I love reading stories of labour & delivery. Here’s Logan’s, our fourth baby. You can read about our 3rd baby’s water birth in England here.
Pregnancy: I Finally Got a Plan
When I moved from the UK to the US during my second trimester of pregnancy, I was totally lost about what kind of birth experience I wanted. We opted for a traditional US approach and went with OB led care. There were no practical options for midwives- they were already committed to their maximum number of patients for July.
Through readers on the blog, I found two hospitals in the Dallas Fort Worth area that offer nitrous oxide, my first preference for pain management. Both were 45 minutes from our house, and we decided proximity and practicality trumped gas and air. My friend recommended a doctor 10 minutes from home, and I went with her.
My doctor is very traditional. I had trouble readjusting from the UK model- where birth is a natural and beautiful process not to be interfered with unless absolutely essential. I am a huge advocate for merging the art and science of birth. There are so many labs and checks and sonograms in the US by comparrison. You can read more of my thoughts on the differences between the two models here.
Baby is Breech
At 36 weeks, the ultrasound revealed baby was in the 4% of babies who are breech. Unless I was willing to try an external cephalic version (ECV) or he flipped in the next week, my doctor said I would need a c-section. An ECV is a procedure involving two obstetricians physically rotating baby in a procedure at the hospital. An epidural is placed for pain management, and also in case baby or Mom become distressed. In that instance, the version escalates to an emergency c-section.
I cried. Also that week, my toddler hurt her leg. The x-ray came back negative for a fracture, but she wasn’t tolerating any weight bearing. She needed me to carry her everywhere. I couldn’t imagine the recovery from a C-section. I was already exhausted and wasn’t sure if my toddler needed serious intervention or just time and rest.
The external cephalic version has a high success rate, but it is expensive and isn’t without risk. I researched less invasive options- chiropractic care, hypnosis, acupuncture, and a website devoted to positioning techniques to entice baby to flip.
I got busy. I found a chiropractor who specialises in the Webster technique. I nicknamed him “Dr. Fip.” He touts a 70% success rate. His magical remedies involve chiropractic pelvic adjustments multiple times per week combined with physical therapy and home exercise. Essentially at every available moment, I was somehow lunging or hanging upside down. I spent a week doing headstands, hanging off the couch, lying backwards down slides at the park and doing handstands at the community pool.
The neighbourhood kids applauded these handstands while their parents gave me the side eye. I’m sure it was a sight to see with my cankles up in the air. I must admit, my handstand is pretty darn good- especially considering the circumstances. Years of gymnastics came in handy.
I was relieved when my 37 week ultrasound revealed he was head down, and at 38 weeks, he had stayed down. I was 3.5 cm dilated and 50% effaced. My doctor suspected I wouldn’t make it to my due date.
What specifically made the baby flip? I have no idea, but James swears it was his summoning, “Come down here little guy!”
My Birth Plan A
I told my doctor my preference to labour at home and come in at the very last minute for her to catch the baby. She was hesitant, much preferring an induction. I gave my reasons- if I was going to be going drug free, I wanted to have maximum freedom to labour in the comfort of my home, eat and drink, and stay calm. My doctor was worried she would miss the whole shebang. She reminded me how likely I was to have a fast delivery.
My plan had to change when labs revealed I was GBS+. Group B Strep is harmless to mothers, but can be very dangerous for baby. It has a meningitis like presentation. Two doses of IV antibiotics are administered four hours apart during labour to minimise risk of transmission. I was disappointed, but stayed optimistic. I took a class on labour and delivery at the hospital to have a better expectation of the US non-medicated birth experience, and found out that as I expected, the hospital didn’t have much insight or passion for the natural birth process, but I enjoyed the class. Our bodies are incredible.
Thankfully, my toddler had started using her leg again.
The BIG Day
The morning after my 38 week appointment, the kids and I went to the lake. I didn’t recognise it as labour. It didn’t feel like labour. My back just hurt. I huddled in quadruped in the sand and murky water and watched the kids build sand castles. I suspected something was different because as adamant as I had been about natural labour, at that moment, I was fantasising about a c-section.
I just wanted the baby out of my body.
When the back pain didn’t stop at 4:30 pm, I finally called the doctor. “Back labour” she suggested. “Come to labour and delivery.”
I was annoyed. The last thing I wanted to do was to sound the alarms, arrange grandparents, pack the bags and get to the hospital only to be sent back, sans baby. I begged for an office evaluation instead, but both my doctor and her partner were already at the hospital. I’m only 38.1 weeks, I kept telling myself. I can’t be in labour, plus there wasn’t any detectable pattern of contractions. It just hurt constantly. As the back pain grew stronger, I finally relented. My baby needed 2 dosages of antibiotics four hours apart, so if my doctor was right and this was labour, I needed to be admitted.
At the Hospital
My mom drove my husband and I to the hospital. I stayed outside in the parking lot stepping on the curb with one foot and off the curb with the other, trying to get baby boy to rotate and relieve my back pain. Passersby wished me luck. I nodded. I’m sure I looked drunk walking on that curb. I kept telling my mom and husband, as soon as I go in there, I can’t eat, drink or leave. I wanted to make sure I was ready for “hospital prison” as I call it. You give up control when you are a patient. I refused the hospital gown. “I’m not sick,” I remarked. I wished I was in a birthing centre with a pool and gas and air, but I was thankful to see my doctor.
Plan B. Back Labour
My plan was no medical interventions, but back labour is something else. Essentially baby’s faces the front instead of the back, creating significant pressure from his skull on your pelvis. They gave me some IV pain meds which made me crazy- telling all kinds of stories and feeling very drunk. I dilated from a 3.5 to a 5 in one hour.
My doctor asked if she could break my water. Did I want a fast and furious or slow and drawn out labour? I picked the faster option- I couldn’t tolerate the back pain much longer. When my water broke, the contractions went full force ahead coming every two minutes just as the high from the drugs subsided. Baby repositioned and the back pain lessened.
We all laughed in the breaks between contractions. I danced through each contraction while eating popsicles. I tried to convince the security guard that the nurses told me he was going to deliver the baby, and whistled to keep my breathing steady. When the contractions got really bad especially in my back, I crawled down the hospital corridor to the horror of my sweet nurse who kept trying to get me back on my feet. This was effective though. It helped rotate baby.
The nurse estimated only 1% of patients do a natural delivery in this hospital. They aren’t really prepared or set up for labouring mothers without drugs. I could tell my nurse didn’t have much experience with a patient in my kind of pain, but we had fun.
Begging for an Epidural
I crawled into the shower. I thought I was going to bust open at the seams, so I started begging for an epidural. I didn’t want my breathing to get out of sync, so I just sang my request. “Doctor, they told me I could change my mind!” and “SOMEONE get me the anestesiologist now.” I joked with my doctor. She tried to convince me that the epidural and an induction would make for a much smoother ride, and I was pretty adamant for the last month that I wanted a beautiful natural labour.
This didn’t feel beautiful or natural at all.
“You are just trying to punish me for all the grief I gave you about this natural labour, aren’t you?” I asked her. She told me I would be disappointed, and didn’t call for the anaesthesiologist. She affirmed me. “You can do this.”
Then she went and took a nap.
I didn’t count on the back pain. Contractions are brutal, but with the back labour which came back (no pun intended), there wasn’t a break in between to regroup.
Pushing + Delivery
The contractions kept going. My mom prayed. My husband prayed. I sang and sang and sang. Mostly to Jesus- songs of hope, songs of power, songs of claiming our dependance upon God. I sang LOUDLY. I mean soooo LOUDLY.
James says everyone thought I was a good singer. That makes me laugh. What else are they going to say?
I wonder what the other mamas down the hall thought as they tried to rest. I think I made them really glad they had an epidural, and I bet they wished I had one too.
They gave me something in an IV for pain. It might as well have been saline. I put an eye mask over my face and just pushed down when I felt pressure. I told the nurse to grab the doctor and quick.
I pushed as I sang and baby was out. A voice in the room called out, “11:26 pm.” We had arrived at the hospital at around 5:45 pm, so although it was agony, it didn’t last long.
I had my eye mask on, but I could see the whole thing happening. I could see the ring of fire, the baby crowning, the head being delivered, the shoulders, the purple colour of my baby. I saw it all.
That night, I kept wondering if what I visualised was just a memory from a video I saw in class or on YouTube, but the angle I saw it at would have been impossible to record. Is this a thing mothers experience?
I didn’t know my mom recorded the delivery. When I watched the video, I had already seen the birth happen (in my mind), but this was an entirely new perspective. Other than the angle, it matched my visualisation in my head 100%. Isn’t that strange/weird/amazing/odd/powerful?
I would be so interested to hear from anyone else with this experience.
Delivering the Placenta
When he came out, I couldn’t even look. It felt like glass had exploded between my legs. The baby didn’t cry right away. To make it worse, my placenta wasn’t delivering and minutes were ticking by. I heard them shout out the baby’s weight, 7 lbs 12 oz. I asked nervously what the Apgar score was. 7/10. That didn’t surprise me. I could tell from his colour (in my mind’s eye) and the weaker cry. I was thankful it wasn’t less.
It was agony as the doctor tried to massage the placenta from my uterine wall. I begged her to stop. I pleaded for her to let James do it instead. I cried for pain meds. I made James promise to buy me a boat for a push gift. He promised me one, then added, “from Toys ‘R Us.”
I’m still waiting for it.
I feel like I started to really panic. In my head, I was losing it. From the video, I was a lot calmer externally than I was on the inside- I just kept asking the doctor to pull the glass or the needles out. She promised she wasn’t even touching me.
The atmosphere started to shift a bit. The doctor told me pretty sternly, “You have ten minutes left to deliver this placenta, otherwise you are going to surgery.” She pushed and tugged on my stomach and it felt like murder. She told me I had to relax. She mentioned bleeding to death for the second time. I squeezed the hand of the nurse on the left and James on the right and relaxed so the doctor could push. My baby started crying stronger. It felt like an hour. Eventually, the placenta came out and everyone breathed again.
Love at First Sight
I reached up, still with my eye mask on to touch my baby being held by James. I slowly took my mask off and greeted my little bundle of absolute perfection. He looked just like his brother and sister.
I’ve said this with all four of our children. It’s like they have always been here. I can’t remember what life was like before Logan. He has grown my heart a million sizes already. Welcome to our family, little person. We do adventure here, and you are loved.