When I discovered I was pregnant with my son, my husband and I were
overjoyed. We had tried to get pregnant for three years, which was disappointing and frustrating. I had already formed strong opinions about how I wanted my labor and delivery to go, and I was certain that I had complete control over the process. The birth plan I presented my midwife with stated that I wanted no pain medication and as little medical intervention as possible. This was my choice, right? We chose a hospital birth with a highly recommended midwife who has her office/home in Seattle. My due date was May 28, 1993 which was our fifth anniversary. We planned an intimate dinner close to home for the occasion given that we weren't certain we would make it. As it turned out, May 28th came and went as it did with most first time moms, and it wasn't until June 3rd that things got started.
I went to bed around midnight on Wednesday night and woke up about 2:30 am to pee and there was blood on the tissue. I knew it was my bloody show and I was extremely excited and a little bit scared. I kept Bruce awake for awhile and then he slept. I couldn't sleep. Around 3:00 am I started leaking amniotic fluid and started having contractions 10 minutes apart, then one per hour. At 5:30 am I called Sally, our midwife, and told her that my water had broken. Sally was scheduled to be out of town camping with her daughter's class from
8:00 am Thursday to 5:00 pm Friday. We assumed that she was going to have to miss the delivery. I was able to sleep a little bit finally and we woke up about 10:00 am. We went to breakfast at a restaurant nearby and we talked a lot about what we thought labor and delivery were going to be like. Every contraction was exciting but I got tired of soiling everything I put on.
At 1:00 pm we went to our scheduled prenatal visit at Sally's office. We were seen by Heika, a student midwife that was working with Sally. Heika was being evaluated by someone from the Seattle School of Midwifery. The person with her shared in our excitement at going into labor soon. Heika listened to the baby and told us that after my water had broken, we needed to go to the hospital for a non-stress test and a Group Strep B test every 12 hours to ensure that the baby was doing fine. We scheduled the appointment for 5:00 pm that evening, and Heika advised us to try some home techniques for getting labor started. We went home. Because there was a possibility that we would have to stay at the hospital if the Strep B test was positive, we packed for the hospital. I got a hold of my mother who was to fly in for the delivery and she
scheduled a flight for 7:00 am Friday which would arrive at 11:15 am.
At 5:00 pm, we went to the hospital for the non-stress and Strep B test. We met FraNa who is Sally's backup midwife and who would be doing the delivery since Sally was going to be gone. We also met Patricia who is an intern midwife working with FraNa. She asked to observe my birth, and we agreed. Since the Strep-B test results would take about an hour, we decided to go to dinner. At 6:30 pm, we went to Cucina! Cucina! for dinner which must be the noisiest place on earth. It made the whole idea of being in labor very festive to be there, and we ate well. I told the waitress I was in labor and she screamed in delight. Bruce called about the Strep test and we were told we didn't need to go back to the hospital and that we could go home. While we were still at dinner, the contractions sped up to about 15 minutes apart. I was a little bit more excited, and we drove home.
By 9:00 pm, the contractions were about five minutes apart. I was definitely in labor now. I called several people to tell them. Bruce and I got in the shower and used the shower massager for about 45 minutes. I also started using my friend Liz Chalmer's book. (It is called "The Childbirth Kit.") The picture with the light lines against the green background is best - I imagine myself climbing up the straight side with the in breath and sliding down the diagonal lines with the out breath. By 10:30 pm I started using more serious coping techniques, and called Heika. I was still not quite ready to go to the hospital but the contractions were definitely getting stronger.
At 2:00 am I knew it was time to go to the hospital when I was anticipating that the ride there would be rather uncomfortable. We called Heika and decided to go to hospital. We arrived at the hospital at 2:30 am and a nurse checked me. I was 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. They took me up to the labor and delivery area and I put on a gown and they ran a monitor strip on me and Heika checked me. It was pretty exciting that I had made so much progress. I got into the jacuzzi tub right away and stayed there for quite awhile. I think this is when we developed my coping ritual. I would hold hands with Bruce (or whoever else was closest) and do slow breathing through the contraction. I labored that way until 8:15 am when I was checked by Heika who found me at 7 cm dilated and 90% effaced.
This next section of time isn't too memorable. I guess I walked around, went through several contractions, and made progress. I think close to the next check I started to go into transition. I threw up and Heika called FraNa. At 10:15 am I was checked again by Heika and was found to be 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced.
I was starting to get discouraged by this point. When Heika checked me I was disappointed in how far I was and wasn't sure how much more I could take. I knew my mom was on the way and looking forward to her getting there kept my mind off the contractions a little. My mom got there at about 11:30 am. Curiously, I had been thinking that somehow she would make all of the pain stop. When I saw her I was so relieved that I burst into tears. I got back into the jacuzzi tub for awhile and Bruce and I did some nipple stimulation to try and get the contractions to be stronger. It didn't seem to help that much.
At 1:15 pm I was checked by FraNa and I was still at 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced. FraNa decided that the head was not straight-on to the cervix, so the cervix was not dilating evenly. We started trying different positions to try and help the head to get straight into the pelvis - rocking, knee-chest, rocking legs on rail, etc. Sometime around here, because my progress was slowing down, they decided to give me a bag of fluids to help hydrate me and give me some sugar for energy. They started talking about using some pitocin, but the contractions were so painful that I didn't think I could handle them. I told them that I would need pain medication if I had the pitocin. I think this is when my coping ritual started to include light breathing instead of slow breathing. Whenever the contractions got really bad, Bruce would really make me pay attention to him.
At 4:15 pm, after six hours at eight centimeters dilated, we decided to use pitocin and an epidural. The spiral of interventions begins. I was catheterized and an automatic blood pressure cuff were put on my arm. I remember being very sad as all of the tubes and wires were stuck into me. This is not how I wanted
it to be. The doctor who gave me the epidural was there immediately and did the procedure very fast. My mom held both my hands and talked to me the whole time the doctor was doing the procedure. I sunk thankfully into sleep. After two hours, at 6:15 pm, I started to feel a lot of pressure and told the nurse. I was then checked by Heika (Sally had arrived), who found me to be fully dilated, and we started to prepare for pushing.
I was so relieved and excited. The hard part was over! I was really looking forward to pushing. I knew that I would be a great squatter. I told everyone to hurry up and get ready. At 6:30 pm I started pushing. After 30 minutes, the epidural was reduced so that I could feel the pushing. After 30 minutes more, the epidural was reduced again. Patricia (FraNa's student midwife) sat behind me to support me while I pushed in the squatting position. I felt really good and refreshed by the rest. I joked around with everybody. I waited impatiently for each contraction. After a few hours, my spirits flagged. We had been trying a lot of positions and the baby had not moved. I was in a lot of pain. I was unable to resist the urge to push. Sally was unable to determine the position of the baby's head. At one point, she put her hand between the baby's head and my cervix and tried to slide her hand around to see where his ears were. I screamed in pain. I was getting ready to give up.
At 10:30 pm I was given a big dose of some pain killer (don't remember which one) to reduce pain and let me sleep. Also, the pitocin was increased, to try to establish a stronger contraction pattern. I was grateful for the "cocktail" I was given. Between contractions, I slept. During the contractions, I breathed and thought about the fact that I would soon be offered a C-section. I was now desperate for this to end.
At 12:30am Saturday I woke up. The contractions were determined to be still not as strong as needed. By this time I was resigned to a C-section. I, as well as my husband and mother, were exhausted emotionally and physically. Although my baby has never shown signs of distress, I knew that it had been hard on him. I wanted him to come out.
At 1:00 am we started discussing options: 1) pump up pitocin even more, 2) push for an hour more and try vacuum extractor, 3) c-section. Everyone but Bruce and I left the room so we could make a decision. Bruce was so exhausted that I don't think he was completely lucid during this part. When discussing the three options, we were told that #1 and #2 are not given a very optimistic chance. I told Bruce that I was ready for C-section. At 1:30 am we told Sally we had decided on a c-section. Sally had bright lights turned on and cold water put on my face so I would be wide awake for the explanation and signing of the consent form. Dr. K., the physician who would perform the c-section, came in to check me, explained the procedure, and
had me sign the consent form. A nurse came in and shaved part of my belly. Mom and Bruce and Sally and Heika and Patricia put on blue clothes.
At 2:00 am I was wheeled into the operating room, but then was moved out because of someone else needing an emergency c-section. The anesthesiologist gave me some extra zaps of medication to keep me comfortable while we waited. I tried to sleep during this time and waited for the C-Section. I think Mom and Bruce went to eat and rest and I dozed. At 4:00 am I was wheeled back into operating room. The operating team worked like clockwork. They turned the epidural way up and I started shaking very badly. The shaking was horrible and scary. I held Bruce's hand very tightly. They put an oxygen mask on my face. I felt a lot of pulling and tugging. I couldn't wait to see my baby! We hadn't had even a routine ultrasound so we had no idea yet if it was a boy or a girl until he was delivered. I tried very hard to relax but the shaking was making me very uncomfortable.
At 4:22 am Saturday morning, Stuart Aaron Copeland, 7 lbs 1 ounce, 19 inches long was born. My mother started exclaiming about the baby, and I asked if it was a boy or a girl. No one would tell me - they held him up for just a minute for me to see and then wrap him up. I have a son! My mother brought him over to us. I can't let go of Bruce's hand but I looked at the baby. Was that amazing little creature really inside of me? I begged for the shaking to stop and I was given a shot of Demerol and became very drowsy. After closing me up, they wheeled me back to the L&D room.
At 5:00 am Sally started showing Stuart how to breastfeed. I was aware that it was happening, but was pretty out of it from the Demerol. They then took Stuart to the nursery. I remember very little about this part. I have missed that precious first hour of my son's life. I slept for a few hours and then woke up when a nurse came in. She gave me a cherry popsicle. Bruce and Mom slept in the room. At about 10:30 am they moved me to the postpartum wing. Liz Chalmers came to visit that afternoon. What went wrong? Neither Sally nor Dr. K. could determine the position that Stuart was in my pelvis. When they got him out, he had a large bruise on the front part of his head. They think he might have been in a brow presentation in the "sunny side up" position. He was unable to progress through my pelvis because of this. Also, they are not sure why my contractions were so weak. It may have been exhaustion or there may have been an infection present in my uterus from my water breaking early.
When I was able to think about my birthing process a day later, I was overwhelmed with depression and grief. I had been through over fifty hours of labor and then had a c-section. I had thought that I had complete control of this situation and felt like a failure even though I was told over and over that I had done nothing wrong. I was completely traumatized by the amount of pain I had gone through and for years I cried every year on my son's birthday. I got angry when I read accounts of childbirth which "go perfectly" in which the author claims it was her "control over her emotions" and her "ability to be in tune with her body". I believe now that the person who feels that way has been a little lucky and has not learned as I have that it doesn't matter what you do - nobody has control over the birth process. Now that I am pregnant with my daughter, who is due on May 6th, 1999, I have a different perspective on this amazing process. I have much more respect for it and will allow it to happen in its own way.