Awarding myself the silver: The birth of Donovan
It was one day past my due date, and I was not doing well emotionally.
People kept telling me, “Have the baby on this day because it’s ____.” “Do ____, it helped induce my labor.” And worst of all, “It’s okay, I was LATE with my child.” I would not have considered going one day past my due date to be such a terrible thing if other people hadn’t spent so much time saying as much. The average gestational period for a first time mom is 41 weeks! But it didn’t matter—I’ve never been a person blessed with patience, and I just wanted my baby. It felt like I was being inconvenient to other people’s lives, jobs, circumstances, etc. And I hated that feeling.
Finally, I had a doctor’s appointment and, for the second week in a row, I was 3 cm dilated, 80-90% effaced and told, “I don’t think you’ll be here much longer.” The doctor gave me a “gentle” membrane sweep and monitored my contractions. They were not very productive, so I was sent home and told to call if I didn’t go into labor by the morning.
The rest of the day was spent with me in utter emotional horror, crying and trying again every known method of natural induction (except castor oil, from which I’d been forbidden, since I tried unsuccessfully that Sunday and just ended up angry and with no contractions) and I just knew none of it would work.
My husband and I went to bed that night with a special prayer—to remember that it was in God’s hands and to let things happened as He saw fit. Beforehand, we had prayed “please let us have the baby soon/today.” But that night, we did not pray that, we just prayed that we would have the wisdom and the patience to deal with whatever God saw fit. If that meant considering some sort of medical induction for my emotional well-being, so be it. I went to bed that night knowing that God would give me the answers, one way or the other.
I woke up at around 3:30 a.m. with an urge to use the bathroom. I kept getting in and out of bed, trying to go. I was irritated and sleepy and not happy. I had no cramps, no contractions, nothing but an urge to go to the bathroom. A little before 4:30, I was sitting on the toilet when I heard a distinct *pop* that sounded like a bone breaking. I stood up and fluids gushed out of me. I’d already had a “my water broke” scare the previous weekend, and it had just ended with me feeling embarrassed because it amounted to nothing, so I thought, “Ugh, not again!” I thought I had peed myself or had some wonderfully inconvenient discharge. I put on a little pantyliner just in case.
I laid back in bed and woke up my husband to let him know I had had more fluid but that I wasn’t getting my hopes up. Then I stood up and it kept coming. I had to change undergarments three times in five minutes, and I knew it was the real thing. Then the contractions started coming like a Ferrari – from 0 to 60 in three seconds! They were immediately extremely intense, two minutes apart—and I hopped in the shower really quick for some relief. I told Daniel to call the doctor and tell him we were on our way to the hospital and wanted a room with a jacuzzi.
He made me some eggs and toast so I’d have energy throughout labor. I scarfed them down quickly. We called our parents—my dad and his mom both eagerly answered on the first ring—and they got on their way. I called my doula—a CNA and best friend who had attended two previous births. She didn’t answer her phone, but I shrugged it off, intending to call her again at 7 a.m. After all, I was only in early labor, right?
We were out the door with our (thankfully) pre-packed hospital bag at around 4:50 a.m. and at the hospital by 5:08 a.m. I’ll never forget wearing my cutest casual dress and waddling up to the door with fluid dripping down my legs and a huge wet spot on the front of my dress. The nurse saw me coming and just said, “Oh boy.” Thank goodness for pre-registration!
I immediately got out of that dress and into a hospital gown, and they started asking me questions. My contractions at this point had only one minute between them, and they were completely situated at the bottom of my uterus. I did not feel them in my back or at the front, but each one made me feel like something was ripping apart my cervix. I was checked, and again, I was still only a “tight” 3 cm, fully effaced, and baby was at 0 station. It was horribly discouraging, and I thought, “Well, I’ll be here forever.” Then, worse—I was told both rooms with a jacuzzi were taken. There was not even a shower in my room. That was the worst thing ever! I was disheartened immediately—I’d really looked forward to using water as a part of my natural birth.
I was hooked up to monitor my contractions and the baby’s heart rate, and the nurses were shocked and amazed at how intense the contractions were. I wasn’t really able to verbalize a lot, and the worst part of everything was when they were asking me questions. I absolutely did not want to talk and I wanted people who weren’t there actively helping me through labor to shut the heck up. She asked me my height, and I answered “22.” Great!
Then, I threw up all over the floor—eggs and toast part two. It was a sign of transition—but for all I knew, I was still at 3 cm and would be for the rest of the day. My mom had just come in during this part, and she looked disgusted and horrified. I had Daniel send her out, because I could just feel her negative energy. Another nurse came in to put in the required heparin lock, but mentioned to me that if I allowed saline fluids, it would help with my uterine irritability. I agreed and didn’t see the harm in extra fluids.
Then, a stroke of luck: One of the nurses knew my mother-in-law, and she actually requested me as a patient. She was wonderful to me the whole time, which was great, since my doula wasn’t there yet. She could have easily been the only person in the room and I would have been fine. But that was the problem—I wasn’t fine. While this was going on, I had a team of nurses coming in and out, trying to get a needle in my vein. My wrists and hands were completely bruised from multiple injection sites. It was horrible. It took one hour, five people and seven injection attempts to get the dang needle in. My veins were crooked, deep, and small—plus I was dehydrated. And—because of the needle situation—I was unable to get out of bed and get on the birthing ball. By time they finally got it in, I didn’t even want it. I was in so much pain. I had no breaks between contractions, and each one made my body shake.
I told my husband at this point that I was going to get the epidural and lie to everyone and say I didn’t get one. I told the nurse my pain was an 11 on the scale. She convinced me that a half dose of Nubain would help me focus on the progress of contractions, and that then I could decide if I wanted an epidural. She checked me again—I was 6 or 7 cm. She was shocked, and then told me that I wouldn’t even need to get an epidural because I was going so quickly. That finalized my decision—I told her I’d accept the Nubain. If I’d had access to one of the jacuzzi rooms, I would have just gone there instead. To me, it was a different way of getting to the same result. It wouldn’t take away contractions, but it would help me relax and focus through them. I would have preferred a more natural route but I really wasn’t that disappointed in myself—I had avoided an induction and an epidural.
After the Nubain, my husband and I completely forgot to call our doula. (She showed up later at the hospital in shock.) Anyway, the pain was still there, just as intense as before, but I didn’t feel like it was ripping me apart. I could actually visualize my progress. Then the anesthesiologist came in to find out if I was on any blood thinners, just in case I changed my mind or needed a C-section, and he was HOT. He looked like a Greek god. He said coyly, “I hear you won’t be needing my services.” I almost wanted to say “Yes, actually, I do,” just because he was so attractive, but instead I just managed a “We’ll see.” And before I knew it, I was at 9 cm.
While I was going from 6 cm to 9 cm, the only thing I did to ease the pain was lie on my side, move my feet in time with the waves of the contraction, and squeeze my husband’s hand. I didn’t like him to talk to me, distract me or even massage me like we had practiced for nine months. I wanted to be in control of my own pain relief, I guess—but he really helped. The only things he would say were “Breathe…” and “Squeeze….” He had marks on his hands after he was through.
At 9 cm, the nurse had me sit up so I would dilate. She told me to fight the urge to push, which anyone who has done this before would know, is nearly impossible. I would lean forward with every contraction and my husband would make me go back down. They ran to get the doctor, and I was fully dilated in ten minutes. Then they had me give a few practice pushes. It felt best to push in the “C” position with my shoulders and back raised up. It was around 8:15 a.m., and I told my husband to go back out and get my mom so she could watch and help hold up my leg.
Pushing really, really sucked. As with everything else in my labor, it was just really intense. I was told that pushing would feel like a relief—but to me, it didn’t. I was told about the ring of fire—and I assumed I’d only feel this through the last push. I didn’t—I felt it with every single push. However, I knew there was only one way out, and I told myself, “Let’s get it over with.” Every push made me think I was ripping apart my entire pelvic floor, but I just thought, hey, it’s too late to go back now. I pushed and pushed for eighteen minutes, and I did not scream or verbalize once. I just concentrated and thought about my son. The only time I raised my voice is when they asked if I wanted a mirror and I said “Absolutely not!”
When Hoyt Donovan Martin came out at 8:36 a.m., I felt two things: an unbelievable feeling of relief, and an unreal gush of fluid. Mom later told me it scared her and she thought I was hemorrhaging. I announced to the room: “Oh my gosh, that feels SO much better.” I delivered the placenta (and honestly … don’t laugh … it kind of tickled) and the doctor stitched a minor tear on my inner labia. Huh? How did I get a tear there?! They let me hold him and breastfeed him and then took him to weigh: a whopping 8lbs and 12oz! At my 38 week ultrasound growth scan, I was told he was 7 lbs and 5 oz, and I did not gain any weight in those two weeks! I’m glad that she’d gotten it wrong—I would have been more intimidated by pushing if I’d known he was going to be almost 9 lbs.
But I did have a lot of blood loss, and it was a bit scary. Because I’d had no Pitocin or epidural to start with, they had to give me a smaller dose of Pitocin to get things moving along. They pushed my uterus and fluid just kept gushing out – including several golf ball clots. I hear this is common with fast deliveries. Despite this, afterward, I felt so energetic and great. I wanted to talk to everyone and show off Donovan to the whole world. Visitors did not bother me at all. I was wide awake for the rest of the day.
Recovery was pretty tough. The blood loss made me feel pretty weak, and my iron counts were way low—so low, in fact, that I got an extra night’s stay at the hospital. Bleh. I got a prescription for heavy duty iron pills. It hurt to change positions with my pelvis, and I felt like my entire bottom was going to fall off at any time. Despite feeling so great emotionally, I felt pretty weak physically. All my visitors commented on how pale I looked. It later turned out that I had placenta retention—a very small piece of placenta had remained behind after the delivery. I had to have it manually extracted. I did not enjoy having multiple things shoved into me two weeks after giving birth, but after it was gone, I felt like new.
Even though I loved my doctors and the hospital stay was really good, I was told by my nurse that I would make a good candidate for a home birth in the future. I have about three years or more to make that decision, but I’m seriously considering it. I’d have to find a certified midwife in my area that I trust. I think that I’d really enjoy a water birth.
The most disappointing things about my labor were related to being in a hospital, even though I really enjoyed having constant access to medical professionals to talk about breastfeeding and recovery. I really wish there was a way to deliver at home and recover at a hospital! I was not at all disappointed in myself about the Nubain—and in fact, would be open to it again. I was disappointed that I didn’t have time to try all my Bradley/hypno methods or get on the birthing ball, and I imagine that if I’d had a nice build-up starting with simple contractions and if my water hadn’t broken first, I would have been able to use them. But I can’t complain too much—my doctor said it is extremely rare for a first-time mom to deliver so quickly, without an epidural and without screaming her head off. The nurse said I was single-handedly the best delivery she’d had this year. People say “there’s no gold medal at the end,” to which Isay fine! I award myself a silver medal instead. I’m pretty proud of myself, especially considering how horrible my contractions were.
Mostly though, I’m just in love, in a way I never thought possible. My whole world is now wrapped up in a blue-eyed, soft-skinned 8 pound package. He had an 8 and 9 on the Apgar scale from a touch of purple skin tone, and a wee bit of facial bruising from such a fast delivery. He’s the most gorgeous baby I’ve ever seen, and to me, he is completely perfect. All of it was worth it!
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By Jennifer Jackson