Today marks Griffin’s ninth day of life. The past week or so has been beautiful and awful all at the same time, but I can’t stop marveling over the life that Drew and I created. It has also given me some time to think about his day of birth and all of the emotions I had tied up in it before I actually wrote it down.
Drew and I, thinking Griffin would just never show up on his own, scheduled an induction for Sunday night, January 16th. While I knew it was the best decision, I wasn’t happy about it. It meant so much to me that Griffin be able to get the opportunity to emerge on his own time. I just also knew that the longer it went, the more problems there could be associated with his delivery and health. So Sunday it was.
But then the day before, on Saturday morning, around 4 am I woke up with contractions. They weren’t that bad to begin with, resembling strong menstrual cramps every 10 minutes or so. I was literally giddy with excitement but I was afraid of announcing I was in labor for fear that they were just more Braxton Hicks. An hour later they were getting slightly stronger and slightly closer together so I took a hot bath which worked miracles to ease the discomfort. I went back to bed and told Drew I thought today was the day! We had done the right thing in waiting, our son had his time and my body was making it happen. I was starving and I made Drew take me to IHOP. For some reason I was craving pancakes and the contractions were still far enough apart that it made more sense for me to stay active. Thank god we did because it was some of the only real sustenance I’d have for a day and a half.
I labored most of the day at home just like I had planned. The contractions gradually got stronger and closer together and although extremely painful, it was one of the happiest times in my life. All I kept thinking about was that with each contraction I was one step closer to my son and that every minute of discomfort I endured was natural, beautiful, and exactly what I had asked for. I managed to make it less uncomfortable by rolling on my exercise ball, stretching, and breathing with Drew.
Halfway through the day, the hospital called about my induction. They were overbooked for Sunday and had to move me to that evening instead. I let her know that I was in labor so didn’t think I’d need the appointment, but she said we should keep it in case he didn’t move along fast enough, she didn’t want us to lose our spot. I was terrified. My heart broke for this baby who was trying so hard to make his momma happy and here we were telling him it wasn’t quite good enough. I prayed that he would move along and that we would beat the induction.
While I would have been more than happy to stay at home as long as possible, Drew is extremely protective and wanted to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Our midwives said that normal time to come to the hospital is when you are 5-6 minutes between contractions for at least an hour but that if you are more comfortable at home, you can wait until 3-4 minutes. Drew tirelessly times my contractions so that the second we could leave for the hospital, we would. I hit the 5 minute time frame around 5:30 pm and I agreed to go mostly so that I could safely be admitted as a regular labor and not an induction.
When we first got there, we met with the midwife on call, Jen. We had just met her the week before but we really liked her and I was glad she’d be working with us. She checked my dilation and I was about 3.5 centimeters. While I was slightly disappointed since I had been laboring all day, I also knew that a normal first time labor can take 12-24 hours so I was prepared for the hours ahead. Jen was really happy about that progression since I had only been 1 centimeter a few days before and said the rest of the dilation goes really quickly once it starts.
That part was true. From the time we checked into the hospital, my contractions got more and more intense. By 9 pm they were about 2-3 minutes apart and I was managing by using the whirlpool tub (a godsend) and through Drew’s pain management massage techniques. When Jen checked my dilation that time, I was at 6 cm. Things were moving incredibly fast and we were all thrilled. Only 4 cm between me and my boy.
Unfortunately, those 4 cm became my greatest enemy. Although my contractions continued to come harder and faster through the night, each time my dilation was checked, I was still at 6 cm. Labor became more and more difficult as the early morning hours emerged because not only was I in increased pain, but I was extremely exhausted, and, honestly, starving. Around 3 am, Jen came in and suggested she break my water. While I didn’t want to have any interventions, I knew that this was the most common (many amniotic sacs will never break on their own) and Jen indicated that she thought it would speed labor up immensely, in fact warned that it could become much more painful and intense. The procedure itself was painless and I looked forward to there being an end in sight. Unfortunately, I think for some reason it had the opposite effect. I began to notice my contractions losing intensity and speed. Drew and I went on a walk around the maternity ward to try to get them jump started again, but the next time Jen checked, I was still at 6 cm and my contractions were now back to 6 minutes apart. She mentioned the possibility of using pitocin to get my contractions back on track.
Initially, I refused. Pitocin was one of hte interventions I knew FOR SURE that I never wanted. I knew all about the unnatural contraction strength it causes and all of the problems that can result from it, but as the hours wore on without any change at all, I began to worry about Griffin and what prolonging the labor could mean for him, especially since my water was already broken and we were already more than 24 hours since labor had started. So when Jen came back a few hours later and I was still 6 cm, she was a little more intense about the need for pitocin and I was more open to the idea. I still cant decide whether or not that was a mistake. The levels of pitocin in my drip automatically increased every hour. Unfortunately, it also caused me to be bed ridden between the IV and the need for constant fetal monitoring. I felt the effects immediately and the next few hours were some of the most hellish I have ever experienced. I went from having natural contractions that I could manage to huge chemical induced peaks. Not only was the pain the most intense I have ever experienced, but the contractions started to come so fast that there was never any relief. I was 1-2 minutes between contractions, but even “between”, my body never relaxed and stopped experiencing pain. All I could do was moan and squeeze Drew’s hand. After an hour of that, I asked to be connected to the portable fetal monitor so that I could labor in the tub- my source of relief all night. It took them forever to figure it out and then they filled the tub for me making it MUCH colder than I was used to. Even so, I tried the tub for over an hour. Drew kept telling me that this had to be transition, that I had to be at least 8 cm by now. I desperately wanted to believe him. At a certain point though I just couldn’t deal with the pain and not knowing any more, so I asked Jen to check my dilation again. I just needed to know that this decision had made a positive difference. Unbelievably, after a steady pitocin drip for almost 3 hours, I was only dilated to 6.5 cm. Jen told me she wasn’t sure why I wasn’t progressing. Maybe my body was telling me something. She said that sometimes women’s bodies wont move forward with labor if the baby is too big, the mother’s pelvis is too small, or there is something else preventing a healthy delivery. She told us that she wanted to be honest in that she thought a Cesarean section could end up being a possibility but that we could also try increasing the pitocin for a few hours to see what happened. A c-section was the absolute last thing I ever wanted for many reasons so I opted for the pitocin increase, but I was also at the very edge of the pain I was able to tolerate and I couldn’t imagine it increasing any more so after more than 30 hours of labor I asked for an epidural.
I was really conflicted about the pain medication. It went against everything I wanted, yet I knew it was the only way I would be able to withstand the rest of labor and avoid c-section. It took awhile for them to get to me, but when I finally got the drip I felt immediate relief. The pitocin was still flowing- I could feel huge amounts of pressure in my abdomen with each contraction. They were almost continuous and off the charts as far as the strength on the monitor, but for the first time I didn’t feel pain. I also, oddly, didn’t feel exactly myself anymore. After two more hours, however, I was still at 6.5 cm and I was told that Cesarean was my only option.
I wasn’t miserable going into surgery. I felt defeated, but I also knew I would be meeting my son really soon and that this unbelievably long process would soon be over. Once I got into the operating room, however, something went wrong. I think it was the combination of medications along with my exhaustion, stress, and hunger but I started to pass out. I remember asking the anaesthesiologist as the surgery started if it was normal that I feel so drowsy. He said it was sometimes but to let him know if I felt any pain. I stopped feeling anything at all, my baby was being born and I was fighting to maintain consciousness. All of a sudden I heard Griffin’s first wail as he was introduced to air and I cried before I completely went into shock. My blood pressure soared from extreme highs and lows, my entire body was shaking uncontrollably, I kept losing consciousness and for a brief moment I wondered if I was going to die. I remember Drew excitedly bringing Griffin over to me and I couldn’t see him and then I remember them leaving as I got sewn back together. The hospital staff packed me with warm blankets to try to stabilize me but even in the recovery room I wasn’t able to interact the way I would have wanted to for a long time. It felt like years before I could even hold my son for the first time. But when I did, it was like everything else never happened. He was so magnificent, and I was so in love with him, all that mattered was that he was here.
I spent some time feeling really sorry for myself as this experience was so much the opposite of the one I wanted. But I realized that the c-section was unavoidable- he just wasn’t going to be born any other way. And the parts in between were just part of the path I had to take to get to him. It was the most difficult experience I have been through in every way- physically, emotionally… but I can’t say that I would change it. I am glad that I experienced those first 30 or so hours of unmedicated labor. I was so happy and at peace the entire time. And the rest of it were just tests of my strength and mind. I went through everything I did for my son and I’d do it all again.