While pregnant I LOVED reading birth stories. They gave me encouragement, inspiration and hope that I could have the birth I wanted, not the birth that is portrayed in the media. If you think that is how it really happens, you will be happy to know it is NOT nearly as scary or traumatizing as they like to make it look!
I would swell up with emotions reading these mother’s stories and seeing pictures of the precious first moments between mother, father and baby. Tears of joy and happiness would run down my face.
It would be wonderful to know that other expectant mothers could read my story and also find inspiration. To know that natural birth can happen in a hospital, despite the many obstacles we might face.
I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 20 weeks pregnant. For anyone who has dealt with the consequences of this diagnoses, you know it means constant monitoring of blood glucose levels and a fairly restrictive diet. I also had the added stigma of growing a “big” baby and extra precautions were taken to monitor his growth, i.e. additional ultrasounds and NST. My mid-wife also consulted with an OB in their medical group to make sure things were looking “OK” with us to proceed with my natural, mid-wife attended birth plan.
At my 38 week appointment there was concern about a high blood pressure reading. It was noted, but I didn’t get any indication that it was much to be worried about. However, I received a phone call a few hours later from the nurse that my mid-wife would like me to come back in the next day for a follow up blood pressure reading. I was just going to run in during my lunch break to have it checked, but when it was still high, they became concerned. I was directed to make my way over to the L&D triage for evaluation and to run a few tests.
As I wobbled my way across the street and through the hospital, I called Stan to let him know what was going on. I told him he didn’t need to come, since I didn’t know what was really going on yet. I also texted a co-worker and let her know I wasn’t going to be back at 1pm as expected….but I would keep her updated.
I checked into L&D triage and was taken into a room to run some tests. The place was empty and I might have been the only pregnant woman there that day (at least that is what it felt like). They hooked me up to the monitors and I got to hear baby boy's heartbeat. The nurse said things looked really good and that my blood pressure wasn’t very elevated and she was kind of surprised they had sent me over. Then the on call doctor came in to talk to me and again gave me some pretty reassuring words that things looked great with me and baby. OK why am I still here then? They needed to get some more readings and a urine sample, so I hung out for another hour. Watched some TV and tried to relax. Thank god for not having a smart phone...I may have made myself go into labor if I could have been Googling what might have been going on.
After 2 hours in L&D I was sent home with a big jug to collect my urine for 24 hours and instructions to “take it easy”. Ha…like that was going to happen. I drove back to work (probably should have just gone home, but I am a good loyal worker). Then I got a call…from my mid-wife. She informed me that after they ran the test on my 24 hour urine sample (which I would be dropping off the next afternoon) that I could be getting a call saying I need to come in to be induced. What?? Oh and that she wasn’t on call so it would be a different doctor, that I had never met. Ek! Not what I wanted to hear.
So here I am about to pop, lugging around a jug of my own urine and still working 8-9 hours a day. In the back of my mind…I was thinking yeah, I think I am ready to have this baby now! Let’s get this over with! But then the logical voice popped in and reminding me how much I know that baby will come when ready and I don’t want to force him to come out early!
Thankfully I got the call that the tests came back great and no need to induce. Back to waiting it out….
The next week at my 39 week appointment my blood pressure was reading good and I was 3cm dilated and very thin. We all thought I would be having the baby SOON.
Well the week goes by and nothing happens. I have another appointment on Friday, at which point she offers to strip my membranes. I declined and said we could discuss it next week. I was determined to let this little guy come on his own terms. Here is where having the gestational diabetes was not in my favor. Because of the “risk” of a large baby (he was measuring around 8 lbs at this point), they didn’t want me to go past my due date. I personally think the due date is more of an estimate, and shouldn’t be used for such concrete things as deciding to induce a woman because she is past this estimate date. I really didn’t want to be induced, and was pretty hopeful we could get things going naturally.
That weekend we had amazing weather. It was a beautiful and warm April. We decided to try some of the natural methods of induction I had heard about. We ate spicy food. Did some yard work (I was pulling weeds and turning over my garden beds at 39+ weeks pregnant!). We walked laps around the neighborhood. We went to the park and walked some more. I was feeling great, but having NO indication of labor. Ugh.
Saturday, April 14th 2012 (39w5d) - Riverfront Park
Knowing that I was probably going to have this baby one way or another that week, I told my mom she would probably be safe to come to Spokane on Monday morning. I had another appointment and was probably going to have my membranes swiped. When I showed up that morning for my appointment, my mid-wife was very surprised I was STILL pregnant! Me too lady…me too. She checked me and I was 4cm dilated and 80% effaced. We decided to hold off on the membrane stripping till the next day, since she would be on call the following two days. She did however, ask that we schedule my water to be broken on Wednesday morning if I hadn't gone into labor. Again…they didn’t want me to go past my due date. We obliged, but I was really hopefully we wouldn’t need it.
Stan headed to work and I spent the rest of the day with my mom. We ate some cupcakes, took a few walks, watched some movies and just hung out…waiting for baby.
Tuesday morning we head back to the office. Membranes stripped. Lots of waiting and lots of walking. I start having some contractions, but nothing worth noting. We walk and walk. I have to stop a few times for the contractions, but they are just mildly uncomfortable. Then they stop. I go to bed hoping I wake up in labor.
I could barely sleep and ended up on the couch around 4 am, wide awake. I laid there thinking to baby, please please come now. I am anxious and can’t go back to sleep. I get up, take a shower and do my hair and makeup…and take one more pregnancy picture. I am supposed to be at the hospital at 7:30 am for them to break my water.
It felt so strange leaving for the hospital and NOT be in labor. I had worried so much about knowing when to go…not too early and not too late. I had stressed about making a mess in the car or the traffic we might face on the highway. I had worried that my mom would be driving from Omak and might miss the birth of her first grandchild. All these worries were for not.
We arrived at the hospital and the staff was waiting for me. They took me to my room and I got changed into one of their gowns. They inserted a hep lock, "just in case" they needed IV access.
My mid-wife showed up around 8:30. I was 5cm and 90% effaced. I had already done HALF the work! To our surprise my water had already ruptured. What? When did that happen?
This changed everything.
We couldn't really pin point when my water had broken. Since it could have happened when my mid-wife stripped my membranes and I wasn't in active labor, they needed to augment with Pitocin! I was upset, but understood. I requested that they give me some time to try and get things going before they gave me the Pitocin. Since I was so far dilated, I knew that I just needed to give my body some more time and maybe a little nudge. They let me have until 10:30. I did so many laps around the birth center, but it clearly wasn't helping. When the nurse came back at 10:30 and I was still laughing and talking through contractions, I was told I had to proceed with the Pitocin. I was very fearful of the "cascade of interventions" that Pitocin can bring on. I now had to have an IV, be hooked up to monitors and couldn't leave the room.
Within a minute of them administering the Pitocin, my contractions intensified dramatically. For the next 90 minutes I laid in the hospital bed trying to get comfortable and rest. At noon I got up and onto a birth ball and ate lunch. Unfortunately, in that position the heart rate and contraction monitors stopped reading. The nurse tried everything she could do to readjust them, but without any luck and a little annoyance with me. So I had two options. I could lay in bed with the external monitors or they could do internal monitoring and I could be mobile. I was pissed, but knew that there was no way I could handle the contractions laying in bed. So we went ahead with the internal monitoring (thank God we did this, since I spent the next 4+ hours out of bed). Every half an hour they were upping the Pitocin and my contractions kept getting stronger and closer together. At this point my doula became our saving grace. I was having really bad back labor. She was applying counter pressure and talking me through every contractions. I also got really nauseous and she had peppermint essential oil that she put on a wet wash cloth that I could breathe into. It instantly helped and took away all the nausea.
Around 3pm they checked my dilation and I was at 8 cm. I remember the nurse saying that my midwife would be back over around 3:30 pm. At this point I am basically leaning over the bed with Stan in front of me holding my hands, my mom rubbing my back and shoulders and my doula applying counter pressure on my lower back. The contractions were fairly short, maybe 30 seconds, but only about 30 seconds apart. I was not getting a break at all! It was around this point that I was on the verge of breaking down and requesting an epidural, even though I knew it was too late. I remember whimpering "I can't do this!" and started crying. My doula asked me "remember why you wanted to have a natural birth this natural" and I replied "because it is the best thing for me and the baby!" A few moments later and I was able to pull myself together and remember that this is what I wanted. I was strong and I could get through the next contraction. Just one at a time.
I remember Stan saying, "we will know she is in transition when she starts cursing" (apparently this is what he took away from our birth class). Guess what, I never once cursed...ha! Right around then I started feeling the urge to push during the contractions. It was the strangest feeling and knew that it meant I was going to be meeting Liam soon. My doula ran out to the nurses station and got Renee. She checked my dilation and I was almost there, just a small cervical lip. They said my midwife would be here any minute. When she showed up they got me on the bed and said, "Ok, you can start pushing." This is going to sound so silly, but the only thing I could think of in that moment was that our birth photographer, Courtney, hadn't got there yet! I couldn't start pushing yet! Stan had called her a few times and we knew she was on the way, but I had progressed so fast at the end she hadn't made it yet. My doula knew I wanted pictures, so she grabbed my camera and took a few during my first few pushes.
Once I started pushing, all the pain I had been feeling in my back was gone. I remember feeling so much relief and calmness between pushes. Then Courtney entered the room. I looked over at her and smiled, and knew that I could have Liam now. On the next push our midwife told Stan he could reach down and feel Liam's head. She asked if I wanted to feel too, but for some reason I said no. I was in my own world, focusing so much on being open and relaxed. On the next push she said "Hailey, open your eyes and meet your son". I saw his head and then his body emerge. I reached down and she helped me bring him to my chest. It was amazing and empowering. The first words out of my mouth, "Well that wasn't so bad!" Everyone started laughing.
For the next 30 minutes he laid on my chest, nursed and snuggled. Then they took him to be weighed and measured. He was 8 lbs 2 oz, 21 inches long. Born exactly at 5 pm. I only pushed for 19 minutes.
He is just perfect and we can't be more in love.
We were so lucky to have such a wonderful photographer capture the following images.
I HIGHLY recommend hiring a birth photographer. Those first few moments with your child are such a blur. These images are priceless.
Images courtesy of Small Beginnings Photography