Wesley’s labor started on Friday, January 29th. Because of my high blood pressure it had been decided that we were going to induce labor at 38 weeks rather than allowing things to take their natural course (which could mean a potentially life threatening spike in my blood pressure for Wesley). Jayne, our nurse midwife, felt that by 38 weeks he would be well developed, completely in full term and ready (if not willing) to be born. As my cervix was not dilated or effaced the plan was to check into the maternity ward Friday morning and start a drug that would “ripen” my cervix (I love that term! It always brings to mind a peach in a brown paper bag!). I took my first dose, a tiny quarter of a pill, at 11am. Just as the nurse was about to take me off the monitors to let me walk around, which often helps things progress, Wesley’s heartbeat started dipping after every contraction. A normal healthy heartbeat is between 130 and 160... After my contractions his beats were dipping to around 100, with an occasional dip even lower. We tried various positions and found that on my right side his rates didn’t drop… laying in any other position did. So… from about 1pm I laid on my right side and was on the monitors to keep an eye on his levels.
Because the cervix drug is given orally they were not inclined to give me a second dose (as there is no easy way to stop the effects once it is in your system). So, we switched gears and they hooked me up to a low amount drip of pitocin. Jayne checked me about 5pm and found that I had dilated at the most 2cm and was mildly effaced. Because of Wes’ heartbeat drops coupled with my history, the doctor on call decided to turn of the medicine, in order to let us “all get a good night’s rest” and we would start again in the morning… Good night’s rest, yeah right! J I did get to come off the monitors for about an hour in the evening when Reid and I were allowed to walk around the hospital which was really lovely! They also took me off the monitors for about an hour and a half in the middle of the night which was the best sleep I got. And though I was no longer on the pitocin I was still having contractions which made it seem like we were moving in a good direction. On a pain scale, however, I was placing the contractions at a 1 or 2 out of 10 and was able to sleep through most of them.
Morning came. I got to take a shower and watch the news (and eat breakfast… my midwife knows I like my food!). Then it was back onto the monitors and we started the pitocin drip at 7:15. Miraculously Wesley’s heartbeat was not dipping after contractions and my blood pressure was being very good and staying in the range it was supposed to. Again, I was rating the pain in the 1s and 2s, thinking “wow, if this is labor, I am handling it great!”
Jayne checked me at 8:30 and with little change from the night before she decided to “move things along” by breaking my water. No going back now! Wesley was being born one way or the other today! The actual breaking of the water surprised me because it didn’t hurt at all. I think part of the reason for that is apparently Wes’ head (and thus his fluid membrane) was very low. At any rate, we were in business!
Reid told me afterwards that he saw Jayne at this point also turn up my pitocin. That I did not see but within 10 minutes of having my water broken, my labor really swung into full speed! My contractions were coming like clockwork every 2 minutes, each lasting around 40 second and leaving me very little time to recuperate before the next one came on. They were now in the 8 to 10 range of pain. During them I tried diligently to use the breathing and relaxation techniques that I had read about and studied. But through most of them all I could really do was scrunch my eyes shut, curl up my toes and try my best to crush every bone in Reid’s hand… he took it like a man and never once complained! J No one had told me that I could be in any other position besides on my right side and I just knew that I could not labor all day with those contractions and not being allowed to move. I tried as hard as I thought I could to get through as many as I thought I could before asking Reid to get the nurse to discuss an epidural. It was, perhaps, 40 minutes. I really do think that had I had more natural progression of labor (ie, not 0 to 100 mph in 2 seconds) I could have handled the pain more effectively. Of course, I’ll never know.
The anesthesiologist arrived about 15 minutes later and his first words were “Now there is a woman who looks like she needs an epidural.” They got me sat up, with my feet on a chair and thank the Lord they did not make Reid leave the room like they do in some hospitals. I honestly could not have made it through what happened next without Reid’s hand to crush.
Once he got the epidural placed, Jayne checked me again. This was probably about 10:15 to 10:30, though time meant very little to me. I had progressed from 2 to 5 cm. At this point I had Reid call my mom and tell her that labor was going quickly and that she needed to come to the hospital now. Yodi gave me a drug through the epidural that was supposed to quicken the pain relief as I was still feeling a fair amount of my contractions. Unfortunately, it worked too well and I started to lose feeling in my chest, with tingling in my arms. The worst was that it started to effect my lungs and I was having trouble taking a deep breath. So… he came back and gave me a different drug to counteract the first one. He ended up giving me two doses of that drug in order to get my breathing and feeling back to my upper body.
By the time we had sorted out the “extra” drugs going through my epidural, it was 11:30 and Jayne checked me again… I was 9+ and ready to push. It seemed surreal that I had progressed from 2 cm to 9+ in the span of three hours but here we were. Even Jayne commented that this was all going a lot faster than she had thought it would. My mom made it to the room just as I was about to start pushing which I am so thankful for! Reid held one leg, the nurse Debbie held my other and my mom supported my head so that I didn’t have to hold my neck up for each of the pushes.
About midpoint through pushing, they turned off both the epidural and the pitocin. I was contracting well and strongly on my own and I wanted more feeling as we got close. Jayne brought in the mirror so that I could see what was happening which I really appreciated as it made it more real and doable to see what needed to be done. At some point they had put the monitor on his head, though I honestly do not remember that happening at all. I pushed for about an hour and forty-five minutes. The last five to ten pushes were intense, making me whimper in between contractions because I wanted to keep pushing. But Jayne, of course, knew what she was doing and only let me push during good, solid contractions so that I stretched. In fact, I only had three very tiny tears, all of them repairable by a single stitch each. Thank you Jayne!
And with a final push, Wesley made his arrival into the world at 1:14pm. They pulled him out and held him above my chest, giving him some fierce rubs. We whipped my oxygen mask off and held it over his mouth while Reid cut the cord. Wesley’s nose had been really smooshed, either by the birth or the last couple of weeks riding against my tailbone, and he was crying but in short little gasps rather than strong cries. So, they whisked him over to the warmer where another nurse attended to him. I watched from across the room as they gave him air and then put a tube down his throat to suction out all that he had swallowed into his lungs in delivery (which was a great deal). As soon as she suctioned him, he let out a big and angry cry and I breathed a big deep breath. One of my greatest fears going into an early delivery was what if his lungs weren’t as developed as they should be and they had to send him to Denver to be treated. With that big cry it made that possibility very unlikely.
Most of the aftermath of giving birth is a bit of a blur. I delivered the placenta which Jayne showed to me… it’s really pretty darn cool. She did my stitches and then they handed me my baby. They let us keep him in our room while we stayed at the hospital, taking him out only to do periodic assessments, a bath and a hearing test in the nursery. Reid went with Wes for his bath and hearing test around five in the evening and I took a quick nap.
We spent two more nights in the hospital, checking out Monday morning. We had a few successful feedings in the hospital and few unsuccessful feeds (he didn’t nurse for an almost 8 hour stretch because he was sleeping on both Sunday and Monday, so I expressed colostrum and we fed it to him via a dropper). All of our nurses were great but I had particularly effective nurse named Denise who was Wesley’s night nurse both Saturday and Sunday night. She really helped me, answering many questions about nursing and Wes’ care. We got home about noon on Monday and something clicked in his little brain (and probably in my body as well) because he has done a terrific job of latching on since.
And that is our birth story… I certainly didn’t expect my labor to last only 4 hours and 45 minutes from the time my water broke. But it did. I had taken things to do during labor to pass the time… none of them were needed. It was fast. It was hard. And it was perfect for Wesley and I. His heart rate never dropped once on Saturday and my blood pressure stayed right where it belonged. And in the end, Reid and I were left with the most precious person we had ever laid eyes on. We are so grateful for the people and facilities that cared for us. It was not the labor and delivery that I had “planned” but, for us, it was perfect.