In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month 2010, we will be filling the blogosphere with stories from real women (and their families) who know first-hand the consequences of a 32% cesarean rate. Each day we will post at least one birth story submitted by these women. Prepare to be moved (hint: grab a box of Kleenex)!
When I woke up on Saturday morning the 23rd, I knew you were coming! This was such a relief because our midwife, Kelly McDermott, had scheduled a non-stress test and to strip my membranes to “get things going” for Saturday night at 8 p.m. at St. Mary’s hospital. I really wanted you to come on your own terms. As the sun rose over Saratoga I started to have regular contractions; I was relieved because my gut told me that “this is it”! However, I reminded myself that labor often stalls so I tried to hold in my excitement and just let my body do whatever it was that it was doing.
Cita and Grandpa Whiteneck were in town already in hopes that you would have arrived by then…………but alas, you took your sweet time in coming! Your calendar due date was May 2nd; however, the ultrasound predicted May 16th to be a more accurate date. I didn’t want to spend the day at the house with everyone sitting around watching me as the contractions hit. Since I wasn’t in pain, we decided to bring Johnno to the hotel pool where Cita & G-pa were staying. Johnno went swimming with G-pa while Cita & I watched. Eric went to cut the grass on Ludlow Street. Afterwards, we all went to the Farmer’s Market to walk around. I had to go slowly and stop when the contraction came on. My dad walked beside me and waited until the contractions subsided. I knew then that he really DID have some experience to rely upon. I thought of the births of myself and my sisters when he supported my mom. I thought of the birth of my parent’s still-born, Lauren, and thought about how incredibly difficult that birth must have been. I was thankful for such supportive, loving parents. I also ran into one of the members of the ICAN group, Kristin, and told her that I thought I was in labor and had my fingers crossed. We went to Scallion’s for lunch and ate a big healthy Grilled Shrimp Salad. We all enjoyed the morning together and quietly anticipated the events to come!
After lunch, it was time for Johnno’s nap. I also had a chiropractor appointment at 1 p.m.. I decided that I might as well get adjusted one last time………..anything that could help in the birth!!! So, my parents drove me to Stillwater for my appointment and Eric went to the house with Johnno for naptime! As we drove to the chiropractor, my contractions began to intensify and I really felt that your arrival would be soon. I felt warm all over with an acute awareness of my body and my surroundings. As the waves of contractions came over me I tried to relax (hard to do in the bumpy car ride down Route 4.) It was sunny and deliciously warm outside……….a perfect May day! The chiropractic appointment went quickly. Kelly (not the midwife Kelly, but the chiropractor Kelly :0) adjusted my pelvis and performed the standard adjustments that she had been giving me for weeks. She also did some acupressure treatments to help stimulate the labor. After the drive home, my parents dropped me off at the house and they went back to their hotel to nap as well.
I decided to take a shower and wash my hair as I didn’t know when the next time would be that I would feel up to it. Afterwards, I went upstairs and lied down to get some rest. Eric gave me tickles and I think I may have slept………… but I can’t remember. When I got up from my nap, I called Tisha Graham, our doula, to let her know the events of the day & to plan our trip to the hospital for the non-stress test. It was kind of funny because when I called she told me that she had already known that I was having contractions and that she had been at the Farmer’s Market earlier too. She too had run into Kristin at the market and news spread on the grapevine of the small town we live in! We originally planned to meet and drive to the hospital together for the appointment, but later decided to go in separate cars just in case labor progressed and we decided not to leave. Eric called the hospital to have our midwife paged to tell her the events of the day & to find out whether we still needed to come in for the appointment. Kelly called back within minutes. She said to come in for the non-stress test at 8 p.m. and that we would decide at the appointment whether stripping the membrane was necessary.
Around 5 p.m. my parents returned to the house and we ate dinner. Susan and Roger made Italian sausages with peppers and onions and potato and macaroni salads. I actually felt quite hungry and ate a roll with cheese and peppers/onions! Eric had been requesting ALL day that I write down the times of when each contraction began so we could start timing how far apart they were. I didn’t want to do it in the morning because I just wanted to be “out of my head.” I felt like I could slow things down if I focused too much on the labor; I didn’t want to jinx myself! But at some point in the afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice the continual wave of contractions and writing down the time of the contractions gave us a sense of the timing of the labor. They were getting closer and closer and were certainly getting stronger.
Around 7 p.m. we kissed Johnno goodnight and left for the appointment at the hospital. It was a 40 minute drive to the hospital; we arrived a little early and waited with Tisha in the waiting room just outside of the L & D at St. Mary’s. A mother was waiting with her 3ish year old son and her six month old baby girl. She was waiting because her friend who was 32 weeks along had gone into labor. Her older son was clearly starving for attention and kept talking to Eric and Tisha while the mother continued to correct him and talk to us. I think we all felt badly for the little boy because he appeared to not be receiving the attention he needed. At some point the young mother asked me if I was in labor and I shook my head yes. She stopped talking to me, but continued to gab with Tisha and Eric. Finally, the nurse called us in.
I was thankful to have Kelly McDermott on call that night and to have her “check out” how things were going. The non-stress test (aka how many times you moved around and a good solid heart beat measurement) went well. Kelly checked me and said that I was one cm and about eighty percent effaced. Simultaneously during the check, the mucus plug fell out. She said that she certainly thought that I was in early labor. She asked the nurses to leave and we (Eric, Tisha, Kelly and I) sat down and had a pow-pow about what we should do next. I felt lucky because Kelly and Tisha have caught many babies together. I felt like we were in a circle of friends and clearly they were looking to Eric & I for what we wanted to do at this point! How great it was to be in the driver’s seat this time! Kelly said that there didn’t appear to be a need to strip the membranes as things were progressing on their own! I told her that I wanted to go home and labor as long as I could there. Kelly told us that the biggest issues that arise with first time vaginal births are lack of sleep and dehydration. She advised that I needed a good night’s rest because she thought I would be in active labor tomorrow. She said that she could give me something to help me sleep tonight or I could take some wine & cold medicine when I got home. I knew the wine would give me tons of heartburn, so I asked for a prescription. She gave me what she typically gives mothers to help them sleep in early labor (a percocet and something for anxiety). She forewarned us that if I were to wake up due to contractions while on these pills that I would likely have slipped into active labor as she was giving me a strong dose. Tisha at this point left the hospital to head back to Saratoga to get some rest. We waited to check out and for my sleeping cocktail. Around 10:30 p.m. they gave me the meds and checked me out. I was advised that the meds would kick in within a half an hour (just in time to arrive at the house).
We drove home slowly as the bumpy car ride bothered me. The streets were quiet and dark. The house was also dark as we pulled down the drive. Everyone was asleep. Eric helped me into the house and we got ready for bed. I wrote in my journal and lied down to sleep at around midnight. Within a half hour, I awoke to the sound of myself breathing quickly. The contractions were strong and painful. I had to breathe out in quick succeeding puffs of air to cope with the pain. I knew I had slipped into the abyss of active labor and that the real “work” had begun.
I woke up Eric to tell him how I was feeling. He asked what time it was and I told him 12:30 a.m. I tried to lie down and relax; however, the contractions were intensifying and I thought I could relax better in the bath. Eric went into the bathroom with me and filled up the Jacuzzi tub and lit some candles. He asked me if he should call Tisha. He called her to let her know that the contractions were getting stronger and that we thought I was moving along into active labor. She asked if we wanted her to come over. We told her not yet, but he would call back when we wanted her. I tried to let the warmth of the bath relax me, but it was so hard to not move during the contractions. It’s a tricky balance of wanting to move during the contraction to deal with the pain and wanting to relax in the breaks in between contractions. Eric sat with me for about an hour until I asked him to call Tisha to come over. I was “out of it” from the medication that Kelly gave me to sleep, but the contractions were too strong to rest. This part of the birth is not as clear in my mind…..kind of hazy due to the meds. After Eric talked to Tisha, I asked him to start getting the car ready for the drive to the hospital. He helped me into our bedroom to get dressed. As I sat on the edge of the bed, I felt a warm trickling of water down my leg. I thought it could have been bath water, but Eric told me that he thought my water was breaking. Eric went to grab a pad for me. Just seconds after I put on the pad, a huge gush of warm water erupted down my legs. My water had clearly broken (literally). I knew that I needed to look to see if the water was clear or not. I was relieved to see that the fluid was clear and that we didn’t have to worry about meconium. Eric woke up his mom to sit with me while he prepared the car. By this point, I had decided that I wanted to go to the hospital sooner than later.
The contractions were beginning to be all-consuming and I wanted to get the car ride to the hospital over. Susan sat with me while we waited for the car and Tisha’s arrival. I was feeling nauseous and hungry all at the same time (horrible combination). Susan held my hand tightly as I sat on the bedside trying to learn to handle this new feeling of pain. Once Tisha arrived, she found me in the bathroom. She checked the fetal heart rate and determined that you were handling the contractions well. We were then off to the hospital. Susan helped me downstairs. I could see the “Bob” Stroller on the front porch and, in my delirium, I thought someone had put Johnno in the stroller and put him on the front porch. But, Susan assured me that Eric had put it there sans Johnno to make room for the birthing ball in the back of Susan’s minivan (my birthing limo ride-to-be). So, everyone helped me into the far back of the van with a cool, wet wash cloth and bucket in hand (just in case…..). And we were off…..Tisha was in her car and Eric and I were in his mother’s minivan. I think it was around 3 a.m.
Sometime between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. we arrived at the doors of St. Mary’s ER (the only doors open to the hospital at that time of day). The car ride had gone much better than I expected, but I was thankful to be at the hospital. E dropped me off and went to park the car. I slowly made my way through the doors. The nurse behind the counter asked if I wanted a wheelchair. I told her that I would walk; I wanted to be active because I had read that it was good for labor. She said, “Good girl!!” Tisha met us at the entrance to the ER. We then headed down the seemingly very long hallway to the elevators. It must have taken fifteen minutes to get there. Eric kept asking me to hurry it along, but as each contraction came I was stopped in my footsteps. I had to lean against the wall and wait for it to pass. A woman hospital worker and man (I think her husband) walked past me. She too asked me if I would like a wheelchair. I will never forget the look in her eyes. With one glance, I knew that she had children and that she knew exactly how it felt to have your body consumed by a contraction. At that moment, I felt somewhat connected to all child bearing women of all time.
We finally made it down the long hallway. We took the elevator up to L & D. Tisha buzzed the nurses to tell them of our arrival and let us through the security door. The majority of the paperwork that we filled out earlier in the evening had to be filled out again which I think we did at the counter. We then went into the room right next to the one I was in earlier for the non-stress test. We settled into the room. Kelly needed to put me on the monitor to see how you were handling the contractions. She also wanted to check to see how I was progressing. She checked and said that I was 2 cm and 100 percent effaced. I was disappointed…………….I felt like the contractions had been so strong and I thought I should have been past 2 cm by now (especially since I dilated to a 3 cm with Johnno without feeling any discomfort). But, Kelly assured me that being 100 percent effaced was great progress! Tisha advised me to try to get some rest.
I lied down on my side and closed my eyes. But, with each contraction I woke up and my legs would flutter almost as if I were trying to swim away. I didn’t know what to do with this new feeling. I rested in bed for about an hour. Eventually, I had to get up and go to the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet felt good. I went to the bathroom several times within the first hour and a half (typical pregnancy……lots of peeing)!! At that point, I felt like I couldn’t be in bed any longer and that I needed a new approach to the contractions. Kelly and Tisha suggested the birthing ball, but the moment I sat on it I felt extremely uncomfortable because of the pressure it put on my vagina. I immediately jumped up. Kelly asked what I didn’t like about the ball. She asked what I would like to do. I saw a wooden bar screwed to the wall of the hospital room. I told her I wanted to hold on to the bar while crossing my legs tightly. I guess this response was very telling to her. At this point, she gave me a much needed “talking to”. She told me that at some point during this labor (“if not now, then later”) I needed to “relinquish and yield” myself to the pain. She said that in life “labor pain is one of the only pains that we must yield to as counterintuitive as it may be.” I told her that I thought “I could “yield” better if I were in some warm water.” They suggested that I try getting in the shower while we waited for room next door with a tub to become available.
And then there was the shower………..
Ahhh, the shower…….
When I reflect upon my time in the shower in the hospital, it’s almost like I had gone into an alternate universe….one in which the rest of the hospital did not exist, nor the world outside of the hospital, nor time itself. It was just big, huge pregnant me, the steamy hot shower stall, the darkness of the bathroom, and Eric, Tisha or Kelly sitting patiently being present and available to me (or drifting off to sleep as I later heard ). Time slipped away…….and all of my energy refocused (and unfocused at the same time) on the task at hand. I began with leaning against the wall and letting the hot shower fall on my back. This felt great! I would turn sometimes and let the shower fall on my huge belly. If I got tired, I could sit on the little built-in shower seat. I often would sit down between contractions to rest and hold myself up with the soap holder. Believe it or not, I also got some sleep during these rests. I guess the advantage of the percocet during labor?.?. The contractions were strong and very painful. I could feel my eyes rolling into the back of my head with the peak of each contraction. At times they seemed too much. I would tell myself at the end of many of the contractions, “I can’t do this!” Then, just as I heard my inner voice telling myself that I couldn’t do it, I would tell myself, “Yes, you can.” Somehow, with that affirmative statement, I felt better and that I could, in fact, birth this baby! I must have looked schizophrenic during these inner dialogues because I was shaking my head “no” and then “yes” at the end of these contractions. I also started to say out loud the word “yield” as the contractions came over me. I would repeat it over and over again (I would even sometimes spell it ……….”y..i…e….l…d…”.) as I visualized my cervix opening and letting you out of my womb. Crazy!!!! The feeling that came over me was a feeling so primal. I didn’t have to know how to birth you……….I just had to not prohibit my body from doing what it already knew how to do. Around this point in time, I began moaning. Not the moaning that comes from the back of your throat when you are annoyed, but a moan almost like a wolf or a “Mystic” from the movie the “The Dark Crystal”. (I kept imagining that I was a “Mystic” when I heard myself making this sound; I’m sure Jim Henson did not intend for his film to be an inspiration for birthing mothers, but what can I say……….I’m a product of the 80’s). It came from deep inside of me. Tisha was with me when I began doing this. I was really glad she was there and not some random person I didn’t know. I felt like I must look possessed, but it just felt like the right thing to be doing. She encouraged me to continue to do this. I think she said that I sounded like I was “going deep” and that was good.
A couple times the R.N. came to check on me because the heart rate monitor that I was wearing would slip out of place. I actually liked the couple of times that she came in because she was really sweet. She told me that they were keeping a close eye on you from their monitor at the nurse’s station and that you were handling the birth really well. I felt glad that the nurse said that you were doing well and hoped that we would remain uninterrupted in our shower sanctuary. These were the only moments that I would snap back into reality and remember that there was, in fact, a hospital outside of that bathroom door.
Kelly came in several times to check in on the birth. She sat with me quietly allowing the labor to take its course. At a certain point she told me that her shift was going to end soon and that she wanted to check me before she left. I told her that I had been pushing at the end of the most recent contractions. I had read that this can cause swelling of the cervix and can sometimes work against you. I was worried that I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing. But, the urge to push was at the end of each contraction………so I was just going with it. Also, at some point the shower began to feel uncomfortable. I told Tisha and Eric that the water was beginning to feel like “pins and needles upon my skin”! I felt like I had some control in the shower and, despite its new bad sensation, I didn’t want to leave. Luckily the tub opened up next door, so we decided to make the move for the tub.
Before we changed rooms and her shift was over, Kelly wanted to check how much I had dilated in the shower. She asked me if this was okay. I was kind of curious too……so I got out of the shower and back into the hospital bed. When she was checking the dilation, she got a happy look on her face and asked me to “pick a number, not ten.” I said, “Seven.” She said, “Eight!” I was so excited! In a couple hours, I had opened right up! I was really happy to hear this even though I had heard over and over again that issues can arise at any point during the birth. I felt like we were finally getting somewhere!
It felt good in the cold hospital room and I felt a renewed energy within me. Kelly told me that she was really sorry that she had to go. She said her children were home and that her husband would be leaving soon and that she had to go home to be with the kiddos. As I mom, I completely understood. She said that Margaret was the next midwife on call and that she would take really good care of me. I was bummed that she had to go because I really trusted Kelly and hoped that she could be there for the entire birth. However, I was so, so, so thankful that she was there for any part of the birth at all because that is always the gamble with partners. In retrospect, I think Kelly was there for the most important part of the birth which was her telling me to yield and relinquish.
The nursing staff, Eric, Tisha, and Margaret helped us move to the next room. The nurses wheeled me into the room on the bed from the last room. The tub was quickly filled up and I got right in. The contractions didn’t hurt as much as they did before. I felt like I could manage the pain; however, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable to sit in the tub. The pressure was beginning to feel too much. I sat in the tub with Eric by my side for about 20 minutes. And then the most overwhelming sensation came over me. I moved faster than I had in forty one weeks; I popped up from sitting in the tub and felt the urge to push. I told Eric and anyone else who could hear that “I need to push!!!!!” It was 9:10 a.m.
The nurses, Eric, Tisha, and Margaret came to help me out of the tub and into the hospital room. The moment I entered the room, I told Margaret that “I was NOT going to get in that bed!” I had read a lot of information about how the pelvis is at its smallest lying down. I wanted to get down to the business of pushing and I didn’t want to waste any time or effort getting you out. She was really sweet and told me that I didn’t have to. She asked me what I would like to do. I said that I wanted to lean against the bed and get into a really big, deep squat. The nurses, being the pro’s that they are, jacked the bed up higher so that it would be a more comfortable to lean against. As Eric and I approached the bed, I leaned over to him and said, “If you want to catch this baby, you better change your clothes now.” The nurses draped a cloth on the floor. They put on their gloves and asked Eric if he wanted gloves as well; he declined. Tisha got on the opposite side of the bed, crossed her hands, and offered them to me to brace myself. I followed her lead and grabbed a hold of her very, very strong hands. I opened my legs into the biggest squat that I could handle and began to push. If felt great!!!! I finally felt like I could “do” something! I went deep into the squat and bored down as hard as I could with the contraction. It was a lot of work. After the first contraction of pushing, I leaned against the bed to rest. I could feel my face getting bright red and sweat forming all over me. I could also feel the pressure of your head wanting to come out. With the next contraction, I squatted again and began to scream as I pushed. Tisha kissed my hands as I squeezed the life out of hers. I’ll never forget how tender the kisses felt in such a brute moment. Again, the contraction let up and I rested. Eric‘s face came around my leg and he whispered encouragements. It was so surreal! All I remember was the look of utter joy and amazement on his face and his kind words telling me how great I was doing! (Also, he told me that “I was amazing and that he would never complain about a cold again!”) The urge came over me again and as I leaned into the squat, I said, “Come on baby.” Either the nurse or Margaret encouraged this statement. With this push, I could feel a burning sensation of the skin stretching and I knew that you were crowning. I had heard it called the “ring of fire” and those are the best words I can find to describe the burning feeling of your head pushing its way through. At this time, I also started to scream “Get it out!!!!!!!” I knew even while I was screaming those words that the request was ridiculous, but it felt good to scream! Then I could feel your head slip out and the pressure withdrew. I knew the hardest part was over!
Margaret told me to “hold on a second”. She was helping Eric get ready to catch you and to turn your shoulders so I wouldn’t tear. And then with one final push, you slipped out!! It was 9:22 a.m. and without a single tear!! The sight of your beautiful little body in Eric’s arms was amazing! The look of shear joy and excitement on Eric’s face still brings tears to my eyes! Eric embraced you for your first few moments and then someone asked if I wanted to hold you. I was still standing, shaking so hard and feeling so weak. I asked Eric to lay you on the bed right in front of me because I was worried that I would drop you. We stood there kissing you and watching you. You were so calm and alert as you looked up at us. The lights of the room were turned down low and a quiet settled into the room allowing us some space to soak in this beautiful new child in our arms.
The moments after you were born all I could keep saying was “I can’t believe we DID IT!” This was the proudest moment of my life!!!!!! Everyone at the hospital was so respectful of the precious hours after you were born. After the placenta was delivered, a quiet hush fell upon the hospital room. The shades were drawn to a close, the lights were turned down low, and the hospital staff left the room. Tisha stayed for a little while to make sure that Eric and I were comfortable and that we had everything we needed. She also showed us the placenta and described how beautifully it nourished you inside my womb. She then also left the room. It was so wonderful to have you in our arms and not have you whisked away to be bathed, measured, etc. We held you and smiled and cooed like only new parents could over the beautiful, pink, blood stained baby in our arms. You nursed for the first time at 10 a.m. You didn’t have any problems latching on and we were so proud of your first feeding. I also was ravenous and ate my weight in graham crackers, ginger ale, and chocolate chip cookies. Eric called Nana and Grandpa Huss to spread the news of your arrival and the birth! They assured us that they, Cita and Grandpa Whiteneck, and Johnno would be at the hospital soon to welcome you!
I am so thankful for this safe and joyful birth we were blessed with! This birth was a gift so pure and deliciously perfect! I am forever humbled, thankful, and honored to be a part of it.