Thursday, October 10, 2013

{Becoming Mother II} - An Induction Birth Story

In honor of Baby #3's impending arrival, we are launching another {Becoming Mother} blog series. As my own labor and delivery quickly approaches, I find it encouraging to immerse myself in childbirth stories. I love reminding myself that women birth every day, that they survive and that they rejoice in being a mother when it's all over. 

As always, this is not to promote a particular type of birth. These stories are intended to be more of a picture into "what it was really like" for these mothers in their various birth settings. I hope they inspire you to marvel in awe at God's perfect plan of childbirth.

As always, you can check out  my hospital birth story with Cannonmy birthing center birth story with Cason and my reflections on both deliveries. I will be back at the end of this series with some of my favorite birth stories from fellow bloggers, as well as my thoughts in preparation for childbirth the third time around.

Let me introduce you to my dear friend, Kristin. She and her husband joined our home group at The Village Church way back before either of us had children. Her oldest son, Jack, is three months older than Cannon and I ask her billions of questions as she leads the way into all things regarding mothering boys! She's a fabulous graphics designer, an even better friend, and I thoroughly enjoy all of our play dates with our four rambunctious boys. 

Parker's Birth
Dec 4, 2012
9 lbs 21.5 in

Parker’s birth was beautiful, but it did not begin in the way I had hoped for. At 41 weeks pregnant, I was still dilated the same two centimeters I had been for weeks. So frustrating. A non-stress test (recording baby’s heartbeats and kicks for a 30-minute period) and a biophysical sonogram showed my baby boy to be happy and thriving, but my amniotic fluid levels were very low (anything under 5 mm is considered oligohydramnios, and the largest pocket of fluid the sono tech could find was 3 mm).

I kicked and cried and argued with my doctor, but in the end he very gently said, "If you were my wife, my sister, or my daughter, this is the advice I'd give you. It's time for your baby to be born." And to that, what could I say?

My sorrow hardly made sense, even to me. I wanted to focus on the miraculous end - that in 24 hours I would finally hold Parker in my arms. But as much as I tried to be positive, I was wrecked. I felt something precious and beautiful was being stolen from me, and I mourned. My first son Jack's birth had been frightening, confusing, painful, and exhilarating. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. By comparison, this felt clinical, cold, calculated. I had no idea how tightly I'd been holding onto that beautiful picture until it was pried from my hands.

So now, instead of the excitement of early labor I'd been envisioning, I spent the evening packing my bags, cleaning house, setting up childcare, arranging things neatly and without fuss, as if I were going on a weekend trip. I suppose the silver lining was that this was simpler for Jack. Instead of unexpectedly disappearing in the middle of the night, I was able to prepare Jack that evening. We packed a bag of toys together and I explained to him that we'd be dropping him off at nana's in the morning and that after papa picked him up from school he could come to the hospital and meet his brother. That evening, I lay beside Jack in bed and we talked, read a story, prayed, and I sang him his bedtime songs. Then I kissed him goodnight, knowing it would be his last night as an only child. 

I continued to hope and pray that my labor would start that night, but it did not. Wade bought me a book and a couple TV shows I could watch on my phone the next day while l was in labor. He urged me to go to sleep early, so with everything squared away I set my alarm for the next day…how weird to set an alarm to go have a baby. 

I didn't need the alarm. With all the conflicting emotions, I was awake well before it went off. I finally got up at 4 a.m. I read a little. Showered and dressed slowly. I continued hoping that labor would start, and - teasingly - I had several good, crampy contractions throughout that morning, spaced out with regular old braxton hicks. It put me in a sour mood. I felt edgy and a little angry at the hospital and my doctor. I had been told not to eat or drink anything the morning of the induction, and that we should try to get to the hospital a little earlier than my scheduled induction time of 8 a.m. to get paperwork out of the way. So, I defiantly ate my orange as slowly as possible, disregarding the no food ban and not caring if it made us late. (Petty, I know.)

Traffic plus my dawdling got us to the hospital at just about 8:30 (take that, hospital induction system!). The nurse behind the desk gave me a confused look (maybe trying to decide if I was in labor?) and asked if I was scheduled? The lump in my throat rose and I nearly cried, but I just nodded. Paperwork was signed, Wade was tagged, and then we waited an awkward few minutes in the hallway for a nurse to appear and show us to our labor room. 

In the room, I changed into a hospital gown and uncomfortable monitors were strapped to my belly, one for my contractions and one for Parker's heartbeat. Then I answered the million check-in questions that the nurse had to enter into her computer (what is the point of pre-registration anyway?). She commented during the check in process when the contraction monitor picked up a contraction, and I told her that yes, I'd been having contractions for most of the morning. But that one contraction was the only one I had without Pitocin in the hospital. Typically, my spontaneous contractions had fizzled out before becoming much of anything.

With check-in complete and a good period of Parker's pre-medication heartbeats recorded, the nurses started prepping me for the Pitocin. An IV was inserted and fluids pumped in. I asked a lot of questions, feeling so unprepared for what was ahead. I was told that the Pitocin drip would start at level 2 and be increased by 2 every half hour. This would continue until active labor was established (regular, hard contractions coming a minute or less apart). Typically, this happens when Pitocin is around level 20, although it can be increased all the way to 40! So, once active labor is established the Pitocin would stay on, but no longer be increased, unless labor fell off.  Most women women dilate at a rate of about 1 centimeter per hour, so most babies arrive after 10 hours, or around 6 or 7 in the evening.

My doctor came by around 9 a.m. He didn't stay long, just let me know when he'd be back to check on me and asked if I had any questions. I did, but what did it matter? I was there, I had given in, nothing left to do but go through it. He left with a smile and a shake of Wade's hand. The Pitocin was brought in, hooked up, turned on. It was 9:30. The induction had officially begun. The nurse asked if I needed anything, I said no, and so she left.

Once alone, I could no longer hold back tears. Wade hugged me while I cried and cried on his shoulder. And then, I let it go. That was the last time I felt sad that day. One good cry to say goodbye to the labor I'd hoped for, and then it was over and ideal or not, it was time to have a baby. So I focused on the contractions, and let go of the disappointments, and waited to have Parker.
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I wanted out of the hospital bed, but I couldn't go far (hospital policy was continuous fetal monitoring whenever mom is receiving Pitocin). Wade pulled the rocking chair over to a spot beside the bed where the fetal and contraction monitors could reach and helped me out of bed. I wasn't feeling any pain at this point, but I could tell that the mild contractions I'd been having all morning were already responding to the low dose of Pitocin, growing more regular if not particularly strong. For the rest of the morning Wade and I chatted some but mostly read. Every half hour the nurse would come in and turn up the Pitocin. 

At 11 a.m., after being on Pitocin for an hour and a half, my doctor came back to check on me. At this point, the contractions were very consistent and very noticeable, but not any more painful than a regular cramp. I was dilated 3 centimeters, so very little progress made from the 2 centimeters I had been at 24 hours previously. My doctor didn't seem discouraged, but he asked if I would be willing to have my water broken to help things along. I consented. And when he broke my water, I was surprised by how little fluid there was. It was significantly less than I remember when my water broke with Jack. So, I suppose the low amniotic fluid diagnosis was correct, although my doctor didn't comment on it.

The doctor cleared out, and the nurses asked if I needed anything. I couldn't eat lunch, but that was okay because my mind wasn't really interested in food at this point. But I was thirsty, so the nurse brought me some really icy cold apple juice. Wade helped me and my monitors and IV out of bed and back into the rocking chair, and I went back to reading my book. The contractions were steadily growing stronger and closer together. At some point I could no longer concentrate on the book I was reading - I would lose the thread of the story every time a contraction hit, and they were close enough together that I didn't have time to find my place in the book and reoriented myself in the story before another contraction began. So I gave up, distracting myself by talking to Wade and the other nurses who popped in from time to time, scanning through blogs, and texting friends and family who were asking for updates.

Time seemed to pass fairly quickly, and the Pitocin continued to creep up every half hour. By 1 p.m. I was seriously hurting and I gave up reading anything. My back ached, so Wade busted out the rice socks. The heat bought some relief.  The contractions were now taking all my attention. At the start of each one, I would press back into the hot rice sock and rock and rock and remind myself to relax, relax, relax. Breath. I told myself it was game, to see if I could make it to the next half hour. I tried to watch TV, but with the contractions now coming very fast it wasn't long before gave up on that as a distraction.

But by 1:30 I was shaking. The contractions were hard, long, and frequent. Long contractions with short breaks in between were wearing me out, and I was having a really difficult time fighting my body to keep it relaxed. Mentally I was starting to get a little frantic, but I told myself again to try to make it one more half an hour. Just until 2 p.m.

But now time was crawling! I made it to 2 p.m., but only just barely. I was desperately watching the clock, trying to keep to my own silly goal, so when a nurse poked her head in at a few minutes till 2, I told her (shaky-voiced) that I was ready for the epidural. She promised to get the anesthesiologist right away.

The next half hour was the most difficult by far! Wade helped me get through it with heat from the rice socks and pressure from his hands, but when the anesthesiologist arrived around 2:15 I was so relieved to see him, and impatient for him to make this craziness stop! He was a different doctor from either of the two I saw with Jack. Somehow our last birth experience came up (maybe he asked?) so I found myself telling him – in spurts between contractions – how I had been numbed up to my eyeballs with my last epidural and how that had caused me to push ineffectively for nearly two hours before they got the medicine turned down and my contractions back up. The doctor was shocked, and asked incredulously, "This happened at this hospital??" I assured him yes, and after a pause he asked, "Do I look familiar?" Ha! I described for him what the anesthesiologists from Jack's birth had looked like and he and the nurses seemed to know right away who I was describing, but he continued to shake his head in disbelief over my previous experience the rest of the time he was in my room. I'm sure he was ribbing his fellow doctors later that day.

With all his gear finally set up, the doctor had me sit on the edge of the bed and hug a pillow while he placed the epidural. I had three very difficult contractions while he put it in, and I'd have to stop things and grip Wade's hands through the peak because I couldn't keep myself from shaking. The contractions by this point were awful, and during each one I would think there was no way I could survive another. I dreaded the creeping tightening sensation across my back and belly that meant another one was coming. I was nearly panting to try to make myself relax and breath when the pain became unbearable. And then it would slowly subside, like a wave pulling back, and I'd have around 30 seconds to catch my breath and prepare for the next one. It was relentless, but there were breaks. And the fear I experienced with Jack's birth was gone, because this pain was remembered and familiar. And somehow I didn't forget this time that the pain was purposeful and would end with a baby in my arms. So, in that way, this labor was just as painful but at the same time easier than my previous one.

At 2:30 the epidural was in. I felt three contractions, each one increasingly less intense and painful, then they were gone and my body unknotted with relief. My doctor came in right at this moment, took in the scene (anesthesiologist packing up, asking me follow up questions about my numbness level while I still sat on the edge of the bed holding a pillow) and he grinned and said something about knowing better than to show up before the meds kicked in. I was glad to see him because I wanted to know my dilation. My doctor checked me. His eyebrows went up and lips pursed together and he said in a surprised voice, "That's a 8." I immediately said "No, you're kidding!" And I thought he was - he looked so cartoonish staring at me with wide eyes that I really thought he was making some kind of weird joke. I looked at the nurse and exclaimed, "he's kidding! Is he kidding?" My mind just couldn't process that I was already through active labor and in the transition phase. My doctor just grinned at me and told me he'd be back in 30 minutes because he was sure by then I'd be ready to push (what??).

My Pitocin level was 14, and they wouldn't turn it up any higher for the rest of my labor. 30 minutes fly by. With the epidural in I'm stuck in bed, but now nurses are in and out of my room in a flurry of activity. And the epidural is really good this time - I'm only numb from my waist down, and it's just a tingling numbness that takes away the intense pain of the contractions without taking away all my mobility (I can still move my legs clumsily, kind of like when your leg falls asleep).  

At 3 p.m. my doctor is back and I am complete! Full dilation at 10 centimeters, and Parker's head is engaged at zero station. The activity in the room goes up a notch, my bed is transformed, the baby nurses arrive with their equipment, the resident doctor arrives to assist my doctor, and everyone prepares for a baby. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! Parker is coming! I start to feel a different sensation low in my pelvis, and though I wasn't doing anything directly and the doctors and nurses were not yet ready, I suspect that my body is already pushing this baby out.

So at 3:15 p.m., when I’m helped into a pushing position, I'm not surprised when someone says "Baby's crowning!" Everyone else was, and Wade excitedly told me he could already see a head of hair! My doctor and the resident doctor get in place to do the catch, Wade and a couple nurses surround me. First contraction, I push and the head moves down farther, nearly born. It was surreal, how quickly this was happening. Short rest, then a second contraction. I push with all I have, and the head is born. Everyone is encouraging during the break. My doctor tells me to push gently now. Third contraction, I give three very small pushes and the shoulders are born and the rest of the body slips free! Parker is passed up to me immediately, placed in my arms goopy and bloody. I cry. Parker was born at 3:23 p.m., after six hours of labor and just under one hour after receiving the epidural. Someone handed a pair of scissors to Wade, and he cut the cord.
All the stress and pain of the past 24 hours was forgotten when I finally held Parker in my arms. My sweet Parker, you seemed like such a miracle, coming from out of nowhere. I was overwhelmed with emotion and love and appreciation and gratitude for you. You seemed tiny in my arms, so I thought you were smaller than your brother. But I was wrong - when the nurse stole you away for a moment to weigh and measure you, you were 9 pounds exactly and 21 1/2 inches long. Nearly a half pound bigger and one inch shorter than Jack! I guess I'd forgotten how tiny newborns are, or maybe that inch made you feel smaller. Moments later, you were back in my arms, now swaddled like a glowworm in a tight newborn bundle.
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Like with Jack, I never even noticed when the placenta was birthed, I was too distracted and euphoric. I did think to ask my doctor how it looked (low amnio fluid can be a sign of a placenta that is dying or wearing out) and he said it had looked perfect. I was stitched up (only one small second degree tear) and cleaned up and the birth team packed themselves away. The nurses all congratulated us. Before he left, my doctor leaned over and hugged me and kissed my forehead and told me Parker was beautiful. I remember I could hardly answer because I was so overwhelmed with emotion. I held you tight. The nurse encouraged me to see if you'd nurse, so we tried breastfeeding for the first time (you latched on like a champ).
Not long after, a wheelchair was brought in and we were getting ready to transfer upstairs to postpartum. So soon! I suppose that was normal, but it surprised me because we had waited for such a long time in the delivery room with Jack before a postpartum room was made ready. Wade packed up our things, and we said goodbye to the room where my entire labor took place. We made the journey upstairs and the nurse helped me out of the wheelchair and into the bed (my legs were still a little wobbly from the epidural, but I could stand just fine). We settled in. A new nurse was already there, bustling around and showing us the features of the room. I held Parker close and breathed his new baby scent. It was wonderful to not be pregnant anymore, wonderful to be holding a perfect newborn again, wonderful that labor was OVER and the prize won. I was in bliss.

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