A true labor of love: The birth of Liam
It has taken me awhile to get to a place where I can write down Liam’s birth story with affection. His birth was such a special event, but it took me some time to realize this! Of course I wanted to have this flawless, natural birth and be the woman who looked gorgeous and glowing right afterwards. And those stories do exist; I followed a few other women’s blogs that were due around the same time as me and was so jealous of their birth stories … only a few hours of labor, 10 minutes of pushing … You have to be kidding me! So here is my story, a true labor of love, which brought our perfect little boy into this world!
On my due date (Saturday), I lost my plug. I was so excited about this; I just knew that labor was not far off! I was really hoping things would get started right away, but that was not the case. I went about my day as usual, even made it to the gym. Nothing more happened until late Sunday night; I started having somewhat regular contractions, which became painful quite quickly! My labor started around midnight …
My contractions were anywhere from 5-15 minutes apart, which made sleeping impossible. I was in no hurry to get to the hospital; I planned on laboring at home for quite awhile. Around 4 a.m. I decided to shower to help with the pain, and also so I would be ready to go to the hospital when the time came. At 6 a.m. my contractions were still inconsistent. Conor and I decided to take an early morning walk on Alki Beach in hopes that my labor would progress. It was a beautiful calm morning. Conor didn’t want to walk too far from the car, but I was on a mission to get my contractions closer together. We walked about five miles that morning—wow!
That evening my contractions were starting to become more consistent, anywhere from 5-8 minutes apart. My parents arrived around midnight with lots of snacks, love and support! My mom brought fresh raspberries from our lake cabin to my bedside table and then lay down with me. She and Conor helped me get through the next few hours as my contractions finally became five minutes apart for an hour straight! I decided I was ready to head to the hospital!
I was so exhausted at this point, so I was more than happy for the next “step” towards having my baby. Once in triage they hooked me up to the monitors to see what kind of progress I was making. When the nurse came to check on me, she informed me that my contractions were six minutes apart, and they would like them to be closer to two or three minutes apart. Then she checked my cervix and told me I wasn’t dilated at all! How was this even possible? I had already been laboring for 24 hours! This was devastating. Putting my bags back in the car and driving home really crushed that initial “high” I had been experiencing.
We were back at my house about 4 a.m., so I once again tried to get some sleep. This was still impossible because my contractions were too close together. That morning (Tuesday), I had my weekly checkup. So at 8 a.m., Conor and I drove back to the hospital. We brought our bags just in case I had made more progress. My doctor could immediately tell that I was very uncomfortable, in pain and having contractions. She checked my cervix and I was 4 cm dilated! I was so happy I think I cried. This was great news considering I wasn’t dilated at all just hours earlier. She called over to the main hospital and told them to get a room ready for me; I was going to have my baby today!
At the hospital, I decided it was time to get in the Jacuzzi tub. A few women had told me that being in a tub had taken much of the pain away, lucky them. This was not the case for me. Conor and my mom held my hand, massaged my neck and talked me through each contraction. While in the tub, I broke down for the first time as the exhaustion and intense pain settled in. This is one of the more vivid moments I have from my birth experience. I remember seeing Conor and my mom’s eyes getting a little watery as well. I didn’t stay in the tub too long because it really didn’t help me feel better, and it was somewhat uncomfortable in there. I much preferred to labor in someone’s arms.
So the walking began again. Conor and my mom were so helpful in the process. Swaying back and forth with me, wiping my face off with a cold washcloth, offering me something to drink. They were my rocks. At times, the exhaustion seemed worse than the pain. I reached a point where I had no energy to continue walking the halls. Back in bed, a huge wave of nausea hit me. It came on so quickly, and I thought I was going to throw up instantly. Instead I just dry heaved for a few minutes and asked for an epidural. Both Conor and my nurse Diedre knew this isn’t what I really wanted, so they continued to support me while making no actions to get an anesthesiologist. Once the nausea passed, I was back on track and more driven than ever to have my baby naturally.
Around 6 p.m. my doctor came to check on me once more, hoping that I had made progress. When he told me that I was dilated to 8 cm, I was so happy! Somehow my body was doing this on its own, although at a slow rate. Then came the bad news: At the rate I was going, he expected it would take me another four hours till I was fully dilated and ready to push. Suddenly, my want of a natural birth was becoming less of a priority. Instead, I wanted Liam to come into this world as a healthy baby and to be aware in that moment. I shared these thoughts with Conor and Diedre and then asked for epidural, so that I might get some rest. It wasn’t in the middle of a contraction or in a moment of extreme pain. I had already been in labor for 42 hours without pain medication, and that was enough. The 10 or so minutes it took for the anesthesiologist to arrive were awful!
From this point on, everything was different. Now I had more doctors and nurses constantly monitoring me, I was hooked up to various machines, had an IV, wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything and was obviously restricted to my hospital bed. I was having a terrible contraction right when they were ready to give me my epidural, so I had to fight through it and stay as still as possible. This moment was incredibly difficult, but I knew that in a short amount of time I would be able to relax and focus on bringing a healthy baby boy into the world.
Along with an epidural, I also received Pitocin to try and get my contractions close together. This was something that I absolutely did not want during labor initially. However, things had changed, and I knew that my body could not handle many more hours of labor—so I agreed to this as well. Much of our birth plan had been compromised, but I had to do what I thought was best for Liam and me at this point.
It was just before 9 p.m. when I began to push. My doctor told me that on average it would take about 30 minutes to two hours of pushing. I, of course, thought I would be one of the lucky women who have their baby after only a few pushes … I could not have been more wrong! On top of it all, there was a shift change at this point, so the wonderful Diedre had to leave me, and I got a new nurse who wasn’t nearly as good. They prepped my room for delivery, and I thought my little boy would be in my arms shortly.
Pushing was much harder than I ever thought it would be. Each push took every bit of my energy, and I felt like I made little progress. I kept my eyes closed most of the time, trying to get in any kind of rest between pushes. I was so thirsty, and the ice chips just weren’t doing it for me. Everyone was so encouraging; I can distinctly remember hearing their voices with each push. I even felt my dad’s presence as he cheered me on from the back of the room. I pushed for two and a half hours, and Liam was still no closer to being born. He was stuck behind my pubic bone and wasn’t budging.
At this point, I spiked a bit of a fever, and Liam’s heart rate slowed slightly. Given the new circumstances and my utter exhaustion, Dr. Levine recommended that I get some assistance with this birth or that I might need a C-section. I remember looking into Conor’s eyes and thinking this is not what we wanted but knowing that I needed help. This was so far from what I had wanted this day and moment to be like. However, I had complete trust and faith in my doctor and respected his recommendations. He told me he could use a vacuum extractor to assist me in delivery. Conor ultimately asked the doctor what he felt was the best decision, and he informed us that the vacuum would give me the extra 20 percent push assistance that he felt I needed. I felt confident in my doctor as he was very experienced, and we set forth with this new plan of action.
There wasn’t much time to think about it all because they had the necessary equipment in my room right away. We were all nervous and anxious. With the vacuum placed on the small area of Liam’s head that we could see, I did two rounds of four pushes and still Liam was not coming out. At one point, the vacuum even popped off Liam’s head, which was incredibly scary. I later learned that the vacuum could easily pop off (so that doctors were not able to pull “too hard”). Finally, during what would be my last round of pushing, the doctor looked up and told us quickly that he needed to “make a little more room.” Although we were dreading this possibility, I trusted him and knew that meant I was at that moment getting an episiotomy. I nodded my head, even though I knew my epidural was wearing off and that this was definitely not part of the plan. After the doctor’s cut, I ended up tearing even more … “third degree” tearing (through the vaginal muscle). But I wasn’t thinking about the pain one bit because …
With that very push at 11:17 p.m. on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 … after 47 total hours of labor and more than two and a half hours of pushing, Liam entered into the world! My handsome boy was so perfect in every way. He weighed 8 pounds, 2.6 ounces and was 19 inches long. I immediately brought him to my bare chest, snuggled him and showered him with kisses, completely oblivious to anything else going on around me. Conor and I kept looking at him and then each other with huge tears of excitement and love in our eyes! Conor quickly placed his hand on the back of Liam’s head, so I was unable to see the large purple circle and swelling that was there from the vacuum. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Searing blue eyes. My little Liam!
Read more about Laura’s adventures through motherhood on her blog, Tiny Toes, Little Nose.
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Posted by Laura Keenan