Waiting on Baby
The week before Baby R was born, I did things to try to induce labor naturally. Since she was past-due, the doctors started discussing membrane stripping and induction. I wanted to have her naturally, with very little medical intervention. I was out of work for a full week before her birthday, so I had plenty of time to try all of the tricks!
Most of the “tricks” are wives tales: drinking raspberry tea, bouncing, dancing, eating spicy foods, having sex, etc. My husband and I walked a lot, too. The only thing I didn’t try was castor oil. When she didn’t come by Wednesday, the day I turned 41 weeks, my membranes were stripped. If it were to work, it could happen 12-36 hours later. If it didn’t work, they would induce at 7:30am on Friday morning. It happened 40 hours later.
At 2:00am on Friday morning, I woke up with very subtle cramps in my lower pelvis – I didn’t want to be too hopeful, considering she seemed extra comfy in my belly. I stayed in bed and breathed slowly and deeply through every contraction – gripping my pillows and staring into the dark.
I felt like I had to use the restroom every 10 minutes. This was something that continued throughout the entire course of the 26 hour labor – and something that I never expected.
When I noticed a pattern, I counted how long the contractions lasted. I counted to 45-60 every time. When I realized that they were true contractions, I decided to stay in bed, breathing steadily through each one. I didn’t want to wake Daniel because I knew it was going to be a very long day.
I was anxious about having to go to the hospital for the scheduled induction. The previous day, I cried thinking about it. If my labor began with an intervention, then surely it would end with one, too.
I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. For months, I studied the best ways to have a natural birth, and laboring at home was always at the top of the list. I wanted to be comfortable and in my own space, with my pillows, blankets, bathroom, food, and yard.
When Daniel woke up to pee at 4am, I told him I had been having contractions for 2 hours. He was so excited. If he was excited, then I definitely should be!
We stayed in bed and he timed the contractions using a nifty app. Some were irregular, but some followed the 4-1-1 rule, the rule that tells you it’s time to go to the hospital.
I knew it was too early, so we stayed in bed, breathing steadily – in through the nose, out through the mouth – like I breathed while on a long run.
He called our doula at around 6am and contacted the hospital to ask for guidance around the induction. As we suspected, they suggested we come in. Luckily and unexpectedly, my doctor called my husband and told him it was okay for me to stay home. Woohoo!
Daniel took such good care of me for hours. He made coffee I didn’t drink, food I didn’t eat, and massaged my back and hips through every contraction.
He followed me around the house as I made funny noises, indicating another contraction. I pointed to my hips or whispered, “bah bah bah,” and he was by my side within seconds. He walked me up the road patiently, while I breathed through every step.
Heading to the Hospital
At around 1:30pm, I decided it was time to go to the hospital. I could feel the contractions intensifying, but I wasn’t sure how far along I was. It had been nearly 12 hours since the start of my labor, and while I wanted a natural birth, I quickly became skeptical about having it at home – what if something bad happened?
I showered, and my husband sat in the bathroom with me, continuing to count contractions. I knew the night ahead was long and wanted to feel clean for the remainder of the evening. The hot water felt nice, but clean hair felt even nicer. I planned to labor in my own clothes, not a hospital gown, so I put on a blue and white striped cotton skirt and tank top. Not much else fit at this point in my pregnancy, but I didn’t mind because it was very comfortable.
We gathered our things (Daniel did 99% of the work), and I convinced myself that leaving for the hospital was the right thing to do.
I was nervous about the car ride. It was hot, sunny, and everyone was on their lunch breaks from work. I closed my eyes while he carefully drove us 30 minutes down the road, Outkast playing in the background.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was certain my contractions would stall. My husband pulled up to the valet parking, and I held my breath as I anticipated one last contraction before stepping foot inside. It never came. I waddled effortlessly through the doors and to the birthing center, Daniel following behind and carrying our bags.
The admit nurse put us in a room, which was nothing like home, but the room was big with a nice view of mountains in the distance. Daniel and I paced the room until the nurse came to take my vitals, check my progress, and register me in the system.
The process seemed so foreign compared to what was happening at home – hospital sheets, hospital bed with electronic settings, monitors, IVs, latex gloves, and scrubs. They allowed me to wear my skirt and tank top, so at least I was comfortable.
Joy was a kind nurse. She told me she had been a midwife before going to nursing school and that she had had both of her children naturally, in a birthing center. This comforted me because she understood my birth preferences.
She checked my progress – I was at 6cm. I was ecstatic to know I made it to 6cm before reaching the hospital. My contractions should progress even more quickly, now.
Still Waiting on Baby
Daniel contacted our doula, Kelly, to let her know I was 6cm. Joy got a birthing ball for me, something I wish I had had at the house for the entire 2 months prior – what a difference they make! I bobbed on it for a while, but I didn’t feel as in control of my contractions and wasn’t able to breathe through them as easily as I could while standing.
Daniel and Kelly walked the halls with me. Through every contraction, they put their hands on my hips and squeezed to apply counter pressure. It felt as though it took the pain away, but maybe it was all in my head. Deep breathing also worked really well.
The day was slowly turning to night. I watched the sunset through the hospital bedroom. The clock on the wall was to my right, along with the new nurse, Cassia, and all of the monitors. As I watched the sun set, I sensed a long night was ahead of us.
I was tired, so I sat in the hospital bed. All morning, I convinced myself that sitting in a bed, couch, or chair was a bad idea – I didn’t want to get too comfortable. Standing or squatting would allow gravity to work with me and baby to move her down and out!
My birthing team fell into a groove while I sat on the bed. During every contraction, Daniel and Kelly applied counter pressure, and I gripped the bed railing. By 9 o’clock, I was 9cm dilated and patiently waiting for baby’s arrival.
Stilllllll Waiting and Interventions
I asked Daniel to pull up a goat video on YouTube – I needed a distraction. For some reason, I started thinking about Jacob and Mama, who had both died within the past year. It was hard not to think about how they would never meet her, nor her them.
I’m not sure what triggered it, but I wanted only positive thoughts during labor. I thought a video of goats would help – it didn’t help or hurt, but we only watched 30 seconds of it.
Because I wasn’t progressing, Cassia wanted to monitor me more frequently – going from intermittent monitoring to continuous monitoring. I got up out of the bed and swayed for what felt like hours. I was dehydrated because I wasn’t drinking enough water.
Kelly constantly offered me coconut water, but I only took small sips at a time. She put a fun straw in the bottle to keep things lively and interesting.
But, I didn’t want to eat or drink anything and the very small amount I was drinking made me have to pee every 15 minutes. (Sitting on the toilet for longer would have helped labor.) The nurse gave me fluids through an IV to help rehydrate.
I walked the halls again with Daniel and Kelly – it was late. I walked slowly and they stayed by my side. When I reached the end of the hall and the 2nd nurse’s station, I had a contraction. Daniel and Kelly put pressure on my hips, like they had been doing all night (they both needed hand massages after this).
Two nurses were talking at the nurse’s station while I was having my contraction. It was difficult to focus on breathing because of their background noise. I remember thinking it was rude of them to have a casual conversation while I was having a contraction, but didn’t say anything. When we walked away from the station, Kelly said they should have respected me by staying quiet while I focused on getting through it.
Midnight arrived, and I still hadn’t progressed. My doctor checked me and broke my water. It was such a strange sensation having fluid pour out of me uncontrollably.
I’ve heard ladies describe your water breaking as feeling like peeing, but it isn’t! You can control your pee; you can’t control amniotic fluid pouring out of you.
I kept my cotton skirt on, but pulled the back up, so I wouldn’t get it dirty. It was a very comfortable laboring skirt, so I wanted to keep it for the next one 😉
I got in the shower shortly after she broke my water. It was a small, square shower with a foldable bench and railing. The warm water felt nice, but I was restricted from the IV port in my hand. It couldn’t get wet, so I had to keep it outside of the shower.
It wasn’t easy trying to maneuver in the shower with my big belly and wet hand attached to the cords. Cassia gave me a portable monitor, so it felt like I was tangled in cords.
I felt vulnerable without Daniel and Kelly applying counter pressure while I was in the shower. So, while nipple stimulation and being vertical helped a tiny bit, the anxiety from the cords and my feelings of vulnerability didn’t help my progress.
I wanted to sit because I was starting to get exhausted. It takes a lot of mental strength to work through each contraction, especially while at 9cm. After standing, walking, and swaying for most of the day, sitting sounded nice, but when I pulled the bench down in the shower, it made me feel claustrophobic.
It was also painful to bend at my hips (labor, right?!), so I stayed standing and let the hot water run down my back. After 30 minutes of fighting with the IV, I got out of the shower.
Cassia checked me again and told Kelly I was at 8.5cm. I didn’t know that at the time because I didn’t want to know how far along I was. I had regressed from the 9cm I was before getting in the shower. Cassia suggested Pitocin, so I complied.
They started the drip at 1:45am and increased the dose by 2:20am. I sat in the hospital bed and closed my eyes, trying to rest and relax between each contraction.
Looking back, they weren’t as close together as they should have been for being 8.5/9cm, but they still felt like they were coming quickly. Thank goodness for Daniel and Kelly, my amazing birth team. I continued to grip the bed railing and wait patiently.
At 3am, my doctor suggested a cesarean. I was worried about this moment. After all, she had convinced me at 30 weeks that I would need a cesarean due to “baby’s size.” I guess she was intimidated by my doula being there – otherwise she would have suggested it sooner.
I didn’t want it, but it truly felt like baby wasn’t coming. Labor had stalled for well over 6 hours. What should have been the shortest part of labor, was becoming the longest. She said there was meconium in the waters and said baby’s head was “getting pointy” from being in the same position for such an extended period of time.
I didn’t care about her pointy head – babies’ heads change shape to fit through the birth canal. My worry stemmed from the meconium and stalled labor. It didn’t seem like she was coming naturally then, or 10 hours from then. I agreed to the cesarean and my doctor called the anesthesiologist on-call.
Daniel cried. I’m sure it was from exhaustion, but he claims it was because he could sense my feeling of defeat. He likened the c-section to running a marathon, getting 200 feet from the end, and having major surgery. He’s the sweetest, most supportive man I could have ever asked to be by my side.
When the anesthesiologist arrived 20 minutes later, he explained the paperwork that I had signed with Joy when I first got to the hospital – what seemed like days earlier.
He appeared to be mostly friendly. My concern was that my contractions would cause me to not be still while he inserted the needle for the epidural. He told me he would be patient and asked that I let him know when I was having contractions. I was relieved that he was willing to work on my schedule.
Once he was finished explaining the legalities for the cesarean, everything happened very quickly. It was 4am. Two OR nurses came in, stripped me down, shaved my pubs, and sat me in a wheelchair – it was humiliating. They didn’t prep me for any of it.
I was rolled away out of the quiet, dark labor room and into the brightly-lit, OR with white walls and OR staff bustling around the room. I sat on the OR table and Cassia stood in front of me, asking me to hug her shoulders so my back would round. When I told the anesthesiologist that I was having a contraction, he said, “We need to get on with the C-section.”
“I’m scared,” I whispered to Cassia. My back flinched when he inserted the needle. (One of the main reasons I wanted a natural birth is because I was scared of the epidural.)
The anesthesiologist said, “You really need to stay still when someone’s putting a needle in your spine.” I guess his talk of patience in the labor room was all for show.
The OR nurses quickly laid me down and I could feel my legs and lower body going numb. Daniel came into the OR and sat next to me, behind the curtain, as we waited patiently. My doctor touched a few places on my belly to make sure I couldn’t feel anything.
My arms were strapped down on either side of me, so I wouldn’t (and couldn’t move them). Daniel and I could hear the casual conversation among the doctors. They were talking about where their kids were going to college. They must have been extremely confident in their abilities to perform a major surgery at 4:30 in the morning.
5 minutes later, my doctor yelled, “She was face-up, Rhea!” and directed Daniel to have a look. He bounced in place with the biggest grin on his face. He ran towards her and called her a baby space turtle (hence the nickname, Turtle). A nurse exclaimed, “she’s so cute!” And I heard her cry. She was born at 4:38am on her grandma’s birthday.
It felt like forever before they placed her on my chest – all 7lbs,12oz of her. She had light hair and blue eyes. I was so surprised! “Who was this kid?!”
But she was perfect and she latched quickly, nursing away from 20 minutes on my right side, then 20 on my left. I was relieved that she latched so quickly. I couldn’t touch her because my arms were still strapped down. The nurse took her away once they were finished sewing me up and I was wheeled away to recovery.
She slept under a heat lamp while I recovered. It took about an hour to regain feeling in my legs. I shook uncontrollably from the epidural and morphine. The nurse gave me something for the shakes and I was finally, finally wheeled away to a room. I just wanted to hold her close to me.
We went home two days later, which felt like an eternity. But we were all happy and healthy and beyond excited to start our new chapter together.