We had the best laid plans for Brooks' arrival. For one, I was certain he would arrive exactly when I wanted, preferably around 42 weeks so my maternity leave would last into December. I would labor at home and then birth at the birth center close to my home.We had prepared for a birth with as few medical interventions as possible allowing my body and my baby do what they were made to do.Well, sometimes plans change.
Several weeks into my third trimester everything changed. I was diagnosed with choleostasis, a condition that impacts the way bile salts are absorbed in the body between your liver and gallbladder. It's a condition that only occurs in pregnancy and doctors admittedly do not understand what it is or how it happens.What the medical world does know is that left alone it can cause the baby to be stillborn after 38 weeks. Up until this point I had experienced a fantastic pregnancy, I loved it! I felt good and savored the allowed weight gain, the admiring looks from strangers, the extra doting upon from friends and family- pregnancy was awesome! But now I felt fear, anxiety, and worry. I was the only one who could feel my baby all the time, the responsibility to know if Brooks was living or dead in my womb was all on me. Suddenly I felt that my body had turned against me, against us, how could I trust my body to carry us through labor and birth if she had already begun working against me?
We rapidly began making new plans. New doctors, new hospitals, new birth plans, lots of tests and lots of extra planning. I would now be induced at the beginning of my 37th week.We found a doula, Rachel, days before the planned induction. I was nervous, anxious, scared, but a renewed sense of confidence had returned. We could do this and it would all be okay.
Tuesday morning August 14th we went to the hospital for our last test- if all was well we would start the induction process that evening.After the test, I did what all level headed women do hours before labor begins- I went to work! I spent the day at work passing the time and waiting for my doctor to call and let us know we were a green light for that night! He was not in a hurry and we didn't hear from him to close to 5 that evening. Finally, we were headed to the hospital. It felt surreal. I felt so ready, yet not ready at all. I felt calm but anxious, strong, but weak. Truly indescribably.
Upon settling into our room our nurse arrived and I immediately remembered why I did not want to be in a hospital setting. She was cold and discouraging. She told me I'd be in the hospital all week without pitocin, (my doctor had agreed to not give me pitocin unless things failed to progress over several hours).We expected things to start off slow, but I had confidence we could still do this naturally after a little help to get started. I was given cytotec to soften my cervix over night.
Shortly after midnight I awoke with very mild contractions. I was checked and was at 1 cm. the nurse was surprised, but still had no confidence in my body. I was given more cytotec and went back to sleep. I slept on and off with contractions mild, but steady till about 4 am. My back finally had all it could take trapped in the hospital bed. I woke Nick up and we gained permission to walk around the hospital a bit. Contractions were definitely picking up in intensity but still about 10 min apart.We talked with our doula and we agreed she would arrive around 6 am.We walked and talked and laughed and labored, I was ready to break out scrabble to get the party started but once again, my body had different plans.
By the time Rachel arrived and brought Nick coffee, I for once was definitely not wanting any coffee, I was needing to focus more through each contraction. My doctor came in around 7 to see how I was doing. I had been off the monitors (I had to be consistently hooked up to monitors so they could make sure Brooks was doing well) for a few hours and I was dilated to 2 cm. Progress! I was willing to celebrate! The plan was no more drugs from here on out- we were going to find out if my body was ready to have this baby or not! I went to the bathroom while he was visiting and had a fair amount of blood. I suddenly forgot everything I had read and learned about birth and got scared! He assured me this was a good sign. He wanted to proceed with breaking my water, he said it was the most natural way to get things progressing more quickly without using drugs, since cytotec is not truly a labor starter- more so to get your body ready to start labor. We agreed, but I was very reluctant once he brought out the tool he was going to use to break said waters. It was basically a long stick- with a hook. And he was going to put it up inside me? What? Again, with little choices we went ahead with him breaking my water.
Brooks had to be monitored for 30 min after my water was broken to make sure he was handling the change well. It was a very long 30 min. As soon as my water broke everything started happening so fast. Contractions became very intense and picked up speed.They were just a few minutes apart now and very difficult to manage the pain while I was in bed. I had awful chills and was shaking and I vomited several times. Rachel and Nick provided what comfort they could alternating between cold wash clothes and blankets covering my body. Sips of cool water were only thrown up minutes after drinking them and there were very few positions that provided any relief while still having monitors strapped around my stomach. Finally the nurse said I could be free from the bed and monitors to labor how I desired. I got in the shower for a few min and that brought little relief, I transitioned to the ground and kneeled over a birth ball while squeezing Nicks hands through contractions and Rachel squeezing my hips. I had no idea how physically strong my doula needed to be for me (and my husband too)! Rachel was amazing and squeezed my hips through every contraction for the next few hours.
I stayed on the ground kneeling over the ball and swaying my hips, humming low, and grunting through contractions for a long time. I didn't stay because it brought relief or I felt like labor was progressing, I stayed cause I didn't know what else to do. I was scared and unsure. My contractions were coming so fast and bleeding right into each other. I didn't have time, strength, or energy to move into a different position. Looking back I can now say I was going through transition, but at the time I was just trying to get through each minute and onto the next, unsure of what my body was doing.
An hour or so later, I finally reached a break where I felt like I could move.To the tub! Nick draw a warm bath and I eased in. I tried to get comfortable but the water just seemed to intensify every pain and discomfort I was feeling. Nick and I were clueless as to what was happening, but thankfully my doula knew what I was feeling even though I didn't. She asked if I felt the urge to push and/or bear down. I wasn't sure. I couldn't think straight, I didn't even really know what that would feel like! Sure enough, that's what I felt.
Nick got me back to bed and the nurse came in to check me. It had only been a few hours, and it was impossible I was ready to push. I heard her telling Rachel I just didn't know how to handle what was happening, that she saw this kind of thing all the time. Much to her (and my own!) surprise, I was at 10 cm! It was time! In just a little over two hours I had gone from 2-10 cm, which then explained why it was all so fast and intense.
No one was ready for this, myself included. I needed more time! The right music wasn't on, my contacts weren't in, we hadn't even played scrabble yet! I didn't know how to have a baby and I wasn't really prepared to push! The room became full of nurses and medical equipment. I didn't know if something was wrong or if this was normal, but we had no choice just to go with this. Everyone was telling me to not push. Not push? When you're ready to push and your baby is coming out? Clearly these women had never had babies, why would they say that? My doctor was busy and couldn't come in yet, that was the reasoning. I was not incredibly fond of him anyway, considering the circumstances, but this sealed the deal. I was furious at him for thinking of himself first. I was not waiting. My doula encouraged me to do what my body was telling me so I pushed, and Brooks' head was there, one more push and he was out.A doctor from the hallway jumped in our room to provide peace of mind for the nurses and that was it!
Brooks was born! He was put on my stomach and maneuvered his way to my breast. I cried and cried. His little eyes looked into mine and he was (still is) the sweetest and most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. He was so small. He weighed only 5lbs 10 oz and was just so perfect and tiny. Every feature petite and wonderful. I cried for the better part of the next few hours. It was the only emotionally appropriate response for me.
Overall, my short, but oh so intense labor was wonderful. I enjoy remembering the details of the morning, those planned and unplanned. I appreciate that my mind, body, and spirit went on a journey together that is not fully explainable, but that I can recollect in full remembrance. I'm thankful for Nick and Rachel for helping me be strong and stay focused. It was a beautiful experience and I cherish every memory of it.