The following post is part of a “Birthin’ Babies” guest post series. The series was created to honor the courageous journeys of a variety of Mamas. Their stories are as unique and beautiful as each woman. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I do!
At 7:30 am on July, 10th 2012, I woke up soaking wet. After announcing to Jeffrey that I had peed myself, I sleepily staggered to the bathroom. As I walked, large gushes of fluid streamed down my leg and my mind began to race back to our childbirth classes and discussions about premature rupture of the membranes. A million questions raced through my mind at once: what does it smell like? Is this really it? Are we having a baby? If so, when?
After catching my breath and shoving a towel between my legs, I started to make some phone calls. First, I called my mom and shared the good news. Next on the list was Nicole, our birthing class instructor. While I knew that traditionally new mamas are instructed to go directly to the hospital when their water breaks, this was not part of my birth plan and I felt like I needed to talk it out with someone I trusted before entering the hospital. I had planned on laboring at home, waiting until the last possible moment to go to the hospital, but Nicole reminded me that even though this wasn’t a part of the original plan, it was now part of our birth story. She also reminded me that after all the drama searching for OB’s I had finally found one that I trusted and now was the time that I needed to put my plans aside and follow the doctor’s advice, knowing that she had my (and baby’s) health and safety in mind. After talking it over with Nicole, I decided to call our doctor who instructed us to go immediately to the hospital. After taking our time getting ready, we headed off and were soon admitted to labor and delivery where our adventure really began…
At the hospital, we checked into a beautiful, oceanfront room, met our amazing nurse, Kelly, and went over the details of our “birth preferences” with her. Shattering my preconceived notions about hospital staff and their rigid medical policies, Kelly respected everything that I had painstakingly outlined in my birth plan. She conveniently “forgot” to hook me up to the EFM every forty minutes, delayed my saline lock until the last possible moment, and allowed us to try all of our natural induction techniques to jumpstart contractions. From 11 am to 6 pm, Jeff and I paced the halls of the hospital, bounced on the labor ball, ate lollipops, and tried nipple stimulation… all to no avail.
When my doctor called at 6:00, we still had ZERO contractions and were starting to approach the time when she and the nurses were becoming worried about my risk of infection. Since my water had broken, eliminating the protective barrier between baby and the world, the doctor warned me that I was at greater risk for infection and that if I were to develop anything (including a fever) we would need to do an emergency Caesarean. For this reason, she suggested that we begin a low dosage of Pitocin to stimulate contractions and get labor started before baby’s safety was compromised.
At this point… I completely lost it.
Sensing the tension in my voice, the doctor reminded me that she wasn’t going to force me into anything I was uncomfortable with, but urged me to carefully consider the potential outcomes of my decision. I thanked her and told her that I wasn’t ready to resort to artificial augmentation just yet, but that I would consider her advice. After hanging up the phone, I burst into tears feeling like my entire labor experience was beginning to slowly crumble. Having studied Pitocin at great lengths during my pregnancy, I knew that it was often the first step in a “domino reaction” of interventions. Pitocin would jumpstart the labor, but would do so with contractions that were stronger and more intense than what my body would produce naturally. I was afraid that I would be unable to handle the pain and would resort to an epidural or other pain medication. On the other hand, I was worried that with each hour that passed, I was putting myself, and Ashtyn, at risk for infection and had terrible visions of being rushed off for an emergency C-Section, cheating myself out of the opportunity to even try an unmedicated vaginal delivery.
I talked it over numerous times with Jeff and our nurses, and despite their kind words and support, I felt very alone. I was prepared to fight with hospital staff over my rights, to grin and bear incredible pain, but I wasn’t prepared to sit in a beautiful room with no pain whatsoever and have everyone looking to me to call the shots myself. I didn’t know where the line between safety and selfishness was and was torn between sticking to the plan I had created for labor and ensuring my daughter’s safety. On top of that, I was also feeling physically and emotionally drained from a long day of feeling pressure to perform and couldn’t imagine beginning labor and starting my marathon on empty.
I decided to try and take a nap to prepare myself for whatever lay ahead. After sleeping for about 30 minutes, I woke up in an anxious sweat and decided to put my plan aside and start the Pitocin. My incredible nurse, Kathleen, agreed to start me at the lowest possible dosage and delay any increases until after I was able to see the doctor in the morning. At 3:00 am Kathleen hooked me up to an IV for the first time all day and started the Pitocin drip. At 3:10 she came skipping down hall and burst into our room with a huge smile on her face, ready to celebrate my first contractions.
I continued to contract regularly until 8:00 am when my doctor arrived to check in with our progress. The doctor explained that while the Pitocin was able to jumpstart my contractions as she had hoped, the contractions were not increasing and were therefore unproductive. She suggested that we increase the dosage from 2 mu/min to 4 mu/min in order to increase the strength and regularity of the contractions and hopefully open up my cervix. If all went smoothly, she predicted that we would be having a baby by 10-11 pm.
After calling our parents to update them on our progress (or lack there of) we agreed to increase the Pitocin and my contractions went from 5-8 minutes apart to 4 minutes apart. During the contractions I stretched over my labor ball, sat in a rocking chair with a heat pad on my back, and more importantly, tried to rest between each wave of pain. While Jeff was prepared to talk me through the pain with loving words and motivating mantras, I found myself wanting to focus on the contractions and shooed him away to let me work through the pain.
Everything was going smoothly until around 10:00 AM my contractions started to become really intense. Our wonderful nurse, Kelly, had come back to work her next shift and had been hanging out in our room helping us pass the time. She noticed that I was starting to grunt with each wave of contractions and warned me not to push. She was getting worried because if I started to push on a cervix that wasn’t dilated, I would risk swelling and an emergency C-section. I tried to listen, but with each contraction I felt overwhelming pressure in my lower abdomen and couldn’t resist the urge to push.
The pain at this point was extremely intense and I was getting scared that I wouldn’t be able to manage it much longer. I figured that if I were feeling such incredible pain now, it would be unbearable by 10:00 pm when we were getting ready to push. My biggest fear was realized as I turned to Jeff and yelled, “I am going to need medicine. I am not kidding right now.” I could see the anxiety in his eyes as he and Kelly looked at each other, unsure about how to proceed from here.
Up until this point, Kelly had respected our request to avoid cervical exams (in order to decrease my risk of infection), but she announced that we needed to check to find out why I was already trying to push. After a very painful exam, Kelly explained with a perplexed look on her face that she couldn’t find my cervix and either we were ready to have a baby, or Ashtyn was extremely posterior and the pain I was experiencing was back labor. The probability of me being ready to push was extremely unlikely, and so I felt crushed thinking that my baby was in a bad position, making the labor unusually painful. I was especially upset because in the final weeks of my pregnancy, while I was at my heaviest and most uncomfortable, I had done everything in my power not to lounge around in an effort to avoid this very scenario.
Kelly rushed out of the room to get the on-call doctor for a second opinion. He entered the room and after a three second exam, chuckled and told us that we were having a baby… NOW!
Because we weren’t expecting Ashtyn to arrive until much later in the evening, we were completely unprepared for the delivery. Kelly yelled down the hall for someone to bring the necessary equipment and to call my doctor. She and Jeff each held one of my legs while new faces started to pour into the room carrying monitors, gloves, and other miscellaneous tools. During this commotion, Kelly was coaching me through each contraction, urging me to give three strong pushes with each wave. After two pushes, she asked me if I wanted to know what color hair our baby had and I focused long enough to hear her say, “Dark” and laugh out loud.
Before long, my doctor appeared looking absolutely astonished. As she pulled on gloves, she told Jeff that she has asked the nurse to repeat my name three separate times on the phone because she didn’t believe there was any possible way I would be ready to deliver so soon. With Jeff and Kelly pushing my knees up towards my head, the doctor started to give orders.
She encouraged me to push with all my might, and explained the progress that my baby was making with each good push. Just as I started to feel an awful burning sensation, she told me to keep going and that it was just the “ring of fire” that everyone talks about. I pushed with every ounce of strength in me until finally, at 10:52 am, Ashtyn Noelle made her grand entrance into the world. The doctor dropped her on my chest and in the most un-ladylike display ever, I said, “Holy shit.”
I feel like an idiot for having these be the first words to escape my mouth upon seeing my beautiful daughter for the first time, but I just couldn’t help it. Finally seeing her was the most surreal experience of my life and there simply weren’t words to describe the hurricane of emotions that I was feeling.
As she lay on my chest looking around the room and grabbing at my skin, I knew that my decision to avoid pain medication was worth it. Even as I winced from the pain of being stitched up after birthing the placenta, I didn’t care, because Ashtyn was alert and active. Her beautiful eyes were open wide, taking in everything around her. Once the cord stopped pulsating, Jeff cut it and the doctors and nurses all congratulated us and left the room, leaving us to enjoy “the golden hour” together as a family.
My Birth Story (Husband’s Perspective)
On Tuesday July 10th, 2012 at approximately 7:00 AM Lindy rolled over to me in bed and said, “I think I peed myself”. Working in the law enforcement industry and being oftentimes subjected to the sight or smell of bodily fluids, I knew instantly that the large wet spot in our bed did not smell like urine.
As Lindy scooted out of bed and waddled towards our bathroom, the sound of trickling fluid on our stone floor confirmed that this was definitely not a potty accident. It only took a few seconds for sleepy Lindy to come to the conclusion that her water broke in the middle of week 37.
I went into protective husband mode and created a small and comfortable love nest comprised of blankets, towels, and pillows on the floor in our master bathroom so Lindy could stop worrying about leaking onto the carpet. A million thoughts were racing through my head: “we don’t even have a bassinet yet”, “the nursery isn’t finished”, “good thing we painted last night”, but most importantly, “who cares Jeff? In 24 hours or less you and Lindy will become parents”.
I know Lindy was immediately disappointed that her birth story was going to start out with, “Once upon a time, my water broke before I even felt one damn contraction!” I was so worried that her birth preferences wouldn’t be met and that she would be upset. The last thing a pregnant woman needs on game day is to start off on what she feels is the wrong foot.
Originally our plan was to go through a majority of labor at home, but the rupture of her bag of waters before any contractions perplexed us. So, we did what most first time expectant parents would do, we called our doctor. Just as we had anticipated, our doctor asked us to go to the hospital to “get checked out”. Lindy and I slowly gathered our things, dragged our feet, and finally left home for the hospital expecting to be sent home after we were seen.
We arrived at the hospital at around 11 AM, almost 4 hours after Lindy’s water broke, but still no contractions. Once we arrived, we quickly realized that we weren’t going anywhere. Broken water means you’re staying at the hospital until you have a baby. They walked us to our hospital room, which was huge, contained everything we needed and more. The room overlooked the ocean and the hospital staff was amazing.
Lindy was eager to begin walking and various other methods of natural induction to get this show on the road. We walked the labor and delivery floor so many times that I started to count ceiling tiles. We provided our nurse, Kelly, with our birth preferences and she assured us that they would do everything in their power to make sure those goals were realized.
From noon till about 5:30 PM we had plenty of visitors but no contractions. We sent our family members home and told them we would update them when things progressed. At about 6:00 PM, our doctor called and told Lindy that she would like to begin pitocin at about 7:00 PM because she was concerned that it had been at least 12 hours since Lindy’s water had broke and she did not want to risk an infection, especially considering Lindy still was not contracting.
I could see Lindy’s heart break during the phone conversation with the doctor and I was kind of angry deep down inside. This was exactly what I feared, I didn’t want Lindy to develop a strict birth plan with no room for deviation because labor is unpredictable and I did not want her to feel like she failed if she didn’t labor a certain way.
As I predicted, Lindy got off the phone and was heartbroken that her water broke, there were no contractions after more than 12 hours, and now she was feeling the pressure of artificially inducing labor. I told her that it wasn’t reasonable to assume that she would just all of a sudden begin having contractions because the doctor told us to call her in an hour. We began discussing our options and weighing the pros and cons of every decision, but ultimately we decided the following:
When a woman’s water breaks and there is no onset of labor for a significant period of time, she can run the risk of infection. Of course, there are women who have gone weeks after a bag rupture, had no complications, and delivered a healthy baby, but there is also the alternative. What if Lindy and I wanted to wait a few days for labor to begin on its own? What if we waited and Lindy got an infection, caught a fever, and had to have a c-section or we put the baby in distress?
Ultimately we decided that waiting from 6 PM – 7PM was unreasonable and we told the doctor we wanted more time. She understood, but cautioned us on our decision. So from 6 PM – 3 AM (more than 20 hours after Lindy’s water broke) we tried to induce labor naturally with no results. Lindy was growing restless and tired and we were worried that she was going to wear herself out before she even started contracting! At about 3 AM Lindy decided that she wanted the first and lowest dose of pitocin possible to jump start labor. Lindy started contracting almost immediately. At 8 AM Lindy asked for one more dose of pitocin and that put her contractions at about 4 minutes apart. From the time we arrived at the hospital till almost 10 AM Lindy had no cervical checks (as specified by her birth plan). At around 10 AM Lindy started having some serious contractions and the nurse was starting to worry about Lindy’s decision to forgo any type of pain medication or epidural. Then the nurse and I watched Lindy go through a contraction and we both noticed that Lindy was looking like she was pushing! The nurse told Lindy not to push because there was no way she was ready to push and she worried that if Lindy pushed to early she would anger her cervix. Another contraction came and Lindy pushed again, but told us she could not help it! The nurse decided that she was going to check Lindy’s cervix for the first time and she discovered that Lindy was completely, 100% dilated and ready to have a baby.
The nurse called her doctor and Lindy got on the table and pushed twice during a contraction and we could already see Ashtyn’s head! I frantically text messaged one family member to tell them that Lindy was pushing. The nurse, the doctor, Lindy, and I all assumed that Lindy would fully dilate later that night…not at 10 AM! Lindy had silently navigated all of her contractions with good breathing and none of us knew how far she had come. The nurse was amazed! The doctor came and told Lindy, “No epidural? You are a rockstar, let’s have a baby”. Lindy pushed from 10:00 AM till 10:52 AM and I helped the nurse in every way that I could. At one point I had Lindy’s foot in one hand, I was holding the back of her neck with my other, and was using my chin on the inside of her knee to prevent her from closing her legs. Lindy barely made a peep when she was pushing and when she would occasionally grunt she would follow it with an apology for being loud. The doctor said, “Lindy, you silently, methodically, bravely labored through all your contractions today without anyone even knowing how much pain you were in. You had ONE cervical check today and you were 100% effaced and 10 centimeters dilated. You declined an epidural and 99% of women in this position would be screaming bloody murder! Don’t you apologize to anyone.”
At 10:52 AM on 07-11-2012, Ashtyn Noelle was born. We delayed the cutting of the cord till it was done pulsating, delayed the bath, delayed the injections, had quality time with our angel and she breast fed within an hour of entering the world. She crawled, skin to skin, on Lindy’s chest, stared at us and grabbed at Lindy’s skin. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
I have never been so proud of someone in my life. It was truly amazing.
To follow the adventures of Ashtyn, check-out Jeff’s awesome blog at Kids Raising Kids. See their photo on the right hand column of my blog? It’s under my “Blogs I Heart” section because Jeff offers a fresh and fun perspective on being a stay-at-home dad with their precious little girl.
Thank you so much Lindy for sharing your beautiful birth story with us!