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Terri and Lauren Claire
Long labor, episiotomy, epidural, pitocin, vacuum extraction, vaginal birth

Labor started on Monday evening. Early Wednesday morning around 2 a.m. I was admitted to the hospital. After receiving an epidural, pushing for 2 hours, taking a stab at vacuum extraction with episiotomy and back to plain old pushing, Lauren Claire finally made her debut at 12:16 p.m. on April 11, 2001 at St. Vinzenz Hospital in Köln, Germany. The whole story, more or less according to a faulty memory:


Labor pains started around 6 or 7 p.m. while I was in the city shopping for a new book. They were very irregular lasting between 30 seconds and 5 minutes and coming 1-4 times an hour. I thought that they were Braxton Hicks since they weren't really painful at this point. Still, I hardly slept that night at all.


Did some translation work for a colleague at work, surfed and tried in vain to sleep. At about 5 p.m. I started timing my contractions since they seemed to be coming more often and were much stronger, but they were still irregular coming every 4-15 minutes. Ralf came home from work and was rather nervous. I hadn't called my midwife or my doctor to ask about the contractions although he'd asked me to do so. I just didn't believe that this was it. I called Eva, my midwife, and told her about my "symptoms:" I had had 4 bowel movements the day before, was having contractions in my groin, upper thighs and lower back. I had tried walking around to see if they would go away with exercise. I was getting enough fluids, so they weren't being caused by dehydration. I took a hot shower to see if they would go away or at least get stronger: no change. Eva didn't think I was in labor either, but we agreed that I should go to the hospital for CTG (NST???). If it looked like the baby was on her way, then Eva would come.

We went to the hospital at 8 p.m., got me hooked up to the CTG and the midwife on duty did an internal exam. Because my cervix was still only about 1 cm open - it had been that way for a week already - she gave me the choice of being admitted or going home. She did point out that we would be back: I was in her professional opinion "in labor." So back home Ralf watched TV and I tormented myself with strange positions and a hot bath, trying to get comfortable. Nothing seemed to work. I went to bed hoping to at least be able to get some sleep between contractions like the night before. No luck. I only managed to keep Ralf awake and realize that the only comfortable position was standing.


By 2 a.m. I was getting nervous. I didn't know if I was still dawdling at early labor or if I had magically opened up to seven cm in the last few hours. I couldn't relax except while standing. I was terribly tired, but couldn't sleep. Each contraction hurt like hell, and I didn't want to know if it was going to get worse.

Off to the hospital again, this time to be admitted and hope that it would all be over in a few hours. The baby was sleeping during the CTG so the midwife and doctor took turns trying to wake her, but Lauren wasn't cooperating. Finally they showed me my room, which I would share with 2 other women, and told me to walk around and come back at 6:30 for another CTG. By this time we were both exhausted. I couldn't really sleep, anyway not without making lots of noise, and the hospital didn't have any accommodations for Ralf. We went to the commons room and slept sitting at a table between contractions. When I couldn't sleep we got up to walk around, but then I just wanted to sleep again.

6:30 came and we went to see how I was progressing. I was terribly disappointed to find that I was only at three cm. From the pain I was experiencing, I had figured I must be further along. I was getting frustrated as I realized that I was in for a really long day at this rate and that I was already exhausted from the past two days. I felt as though the contractions were coming in rapid succession with just time for a normal breath in between - this wasn't the case, but that's how it felt. Either way, my mindset was just getting in the way. I couldn't relax at all anymore: I was so tired, frustrated and crying. I had had enough and just wanted it over now! My midwife had been notified and she was on her way. There was hope in this, but not enough to get me to settle down and breathe right. At this point I couldn't walk or stand anymore and just lay writhing on the bed. The contractions got worse and I wanted something for the pain, but the midwife on duty didn't want to give me anything until my midwife came. So we waited for Eva, me screaming, Ralf breathing. When the new midwife came on duty, I got a shot of "something" to take the edge off. It was wonderful, but it only last through one contraction. The next one came and I was screaming again.

Suddenly Eva was there and examined me. I had gone from 3 cm back to 2 cm. All my screaming and squirming made me press too soon and a hard ridge was forming around my cervix. This was bad news. I would still be able to deliver vaginally, but the risk of damage was high. Then again, birth is always risky business, right? Eva asked if we'd tried the hot tub and before I could answer, the others informed her that I hadn't been able to tolerate a hot bath at home. Too bad, I think I could have managed a more comfortable position in the larger tub. But that didn't occur to me until it was all over. I got my epidural, had weird leg spasms as everything started to relax, and promptly fell asleep. In the mean time, I got something like pitocin intravenously to get/keep my labor going. I was in heaven, so it was fine by me.

When I awoke at about 10 a.m., I didn't know how far I was and I was pretty dazed, but I felt ready for anything. I remember Eva saying if all goes well, then we'd be done in 10-15 minutes. Well, it turned out I was pushing wrong and no one could tell me how to do it right. As it was, the first of 3 tries per contraction was fine, but the other 2 were always wrong. I couldn't tell the difference. I just kept popping my eyeballs out instead of the baby. Don't ask me what I was doing wrong. If I knew, I would have done something else.

OK, so we waited. The baby was in the birth canal and making her way out. I could feel Lauren moving down and I was allowed to press when I felt the urge. It was slow going, but it was nice not having to do anything and still be giving birth. Since Lauren was taking her sweet time, the midwives went to deliver a baby in the next room. It wasn't her first, so it went quick and then we were on again. Back to pushing. Nothing was happening. I was pushing so wrong that at one point I was actually sucking the baby back into my body. The midwives busied themselves with my legs and the doctor tried pressing the baby out with Ralf's help. The head doctor was called in to help out. I felt like a warm cadaver in the Saharan desert with vultures picking at my body: I had 2 midwives, 2 doctors, a student nurse and Ralf all trying to help me get the baby out one way or another. I was overwhelmed by all this, and then the head doctor got out the equipment for a vacuum extraction procedure. I didn't need my midwife to tell to push or else Lauren would be getting that. I tried, but it just couldn't. I felt the episiotomy - 2 cuts - and the vacuum extractor being placed on Lauren's head and slipping. Ouch! My epidural prevented me from feeling terrible pain, but I was far from being pain free. The whole purpose was for me to be the initiator and not just react to a command to "press now." The doctors eventually gave up and wanted to do a c-section, but my midwife managed to get us one last try. I don't recall feeling her head crowning, just hearing Eva tell me to stop pressing. I do remember feeling her leaving my body, as if something very vital was being pulled out. I felt a great emptiness. Then she was laid on my belly and her first action was to crap all over me. How sweet! That will probably be the only time I will think so. Anyway, while we three were getting acquainted, my midwife and doctor removed the placenta and showed it to us and explained what was what. I was then sewn up while Ralf helped bathe her, get her weighed, measured and dressed. While waiting to be brought to our room, we got Lauren to latch on. And then we finally slept!

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