Happy New Year!
It seems appropriate to start off the year with a birth story. It also feels appropriate to wait until nearly the end of the day to post it.
We have hired a Doula from the Madison Doula Collective. Feels great to have personal, competent and caring support at the ready. Part of my Doula’s get-to-know-you process involves sharing my past labor and birth experience and though I’ve documented Arlo’s birth before, I’m taking this opportunity to rewrite with the gift of hindsight as well as thinking ahead to this new birth.
December 17, 2009
Kris came home from work. We went to lunch and planned on walking Elbow Beach but the weather turned. We stopped at the pharmacy to buy antacid and headed home. We planned a night tucked in so we downloaded “Transformers” and “GIJoe” for some brainless entertainment, turned on the Christmas tree lights and hunkered down. Because this pregnancy came via IVF we were pretty certain of our December 14 due date. Three days past and I was attuned to anything new going on with my body.
I decided those cramps were indeed contractions and were regular enough to start tracking. The evening continued thusly: me leaping off the couch, saying “Now!”, Kris starting the timer, pausing the movie and then standing up so I could squat down, hang on to his belt, and moan. What felt like 10 seconds later but really averaged over a minute, I’d be back on the couch. We progressed well, quickly going from 20 to 12 to 6 to 4 minutes apart. Our Midwife was called, she popped over to observe and confirm it was the real deal and then left us to be on our own for a while.
We went upstairs to fill the birth pool and continued on together. Kris and I were in such a groove I was tempted to tell our Doula not to come. It was everything I imagined home birth to be: private and loving and safe, right down to the candles burning in the background.
While shifting from my hands-and-knees to sitting cross-legged on the bed, my waters broke. Wow! Pop! Gush. Time became a blur after this.
Our Doula arrives. Our Midwife returns. Kris never leaves my side. My contractions are on top of one another. I labor on the bed, floor, toilet, standing, squatting, on all fours. I have no concept of time passing, all clocks have been turned aside, I have no dilation checks. I vomit many times. Our Midwife checks the baby’s heart rate after every contraction. Baby is fine but I am in pain. Our Assistant Midwife arrives and the birth pool is fully prepped. I try to labor in water. I had planned and prepared for a home water birth but I could not stay on top of contractions in water. I am desperate for relief. In the pool I circle to each of my helpers and one by one ask them for help, beg them to help this end. “What will make this end?” We all know I’m in transition. My body is riddled with crippling back contractions. I cannot get on top of one before the next one comes. I panic and with it, stop breathing in enough oxygen so Baby’s heart rate dips. Midwife recommends and performs exam. Baby is posterior and I scream at her to get out before she can assess dilation (*I was fully dilated.*) She can’t tell if I’m dilated at all but I cannot tolerate another exam. It is obvious it is time to birth but I felt no urge or pressure, only constant, agonizing pain. I kept waiting and working for it to happen – I never stop moving — but the urge never comes. I don’t understand what’s happening. Everything I’d read and every birth I’ve attended as a Doula myself, the mother experienced an unstoppable urge to push. I have no idea how this can end and with no end in sight, I can no longer cope. I scream and writhe in agony. Midwife recommends transfer to hospital.
December 18, 2009
Immediately upon arrival, Nurse confirms full dilation and Baby somehow returned to anterior position. Command given to “go ahead and push”. This means nothing to me – push what, push where? I have no sense at all a baby is going to come out of me yet everyone else jumps on board with this directive. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone wants this to end, understandably.
My Door Analogy:
Everyone: “See that door right there?”
Me: “No. What door?”
Everyone: “I’m telling you there’s a door right there. Push it open.”
Me: “I don’t see it.” Reaching, hands extended, “I don’t feel a door.”
Everyone: “Don’t worry if you can’t see or feel it. I’m telling you it is there. Just push it open and this will all be over.”
So I push. I push at nothing. I push at nothing in every position possible. The contractions are excruciating and suddenly after 12, 14, 20 hours of getting through them I am told to accept them, to use them. This makes as much sense to me as does pushing at a door that doesn’t exist. In a last-straw effort to calm me down I am given gas-and-air. This gives me no relief, it only worsens my dehydration.
Baby’s heart rate never falters so I go on and on. This is the cycle for the next eight hours:
- Vomit/dry heave
- Drink water
I squat on the floor. I try knees-to-chest. I am on my hands and knees. I do all this for everyone else but the whole time I feel this is not going to work. None of this feels right. Several hours in I catch my midwife say to one of the nurses something about “vaginal varicose veins”. Talk of forceps starts and I get right on board knowing that pushing at nothing will result in nothing. Someone is going to have to pull.
Epidural administered for forceps assistance.
One push, one pull. Arlo born in a single contraction, healthy and beautiful. 7lbs 14oz, 18 3/4″
Though I appreciate everyone trying to end this birth for mostly my sake and relief, I wish someone, anyone would have said “If you don’t feel like pushing, don’t push.”
In lieu of that I wish someone would have listened to me about feeling nothing and suggested forceps seven hours earlier.
Thank God my Midwife said no to the nurse’s suggestion of pitocin. I would have said no anyway but that it was even suggested given the depth and power of my contractions terrifies me. They didn’t need any artificial enhancement.
While I wish I could have birthed at home, I am not disappointed by not having a home birth. I had a goal. I studied, planned and trained to achieve it. When the moment came, I gave it everything I had, absolutely everything inside of me. I liken it to training for a marathon but then breaking my ankle at Mile 24. The work mattered.