needed to be before moving onto the next position. Maybe it was like hitting the reset button, giving me renewed strength to let my body do what my body was designed to do? Maybe I just like bathrooms. At one point, upon sitting on the commode for the tenth, twelfth or thirteenth time, my husband asked, "Are you actually going to the bathroom?" It was adorable and I could tell he'd been wanting to know the answer for some time. I simply said, "Not always".
It went on like that for some time. Position, bathroom, new position, bathroom. At the time the hospital did not have wireless monitors so the water birth I had been hoping for was not an option, but you can read about the water birth of our third baby here. Our doula did the most wonderful thing and brought a large bucket of hot water to soak my feet. I rocked in the rocking chair while she rubbed my warm feet. It was only my feet, but it was so soothing. All the while they were increasing the pitocin and I was holding strong. And then around 2 p.m., something changed, unfortunately not my cervix. I was still at 4 cm and struggling to handle the new labor pattern. Maybe it was the increase in pitocin, maybe it was my body taking over, who knows, but it was different and hard, really hard. I swear the contractions were coming on top of each other. I sobbed a bit and our midwife called a meeting of the minds. The midwife, nurse, doula and my hubby all gathered around and we talked about our options. We considered that my progress had slowed, we considered that first babies can be pokey, we considered that my blood pressure was high, we considered that baby seemed perfectly healthy, we considered that I was getting tired. The consensus was that this could be a very long labor and that maybe I could use a break. So, after yet another visit to the thinking throne, aka the toilet, I asked for the epidural. I was sad, but I was also tired and the idea of resting sounded so nice. Because of my high blood pressure they had to get a platelet count before I could get the epidural. The midwife felt that we should turn the pitocin off so I could rest and then we'd restart it at half strength (sorry for the lack of medical terminology here) once I had the epidural. She said it should take about 15 minutes for my labor to stop.
Imagine my surprise after 30 minutes when they told me that my body was laboring on it's own. In a grand gesture they stripped all the cords off and we switch to intermittent monitoring. It felt so freeing even though I didn't feel overly inhibited before. I could breathe in between contractions, but they were still strong and regular. I was able to manage these contractions. The ones that my body was creating on it's own. I started to feel nauseous around 3:30 p.m. The lab was backed up and we were still waiting on the platelet count. That was the furthest thing from my mind at that point. The second time I puked my bag of waters exploded and I was a bit surprised. The amazing women supporting us agreed that it might be wise to check me. I was feeling excited and nervous and curious and anxious. Then they told me that I'm 9 almost 10 cm. Now I was overwhelmed. In another grand gesture the midwife waved her hand in the air like a queen waving away a servant and said, "Call off the epidural."
I again sought the comfort of the porcelain god and my husband and I sat in quiet darkness. I looked up at him and at first thought he was laughing, but closer inspection revealed tears. He was crying. He let out a mucusy giggle when he realized I was looking at him. He said, "So this is really happening." To which I responded, "Like right now! Uh, I feel something". Overhearing this, our amazing team of women gently guide me to the bed. I didn't think about it, couldn't have thought about it if they'd asked, I just climbed onto the bed and draped myself over the inclined back of the bed. As I did the nurse said, "Hurry, I see his head." Sheets were thrown down quickly and they said it would feel similar to going poop. To which I replied, "Good, because I might". (Poop that is). The midwife responded, "We like poop almost as much as we like vomit." I laughed and with the next contraction his head was out. And if you want to know (cause you know you're a little curious now), I did poo a little and I hardly noticed. It was not a big deal.
I can't say that I pushed, because that's not exactly what happened. My uterus pushed. I was bearing down, but only because there was no other choice. It was nothing like I'd ever seen on television with people counting and me holding my breath (not usually recommended but still widely practiced, by the way) and my legs in the air. I was in a natural birthing position and my body was pushing my baby out. There was no choice other than to bear down. With one more push he was out. My strong, healthy, perfect baby boy with his dark head of hair had made his way into this world and our hearts at 4:28 p.m. on August 21, 2007. He weighed 6 lbs. 14 oz. was 17 3/4 inches and was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was a mama. We were parents.
Looking down at Leon and I from the top of the raised bed.
I believe that I was in transition when I described the change in labor and I believe the pitocin was making it even harder. I also feel strongly that if I had the epidural things might have ended differently. Maybe my labor would have slowed drastically. Maybe I would have had to push for a long time and been swollen and sore. Maybe I would not have been able to push effectively and more interventions would have been required. Maybe he would have busted out right then and there. Maybe it would have unfolded much the same way. No one knows for sure. I do know that without pain medication my body was able to do exactly what it needed to to birth my sweet boy and I wasn't a martyr (a description I loathe). I wasn't suffering. I was birthing. I was becoming a mother the best way I knew how.