For the next week, I didn't do anything "special" to get labor going. I was optimistic and was going to let nature run its course. I went in for my 39 week appointment on February 27th. Because it's what I do, I prepared myself for the worst case scenario - my cervix had somehow closed back up, thickened, and the baby had crawled back up into my uterus. What the doctor told me wasn't too far off from that. There was essentially no change from the previous visit despite some serious contractions, and the baby was, in fact, higher up than the week prior (a subjective assessment, I realize). Needless to say, the induction for that week was off the table. They told me that they'd induce me the next week on my due date. I made it to the parking lot before I cried.
I walked every night that week. I ate an entire fresh pineapple. I tried foot massage, accupressure, spicy foods, lunging, pulling weeds, vacuuming, pumping, you name it. I tried it. Having been dead set against induction in favor of a natural childbirth, I was really upset about the prospect of being induced...but I really, really wanted my OB to be the one to catch my baby. My birth experience with Sarah had been a million times better than with my other two, and I owed it to my doctor. My next appointment was March 5th. That day we had my parents and mother-in-law in town, on the ready for the next days' induction. The NP checked me - you guessed it - no change. They would do the induction on Wednesday the 7th. I had the NP call my OB at the hospital to see if we could do it Tuesday the 6th instead. Then I went out to the car and, once again, cried. Sam took me to DD for an XL Decaf coffee. I can't lie - it did help me feel better. At 6pm, the phone rang. I was to report to the hospital at 6am the next morning. We were going to have a baby!
As much as I know in my heart that due dates are not expiration dates, I also knew in my heart that there was something keeping this baby up in my throat and preventing them from dropping and getting labor started. I kept up hope that labor would start overnight, but it didn't. At 5am the next morning, Sam and I got ready, ate a Donna's donut for breakfast, packed up our camera, overnight bags, and emergency toy kit for the kids, and got to the hospital around 6:10am. I looked like this:
I had to get one more wear out of that navy blue shirt (thanks Julie!) and the red yoga pants. Note how high I was still carrying (i.e. - straight out and in my ribs).
A nurse named Michelle got my paperwork filled out and started my IV. She asked me if I was going to be getting an epidural and I told her it was my plan not to. (I unknowingly made it to 10cm with Sarah before getting an epidural, only to decide I "couldn't" do it anymore and needed pain relief. I had the epi for 10 minutes before she was born. I was determined not to do that again.) I had a lot of encouragement from my natural-child-birthing friends, and I felt better equipped to handle a drug-free birth this go round, especially knowing how close I was last time. Michelle told me that I was in good hands. The nurse who was taking over for her at 7am, Jessica, was studying to be a midwife. In fact, she's doing her clinicals right now in Atlanta on her days off. She practically is a midwife already. This was an answer to prayer.
A little after 8am, Jessica got my Pitocin going. We discussed my decision not to get an epidural, and she was so plain and encouraging, I knew I could do it with her by my side. She told me that she's seen the most determined women decide that they cannot do it anymore, and it's at that point that it's time to have a baby. (I believed her.) At 8:30am, Dr. Shirley came in and broke my water. At that point, the head was so high she could barely feel it. (The baby really was climbing back up inside of me.) It was also at this point that the doctor and I had a discussion about the bakery that was visible from my room window, and which items we enjoyed the most. Leave it to me to bring up cookies and donuts at a time like that, right? Mrs. Lisa and Ben came over first thing and waited all day, while my parents kept the girls at home and waited to hear from me as to when they should head to the hospital.
My contractions intensified with each upping of the dosage of pitocin, which Jessica increased every hour or so. I began to feel them very strongly in my lower back. I voiced this to Jessica who felt my belly and determined based on the knees poking out in front that the baby was in the posterior position. Just like Abby was. She said it was fine - and that sometimes during labor they move into the "correct" (anterior) position. She gave Sam instructions on how and where to apply pressure on my spine to help counter the pain in my back, and she had me labor standing up and bending over to try to encourage an anterior move.
For a while, the pain in my back seemed to subside. I just assumed the baby had righted him/herself. I was able to move around and change positions. I laid down, stood up, bent over, rocked, and thanks to the fluids they were pumping into me, I wore out a trail between the bed and the bathroom. Laboring makes no exceptions for the pregnant bladder.
As the contractions got more and more intense, I got more and more quiet. I listened as Sam and Jessica had discussions about the intricacies of becoming a midwife, and I appreciated it when they would stop talking as I endured a contraction. The quiet definitely helped. They checked me periodically and I wasn't making as much progress as it felt like I was making. By 1 o'clock, I was only at 5cm. I maintained hope that things would move quickly like they did with Sarah when I went from 5cm to 10cm in the time span of about an hour. And it hurt. I called my parents and told them it would probably not be too much longer. Jessica mentioned in passing that as my contractions intensified and I reached 10cm, I could possibly start to feel sleepy, and if I did that would mean I was likely ready to start pushing. Unfortunately for me, I would never experience that feeling.
At this point, the pain in my back returned full force. In fact, all of my pain was reaching full force. If I had to refer to the super-lame pain scale on the dry erase board (which Sam had so popularly decorated with green colored-in hairstyles), I'd say I was approaching a 10. Dr. Shirley called to check my status. Jessica checked and I was about 8cm. It was during a contraction while I was laboring on my hands and knees that I heard a voice say, "Are you going to need me?" And Jessica automatically said, "No. We don't need you." That was the anesthesiologist. Labor began to feel more like a dream than reality. I was so focused in on the contractions that I wasn't truly aware of what was going on around me. After a few more contractions that were becoming unbearable I remember mentioning, "I guess it's at this point when women decide they need the epi." Jessica said, "It's too late now, even if you wanted one." That was so encouraging. Even though it wasn't over yet, I'd made it. There was no turning back. Dr. Shirley got there a little while later, and encouraged me to try pushing, but I just wasn't ready. It was just a few minutes later, I started to feel nauseous (which has never happened to me before during labor). Jessica handed me a "barf bag" and encouraged me to go ahead and throw up if I needed to because sometimes that was all it took to get the baby down and out. I never did throw up, but I suddenly felt the irresistible urge to push. Dr. Shirley came back in and said, "This is it!
Apparently, it was common knowledge to everyone in the room except for me that the baby was still OP (face-up). I pushed for a while in the position I'd been laboring in, on my hands and knees. That's when things got a little more interesting. Dr. Shirley requested the squat bar. They positioned the "trapeze-like" device on the bed, and in between contractions I moved to a sitting position, nearly hanging from this bar. My little doctor climbed onto the bed with me against the tech's wishes ("Don't! That's only made to hold 80 pounds!"). She assured the tech she was fine. Something tells me she gets right up in there with all of her patients. It's one thing I love about her. She's a fearless little red-head, that woman. As I pushed, I distinctly remember yelling. And after the fact, I reminded myself that I would never scoff at tv actresses or those women on "A Baby Story" ever again for being overly-dramatic. Natural childbirth was intense, and it was so primal that I just couldn't control the noises coming out of my mouth. My apologies to Sam and anyone else who had to witness...all of that. Between the encouragement of Dr. Shirley, Jessica, and Sam, I had quite a team of cheerleaders. After about 20 minutes of pushing, my little sunny-side up baby finally arrived, and it was only after that final push that I realized I had birthed another OP baby. I read somewhere that while half of babies are posterior at the onset of labor only 4-10% of them are still posterior at birth. Somehow I managed to birth 2 out of 4 of mine in this position. Maybe I should play the lottery. (For those unfamiliar with the face-up phenomenon, here's a little more info on it.)
Sam caught her, cut the cord, and Jessica grabbed our camera and snapped some photos. Dr. Shirley laid the baby on my chest, and after what felt like an eternity (I couldn't see past her cord stump!), we realized it was a girl.
At 3:29pm, she was finally here. After a long, hard trip, her sweet forehead was bruised, but everything else was absolutely perfect. My labor was seven hours long. I endured a pitocin-induced labor without pain intervention, and delivered an 8 pound 2 ounce baby in the posterior position without so much as a tear. I was physically tired, but at the same time strangely energized. It was everything I'd hoped for and more, considering I didn't have to wait for my epi to wear off before I could go get a shower. (Ha!) That night, my tailbone hurt - likely from Leah's position, the blood vessels on my face had burst, my left eye had a bright red blood vessel showing right next to my iris, and my feet were incredibly swollen. I woke up the next morning so sore, I'd have sworn I ran a marathon the day before (not far from it, I had been swinging from a trapeze). In spite of all of that, I felt like a million bucks. I got the best sleep I'd had in six months in the hospital that night. And even more importantly, we got this -
Welcome to the world, Leah Caroline.
We're so glad to be your parents. We'll do our best. I promise you that. And even when we mess up, know that we love you so.
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
~ John 1:16
~ John 1:16