i have been putting off writing this for 10 days now. the whole experience was so overwhelming and emotional that i wasn’t sure how to put it into words. on the other hand, i want to write it out before the already fuzzy details get any more blurry.
on thursday, august 5th i had my weekly midwife appointment. i woke up at 5 that morning feeling awfully strange. i knew something big was coming. i called the office and moved my appointment up a few hours. my cervical examination showed i was 4 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced. just one week before i was 1 centimeter dilated. i called my mother and she decided to fly out that night just in case. we had an uneventful friday together.
at 2:18 saturday morning i got up to use the bathroom, just as i had done 5 times a night for the last several months. after i had finished i stood up and felt a pop and a small gush. i turned on the light and the toilet seat and floor were sprayed with a clear liquid. my water had broken. i woke travis up, called my mom at her hotel and called the midwife. she told me to call her back when my contractions picked up and were 5-7 minutes apart.
i managed to fall back asleep until 8:30. i woke up and decided to try to get things moving. i had a few minor contractions over the course of the night, but nothing strong or regular. it is my midwife’s (and the hospital’s) policy to induce if it doesn’t look like the baby will arrive within 24 hours of the water breaking. i had decided i would call the midwife at 2 in the afternoon if active labor hadn’t started. that gave me just over 5 hours to get things started on my own.
i ate breakfast while bouncing on the birthing ball. i walked. i used the breast pump to stimulate natural oxytocin release. i took a shower. nothing. i put in the call at 2. she called me back and asked me to meet her at the hospital. she let them know i was coming. we threw the few last minute things into our bags and made the short drive to the hospital. i had already pre-registered so they took me straight back to my labor and delivery room. the midwife and my first nurse met me there. we mutually decided on a very low and slow pitocin drip to see if things would pick up. after a few botched attempts by our less than stellar nurse, the IV was in and i started on a drip of 2 milliunits per minute of pitocin.
the next 15 hours are a bit of a blur as the pitocin was slowly increased from 2 to 20 milliunits per minute. at 7 that night our first nurse left and the second nurse started her 12 hour shift. she was a god send. i could never say enough wonderful things about her. she had a baby just 8 months prior without pain medication after being induced. she encouraged me every step of the way and stayed in my room during the particularly trying parts of my labor.
travis was also amazing. we swayed, walked and leaned through every contraction as they increased in duration, interval and intensity. 6 hours in, the midwife checked my cervix. i was 6 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. it wasn’t as much progress as i had hoped for, but it was a start. one centimeter stood in between me and transition, which i knew could progress quickly. i remained optimistic and continued to ride out each contraction with travis by my side. it wasn’t long before i had to start making noise to get through each peak. i tried to focus on my breathing and on keeping my jaw and shoulders relaxed.
somewhere around hour 11 i hit a wall. i had been having horrible back labor. the pain was excruciating compared to the contractions and it never ceased. i could feel that sylvie had turned onto her side. i spent the better part of the next few hours laboring on my hands and knees, trying in vain to get her to turn. the nurse and travis took turns applying counter pressure to my lower back through each contraction, which now came every 2 minutes and lasted for 90 seconds. i barely had time to catch my breath in between.
at around 5:30 in the morning the midwife checked my cervix again. my labor had stalled out at 6 centimeters and sylvie’s head was starting to swell. she told me that my best chance at a vaginal birth was an epidural. i needed to relax through each contraction, which had become increasingly difficult. it was my best chance to progress on my own. i spent the next 45 minutes crying, riding out each contraction, and waiting for the anesthesiologist. the back pain began to creep higher and became unbearable just as he walked into my room. i was terrified of the epidural, terrified that i had failed. i felt my body had let me and sylvie down. the emotion and the fatigue were too much for me. the catheter was in a few minutes later. my nurse’s shift had ended. i thanked her for everything and told her a tearful goodbye. i managed to fall asleep for a few hours after the pain relief set in.
at 9 o’clock the midwife checked my progress again. my cervix was swelling shut around the top of sylvie’s head. she told me a cesarian was necessary for sylvie’s safe arrival. i agreed and sent travis to the waiting room to tell my mother. i waited until the room was empty and i cried. i cried like i had never cried before. this was not the birth i wanted for us. i knew it was necessary for our safety, but it was too much emotion to handle. travis came back into the room with my mom and i cried even harder. i felt like a complete failure, like all of our hard work was for nothing.
at 9:30 they were prepping me for surgery, 19 hours into labor and 31 hours after my water broke. the midwife reassured me that everything would be alright. she told me that life was about to come at me quickly and that i should take a moment to prepare myself for that. i remember being really grateful to hear that. she took the camera from travis and promised to take pictures of everything so that he could focus on me. neither one of them left my side through the entire procedure. a new anesthesiologist came in and administered the first of two doses through my epidural. they wheeled me down the hall to the operating room as i told my mom goodbye. once in the operating room they put the sheet up in front of my face and administered the second strong dose of anesthesia. i remember feeling completely emotionally numb, a defense mechanism against what was about to take place. i shut down completely and remained that way until i heard sylvie’s first cry.
the procedure took all of about 10 minutes. i asked travis if they had started cutting yet, to which he answered, “ohhhh yeah.” not two minutes later, sylvie was out. i heard her let out one good, beautiful cry as they carried her over to the warmer behind my head. i craned my neck back and could barely see her. travis assured me that she was beautiful. he kissed my forehead and we both cried. a few minutes later a nurse placed her in travis’ arms. she was so small, just 6 pounds, five ounces and 19 inches long. travis walked her over to me and held her next to my face. at my behest, they unstrapped my left arm and i stroked her vernix-covered cheek. she was perfect and completely worth every hour, every contraction, every suture.
the doctor finished sewing me shut and the anesthesiologist gave me a dose of morphine through my epidural. they wheeled me to the recovery area. a few minutes later i finally got to hold my sweet baby girl. the midwife helped place her at my right breast and she nursed strongly for the next several minutes. i was so proud of her. she was amazing. those 15 short minutes spent breast-feeding my child for the first time were indescribable. they were the happiest, most content moments of my life. we were a family now. as they wheeled me to postpartum, with travis walking at my bedside, we began our lives together.