Friday, April 8, 2016

My Labor Story(ies)

This won't be an ugly detail oriented or nausea inducing tale of the births of my daughter's but more so how I came to accept my deliveries with the girls.  My deliveries you see didn't go according to plan - not in a horrifying or bad way - just not according to the "perfect" way I had imagined them or at least been led to believe they should go.

I have finally accepted that the outcomes of my births are all that matter not the process by which I got there and that it is 100% okay that I didn't have the unmedicated perfect birth that is socially popular right now and also the only real way to have a baby according to some.

Of course I knew labor would be hard and actually thought it would probably have a certain level of grossness to it but I also thought that since the end result would be so magically amazing that those details would elude me later.  And while the pain eluded me enough to go through labor and delivery three times the emotional pain of it not being what I imagined took quite awhile to accept.

I had it all planned out - sometime around 9 months or so I would go into labor.  I would know it was labor and suffer through as much as I could at home before heading to the hospital.  Once there my husband and I would walk and laugh, imagine the future etc etc.  Sure I had imagined that I would at some point scream in pain and cry with anguish.  Finally ending with an amazingly natural, medicine free yet exhausting birth.  The birth of my child at which point I would cry, laugh, smile, and be ecstatic.  

Let's start with my first birth, after a pregnancy with almost constant bedrest (though not full stay in bed and don't move bedrest) we had a scare.  Possible preterm labor at about 34 weeks, enough contractions to require tribulilain and a fetalfibronectin test.  Once cleared that I wouldn't deliver for at least 2 more weeks we rested a bit more easily.  Then the last two weeks settled in - the ones where I didn't want to be pregnant anymore but instead wanted my baby here with me.  I thought she would never come. 

Day after day going to work, hanging out with family, avoiding the "when will she be here" voice that was a constant nag in my head.  After work one day we headed to the Angel's Baseball game with my husbands family - a great distraction.  So great in fact that after we got home and had gone to "sleep" it didn't even cross my mind that my cramping and just overall not feeling well could be labor.  For several hours I just thought I was sick.  Fast forward to 1 a.m. and I am definitely in labor.  Walking around, taking showers, and then bam contractions are 3-4 minutes apart by 3 a.m. We called the doctor and they said to come on in.  While in the back of my mind I knew this couldn't be that easy I thought I had breezed through at least part of labor.

When I checked in around 4:30am my contractions were close together and painful but definitely bearable.  No screaming, I was actually smiling and pretty happy.  They got me hooked up to the monitors and pretty soon told me I was 6cm dilated.  Wohoo I thought!  Around 9am the doctor broke my water - I was still 6cm and she assured me this would help me progress.  Well it sure did make the contractions worse and on top of each other.  The nurses kept coming in to check on me - my contractions would end only to start again with no break.  In hindsight I think you should wait for your water to break on its own.  I think it makes the contractions worse but unnaturally so - there was no easing into them or anything.  This is just my personal opinion.

Fast forward and somewhere in the afternoon and after sitting on a birthing ball, taking multiple showers and just hanging out the contractions were bad and I wasn't progressing.  I finally gave in and agreed to some iv pain meds.  Mind you I wasn't screaming in pain, wasn't even crying, yes I was miserable but it was bearable.  The pain meds didn't really work - actually they did all.  Finally sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. my doctor came by again and was getting concerned.  I was still 6cm and contracting like crazy.  There was no progress.  She told me that the baby was fine but her heartbeat was starting to change a little bit with each contraction and that in the next couple of hours I would need a c-section if I hadn't made any progress.  She said I would probably want an epidural for that and I agreed.  She also said she thought the epidural might help me deliver without a c-section, so I opted for it.  I felt like I was giving up, like I had failed - right in the instant I asked for it but I also knew deep down in my heart that I would stay 6cm forever and I was more terrified of a c-section than of an epidural. 

When the anesthesiologist came in he was the best.  Calmed all of my fears made me feel like I was in great hands and honestly I felt absolutely nothing while getting the epidural.  Nothing not one iota of anything.  And then - full body relief.  I felt nothing no pain nothing and I realized how exhausted I was and how beat up my body felt.

Not 30 minutes later I was dilated to 10cm and ready to push.  The epidural was so fresh though that I really couldn't push.  When my doctor realized that I couldn't push she used the vacuum and helped me deliver.  18.5 hours into labor I finally had my beautiful baby girl and life was good.  My recovery was very slow.  I had torn every way imaginable and couldn't sit, stand or walk very well for many weeks to come.  I also had no feeling in my right leg between my knee and ankle due to the epidural.  The anesthesiologist called several times at home to check on me and I had a 6 week post partum appointment as well as a 10 week since I hadn't fully healed at 6 weeks. 

For a long time after I avoided all questions about the birth of my first born.  I didn't want to tell the story at all and when I did I made sure to point out the 16ish hours I went without pain medications and glossed over the epidural and other parts. 

Then we got pregnant with our second baby and I hoped and prayed for 9 months that I could have that "perfect" delivery this time.  Yet days after my due date I was induced with pitocin and my water was broken.  Only a few hours into the delivery the Pitocin levels were so high that I was crying in pain and got the epidural quickly this time.  Good thing too she was born less than 5 hours after my induction was started.  I was able to push all on my own this time and recovered like a champ, heading to Costco just days after her birth. 

A few years later when we were pregnant with our third baby I still hoped (albeit faintly) that maybe I could go natural this time.  Conversations in my head went like this: "this is your third your body knows what to do now - this kid will slide out let's hope you make it to the hospital."  Then in my ninth month it happened I went past my due date.  My doctor said we should induce I agreed - the hospital though was full they didn't have a single bed open.  Full for three days during which I dilated at home to 5cm yet still no labor and still no room at the hospital.  Finally I went into labor and it was nothing like the two times before.  It was searing back pain contractions that started at 7 minutes apart and quickly went to 4 minutes apart.  Never mind that we lived 45 minutes from the hospital. 

While we rushed to the hospital the contractions increased in intensity and I was in the most pain of all three and it was only the beginning.  Upon admittance I was 6cm and finally felt in my heart of hearts that how I labored didn't matter just having a healthy baby did.  So I asked for an epidural and then I slept for 3 hours and woke to find out she was sunny side up hence the searing back pain.  The nurse thought she could turn her and as they did I pushed my third and final baby out in 1 push.  Full head of hair and a set of lungs that never sounded better.  I was somewhat refreshed from my nap and from not fighting labor pains this time.  I headed home quickly and went back to my normal routine and life was grand.  I took my daughter to her soccer practice and game only 3 days after leaving the hospital and nursed my sick family better in the week after delivery.  This was my easiest delivery.  I know it was my third and that definitely helped but it was also the only one in which I didn't agonize over doing this the "right" way. 

I now know in my heart of hearts that my body needed extra help it just would not birth a child naturally - at least not without much damage.  This is why some women and babies used to die during childbirth their bodies simply didn't respond the same way.  While my babies are growing up and our family is complete there is no doubt in my mind that I would have gotten an epidural if I had delivered again.  That is how my body delivers and it works for me.  My babies all arrived healthy and I was safe too and for that I am eternally grateful to our God above.

 I sure wish I hadn't beat myself up over failing at giving birth and I sure hope that no matter your stance you can refrain from asking people their birth story - it might be one they don't want to relive.  It is definitely one they don't want to risk judgment over - who cares how they got here, the miracle is that they are here.

- Ash of All Trades

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