long labor

Two Very Different Births - Part 1: Mia

I was due April 10th, but my baby was just way too comfortable and not interested in going anywhere.  Late in my pregnancy, my borderline high blood pressure crossed into an official diagnosis of Pregnancy Induced Hypertension, so I was being closely monitored.  After a short bout of bedrest, I was told to limit my activity, and keep still as much as possible. My due date came and went.  The following Monday found me back at the hospital for an NST and fluid check...nothing. No change, no signs of impending labor. I thought that my water may be "leaking", but when they performed a litmus check, it came back negative for amniotic fluid. We scheduled another NST for Thursday, an induction for that Friday, the 17th, and went back home.

The rest of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday passed uneventfully.  Besides being large and uncomfortable and cranky, there was nothing else going on. My husband, Kevin, and I even took a drive to Shenandoah National Park, an hour away, just to get out of the house.  I figured that if my water broke, I would have plenty of time to get back home before the baby arrived and I couldn’t “hurry up and wait” at home anymore.

Then, Wednesday night, I started having contractions out of the blue.  They weren’t serious, but since I had experienced nothing, not even Braxton Hicks before this point, they were encouraging.  Maybe, FINALLY, we were going to get to meet this baby.  The contractions continued throughout the night, and by Thursday morning, they were less than 5 minutes apart, but still tolerable.  We left a little early for my morning NST appointment, making sure we had our bag in the car with us.

Half an hour hooked up to the machines showed what I already knew.  Consistent, but not strong, contractions.  Fluid levels were fine.  We were on track for an induction the following day.  They were about to send me home, but I mentioned that I still felt like I had a slow leak, and they decided to do another litmus test to check for amniotic fluid. This time, it tested positive straight away, so the decision was made to keep me, and bump the induction up a day.  It was 10am.

The delivery ward at this military hospital was small, averaging about three babies a day. On the day I was there, they delivered six. Needless to say, it was a little busy. I was placed in a recovery room and an IV started while I waited for a labor and delivery room to be available. It was around noon when they moved me into labor and delivery, and another hour or so before they started Pitocin.  It was around this time that Kevin and I were joined by my mom, and we talked excitedly about when this baby would finally arrive.

In the next 3 hours, I went from 2-4cm and we were feeling pretty optimistic that things would move along without having to continuously increase the Pitocin.

And then I stalled out.

I held out on the epidural until about 4:30pm, but at that point, progress was still extremely slow, despite the fact that the contractions were more intense and closer together. At the time, I was exhausted and the epidural was a blessing.  However, as often happens, the pain medication caused my (high) blood pressure to plummet and left me feeling fuzzy and shaky.  It took an oxygen mask, some readjustments, and about an hour for things to level out.

The afternoon ticked by with hours of television, and steadily increasing levels of Pitocin and very, very, very slow progress, until about 9:30pm.  It was about this time that my body entered transition.  I was beyond tired, frustrated with myself, and running low on energy.  I began to have severe body shakes and continuous vomiting (mostly of water), and I remember feeling embarrassed that my mom and husband were having to hold me while I threw up the entire contents of my stomach…and then some more.  Finally, at 10:45, I reached 10cm. The nurse assigned to me at this point was wonderful and full of enthusiasm, even as she warned me that some first-time mothers took some time to work the babies down the birth canal.  I had had it at this point and started to cry. I wasn’t sure where I was going to get the reserves to finish the labor, had no idea what to expect, and wanted that baby OUT.

My baby must have heard me and taken pity.  Once the next phase started, things happened FAST.  Soon after, my husband announced that our daughter’s hair had arrived.  And so it had.  A full head of hair.  For some reason, that was the motivation I needed to finish the job.   I pushed for about 45 minutes total, and she was out… healthy, pink, and wailing… at 11:54 pm on Thursday, April 16. 7 lbs, 10 ozs, and 21 inches long.  I had asked to hold her immediately, before she was taken to the warmer to be weighed and measured.  Our new baby Mia took this opportunity to greet me by having a bowel movement on my chest.  Her first bowel movement was my first introduction to the glamour that is motherhood.

From first contraction to first breath, my labor was just shy of 28 hours.  I don’t share my story with many expecting moms because it’s not one that they often want to hear.  It was long.  It was hard. It contained elements I would change if I could.  But look what I got out of it:


In the end, it doesn’t really matter, does it? There’s a lot of pressure to have the “right” kind of delivery, and I know that there are some reading the choices I made and thinking, “That’s not what I would have done.”  To be honest, I had some of the same thoughts and when we found ourselves pregnant again 2 years later, I immediately knew there were some things I wanted to do differently.  But Mia arrived safely, and has grown into a bright, spirited, four-year-old, who still likes to do things her own way, in her own time.

It’s hard to have any regrets with an outcome like that.

A Rush of Love: My VBAC Birth Story

I love to read birth stories. I read online birth stories voraciously while I was pregnant, finding hope and strength in each woman's experience of bringing her child into the world. I read because I wanted to know what it was like to give birth vaginally.  My twins were born via c-section 5 years ago and I really wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) this time around.

I especially liked stories where the mom gave birth swiftly, serenely and without meds. Because that's the kind of birth I wanted.
This is not one of those birth stories.
But that's ok. I am proud to have it as my birth story.
Here it is: My 60 hour VBAC.
I woke up on Monday morning, October 22nd, at 2am with a "different" contraction. Since I had been having strong Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, I wondered if I would know the difference when real labor started. I did. The contraction hurt and the BH contractions were just "intense." I was so excited! I was 40 weeks 6 days pregnant and so ready for him to be here.
I got up and labored in the living room until sunrise. I walked around, swaying and breathing through the contractions. They came about every 5-7 minutes. I was sure that I would be holding my baby by that afternoon.
(Facebook updates in bold.) Oct 22nd. 8am: Silas decided that today will be his birthday! Will update when he is here!!
I called my doula and she came over around 10am. I was smiling and still so happy, laboring on the birth ball. My twins didn't have school that day (teacher service day), so we called a friend and had them go over and play for the day.
Aaron, Kate (my doula) and I spent the day laboring through the contractions. A hot bag of rice on my lower back became my best friend. We even took the rice bag on the two walks we took that day.  Kate would hold the rice bag on my back and Aaron would hold my hands. It was a beautiful fall day. (Aaron and Kate got a kick out of our neighbors and drivers rubberneck at me as I stopped and swayed through my contractions).

Oct 22nd. 2pm: 12 hours into labor. Still at home and working through contractions with my doula and Aaron. Doing well!

No baby by mid-afternoon, but I was sure that by dinnertime I would be holding my sweet Silas. My contractions were getting more intense as the day went on. I started using low "oh" noises as a labor technique. The contractions were getting anywhere from 3-5 min apart. My goal was to labor at home as long as possible and hopefully get to the hospital when I was 6cm or so, maybe even in transition.
Aaron was getting worried that I was going to squat and drop the baby at home so around 7pm we decided it was time to go to the hospital. Oy! Laboring in the car is a pain in the....butt? back? uterus? Not sure, but it sucked! Thankfully we are only about 10-15 min away but it was enough time for me to have 3 contractions on the way there.
We got to the room and the nurse wanted to check me. I absolutely hate internal exams and even wrote on my birth plan: "Wants minimum vaginal checks." I told her that she could check me as long as she was really gentle but I was sure that I was really far along. "After all," I told her, "I've been in labor since 2am this  morning."
"We'll see," she said. And checked. She was not gentle. And that wasn't even the worst part.
"It feels like you are about a 2, and 80% effaced."
I was in total and complete shock. Stunned. Horrified. How could this happen? How could I only be at a 2???? And I had had no further effacement since my doctor's appointment five days prior.
The nurse left (rather smugly, I thought) and I had my first emotional breakdown. How could I keep this up? It had been 18 hours already--could I even do this? I wanted the VBAC so badly!
We stayed at the hospital for another 4 hours, the contractions coming every 5 minutes. My doctor was on call that night and she checked me at 10:30.
"You're at a 3, 90% effaced. Do you want to go home? We could give you something to help you sleep."
After a few anguished glances at Aaron and Kate I decided that yes, I wanted to go home.
"Ok," my doctor said. "I'll write you a prescription for Ambian. Go home, take a hot bath and come back when your contractions are stronger and closer together."
So we left. Another car ride in labor.
Kate dropped me off at home and went to spend the night at a friend's house. Aaron went to get the prescription. My best friend, who was watching my boys for me, wished me luck and left too. Aaron called and said that the pharmacy was running really slowly and he wouldn't be home for about an hour and a half. I then realized that I didn't have any support at home.
I labored in a hot bath alone (had to fill it up twice). It was pretty awful. I prayed,  "Lord, give me strength, give me strength" through every contraction. I prayed Aaron would get home soon. Soon. Soon!
He finally got home around midnight and I took the Ambian (it was a tiny pill) and we laid down on the couch to sleep.
At 2:30am I woke up in crazy pain, convinced that Greek gods had come into my living room and were dictating the script for each contraction. For Athena's contraction, I had to labor like this! Dionysus  Do this! Note to self: do not take Ambian while in labor. It makes you a little cray-cray. The Greek gods left after about two hours but the rest of the night was kind of a blur to me.
Oct 23. 8am: Going on 30 hours of labor. Hospital sent me home because I was only at 3 at 10:30 last night. Please pray for strength and encouragement for me. Emtional stress is harder than pain right now.
Kate came back over around 8am and Aaron took the boys to school for the day. My contractions were sporadic through-out the morning, around 9-10 minutes apart. I was able to doze in between them on the couch for a few hours. We decided to go for another walk (more rubbernecking from car drivers) and then I got serious about re-hydrating  After that the contractions picked up to about 5-7 minutes apart. They were getting more intense but not getting closer together. I had a few crying jags throughout the day, but I finally got my head in gear. The 22nd may not have been his birthday but the 23rd was going to be!!!Kate had me do all kinds of positioning all afternoon on the 23rd. I did a hands and knees swaying pose (it was adorable. My huge ba-donk-a-donk swaying in the air as I rested on my elbows...) trying to get the baby to move into a better position. She try to manually move him over to the center of my belly because we thought he was posterior (sunny-side up). We tried manual manipulation. We tried ice on one side of my belly and a heat wrap on the other. He moved some, giving us hope but after 2-3 hours of positioning techniques and countless contractions, he seemed to settle right back into his previous position, on my right side, on his side/posterior.

It was 7pm again, 24 hours since we first went to the hospital. I was over this. I needed to know what was going on, even though the contractions were still 7 minutes apart. I texted my mom and said, "Going to the hospital again. Not coming home without the baby." Enter car ride 3 from hell.We had an awesome nurse this time with a great sense of humor. She checked me."You are 3cm, 90% effaced."Yep. Same as 24 hours ago.

My doctor was on call again that night. She came in and said, "You are in what we call "Dysfunctional Labor".

Me: "Ya think?!"

And that is when my birth plan went out the window. I had wanted a low intervention, med-free labor. I didn't want an epidural or have to be confined to the bed.

But in that moment, I didn't care. It wasn't just that I believed that "all that matters is a healthy baby!" That phrase annoyed me so much during my pregnancy. Yes, I did want a healthy baby (and his stats were awesome the whole labor!), but what I wanted mattered too! I DID want my ideal labor and birth experience.

But, I had given it a good try. I had labored over 40 hours without any type of intervention. And nothing was happening. So, we moved on to plan B, C, and D.

And that was ok.

Oct 23. 8pm: 42 hours of labor at home. Went to the hospital again and had not progressed in dilation in 24 hours. Doctor said I was in dysfunctional labor. Currently have epidural to let me sleep and pitocin to help me dilate.

Cue emotional breakdown 5 (6? 7?) while I got the epidural. Everything I was "losing" hit me in that moment, coupled with my phobia of needles. Thankfully Aaron and the nurse helped keep me from hyperventilating. With the epidural in, I started to relax. My doctor really wanted me to sleep. I was so keyed up that I couldn't really fall asleep, but I was able to doze. Doctor came in at 2am. I was at 4cm and she broke my water (another thing on my birth plan that I didn't want to happen, but hey...whatever!)Oct 24. 10am: Going on 54 hours. At 8. Epidural is helping me cope.We were now in day 3. I was only dilating about 1cm every two hours. It was slow going. And the epidural was starting to wear off. I requested two "boosters" of pain relief. Sweet bliss...but they didn't last for long: one hour for the first and about 30 minutes for the second. Pretty soon all my pain relief was gone and my contractions were moving into the pushing stage.In all those birth stories I read, this is when those birthing women said "things got intense."

Um...yes. "Intense" would be "a" word to use. A nice word. A word that doesn't really describe what it means to be in that stage of labor.

One of my greatest fears about labor was that I would feel out of control, whether that meant I felt like people were "doing things to me" or that I would feel like I couldn't handle the labor itself. (Yes, I know, I am a control freak).

I felt like I was flirting with that out-of-control crazy feeling. Not quite Greek gods crazy but just a little bit...out of control.

I alternative prayed silently "God, help me! Give me strength, give me strength!" in the 1-2 minute respite I had in between contractions or repeated out loud "I can do this. I can do this. Damn-it-I-can-do-this!"

The praying and swearing seemed to work pretty well.

I started pushing at hour 59. During that final hour, my husband, doula and two nurses kept telling me I was doing great. All I could think was, "Am I doing anything??? Is it ever going to end?? Oh, God, it has to end!!"

I slipped over into the out-of-control. I had my final emotional breakdown. But it was almost over. Through my tears and two gut-wrenching screams, when I thought I had no strength left, I pushed my baby into the world (and the nurse who told me to stop screaming? I kinda wanted to punch her in the face).

Oct 24. 1:52pm: Silas is here!!! Brit and baby are well. Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement. Silas came in at 8-3.

I said and felt so many things in those first moments. My first thought when I saw my son when the doctor held him up?
"He has a little butt!"Ok, let me explain this weird, first thought. My twins were so tiny when they were born (3 lbs 13 oz and 4 lbs 12 oz) and they were so skinny that they had no fat, no butt cheeks. They were so frail and weak.But Silas had cheeks.I got to hold him on my chest right after he was born. And in that moment, I realized that this is what I wanted out of my birth. Not the low-intervention, labor-in-the-tub, no-epidural, push-the-way-I-want-to-push, whatever. I wanted to feel that instant rush of love and connection that I missed when my twins were born via c-section and rushed away to the NICU without even a kiss from their terrified new mother.

But this time, the rush was there. Through tears and exclamations of "Precious baby! Happy Birthday! I am so freakin' glad that is over!" I fell in love with my son.

Oct. 24. 3pm: Got to have Silas skin to skin for an hour after he was born and he nursed wonderfully. Filled with love. However, I feel like I got hit by a semi....three times.

My labor didn't go the way I wanted it to. I didn't get my birth plan.

But I got my moment. My rush of love.

After 60 hours of labor, I got to meet my precious, wonderful son, Silas Edward Meng.