Read part 1 here and part 2 here.
I read a lot about coping with childbirth pain.
The goal was au natural here (see definition #2, in a natural state, although there was a lot of definition #1, nude, involved as well).
One of my favorite books was “Husband Coached Childbirth” by Dr. Bradley, not just for the information but also for the craziness factor that kept Steve and myself laughing as we read. I’ll admit my favorite thing I heard as I read (forgot the source) was someone’s definition of how to do Kegal exercises: Pretend you are trying to pick a penny up off the floor with your vaginal lips.
Steve and I practiced several relaxation techniques. He would sing to me softly, tell me stories about some of our favorite times together, whisper to me about life with our new little girl, rub my feet, massage my back and hips. I did pelvic tilts and found which positions were most comfortable to be in. I planned on walking a lot, using a yoga ball to rock on, and several other things. I was excited that my room had a jacuzzi tub in it where I could labor and we even brought Steve a swimsuit in case I wanted him in there with me.
It really started out okay. Walking was a bit of a pain, but only because of the IV pole I had to drag around. I found that bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet during the contraction really seemed to help. We didn’t walk long, though, because I got sick of the one short hallway that went from my room to the nurse’s station.
Back in my room, we tried several different things, but relaxation wasn’t exactly coming to me in the way I had imagined. The contractions weren’t as terrible as I imagined they could be, but they certainly weren’t pleasant. They didn’t have a normal pattern, either. I would start thinking they were getting stronger and closer together, and then they would stop, weaken and spread out. Sometimes they wouldn’t stop at all, as if my uterus didn’t know it was supposed to take a break every once in awhile.
And then there was the vomiting.
Whenever my contractions would get really strong, I would vomit. Repeatedly. I’m not sure if the contractions made the vomiting worse or the vomiting made the contractions worse, but once I started it took a lot of concentration to stop and the contractions would come right on top of each other. I would vomit so many times in a row that I found it impossible to breathe in between and felt like I was going to pass out. And then I would miraculously stop. Angie told me later that she has held a lot of puke bags, but she had never seen anyone vomit as much as I did.
The glorious thing was, everyone was there for me during this. Angie was always totally on top of things, holding a bag for me to vomit in, reminding me to breathe, suggesting position changes. Steve and Liz alternated offering me water every 15 seconds. Liz spent a lot of time running between me and the sink and the fridge, making sure I always had cold washcloths available and rubbing my face and my neck with them. Mom rubbed my feet and my legs. Steve put pressure on my back during the worst of the contractions, and held my hand the whole time.
Liz was also great about updating my adoring fans on Facebook of what was going on via Twitter and responding to text inquiries.
Well, the yoga ball wasn’t so great. Nor was sitting on the toilet (I had to be reminded to empty my bladder, I hated doing it). I wanted to try the tub, but was told I had to sit on the bench and have the shower run on me instead. We tried it, but all it managed to do was get me naked and shivering and Steve’s clothes soaked. The thing I found helped the most was sitting on the edge of the bed with Steve behind me, putting pressure on my back, while I leaned forward and held onto my Mom or Liz.
Deep breathing helped, too. Angie was always reminding me to breathe, and that was helpful, because I really would forget frequently. My breath was combined with a low moan, which I hated, but it helped. I heard a lot in childbirth class about vocalization, and I read that it helped a lot of women, too, but I didn’t want to do it. Silly that I would get hung up on “sounding stupid” when I was obviously looking my very best.
Dr. Herman came in to check on me several times. He would look at the monitor, tell me they weren’t close enough, or have the nurse adjust my monitor because it was frequently in the wrong spot (between my movements and the babies, I’m surprised they got any information on the monitor at all!). And then he would check my cervix.
One side note about using cervidil to prepare your cervix for labor- it really makes things more sensitive. I’ve always thought that women complained too much about pap smears and OB checks. I’ve never really had “pain” when the doctor checked my cervix. But then I had cervidil, and if that is what women normally feel then I’m surprised anyone voluntarily goes to the doctor. It was horrible, much worse than having contractions.
Anyhow, back to the results of his checking me: Nothing. No progress. Over and over again.
Near midnight, when he checked me and told me the same news again it hit me: The baby and my cervix were in the same position that they were in at my OB check the Friday before. 5 days later, nothing was happening in that department.
The Pitocin had been increased all day long. When the nurse who drove me nuts first started increasing it and we asked her about the dosing, she told us that in 16 years she had only seen the maximum dose given 3 times. By the end of the night, I was there. She wasn’t, thank heavens. Christie, the wonderful nurse from the first night I was there, had come back.
Dr. Herman gave me some options at that point. The baby really didn’t look like she was coming on her own. He offered to let me keep trying what we were doing, but not forever, since my water had broken early that morning and the risk of infection was increasing. He offered me an epidural, which he said would probably help me relax and might help my uterus relax. He also mentioned c-section and that they would have to give me an epidural or another form of anesthesia anyway if it got to that point.
I looked at Steve, as if it was his decision, and his eyes were so full of love and worry. I then told Dr. Herman I was ready for the epidural.
I expected to feel like a failure if it came to that, but nothing was further from the truth. I had tried hard. I had tried everything I knew to do. I had done what my body could do, and I knew it. I wasn’t asking for the epidural because I couldn’t handle the pain- I was asking for it because my baby and my body needed help!
Once I’d made that decision however, the pain felt pointless and the anesthesiologist couldn’t arrive quickly enough. The nurses and the doctor all seemed happy that Randy was on call that night, and that seemed like a good sign. Once I saw him he seemed vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t really at a point where I thought much about it. Later, I realized that he was my friend Emily’s dad. The actual insertion of the epidural wasn’t too bad. I felt grateful that he did it while I was sitting up and leaning forward, rather than lying on my side as I had seen in the childbirth videos. I didn’t think I could manage to not move during a contraction if I had to lay down.
I had also been curious if the epidural itself would work. I’ve had trouble with anesthesia before- one biopsy where they couldn’t get me numb, and 2 dental appointments where the same thing happened. Both had been with Lidocaine. I was mostly nervous that he wouldn’t be able to get the Lidocaine to numb me and that I would feel the needle go into my spine. Luckily all numbing medications worked well for me that night.
Randy told me that once it was in I would feel 3 more contractions and then I wouldn’t feel them anymore. He was wrong- I didn’t feel any contractions as soon as he said that. He did a wonderful job. I was also in luck that he used a “walking epidural,” which meant I still had control of my legs and that I would, hopefully, feel the urge to push when it was time.
After the epidural it was nap time. Dr. Herman said he would come check me in 2 hours. My parents and Liz went to sleep in the truck in the parking lot. Steve stretched out on the cot, and Angie took the recliner. I, obviously, got the bed.
Epidurals require a lot of monitoring, so I had to keep the blood pressure cuff on from that point. My blood pressure dropped quite a bit and they had to give me some epinephrine through my IV. Every 15 minutes the cuff would automatically start to inflate (unless I was having a contraction- that was actually how I knew they were still happening- the cuff would start to inflate and then deflate, waiting until the contraction subsided). Because my blood pressure was so low, however, it would then set off the alarm for the nurse to come in. So Christie and I got to visit every 15 minutes when she would come in to turn off the alarm. Steve slept through all of this, but Angie and I weren’t so lucky.
We spent the next 2 hours listening to the alarm go off and silently praying that I wouldn’t have to have a c-section.
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