"On the fourth or fifth contraction, the doctor noted that the baby’s heart was showing signs of distress and that we were running out of time."
My husband Clay and I were ready for baby Vivian to arrive. Besides being pregnant ALL summer—a rite-of-passage on its own—we had taken a birth class series, signed up for a breastfeeding seminar, and even attended a doula meet and greet where we found and hired our fabulous doula, Kathleen, for delivery day. So when I went to my midwife practice for my routine checkup at 38 weeks, on Wednesday, September 8, I expected nothing but routine.
At the appointment, the midwife on duty that day requested I get a sonogram
to make sure I had enough amniotic fluid. It was scheduled for the next day, and I returned with husband in tow. The doctor who read the sonogram said that although I had enough amniotic fluid, there was concern because I had not gained weight in almost two weeks and labeled the baby IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction).
In addition, my placenta was working perfectly normal, but it was a grade of 3 plus, common for mothers of advanced maternal age. At 37, I was two years deep into being labeled advanced maternal age. It was explained to me in layman terminology that because of my age, my placenta had a tendency to get older more quickly than someone under the age of 35—and potentially expire before the babe was born. Because of this combination, it was recommended I have the baby over the weekend or get monitored every other day to make sure the baby was not in distress.
After consultation with the midwife and doctor on call, we decided I could wait one week—but no more—to see if the baby would come naturally before being induced. We went home and went about our weekend, but it was tough. We stayed busy by doing all of the things that would be on temporary hiatus once our baby girl arrived. One night we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Its eggplant parmesan is famous for helping expectant moms start labor. Another night we went on one of our favorite date night rituals—appetizers and a movie. Despite these fun activities, I started to think I was second guessing myself and wondering why the baby wasn’t growing anymore inside her comfy home. On Sunday, I called the midwife on duty and made an appointment to come in Monday morning to have the baby monitored three days before our one week was up.
At the midwife appointment, they hooked me up to a monitor to read the baby’s heartbeat. It was ticking beautifully, but it was suggested I get checked in to the hospital to begin induction because there was no way to know why the baby wasn’t growing anymore and how much longer my placenta would function properly. Because I was already nervous and second guessing myself, I agreed to check in that evening. My decision was made slightly easier knowing the baby would still be considered full term.
I went home and called Clay to let him know we were going to the hospital to begin labor that evening. He came home earlier than usual due to excitement and overall jitters. We wasted the next few hours by creating a belly cast of my belly using a kit I’d purchased months earlier. After all, it was now or never! We heated up leftovers for dinner and packed our bags. Once rush-hour traffic died down, we were off.
We checked into the birth center at 8 p.m. and settled in. At 11 p.m. I was given Cervidil, a vaginal insert used to help start contractions. Shortly after I began to have regularly spaced contractions, but I still managed to sleep some. Clay slept with me in the twin bed overlooking the downtown Atlanta skyline.
The next morning the Cervidil insert was taken out, and I had a balloon catheter put inside me to help dilate my cervix. After a few hours, I was also given Pitocin to help continue contractions. This went on all day and into the evening. At 6 p.m. we had a midwife change. At that time it was decided, in consultation with the new midwife on duty, that I would be taken off the Pitocin and given an IV drip of pain medicine, so I could sleep some. I was exhausted. According to Clay, I continued to have contractions through the night, but I was still able to get several hours of rest.
Early Wednesday morning I felt pretty refreshed. I began to labor naturally without any additional medication. Eventually, we were able to easily remove the balloon catheter. I moved to the shower and labored there for quite some time. Clay got in and helped me out, mainly providing support by rubbing my back and spraying the nozzle on my belly.
I was also able to labor in the birthing tub for several hours, making loads of progress. I remember that while I couldn’t really talk or participate in conversation at this point, I was able to effectively ask for ice chips and juice. These items would become my new favorite food group for the next 12 hours. At some point my labor stalled, so I moved to the bed and was hooked up to more Pitocin to keep contractions coming.
Eventually, they realized that baby girl was facing “sunny side up.” Somehow she had turned during labor. I was given an IV drip of more pain medicine to get some rest and ease the pain. I was having difficulty getting her through my pubic bone and needed help. We decided to get a vacuum assist from the doctor on call.
On the fourth or fifth contraction, the doctor noted that the baby’s heart was showing signs of distress and that we were running out of time. The next push, I pushed harder than I’ve ever done before, and her head appeared. One more push and she was out and placed on top of my belly—eyes wide open staring right at me. It was possibly the coolest moment and definitely the most surreal moment of my life.
Vivian Rose Beers presented herself to the world at exactly 10 p.m. on September 14—50 hours after first checking in to the hospital to have her. She was a healthy 6.6 pounds and 18.5 inches long. She ended up arriving a mere two hours before her due date. She had a nice sized hematoma on her head, her “battle wound” that would clear up within the first month of her life.
Through this magical birth experience, I learned that while it’s great that Clay and I didn’t have an inflexible birth plan, we certainly had not planned for the sequence of events we dealt with. I never lost my mucus plug on my own or had my water break naturally. And I didn’t get to labor at home for as long as possible before heading to the hospital. While I wouldn’t trade my story for the world, Clay and I definitely reminisced about not being prepared for our story. Thankfully the nurses and midwives at the birth center, as well as our doula, provided the best support and proved to be the best cheerleaders we could have ever hoped for.
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 email@example.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!