Hannah's Birth Story

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We had the birth all planned. I would spend the first few hours laboring at home. We would talk and laugh, maybe watch a Will Ferrell movie and simply enjoy the last remaining hours of being a twosome. We would begin to pack the cooler with food. I would make Matthew a sandwich. As labor progressed we would make our way to the birthing center, where I would continue to labor in peace. We would walk, practice our Bradley Method relaxation techniques before I would get into the tub. Oh how I was looking forward to laboring in the tub. I would spend a few hours in the tub and then after 20 minutes or so of pushing our beautiful child would emerge. We would spend some time together as a family, pop the champagne, enjoy some food, eat some birthday cake, take a little nap before heading home. It would be beautiful. It would be peaceful. However, it did not happen this way…at all.

Here's the short version of her birth. I went in Wednesday (the 20th) for a checkup with my midwife. At this point, I was nearly two weeks late and my midwives were encouraging me to try some induction methods. One such option was cervidil gel, a cervical ripening agent. So we opted to try it that morning, hoping it would do the trick. (All other natural induction techniques were just not working.)

Later that night I started having contractions, nothing too regular or strong, but we were thinking things were off to a great start. We went to bed and then in the middle of the night (early Thursday morning), I was awakened by a contraction. I sat up to go to the bathroom when I heard a little pop and felt warm water trickle out of me. I went to the bathroom and realized, much to my surprise, that my bag of waters had broken. Usually, a woman’s water does not break until she’s actually in active labor, yet there I was. Excited, I woke up Matthew and told him the news. He jumped out of bed and was ready to go. I called my midwife and was told to come on in.

Generally, women planning to labor at a birthing center are not supposed to come in until their contractions are about 5 minutes apart. However, a few weeks earlier I had tested positive for Group B strep bacteria, which is a normal bacteria found in adults, but can be harmful to babies. This complicated matters a tad because it meant that I would need antibiotics intravenously during labor, one dose every four hours. And in the event that my water would break, I would have to come into the birthing center right away so they could start me on penicillin. So we headed in. We were excited, thinking this was it, in a few short hours we would meet our child. Oh how naïve we were.

After arriving at the birth center, the midwife checked me and I was 1cm dilated. My contractions were only about 7-10min. apart and not very strong, so we just hung out for a while, walked around, ate some toast. At 7:30am Thursday morning, I called my mom and told her where we were. The game was on.

After a few more hours, my contractions became a bit more regular, maybe 5-6 minutes apart. However, when the midwife checked me I still was about 1-2cm dilated. We opted to try another dose of cervidil in the hopes it would help to jumpstart active labor. Unfortunately, the extra cervidil didn't really help, so we tried nipple stimulation to increase the intensity of the contractions. Much to my surprise, that really worked. My contractions started to come about 3-5 min. apart. This went on for a couple more hours, but unfortunately when they checked me a few hours later, I was still 1, not even 2 cm dilated. For whatever reason, labor wasn’t progressing.

At this point, we had been at the birthing center for about 12 hours and the midwife wanted to transfer us to the hospital to try a few more stronger induction techniques (i.e. pitocin and cytotec), but we begged for more time. She allotted us two more hours. We were under the gun and the clock was ticking. My contractions kept coming regularly at about 3-5 minutes apart. We were convinced that we were now in active labor, certainly I must have dilated one or even two more centimeters. I have to add a little side note here about Matthew. He was such a great coach. He was so incredibly supportive and encouraging. We really came together as a team and I simply could not have done have endured all that I did without him.

By 6ish Thursday night, our extended time was up. The midwife checked me and sadly, I was still at 1-2 cm dilated. We were dumbfounded. How could I be having contractions and not dilating? We were being transferred to the hospital. I forgot to mention that the midwife kept trying to push cytotec on us. If I didn’t know any better, I probably would have tried it. It’s an ulcer medication, but often used in hospitals as a cervical ripener (to encourage dilation). However, cytotec is not approved by the FDA as a cervical ripener and even the makers of cytotec strongly urge doctors not to use it for this purpose because it can cause the uterus to rupture resulting in the death of the mother or child or both. So no way was I going to try it. The doctor later encouraged me to try it and again I refused and told him why. The nurses seemed surprised and confused when I told them why I was not going to try cytotec, I have a feeling they never knew the controversy surrounding the drug. However, I found it interesting that he said he understood. He didn’t push it on me again after that. Maybe it would have been fine and nothing would have happened, but why risk it?

So I was wheeled over to the hospital, which was across the street from the birthing center. To be honest, it was somewhat embarrassing to be wheeled around. I had never been in a wheelchair before. Shoot, I had never been admitted to a hospital before.

Once we were settled into our hospital room we rested a bit and my contractions spaced out yet again. None of the midwives or nurses knew why my labor wasn't progressing, we still aren't sure why I didn't really dilate. Anyways, around 1 in the morning (Friday morning, I think), they decided to put me on pitocin, which I was really hesitant to do. I've heard pitocin contractions are hellish, and let me tell you, they are! Oh gosh, they are SO painful. Pitocin, I hate you. But right as the nurse started the pitocin drip, Hannah’s heart rate suddenly dropped. The nurse, with a panicked look on her face, rolled me over in bed and immediately placed an oxygen mask on me as she called for a few more nurses to come assist her. However, just as quickly, Hannah’s heart rate went back up. Apparently, she had rolled over onto her umbilical cord which caused her heart rate to drastically decelerate and since I was hooked up to the fetal monitor, I could hear her heart rate suddenly slow. That was so scary. So they delayed starting me on pitocin for another 20 minutes or so, which I was grateful for. But once the pitocin was started my contractions became closer together and much, much stronger. Long story short, I was on Pitocin for the next 14 hours or so without any meds. Whoa. That was hard for me and for Matthew too.

Looking back, the entire time I was on pitocin is a blur for me. Although 14 hours sounds like a long time, and believe me it is, when you’re in labor, time is relative. Hours pass without realizing, which I suppose is a blessing. I do remember spending a lot of time laboring on an exercise ball, some time in the tub and some time in the rocking chair. My contractions became about 1 minute apart for several hours. The worst part about pitocin is that the contractions come one right on top of the other, there really is no time to rest. I remember thinking more than once as I felt a contraction coming on, wait just wait, give me another second to rest. I’ll admit, I cried more than once.

Fortunately, through it all our midwives and nurses were amazing. We had two midwives with us the entire time(one was a student nurse-midwife who became my bff) and then there was always one hospital labor and delivery nurse with us. I cannot possibly begin to tell you what an incredible comfort they were to me. They encouraged me, rubbed my back, told me I was strong and that I could do this. My love language is verbal affirmation, so their encouragement went a long way, let me tell you. I am forever indebted to those women.

Finally, at about 4 in the afternoon, after about 14 hours on Pitocin, the midwife checked me. I was still only 3cm dilated. I cried. After all that pain to only progress about 1cm was heartbreaking. What was even more frustrating was that I could not control the situation. Being an athlete, I felt confident going into this experience that my body would simply do what it needed to, but, and I hate to say this, my body failed me in a way. That had never happened to me before. Never. I was confused, in pain and scared.

At that point, the midwives, nurses and doctor all recommended I get an epidural so that they could increase the pitocin even more in the hopes that the high dosage would cause me to dilate more quickly. Although I desperately wanted to be rid of the pain, it was difficult deciding to get the epidural. I felt as if I was surrendering my dream of a peaceful and non-medicated birth (although the peaceful part was out the window at this point). In the end, I decided to go ahead with the epidural.

As soon as the anesthesiologist administered the epidural I became a different person, I was talkative and happy. I was relieved. I totally understand now why women opt for the pain medication. You really don’t feel anything. It’s a very odd experience. As soon as the epidural set in, they upped the pitocin. I have to add that fortunately, through all of this, Hannah's heartbeat remained strong. I was really reluctant to even have them increase the pitocin because I was so afraid she might go into distress (which often happens to many babies in this situation), but she stayed strong. Everyone kept saying “strong mama, strong baby.” She has been my strong child since day one. Thank God.

Since I no longer feeling any pain, I was able to relax. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I kept listening to the sound of the baby’s heart monitor. I wanted to make sure her heartbeat remained stable. Later, Matthew was able to get something to eat, thankfully. Up until this point, he hadn’t really left my side, so I encouraged him to go and get something to eat from the cafeteria. The student midwife stayed and chatted with me. We talked and talked. I told her how good she was at what she did, I meant it too.

Finally, finally (I guess this story isn't the short version I thought it would be), around 10ish the doctor came in to check me and I was only about 4cm dilated and the baby's head was still in a high position. I had also started to develop a fever. This did not bode well for being able to deliver naturally. Yet, the doctor was so great and admitted that "this really stinks and I really hate to be having this conversation with you, but I really think we should go ahead with a c-section." Just having him admit that this was not our ideal situation really helped us to be able to go along with it. I think if he had come in and said "you need to do this" I would have been really defensive. Again, everyone we worked with at the hospital was awesome. We were so, so blessed.

At this point we were exhausted and had been laboring for nearly 48 hours, longer if you count the contractions that began Wednesday night, so we were okay with going ahead with the c-section. Although we had tried everything to avoid having to go through with a c-section, we both felt truly at peace about the whole thing.

My mom is convinced that Hannah simply needed to come out that way and that she may have been harmed by coming through the birth canal. (She heard about a baby who had been injured and consequently disabled by something in the birth canal.) Who knows. All I know is that I was praying throughout everything, saying Hail Mary’s and invoking the name of any and every saint I could think of to help me have the labor and delivery we wanted, but for whatever reason, it was not to be. We had so many people praying for us, including an order of nuns that offered up a novena of masses for us, that I cannot help but think it must have been God’s will for Hannah to be born via c-section. I do know that all those prayers kept Hannah safe, and for that I am eternally grateful to everyone who prayed for us.

Anyways, we made the decision around 10 Friday night to go ahead with the section and they immediately started prepping me and then wheeled me into surgery, which I'll admit was a little scary. There's all these people working around me and I was just lying there. Again, our midwives were with me and they were awesome. They told me what was happening and were comforting me. Matthew had to wait outside the room until after they started the procedure and then they brought him in. It seriously took all of 10-15 minutes and she was out. As Matthew kept telling people, it takes longer to make an omelet than to get a c-section. Ha. So our little Hannah Claire was born at 10:35pm on Friday night, perfectly healthy, praise God. As soon as they pulled her out and announced she was a girl, I started to cry. The midwife immediately came over and asked if I was okay, if I was in pain, what was I feeling. I told her, “I feel happy.” And I did. I had a beautiful daughter. The hard part was not being able to see or hold her right away. I had to crane my neck to even catch a glimpse of her. And then they took her up to the nursery, but fortunately, Matthew was able to go with her. I was finally able to hold her about 20 minutes later in the recovery room. It was so surreal.

We stayed in the hospital Friday and Saturday night and went home Sunday afternoon. My Mom was able to come see us the next morning and stayed with us for a week, which was a huge, huge help. It was awesome to have her here. Thank you, Mom!

My recovery is going great. The doctor did an excellent job and I really feel good, but am still trying to take it easy so I can heal quicker.

All in all, Hannah’s birth was not the one we had initially wanted or planned, but it was still beautiful. As difficult and painful as it was, Hannah was totally worth it. They always say you'll forget the pain once the baby is born and during those crazy pitocin contractions I was thinking "no way will I forget this," but I have and I did. She is here and she is such a joy to us, how could we not give thanks to God for her birth?

The doctors and nurses still had no explanation for why I didn't dilate. I think if my water hadn't broken and I didn't have GBS that I could have labored at home for a long time and while it still would have been a long labor, I would have been able to deliver naturally. But it's like all these circumstances collided to form the perfect storm, so there was really no way around how things happened. We're really hoping for the next birth to maybe have a home birth, provided I don't have GBS again. We'll see.

So there you have it, the condensed, not so short version of the birth of Hannah Claire. Thanks be to God for her healthy arrival.

1 comment:

  1. I had to read it all over again.
    You were blessed with a beautiful birth, just the one God intended for you. :)

    I do like what you had originally "planned" thought-- too perfect, eh?
    Thanks for sharing with the blog world.


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