Posted by: Ingrid | September 23, 2009

Labor Story: The long and (not so) short of it

And now, I give you the birth story.  In all its lengthy glory (sorry!).  I’m sure this would have happened much sooner (since all women right after giving birth have tons of time to spend writing and blogging) except Isaac was born, we had to clean up the house we were living in and finish packing, move to a new place, load up the truck, get our cars and the three of us to Michigan, unload and unpack our stuff in a new house in a new town in a new state with a new job for my husband and a complete 180 for me as I settled into life as a stay at home mom (make that settling in, I’m not there yet – still need to come up with a good morning schedule of soap operas to watch).  And did I mention the not having internet?  And all the changes?  And the not sleeping?

And that, my friends is why there has been no birth story.  Plus 46 hours is a lot to summarize, though by the length of this post you’re probably wondering if I did.

Thanks to Emily for the pictures and for being there.  Without her there would be no visual record of the event.  I find it interesting that labor and delivery is perhaps the only time someone could take pictures of you practically naked and you don’t even notice.  Until you go to add them to your blog and your husband says, “Um, Hon, maybe not that one.”

I really wanted to write this out sooner because Isaac’s birth was hard enough that, for a few weeks after he was born whenever I would close my eyes to take a nap or fall asleep, if I wasn’t drop dead tired, I would start replaying parts of the labor.  Suffice it to say that it was not at all soothing, so I wanted to type out the story just to process it.  The weird thing is that, for all that people have told me it was a hard labor, most of it didn’t feel that way.  There is only one part that really makes me angry and upset (I’ll let you guess what part that is) and I think, with my limited experience, that it’s also the reason everything took so long in the first place.

To set the scene, Clint and I wanted as natural a birth as possible.  Of course, you go in reciting the “healthy mom, healthy baby” mantra, but we all have things that we want out of our labor experience.  I would have preferred a home birth but everything with our insurance was free so I was trying to get as close to a home birth as possible, ending up at the hospital at the last minute and then enjoying the several days of post partum care.  Baby me afterwards but leave me alone while I deliver was my general take on things.

Friday night (August 8th) as I fell asleep I noticed that the normal Braxton Hicks contractions felt a little different.  I felt like I was never going to go into labor at that point and figured they would disappear, as usual, by the time I woke up to run my nine miles.  They were still there the next morning and felt different, so I figured I’d go for a run, just to see if they’d stop.  As I was leaving I timed a few of them.  They lasted about a minute and were coming every 4 to 5 minutes apart and there was a new cramping pain that lasted for each contraction.  I ran 4 miles and the contractions got a little more intense and were 4 minutes apart.  I finished up with a 2 mile walk and by the end was having difficulty walking once a contraction would hit.  Came home, had breakfast, was reluctant to think that this might be it and then moved boxes from the house into the garage.  Yes, I followed up a 4 mile run and 2 mile walk with helping my husband heft over 100 boxes outside.  As we did this, the contractions got more intense until I couldn’t continue walking or talking when they hit.  I would sit, kneel, or lean and let them pass and then keep moving. I called Emily, my friend who was going to act as our birthing assistant and let her know what was going on.  During the afternoon I called a friend, napped, took a bath, and things just kept going.  It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t horribly painful, but it started taking more and more concentration to get through the contractions.  The afternoon and evening were sort of a blur.  I puttered around trying to not think too hard about what was going on, but that’s sort of hard when a contraction interrupts you every 3-5 minutes!

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Eventually we started a movie, which we never finished.  We called Emily around 9:00 PM and she came over.  By that time the contractions were much more intense and I was having to vocalize to get through them.  Clint and I played wii bowling for a little while, and he beat me.  Of course, a few days before I’d beaten him soundly three times in a row and I’d love to see him try to keep a steady hand on the controller with a contraction coming on!

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Emily encouraged me to try some different positions and relieved Clint so that he could step out and take a nap.  I tried to lie down and rest but didn’t get very far with that.  Emily walked around with me outside, and it was nice to have someone there who had gone through the experience before.  I could say, “Ow, this hurts!” and know that she not only could acknowledge the pain but that she knew full well what I was talking about and had lived through the experience.

Eventually we got to the point where Emily and I both felt like it might be time to go to the hospital.  I was feeling like I was getting close to transition or was in it already and figured my labor was established enough so that being at the hospital wouldn’t be a problem.  Plus the car ride down the 91 to the hospital was something I was hoping to get done with sooner rather than later!

There is no comfortable way to drive any distance to the hospital while in labor, but we made it, potholes and all.  I was fairly optimistic and was thinking that we would have a baby by the time the sun was up.

Then we got into triage and everything went horribly wrong.  With Kaiser, you never know who will be working so you don’t get a chance to meet your birth team.  Unfortunately, we got a nurse and nurse midwife who just didn’t work well with us at all (okay, fondly I call them the triage team from hell – are you getting a sense for which part of this whole labor business I didn’t like?).  They were very skeptical about where we thought we were in the labor process.  I was asked about contractions and when I said that they were 4 minutes apart, lasting 2+ minutes and had been that way for an hour and a half the nurse said, “You just think they’re lasting for 2 minutes.”  Then I hit her.  Okay, not really, but everything started shutting down.  That’s just not a great way to establish a sense of goodwill with a laboring woman.

Then there was the fetal monitoring business.  They wanted me on my back for half an hour before they would admit me.  I couldn’t go through contractions that way.  I would move, the monitor would slip, they’d pick up my heart beat instead of Isaac’s and the strip would look bad so they’d want me on the monitor longer.  The nurse midwife finally decided to just check me, as this whole process was getting frustrating.  She looked very surprised to find me at 7 centimeters and admitted me.

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Unfortunately, by the time they let me off the monitor and we’d gone through triage, labor had virtually stopped.  I had no idea it could do that so far into the game, but it did.  That’s probably what makes me the angriest about the whole experience, that I spent a day laboring towards a certain goal and I felt like all of that effort and good hard work that I’d put in was ripped out of my hands.  We walked the halls, I did some jumping jacks, and we tried various positions trying to get things to start back up.  Not much happened.  Then it was back to the monitor and a repeat of the moving/baby slipping off the monitor experience.  Then I was free to try to start things up again.  And back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  Eventually, late in the morning I realized that I was just done.  I was so tired and frustrated and angry at how helpless I felt that I wanted to leave.  Clint and Emily agreed and after a concerned talking to by the nurse, nurse midwife, and doctor on call, I signed a paper saying that I was leaving against medical consent and we took off.  I’m guessing not a whole lot of people walk out at 7 centimeters dilated and I can’t help but wonder if the nurses at the desk started placing bets as to when we’d be back.

Then we got to the parking lot and the car wouldn’t start.  Poor Clint had a tired, crying, still pregnant wife in the back of a black car during the hottest time of the day and the car refused to budge.  A very nice stranger went out of her way to get us back to La Mirada.  At that point, Emily went home to nurse her baby and rest and I decided to eat something and try to nap.  I was ready to have Isaac on the kitchen floor, if necessary, and I let Clint know that I wanted nothing more to do with the hospital and did not plan on making the drive again or going back through triage ever.  So I tried to rest through contractions and Clint tried to figure out what he’d do if he really did have to deal with an emergency home birth.  We called Emily’s midwife who was out of state and I called a former roommate who is a nurse and midwife and she came over mid-afternoon.  It was great having Margit there.  She helped me find a few more positions, checked me a couple of times to see how I was progressing, and was able to check Isaac’s heartbeat to make sure he was doing okay (he did great).

So all of that was good except for the fact that I was getting so tired.  I’ve never been one to pull all nighters, even in college.  As much as I may skimp on sleep sometimes, I don’t go entirely without.  It just wasn’t possible to rest because the contractions just kept coming.  At one point, Clint had it timed so that I could doze for 6 minutes, then he’d force me to get up and lean over the birthing ball right before a contraction would hit.  As much as I hated to have to open my eyes and move, lying down on the bed during a contraction was horrible.

And so we continued.  Emily came back in the evening.  I was still tired.  The contractions wouldn’t stop and the pelvic pressure was getting more and more intense. At that point it was hard for me to believe that anything was going to happen.  On Saturday night when Emily would tell me that each contraction was getting me closer to holding Isaac I believed her.  When she, Margit, and Clint were telling me the same thing 24 hours later it made me mad.  That’s what I was told the night before and there was no baby yet! Seriously, how long was it going to take for this kid to drop just a few inches?  We called Emily’s midwife a few times and she was wonderful, I thought I was heading into transition a few times.  Finally I didn’t really know what to think.  The experience from the evening before, when I thought I knew what my body was doing but then everything stopped left me feeling like I couldn’t read my body at all.  Plus I was tired.  As we got closer to the end of Sunday, Margit checked me and said I was at 9 centimeters.  At that point I was ready to go back to the hospital.  It wasn’t that I really fancied an unmonitored home birth, I’d just been so angry initially that I couldn’t even think about going back.

So once again we hopped into the car.  The trip hurt even more the second time around and all I could do was pray, “Please don’t slow down this time, body.  Please.”  Five minutes from the hospital Clint called Labor and Delivery and told them that we were coming back (I’m sure by this time everyone knew who we were) and that I was ready to push.  A slight exaggeration, but effective, as we were able to bypass triage and they had a wheelchair waiting curbside for me.  We got a great team the second time around and had a fantastic nurse midwife who we’d met in the morning.  Then she checked me and said I was only 8 centimeters (it totally depends on whether the nurse has fat or skinny fingers, I’ve decided).  She encouraged taking a shower, which turned out to be a trickle of water that took forever to get warm.  That left me shivering and crying on the shower floor feeling helpless and tired and so incredibly cold.  I watch the clock strike midnight as the 9th became the 10th and felt so discouraged.  Four hours after being admitted, after so many contractions, I was still at 8 centimeters.  That whole bit of the labor, after not sleeping for 40 plus hours is the blurriest for me.  I remember moving, I remember the contractions, I remember feeling like I was just going to die, except the contractions weren’t going to end and I’d be dead and contracting forever and ever.  I just wanted to sleep and to press whatever button would stop the contractions and let me get some reprieve from the pressure.  I got more and more disoriented.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  Clint was getting worried as my pupils were dilating and contracting.

When I close my eyes and picture that morning I almost feel like I’m looking at someone else.  I can remember what I said, I can remember feeling like I couldn’t tell where the pain was coming from, couldn’t work with it, felt crushed by it.  All I can do is feel so very sorry for the person I see in my mind’s and almost embarrassed that other people had to be around her.

Eventually there was talk of medication.  At that point I didn’t care and wasn’t about to make any decisions, but also didn’t really want the loss of control and feeling that an epidural would give.  Clint eventually decided to try a narcotic that was administered in doses 20 minutes apart.  That way, if I responded badly or if it didn’t work, we could move on to plan B.  I felt the difference immediately.  It didn’t stop the contractions or the pain, but it took the edge off and let me close my eyes and rest.

Margit and Emily left.  The lights were dimmed and I remember Clint sitting next to me in the dark and telling me to rest and not talk (which I immediately did when I started feeling better).  Somewhere in the quasi-rest that the medication gave me I started wondering if the contractions I felt were pushing contractions.  I was so afraid at that point that there would be all of this labor and then two hours of pushing.  I thought I knew what my body was doing but at the same time also felt like I had no reason to trust it.

After about an hour on the medication I was checked again and was complete and ready to push!  I was so glad that we’d gone with the short-term medication at that point – it gave me just what I needed.

The nurse midwife encouraged me to sit in the bathroom during my contractions because that position seemed to work best.  At one point, when I was alone and contracting I was pretty sure I could feel Isaac’s head.  All of the books are right.  No one needs to tell you when to push if you aren’t medicated.  You simply can’t help pushing.  The thing is, from the reading I’d done it sounded like a contraction would start, you’d take two breaths, then take another breath, hold it, push, and then the contraction would end and there’d be a break.  I was getting some crazy long contractions however and I would hold my breath, push, gasp for another breath and push… they were a lot longer than I thought they’d be and couldn’t go against the urge to push.

I guess all of that went much faster than the nurses thought it would, because suddenly I was being half dragged half carried from the bathroom to the bed.  I don’t recommend walking when your baby is trying to crown, by the way.  They barely got me into whatever position they wanted me in before Isaac was born.  I kept telling myself as he was crowning that I then needed to wait and slowly push again to get the shoulders and body out but my body wasn’t having any of that.  He crowned and then the rest of him slid out into Clint’s waiting arms while I lay there thinking I really wasn’t going to push him out that fast!

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Isaac immediately started screaming and was the most amazingly beautiful purple-ish baby I’d ever seen.  I didn’t even feel the stitches when I was holding him, it was such an amazing experience.  He was born August 10th, at 4:43 am and was 20 inches long and 7 lbs. 5.6 oz. with Apgar scores of 9 and 9.

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It was also amazing not having any more contractions after 46 hours of them.  Life without contractions – I’d forgotten how glorious it could be!

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Several days later I unpacked my almost untouched hospital bag containing a novel, a book of crossword puzzles, two issues of Fitness Magazine, poems by T.S. Eliot, a pregnancy journal that I was going to update while going through the labor experience, and three issues of Runner’s World.  I distinctly remember packing all of that for when I was in labor.  What on earth did I think I’d be doing then, anyway?!?

Isaac was absolutely worth all of the tiredness and hard work and frustration of my labor with him.  Despite all the craziness of that 46 hours he may even have siblings some day!

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The final birth team.  I couldn’t have done it without them!

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Responses

  1. I think it is fascinating to read it from your perspective. Thanks for writing it all down!

  2. Lordy Lordy! I found myself holding my breath while reading it! What a crazy journey you all experienced and how commendable. You should be proud (and I think technically you can get an Ironman tattoo).

  3. Oh, honey, that is one birth story! And I don’t normally call people “honey”, but in this case? You deserve some honey-ing. Good for you for going with your gut on all your decisions, even if they were against medical advice or what your original “plan” might have been. Since you were at a 7 at the hospital the first time I bet your next L&D will go much faster & more smoothly. I feel fortunate that the medical team in place when I got to the hospital at 6 cm was willing to pretty much step back and let me do my thing. Also – Isaac looks great for having experienced those many hours of labor along with you!

  4. wow–amazing story, Ingrid. Thanks for all the details. I’m so proud of how strong you were and what a great team you put together to help you through! 🙂

  5. Hi – I’m Emily’s um… cousin-in-law? Anyways, congratulations on your beautiful baby boy, and congratulations on getting through your labor – wow, what a story. And congratulations for not slugging the nurse the first time you were at the hospital. *grin* I’m not sure I could have been quite so charitable. I did a similar thing w/ the medication at the end – I really didn’t want to, but I’m thankful for it now because if I hadn’t I’m pretty sure I would have ended up with a caesarean later that day instead of having a baby only an hour later. A little rest does amazing things in labor, doesn’t it!

    Congratulations again!

  6. Wow, interesting thinking about that experience again. I’m so glad we have Isaac now! And I’m so glad we had all the support of Emily Margit, and other friends. I love you babe!


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