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(Re)planning for perfection: The birth of Emerson Rose Epidural

(Re)planning for perfection: The birth of Emerson Rose

"During each contraction I used my breathing and focused on creating anesthesia within myself."

I am so excited to share Emerson’s birth story, not only because it was one of the most amazing moments of my life, but also because I am truly proud of it. I feel blessed because, although things did not go perfectly according my plan, I could not have asked for a better birth and a more perfect baby girl.

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To prepare for birth/labor I did the Hypnobabies Home Study course and would absolutely recommend it, along with doing research on your own and speaking with your doctor. There were some Hypnobaby recommendations that were not the best choice for Emerson (one example is the delayed cord clamping, which is not a good idea for babies with IUGR).

Additionally, if you are pregnant right now I encourage you to wait until AFTER your labor before reading my story. Each birth story is unique, valid and special, and there is no need to have someone else’s story in your head beforehand. With all that being said, here it goes!

At our 37-week appointment, we were advised that we should have our baby girl at no later than 39 weeks because babies with IUGR don’t do well in the womb past that point. (Quick medical summary: IUGR babies do not get the same amount of nutrients and oxygen that a non-IUGR baby would, so they stop thriving at a certain point and labor can be a bit tough on them. Gestation past 39 weeks is linked to a higher stillborn rate for IUGR, so we took the induction advice very seriously).

Even though we trusted the doctor’s advice, I was really, really upset. I had spent three months on bed rest trying to prevent pre-term labor, and now our birth team wanted her to come out now.

My doctor knew how much I wanted to avoid induction, so we stripped my membranes the last day of July in the hopes that it would kick-start labor. At that point I was 3 cm dilated. A week went by with us power walking, eating spicy food, and, ahem, doing other things to naturally speed the process—no luck. Amidst all of this my husband, Andy, came down with an ear infection and nasty cold. At our 38-week appointment, I was still at 3 cm, so the doctor stripped my membranes again, and we made the induction appointment for two days later.

With induction, the hospital puts you on a wait list starting at midnight, and as beds become available they call you. I’m a pretty detail-oriented person, and I hated the fact that I didn’t have a specific appointment time. It could be anytime from midnight to 8 a.m.—or even later if it’s a really busy night. All day Saturday we tried to rest, but that proved impossible, so we ended up being productive: doing some cleaning, getting the dog’s nails trimmed, etc.

Luckily, I have a friend at the hospital, and she found out that we were first on the induction list because we were a medical versus elective induction. That put my mind at ease a bit.

Towards the end of Saturday, I was restless yet tired, so I decided to use up this Groupon I had at DryBar and get my hair blown out. I felt pretty ridiculous when they asked if I had a special occasion and I said, “Oh, I’m getting induced tonight.” Especially since the girls next to me were going to the Justin Timberlake concert. But, according to my stylist, lots of women get their hair done before they go into labor. And honestly, I would do it again next time! I felt awesome afterwards, and I didn’t have to wash my hair while I was at the hospital.

After the salon, I picked up some spicy Mexican takeout (couldn’t hurt right?!) and went home to the hubby. We had our last meal as the two of us together and watched The Other Woman. Clearly, I decided to milk my last day of pregnancy by picking out a girly chick flick!

Around 11 p.m., we both drifted off to sleep, and then right at midnight, we got the call from the hospital: It was time! We already had everything packed up and were ready to go. We got into the car, and I felt excited, nervous, apprehensive, but also ready. I had a Hypnobabies Birthing Day Affirmation track to listen to, so we popped that in and listened to it on the car ride over. It was one of the most helpful tracks that I listened to during labor (although technically I wasn’t in labor yet, but still it mentally helped calm me).

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A little bit before 1 a.m., we got to the hospital and checked in. I was 4 cm at that point, and felt a little cheered that I was 1 cm closer than I was the day before.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I wanted a completely medication-free pregnancy and labor. Then I ended up having a fairly complicated pregnancy filled with lots of different medications, but I was still hopeful for a medication free delivery. However, I ended up needing to be induced, which starts with the medication Pitocin (at least in my case because I was already dilated).

Because I had been practicing Hypnobabies, which is geared toward a medication-free birth, the use of Pitocin was probably the No. 1 thing I wanted to avoid, even more so then an epidural. Overall, my experience with Hypnobabies was amazing and helped me so much; however, in the reading materials there was a lot of negative feedback toward Pitocin, and it scared me out of my mind when I found out I had to receive the drug. Pitocin stimulates contractions that are supposedly more intense and frequent than if your body naturally starts labor. Luckily, I had two weeks to accept that Pitocin would be a part of my labor, and I spent it Googling “positive induction stories” in an effort to change the story I previously had in my head.

Anyway, there I was at the hospital getting hooked up to fluids, followed by Pitocin around 3 a.m. We had a great night nurse, and after getting all the initial paperwork filled out, she left us alone except for a little monitoring. The contractions slowly started and felt similar to what I had been experiencing for three-plus months with my pre-term labor.

At that point, I wanted to relax a bit because they told us that induced labor generally takes about 12-plus hours following the start of Pitocin.  I turned the TV on, and one of my favorite movies ever was on: What Lies Beneath with the dreamy Harrison Ford. I took it as a good omen and grabbed a lollipop that we packed earlier and settled into the bed.

The contractions gradually increased, and my stomach was also a bit upset during this time meaning a lot of bathroom trips, which isn’t that much fun when you have a million cords to drag along with you. During each contraction I used my breathing and focused on creating anesthesia within myself.

At around 7:30 a.m. they decided to break my water because I was only 5 cm dilated. This act intensified everything A LOT. I needed my Hypnobabies tracks and my birthing ball. I wasn’t allowed to get in the tub because I needed continuous monitoring for the baby’s heart. This is when I would say it felt real. I had to take each contraction (which felt like a wave of pressure) as it came and focus solely on the moment.

Moving around helped a lot, even if only subtle movements on the bed. It’s funny because when I visualized my birth, I wanted to have the freedom to walk around, use the tub, squat—basically move as much as possible—but once it was happening I really just needed my bed and the ball.

Andy was absolutely amazing during my whole labor, but especially once my water was broken. He somehow knew exactly what to say and do, which included putting a cold wash cloth on me, rubbing my back or neck and whispering some of our cue Hypnobaby words such as “release,” “loose” and “open.”

Unfortunately, around 9 a.m. our daytime nurse, Sandy, who was fantastic, said that every time I moved they lost the monitoring on the baby, so I had to lie completely flat on my back in bed from here on out.

I tried so hard to remain still, but I will say at this point I was in real pain. I read a few birth stories before about contractions feeling “bigger than you” and think that describes what I was experiencing perfectly. The contractions were only giving me a minute or two in between them. I started throwing up and shivering while also trying to stay on my back. Andy had alcohol wipes I kept smelling to help with the nausea and nonstop fresh little pink bowls for me to throw up in. At this point, I wanted the Hypnobaby scripts off, and Andy put on a playlist I made.

During each wave I made a really low “Ahhh/Ohhhhmmm” sort of sound to relax my jaw and stomach. I really gave it all I had, and when Sandy came back in to say I was still moving too much, I told her I needed an epidural if they needed me to stay THAT still. Off Sandy went to grab the anesthesiologist.

We had to get my fluid intake up a bit because I had accidentally been laying on my IV of fluid. I told myself I could make it through five more waves MAX, and no joke at the end of my fourth one, the anesthesiologist was back in the room to set up the epidural. Our nurse Sandy held me in a bear hug while he put the epidural in, and I had to experience quite a few waves while he got it situated. That bear hug was truly amazing and made it possible for me to get through the process.

Sandy said she would check me soon and really hoped I was at 6 cm—and that it would probably be three or four more hours before I had to push. I told her that I hoped I was a 6 too, and Andy chimed in that he thought I had to at least be an 8 based on what he saw right before the epidural.

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Once my epidural was fully working (heavenly), Sandy returned to check me; I was a 9! The nurse and I were so surprised, and Andy had just texted our families that it was still a few hours away. I was most likely in transition right before and during the epidural, which is likely why getting the epidural was also so hard since it too required me to stay still.

The nurse told me she thought that if I weren’t on Pitocin and being continuously monitored, I could have made it through without the epidural, which makes me hopeful for the next birth. (Big side note here: Having a medication-free birth was a personal desire, but in no way do I think an unmedicated birth is better or more admirable then a medicated one. It’s just something I hope to experience with one of my future pregnancies.)

Our doctor was due to come in and check on us, and once she checked down there she very casually said, “OK, time to push!” I panicked! I thought I had three more hours, and all of the sudden everyone in the room was scrubbed up and preparing the bed with foot rests. Andy very hurriedly texted the families, “It’s GO time!” which completely confused them since we just told them not to come for a few more hours.

The one bad part of getting the epidural so late was that I was completely numb. The hubby held one leg and our nurse held the other, and they all coached me on pushing and how to feel it from my chest since I felt nothing down below. I had these little handlebars that I had to grab onto and pull my chest up with each push. Halfway through they turned the epidural completely off, but I stayed numb until after she was born.

Throughout all of the monitoring, baby girl’s heart rate wasn’t awesome. It wasn’t scary enough (yet) for a C-section, but it wasn’t where the doctor wanted it to be. They had an oxygen mask on me this whole time to help. I need to pause a second here and say again how great my hubby is. He knew exactly what to do while I was pushing and knew what I needed to hear each time. The pushing part wasn’t physically painful at all, but it was a mental workout and a challenge with my breathing.

At some point, I got to feel her head with my hand, but when they asked if I wanted a mirror to see it, I said, “No way!” The hubby, on the other hand, checked everything out, and seeing the tears in his eyes as we got closer and closer to meeting our baby girl was so much motivation for me to keep going.

Eventually our doctor said I needed to push baby girl out with the next one, or she was going to have to use the vacuum. Somehow, that’s all I needed to hear, and before I knew it, she was out! She was completely smothered in vernix and let out a few loud cries filling me with relief!

 

They plopped her on me while they wiped her down and then had to take her away quickly to do some tests for the IUGR to confirm if she needed a trip to the NICU. The tests all happened in the room, so I was able to watch from my bed. Andy stayed with her. They confirmed she was in the ninth percentile, which qualifies for IUGR, but was doing amazingly.

Once our beautiful baby girl passed all her additional tests with flying colors (Atta girl!), we were left alone, just the three of us for a little bit. I was hoping she would nurse immediately, but it didn’t end up happening until several hours later, which wasn’t a big deal. We were, and continue to be, overwhelmed with love and gratitude for our beautiful little girl. Any frustration I had felt with my pregnancy literally melted away at the sight of her. I felt more love for my husband then than I ever have. (And I already loved him quite a bit!) All in all, I had a perfect labor. The Pitocin was not the horrendous drug that I was worried it would be. If anything I think popping my bag of waters was when things intensified, and I don’t feel any negativity about having an epidural. It went exactly how it should have gone.  She was worth every single pregnancy challenge I experienced, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat for this little one.

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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!