This is not a cautionary tale

This is my labor story.

It could be viewed as a cautionary tale about why pregnant women shouldn't be allowed to go past 40 weeks. Why women should be induced before their due date if the baby seems large. Why some see natural childbirth as a silly exercise in unnecessary pain in this day of easy, safe epidurals.

It could also be viewed as a triumphant story of just how little inductions or elective c sections are truly necessary. How much is possible if medical science stays at arms length, at our disposal but not running the show. How strong and powerful women can be if we have a patient and loving support system.

This is my labor story. And since it's mine I want to tell you: it is not a cautionary tale.

It is a triumph.


Monday May 18th, 2009

I went to the OBGYN in the morning, waiting hours to see him as his office was as sucky and overbooked as normal. He said the baby looked "fine, lots of fluid, lots of room. No reason to induce before the two week cut off" on Wednesday, though with my mom leaving on Thursday, we decided to schedule an induction for Tuesday morning. I felt defeated and resigned to starting labor the next morning with the drip drip drip of Pitocin.

After a rushed lunch, my mom drove me out to the valley for my last appointment with the acupuncturist. She gave me a sweet hug as a greeting and I could tell she felt badly that my labor hadn't been started by the previous pokes. This time she added even more needles, twisting them repeatedly in my sacrum and feet and ears for extra oomph. I could feel my belly cramping as I lay over her pillows and listened to the "baby greeting" meditation playing in the background. By our drive home I was tired, crampy, cranky, DONE. But at home Zoe was waiting for me, needing me. Already I felt torn: I needed to rest, my first baby needed me, who wins? My mom and CG were scrambling to get things ready for the next day's induction and we all decided to go out to dinner.

Which is how I found myself wandering the courtyard of CPK trying to keep Zoe from falling into the fountain while trying to stay calm as the cramping in my belly started to seem more and more like contractions.

By the time we got home, I knew something was happening. I had promised Zoe I would help with her bedtime and I promptly had to take it back. (Welcome to your new sibling! Get used to broken promises, I guess!) I decided to take a bath to see if the contractions would speed up or slow down. As I lay there in the warm water, CG came out from putting Zoe down to ask me what was happening. We decided to go get Zoe up before she really fell asleep since we promised her we would say goodbye before we went to the hospital and this would make it a bit easier. I said goodnight and she kissed me goodbye over the rim of the tub. I tried really hard not to cry and failed.

CG called our doula and I called out to him from the bathtub that I wasn't sure this was true labor.

CG, who had been timing the contractions for that last hour, was sure.

The doula was sure.

As soon as the doula arrived, she suggested a walk to help the baby descend and keep my mind off the contractions. I threw on some clothes and my crocs (waterproof footwear seemed called for) and off we went, hoping desperately to avoid my neighbors.

Waddling around the neighborhood, I found myself having to cling to CG with each increasing contraction, my teeth chattering away in a strange labor side effect. This was it, for sure.

We came home. We turned on the "labor, baby- mellow" music mix and bounced on the birthing ball. We took another walk. We sent my mom to bed so that she would available for Zoe in the morning. I lay on the living room floor, alternating between cuddling with and clutching at CG for dear life. I laughed at CG's jokes and drank water and peed as often as possible (FYI: you want to stay hydrated for birth but a full bladder can get in the way of the baby descending so you should pee as often as possible. Who knew??). I felt loved and supported by both my amazing husband and my doula and only just a little bit frightened about what lay ahead.

Hours passed.

By midnight I started to really, really, REALLY need help to get through the contractions and we all agreed it was time to get to the hospital. I rode in the front seat, on my knees, facing backward, moaning and crying like a dying camel. Once at the hospital, we found out that the valet parking we were counting on was unavailable at that hour. So CG helped me out of the car into a wheelchair and raced it to the nearest spot they would let him leave it.

I couldn't sit. I stood up, alone in front of the hospital's grand main entrance, bent over and clutching a bench. Soon I was assisted inside by a kindly security guard who asked sweetly "labor and delivery?" as if he didn't want to offend me by assuming anything. CG and the doula caught up with me and we got to labor and delivery. Even though I had preregistered and had all my paperwork, even though CG handed over my prenatal records from my doctor with every piece of information they could possibly need, the douche intake nurse at the desk needed more paperwork, more signatures, ME to say out loud my EFFING social security number. Then they wanted me to go to triage to make sure this was truly labor. CG and my doula, bless them, insisted over the moans of my latest, greatest contraction that we didn't need to go to triage. My doula roared "This is LABOR. She is in VERY ACTIVE LABOR. Please talk to your supervisor and get us into a delivery room, RIGHT NOW." which he did. (Don't mess with my doula, BTW. She's sweetness and light and all things good and SHE IS A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH.)

As soon as we got in the room, I stripped down and climbed on the hospital bed. After being checked, I was 6-7 cm and time started to melt and meld and my memories don't have much clarity after that. I remember clutching and squeezing the blood out of my loving husband's arms as he did his best to keep me focused and relaxed. I remember my doctor arriving. I remember seeing all the baby medical items being wheeled in and nurses racing around which I knew was a good sign; they thought this would happen quickly. I remember my doula getting in my face when I got whiny and telling me there was nothing to be scared of, to breathe INTO the pain rather than away from it. This was the baby telling me she was ready to come out. I remember CG holding me after each contraction, whispering sweetly in my ear that I was amazing. That I could do this. That I WAS doing this.

I remember the doctor telling me I was 10 cm and could start pushing.

Unfortunately I didn't feel any urge to push. AT ALL.

I realized instantly that this was why I wanted a natural childbirth. I wanted to know what it was like to feel that strong urge to push and to be up and ambulatory and in control of pushing my baby out. When pushing Zoe out, I couldn't feel the entire bottom half of my body because of the strong epidural. I was supposed to push Zoe out but I felt nothing that could help guide me. I felt like a bystander in the process of getting my baby out of my body. I had to be told when and how to push because I couldn't feel anything.

I didn't want to feel that way again.

So here I was with Lima Bean, feeling EVERYTHING except the one thing I wanted to feel. But it was 2 am and I was "allowed" to push, so I dutifully started pushing. And pushing and pushing. I was told that pushing would feel great. Empowering. That the act of pushing would take the edge off the contractions and give me that amazing endorphin rush I'd read about.

It didn't feel that way. It felt like my worst contractions just kept coming with no respite. I pushed in every position I could think of: on my back, on my hands and knees, on my side, squatting with my arms over a bar. CG and my doula kept encouraging me, never giving up. But I watched the faces of the nurses and my doctor as they all stared silently and unimpressed at my nethers. They didn't say much. They didn't tell me "that was a good one". They were too quiet.

I started to lose it after about an hour of pushing that was going nowhere. She wasn't descending at all. I couldn't squat any more. I couldn't push any more.

I'm told my eyes kept rolling back in my head and that I was collapsing in a heap at the end of every contraction.

CG and our doula conferred and she came in close to me "Do you think if we got you something for the pain, and let you rest for a bit, that you could push this baby out?".

I, apparently, said "yes".

After the anesthesiologist arrived and I begged "please hurry, PLEASE HURRY" and almost knocked over the nurse who was trying to hold me still, the epidural was in and I was asleep.

A few hours passed and I woke up around 5:30 am. Our doula asked me if I wanted to push, if I had rested enough. CG had insisted to the anesthesiologist that I wanted a light epidural and I'm so glad he did. I could feel the contractions. I could feel and move my legs. I COULD FINALLY FEEL AN URGE TO PUSH. I started pushing again, this time with renewed energy, focus and motivation.

And she still wasn't going anywhere.

I glanced over at my doctor, who was sitting, slumped and bleary-eyed on the side of the bed, not looking at me. The nurses didn't look enthused. I could feel that Lima Bean was stuck. I was pushing her over and over again and she was stuck on something. They told me she was sunny side up (just like Zoe had been) with her forehead stuck on my pubic bones. The baby's heart rate was fine so they would let me keep pushing if I wanted.

So I pushed and I pushed and even though I'd had a rest and had most of the pain taken care of, after another hour and a half of pushing I was getting tired and discouraged. "Can't you just pull her out?" I whined and begged. "Why can't I get her out?"

My doula focused me with her serious face. "Only you can get her out. You can do this. You need to find a way to push her out."

I think I also saw a few glances between her, CG, the nurses and the doctor that seemed to say "what happens if she can't get this baby out soon?".

There started to be some murmurs about "other options" and "vacuum extraction" and I got pissed. Royally pissed.

I wanted to push her out.

So I imagined her slipping past my pubic bones and I tried to focus my pushes in a new, different direction.

And suddenly, when the doctor had stopped paying attention and the nurses looked like they had given up, I felt her move.


Past my pubic bones.

She was free.

"She moved!" I exclaimed, knowing it was true. "She's not stuck!"

They all rushed to check and they confirmed what I had felt and I pushed some more and pretty soon the doctor had her head in his hands and was suctioning her mouth. I pushed one more time and felt him working her shoulders out, pulling on her head until her shoulders popped out.

"Occiput posterior" or, sunny side up, just like Zoe.

Then she was fully out. And on my belly.

I wanted her to stay there, it was written in our birth plan, and in my imagination. I didn't want her cleaned or checked until we'd bonded. I wanted her on me, indefinitely.

But she was big, and they needed to check her weight and her blood sugar so they let CG cut the cord and then they took her away.

There were collective gasps as her weight was announced: 10 lbs. 12.2 oz. My doctor looked especially shocked. He started to tell me: "If I had known...." and I blocked him out.

She was here. She was huge. The nurse said she needed immediate nourishment to keep her blood sugar even. I glanced questioningly at our doula and she nodded. So CG gave her a bottle.

And I finally got to hold her. Nurse her. Kiss her poor bruised head. Fall in love with her chubby, perfect little face. And the rest of the world fell away.

7:23 am May 19th, 2009.

She was here.


(Beating her scheduled induction by 37 minutes.)


Some might view this story as a sad disappointment. I should have had my perfect natural labor and it's too bad that I didn't make it "all the way". It's too bad I didn't have a homebirth where maybe I would have been relaxed enough to have her all on my own. It's too bad I didn't get more acupuncture/chiropractic/chakra balancing to help her descend earlier. It's just too bad.

Some might view this as a failure of the medical establishment to assert itself against my stubbornness. My doctor should have known how big she was and spared me this ordeal and the possible complications. I should have had a c section or an induction weeks ago. It is a story of needless pain and struggle.

If I've learned anything, it's that the only person's opinion of this labor story that really matters is mine.

I view this story as testament to my husband's patient, loving, indefatigable support. To the wisdom and tenacity of our doula. To the strength and grit of our little Eliza.

To my own power and determination.

This labor story is all of ours.

And it is a triumph.


Anonymous said...

Good for you!

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

You rock! That is an amazing story and an amazing triumph. You should be very proud of yourself. And you have the right attitude. It is your story and if you are happy then that is what matters. Isn't it funny how birth stories never turn out like you expect them to? But you still managed to make it work. Congrats!

grammalouie said...

Oh, tears of joy from your very happy, proud mama and beautiful Eliza's gramma.
Wow, you really did it. It IS your story and what a story it is.
Hip hip hooray!!
Loads of love and kisses zinging your way from New Jersey.

desperate housewife said...

Oh, this made me cry a little, and birth stories usually don't do that to me, I just get excited. I am so PROUD of you, which sounds maybe dumb and cheesy, but wow. You waited so long to give birth the way you wanted, and you did it! And thank GOODNESS you got the epidural so you could rest a little and regather your energy! Sounds like a great decision to me! I can't believe you somehow willed that giant baby out of you without a vacuum or forceps or anything! You are a tough mama!

Hillary said...

Eliza is beautiful and you're amazing.

Anonymous said...

wow. gave me shivers!

i'm especially amazed by the part about imagining pushing Eliza past your pelvic bones...and then it happened! reminds me of Einstein: "imagination is more important than knowledge" (i'm not sure that's how he meant it, but it makes sense here). :)

Astarte said...

I'm so happy for you!!!! I think that your doctor absolutely should have known that she was so big, but it's just as well that he didn't, because then he would have tried really hard to force a c-section on you, and might have worn you down mentally to a point where you wouldn't have been able to do it. I think it all worked out perfectly, and you're absolutely right, the only thing that matters is what *you* think and feel. Good for you!

Michelle said...

It is a beautiful story and I'm so happy you shared it. What a wonderful, happy ending/beginning :) Congratulations.

Kathleen said...

Still makes me weep and gives me shivers, this story of yours is a TRIUMPH! You used all the tools at your disposal when and how you wanted them. SO empowered, Jenna!

And the midwives around here have a MILLION stories of providers being notoriously unable to tell birth weight before the birth. Just too many variables, I guess.

miyoko said...

isn't the light epidural great? i felt everything, and the contractions went from unbearable to bearable. i also totally felt isobel just suddenly 'move down'. i so wish i had a light epidural with phoebe, probably wouldn't have needed to push for so long.

great birth story... wonderful!!!

Mrs. Chicken said...

That was beautiful.

And lady, you have no right looking that good after pushing out a baby that big.

And I know from big babies, had one my own self.

Anonymous said...

HOLY CRAP!!!! that is the most incredible story. Surely the doctor has a new coordinate in his/her map of birth.

THank you for sharing.

artemisia said...

I don't quite know what to say after all of that, other than I am in awe. Mothers are amazing.

This is one of my favorite birth stories.

bat7mess said...

It IS a triumph. You are a hero. Eliza is beautiful :)

Kira said...

I'm so proud of you for believing in your natural abilities and doing it the way you wanted. And I am so happy for you that you have and had the love and support you needed and deserved during eliza's birth. YIPPEEE!!!!!! YAY for love and birth and possibilities and the unknown and all the wonderment that is the human condition. I love you SOOOOO much and am sending big hugs and kisses to the whole fam.

Erin said...

This is a beautiful, awesome story! Thank you for telling it. And LOOK at that lovely, perfect chunk of a baby! She is perfect perfect perfect.


April said...

This is a beautiful birth story. It made me teary - probably because yesterday I was working on a post that is the closest I'll get to retelling my birth story. It never goes as we'd expect. In the end, making sense of it is really all that seems to matter. Congratulations on your beautiful little girl!

Anonymous said...

You are an inspiration, I'm in awe of your strength. She's gorgeous

My god she was such a big baby, it makes me want to apologize to my mom since I was a 10 lb baby myself.

Mommy Daisy said...

I think it's an awesome story. You are amazing! You did such a great thing, and I only hope that I have the strength and will to do that next time like I really want.

Eliza is a beautiful baby! Congrats.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Wonderful, inspiring story. Great work, mama!! Congrats and blessings to the whole family, and welcome to the world Eliza!

-dm in brooklyn

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