In honor of my birthday today, I decided to share Declan’s birth story. I contemplated whether or not to write about it – wondering if it’s too personal? Too much information? Who really cares? He’s here, he’s healthy, the details shouldn’t matter much at this point, right? Well, I had a pretty frustrating and tough labor experience and it was definitely not what I had planned for. I don’t think I could have done anything differently to make it any smoother or quicker or easier. It’s definitely the most trying and difficult experience of my life. Not to mention excruciating and emotional and exhausting. So, more for my sake than anyone else’s, here it is if you’re interested in reading the full thing. If not, just skip to the bottom to see the photo and leave a comment to tell me what a cute baby Mumbles and I made. Thanks!
My attitude about my entire birth plan was very “we’ll see how it goes.” Natural or medicated? I decided to go all natural for as long as I could but I definitely wasn’t opposed to medications and drugs if I felt I needed them to cope. Position? I planned to try all the ones I knew I liked to see what worked best. In the birthing classes, I most enjoyed the “birthing ball” so we brought an exercise ball from home for me to sit on, lean on and hang over.
Mumbles’s aunt used to be a midwife and she flew down from Washington a few weeks before Declan’s due date to help us with the labor experience. We all thought he might come a bit early so you can imagine our surprise when his due date came and went with contractions on and off but nothing serious to report. I’d been at 2 cm dilated for about two weeks when nine days after his due date we were scheduled at the hospital for a non-stress test. Full well thinking we’d have the test and Mumbles would kiss me goodbye and head off to work and I’d go pick up our custom order of grout at Lowe’s (who decides to buy a new house and completely renovate it while expecting a baby? we did.), Mumbles and I dressed for the day and drove separate cars to the hospital, leaving my hospital and baby bag at home. Oops. Declan and I failed that test, boy did we ever. According to the nurse (my first of many), my placenta was getting old (for some reason I was offended to hear this) and there was not enough amniotic fluid to provide nutrients for the little guy if he decided to stay inside any longer. Apparently failing that one aspect of the test alone was reason enough to admit me right away, but Declan’s heart rate was also dropping sporadically after contractions, and that, too, was serious cause for concern. The non-stress test began at 8:10 a.m. and by 10:30 I was in a labor and delivery room talking with a doctor about our options for induction.
During our birthing classes we had learned about different types of induction and interventions but having expected my labor to start naturally, we hadn’t put much thought into what we’d prefer. We decided to start with a balloon induction, which I’d never heard of but sounded like a more mild start to labor than pitocin. Who doesn’t love balloons, right? Well, this one comes with a small catheter. The balloon is on the end of the catheter and after the catheter is inserted, the balloon inflated at the opening of the cervix to coax it to open up to 4-5 cm, at which point it would simply fall out and hopefully encourage contractions for further opening of the cervix. By the afternoon the balloon had done its job but I wasn’t making any more progress despite contractions growing in intensity…so they started the pitocin. Declan’s heart rate was still not handling contractions well, which escalated any time the dose of pitocin was increased so instead of gradually increasing my dosage to encourage stronger contractions, the nurses had to decrease it to keep us both safe. I’m not sure how long they all stayed, but my brother, dad, sister, niece, sisters-in-law and their other halves all made waiting room appearances and took turns escorting me during my walking laps around the labor and delivery ward.
At around 9 p.m. I declared I could no longer endure the contractions knowing they weren’t productive – I was no more dilated than I’d been early that afternoon and I still had 5 more cm to go before the pushing even began. Wah wah wah…
Thank the Lord for that epidural! I was so relieved to relax a bit and I even got some small spurts of sleep that night, which I desperately needed to continue laboring the following day. I was so grateful for the epidural but I could have done without the anesthesiologist telling me I had a slight case of scoliosis. “Just a few centimeters, did you know?” No, I didn’t, but right now is really not the best time to mention that, jerk. Thanks.
Poor Mumbles, his mom and my mom were all in the delivery room with me and didn’t get a wink of sleep. Around 3 or 4 a.m. the doctor (at this point I’d seen about a dozen nurses, doctors and midwives through shift changes – I wish I would’ve had someone keep a tally) reported that I’d made no progress and was still at 5 cm. Completely defeated, Mumbles and I were even more discouraged when the doctor advised that she’d be asking the nurse to make the preparations for a cesarean. We agreed at that point that we wanted to do whatever was safest for the baby and me, and to be honest at that point I didn’t see how I could go on much longer. In the back of my mind, though, I was wondering if I’d regret not being able to deliver him vaginally. I remember asking over and over if Mumbles would be sad or disappointed and feeling comforted by his response as he continued to thank me and praise me for lovingly carrying our son all these months and working so hard for so long already to bring him into the world. As we agreed to discuss the cesarean plan with the nurse and doctor, the nurse kindly let us know that she hadn’t fully increased the pitocin dosage and, if the doctor would agree to wait a few hours, it might be worth a shot. We agreed. Before long, the doctor returned to check my progress and I was at 7 cm! Yahoo! But, alas, still 3 more to go…she told us we could wait just a few more hours and by 10:30 a.m. — 24 hours after I’d been admitted — I finally reached 10 cm. And then it was time to push.
Pushing is a very odd thing. After all that laboring, I really figured it would be easier. The actual act of pushing provides some relief to the inexplicable combination of pressure and pain of a human head trying to exit your body through a small canal. But when you’re not pushing and that head is just there, pressing pressing pressing and not moving, gosh does that hurt. And easy it was not. For some women, you hear they pushed a few times and the babe just slid on out. I was not that woman. My legs up in the air, calves resting on stirrups so my shins were parallel to the floor, I was urged to curl my chin down into my chest, roll my head forward and push push push while holding my breath instead of breathing through each contraction. To get better traction, the nurse encouraged me to grab hold of handlebars on the bed or grab the insides of my own thighs as leverage to push harder. I remember someone saying at one point that an hour and a half had gone by and that the doctors wouldn’t let me push for more than three or four hours before requiring an emergency c-section. And at that point I almost wanted to beg for the cesarean just so it would end and I wouldn’t feel it any more. I kept trying to think about the millions of women who’d done this before me (wondering why…why do they do it? It hurts so bad!) and reminding myself that if I could push better he’d be out quicker and it would be over. And the doctor wouldn’t have to keep checking around up in there, wouldn’t need to get out forceps and we wouldn’t need a vacuum to get Declan out. So, that became my goal: for it to be over.
And then, three hours after I’d started pushing, a total of 27 hours after I’d been admitted, it was.