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I guess I started laboring on Friday morning. I was busy having a knock-down-drag-out fight with my toddler over a piece of strawberry and I just assumed the increased pain of the contractions were from being stressed out. The day continued kind of the same—more fighting with a two year old who seemed possessed (it’s actually not normal for him to be like that) and an increase in the pain of contractions that I kept attributing to the fact that I was doing things like dragging a screaming toddler out of Wal-Mart.
By the afternoon things settled down a bit and I ended up falling asleep on the couch (while Michael watched the blessed magical box). Only when I woke up from the contractions did I start thinking this might really be it. But I was only 39 weeks that day, so I decided even if it wasn’t labor, it was high time I had a legitimate false alarm. That was about four in the afternoon.
I woke Jared up and told him I was going to take a shower to see if the contractions slowed or changed at all. They were pretty dull, but just had an edge to them that made me feel like labor was close. I got in the shower and they spaced out more so I went back to thinking it probably wasn’t it. Since I had woken Jared up so early though, his sleep was all messed up for work, and he couldn’t call in sick unless I actually went to labor and delivery, and I couldn’t go into labor and delivery with my current contraction pattern…so I decided that if there was ever a night, tonight would be the night I’d try the dreaded castor oil.
We went out for dinner and stopped to pick up a bottle along the way. I was tempted to take it during dinner but had heard such bad things about it messing you up digestively that I decided to wait until I got home.
We got home around 7:30 in the evening and my contractions were still the same they had been all day. I took two tablespoons of the castor oil, mixed with a tiny bit of Gatorade and waited for it to do something. Almost immediately my contractions had much more pressure to them in the front of my belly…and every time I felt anything, I’d run to the bathroom thinking it must be hitting…but nothing ever happened. During that time, my mother in law called and told me she was spending the night. I truly didn’t feel like I was in labor at all (or would be) but for some reason I didn’t feel like protesting and agreed. After a couple hours of nothing happening, Jared went to work and I went to bed.
It looked like castor oil was a failure.
Sometime a little before midnight, the contractions woke me up again. They still had the same pain level, but the pressure in the front of my belly had really increased. It felt like someone had dropped about thirty pounds right into the bottom of my belly. I started timing them and it was difficult to time. I knew some of them had “double peaks”…like the pain wouldn’t subside much before another one started…but it was hard to place a good pattern on them. I knew it was much too early to go to the hospital, and that I was probably not progressed at all (I had been 2cm and 80% effaced already), but I just felt like I should go to the hospital. If anything, I kept thinking that pregnant women should come with a little book of coupons for “false labor passes”—like you show it at labor and delivery and get no judgment for being in pretend labor. Anyways…I kept thinking I was far enough along that I could use a “pass”. I knew I would be going home in a couple hours, but at that point I didn’t really care.
My mother-in-law took me in and I met Jared there. When I got there, my midwife, Karen, met me there and the first thing she did was comment on how much he had dropped. That kind of encouraged me that maybe this would be it…but I knew my contractions weren’t intense enough. I got settled in with a hep lock, and a quick 20 minute strip to monitor the baby before getting checked. I was a tight 3cm and still 80% effaced. Because I has having good, measurable contractions and had made progress since last being checked there was no talk of sending me home, it was just, get off the monitors and start walking around to see what we can keep going.
I walked for an hour before going back on the monitors for another 20 minute strip. My contraction pattern at that time (and pretty much through my whole labor) was not your typical pattern of decently spaced contractions. I would have five or six contractions in a row, without a true break in between, before the next one came, and then I’d have a longer five to six minute break in between. I really loved seeing the pattern though—it was so wonderful to look at it and know that my body was doing it, not the pitocin (my first had been an induction at 36 weeks). I really enjoyed that part of labor, the contractions were manageable and I could control the intensity somewhat and felt in control of the whole process. During one of the monitoring times though, the baby’s heart rate started showing decels from the prolonged, intense contractions. So into the bed I went while we got the heart rate stabilized. He recovered and since I wasn’t concentrating on them anymore, my contractions spaced out enough that it didn’t happen again.
At six the next morning, Karen came in to check me again. I was 3-4cm and 100% effaced. This is where I start loosing the ability to remember things clearly, and where I start feeling traumatized (probably because this was the stage where it stepped out of my control)…but I remember her digging around while checking me (painful!) and it seemed to take forever. When she finished, she really surprised me by saying that she wanted to break my water. Karen is a great midwife who I’ve been seeing since before Michael and she has the perfect balance (for me) between medical and natural. Plus everything with how she does birth’s in the hospital is geared towards keeping things as natural as possible, so I was really surprised to hear her say that. I asked if maybe I could get up and walk around more to see if that made a difference and she basically told me that it wouldn’t make a difference, that she really thought my water needed to be broken. At that point, she didn’t really give me a good reason but I trusted her, so I agreed to have my water broken.
Oh my goodness…as soon as she broke my water the misery started. It hurt like hell, and it took forever for her to actually get the water broken. Once it broke, it was a “oh crap” moment for her and the nurse as I started loosing more fluid than anyone expected. THEN, Karen said something that in my mind translated, “oh ***** crap” as she was still reached up in my cervix. I think she must have said something like “what is that?” because immediately I thought the cord had prolapsed (she told me later, that was her first thought was well). It was very tense and involved a whole lot of pain from her pushing her arm further up in me and the nurse gently pushing down on my belly. They were doing something with the baby, but I had no idea what it was. I was so upset by it, I started crying and Jared ended up having to step away for a bit…eventually it all stopped and they started working on cleaning up the insane amount of fluid…I felt hysterical and couldn’t stop crying though I wasn’t exactly sure why. Turns out the reason I wasn’t really progressing was because I had so much of a cushion from my enormous amount of amniotic fluid AND the baby’s hand was up by his head, preventing the head from really engaging and pressing on my cervix. Karen had to reach up and “tickle” his hand to get him to move so that he didn’t come down hand first. The water was a whole different thing…it just kept coming and coming. She even went back to the office to check my glucose results in case it got missed that I had GD (I didn’t), since they estimated I lost about 4 liters of fluid. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure this has something to do with watermelon…
Once we got another strip done, I was a free woman again so I went right into the shower. The contractions definitely intensified and the hazy pain memories are really all I have. I remember getting really hot and feeling sick so I tried to get out of the shower…that didn’t work, so I got back in…but only for another couple contractions as I kept feeling sick again. Eventually I know I ended up in bed, sleeping in between the contractions and waking up to yell through it. It was going downhill pretty quickly. Thankfully I had an amazing nurse who pretty much stayed glued to my side once it became apparent I couldn’t deal with these on my own anymore. Jared was wonderful, telling me I could do it all the way through the contractions…and the nurse, Krista, kept talking me through them—reminding me to breathe, to keep my mouth slack, to keep my feet pointed inwards…all stuff to help me stay on top of the contractions. Part of the problem was the pattern still…I didn’t get a true break for five minutes, and even though it would be a long break, it was never enough to recuperate for the next round. The pressure in the front of my belly was so intense, I just remember wanting to bear down into it. Krista kept telling me not to push down so I pretended not to, but I don’t think I was fooling anyone…especially when Karen came in and told Krista to get ready to break the bed down since I sounded pushy. It was the most welcome sound to my ears and I was so hopeful at that point.
When she checked me though, I was only 4cm …and I think it had been close to five or six hours since they broke my water. I don’t remember what my reaction was, I know I was incredibly disappointed but I didn’t even think of getting the epidural…until Karen told me she thought I needed it…then I started crying. I have this brief memory of standing with Karen’s arms on my shoulders and Krista next to me and they are both telling that it does not make me a failure in anyway, reminding me that I had been completely open to getting the epidural if I needed it, and that Karen really thought I needed it in order to progress. I finally agreed. Some part of my brain knew it wasn’t worth being stubborn…I had given it a good effort even if it hadn’t turned out the way I wanted. I was also kind of hoping that in the time it took to push the IV fluids and get the anesthesiologist down there, I would be complete.
So we started the IV fluids…and meanwhile my contractions are even more intense. I spent the entire forty minutes of IV drip sitting on the toilet, with Krista and Jared sitting next to me and reminding me to breathe, to keep wiggling my toes and pointing my feet inward (keeps your bottom relaxed) and to focus on something other than the pain. I have no idea what I would have done without them…I was a complete wreck, the pain was so incredible. The anesthesiologist came down and gave me the epidural…within ten minutes or so it had taken the edge off the contractions enough that I could relax some. I fell asleep…or so Jared tells me...I don’t remember much.
Even though the epidural was obviously working since I wasn’t screaming in pain anymore, it was not the experience I had with my son. I felt breakthrough contractions that were very painful (but only came once every fifteen minutes or so) and then I still felt pretty much everything (I imagine) down there. Cervical checks still hurt, the catheter hurt the whole time (very annoying) and the more things hurt, the more scared I got of pushing.
When Karen checked me (no idea what time or how long), and told me I was complete, I remember not wanting to be complete. It hurt way too much! I didn’t want to push, it didn’t feel good like I had with my son, or I heard other women talk about…it felt awful! Everything was burning and I had a lot of pressure in my bottom but I really didn’t want to push. Karen was like “okay, well how about we try just pushing and if you want we can stop.” So I reluctantly agreed to that. Oh my goodness, that was horrific. The first couple pushes I hardly pushed I was so scared of what was happening. It hurt like nothing I could imagine…and I felt like such a loser because it hurt SO BAD with the stupid epidural. Jared tells me I only pushed for fifteen minutes but it felt like an eternity!
Once I figured out that the only way to make the pain stop was to push, I started pushing with every thing I had in me. I would push until I ran out of air and then I’d be hyperventilating and gasping for air and couldn’t push again for a couple of minutes. Krista kept putting her hand on my chest and pushing on me while telling me to stop pushing so I could breathe. I can’t believe I was in so much pain someone had to remind me to take a breath…all I know is, I wanted that baby out!!
Compared to Enoch, Michael’s pushing phase was a freaking vacation on a tropical island! Oh it was terrible. But when he was finally born, he slid right out without any issues (there was some concern about his shoulders getting stuck since it took me so long to push out Michael and we knew Enoch was going to be much bigger—the OB was actually outside the door waiting to see if we needed her and Jared told me that the NICU was also waiting just in case). He had a short cord (explains the breech!) so before he could really go on my chest, it needed cut. But once he was on my chest, it was such a great experience…he was breathing and fat and active (all things Michael was not) and no one had to take him away. He didn’t move from my chest the whole time I was getting fixed up. I don’t remember this, but we have a video of him latching for the first time and me crying (since Michael never latched and we had such huge issues breastfeeding). I had a few superficial tears, nothing drastic…and my placenta was apparently HUGE (they estimated it about 8lbs). I was still in so much pain, and so traumatized by the pain that I never got into that blissful, dreamy world I was in after Michael’s birth…but it was so wonderful to have such a fat, healthy baby on me! We named him Enoch Dan Lemon, he was born at 2:49pm and weighed 8lbs 9oz. and was 20 ¼ inches long.
I did not expect my recovery to go the way it did. I think I actually healed pretty quick (felt pretty normal by the time I left the hospital and now, 5 days pp all my pain is pretty much gone and I don’t need Motrin anymore), but the afterbirth pains were so intense that I felt traumatized by the whole labor and delivery. Plus, I made the mistake of getting the dtap vaccine in the hospital…and ended up with a fever and an arm I couldn’t lift. So, when I got home with one bad arm, a fever, afterbirth pains that made me feel like my body was imploding on itself and my body still completely sore from pushing…well, I felt traumatized by the entire birth and really got hit with the baby blues. Now that I’m feeling better, I’m starting to actually feel better emotionally and not look back on the birth with such a “OH MY GOD IT WAS HORRIFIC” type viewpoint. I’m not as eager to do it again as I was with Michael, and I’m completely petrified of having a natural birth since I had the darn epidural, but I’m just waiting for the memory of it all to fade. I think next time I will plan for a longer recovery and expect the afterbirth pains to be really intense.
I love that picture, it's so sweet. Very intense birth story-it's so crazy how one birth can be so completely different than another! Even after having 3 kids I still can't get over that fact. It's comforting to know that your afterbirth pains got better in about a week-I'm not looking forward to those at all Glad things are getting back to normal for you now, thanks for sharing!
I'm sorry it was nothing like what you expected! I felt like a failure getting the epidural, too. I think part of it is everyone around being so anti-natural and saying things like, "Just wait until it happens..." with that stupid smirking face and you thinking whatever, I can do it; then you're robbed of it to help progress. It made me so mad to tell people I got it when they asked... I'm glad you shared since I got a bit of the blues from mourning my birth experience and it's good to know I'm not alone in my blues reasoning. Your pictures are gorgeous though! And the reward for all that trauma is down right adorable!
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