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A beautiful mess: The birth of Hazel Epidural

A beautiful mess: The birth of Hazel

"I was starting to lose the ability to stay calm, and my contractions were just getting stronger."

August 10, my due date, came and went. Nothing was happening.

I had a few Braxton Hicks contractions up to that point, but nothing serious. And I was getting upset because I believed my baby would be born early. At a doctor’s appointment, about a week before my due date, I was checked and told that I was 2 centimeters dilated. The doctor said he believed my baby would come soon, so I had my heart set on her coming early.

By the time my due date came, I was convinced I would be pregnant forever! I was getting extremely uncomfortable, and although I loved being pregnant, I was more than ready to no longer have a giant belly. I tried every trick in the book to help my body go into labor. I ate tons of pineapple. I ate spicy foods. I drank raspberry leaf tea. I did yoga and special labor-inducing stretches. I even jogged a couple times around my yard.

Nothing worked.

Honestly, I think stressing myself out over the fact that she wasn’t here by my due date prevented me from going into labor. I believe being in a calm state of mind is necessary for the body to do what it is supposed to do, and I was the opposite of calm. I am normally not the type of person to get tense like that over most situations, so I think the pregnancy hormones were to blame!

The next morning, I tried to calm down and assure myself that she would be here eventually, even if I had to wait another week or two. (My mom was two weeks late with me, which only added to my worrying.)

My husband, Tim, was working from home that week, so he could be with me if I went into labor. He just needed to run to the office for a couple hours that day, which was fine because this baby was showing no signs of coming anytime soon.

After he left, I turned on some music and started dancing around the kitchen. I remembered hearing a story of someone going into labor while playing “Just Dance,” and dancing is usually my go-to stress reliever. I figured it couldn’t hurt. After about three songs, I felt a small gush. At first, I thought I had peed my pants! I was a little embarrassed, but all the dancing around (with an 8-pound baby sitting on my bladder) probably had something to do with it. I went back to dancing, and I felt another gush. This time I knew I probably wasn’t peeing.

 

I called Tim, and he came right home. By the time he got home, I had three or four more gushes of fluid. I called the doctor’s office, and was told to go to the hospital to get checked. The doctor who checked me said he couldn’t be 100 percent sure that my water had broken because for some reason, there was no trace of amniotic fluid. It was determined that I most likely had a small leak.

I was still only 2 centimeters dilated. The nurse told me to walk the halls of the hospital to try and get things moving along. After a few hours and only a few small contractions, they said we could go home if I wanted to.

We left the hospital and stopped by the local Chinese restaurant to pick up one last spicy, labor-inducing meal. I chose to go home rather than stay at the hospital because I had a plan.

I wanted to go into labor naturally in the comfort of my own home, and I wanted to do as much of the first stage of labor as I could there. I wanted to be able to sit in my own bathtub and lie on my own bed. I wanted to go to the hospital only when my contractions got extremely close together. I was naïve to think I could write my own birth story and have everything work out according to my plan. It’s amazing how different the reality was from the plan I had made in my head.

After our Chinese dinner, which did nothing but make me feel a little nauseous, I went outside to jog a few laps around the yard (ha!). I came inside and started power walking up and down the stairs. And still, nothing was happening. I was getting so stressed and even more frustrated with my body.

I had one strong contraction around 11 p.m. that night, and then not another one till around 6 a.m. the next morning. I called the hospital around 9:30 a.m. and was told to come back in for a checkup. This time when the doctor checked me, he did find a small bit of amniotic fluid. He didn’t want me to risk getting an infection, so I was admitted to a labor and delivery room to be induced.

Being induced was something I had been dreading, especially after watching the documentary “The Business of Being Born.” This documentary is geared towards home birthing, which was something Tim and I had considered. However, we decided the hospital would be the best place for us this time around because we didn’t really know what to expect.

I was very ready to meet my baby, so I tried to focus on that.

The doctor broke the rest of my water and started Pitocin around 11:30 a.m. At first, my contractions were a few minutes apart and not very strong at all. I was hooked up to a few monitors, so I could barely walk around the room like I wanted to. I also had my heart set on getting in the shower to alleviate some of the pain, but because of the IV and monitors, that was a no-go.

I sat in a rocking chair for a few hours and tried to remain calm. I worked on my relaxation techniques and breathing as the contractions got stronger.

I have a tendency to think about random things at random times. Through each contraction, I kept imaging myself flying through the sky or floating on my back through the ocean. I know I’m weird, but it seemed to help!

As the hours passed, the nurse turned up the Pitocin drip a few times, making my contractions much stronger and much closer together. (My mom says, “Pitocin is literally the devil.”) Around 3 p.m., my contractions were so strong that I couldn’t focus on anything else. They were coming about two minutes apart, and I was only about 4 or 5 centimeters dilated.

I was in so much pain, and that was all I could think about.

Up until that point, I had been very adamant about not getting the epidural. I had told myself that labor would mostly be a mind game, and I knew that if I could stay in control and stay calm, I wouldn’t need the drugs. I held off from the epidural as long as I could because I wanted to have a natural birth.

But, Pitocin is not natural.

Being induced is not natural.

So, after four hours of being in labor, I gave in and asked for the epidural. I was starting to lose the ability to stay calm, and my contractions were just getting stronger. The fact that I was basically confined to a chair or the bed made the whole experience seem almost unbearable.

Throughout my pregnancy, my blood platelet count had been low, so the doctor wanted to draw my blood before giving me the epidural. Tim and I watched the epidural video, which was required by the hospital, while we waited for the results. The blood work came back, and my platelet count was extremely low—too low for my body to be able to handle the epidural. If I had gotten it, I would have been in danger of hemorrhaging.

By that point, my pain was getting extremely intense. The nurse kept telling me I should get into the bed and lie down, rather than sitting or standing, but that was the last thing I wanted to do. She said it would help me dilate more quickly. I was getting pretty tired, so I finally agreed around 4 p.m. The nurse gave me some Nubain, which did basically nothing except make me more tired.

She kept turning up the Pitocin drip, and my contractions were coming about a minute apart. Tim sat by the bed, and I cried and squeezed his hand through each one. (He had a bruise on his hand for a couple months! Oops!)

I’m not sure how long my contractions were lasting at this point, but it felt like they would never end. Each one grew stronger, and I thought I might go insane. Talk about torture. I laid in the bed for a couple more hours until eventually, my body felt like it was going to push her out on its own.

We were almost positive that we wanted to name our baby Hazel Adelaide, but we still had a couple other middle names on the list. We wanted to see her before we picked her middle name officially. For some reason, that whole day, I just kept saying “Hazel Adelia” in my head, over and over. It somehow comforted me, and I knew that would be her name.

The nurse checked me just before 7 p.m., and I was 9 centimeters dilated. At 7 p.m., a different nurse came in to take over for the daytime nurse. Her name was Laura, and she was so nice. I felt safer and calmer with her.

I started to push right when Laura came in.

My contractions were 30 seconds apart at this point and lasted about 30 seconds each. I pushed through every contraction except for one. Laura asked if I wanted a mirror, so I could see what was happening. I thought it would help if I could see, so I said yes. I could see my baby’s head almost immediately, which gave me hope that she would be out in no time. I could see her blonde hair, and Tim and I fell in love immediately—before we even saw her precious little face.

After an hour of pushing, I still could see only the small part of her head that I had first noticed, which obviously frustrated me. I felt like I was getting nowhere, even though I was using up every ounce of strength I had.

Laura took the mirror away, and I decided to try a squatting position. Another nurse came into the room and helped attach the squatting bar to the bed. I remembered reading that this position might help lower the baby, but what I didn’t realize was how taxing this position would be on my legs. I was already exhausted from the hour or so of pushing, so I lasted about 10 minutes with the squatting.

I laid back down on the bed and continued to push through each contraction, with Laura holding up one of my legs and Tim holding the other. After each push, I would literally collapse onto the pillow until the 30 seconds were up and I felt another contraction coming.

I honestly don’t know how I lasted three hours. I have never experienced exhaustion like that. I couldn’t have done it without Tim by my side. I couldn’t have done it without my sweet nurse Laura. And I certainly could not have done it without God. He was giving me so much strength that I never knew I had.

Between pushes, I kept thinking about the people on the show “American Ninja Warrior” and how they would always seem to make it through even the hardest obstacles. These thoughts were somehow helping! Again, I am super random and weird.

Finally, the night-shift doctor came into the room and said that I would see my baby soon, which gave me a new wave of strength. I pushed for about 10 more minutes—still no baby. I heard him say something about a vacuum, which I didn’t even have time to process or get nervous about.

He tried suctioning the vacuum to her head, and the first time it slipped off. He cursed and then tried again. At 9:50 p.m. I gave one more big push, felt some insane pressure, and then collapsed back onto the pillow.

And there she was. Hazel Adelia Fortney, 8 pounds, 8.6 ounces and 20 inches long. Blond hair and blue eyes.

She was slimy and gross, but she was so sweet and beautiful. They laid her on my chest, and I just kept saying, “Hi, baby,” over and over again, with tears streaming down my face.

Sometimes I look at my story of that day as a nightmare, and it certainly was to an extent. Nothing about my labor was easy. Nothing about my labor went according to plan.

But it was beautiful.

It was a beautiful mess of a day that felt scary and out of control—but turned into the best night of my life.

Although nothing about August 12, 2015 went according to my plan, I know that God had planned every minute of that day before I even conceived my precious little baby. The whole experience was extremely empowering. I’ll never be able to describe fully what it felt like to go through it, and I will never forget that day, the day I actually, physically brought a new life into this world.

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!