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A change of plans: The birth of Brooks Epidural

A change of plans: The birth of Brooks

"When he was finally crowning, I could feel it."

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I woke up on Saturday, March 10th, at 6 a.m. with a different kind of contraction than I had been experiencing. This was a pain in my lower back that took my breath away every ten minutes. There was no sleeping with this going on. I had been having contractions for the past three weeks, but they were always in my abdomen and completely tolerable. This was different. I was able to breathe through them using the breathing techniques I had practiced in yoga and with my hypnobirthing studies. It was just that every 10 minutes or so, I had to stop what I was doing and really focus on my breathing.

 I went to lunch with my brother and sister-in-law and for a walk around town, and then a hike with the dogs. I did fine with all of these things. Throughout the day there were periods when the surges would come closer and closer together, up to 7 minutes apart, and then they would slow down to 15 minutes apart, which was so upsetting. I hated thinking that things might be stalling after all we had been through, and 10 days after my due date!

 Around 10 p.m., they were increasing in frequency and becoming much more painful. My friend emailed us some links with ideas on how to alleviate the back labor and hopefully spin the baby. My husband, Bryan and I spent the next two hours with me kneeling on the ground, elbows on the big ball, and the Moby wrap around my abdomen. When I would have a surge, Bry would lift up with the wrap, and this helped a bit. We tried to lay down at midnight. There was absolutely no way for me to get comfortable. By 12:30 a.m., they were 3 minutes apart. I could barely catch my breath in between. But I was still able to focus on my breathing to get through them. We called the hospital and the on-call doctor told us to wait 30 minutes before coming in. We started packing up and left for the hospital.

We arrived at Munson Medical Center around 1 a.m. We went to triage to get checked in and there was some confusion with the ladies at the desk of the maternity ward. They told us to go to triage but it was dark and no one was in there. The triage nurse showed up and put us in a room. My surges were really strong at this point. I could not talk at all during them, just had to REALLY focus on breathing through it. They got me all hooked up with the monitors on the gurney and were timing my contractions, which were between 3 and 6 minutes apart. The nurse checked to see if I was dilated. My mom had already arrived at this point. She was sitting in the chair and Bryan was holding my hand. The nurse couldn’t find my cervix. The whole time I was contracting and  she was looking.

It was SO painful. I just laid back with tears pouring down my face while she dug around, trying to find my cervix, apologizing the whole time. “I’m so sorry, I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m sorry.”  She finally gave up and said she was going to call a different, more experienced nurse. She was not so gentle. She tried for another 10 minutes to find my cervix, to no avail. This was incredibly excruciating. She finally gave up and left. Bryan then asked my mom if he could have the chair, because he was about to faint. He was as white as a ghost. He said “I just can’t stand seeing you in so much pain.”  This made my mom and I burst out laughing. This really lightened the mood. He eventually excused himself to go splash water on his face. I was worried that they would send me home because it seemed clear to me that I was not dilated at all, but the nurse said since I was scheduled for induction the next day anyway, she doubted they would send me home. She checked with the on-call doctor and he said to admit us. It was 3:30 a.m.

Our first nurse, Deb was really sweet. I had told them that I wanted minimal monitoring and internal exams, so she never checked me. She was really supportive of my birth plan. We passed the hours strolling the hallway, bouncing on the ball, and on hands and knees in the bed. I had to be monitored for 20 minutes every hour. My surges were strong and steady. We knew our doctor was coming in at 7 a.m and we were anxiously awaiting her arrival, so that she could check my progress. Although my contractions were fast and furious, I was able to relax in between and laugh and joke around. Bry and my mom both napped a bit, but there was no resting for me. Dr. R didn’t come into the room until 10:30 a.m. She was busy delivering other babies!

My new nurse was named Kelly and I loved her. She knew that the baby wasn’t positioned properly and was having me flip from side to side in the fetal position every 10 minutes to try and get the baby to turn. This was a REALLY uncomfortable position to have a surge in, but I did it. I never really realized how important it was for the baby to flip. I thought I could still deliver him naturally even if he was facing the wrong way.

Dr. R finally came in and we were so happy to see her. She checked me and determined that I was 3, maybe 4 cm dilated. Then she “stirred things up a bit” and when she pulled her hand out, it was covered in blood and she quickly said,  “This is normal!” and then hid her hand behind her back. She said that she just got me to 5 or 6 cm and asked if I wanted her to break my water. She said she knew I wanted things to happen on their own, but that this would speed things up. I said yes, so she did.

It was not painful at all, and I felt a huge gush of warm water come out. She said that with my water broken, things should happen quickly, and left for a few hours. Dr. R had told me to hold off on getting into the tub until I was in transition, and that the tub would be my ‘drug’. All I could think about the whole time was getting in the tub. I wanted it so bad. When I felt like I really couldn’t take it anymore, we were sure I must be in transition. So we filled up the tub and I got in. I preferred laboring in the tub. My back labor was really out of control at this point. I wasn’t crying or yelling–just moaning through each one and rotating from hands and knees to reclined while Bry and my mom took turns spraying me with the shower head. I stayed in the tub for about 45 minutes and then got back to the bed. Our doctor came back to check me. I was only at 7 cm. How disappointing! And the baby still had not turned. She suggested I labor on the toilet. This was insanely painful and uncomfortable. She wanted me to do 10 contractions on the toilet. Kelly was leaving and a new nurse named Bev showed up. She was probably in her 60’s and also very sweet. Dr. R decided she would try and flip the baby while I was sitting on the toilet. This was by far, the most mind-numbingly painful thing I could possibly imagine. I was sitting on the toilet screaming, “Please stop please stop!!!”  I looked up to see my mom hiding behind Bryan in the room, both of them crying. She finally stopped and I was bawling. I was only able to get through 4 contractions on the toilet before I went back to the bed. At this point, I started throwing up. My contractions were so painful, that I was vomiting during them. I puked on the bed and almost on my mom. I kind of liked it, though, because I would throw up at the worst part of the contraction and it would take my mind off the pain.

I had decided that if I was not dilated any more the next time she checked me, that I would have to ask for a shot of Demerol. This was the last thing I had ever wanted to do, but I absolutely could not take it anymore. I wanted to be unconscious. I was so desperate. So she checked and I was still only 7 cm. Through tears I told them that I couldn’t do it anymore and that I wanted some pain meds. She suggested the toilet thing as a last ditch effort to get things moving because she knew how badly I wanted to deliver naturally. And she suggested we try it and if it didn’t work, they would get me the pain meds. I was so sad and felt like such a failure. Both nurses told me repeatedly how strong I was and how I shouldn’t feel bad because I had labored naturally for so long. I had done much more than many others do and I was not cheating myself out of the experience of birth, because I had definitely experienced it. They were so sweet and so supportive. Dr. R came back and strongly recommended that I get an epidural instead. She said that might help my labor progress and that they wanted to give me Pitocin anyway. She insisted it was the way to go. So I agreed to the epidural. I was still so scared of getting a needle and a tube in my spine, but I just didn’t care about anything anymore. I felt like I was going to be in labor forever.

The anesthesiologist got there pretty quickly. She explained that I would have to curl forward as far as I can and be completely still. Only Bry was allowed to be in the room for this. I was contracting as she was doing the epidural but I was so scared of screwing it up, I didn’t move a muscle. Once the drugs started flowing, I felt so much better. It was almost like I forgotten that I was in labor. I got bags of IV fluids, Pitocin, blood pressure medication, an internal contraction monitor, an external fetal heart rate monitor and a blood pressure arm bad. I couldn’t get up if I wanted to. I could still move my legs but I could not feel them very well. I got the epidural around 5:30 p.m. At one point, Bev went on break and a really sweet nurse named Stacy came in to check on us. She insisted I go to the bathroom and helped me walk to the bathroom and back.

Dr. R came back in around 7:30 p.m. to check me again–only 8 cm, and starting to swell. There was a ‘lip’ on my cervix that the baby kept ramming into. She left for a second and Bev explained to me that I needed to prepare for the possibility of a C-section. She stepped out for a second and I told my mom she was a Debbie Downer and no way was I having a C-section. I just didn’t think it was even a possibility. When Dr. R came back, she told me the same thing. I could not believe it. After everything I had been through, and all my hard work not only laboring for so long, but the months of preparation with hypnobirthing and perennial massage and all of the other things that I had done to prepare, how could this be happening to me? It just wasn’t fair!

Dr. R said that she wanted to try one more thing before they sent me for the c-section. She explained that she was going to try again to manually turn the baby but in order to get in there, I had to push really hard. I said, “I can do it. I swear. I can do anything you need me to. Please! Let me try, I don’t want a C-section!!!” Bev was really skeptical. I had such strong surge of energy and determination. I pushed so hard, over and over. Dr. R started cheering, “We’re doing it! You’re doing it!  You can do it!  We are turning the baby!  We are going to have a baby !  You did it!  You did it! He turned!  I just got you to 10 cm. Now 10 plus 2!!  We’re going to have a baby!” I was so happy. She cheered and yelled to everyone that we were going to have a baby and Bev said, “You’d better hurry! This is gonna happen soon!”

Dr. R came back with all her gear on with Nurse Jodi. It was approximately 8 p.m. and time to start pushing!

It was hard to tell when I was having a contraction because of the epidural. I could just barely feel them and kept asking if I was having one, because everyone else could see the monitor. Pushing was not painful, just strenuous. Dr. R was happy and jolly the whole time. Bev kept telling me what a great pusher I was and every time I would push, she would say, “Yeah that’s the one! That’s the push we want, right there. Good job!”  My mom was holding one leg, Bev the other and then every time I would have a surge, Bryan would lift up my shoulder and neck so I was all crunched up. I think we pushed for about an hour. After a while they would tell me that they could see his hair. I kept asking if they could see his face.  About half way through Bev said, “Feel your baby’s head!” and she grabbed my hand and put it on his head. This really gave me motivation to push more and harder. Dr. R was putting hot compresses and lotion on me to keep me from tearing. Bev suggested (or maybe it was Jodi) that when a surge starts, to take a few deep breaths before I push, so that I was pushing at the strongest point of the surge. This seemed to help a lot too.

When he was finally crowning, I could feel it. As he got further down I could feel him coming out. I think it was painful, but I really don’t remember. So it must have not been that bad. Two more big pushes and I delivered his head and then shoulders. I was so exhausted after the last push and I just wanted to lay back and relax but they said, “Jaclyn, grab your baby, grab your baby!”  I reached down and pulled this blue baby onto my chest. I couldn’t believe that it was over and I did it!  Bryan was right by my side the whole time saying, “Baby, you’re doing so good. Oh my god, I can see his head. You’re doing amazing honey.” There was no yelling but quiet encouragement throughout the whole thing.

Pretty quickly, they took him back, over to the counter with all the machines and were sucking out his nose and mouth and drying him off. My sweet son was born at 9:19 p.m. on March 11th, weighing  7 lbs and 13 oz. and almost 20 inches long, after 39 long hours of labor.

The labor and delivery did not go as I had planned, but in the end, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am so grateful to our amazing doctor who never gave up on us. I’m certain that most other doctors would have sent us to a C-Section. And to the nurses that treated us with such loving care, it really was a lovely experience, in spite of everything. As I await the birth of my second baby, I no longer fear the unknown and know that my body is completely capable of bringing a baby into this world. And I will try again for the “natural” birth experience that I had my heart set on with Brooks.

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!

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