April 1, 2015 boasted my favorite kind of weather. It was warm and stormy and perfect. At the time I was already a week overdue, cranky and uncomfortable. I was expecting to go in for an induction the following week, but everyone kept telling me tonight would be the night on account of the storm. Of all the old wives tales this one ended up being correct. At about 10:30 PM I went to the bathroom, and that is when my water (partially) broke. Because I was GBS positive, I knew I had to go right in to get hooked up to an IV, so on shaky knees I went downstairs to tell Bjorn it was time. On the way to the hospital we talked about video games and kept things surprisingly normal. I couldn't get over how calm he was, but this sense of normalcy helped. By 11 PM I was checked into the triage room.
By this time I was starting to have some mild contractions. They were so mild I had the false impression that this was something I could handle and subsequently went into labor and delivery with a cocky attitude. In triage, I got my blood pressure checked, as well as the confirmation of amniotic fluid. It was a busy night, so I had to wait for a room to open. Once one did, I was able to walk myself into my labor room. That would be the last time I felt comfortable during the birthing process.
The following timeline is fuzzy. This is because the back labor kicked in and the pain I was in was pretty indescribable. If you have ever had a kidney stone, take this pain and multiple it by 100. Granted I have a fairly low pain tolerance, but I thought if I could handle a kidney stone, I could handle anything. How very wrong I was. Sometime within an hour of being admitted to my labor and delivery room, I was hooked up to my IV, which at the the time was what I dreaded the most. I am completely needle phobic. The guy was awesome though. He was able to use ultrasound technology to locate a vein and it was relatively painless. About an hour in, I asked for pain medication. This made me sleepy and took the edge off, but the back pain prevailed. As the contractions got closer and closer together, I broke down and asked for the epidural. I had to wait awhile for the anesthesiologist, but figured once he did his magic everything would be o.k.
By this time the contractions were pretty close together. This was when the screaming and swearing started. At one point I pulled Bjorn's hair and was inventing new obscenities I'm pretty sure the whole maternity ward could hear. I had also developed the pregnancy shakes, a hormonal reaction that creates uncontrollable shaking. Not the best thing when a guy is about to stick a giant needle in your back.
The anesthesiologist arrives and my back gets prepped for the epidural. When the time came I was told to arch my back and remain perfectly still. Keep in mind my stomach is huge, I am having intense contractions and the pregnancy shakes. The needle goes in and he admonishes me for not holding still. He also told me I would feel pressure, but it shouldn't hurt. I felt like my whole back back was filling with air and about to explode. That eventually went away, but the pain of the contractions didn't. After about an hour of intense contractions, the nurse concluded the epidural didn't work and I was administered another bolus. When that didn't work, the anesthesiologist tried replacing the epidural, which also didn't work. At this point I was ready to push and was not medicated.
As a last pain management attempt the doctor administered a shot into my vagina called a pudendal block. At this point, my water was completely broken by the doctor to prepare for the pushing. The pudendal block worked for about an hour, but wore off after about an hour. At some point after it wore off, the doctor decided I needed a catheter placed, without any medication. I think this was the only time I actually begged the doctor. The experience was horrible, and ultimately unnecessary as my bladder had already been emptied. Also at this point, I was getting regular cervical exams which were excruciating giving the posterior placement of my cervix.
I am a modest person, but my hours of labor, contractions and pushing took away any dignity I ever thought I possessed. I screamed bloody murder, I cried, and I begged for it to just end. At one point I found myself completely naked trying to squat her out, a prospect I would have normally found horrifying. It was a very humbling experience.
After three hours of pushing there was no progress and the doctor determined a c-section would be best. At this point I was disappointed, but given the options on the table I agree it was the best way to go. I truly think it was unavoidable. No doula, midwife or Bradley Method would have saved me from this c-section and I've come to peace with that. On April 2 at 10:22am Wren Lauren Watland was born at 9 lbs, 5 ounces. She was a big baby, but perfect, acing her Apgar scores.
Going into this labor, I had a birth plan. I had planned on getting an epidural and chilling with my Gameboy until push time came. I learned that ultimately a birth plan doesn't matter when the health of your baby is at stake. A birth is a very intimate experience, and like a wedding, many women go into it with certain expectations. It breaks my heart when a woman feels like a failure for opting for pain medication, or is unable to give birth vaginally. It doesn't make us weak and it doesn't make us any less of a woman. It certainly doesn't make us a bad mother. No matter how we birth, the difficult and sometimes painful decisions we make before and after labor are our initiations into motherhood.