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Labor day jitters: The birth of Lucy Epidural

Labor day jitters: The birth of Lucy

"I gave myself a deadline and told them that I would be going for the epidural if I had to endure labor for longer than an hour."

I brought the crew and my grandma to my scheduled 38-week ultrasound. My belly was measuring small, as it did during my previous pregnancies. The ultrasound showed a perfect head with ventricles, a four chambered heart and normal amniotic fluid level … yet the tech said the baby’s weight was 5 pounds, 15 ounces—the same as it was two weeks ago.

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I did not believe it. Since they use biparietal diameter (head size), abdominal measurement and femur length to “estimate” weight, it can be hard for third trimester ultrasounds to determine it accurately. My OB said she would not let me go past 39 weeks with the above measurements, even though my fluid level was normal.

She wanted me to schedule an induction for July 1. However, I wanted a natural birth … so I asked for six days to do this on my own. She then proceeded to perform my first cervical check. I was only at 2 centimeters. In the past, I have gone into spontaneous labor within five to seven days after a cervical check showing 2 centimeters! This time around, my OB asked if she could “strip the membranes.” What? I am a doctor myself, but I think this is one of those topics I shoved out of my mind. It was uncomfortable but bearable.

She had me schedule a follow-up appointment on Monday (four days later) and said that she would be on call that night—so it would be a good night to deliver. I was not a believer, but I decided that if I still hadn’t delivered by Monday, I would choose my baby’s welfare over my fear of induction.

I felt that the Braxton Hicks contractions were different after the OB visit. Instead of the tightening ball of pain all over my belly when I overexerted myself or just stood for a long time, I started to have cramps from the bottom of my belly, sometimes radiating up. I told myself that I could be in pre-labor for hours—or even days—so I did not get my hopes up.

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I remember Derrick kissing me goodbye as he left for work early on Friday. I woke up just past 8 a.m. without any belly soreness or contractions and thought, Nope, not having the baby today. I was supposed to go in and see a patient at the hospital. Officially, my clinic was already closed for my maternity leave. My boss told me not to come in (“You do not need to be delivering at the Peds ICU!”), so I worked from home.

I made a Filipino soup (sinigang) and added my favorite veggies. I graded medical students’ notes for their clinical skills exam. I was so proud of myself for finishing all the grading while eating lunch! I had been having contractions but did not think much of them.

After lunch, I was resting on the couch and began to truly pay attention to my contractions—they were five or six minutes apart and 30 seconds long. I was texting my sister at that point and totally freaked out when I realized this must be IT! I had to go to the bathroom because of the anxiety, which was making me feel hot and cold at the same time. I called Derrick’s cell and his work number without any luck, and I freaked out even more. I remembered the pain of my previous deliveries and continued to panic … until I remembered to pray. I called St. Lucy. I called St. Therese and two male saints (names we had picked out in case baby No. 4 was a boy), but I was still panicking.

I remembered that my hospital bag wasn’t fully packed, so I went upstairs to finish that. Derrick messaged me and said he was in a meeting that would be finishing up in five minutes. I told him to come home afterward.

Once I had calmed my nerves, the contractions were still there and about four to five minutes apart—but not as painful. Derrick came home, and I was on the phone with the OB clinic’s staff. It was 3:30 p.m., and I knew that, as a courtesy, I should notify them that I was in early labor. The nurse practitioner said to come in and that they would check me. What? I was hoping she would just have me call when they were two to three minutes apart. I did not expect to be summoned!

But I was a good patient, so Derrick and I loaded our bags and headed to the OB clinic. I saw my OB, who was finishing a full Friday clinic after an overnight call—she looked tired but still cheery. She checked me and … I was only at 3 centimeters!

So, of course, I was sent home. I asked Derrick when he expected the baby to arrive, and he said after midnight. Oh my … I did not think I could make it past midnight while enduring all the pains of labor.

Photo Jun 26, 9 22 03 PM aI finally had the appetite to eat some dinner. Was that a good idea or a bad one? It was a good idea in that it sped things along—it must have been my bowels moving at the same time as the contractions, which were increasing in strength and frequency. It was a bad idea because of what will happen later.

In between trips to the bathroom, I told Derrick to call the OB clinic. My contractions were two minutes apart and one minute long, so that call was just a formality—we left in a hurry. I paused before I hopped inside the car, bracing for another contraction with the camera hanging around my neck. (I thought I had packed it already but saw it on our way out.) With every single contraction I was worried that my water would break and mess up Derrick’s car. I made him grab his emergency blanket in the trunk to cover the passenger seat.

We made it safely to the south entrance, and rode the elevator  to the Labor and Delivery floor. Apparently it was one busy day at the wards! I got to my room around 8 p.m. and kept asking Derrick if I could have the epidural. Then I asked the nurse and the OB on call. They were all very encouraging and told me that I could go either way. I was afraid that I wouldn’t know how to push while numb, but the OB said that my body would remember what to do. I gave myself a deadline and told them that I would be going for the epidural if I had to endure labor for longer than an hour.

I changed into the fancy gown and waited to be checked again. I prayed, Please, dear God, I hope I am at least close to 7 centimeters. The tocometer was placed on my belly. I had a feeling I was not at the transition phase but I asked the RN anyway. She said contractions were still two to three minutes apart. Oh my, I knew that the worst pain was yet to come. She checked me around 8:15 p.m. I was 6-7 centimeters dilated.

Afterward, another RN  prepped the delivery table with the towels, sutures and assorted tools. The OB came in and we had a discussion about the epidural and pushing—she said that the pain would intensify once my water broke, but that the transition phase would go pretty quickly at that point. Around 8:45, she said we would do another cervical check in 15 minutes and that she suggested artificially rupturing the membranes if I had not progressed.

I did not quite make it to 9 p.m.—the contractions were much stronger and at a 10 out of 10 in pain. They called the OB, and she got ready to do a cervical check. She said she didn’t feel any cervix  I silently praised the Lord in delight.

 

She asked if she could break the bag of waters, and I agreed. I heard her say that the amniotic fluid was stained with meconium (just like with Sebastian) and to call pediatrics. I said that I had to push, but they had me wait until the pediatrics team came. I raised my legs up with my husband supporting one and an RN holding another … and if you are not comfortable reading about bodily fluids, you might want to skip the next part.

One of my pet-peeves is not having privacy when I’m going to the bathroom. Urinating is fine … but having a BM with my children running around the bathroom is unacceptable. I start teaching them about privacy very early on.

When I strained to push, guess what came out before the baby? Yup, you nailed it. I had just eaten dinner a few hours before and hadn’t emptied my bowels since calling the OB. Yuck. But the medical folks were ready for such a thing. Laboring moms having bowel movements during delivery is actually very common … I just did not want to be one of them.

I pushed with a contraction, and my OB told me to slow down and ease the power. I took a deep breath and tucked my chin to my chest before pushing again. I held it for 5-8-10 seconds.

The pressure …

The burning sensation …

The OB and RN said, “You’re doing a good job. Push again! There’s the head … one more good one!” Then I felt the weird sensation of something sliding out—there’s the head! I gave another push and felt the shoulders come out … and then the rest of her.

I was so tired that I didn’t even look down. I don’t remember who said it first, but I heard, “It’s a girl!” I asked if she was blue, and my OB said, “No, she’s all pink.” I don’t even remember Derrick cutting the cord, but he said that he did. I was so exhausted.

Thankfully, the rest of the birth story is unremarkable. Pediatrics did not have to do anything extra for Lucy, and the neonatalogist introduced herself and said that everything was OK. The placenta came out with tons of cramping and some pushing, and then I had to have my sutures.

Derrick brought Lucy to me, and I just cried … seeing her and holding her made the pain worth it.

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I was exhausted and happy that it was all over. I told them I couldn’t believe I had been such a wimp, but the RN objected. I guess I had just pushed out an almost 7-pound baby without any pain medication … but in my mind, letting anxiety kick in made me feel like a wimp. If I ever do this again, I will have to re-learn some major breathing and relaxation techniques … or just have that epidural.

I’m now a mama of four … wow!

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!