Motherhood Mondays: Birth Story (Part 3)

Monday, May 6, 2019


Part 1 can be found here; Part 2 can be found here.



We left for the hospital around 1:00 AM, Joe and I in my car and our doula, Megan, driving separately.  Upon our departure, we quickly realized: we actually weren't sure where the hospital was?  (Rookie mistake, I know.)  Joe called Megan to get directions and I tried to come to terms with the fact that I may have to face a major fear I'd had leading up to birth: transitioning in the car.

I knew from talking to my sister that when you transition, the car is just about the last place you want to be.  Joe promised me he'd try to make the drive to the hospital within 2 contractions, but a combination of our not knowing where the hospital was, followed by a (VERY) unfortunate wrong turn, and the fact that my contractions were progressing faster and faster made for a 4-contraction-long car ride.  And let me just say, although I wasn't quite in transition, the car contractions were just about as bad as I'd feared they would be.

By the time we made it to the hospital, I all but flew out the passenger side door and burst through the hospital's entrance while Joe parked the car.  Upon check-in, I informed the front desk attendant that I was in labor.  Her response?  A flat, lifeless, unimpressed, "And how long have you been in labor?"  I paused for some mental calculating.  "Well, technically, 26 hours."  Suddenly, I had her attention. She looked up from her desk, wide-eyed.  "You went into labor 26 hours ago?"  I nodded, and then -- a contraction.

Now taking me very seriously, she called for a wheelchair.  A friendly, young man wheeled one over and helped me sit.  From the wheelchair, I quickly gave the front desk attendant my name, information, and doctor's name, after which I was pushed into the elevator to be triaged.  My wheelchair attendant warned me before every bump and every turn, and when I inevitably had another contraction a few minutes into our triage journey, he apologized repeatedly as though he were personally responsible for my pain.  I felt safe with this kid and oddly didn't want him to leave, despite our nearing the triage room where the person who was personally responsible for my pain would shortly join me.

Within a few minutes, Joe and Megan arrived, and it was time for my IV -- something I was oddly dreading more than birth itself.  I expressed my anxiety to the nurse who miraculously proceeded to administer the most painless IV in the history of modern medicine.  I was shocked!  And relieved.  What could go wrong now!?

With the dreaded IV behind me, it was soon time for the part to which I was most looking forward: finding out how much I was dilated.  I hadn't been checked yet in my pregnancy, and I was obviously hoping to learn I was at least 'halfway there'.  Sure enough, the nurse checked me and reported: 7 cm!  I was on my way to transitioning.

Once I was taken from triage to the delivery room, I was permitted to labor in the shower on a birthing ball (with a gauze-type cover over the ball, which felt disgusting when wet).  I know from Joe's faithful journaling throughout this experience that he noted the following as he watched me labor, "Jenni is amazing.  It is as if there is no pain.  Jenni is so tough."

Well, let me assure you -- that didn't last long.  I do remember Megan remarking, "You're the chillest person I've ever seen in transition!  I can't believe how relaxed you are."  It wasn't so much that I was relaxed, but I was just so ready to not be in labor anymore that my positive energy knew no bounds.

And my energy remained positive as I progressed from a 7 to an 8 and from an 8 to a 9.  Throughout this progress, Megan had me "give" her a couple sitting-backwards-on-the-toilet contractions before I refused to give anymore.  Joe noted the following quote of mine mid-toilet-contraction, "I hate laboring on the toilet.  I hate it because it works."

And it did work -- it got me to a 9!  But then when hours (yes, hours) passed with no progress, the nurse checked me and announced that the baby was stuck at the anterior lip of my cervix and that that's why I was not progressing further.  She advised me she could manually free the head but that it had to be done mid-contraction, and that she would be required to withdraw her arm in the event that I protested.  I assured her I could handle it, and so we waited for the next contraction.  She began the attempt to manually free the head at the peak of the contraction and -- I couldn't endure it.  I screamed for her to stop, and she did, immediately.  As soon as that contraction passed, I assured her I could do it, and begged her to try again.  Same results.  Same results during the next contraction, too.  I gave up on that idea, feeling totally defeated and surprised by my (perceived) weakness.

I had checked into the hospital at 1:30, dilated 7 cm, and on the verge of transition.  Eight hours later, at 9:30, I was still stuck at a 9.  In hindsight, I cannot believe I spent eight hours in transition.  I was also vomiting repeatedly which worried my doula and nurses since I was going to need as much energy and stamina as possible once it came time to push.  My doula had taught, in our birth classes, that there is a difference between pain and suffering -- that pain has a purpose in birth (i.e. contractions bringing you closer to your baby) and that suffering is senseless (i.e. excruciating back labor that starts from the first minute of labor and serves no actual purpose).  I summoned the courage to say the following, and I remember this part perhaps more vividly than any other part of my labor: "I feel as though the line between pain and suffering has been blurred and I would like to exercise my right to an epidural."  (For context, I had never planned on getting one, but honestly did not believe I could endure any more pain -- I 100% expected to either drop dead, or pass out and wake up after having had an emergency c-section.)

I delivered that line from the birthing ball in the shower (probably around the time the photo accompanying this post was taken).  I was falling asleep (sitting on the ball) between contractions and then waking up at the climax of each one.  I distinctly remember feeling as though I was being tortured and that I had zero control over my body, my circumstances.  Joe talked privately with Megan outside the bathroom door.  I hated feeling (and knowing) that "everyone" was talking about me in a conversation from which I was excluded.  I know now that they discussed the reality that it was way too late for me to get an epidural -- and that I was so close to pushing that it wouldn't even matter (by the time they ordered one and had it administered, I probably would have begun pushing) -- but at the time I truly felt as though they were plotting against me and had zero appreciation for my pain and suffering.

Joe returned to the bathroom, looked me dead in my eyes, and firmly told me I was not going to be getting an epidural.

I don't know that I have ever felt more alone than I did in that moment.

He would later tell me that following the "no epidural" decree - delivered with zero emotion, might I add! - that he stepped into the hallway and cried.

I demanded to speak with the doctor, ready to summarily do away with the we're-all-in-this-together dynamic that had propelled my labor to this point.  Our once harmonious team of three suddenly felt like a two-against-one battle, and I was done fighting.  I deeply resented the two of them and felt completely and utterly betrayed.  I needed this decision to be one that I made with my doctor and my doctor alone.

Once my doctor entered the room, she had already been advised of my request for an epidural.  She very calmly explained to me, "You are dilated to a 9 right now.  You've been in labor for over 36 hours.  You are almost done.  If you insist on an epidural, I can order one for you.  But you are probably going to have this baby before we even have time to get you one."

That was what I needed to hear.  That was my "screw it" moment.  Her words had almost a caffeine-like effect.  I told her I didn't want an epidural -- but at that point, it was my decision.  Not Joe's, not Megan's.  I needed that.  I relocated myself to the toilet, and put in a few contractions' worth of backwards sitting (excruciating....just brutal).  Megan asked me for five; I gave her three, but they were three consecutive ones which was more than I'd given her all night.  Following the third one, I demanded to be checked.  Our nurse checked me and reported to us with breathless enthusiasm "in between a 9.5 and 10!"  Victory was mine.

I immediately announced with conviction that I had the urge to push (I didn't, and this was very stupid of me to say).  I think I thought I could will my body into being ready to push, and I just. wanted. to get. this. over. with.  Up until that point, I had sincerely believed I was going to die (I know that is common for transition), and besides that, pushing had to be better than transition.  And it was better than transition!  Except that I just wasn't ready to push and ended up pushing for two hours straight, making virtually no progress until about the last ten minutes.

I felt so bad at pushing -- like, truly, truly horrible.  I kept apologizing to no one in particular for it (as I'm writing this, I've decided the theme song for my next birth will be Beyonce's I Ain't Sorry).  I also never got to the part of birth where I "shed" my modesty -- I stayed covered the entire time, even though, by that point, I was completely drenched in sweat.  They also offered me a mirror multiple times, which I refused, horrified by the prospect of it (I've since decided that's going to change next time, too).

Looking back to the pushing phase, I still kiiiiinda can't believe that I did it.  I mean, I cannot emphasize enough how truly bad I felt I was at pushing.  There were so many moments where I thought I was just going to pass out and magically wake up with a baby.  But somehow (thanks to the miracle of childbirth and the fact that women's bodies are INSANE!), I did it.  I pushed my baby out, and it was over.

Nearly 42 weeks of HG-level nausea and vomiting, followed by 39 hours of labor (several of which entailed being stuck at 9 cm, may I remind you!), the last of which included 2 hours of pushing, and it was over in an instant.  I couldn't believe it.  It was actually over, just like that.

My baby was placed upon my chest and I was reborn alongside him.

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