***Disclaimer: This story details parts of my labor/delivery that deal with descriptive bodily fluids and candid honesty about childbirth. Read at your own risk. Also, please respect the decisions that my husband and I made to bring our little guy into the world, even if you don’t agree with them, by not leaving unnecessary messages in the comments section below. This is just an accounting of his birth story and not a forum for starting a debate.***
July 9, 2014: Still No Baby
Last we left, I had been in labor just shy of 24 hours (it was now 1:00am; 2:30am would mark 24 hours). After all that time, I had only progressed in dilating by 1cm and was now at 3cm. Up to this point, I hadn’t taken any medical measures to ease the pain of labor. I was simply taking each contraction as it came and working through it until it was over. I was walking a lot, which helped the contractions to keep coming more regularly, but that meant I wasn’t connected to the fetal heart rate monitors. So, every 45 minutes I was hooked up to the monitors for 15 minutes to make sure Baby Boy was doing okay. Each time we checked, he was doing great.
|Text between Brandon and my SIL, Nancy|
By this time, we had yet another nurse, Mindy. Coincidentally, Mindy’s mom, Cindy, taught the breastfeeding class we had taken through the hospital because she’s a lactation consultant (which is ironic because my mom’s name is Cindy and she is a lactation consultant). At one point, I was in the bathroom sitting on the toilet (this was one of the positions that was suggested in my labor class). Brandon was in there with me and I was telling him that I was just starting to wear down, physically. I just felt like I needed some rest to be able to keep going, but there was no way to rest through the contractions. Mindy must have overheard us talking and she stuck her head into the bathroom and suggested a round of Stadol. It would have minimal effects on the baby but causes drowsiness for mom. Coming into labor, I hadn’t really considered any of the non-epidural options for pain relief. So, I have to say I wasn’t completely researched on Stadol. But it had been covered in our natural labor class as an option, so I had at least a basic understanding of it. I had wished my midwife was there to weigh in, but she was likely at home snoozing since it was the middle of the night. However, Brandon and I agreed it seemed like a good option for me to get some rest and the laborist on duty okayed it. So around 2:30am, I was administered a dose.
Since the Stadol made me drowsy, I mostly stayed in the bed (or stood next to the bed) while contractions continued. Baby Boy was continually monitored during this time since I was remaining stationary. My mom gave Brandon a break and sat with me for a while. Brandon hadn’t eaten during my entire labor, he said if I couldn’t eat, he wouldn’t either. But after more than 24 hours, he needed food! Plus, since I was going to be getting some rest, he felt okay about eating. So while my mom sat with me, he ate, what he said, was the best chicken parmesan he’d ever had (I think it had something to do with the fact that he was *so* hungry).
I have barely any memory of this time since I was so drowsy, but from what I was told, I was pretty loopy and spoke in partial sentences that didn’t make much sense. The Stadol was in my system about 4 hours. Brandon said that the time wasn’t as restful as he had hoped it would be for me, as I was relaxed and loopy but not able to sleep through the contractions, although it did help me to not care that I was having them. But the bit of rest I did get, helped my body get to 4 cm. I was obviously hoping to have dilated more, but at least it was progress, so I was trying to count my blessings.
One thing to note at this point is that before my labor had even started, I had asked my midwife not to tell me what my progress was. To quote my Birth Plan (which we all know what they say about making plans), “I am fine being routinely checked for progress such as dilation, but I would prefer not to be told what it is, this will keep me from getting discouraged if things are going slowly.” So, all the numbers I’m listing here are things that I found out after the fact, except for when I was checked after I had the Stadol. The laborist working during the night checked me and said “4 centimeters” without knowing of my intent to stay in the dark about such info. I knew I was progressing slowly, but I have to admit, I was a bit shocked to find out that after about 28 hours of labor, I was only at 4cm.
|Texts between Shannon and Brandon|
At 7:00am, we had another shift change and our nurse was the same woman who taught our natural labor class, Iniko. Also back that morning was my midwife. We dubbed them the “Dream Team” because they were both highly in favor of natural labor and because I was so comfortable with both of them. Iniko was a God-send when I was starting to get really discouraged (after hearing I was only at 4cm). She praised my efforts thus far and gave me new determination to stay the course. She reminded us of a couple techniques to try and kept encouraging me to keep going. We talked through a few potential options with my midwife, in case things kept progressing as slowly as they were, but she didn’t seem worried or ruffled about it all. She was encouraged that I had progressed with the Stadol and wanted to see what the next few hours would bring. Brandon also told me he had some good news in his back pocket for when I got discouraged again.
Around 9:00am (30.5 hours in), my midwife ordered a breakfast tray for me, to keep my strength up. I had previously been forbidden to eat (hospital rules -- even though Nurse Terri had given me jello the day before….ssshhhh, don’t tell!), so I was pretty happy to scarf my breakfast down! Well, most of it any way....I let Brandon have the potatoes.
This smile is a tired one, and a slightly drowsy one (from the remnants of Stadol), but a real one, nonetheless. I had had some food and lots of encouragement to boost my mood.
Between 9:00am and 2:00pm, Brandon and I walked the halls of the labor and delivery department some more. We just kept walking around and around. It was like the slowest, most painful Nascar race ever. However, the walking helped keep the contractions coming more regular, so I continued my slow race around the L&D department. When a contraction came on, I would stop walking and breathe through it – next to the nurse’s station, another laboring mothers’ door, or even next to the janitor’s closet – wherever the contraction hit, I stopped & breathed through it. Thankfully, there wasn’t a lot of traffic in the hallways, mainly nurses and the occasional doctor or orderly. So I wasn’t contracting in front of too big an audience or an audience who wasn’t used to a laboring woman. But, I didn’t really care either way. Because the walking kept my labor more regular, audience or not, I was trying to walk as much as I could.
As we circled the halls, we overheard snippets of conversation here and there. Down one hallway, two doctors were swapping stories. One of them was telling the other that they had gotten a call one time from a new parent asking how to keep the pacifier in the baby’s mouth while it slept. The parent actually asked if they could use a rubber band to hold it in!?! They were laughing about that and it made us giggle too. We would be those new parents all too soon asking the doctor crazy things as well. Brandon said later, “At the time it sounded super-crazy but after having a newborn that won’t sleep without a paci in his mouth, I totally understand!”
After many, many laps, I got tired and needed to rest my feet which were just working against me. They had begun to hurt so very badly by this point in my pregnancy, my big ole belly weighing down my “freakishly high arches,” as Brandon calls them. I had the forethought to bring a square rubber mat to the hospital that I could stand on, but my feet were just too sore for it to make much of a difference. I took time to rest my feet and sit on the bed between contractions. It seemed I always wanted to be standing during the contractions though, this was less painful for me, maybe it had something to do with how low I carried Baby, maybe not, but sitting down and having pressure anywhere on my stomach or my nether-regions made the contractions more painful. I also seemed to be able to focus better when I was standing eye-to-eye with Brandon.
I had prepared a small notebook beforehand of Bible verses to read during labor if I got discouraged. Brandon read those verses to me and we both cried. We were reminded of the Lord’s goodness and promises. We were blessed with this child and the sweetness of that permeated our labor room in that moment. It was really starting to hit us that we would meet our little guy very soon.
I Samuel 1:27-28 - I prayed for the child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.
Psalm 32:7 - You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Habakkuk 2:5 - Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
Romans 8:25 - But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
I had also brought an iPod loaded with relaxing/uplifting music and a dock with speakers. We listened to the music some, but at times it was more distracting to keep it on for long. I enjoyed the quiet a lot more than I expected I would. I didn’t factor in that everything was amplified during labor. The music was too loud, even when it was barely turned up. Plus, it was hard to focus on breathing and mentally zoning in to get through the contractions when the music was playing. I would focus on the music instead of what was at hand. Going into it, I really thought the music would help take my mind off the contractions, but it turns out that I needed to focus on them instead. Unfortunately, we didn’t keep a record of my contractions during this time (the others we kept in an app on Brandon’s phone). But, according to texts from Brandon to our friends, they were 2-3 minutes in duration and pretty intense.
After all the steady contractions & walking for the last 5 hours, I was eager to hear that I was making some headway. But my midwife checked me and said I had made zero progress in dilating any further. And because the doctor the previous night had announced my progress, I know knew that I hadn’t moved from 4cm. To say I was discouraged is an understatement. I was feeling completely defeated. I felt like everything I had been doing was a waste. All that walking, all that breathing, all that energy spent mentally getting though each contraction hadn’t gotten me anywhere. At this point, I asked Brandon what the good news in his back pocket was, as I was in desperate need of encouragement. My midwife had told him (several hours before) that the baby was at 0 station (he had dropped & settled into my pelvis, but hadn’t started his descent to the birth canal) and I was completely effaced (my cervix was 100% thinned). So that was something positive to focus on amidst the defeat. It meant my body was doing *something* it should. But I was simply not dilating. I was getting close to just giving up. Not because I didn't think I could mentally keep doing the natural labor, but simply because my body wasn't cooperating and doing its part to get the baby out.
Our nurse, Iniko, could easily see my defeat. She asked our midwife about a round of Morphine. Our midwife agreed that the Morphine could be a great way to really relax my body without slowing the labor and thus could help me get back on track with dilating as I should be. It could “reset” my labor, if you will. I was nervous about taking the Morphine because it could cause me to be nauseous and it could have some effects on the baby (if he was born shortly after he could be drowsy or have respiratory troubles). But since I was only at 4cm (and stuck there nonetheless), Brandon and I agreed that we were still several hours from meeting our little guy and that it could not only help me progress in labor, but let me get some more rest (since I was now about 36 hours in with only 4 hours of semi-rest). An added bonus was that our nurse told me I likely wouldn't feel the contractions while it was in my system.
Around 2:30pm (36 hours), I was given the Morphine, which was combined with Phenergan to counter-act any nausea. I soon fell asleep and Brandon (with my blessing) took the opportunity to grab some food with our parents, since I would be sleeping for a couple hours. Our parents had been so vigilant all this time in the hospital waiting room or snoozing in the cars. They all left the hospital and went to a nearby McDonald’s (I think they were burnt out on cafeteria food!).
About 20 minutes in, I woke up out of a drug-induced sleep, screaming, with the most intense contractions I had felt thus far. I quickly looked around the room and discovered Brandon was still gone and I was completely alone. I realized I had to do this on my own until he got back. I tried to keep panic from setting in and found a spot on the wall to concentrate on. I didn’t have my glasses on, so most everything was fuzzy and not easy to focus on. But there was a big clock opposite of me that was easy to see, so I fixated on it. The intense contraction seemed to last forever as I stared at the clock and used my breathing techniques. I screamed, bellowed, and grunted through it until it was over. Shortly after, I fell back into my drug-induced sleep. Another 20 minutes passed….and the same thing. I felt as alone as if I was the only person in the entire hospital. My screams didn’t beckon anyone to help me. I don’t know why I thought they would. Another 20 minutes, and it happened again.
I did gain confidence from getting through these contractions by myself, but I was glad when the next time it happened, Brandon was there with me again. He had come back in while I was asleep and felt horrible when he realized I had been waking up to the strong contractions by myself. But in his defense, when he left, I was sleeping pretty soundly and we had no reason to believe otherwise. But, so much for the notion that the Morphine would keep me asleep during the contractions. It was as if my body saved up all the contractions for one big, huge, strong contraction every 20 minutes instead. For the next couple hours, I slept in 20 minute increments, waking during the INTENSE contractions and then drifting off again. Thankfully though, the rest between the crazy contractions did aid in progressing my dilation, but the bad news is that it only got me one centimeter further. I was now at 5cm after 39 hours of labor.
Because I didn’t progress as much as hoped, my midwife thought that breaking my water could get us to the next phase. I hadn’t wanted my water to be broken (which she knew and respected), as it was just another medical intervention that I was trying to avoid (it should be said that I’m not against medical interventions when necessary, I just wanted my little guy to arrive without them if possible). But, it felt like we were starting to grasp at straws on how to get my body to progress. And honestly, at this point, I was willing to throw my birth plan out the window if it meant getting the baby out any time soon. Around 5:45pm my midwife broke my water. I remember thinking it would hurt or feel weird (like a snap when you pop a balloon) or something, but it really just felt like I peed a bit. The fluid color was clear, which was a sign that Baby Boy was doing good (thankfully he always checked out great or we wouldn’t have kept going and trying things).
|Texts between Scott, Alisha, & Brandon|
Between 6:00pm – 9:00pm, my contractions were on average every 3 minutes and were 1-2 minutes in duration. At 7:00pm (40.5 hours), there was yet another shift change. We got nurse Mindy again, whom we had had the night before. I’m sure she wasn’t expecting to see us again. But because we already had a rapport with Mindy, I felt a connection to her. She was a familiar face and that was comforting somehow. It was good that I felt comfortable with her because by this point in labor, I was BURNING up and had literally stripped down to nothing. No clothes at all.
The previous night, I had done my best to stay modest. When walking the halls I wore doubled gowns (one on the front side and one covering the backside of me instead of relying on keeping it tied in the back), a sports bra, and hospital-issued gauze underwear. This night however, I could absolutely care less about modesty. I had systematically removed each piece of clothing until there was nothing left to remove and I was still burning up. The heat and the pain mixed within me and as I stood there completely naked, bodily fluids of all sorts running down my legs, I bellowed out growls and screams that were akin to something primal. They came from deep within and were guttural and powerful and I didn’t think twice about letting them out (although I did get a good chuckle after the fact wondering what people thought when/if they heard me. I likely scared another expectant mom or two down the hall). Needless to say, I spent the next couple hours laboring in my room.
Between 9:00pm-11:30pm, the contractions continued to come closer together and last longer. They were on average 1.5-2.5 minutes long and were every 2-3 minutes. So that means I was barely getting 30 seconds rest between contractions at times, so it felt like things were really moving along – finally! I also had a few outlying contractions that were longer, one lasting more than 4 minutes (although the day before I had two that were more than 6 minutes in duration!). I felt a gush during one contraction which we thought was just more fluid, but it turned out to be bloodier. The Laborist on duty wanted me watched a bit closer, so they had me sit or stand over Chux pads to capture whatever came out of me. Thankfully there was no other bleeding and Baby Boy continued to do great.
During the contractions, I focused on Brandon’s eyes, working through the moments of panic and letting the pain, but not panic, in. He kept me going and got me through each contraction, "deep breaths", "look at me", "stay with it." I could not have done it without him. How he endured my screams and managed to pull me back from the edge of panic while at the same time giving me his strength and patience, I’ll never know. He was my rock. He reminded me that I was doing great and that he was so amazed at me for my stamina. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything all that amazing. I remember telling him something like “Well, I just keep taking the next contraction and working through it til it’s over. It’s not like I can magically make them stop, so I just keep going.” Even if, in the middle of a contraction, I chose to get an epidural, it wouldn’t be instantaneous. So for some reason in my mind, just steadily working through each one until it was over and remembering that I’d have to keep going even if I chose to get an epidural (because I’d have to wait on them to come give it to me) helped me to just simply keep getting through each one. And each one I got through just kept me going to take the next one head-on. It’s weird how I would gain confidence from working through each contraction that came, but somehow I did.
At 11:30pm, 6.5 hours after breaking my water and 45 hours into labor, my midwife checked my progress again. There was none. No progress in 6.5 hours of intense contractions, screams, and all-consuming mental endurance. I was stuck….my body was stuck at 5cm. I’m not sure whether it was the shock of realizing that all I had been through was without reward; if I was angry at my body or, even worse, God; or if I was just so completely discouraged in that moment, but with tears starting to sting the backs of my eyes and total defeat forming deep down inside, I yelled
“GET THIS KID OUT OF ME!!!”
My midwife agreed, it was time to do something else. Basically she said, “This labor isn't doing what a normal labor does and we need to do something different. Continuing in this course of action isn't viable because of fatigue.” I fought the good fight, gave it the good ole college try, and gave it my best shot…and then some. As disappointed that I was that my body wasn’t progressing as it should, I was equally exhausted. The conclusion was for me to receive an Epidural, and then begin Pitocin to encourage the contractions to dilate me further. At this point, there was no rush to do a C-section since Baby Boy was doing fine and the Pitocin could help keep things moving. I would be completely relieved of the pain and things would still progress while I could rest my weary body.
|Texts between my brother and Brandon|
|Texts between Mark, Anne, & Brandon|
July 10, 2014: D-Day is Here!
Finally, it’s Delivery Day! But not without more to the story, of course.
At 12:15am, I was just shy of 46 hours in. Nurse Mindy came in and went over the epidural procedure with me and then had Brandon start clearing things out of the way for Dr. Hayes, who I refer to as “His Highness.” Mindy sheepishly explained that the anesthesiologist was very particular and didn’t like anything in the way of getting his cart in and out of the room and that he would get upset if things were cluttered. So, my husband had to move the chairs and rolling table out of the way – seriously?? – so that His Highness wouldn’t be put out for having to grace us with his presence.
Dr. Hayes rolled in with his cart and quickly set to work on prepping me for my epidural. The hardest part of the epidural process for me was not having Brandon in the room. I’ll still never understand why they don’t allow husbands in for this part…? The other hard part was having to sit on the bed and lean forward and hunch over as far as I could for the procedure. I find this hard to do when I’m not 41 weeks pregnant (which I now was exactly 41 weeks). Mindy was such a great comfort during this part. She wrapped her arms around me and helped me lean over and told me to just hold onto her. I can’t imagine what my breath smelled like by now. 46 hours without brushing my teeth = YUCK. But if it smelled, she never flinched as I breathed heavily and tried with all my might to lean over. If there was any pain associated with the epidural, I didn’t feel it. But maybe by this point a tiny bit of pain couldn’t even register.
Once the epidural was in, Brandon was allowed to come back in. It was at this moment that things changed and I became a hospital patient in a way I hadn’t been up to this point while Brandon became a bystander. Before now, he had been my partner in labor, coaching me and guiding me through each contraction. Now, he could only stand by and watch and I could only lay there and wait for my body to respond to the medicine. Our sweet time of connecting and relying on each other was over. But, we were thankful that that time had brought us together in such a unique way that we look back on with fondness. And we are also thankful for the hospital and the expertise of the midwife and nurses around us who would safely bring our little guy into the world, even if it meant having medical interventions to do so. The point of all this was to have a baby, even if it didn’t happen how we hoped it would.
Between 12:15am-4:45am, I finally started to dilate more, getting to 7cm. My memories of this time are fragmented and foggy. My body was so tired but I couldn’t really sleep. Even though the pain was gone, I was just anticipating Baby Boy’s arrival. There are some moments I remember very clearly though. Mindy had been in and out of our room several times at this point, so when she came in somewhat urgently one time, I could tell she was concerned. Her actions were deliberate and focused. She moved me onto my side so she could see better vitals from the baby. I was also put on oxygen to help.
As time went on, Mindy kept coming in to adjust me more and more. Baby’s vitals were just not quite where she wanted them. Once his heart rate started dropping, we quickly decided it was time to get him out of there. So, at 4:45am, under my midwife’s direction, we decided on a C-section. She cited “Fetal Intolerance to Labor” and I was passed from her care to the care of the doctor who would perform the C-section. We knew things would get rolling pretty quickly at that point. As soon as a C-section was mentioned, I said to Brandon, “Call our parents and tell them to get here – this will happen fast.” Our parents had *finally* decided to head to our house for some sleep (for the first time since they had arrived 2 days before, other than dozing in their cars) and they weren’t gone for more than a couple hours when we let them know the news. As they woke up and quickly headed back to the hospital, Brandon and I were prepped for surgery.
At Mindy’s direction, Brandon stayed back in the labor room and dressed in scrubs, while I was wheeled into the operating room. The OR staff transferred me from my stretcher to the OR table. Dr. Hayes (His Highness) was back again and would remain in the OR throughout my surgery. He stretched both of my arms out from my body and laid them somewhat firmly onto boards that extended out from the bed ( I read that they do this for easy access to your IV’s and that sometimes they even strap your arms down, however, mine were never strapped down). Soon after this, the nurses realized they needed to shift me over some more, so they had me cross my arms on my chest so they could move me. Don’t ask me where His Highness was when this happened because the next thing I knew, he was asking (rather rudely), “Why did you move your arms?” I couldn’t even get an answer out before he forcefully placed each arm back onto the boards. Brandon wasn’t present for this interaction but came in shortly after. He said later that had he been there he would’ve had words with him for how he was treating me. Once Brandon came in things quickly started rolling. Dr. Hayes must have upped my epidural or maybe it was the anxiousness from the entire situation or knowing I was about to be gutted like a fish, but my body started to shake uncontrollably. Along with the shakes, I started moaning/grunting on a consistent basis, kind of like my own little symphony of agony.
Dr. Hayes (annoyed with me again) asked, “Are you in pain?” to which I answered “No.”
“Well then why are you moaning?” he questioned. “Because I’m nervous, scared, tired….”
I just had to put His Highness out of my mind. All I cared about was seeing my Baby Boy.
The C-section went quickly and, although some people say they feel pressure or tugging, I don’t remember feeling anything of the sort. I was barely awake during the whole procedure and so maybe that aided in my unawareness of it. I remember almost holding my breath when they said he was out though. And hearing his cry for the first time was a mix of total relief and pure joy. The doctor on call (Dr. VanNess) delivered him at 5:17am and shortly after she asked, “Do you want to see him?” I said, “Sure.” (Still makes me giggle that I said “sure” like it was no big thing or something. But I think I was caught off guard by being asked if I wanted to see him, instead of them assuming I wanted to, like I would say no? But, I digress).
When I close my eyes I can still picture what he looked like when they raised him over the curtain for Brandon and I to see. He was ALL cheeks and dark hair! His right side was facing us, elbows bent at a 90 degree angle and he had his fists clinched. He was all scrunched up and mad as a hornet and crying. He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and his cry was literally music to my ears. Even now, as I write this, I cry at the memory of seeing him for the first time and realizing how much I loved him already. He is our beautiful gift from the Lord, our sweet, precious boy.
Once he was out and we saw him, they set to work cleaning him up and accessing him, while I was cleaned out (yuck) and sewn up.
Brandon was invited over to take pictures.
As evidenced by the above picture, I dozed off for a bit and the next thing I remember is Brandon bringing the baby around to my side of the curtain so we could take our first official family photo together.
When all was said and done, I labored 51 hours (about 46 naturally*), we went through 5 shift changes…..had 5 medical interventions (including the epidural), and topped it off with a C-section. So, the natural, shorter, non-medical labor I hoped for was anything but! And call me crazy, but I don’t regret any part of it. It’s not perfect, not neat and tidy, not even close to being what I thought it would be, but I love every part of it and would do it all over again for our little Jedi.
*Maybe some would argue that my pre-epidural labor isn’t entirely considered natural, and I get that, I had meds to help cope with the pain. But personally, because I still felt strong & very painful contractions even with Morphine in my system, I consider most of my pre-epidural labor to be natural. But feel free to disagree with me.