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Slow to start: The birth of Garrity Epidural

Slow to start: The birth of Garrity

"So I started pushing. And pushing is weird—so, so weird."

IMG_4726I was induced 10 days after my due date. My doctor would have let me go to 42 weeks before induction, but at this point I was 41-and-a-half weeks pregnant; I’d tried every natural way to induce labor and had waited long enough. I couldn’t take the anticipation anymore. As much as I’d wanted to have this baby naturally, I had finally accepted it wasn’t going to happen.

We checked in a few minutes past 6 p.m. on Wednesday, February 26 and headed to our room. Our nurse explained that I would get an IV and then start a round of Cervidil, which is a prostaglandin that would be used to help soften and hopefully dilate my cervix. The medicine is inside this flat, almost straw-like wrapper but it’s attached to a long, thick string. The entire thing has to go as close to my cervix as possible, meaning half of the nurse’s arm was up inside me, and it wasn’t pleasant.

By then it was 8 p.m., and they offered me some Ambien to help me sleep … I think I maybe got four hours. The next morning around 7 a.m., we met our new nurse, Jane. At this point I think I had my vitals checked and was having some cramping or maybe tiny, tiny contractions. Around 8 a.m., Jane and the doctor on call came in and removed the Cervidil, which was a very unpleasant process. The doctor checked my cervix (very painful because the Cervidil really dries things up in there) and told me I was not at all dilated and about 80 percent effaced. So basically the Cervidil had done absolutely nothing.

Going into this I knew this wasn’t going to be easy—but hearing that I was going to have to endure another 12 hours of this sucked. I just wanted to meet my daughter! So I ate and showered and got ready for a long day.

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Jane came in later to insert the new Cervidil at 10 a.m., and this was incredibly painful. I prepared myself for another 12 hours much like the first—some cramping and maybe light contractions. I lay down in my bed, and my husband Chris and I watched a little TV. Just when I was starting to think about putting on a movie, all of the sudden I started getting legitimate contractions, about every one to two minutes. For someone who had had zero contractions up to this point, I started to get a little nervous. I should also mention that every contraction was in my back. Yes, I had the dreaded “back labor,” and it sucked!

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It was around this time that I had Chris call my mom and see where she was. She was on her way down from Olympia, Washington, and luckily she was only about 30 minutes away—so Chris headed down to get lunch and meet my mom.

By the time my mom and Chris got back, the contractions were getting more intense and probably happening about every 45 seconds. I was sitting on the birthing ball at this point, and my mom came in and started massaging and applying pressure to my back. Chris sat on the other side of the bed and held my hands, but the pain was still so bad. Nurse Jane had been monitoring me the whole morning, and by that point, she recommended I get a “sleep aid” because I needed to get some rest. Remember, we’re only about 16 hours total into this process and about two-ish hours into a 12-hour round of Cervidil. “Real” labor won’t happen until we finish the Cervidil. I started to get a little frantic because while I was adamant that I didn’t want any drugs that cross the placenta, I was also in horrible pain and knew that my body was not going to make it if I didn’t do something. Jane ordered the drugs, and I found out this “sleep aid” was actually morphine. I had never taken pain meds in my entire life, and I was really upset that not only was I now going to take them—but I was also going to give them to my baby! But kudos to Jane, she promised me this would not hurt the baby. Plus she was monitoring me the whole time (heart rate never changed), and said if she was in my position she would have taken it. So I agreed. Also around this point, I puked. Not sure if it was after the morphine or before because of the pain, but it was gross.

I maybe got about 10-15 minutes of relief from the pain before I began feeling the contractions as strong as ever. Seriously. Morphine? And it still felt like this?

After a while with no relief and contractions about every 30 seconds, Jane told us about more pain relief options. By this point I already felt horrible for taking the morphine, and I really didn’t want to take any more drugs that crossed the placenta. However, this pain was out of control, and I still had hours to go. Again, Jane and the doctor reassured me that another pain medicine would not hurt the baby, and I felt reassured again when I saw that her heartbeat never dropped. They gave me Fentanyl (another narcotic). If it worked, they could give me more every hour through the rest of the Cervidil. However—no relief! At this point I just couldn’t believe what was going on. I went from no contractions, no labor signs—to this. Let’s just say no amount of classes or books could have prepared me for this type of labor.

Finally Jane said they were going to check me again to see if my cervix was at all dilated. If so, I could get Pitocin and actually get this thing moving somewhere. It was horrible. I remember holding on to Chris’ hand for dear life, waiting for the pain to go away.

And then it did. All of a sudden, Jane announced that I was 1.5 cm dilated and then removed the Cervidil (hence all the pain). I was both incredibly relieved to be dilated but also in disbelief. After four hours of the most pain I’d ever been in in my life, I was dilated the same amount that most of my friends were the last couple weeks of their pregnancies.

Jane took charge of the situation and told me I was going to get an early epidural. Heading to the hospital, I wanted to make it to about 5 or 6 cm dilated before the epidural, but at this point, all I could think was SIGN. ME. UP.  I was so tired physically and emotionally, not to mention tired that none of the pain medicine I had taken was doing anything for my pain, so I was 100 percent on board with this plan.

Then Toby the anesthesiologist came in. I’d heard stories about how bad getting the epidural could be and how people ended up with one numb leg or back pain … I had none of that. The whole process was so smooth. They waited until my contractions had passed, and then Toby went about his business. Thank goodness the epidural started working pretty quickly. It was amazing. For the first time since the first round of Cervidil, I was not in pain. I could barely feel contractions–just a little bit of pressure in my back. It was glorious. I will tell you right now that any ideas about wanting to try to do this thing a little bit natural were tossed out the window, and I was OK with that.

They came to check me again, and I was already dilated to 3 cm! Things were finally moving along. I climbed back into bed and tried to get some rest, but there was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself to sleep. Chris, my mom and Jane tried to be quiet, but I just couldn’t drift off. Plus, how was I supposed to sleep when the biggest event of my life was about to occur?

So I lay in bed for about four hours. At around 7 p.m., Jane came in and said they were going to start a little bit of Pitocin because my contractions had died down just a bit.

At 8 p.m., the doctor on call came in to check me and—low and behold—I was at 9 cm! Nine! I went from 3 to 9 cm in about five hours. My horrible, dragged-out labor had suddenly made a change for the better. The doctor said she’d come back in an hour and then we’d get ready to push. She said I was going to have this baby tonight!

The nurse came in at 9 p.m. to get the room ready and check me again, and I was officially at 10 cm. I started pushing at 9:10. All of a sudden my water shot out across the room (into the aptly named “splash zone”). I didn’t see this part but Chris did. The doctor said my water had broken but hadn’t actually come out of me because baby girl’s head was so low that it held it in place. Crazy.

So I started pushing. And pushing is weird—so, so weird. Because I had the epidural, I still really couldn’t feel anything. It took a while to get into a decent rhythm but I think I finally did. Either that, or the doctor and nurse made me feel good by saying I was doing a good job. Also, pushing feels a lot like pooping. That’s the only way I can describe it. And when you feel like that, things come out of you. It’s totally mortifying and awkward, but you just have to do your best to get over it. We finally got to the point where the doctor said to stop doing long pushes and just do some short pushes.

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At 9:53 p.m., my daughter was born. And she cried. They placed her on my chest, and my world changed forever. I was expecting to cry and get really emotional, but I didn’t. I don’t think Chris did either. We just looked at each other and at our daughter. At least for me, that whole crazy pregnancy journey was over, and it was so surreal. It had finally happened. This little girl who we had tried and tried for was finally here. And she was mine. On my chest. I was a mom! Pretty amazing.

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We did skin-to-skin for an hour before they did any of her weight and measurements. It was kind of a blur. I do know that they delivered my placenta, and they had to stitch me up (I had a second degree tear … no fun!), but I didn’t feel any of that thanks to the epidural and my brand new bundle of joy. Eventually they took her away and weighed her. She was 7 pounds, 8 ounces, 20.5 inches long and had a 14-inch head. They cleaned her up, gave her a bath and then gave her to Chris while they checked on me a bit. Let me tell you, seeing your husband hold your baby is an incredible sight—one I’d been waiting for a long time.

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And there you have it folks. The story of how Garrity was born—the story of one of the most incredible journeys of my life. Chris and I were talking about it a couple of weeks after she was born: It was during my birthday weekend on April 29th the previous year that we were told we couldn’t have a baby naturally. Now, and all of a sudden, here we were just about two months away from my 32nd birthday with our daughter. Talk about faith—and fate. And the fact that things always seem to work out how they’re supposed to.

IMG_4517Keep up with Whitney’s stories about being a new mom on her blog, Adventures in Mamahood.

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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