I was scheduled for induction with Grace on August 31st at 5:00 A.M. My midwife had stripped my membranes the day before in the hope that it would encourage further dilation. She said that if I dilated to a 3 on my own, then all she would do at the hospital would be to break my water and have me walk around to encourage active labor. If I had not dilated to 3, however, she would administer a dose of Cytotec and see if that moved things along. I was not crazy about the idea of Cytotec, as it can cause serious (although rare) complications. But if a dose of Cytotec did the trick, then it would still permit me to have the natural childbirth experience that I wanted.
The afternoon of the 30th, my midwife called me to tell me that due to an emergency induction of another of her patients, I would be bumped to 11:00 P.M. on the 31st. With the extra time on my hands, my MIL graciously offered to take me out to lunch and a pedicure that day. My parents watched BB, and the day went by without dragging too much.
DH and I left to go to the hospital that night at 10:00. By midnight, I was admitted and set up in a room. After taking some blood and giving me a Hep lock, the nurse checked my dilation. Unfortunately, I had not progressed any since my midwife checked me, so a dose of Cytotec was given. I was instructed to stay still so that they could monitor me for an hour, after which I could move around.
When I was checked again a few hours later, I had dilated to two. Another dose of Cytotec was given, and when I was checked again at 8:00 A.M., I was dilated the requisite three. My midwife broke my water, and after a brief period of monitoring, I was told to get up and walk around.
By this point, I had started to have some intermittent contractions. Nothing too painful, just the equivalent of some bad cramps. After my water was broken and I started walking around, however, the contractions picked up. DH and I walked the loop of the L&D floor at the hospital, pausing every few minutes for me to stop with a contraction. I had been a little apprehensive about natural childbirth, but the contractions, while painful, were manageable. I tried to remember what I had read about breathing steadily and relaxing my muscles during contractions.
When I was checked at 10:30, I had dilated to four. Back DH and I went to walk around some more. I noticed that the contractions were coming closer together and were becoming more intense. At 11:15, I was five and my doubts about natural childbirth were beginning to reappear.
Sometime soon after I was checked and found to be five, my friend C arrived. C is a doula, although she is not currently practicing. She had graciously agreed to by there for me, however. I knew I was supposed to keep walking around, but I no longer wanted to leave my hospital room. I instead opted to try swaying from side to side, wrapping my arms around DH's neck when a contraction came. That did not seem to help, so I tried sitting in a rocking chair. The rocking motion was great between contractions, but the hard surface of the chair seat was too uncomfortable during the contractions for me to stay there long.
I started to feel a little panicked about my abilities to handle things as I realized that the contractions were every 3-4 minutes. My steady breathing and relaxation practicing went out of my mind as I began to dread the arrival of another contraction. C tried to help me remember to relax my face, allow my mouth to fall open, and relax my shoulders during contractions. I tried to follow her instructions, but found it hard to do as my brain had decided to freak out and was slamming the panic button.
Not too long after C's arrival, I had to get back into bed for a period of monitoring. Being in bed seemed to make the contractions worse. I started to feel trapped and even more panicky, as I could now watch the monitors register my contractions. With my contractions continuing to come every 3 minutes or so, I felt as though I did not have a chance to collect myself before another contraction began. I began to wonder what if I got to a point and then stopped dilating but kept contracting? How long would I have to push? Would I have the energy to push when the time came?
With these questions in my head, all ideas of a natural childbirth vanished. I requested an epidural. All I could think about was what if the contractions lasted another 5 or 6 hours. I felt certain that if I had that much more ahead of me, there would be no way I could push effectively and then I would have to have a c-section. I wanted to be able to push when the time came. My nurse left the room to call the midwife, and came back in the room with an IV bag that she hooked up to my Hep lock. She explained that before I could have an epidural, I had to have a bolus of fluid first. She also told me that my midwife was on her way over to check me before my epidural was administered. Part of me felt wimpy for chickening out and asking for an epidural, but part of me was just impatient for the pain to go away.
After what was probably only a few minutes, but seemed like an hour to me (and everyone who was within earshot of me yelling; I do not do silent labor), my midwife arrived. She checked me and told me that I was already dilated to seven, and that Grace would be here shortly. There really was not time, she explained, for me to get an epidural and for it to have any effect before it was time to push. As I heard her speak, I wondered if she was telling me the truth, or if she just said that to all of her patients. I did not ask her, however, as another contraction came right along.
A few contractions later, I started feeling the urge to push, which surprised me as I had just been at seven. When my midwife asked me if I felt the need to push, I managed to nod my head. She told me that if I felt like pushing, to push. As the next contraction came, I was instructed to take a deep breath, hold it and bear down. I tried to do that, but found it hard to hold my breath. Throughout the pushing phase of my labor, I needed repeated reminders to keep holding my breath during pushing.
Although I had pushed with BB's delivery, I still felt as though I did not know exactly what to do when it came to pushing. I found it tremendously helpful when my midwife put her hand where I needed to push and told me to push against her. I initially tried pushing while sitting nearly upright. My midwife instructed me to grab my legs behind my knees and pull back, but in my addled state her instructions sounded humanly impossible. DH tells me that during this phase I gave my doula and my midwife several "die, woman, die" looks.
After a while of pushing like that, my midwife suggested flipping over and holding onto the top end of the bed while kneeling. As soon as I got into that position, however, the urge to push left. I stayed like that for several minutes just to regroup a little, and then I went back to my sitting nearly upright position. This time, however, my midwife had me place my legs on the bed's leg supports. At the next push, my midwife told me that Grace's head was visible and to give a big push. I did, but nothing happened. My midwife asked one of the nurses standing by if one of the doctors in the practice was still around. When told that he was not, she inquired about another one of the doctors in the practice, stating that the doctor had stronger hands than she did. Her comment made me afraid that Grace's birth would mimic BB's, and I silently prayed, "God, help!"
The next contraction came and I pushed down as hard as I possibly could, encountering the infamous "ring of fire." I have never felt anything so aptly named in my life. I knew it was a good sign, though, and I kept pushing. Sweet relief followed, and Grace's head emerged. The umbilical cord was around her neck, and my midwife quickly unhooked it before telling me to give one more push. With that push, Grace fully emerged after about 45 minutes of pushing. The midwife suctioned her quickly and placed her on my chest. Grace was a little purple and was crying from being suctioned, but she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was so relieved to have her birth behind me as I said several times, "It's over, it's all over." I felt overwhelming feelings of relief and awe. I held Grace and rubbed her as my midwife took care of the rest. I only needed 2 stitches, which was a wonderful change from BB's birth.
As I held Grace, the people in the room speculated on how big they thought Grace was. It was generally agreed that she was over 9 pounds. DH thought so too, while I held that she weighed around 8 pounds, 9 ounces. All too soon, it was time for the nurse to place her on the warmer and find out her weight for sure. I hated to let someone else hold her, even if I was dying to know how much she weighed. She came in at 8 pounds, 13.3 ounces, proving all estimates wrong. After a brief more snuggle time, she was whisked off to the nursery to get cleaned up.
It's worth it :)