Maggie’s Birth Story: A Lesson in Expectations, Part 1
Even in labor, I have my trusty friends, the iPhone and the WSJ.
If my birth story could have a motto, it would be, “Lower your expectations,” because nothing I had thought would happen did… but it was still an amazing 34 hours. (Yes, that’s right… 34. Thirty-four. Three-Four.)
As our excited pregnancy announcement stated, the expected arrival time for Maggie was February 16th. In preparation for that very day, I had begun induction techniques starting in January. Everything you could possibly imagine that is written about induction was tried by me at some point before (and after) February 16th: walking, castor oil, a special loose leaf tea, sweeping the membranes, Evening Primrose oil, spicy foods, a pedicure, lunges and squats, etc etc… I did it all. And prior to February 16th, I really thought that being “on time” or early was going to happen. My office mates even took guesses on when I’d go into labor, and all of them predicted earlier or on the date. When February 16th came and went, I was fairly bummed out. Hadn’t I waited long enough? But the doctor set an induction date for February 23rd, and even then, I didn’t think it would come to that, mostly because: I didn’t want it to come to that.
I had heard scary things about medical induction: that it was a marathon for your body and was more painful than the regular progression of labor. A friend from church recommended I read this induction story (Part 1, Part 2), and it was the best and most sobering perspective on a recent induction. I was slowly coming to grips with the thought of it all and reading more up on it in preparation. The day before we were set to be induced, the doctor told us more about what to expect: “It could be tomorrow, it could be tomorrow night, it could be Friday morning… or even Friday night.” Wow… what was going to happen that it could take that long??
But ready or not, the induction day came. The night before, JD and I enjoyed a fun meal with his mom and my parents, all of whom were also eagerly anticipating Maggie’s birth. I knew I was going to have a hard time getting to sleep, but what I didn’t expect was that, at 4 a.m., I would wake up with light contractions. So I started timing them (4:08, 4:15, 4:23… and I started wondering if I had watched “Lost” too much because my contractions were coming at intervals matching the epic numbers from the hit TV show… I think I was delirious), but they were not painful or anything of note. Besides, we were heading to the hospital in a few short hours anyway.
JD and I grabbed our bags without haste or fanfare and got in the car, unlike what I had imagined… It was unceremonious, and I was not deep in labor or uncomfortable because the baby was coming. Before we pulled away from the house, JD smiled at me and we fist-bumped. We were still in this together, naturally or scheduled.
So, we checked in to the hospital at 7:30am, and in about an hour, I was hooked up to IVs and making jokes with the nurses. I wowed the first nurse with my ability to give blood without needing a tourniquet (a personal point of pride and the reason I don’t mind giving blood), and they checked me for how far I had progressed: just 1 cm. Sigh. It was going to be a long day. The first four hours included a dose of Cervidil, hoping they could make things more hospitable and ready down there… it only improved the situation 1 additional cm.
While waiting for the Cervidil to work, it had reached noon-time, and I knew my trusty helpmate was getting hungry. I recommended JD get some lunch, but he didn’t feel comfortable eating in front of me since I was on a liquid only restriction. So, I called my pal Libby (who works in a building near Labor & Delivery) to come chat with me while he went out to eat. It was such a nice change of pace to see her and hang out with a friend for awhile, even while contractions were happening. Here’s a picture Libby snapped when JD returned from lunch. She titled it, “JD remaining calm and smiling.” (This also shows the shirt he wore for the delivery, given to him by our friends Micah and Mary way back in college, after the semester they spent in Chile. He wanted to “bring a piece of them with us to the hospital,” as he texted them earlier that morning.)
Shortly after Libby left, the docs and nurses decided to try a new approach, using a Foley catheter to naturally balloon me to 4 cm. (Here’s more info about it if you want to learn how it works.) I had been having contractions since 4am, and it wasn’t until they did this most recent technique that I started really feeling painful contractions. Up until this point, I had just been uncomfortable. JD and I spent some time trying to do relaxation and breathing techniques, but the pain was just too much and I knew I had a marathon in front of me. By 3pm, I elected to have an epidural at JD’s reassuring, and I’m very pleased that I did. Since he and I went through the whole preparation process not really having a plan except to just go with the flow and see how things progressed, I was very glad he was so encouraging and supportive of me being in comfort, especially after trying to deal with the pain but deciding against it.
The epidural was interesting only because the anesthesiologists had problems inserting it because, surprising to me, I have slight scoliosis. Who knew? But, once it was in, I was a much happier camper. (They instructed me to let future anesthesiologists know that my spine curves slightly to the left.)
Throughout all of this, I was glad to have distractions of magazines, a very supportive and entertaining husband, and an awesome hospital staff. My parents and JD’s mom stopped by around dinnertime, and at that point, we were hopeful that I could achieve full dilation by early morning hours. We were of course going to let them know as soon as the pushing would begin, despite what time that would be.
So, next steps were Pitocin, and I am more than thrilled I had the epidural before the Pitocin began, because I could feel the contractions increasing, even with the numbing effects of the epidural. At this point, it was a wait-and-see as the Pitocin increased throughout the night and into the early morning. I watched a nurse shift change (the second such change of my stay, already), had a second banana popsicle, and kept waiting for Maggie to come.
This is an excellent time to talk about how awesome JD was throughout this whole labor and delivery process. Even though we’ve been married over seven years, I don’t think I’ve ever loved JD more than in the last month of pregnancy and exponentially more so during the whole birth process. He was amazing, and for several reasons. One, he was a wonderful advocate for me. He did several things to be a good liaison to the hospital staff, doctors and nurses as well as our family and friends who wanted updates. He also kept things from me that I didn’t know… nothing major, but he eliminated my stress by letting me only focus on the delivery and what I needed to do. Secondly, he was a great cheerleader. He was constantly telling me how well I was doing, as well as telling me how proud of me he was. It was everything I needed him to be and more… I was so impressed and felt truly loved and encouraged throughout the process.
Ok, back to the delivery… At about midnight or so (things start getting fuzzy from here), the doctor decided to break my water, in hopes that it would help move things along. Unfortunately, it did only a little to progress everything.
I’m not sure whether it was the water being broken or being on Pitocin, but the early morning hours were very difficult. I was very uncomfortable, even with the epidural, and there were a couple of complications. Around 2 am, Maggie’s heart rate dropped dramatically and swarms of nurses and doctors entered the room at once to stabilized her… she was too content in there and had fallen asleep. Nothing serious, as it turned out, and she was back to being stubborn and not dropping! We tried to get some rest, but it was still a nervous time.
Time passed… it was already the next nurse shift change at 6 am, and I had progressed to about 9 cm and was making some serious progress, it felt like. Surely I’d be pushing soon and get to have her today… ?!
Come back tomorrow and I’ll let you know Part 2 of this crazy delivery. There’s just too much to tell all in today!!