This is Part II of a three part birth story. (Click here for Part I) It’s taken me a long of time to come to terms with how our daughter, Holland, was brought into this world. Sadly, it was not the joyous occasion I desperately wanted. I know though, that we are incredibly blessed to both be healthy and safe and nothing I write is meant to dismiss that major blessing. Additionally, nothing is meant to discount the birth experience of other mothers. This is simply my account of Holland’s arrival.
After discovering I was still only 4 cm dilated, I decided to do everything I could to move the process along. Tia prepared a hot bath for me and it was divine. The contractions were still incredibly painful, but the water was soothing. I sank a little deeper in the tub with each contraction. Adam and Tia kneeled beside the tub (probably was aching knees) and held my hand. My contractions never seemed to let up at all and before I knew it, the water had gone cold. I got out of the tub and proceeded to try other things to help my body relax and dilate naturally.
I bounced on the birthing ball. I laid on my side in the bed. I had my lower back massaged. I leaned against the wall. Once every hour or so, the nurses would come in and insist that I get back on the monitor for a few minutes and check on the baby’s vitals. Each time baby was doing fine but I was quickly becoming even more exhausted. My contractions had become stronger. Even worse, I started to have something called “rolling contractions.” This meant that instead of each contraction peaking and then winding down to a stop they just continued to go up and down without ever stopping. My contractions were lasting 5-6 minutes long and I barely had 30 seconds in between them. It was the most painful thing I had ever experienced.
Because of the strong nature of the contractions, everyone was hopeful that I would have some great progress. After my initial check, the nurses would re-check me every 3 hours or so. With each check, I would hope that I had progressed at least a centimeter. Sadly, the next three checks (9 hours) revealed that I was still only 4cm dilated! With each announcement after the check, I would cry. Why was I not progressing? I had been in labor for nearly 24 hours and my contractions were SO strong and SO consistent. It didn’t make any sense!
|All pictures by the amazing Niki Zimmerman of Niki Zimmerman Images|
Around 7 p.m., after yet another cervical check announcing me to only be 4cm, I decided to ask for IV pain meds. I was exhausted and even though I knew the meds wouldn’t stop the pain, I thought they might help me relax a bit. The meds kicked in and honestly made me feel like I was drunk. I still felt the pain of each contraction, but it was a bit like stubbing your toe while drunk… it hurts, but you can ignore it a little easier. Adam stayed by my side, brushing my hair out of my face and rubbing my back with each contraction. He was a champ. After my second dose of pain meds, my water broke. I was so happy and assumed that it meant I had made progress! I insisted they check me again once the pain meds wore off. They did and I was STILL at 4 cm!
To say I felt defeated is an understatement. I felt like my body hated me. I wanted a natural, medication free birth more than anything, but it had been 24 of constant contractions and I hadn’t made a single centimeter of progress. I tried to get out of the bed and move around again, but my legs collapsed beneath me. I was just too tired and too weak after so many hours of strong contractions. The nurses and my doula, Tia, noted that I might be too tense to dilate because of how strong my contractions were and obviously, my body was worn out. I knew an epidural would help me relax and would give me some much needed rest, but I also knew that I didn’t want one. I struggled so, so, so hard with my decision to get one. I cried. A LOT. Adam held me in his arms and I told him about how much of a failure I felt. I apologized to him… to our baby… to myself for not being able to labor like we intended. It honestly broke my heart.
But once the decision was made, I just wanted it to be done. I remember asking how long it would take the doctor to get there and place the epidural. I was insistent it happen quickly. If my dreams of a natural birth were going to be shattered, I just wanted them to be shattered quickly. I didn’t even feel the epidural go in but I remember being shocked that the pain of the contractions did not immediately cease once it was in place. It took several minutes and several painful contractions before the pain faded entirely. Once it did however, I took several deep breaths and enjoyed the first few minutes of a pain-free existence I had felt in over 24 hours! It was a relief.
I still wanted to actively labor and since I could still move my legs, I changed positions in the bed several times over the next hours as suggested by the nurses and Tia. We would monitor the baby and move positions to help it descend. At my next check, I was finally 5 cm dilated and I could have thrown a party right then and there. At the check after that, I was 6 cm dilated! I finally felt like we would get to meet our baby soon and I was thrilled. I was still disappointed that I had to have the epidural, but I was happy that I was still on track for a vaginal birth. As the early morning hours faded away though, so did my consistent contractions. In short, the epidural had helped me relax and begin dilating, but it had slowed my very consistent contractions. Around 4 a.m., the doctor insisted that I start pitocin to help my contractions become regular again. I compiled even though pitocin was something else I had really hoped to avoid.
At my next check though, I was 7 cm so I decided the pitocin had been worth it. Everyone from the doctors and nurses to our doula, Tia, was sure that we’d have a baby soon! But they were all wrong… very, very wrong.