Before I tell you my birth story, let me give you some background on my pregnancy. I have Type 1 Diabetes so my doctors were very cautious and wanted me to have more ultrasounds than the low-risk pregnant woman. We agreed to some of the ultrasounds, which next time we will do even fewer. They also wanted me to have weekly non-stress tests done starting at 32 weeks, and in my last month of pregnancy two non-stress tests per week. The reason for this is that diabetic women are more prone to stillborn babies. My doctors said that one day the baby would be fine and the next it wouldn’t, without any signs. They also said that I’m the best judge of if my baby is okay because if the baby is moving he is probably alright. Kind of contradictory I thought, but we compromised to start doing the non-stress tests at 36 weeks and only once per week. Other than pushing some tests on us that we would rather not have done my doctor was pretty cool. She knew we wanted to limit the exposure of ultrasounds so she agreed to use a fetoscope (fetal stethoscope) for our appointments.
Luke estimated due date was January 28, 2012. My doctor wanted Luke out before he got any bigger. They were afraid that he wasn’t going to fit because since I have Type 1 Diabetes I was more likely to have a baby with shoulder dystocia. I really wanted my unmedicated hospital birth, so I was going to go in on Monday January 23 for membrane stripping since my doctor was pushing to induce. We figured we would try stripping first. If the membrane sweep didn’t work my doctor wanted to induce on Tuesday or Wednesday. I really didn’t want to be induced because I had heard that Pitocin made it very difficult to have a natural, un-medicated birth. I tried almost everything to make him come naturally. I walked up and down stairs twice a day every weekday at work (11 flights each time), used evening primrose oil orally and vaginally, used essential oils topically and aromatically, and acupressure. I was having contractions that were 3-5 minutes apart for a month now, so I really thought he would have come by now. We called our Bradley Method instructor, to see what she recommended. She told me to continue doing all those things but to also get down on all fours and lay my head down on the ground with my butt up in the air for 45 minutes daily, aka the “polar bear” position, to get him in the proper position for labor.
On a beautiful, sunny Sunday, January 22, Luke finally decided that it was time to come out. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to pee. I started to feel nauseated and wondered if I could possibly be in labor. I woke my husband, Chase, up and said, “I hope you got enough sleep because I think I’m in labor.” He said, “Not really.” He was working the night shift and had only gotten 3 hours of sleep. I started to cry because even though I had been preparing for this for a while now, my mind went blank and I wasn’t sure what to do. This is where a doula would have been nice. Chase had me go sit on the birth ball for a while. This felt nice. I was tired of sitting on the birth ball and decided to take a shower. In our Bradley Method classes, we learned that there are five things to determine if it is true labor or not and showering was one of them. I was still in labor after showering, but now I was clean and felt more presentable.
After the shower, I tried to take a nap because that was another thing to try to see if it is true labor. It was around 8:30 now. As I was lying there, I felt something weird. It felt as if Luke’s head had suddenly bashed into my cervix. It was so hard that I asked Chase if he felt it. He did not. All of a sudden, it felt as if I might have peed a little. I told Chase that I thought my water broke. I walked to the bathroom to sit on the toilet just in case it did. He didn’t believe me because there wasn’t that much water. All of my underwear was in the dirty clothes and I wanted to put a pad on just in case there was more water leaking out. Chase let me wear some of his boxer briefs with a pad in them. I went over to call my sister, Natalie, to let her know that I was in labor. She had attended the Bradley Method classes with us and was going to be at the birth as our unofficial doula. She had texted me earlier and jokingly told me to be ready for labor tomorrow after the stripping. I called her and told her I was in labor now and she left to go get me some food and the nurses some donuts. After I hung up with her, a huge gush of water came out. I ran to the bathroom to try to get most of it in the toilet instead of on the floor. Chase’s boxer briefs were drenched. The pad did nothing! My doctors had measured high levels of amniotic fluid when I went for my non-stress tests, so it wasn’t surprising that there was a lot of fluid.
Once my water had officially broken, the contractions became harder. I started having diarrhea, as we had learned, the body clears the way to make more room for the baby to come out. I decided it was easier to just not wear anything except a robe. Chase called my parents to let them know I was in labor and asked them to take the dogs so they wouldn’t have to be alone while we were in the hospital. They came over while I was lying in bed trying to breathe through the contractions. My dad came in the room and said that we should probably go to the hospital. I just motioned for him to leave as I was having another contraction. It was obviously not time to leave yet.
After they left, I sat on the edge of the bed and Chase and Natalie helped me get through the contractions. They suggested I try lying down because I might be able to relax better. I tried to lie down and it was awful, so I just stayed sitting at the edge of the bed. They fed me grapes and gave me water as I breathed through the contractions. I asked Chase if it was time to go to the hospital yet, but he could tell from my signposts (which we learned in our classes) that it wasn’t time yet. I went to the couch to get more comfortable. Chase put the ottoman under my legs and I sat there breathing through the contractions. This was much more comfortable.
The contractions were getting a lot stronger now and I told Chase that I didn’t want to do this anymore. Not that it was super painful, just that I wanted it to be done now. He decided it was time to leave for the hospital. He started packing up all our hospital items while Natalie helped me through the contractions. Sadly, we forgot the doughnuts for the nurses and my relaxing music. After the Jeep was all packed up, Chase helped me put some pants on. Chase and Natalie helped me out to the Jeep. They put a towel down on the seat just in case more water started leaking out. Before I got in the Jeep, I felt like I might vomit so I waited. I vomited three times then got in the car. Chase went back for a pot just in case I needed to vomit again. We left for the hospital and I tried to breathe and relax through the contractions the whole way there. They were starting to get really intense. I wouldn’t call any of the contractions painful though. Chase called ahead to the hospital to let them know I would be arriving soon and asked for a room with a tub. Chase also called my parents to let them know we were heading to the hospital.
We arrived at St. Mark’s around 12:00 p.m. Chase went to get me a wheelchair while Natalie got in the driver’s side to go park the Jeep. Chase wheeled me inside and the nurses took me to my room. They told me how to put on the gown and the belly band that holds the monitors in place. My mom helped me get into the gown and belly band. We handed the nurse our birth plan and she said everything on it was fine, but the pediatrician might have a problem with the “no vitamin K shot”. I was surprised she was fine with the eating and drinking part, because St. Mark’s has a policy about no eating and drinking during labor. The nurses started asking me questions, but the contractions were too close together for me to answer so they just started asking my mom. The nurse checked me to see how far dilated I was. Chase told her not to tell us so that I wouldn’t get disappointed. She said that was fine and told me to let her know when I felt like I needed to push. We later found out that I was dilated to a 9.5 when she checked. Just then, I had this really intense contraction and kind of pushed involuntarily with it. I told Chase that I felt like I need to pee. He helped me to the bathroom where I sat for a while. I couldn’t pee. I told Chase that I thought I might have to push. Our doctor came in and asked how everything was. I told her I couldn’t pee. Chase asked her if I felt like I needed to push if I should push or wait just in case I wasn’t dilated far enough. She said it was fine to push and had me go back on the bed because she didn’t want to me to have the baby in the toilet.
The nurse asked me whom I wanted in the room. I told her only my husband and my sister. She then asked my parents to leave. It’s not that I didn’t want them to witness the birth of my child, they were just being distracting for me. My dad was trying to watch TV while I was having contractions and my mom was crying because she thought I was in pain. I needed the people around me to be strong so that I wouldn’t have to worry about taking care of them.
I went back on the bed and they asked if I wanted to use the squat bar. I told them that I did. It was now around 2:00. I pushed and pushed to get Luke out. It seemed like forever! I was getting discouraged so I asked my doctor to check how close he was to being out, she said he was closer and that I needed to push harder. They had me switch to lying down with my legs up to push so that I could rest between contractions. I didn’t want to for a while, but I started to get tired so I agreed. Luke finally started crowning. Chase handed my doctor some essential oils to put on my skin to help with the pain of crowning and she was more than willing. My doctor told me that she thought Luke’s shoulder was stuck so she would be calling a few nurses in to help her maneuver his shoulder out. She told me not to push while she was doing this. I felt “the ring of fire” as he was crowning and it really burned! I thought I remembered learning that you were supposed to push slowly to allow the skin to stretch, but the doctor was yelling at me to push, so because I was in the moment, I did. Finally, his head came out. My doctor reached her hand inside me to move his shoulder. This was the most painful part. I forgot I wasn’t supposed to be pushing, so I was. I asked her if I was supposed to be pushing and she yelled, “No!” Then after she got his shoulder unstuck, she told me to push.
At 5:05 p.m., Luke was born via an unmedicated hospital birth. They set him on my stomach immediately after birth. As soon as I saw him, I looked at him, grabbed his thigh, and told him “Hi”. I remember him feeling really warm. He hadn’t yet opened his eyes, but as soon as I touched him they shot open. It was surprising that even after being manhandled by my doctor and put onto my stomach that it wasn’t until he felt my touch that he opened his eyes. It was the exact moment I touched him. Chase cut the umbilical cord, earlier than we had planned, but he was caught up in the moment and forgot that he was supposed to wait for delayed cord clamping. The umbilical cord was wrapped around Luke’s neck twice so Luke wasn’t able to get the fluid out of his lungs on his way out. They rushed him over to the table in the room to suction his airways. After that, they tested his blood sugar to make sure he was okay. He was 86, which was good. After they thought his airways were clear enough, they weighed and measured him. He was 8 lbs 13 oz and 21 inches long. Although, on the bassinet they placed him in it said 52 inches. The nurses were saying what a big baby he was. Finally, they brought him back over to me. This time I looked into his face and quizzically proclaimed that he looked Asian. Neither my husband nor I are Asian. Natalie just laughed with tears in her eyes.
The nurses decided they needed to take Luke to the nursery to help stabilize his breathing and because he had a fever. They wanted to make sure the fever was not due to an infection, so they drew some blood from him. They wanted to put in an IV so they could draw more blood if needed instead of poking him a bunch of times. They couldn’t find a vein in his hands, so they ended up putting the IV in his head.
While he was in the nursery, I was delivering placenta. They gave me some Pitocin to help contract the uterus to get the placenta out. I could definitely feel the effects of the Pitocin. It was not pleasant. It took an hour for the placenta to come out. They kept having me push, but it wouldn’t come. They kept tugging on it to see if it would come loose, but it hurt when they did. They eventually had to give me some Fentanyl so they could pull it out. After it was out, my doctor used a catheter to remove my urine since I hadn’t peed all day. I asked if I could just try to pee, but for some reason they wouldn’t let me.
Now it was time to get stitches because I had torn. I was terrified to get my perineum stitched, more afraid of a few needle pokes than the 9 lb human coming through me. They gave me some local anesthetic and started stitching. I had partial 3rd degree tears, so it took a while. I obviously needed to do more Kegel exercises. Before they left me alone, they had to push on my on my stomach to make sure I didn’t have any clots or bleeding. After they were done, I was finally able to have some food. I hadn’t eaten anything but a few grapes all day, not that I wanted to because I was busy trying to relax. While I was eating, the nursery called to tell me that Luke’s blood sugar had dropped to the 30’s so they wanted to give him some formula. I asked if they could just give him some glucose through the IV. They said that he would have to go to the NICU to do that because they don’t administer any IV fluids in the nursery, so I thought formula would be easier than dealing with the NICU.
After I was done eating, they got me ready to move to the postpartum room. They had me try to pee, but I couldn’t, then they had me put on a huge pad with an ice pack in the crotch to help with the swelling. They had me gather my things and wheeled me up to the postpartum room. Chase came in a few minutes later with our new baby boy. I was finally able to see Luke two hours after giving birth to him. I tried breastfeeding him, but was not very successful. There is definitely a learning curve for both mom and baby, and I’m sure the formula didn’t help things. We had to call in a lactation consultant to help us a couple of times. We also think that since he was born with a tongue-tie he wasn’t able to eat as well, so we got that clipped the day after leaving the hospital. After that, Luke and I finally got the hang of it. The doctors wanted to make sure Luke’s blood sugars were stabilized and that he didn’t have an infection, so we weren’t able to leave until January 25.
After experiencing labor in a hospital, there are things that I would do differently next time, but overall I thought it was a good experience. My doctor and the nurses stuck to my birth plan pretty well, but there were things that I would fight harder for next time. I would still probably do it in a hospital next time since I am high-risk, and I thought having meals delivered to you while you bond with your new family was great.