My Dad called me the day I went into labor. I missed his call because I was napping and ignoring the cramping in my belly. I'd had cramping like this before so it didn't seem like anything to me, just something that was disturbing my nap! When I called my Dad back, he said he called because he thought of me and thought maybe I was in labor. "Nope," I replied, "Just napping."
Later that day Seth, Sappho, and I headed off to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner with my Mom and Mike who had just arrived in town with their trailer. On the way to the grocery store I noticed I was having, what felt like, regular Braxton Hix contractions. Well, this couldn't be labor, labor would be obvious, right? I called the doula anyway just to check. "Yep," she said, "Sounds like labor!" She encouraged us to go have dinner and then head home. So, we did. We stayed until talking through my contractions was becoming difficult,
When we got home, I tried taking a bath to see if I could slow the contractions down and sleep, but they were not slowing down, so we settled in for laboring. And, we labored and labored with our doula joining us around 2am. Around 7am, she said we could probably safely head to the hospital and not have to spend too much time there (one of my goals). So, off we went.
I'd been dreading the car ride and trying to find a comfortable position for contractions. It turns out that my body knew I was dreading it and slowed everything a little bit. Seth and the doula had made a hospital arrival and parking plan, but I bossed Seth when we got to the hospital and told him we weren't allowed to do their plan - their plan was only allowed in the middle of the night. So, he parked the car and we walked from the structure to the main lobby of the hospital. Apparently a woman having contractions in a parking structure is concerning to people as more than one person asked if we needed a wheelchair. "No, we'll be on our way again as soon as this contraction is over!" A pregnant woman having contractions is even more concerning to the elderly folks who volunteer at the hospital information desk! They could not get an elevator to arrive fast enough. But, we made it safely to the labor and delivery unit.
In order to be able to use the birthing tub at the hospital, they have to check to see how far dialated you are - 8 centimeters upon arrival! Into the tub I went, who knew how good water would feel. And, things seemed to pick up for awhile and then they slowed down. At some point, they gave me an IV to put fluids into my body, but a few hours later I was still at 8 centimeters. The midwife gave me a pep talk, I moved to the bed, and, voila, an hour later I was at 10 centimeters and ready to start pushing!
So, I pushed and pushed and pushed. And drank some protein drinks, got some pitocin and pushed and pushed and pushed. And then got an increased dose of pitocin and pushed and pushed and pushed. It seemed to me like nothing was happening, but people around me assured me that things were happening, and when the midwives checked Bea's head position a few times during this time, each time they said she was good to go. So, I dug deep and gave each one of the contraction cycles everything I had. I can still hear the midwife's voice saying, "She needs more, Heather, she needs more." So, I found more.
However, after awhile (several hours actually), I knew that I was getting tired. I didn't say anything, but found myself asking more and more, "Is it making a difference?" I knew I couldn't push endlessly, I needed someone to say, "Okay, only 10 more contraction cycles and she'll be here." But instead what they said eventually was that they were going to call in an OB consult to see if they could use forceps or a vacuum to help me out. Help, yes, that is what I needed! The OB team was in a surgery, though, and wouldn't be there for twenty minutes. The good news is that I didn't have to push while we waited. I asked them to turn off the pitocin, which they did; however it takes pitocin 20 minutes to leave your system.
So, I spent the next twenty minutes having pitocin-inspired contractions, but not pushing. In my opinion, not pushing is far more uncomfortable than pushing as not pushing is going against what your body wants you to do. During that 20 minutes my doula asked if I would like them to give me some pain medication. She explained that it wouldn't stop the contractions, but it would make me feel like I'd had a couple of glasses of wine. "Yes," I found myself saying, "I would like that." However, apparently I couldn't have any until after the OB consult.
When the OB arrived, she very quickly assessed that Bea's head was, in fact, not in a good position, it was transverse, a position in which babies cannot make it out. She also said that there was now meconium in my water, an indicator that Bea was stressed, and that her head was swollen. "We need to do a c-section," she said. I had never heard sweeter words in my life. I was exhausted, clearly Bea was too, and we needed help! At that point they gave me the pain medication, and had me sign many forms while they explained the risks of c-sections to me.
Then, they sent me off to be prepped for surgery; I was almost giddy at the idea of being numbed from the waist down!
The c-section went quickly and well, although I've never felt so cold/shaken so much in my life. Bea had meconium in her lungs that had to be sucked out and was "done" said the pediatric team, but she was fine and she was healthy, which was a relief to me.
The birth I had pictured was one where we labored mostly at home, used the tub at the hospital for the end, and left with a healthy baby 24 hours later. In our birth, there were so many interventions that we hadn't wanted: an IV, pitocin, pain medication, and, of course, a c-section. And, when less than 24 hours after she was born they told me I could go home, I opted to stay one more night. The outcome, though, the thing we really wanted was a healthy baby. And,after 30 hours of labor that included 7 hours of pushing and then a c-section, that is what we got - a beautiful, healthy baby girl.. And, a tough one at that! We were both strong when asked to be, for as long as we could be, and accepted help when we needed it.
An unexpected result of this journey was a deepening of my love for Seth. He was at my side the whole time. He was present and centered and calm - everything I needed. In those first few days/nights when my movement was limited, and I couldn't pace the floor with Bea, he was all those things for her too. Love.