Two Weeks Overdue, Induction Began
I was two weeks overdue, and had come to the conclusion that my pregnancy was a permanent condition. Until I was four months pregnant, I hadn't been able to really accept that I was actually, finally pregnant... and now it wouldn't end!
Still, I had a wonderful, happy pregnancy, and just really wanted a chance to meet the baby I'd been waiting for since I was four years old.
We were already pretty sure that it was a boy, because of the baby's size, heart rate, and the way I was carrying. At my doctor's office that Monday morning, they told me that not only was I barely dilated and effaced, it appeared that the baby had not yet 'dropped.' This was a little unusual, since the week before I had been for an ultrasound and it was determined that the baby was term and already weighed over eight pounds.
The doctor stripped my membranes, hoping that this might initiate labor, and decided that if nothing happened, I would check into the hospital that night to be induced the next morning. All along I had hoped for no intervention - and had heard all the pitocin horror stories - but I was now ready to have this baby, and was willing to do whatever it took.
Labor didn't start on its own, so at 5 pm Monday evening, I was admitted to the hospital and the external fetal monitor was attached. At 7 pm, they applied the first dose of prostaglandin gel, which was supposed to ripen my cervix and could trigger labor. I had dinner and watched a movie while it worked, giving me mild contractions. At ten, they told me the next dose would be at 2 am, and at 7:30 the next morning, the pitocin would begin. They gave me a sleeping pill and, with my husband in the chair at my side, went to sleep. I woke up a little before 11:30 because I was having contractions. They hurt! The nurses checked me and confirmed labor had begun - maybe all I had needed was a little push.
From the very start, the contractions were coming every three to five minutes and lasted about 45 seconds. In the short time in between contractions, my husband called all the prospective grandparents to tell them our baby would soon be here. We tried to do as many of the things I had decided on in advance: I took a shower, stayed mobile, drank fluids, went to the bathroom every hour. I was even ambitious enough to walk the halls...for about twenty minutes. I didn't last long - the pain was getting too intense. At about seven that morning, I asked for something to help - and got an injection of nubain. It helped take the edge off the pain, but made me even more tired (adding to the effect of the sleeping pill).
Another three or four hours later, my dilation was checked again, and we really disappointed when they told me that only minimal progress had been made. It was discovered that the baby was in a "face presentation" - instead of the back of her head facing down, her face was. She could not be delivered this way, as her neck needed to flex during the passage through the canal. My doctor advised me that a cesarean would probably be necessary, but told me she would first seek a second opinion.
I was relieved when the second doctor felt confident the baby could be prompted to turn if the contractions were strengthened - and advised that I should be started on the pitocin after all. I had just been given an epidural (and the I.V. and the blood pressure cuff and heart monitor that goes with it) and a second I.V. with the pitocin was started. Still, my progress was very slow - every hour, the doctor would return, and though my effacement and dilation rates were well below the typical curve, the baby and I both seemed to be holding up. An internal monitor was attached to the baby so her vital signs could be monitored, and, as a special bonus for me, I was catheterized and given an oxygen mask. I looked like pretty scary - half woman, half machine. (And half baby, too!)
I had two really mellow hours, from about 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. I practiced visualization methods and really tried to relax completely and open up with each contraction. I finally found my own pattern of breathing that worked for me - slow, even breaths nothing like anything I'd been taught in childbirth classes. During those hours I eased through transition, going from seven to ten centimeters, completing my dilation. In the half hour that followed, the epidural wore off. It was readministered, but since it works with gravity and the baby needed me to lie on my left, my entire right side was alive with pain. My hip joint, for some reason, hurt more than anything - probably because of the build-up of fluid in my body and because I hadn't moved in hours. The only way to stop the pain was for the anesthesiologist to replace the needle in my spine, a process which would take time and patience. I had neither - very quickly, I was overcome with a very intense need to push.
It took about five contractions to find a decent position in which to push. I had it in my head that I wanted to squat. The nurses were great and let me try, but it was not the answer for me. We settled for the head of the bed raised up, with my husband supporting my neck and holding my leg on one side, my mother holding my leg on the other. I was so utterly exhausted and in so much pain that I actually fell asleep in between contractions.
Much of the time during this phase of birth, I could only push along half-heartedly - some I skipped altogether. I just wanted a break so I could catch up! As I had done for most of the intense part of labor, I had my eyes closed. I didn't want anyone to speak to me or to caress me, to soothe me, to touch me anywhere except where I had instructed them. I needed all my concentration to be completely devoted to getting through each wave. I remember thinking, "the only way to get this over is to push." I did my best.
Half an hour before she was finally born, they decided that the baby was under too much stress, and called down to the OR to arrange a c-section. They were told that the rooms were full, but they would be advised as soon as one became available. At this point, I didn't care if I needed surgery. It was now Wednesday. I guess the baby did, though about fifteen minutes later, she shifted her head, and with the intensified contractions (courtesy of the pitocin), came barreling down. The doctor didn't have time to change, just put on a gown over her clothes.
Another fifteen minutes later - after 25 hours of hard labor and three and a half hours of pushing - a big, red, screaming little wonder was born. The first words I heard were, "You have a girl!" I held her for a moment before she was moved to the other side of the room to be checked and weighed.
Charlotte turned out to be nine pounds, nine ounces, and very healthy. I was happy, certainly, but I had expected the pain to abruptly end - but I only felt a little bit better. I had torn 'severely' and spent the next half hour or so being mended.
We were moved to a private room a few hours later, but I couldn't sleep at all. How could I? This absolutely beautiful little thing was sleeping next to me - I couldn't stop watching her. She took to nursing immediately, and I fed her several times, soothed her after all the injections and blood tests, and just held her. It took less than a week for me to decide that I would do it all over again. :-)
While I feel tremendously fortunate that we were both healthy and that I avoided a cesarean, there is also so much I feel like I learned during and since her birth. I have no regrets, but after having an epidural and induction with my second birth, decided to do things differently (and more naturally) with my third child. Birth is much more than a one-time event - it is a life-changing process. I'm still learning!