Knowing that you're going to go to the hospital at 5:30am the next morning to have a baby makes it very difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep. So, unfortunately, I was already tired when we arrived bright and early for induction on Friday morning. But there really wasn't much I could do about it, and I hoped that once my labor really got going, the adrenaline would kick in and give me enough energy to get through it.
Little did I know that labor wouldn't really get going until hours and hours later.....
The plan was to break my water and see if that was enough to get some good contractions going. I had continued to have random contractions Thursday and Thursday night, but still nothing regular. But I was still almost 4 cm dilated, so had really high hopes that once my water was broken, things would kick in for real.
But that was not the case. After they broke my water - around 8am - we walked. And we walked. And we walked some more. And still there was nothing but sporadic contractions that were very manageable.
After a few hours of walking, I was feeling like I really wasn't leaking much fluid, and opted to have the midwife check again to see if my water had in fact been broken, because it really didn't feel like it had. So I endured a third excrutiatingly uncomfortable exam (she had done two when she first ruptured the membranes, because she wasn't quite sure she had gotten it), but this time there was a definite gush of fluid, so at that point we were absolutely certain that the membranes were definitely ruptured.
So we walked some more. And did some squats. And walked some more. Luckily at this point, I wasn't hooked up to any IVs or anything, so walking around was easy, as I wasn't dragging an IV pole behind me. And having both Jessica, our doula, and Scott, to keep me company made things much easier.
But still, it had been hours of this, with little to no progress. There was one point where I started to have some stronger contractions that were coming closer together - 3 to 5 minutes apart - but almost as quickly as they started, they stopped. I can't even begin to tell you how discouraging that was.
I think it was now around 1:30 pm, and I had to go back to the room and get into bed to get my second dose of antibiotics (for the GBS that I tested positive for), and I was beyond discouraged. I was exhausted, I was frustrated, I was disappointed, and I was feeling like everything we had wanted for this birth was just slipping through our fingers. Jessica and Scott kept giving me pep talks, trying to keep my spirits up, but I was at a really low point, and didn't know how much more I could handle.
At that point, we came up with a new plan, which was for me to lay down and take a nap, and then when I woke up, we'd regroup and figure out where to go from there. I was still holding out hope that the contractions would kick in and we wouldn't have to go to Pitocin, but that hope was fading fast.
I did feel slightly better after a long rest, and when I woke up it was about 3:45, and the midwife came in and asked me if I was ready to get Pitocin started. I was still hesitant, and asked for a few minutes to talk it over with Scott and Jessica, and it didn't take long for me to realize that it was really the only option left. More walking and waiting was going to do nothing but get me even more frustrated and more exhausted, and emotionally, I had taken just about all the waiting that I could.
So although I still didn't like the idea, we decided to go ahead and slowly get the Pitocin started, and I was all hooked up at 4:15. Now that I was being medically induced, I was required to have an IV with fluids and be hooked up to monitors recording both the baby's heartbeat and my contractions. That was one of the biggest reasons I didn't want the Pitocin - I didn't want to be connected to all those wires - but there was no getting around it now.
And luckily we had been blessed with some wonderful, fabulous nurses, who were all very supportive and understanding of the fact that we were still hoping for a natural birth, and they were great about working with us to try to stick to as much of our original plan as possible. So they got me hooked up to the telemetry unit, so that we could get up and walk around (dragging the IV pole with me).
We walked for a while, but I had to keep stopping to take breaks because I was so unbelievably tired. There was a bit more waiting before the contractions started to really kick in, but I was actually glad for that, because I knew it meant that they were really letting things progress gradually, which was better in the long run.
I'm not entirely sure of the timing, because I honestly wasn't looking at the clock at all - I knew it would just discourage me more - but I think it was around 6pm or so that the contractions really started to pick up in both frequency and intensity. We were still up and about at this point, doing a little walking, but I was now having to slow down and/or stop when a contraction hit.
After a very short while of walking and stopping like that, the exhaustion hit me again, and we went back to the room and I got settled on the birth ball at the end of the bed, leaning forward and resting my head on the bed. And that was pretty much the position I stayed in until it was almost time to push.
This was the point at which I really started to have to focus and concentrate, and was no longer talking to anyone, even in between contractions. I remember Jessica and Scott talking to me, and encouraging me, but it was almost like they were off in the distance. But the words and encouragement were very helpful, and I'm so thankful they were both there.
When I think about why I was able to get through the experience this time, as opposed to opting for the epidural with the boys, I know exactly what the difference was. Obviously we had prepared, we had taken classes, we had the support we needed - but the crucial difference is that I was very consciously focusing on breathing through and working with the contractions, instead of fighting them. There were times where I'd tense up a little, but for the most part, every time a contraction hit, I concentrated on relaxing and letting my body do what it needed to do, and that, I feel, made all the difference in the world.
After a while, though, just breathing through the contractions wasn't cutting it anymore, and I started moaning. It wasn't anything I thought about doing - it was just what was happening, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The intensity of the contractions was overwhelming at this point, and I don't think I lifted my head up once. I just focused on getting through one contraction at a time, and trying to rest in between.
But as I got through each contraction, I found myself feeling closer and closer to giving up. Around this time, I also started shaking. And I think I knew in the back of my mind that I was in transition, and the end was near, but still, every time a contraction hit, I went through a little argument in my head, about whether or not I was going to give up and ask for drugs.
I won the argument many, many times, but finally I lost it. We had agreed with Jessica that I would have a code word, and the only time anyone was to even consider giving me the epidural was if I used the code word. And I used it. I was nearly crying, and could barely get out the words, but I got them out. I was done. I didn't want to do this anymore, and I just wanted the pain to go away and I wanted to lay down and rest.
Jessica and Scott tried to convince me that I didn't really want that, but I wasn't listening to anyone. But I knew that before they went ahead with anything, they'd check to see how much I was dilated, and although I dreaded having to move at all, never mind go through an exam, they were able to get me up on the bed, where I just automatically lay down on my side, which for some reason was the only way I felt comfortable.
I was able to stay that way for the exam, and when I heard that I was 8 1/2 cm, I knew there was not going to be any epidural. And I also knew that it would be ok, that I was almost done, and would be pushing soon.
And sure enough, just a very short while later (I have no idea how long, but maybe 15 minutes?), I started to feel pressure. No urge to push, but tons and tons of pressure. And when she checked me again, I was fully dilated, and was told to push whenever I felt ready. And as I digested this information, the midwife and nurses started to get everything ready for the baby to be born.
I think I was a little scared to push at first, and waited through a few more contractions, but then gave a few small pushes, and once I did that, my body completely took over.
Having pushed two babies out with epidurals, I never really understood what people were talking about when they talked about that uncontrollable urge to push with every ounce of strength you have in your body. But now I know. Wow, do I know.
I have never in my life experienced anything so instinctual and downright primal, and I think if anyone had told me to stop pushing, I would have punched them in the face. It was also incredibly painful, and anyone who knows me knows that I'm generally a pretty quiet person, but every time a contraction hit and I was pushing, I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I almost couldn't believe the noise I was making, but it was beyond my control.
I don't know how many times I pushed, but I do know that it felt like things were progressing relatively quickly. I remember pushing for nearly 2 and a half hours with Gabe, but this time after just a few pushes, I was being told by everyone that the head was right there. It was encouraging to hear, but I still kept asking if I was almost done. The pressure was so unbelievably intense, and I just wanted this baby OUT.
A few more pushes, and the head was crowning, and I knew I had to work up the strength for just a few more, and with everyone's support and encouragement, I did, and then the head was out, and with one more push, I felt the most incredible sense of relief as the rest of the baby slid out and I knew I was finally, finally done.
Then Scott had the privilege of announcing that it was a boy, and we were both pretty much sobbing with joy and relief and excitement.
We had hoped to wait to cut the cord until it stopped pulsing, but since there had been meconium when they broke my water, that wasn't possible - they wanted to check the baby right away to make sure no meconium had been aspirated into the lungs, so they did that, but they got it done pretty quickly, and he was fine (I could hear him crying loudly, so I knew he was going to be ok), and then got him back to us, and I was finally able to hold my baby - all 10 lbs 2 oz. of him.
When I heard how much he weighed, I really couldn't believe it. I was kind of expecting that he'd be big, just because of Gabe's birthweight, and the fact that this time I was 2 weeks overdue, but I don't think I expected he'd be THAT big!
As they finished up with me (delivering the placenta, etc.), I held our not-so-little Carmine, and savored every single second of it. We had waited a long, long time and went through an awful lot to get to that moment, and it's one I will never forget as long as I live.
As I look back on how everything went, there are things that I'm disappointed about - namely that I didn't go into labor on my own, and that we weren't able to us the Alternative Birthing Center, and that I ended up on Pitocin and hooked up to all the machines that I had so badly wanted to avoid. But in the end, I did it - I delivered naturally, and we have a healthy, perfect baby boy.
I'm proud of myself for finding the strength that I needed at the end, but even more so, I'm thankful that I had the support of a fabulous husband and an amazing doula, who were so important in helping me do what I needed to do.
And now, 5 days later, I can say that everyone is right when they say that recovery from a drug-free birth is much easier. Since I was unmedicated, and was able to push so much more effectively, and only had to push for half an hour, I am feeling so much less sore than I was 5 days after pushing Gabe out. And I'm tired, but not as exhausted as I felt in the days right after having Gabe.
I will never regret the way that any of my births have gone, especially since they have all resulted in beautiful, healthy babies. But this birth was an entirely different one, and opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I'm so thankful that I was able to experience it this way. I have more respect and appreciation for my body than ever.
As I type this, Carmine is snoozing next to me, and although I do have moments where I miss feeling his little squirms and kicks inside of me, it's SO much better having him here with us : )