Saturday, February 20, 2010

Birth Story, Part 3: It's the Pits

For weeks before I gave birth, I had contractions. Pitiful little tightenings of my belly, which I would have to touch to verify that I was contracting. And, given that they did nothing to progress my cervix, they weren't "real." After my Cervidil was started, these contractions got to be more noticeable, and I hoped labor would start before the Pitocin. It didn't really.

First thing in the morning, I got checked and was somewhat pleased to learn that I was now 1.5cm dilated. Not much, but more than nothing! The nurse hooked me up to the Pitocin drip and informed me that the doctor would come in soon and would probably break my water.


As I keep having to remind myself, I am NOT a doctor. HOWEVER, there's a few things I know about labor and contractions. One is that Pitocin contractions are much harder than natural ones. Two, contractions get harder after the water is broken. I also (legitimately) feared that breaking my water too soon would give Lily less of a cushion for moving into the correct position to be born. Thus far, I had not been successful in standing up to Dr. P, but I was pretty sure I didn't want my membranes ruptured so early in the day. If you've been following along, you know by now that "pretty sure" is not nearly sure enough.

Around 7:30am my ray of sunshine arrived: Cathy the nurse. One item on my birth preferences list that actually worked out and was granted was my request for a nurse who enjoys working with couples who have prepared for a natural childbirth. Cathy was the bomb. I told her I didn't want my water broken. When Dr. P arrived to do it, I asked her if we could wait because I didn't want to be "on the clock." (Deja vu! I also wanted to wait to be induced, and we know how that worked out.) She got her annoyed/frustrated look that I now know well and asked when we should do it instead. I didn't really know how to answer that question, so I...gave in (regret #5--huge, huge regret). Cathy looked at me and asked if I was sure, standing up to Dr. P's mumbles of protest better than I could. But I continued the theme of resignation and let her get it over with. (I now believe I should have said I wanted to be at least 5cm before breaking my bag of waters. I now also regret not hiring a doula, who would have done the thinking and advocating for me.)

After a pull, a tug, a pop and a gush, I was on the clock. Labor was henceforth messy and drippy, and besides all the legitimate reasons not to have the membranes ruptured so early, I wished I could have had a few hours to labor without all the messiness. It was hard enough to lug my belly around without having to place towels and pads everywhere as well.

Oh, and by now, my contractions were real. I didn't have to wonder whether I was having any. Within an hour or so, I couldn't talk through them and I needed to enter hypnosis to keep the discomfort at bay. For the whole first part of the day, I thought I could handle this. Every fifteen minutes they upped the Pit until I was contracting regularly. Unfortunately, even when the contractions got to be close together, they were never really regular. I'd get one every 2-3 minutes and then go 5 minutes before having three every minute, etc. Furthermore, from looking at the monitors we could see that they didn't have normal peaks. They felt strong and looked strong, but it was impossible to measure their strength without internal monitoring, which I never had.

But I labored on and impressed Cathy with my pain management. I started needing Erich more and more with my hypnosis cues, and he was there each time with a hand on my forehead and/or pressure on my shoulder, helping me relax through the painful artificial contractions. My parents stopped by at one point, but they didn't stay in the room long. It's hard to receive visitors when everyone needs to shut up ever 2-5 minutes while I breathe through a contraction. I had ice chips and yummy cherry-pineapple popsicles. It seemed okay as long as I could concentrate.

Then, around 1pm we figured it was a good time for an exam to check my progress. The verdict: 2-3cm, 80% effaced. I was disappointed. I was prepared for a number lower than 5, but I was hoping for more than 3. All that work hardly did anything! I wondered whether an epidural or other drugs would help me relax more and let the Pitocin do its work. Cathy encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing, keep taking the contractions one at a time and don't think hours in the future because it was impossible to know what was going to happen and it wasn't worth the stress. Her attitude helped me soldier on, and I kept finding labor demanding but manageable.

They cranked the Pit some more. The contractions got pretty bad. I was still managing without pain meds, but if I found myself mentally unprepared for the next one, I was in a world of hurt. We had the iPod going, alternating between Hypnobabies scripts and quiet music. I moved around and changed positions. Cathy went in search of the perfect birthing ball as the one in the room was under inflated. She praised me for my coping skills, for vocalizing through the contractions. Erich was my rock, but Cathy really kept me going.

Four more hours went by and I consented to another internal exam...

I'll leave it here for tonight, but I will say that (spoiler alert), it doesn't get any better from here.

Part 4


cowboyboot lady said...

Managing the pain without pain meds, quiet music, coping skills, talking through the contractions...sounds like you were doing everything right. Looking forward to hearing more!

Sheridan said...

I am reading your posts with baited breath. I already know you ended up with a cesarean, so hugs for that! Do you know about ICAN? They are a great support group for moms who have had cesareans.