Mama's note: I sent this to our childbirth class and to a few friends the day after Thora was born. We were planning a homebirth but Thora evidently had other plans. It was very hard for us but when you have a baby on the way, you do what you have to do to get her out happily and healthily. I thought someday Thora would want to know how badly we wanted her and what we all went through (her included!) to have her join the family.
Sunday night was when it technically started, so I guess technically it was more than five days, it was almost a week from start to finish. On Sunday night I was having BH contractions that slowly got more and more regular and started to hurt more and more. Then my water broke. Or at least I thought it did. My midwife Linda took it seriously when we called her and on Monday morning sent us to Methodist since we weren't sure what was happening with St. Vincent's. We miscommunicated somehow and I was sure she said she'd meet us there at 2 pm and she was late and didn't call me so I was scared and frustrated and refused to let anyone touch me until she arrived so I pissed off the whole staff and stressed out my husband, friend and doula who were there too because we all thought the baby was coming. When she got there she was annoyed and she checked me - no rupture, no dilation, nothing. I was totally closed. She said it was either pee (I swear to you it wasn't) or it was discharge. Why didn't she say that last night on the phone?? Instead there I was for 14 hours at home and 2 in the hospital truly believing I was in labor but knowing something was wrong because it all felt too mild. I felt silly and frustrated. I came home on Monday from Methodist wanting to fire my midwife, but realized that it would be pretty darn tough at this stage of the game. I sent some emails and made a few calls and even made one appointment with another midwife but I also wrote Linda a long email and we talked on the phone about where we were. I decided to stick with her, which was a good idea because by Tuesday night my labor was so strong and the contractions so intense and close together and very, very painful that we all believed I was in active labor. Around 11 am on Wednesday, the day I was 39 weeks, Linda said get to St. Vincent's and they'll triage you and I'll come when they say it's time. As we agreed. So we went.
This was in the middle of what was supposed to be a horrible snowstorm. They predicted 18 inches on Wednesday. And it looked like it might happen, too. There were probably five or six inches on the ground already when we all hurried to St. Vincent's. My friend Jesse and our doula Lorelei met us there and we got into the birthing room and started to unpack and get acclimated. Then I got checked - "she's a fingertip." i.e., barely 1 cm. That was horribly disappointing. They said, well, we can monitor you for two hours and then check again in two hours to see what progress you make. And they did and two hours later I was still only 1 cm. I was devastated. They said we could stay under the circumstances (snow) but they all made it pretty clear that they thought I was not ready - I kept hearing the term "prodromal labor" in hushed tones - and I felt like a hypochondriac and a wannabe, so I decided it was best to go home. So back home we all went. False alarm #2. They wanted to give me Ambien to sleep since I was so tense and in such pain already from the contractions but I refused, opting for Benadryl instead. I took one when I got home, and tried to sleep fairly unsuccessfully that afternoon. It was great to feel tired and not so tense, but it was harder to get through the contractions because I kept waking up for them anyway and felt drugged and weird on top of that.
I did a little better that night, sleeping about 4 or 5 hours but waking up for the big contractions and shrieking through them. Everyone said I had to rest rest rest but seriously, how the heck are you supposed to sleep through contractions like that? I screamed and cried because of the pain, and I am not a wimp when it comes to pain! J didn't sleep well at all either because he was so worried about me. He knew it had to be bad if I was reacting like that. Thursday was like that all day - lack of sleep, painful contractions. By Thursday night they were coming regularly again. I'd been texting with my friend Julie, who offered to come so I said sure. Linda said go to the hospital. We called Lorelei and were all about to go but she suggested I calm down and take a shower first and she'd come over to us. So we waited, and Julie got to the hospital and called asking where we were. We had to tell her to come to us, and by the time she arrived and I'd been in the shower on the ball for a half hour or so, my contractions had slowed again. I didn't know what to do - I was so frustrated and disappointed and exhausted that I seriously couldn't cope. They were 10 - 15 minutes apart again but still so intense that I screamed and screamed with each one. Lorelei and Julie were great, talking me through them and helping me stay calm. Everyone set me up on the couch with the computer set to watch Netflix episodes of LOST. But then Lorelei left and Julie left too, and Linda called asking where we were since she didn't know we hadn't left for St. Vincent's and she was all worried. I told her to check in in the morning. I didn't sleep all night again because the contractions were so horrible, and in the morning Linda called to say she was on her way to office hours in Park Slope and could I come so she could check me.
By 9:30 am Friday I was at the office she directed me to, some OB GYN who delivers at Methodist. I remembered his name from our trip there on Monday but I could not tell you now what it was. Anyway, she checked me and said I was about 3 cm. She did a quick ultrasound to check my amniotic fluid and determined with her hands that I had still not ruptured. She stripped my membranes which didn't really hurt then but had a significant change on my body pretty much instantly, and I hobbled out. She told me that this should speed things up and that the baby was very low and that's why I was having difficulty walking. I picked up bagels since I was planning to take the train but then I came to my senses and took a car home. Within a half hour of getting home I was clearly in very active labor (again?) and this time Linda said get over there now, no showers, no nothing, just come right now.
We got to St. Vincent's by 11:30 or so. I didn't call Jesse because I was starting to feel like the boy who cried wolf. Lorelei acted like she still believed us, bless her heart, and showed up soon. By the time I was checked I was 5 cm and I was admitted.
Julie came again few hours later. She and Lorelei were an awesome team and Johnny was such a trooper. Johnny called Jesse but they wouldn't let her in, which is weird since although Julie had just left when she arrived, she'd had no trouble walking right in. I labored and labored and Linda came and checked me again - no progress. I did the best I could but knew I was running out of steam so Johnny and I talked about pain medication. I knew I didn't want an epidural so when the anesthesiologist came in I sent him away as my options for non-epidural, non-narcotic drugs were zero. And I got more and more tired and the contractions got more and more painful as it became clear that she was face up and I was having serious back labor on top of everything else. I guess that was why my contractions were so horrible from the start. I took another shower, sat on the ball in there. Johnny sat with me, making sure the water temperature was good and talking me through the contractions. It made me feel a lot better. Then I threw up everywhere, all over my feet and the ball. As I threw up I felt a gush again so I thought again that my water broke, but Linda made me get out so she could check me and I had not. I was so exhausted that this news really devastated me. Everything was going completely opposite what I had wanted. I finally couldn't take it anymore so I asked for the epidural and had a meltdown as I did, crying and crying and mourning the continued loss of a birthing that I really had my heart set on. I know I freaked Johnny out by my hysteria but I couldn't help myself. With every medical decision came more monitors, wires, needles, etc., and I realized I was turning into EXACTLY what I had been fighting so hard against. Johnny told me later that Linda spoke to him about my level of pain and said she was very concerned because I'd been fighting so hard for so long and she thought that an epidural was absolutely a good idea and that I needed some relief because I was so exhausted and the position of the baby was one that was particularly painful.
But once I decided I wanted it, I was done - I wanted it to take effect immediately. I couldn't wait another second. But you have to have a full bag of fluids first, and that took over 40 minutes. I screamed and cried during each contraction as the fluid bag emptied. As it got close to done I asked them to find the anesthesiologist so he could get started right away. He came back and I cried more as he reminded me that he had to give me the talk that I didn't think I would need before, and he gave me a long rundown of all the possible side effects and then went about inserting the catheter and everything else. The first one was not well placed and I got no pain relief. That one took about 25 more minutes from when the fluids were done and he had to start all over. About a half hour after that I was feeling a ton better and not caring anymore that I had an epidural in my back and Pitocin in my heplock. Exactly what I did NOT want. But the Pitocin helped make my contractions more regular and I couldn't feel it anyway, so I didn't care anymore. Julie had left by then and I tried to nap while Lorelei and Johnny chatted. I slept about an hour and then woke up to hearing I was now 9 cm dilated but that my water had still not broken. There was a question about whether to artificially rupture but Linda said the bag was what was hanging out of my cervix, not her head, and she was worried that she might bring the cord down if she did it with an amni-hook, so we waited for the baby's head to come down more.
Soon it did, and my water broke and there was a bunch of meconium in it. This means fetal stress so suddenly everyone was worried and in a rush. There was more panic and more concerned faces exchanging glances and although I didn't feel the urge, then it was time to push.
I pushed and pushed and totally exhausted myself out more since I couldn't feel what I was doing. In the process the epidural wore off and they asked for a top-off because the pain came back so badly that suddenly I was screaming again. I never really noticed the effects of the top-off, if there were any. I pushed and pushed and pushed and made no progress because her head was still in that funky posterior position and every time they said they could see the head she'd sort of sink right back in. I tried pushing for 2.5 hours during which time the epidural wore off totally and there I was right back at exhausted, no sleep for a week, and having excruciating contractions because my kid was sunnyside up and breaking my lower back.
With every push they said "give it your all" and "focus!" and so on. I couldn't focus anymore though, I had been giving it my all all week long and I was absolutely DONE. There were suddenly doctors and nurses and people everywhere. They started talking about forceps, about vacuums, and how that might help me get her out but I would have to continue to push with them and that I was under pressure because of the meconium and that we also had to think about a section. Johnny and I looked at each other and I knew we were going to skip the forceps or vacuum and go right to the section. I didn't want to have those instruments used on my baby's head, scar or injure her, and then possibly have to go to a section anyway because I couldn't push! I knew I could not keep pushing and since they were talking about fetal distress, I wasn't f-ing around anymore. I argued for a section and everyone tried to talk me out of it. Doctors, nurses, everyone. But I was screaming that I couldn't take it anymore and I wanted to have her out. So they finally agreed that it was a good idea.
Later the doctor who kept asking me if I was sure told Johnny that they are not allowed to push sections at St. Vincent's - that they are very proud of their low section rate and so on - so they have to go every route possible or at least recommend other options first, but in our case, she said I absolutely made the right choice and that it was her preference too, even if she couldn't say so.
So I had to get prepped and moved and all this. In the process they asked Linda to leave which I didn't know. I looked for her in the OR but I didn't see her and I was too out of it to ask. That sucked since I finally thought she was doing an okay job and although we'd had communication issues, I totally trusted her at that moment. Later one of the OBs said "well, it's not like we're having a party in there," and I was actually offended for Linda hearing that since I was *her* patient and she had every right to be there or at least to wait until I was out to see me through to the end. I screamed all the way through the prepping and the move to the OR because the contractions were so bad and I was so tired. It was after 2 am by then. I had to sit up again while they gave me a spinal and they left the epidural in too. To get those you have to sit up and keep your chin to your chest and your shoulders down and your back rounded and NOT MOVE - try doing *that* in the middle of a contraction when you are on your fifth day of back labor. Literally impossible! And in the back of my mind somewhere I was sure I'd move and it would paralyze me or something awful and in the other back part of my mind I kept feeling like a natural childbirth failure. But I managed to sit still enough and then I could barely feel anything and my chest felt pressure and I could hardly breathe and there were drapes all around me and Johnny was there in a gown and bonnet and full face mask right by my head. He was great about touching my face and talking to me and keeping me focused even though I could tell he was very, very freaked out. The doctors all kept asking me my name and why I was there and how I felt and no matter what I would answer they'd say "yeah, it's an odd feeling, isn't it?" and blah blah and that I would feel pressure and then all of a sudden I heard her crying and everyone was shouting "Happy birthday! Congratulations! It's a girl!" which let me tell you TOTALLY SUCKS when you cannot move to grab her or even see her. And they said she was 8 lbs 10 oz and that she was very pretty. I was crying with happiness, crying with exhaustion, thrilled that this whole thing was over and she was okay, just lying there under the drape but neither Johnny nor I could see her. They suctioned her, cleaned her, had a pediatrician check her because of the meconium concern, and then finally, FINALLLY brought her over. They put her down by my head but I couldn't move enough so they gave her to Johnny and he held her sitting next to me until they asked him to go with her into recovery so they could close me. He kept saying she looked like me but I couldn't see her myself. I didn't want them to leave but obviously I had no choice. They closed me, they took FOREVER to do so, and then took the wires and needles and things out one by one. I'd had a pulse ox probe on one finger, a blood pressure thing around one arm, needles taped into my back and running up my shoulder, a heplock in my hand, a catheter in my bladder, booties around my legs, wires wires wires.
When I got into recovery, Johnny, Lorelei and Thora were there. I got to see her and hold her. And she was such a beauty. I was so desperately thirsty and they wouldn't let me have water so I ate three or four cups of ice chips, and even that was too much as they kept saying it would make me nauseous. But I was so happy. The nurse gave Thora a sponge bath and showed me how to latch her on to nurse. Then they told us Johnny had to leave. There were no more private rooms. I fought and fought but once we got there and he brought my bags in, there was obviously nothing I could do and I didn't have a roommate anyway so they ignored the fact that he was here for as long as they could but he couldn't sleep in the rocking chair so although he didn't want to leave, we agreed he needed to rest so he went home around 5 or 6 am and I stayed here with Thora Bea.
Thora is fine and sleeping next to me as I'm typing. I started recovering quickly - catheter, fluids, pain meds, etc., all stopped the morning after and labor amnesia started setting in. It's amazing what you can go through when you have no choice, and now that I've done it I just gaze at our new daughter and love her so much that it was all worth it and as horrible as it was, I do believe I would do it all that way again if I had to. Johnny is on his way here and we are being discharged this afternoon. We are very excited to get home and start our lives with Thora!
PS: Lorelei was a fabulous doula. If you are in need of a birth doula, look no further than Lorelei. You can read more about her here: http://loreleiruss.com/
PPS: We are no longer speaking to our midwife for various reasons (most of which are not touched upon here) so I can't in good conscience recommend her or her services to anyone.