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I was 2 days past my due date and had been feeling very off all day long, but just chalked it up to the usual late pregnancy stuff. Before bed I rubbed castor oil on my belly and noticed that I had a backache, and I also had the bloody show before bed...but it didn't really hit me that labor could be just around the corner.
I woke up with noticeable contractions, all in my back, and in a small puddle. I woke dh up and let him know not to plan on going to church that day. The contractions were about 5 minutes apart, so I called the midwife to ask if we should come in. She said normally she would say just stay home, but between the VBAC attempt, the GBS and the trickle of fluid, that it would be a good idea to head to the hospital. We dropped ds off with our friends who would be watching him and left for the hospital.
We get to the triage, where I get set up to be examined. I stayed on the monitor for about 20 minutes. The nurse starts pushing an epidural on me, even though I kept saying no. The midwife came in and said that it was in my birth plan that I was aware of my options and would ask for meds if I wanted them. There was definite tension between them. My contractions were definitely enough to stop me in my tracks, but I was only about 1cm dilated, 75% effaced, and at a -3 station. The midwife couldn't confirm if my water had broken and said that I might have a leak further up than she could find. Also said that dd was facing posterior, which explained why I only felt the contractions in my back. She didn't want to send us home, but also didn't want to admit us because then I be stuck hooked up to an IV and monitor for God knows how long, so she suggested we walk around the hospital for a couple of hours, grab some breakfast and come back to the triage to be checked again.
We head back to the triage to get checked for progress (and couldn't help but notice that our midwife switched nurses). So the new nurse hooks me up to the monitor and says "You're going straight for the epidural, right?" Uh no, I'm, not planning on it. The midwife comes in to examine me. All of the walking made some progress: I was 2cm dilated, 80% effaced, at -2 station. I had felt her turn anterior and could then feel the contractions in front more, but as soon as the sonogram got started she turned posterior again (at every prenatal visit she would turn posterior because she didn’t like the sound waves from the Doppler, either). Midwife said I was making progress, and that we should grab some lunch go out walking for a couple of more hours; good thing the hospital has 19 floors or we would have been bored out of our minds! Contractions were about 3 minutes apart.
Off to the triage again! I had felt dd turn anterior again (yay!), but sure enough: she turned posterior again during the ultrasound. I spent some time on the monitor then had my exam. I was 4cm dilated, 90% effaced, but still at -2 station and my water was still intact. The contractions were still consistently 3 minutes apart, so the midwife decided to admit me. Then she starts talking about the *$%# epidural to me!! Grr, not her, too! So now dh and I are getting aggravated and asked why everyone keeps trying to push the epi when I’ve said several times that I do not want it. She just explained that they really recommend them for VBAC moms (strangely, this never came up in any of my prenatal visits) and didn’t want me to rule it out. To get her off my back I just said that I am aware of my options, and if I change my mind she would be the first to know.
My midwife’s shift is over and another midwife from the office took over. She was very sweet and said I was handling the back labor beautifully. I really hadn’t made any significant progress at this point, but she said that there was no rush, since my water hadn’t broken, so we would just let the contractions do their thing. Then…she mentions the epi again!! She explained to me that a good alternative would be to just have the catheter inserted, but not have any anesthesia going into it. She said that the OB on duty had been nagging her to get me on an epi, so that way I would have it in place but wouldn’t get it unless I asked for it. I didn’t really want to, because I felt like that would make it so much easier to turn away from a natural birth, which might slow down my labor…but the midwife also explained that she had back labor before, so she knew how intense it could get. I agreed to have the catheter put in place.
The midwife brought in a birthing ball for me to sit on, to help baby drop a little lower (which she did). The very next contraction was so unbelievably intense that I literally screamed at the top of my lungs. After that, the contractions started coming one right on top of the other, not even giving me a chance to catch my breath and recover before the next one. I couldn’t work through them like before. I couldn’t even concentrate. All I could do was make these animalistic screams that I never knew I was capable of mustering. Unless you’ve been through back labor, you cannot even begin to process what this pain is like. This went on for an hour, no matter how many positions I tried, no matter what they did to try and help me through them. All of my energy was drained. Poor dh was turning ghostly white; he pulled the midwife aside and asked what was happening and if I was going to be okay. She explained to him that back labor is not normal labor, and that I probably wouldn’t have gotten this bad if baby would have turned anterior, but the monitor kept discouraging her from turning. All of a sudden I hear myself scream “Get the epidural NOOOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!” After 15 hours of excruciating back labor I simply couldn’t take it another minute. I just knew that I wouldn’t have the strength to push if I didn’t get some relief. Dh said to the midwife “I don’t what to do. I promised her that I would talk her out of the epidural if she got desperate.” I yelled out “I won’t blame you, I promise. Just make this stop!!!” The midwife said she first needed to check my dilation to make sure it wasn’t too late. I panicked; if it was too late I was going to beg for a c-section. By the grace of God I had flown to 7.5cm dilated; just barely making the cut-off to get the epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and hooked the anesthesia to the catheter, 5 minutes later the pain had dulled to what it had been a few hours before. I could still feel the contractions quite a bit, so I really couldn’t get much rest, but I could at least conserve my physical strength. The contractions did slow down, but they evened out to 2-3 minutes apart, so I could work through them with little breaks.
Two hours after the epi was put in place, the midwife came back in to check my progress. I was 10cm dilated!! She said my water was still intact and baby was still stuck at -1 station, but that if I wanted she could break my water and try a little pushing. Sounded fine to me, though I didn’t know how I could accomplish that when I didn’t feel any urge to push. I started out in a sitting position (even though the epi was turned down now, my legs were too numb to try the squat bar), but only pushed for about 15 minutes in that position because it was too uncomfortable to be sitting up with these contractions. So I switched to pushing on all-fours. I pushed in this position for nearly an hour, until my legs fell asleep, so we moved to the lithotomy position, with them pushing back on my legs as I pulled them toward me during each push. Shortly after, I felt her crowning, at which point I finally started feeling the urge to push. The pushing stage seemed like it went so fast!
Finally, after nearly 20 hours of labor an 2 hours of pushing…I felt my little girl’s 7 pound, 4 ounce body slide out of mine, into the hands of the midwife. She was placed on my chest immediately, and after the tiniest little cry she looked at me with these huge eyes, almost saying “Hey, I know you!” I was bawling with relief and happiness, as dd started rooting and latched right on to my breast. The midwife hugged and congratulated us, telling me that I proved a lot of people wrong that day. Turns out that all through my labor, the OBs on duty kept trying to pressure her to talk me into a c-section and be done with it; to call it CPD so they wouldn’t have to wait around any more; they were saying that there was no way that someone my size could birth naturally. Well they were wrong!!!
The downside is that I had a 2nd degree tear, but it was in several different places. Basically they needed to stitch me a new vagina. Maybe if I had been able to feel more during the pushing I wouldn’t have torn so bad…but I am okay with that. I made it almost through my entire labor without anesthesia, but it came down to choosing between a vaginal birth with epidural…or a repeat c-section. I will never ever regret that epidural.