A week ago today my daughter, Danielle Olivia was born.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post of why I chose a midwife. It had to do with the care and respect. Now I know why I chose a midwife. If I had had any other kind of provider (with very few doctors the exception) I would have ended up with a c-section and I wouldn’t be with as fast a recovery as I am having at the moment.
This is the story of how my 34 hours of labor were not a nightmare, they were the most difficult, painful, fulfilling and incredible adventure I have ever lived through. This is the story of how 34 hours of labor don’t necessarily mean it will be nightmarish if you have people who are taking care of you who are patient, knowledgable, caring and nurturing.
This is the story of how Danielle Olivia was born.
I had everything planned to the best of my abilities. I was as highly educated as possible in birthing techniques and possibilities. My husband was more knowledgable than most pregnant women I meet. I had an amazing doula, my mom and my beyond incredible midwives.
I also had a labor which could have been a recipe for one of the typical birth horror stories. And yet It wasn’t.
I started with mild contractions Sunday night, I chose to ignore them, as everyone says, and get some sleep. Early labor is not that uncomfortable and the best advice everyone gave us is “sleep as much as you can”, so we did that. At 2 am the contractions woke me up, they were stronger and we started to measure them. They were a bit erratic but between 5-7 minutes apart.
We called my doula, Dana Wren, and she told us to keep her updated and to let her know when we wanted her to come over. We called our midwives. Rita was on call. She said to let her know when we called the doula. I made myself a bath with lavender essential oil “to slow the contractions a bit”, it didn’t work.
By 3:30-4 am the contractions were closer together 3-4 minutes apart and lasting almost a minute. I thought to myself “well, it’s been a bad pregnancy but labor is coming fast…”. By 4 am my mom was here as well as my doula. I continued to labor, going into the shower, having massages, making horse noises at the end of each contractions. I couldn’t talk when I had the rushes and the pain in my back was getting stronger and stronger.
“It is coming fast” I thought. I had complete confidence that my doula would get me to the hospital on time (between 20-45 minutes car ride away). My mother was worried my contractions were too close together and we wouldn’t make it.
By 9:30 we left the house. I was in a good mood although in constant pain, I was sure this would all be over soon. At triage we met Melissa, the midwife on call. I couldn’t be on my back due to the pain for the baby monitor, but I had to sit for the internal examination. I was one centimeter dilated. My heart broke. I had a long way to go.
“This is back labor”, my husband whispered. It was his biggest fear, after all. Even though one in every four women have it, it is still a bitch to go through. What back labor means is that the baby is posterior, her/ his head is turned towards the front instead of the back, so the hardest part of their head is hitting the bone in your coccyx. It makes for unbelievable pain.
We went home, doula, mom, husband, suitcase, yoga ball and I. Labor had to continue.
Although this is a week ago the memories are fuzzy already. I left my body at a certain point. It was the only way I could handle the pain. The rushes or contractions were hard and furious and I could breathe through them, but the back pain did not subside between them and it just kept getting stronger and stronger.
My doula tried everything in her book to make the baby turn. She forced me, lovingly, to crawl around the house even though I hated it and cursed her out. She did the Rebozo technique. She had me lie on one side and then the other, she moved and probed and did it all. My baby was stubborn.
I have fringed memories of those hours. I was so tired and I was in so much pain I drifted in an out of a nightmarish sleep in which contractions would make me scream out in agony and then I would try to ignore the back pain that would just not leave me.
I was told, later, that my mother would leave the room so she could cry. My husband’s heart was breaking.
I tried to eat. I threw up a few hours later.
I remember being on my hands and knees feeling the whole weight of the world on my back and being in so much pain that I said I was done. All my preparation, my high threshold for pain, my breathing and meditating, my mantra “my body is made for this” evaporated. It was about 6 pm. I tried to convey that if I could, I would take a knife and cut this baby out myself. I was done.
We called the midwives (we had been in touch throughout the day) and told them we were on the way. We got to the hospital at 7 pm on the Monday and I asked for an epidural. Not the midwife nor the doula fought me on it. If you want it, you can have it.
There went my dreams of a natural birth. No more Birthing Center, no more being all natural. Fuck it all, I thought. I want the drugs. I was also just 3 cm dilated and very disappointed with myself, I couldn’t believe my body was not doing what it was supposed to. The very stubborn baby was very much posterior and I knew what an epidural came with (IV fluids, oxytocin, tearing, etc.), I accepted it all. I was done.
It took the hospital three hours to get the drugs into me. Three hours of excruciating torment. I breathed, cursed and almost broke my husband’s fingers through the contractions. He kissed my brow and promised me a Great Dane, the dog I always wanted, since he supposed we would have no more children. When the anaesthesiologist told me that the local anaesthesia prick would be the worst I laughed, I told him to skip that part and just to inject me. He laughed but went according to procedure.
I was able to breathe. My husband says my face changed. I came back. The me that had been gone for the last hours in order to survive, was back.
At the Birthing Center I was allowed to have as many companions as I wanted, in Labor and Delivery I was only allowed two. The nurses and everyone else turned a blind eye and I was able to have my mother, my doula and my husband there with me. All of the nurses we had that night were outstanding in their care.
With the drugs came the IV as well as positioning of my legs to help the baby turn. I drifted in and out of sleep as the contractions tried to make my cervix open up. Everyone in the room was exhausted. My mother slept on the couch, my doula made herself a little nest of sheets and pillows under the desk and my husband paced and sat and kissed me and told me how much he loved me. I wish the bed had been large enough for him to lay next to me.
After a few hours of a very slow Pitocin drip Melissa, the midwife, stopped it. She came in and explained that the baby was having decelerations in the heart rate. It was nothing to worry about, the baby was not in distress but it could become in distress. I was still only 3-4 cm dilated. She said that if the baby continued to be in distress then… I knew what that would turn into, hours and hours of labor going into the cutting board, into a c-section. I said sure. Whatever needed to be done.
She continued to explain, very calmly and without causing any anxiety that the new midwife, Rita, would come in very shortly (at 6 am) and with the new pair of eyes we would see how to proceed.
Rita came in and explained the decelerations of the baby’s hear beat again. She also explained how I had two external monitors, one for contractions and the other one for the baby’s heart-rate. Because they were external the readings could be somewhat inaccurate. She said she would place a tiny needle in my baby’s head to measure the heart-rate as accurately as possible so we would know if the Pitocin was affecting or not. She also explained how my cervix was not doing what it was supposed to do, probably because of the baby’s position.
Everyone in the room was a bit out of it after two nights of not sleeping. I agreed to the procedure. Rita had my legs open and asked me when I was ready for her to touch me.I told her I was. She didn’t need to break my waters since they had already broken. She inserted the monitor. She restarted the Pitocin drip slowly.
I felt respected and well taken care of. I didn’t have a minute of anxiety over my baby. After a few hours the decelerations were still happening.
Rita, the midwife, explained that with Pitocin you get three strikes, you can only stop it three times, after that… well, we all knew, a c-section. She wanted to try something else before giving up. She was going to insert another monitor inside me, it would go around the baby and into the back of the uterus. This way she could monitor as accurately as possible the strength and duration of the contractions. She would also be able to know if the baby’s decelerating heart beat happened at the beginning or end of the contraction. If it was at the beginning then everything was fine, it was the uterus pushing the baby and that was why her heart rate was erratic. If it was at the end of the contraction then we were in more trouble. “This is early labor” she announced. I laughed out loud. “Early labor after over 24 hours!!!”.
I asked my husband to put some Philip Glass on. The steady, repetition of the piano and musicality swept us all into a trance-like state.
She started to up the Pitocin again, but while beforehand it had been two by two, this time it was one by one, a very slow and steady drip. My husband kept telling me sweet, beautiful words which fluttered into my very achy and half asleep body. He touched my face and looked at me with such awe. My mother kept a steady gaze, taking it all in in her sleep deprived state. My Doula encouraged me, massaged my feet, was truly awesome.
After a few hours of monitoring the induced contractions the midwife asked if she could examine me again. It was 10 am. I said “go for it”, another version of my answer to everything after my epidural, which was “I don´t care”. I was 5 cm.
My doula had gone out to get coffee for everyone (except me, although I was famished). She tried to bring in a rose but they wouldn’t allow it. Instead, she showed me a picture of it. For the next hour and a half I meditated with the blossoming pink rose in my mind. “Open” was the mantra I kept repeating to myself silently, “open”.
By 11-something the midwife asked permission to check me again. I was 10 cm! There was a huge cheer in the room, I cried. I was so excited. My body was finally doing what it was supposed to do.
Rita asked me if I wanted to push now or if I wanted to wait. “Why wait? let’s do it!”. My husband held one of my legs, my doula helped me with the other and I waited for the contraction to push. My doula kept repeating “out of your face and down”.
“The head, there’s the head!”, “do you want to touch it”, I was asked, “of course!” I responded. I touched my baby’s head and it all started to be more real. I pushed for three contractions and she was out. Between pushes the midwife kept putting gel all around my perineum, taking care of it like it was her own.
“It’s a girl” my husband told me. As they took my little one to get examined at the other side of the room to make sure the meconium was out of her mouth and nose.
“You have no tears” my midwife announced proudly. My training with the epi-no had proven successful.
My baby was put on my chest as she did the new born crawl and started to breastfeed right away.
I had a 34 hour labor which could have turned into one of those horror stories, into a c-section or worse. I had a very painful back labor which could not have been avoided but which was the best back labor anyone could have asked for.
I still don’t have the “forgetting” hormone which I have spoken about before, I remember. I remember the pains and aches and constant uncomfortableness of pregnancy. I remember the labor, the unnamable pain which made me curse it all. I don’t have the “forgetting” hormone just yet, but I am getting what my husband calls the “worth it” hormone.
It’s been a week since the most intense adventure of my life and I feel grateful for all the people who were at my side. I am recovering quickly, I have no aches nor pains, and am eager to take long walks with my new daughter, to show her the world and let her know she can be anything she wants to be.