I was woken up Thursday morning at about 6am with contractions that were pretty close to about 7 minutes apart. They weren't terribly intense, but they were strong enough to rouse me from sleep. I guess you could say that I could "ignore" them and continue with my regular routine, but I knew that they were there. After a couple of trips to the restroom, I also realized that I was experiencing what's known as "bloody show," a sign of labor. The contractions and the bloody show were so encouraging to me...but I still wanted to be sure that I advocated for myself in the meantime, just in case it was a false alarm and I had to be induced. Throughout our Empowered Birth classes, one of my goals was to become a better advocate for myself. I have a tendency to never second-guess or question my doctors, but I knew that if there was a time for me to do so, it was now. I knew that the only way I would be okay with an induction was if I had done everything I could to keep it from happening. I called Dr. Basham's office to talk with her about Dr. Brown's decision to move the date/time, but she wasn't in the office. I did take the opportunity to ask a nurse to read Dr. Brown's orders for the induction. He'd ordered pitocin to be administered at 11pm on Friday night. When I heard that, I was ANGRY. During my internal exam, he told me that I had very little dilation and effacement. Based on what I'd learned in our childbirth classes, I knew that if that was the case, chances of a successful induction (meaning one that results in a vaginal birth rather than a c-section) were pretty low. I also knew that it meant that I was a good candidate for cervical ripeners first, before any administration of pitocin. That would be my best chance for a vaginal birth. I decided to call Angela, our Empowered Birth instructor, to talk with her about a plan of action. She was GREAT. She encouraged me to leave a message to talk with Dr. Basham (who wouldn't be in until Friday morning) and to try to get an appointment with her on Friday morning for another internal exam and second opinion. She was also very encouraged about my contractions and bloody show and gave me some hope about avoiding an induction. I also talked with my friend Leslie, who gave me lots of encouragement as well. Armed with Angela's suggestions and increased self-confidence, I called Dr. Basham's office back and told them that I wanted to talk with Dr. Basham when she got to the office. They wanted to push me off onto a nurse again, but I insisted on leaving a message for Dr. Basham. The nurse sounded a little perturbed when I insisted, and she said, "Well, what do you want to talk to her about?" I told her that I wanted to know if she knew that Dr. Brown moved the induction date, why he wanted to start pitocin immediately, why he wouldn't consider cervical ripeners, and why there was such a discrepancy about their assessments of my progress. After I made that call, I felt so much better about things. I knew that even if I did have to go in for the induction, I'd taken a stand for myself and my baby.
Throughout all of this, I was still having contractions, but nothing regular, and nothing incredibly intense. I called David to let him know that I was feeling encouraged about beating Dr. Brown's timeline. I also received an email from my cousin Lindsey, who offered me even more encouragement and support about a possible induction. She even sent me a link to some natural methods of labor induction, which I tried and I believe helped move things along! I didn't get a lot done at home that Thursday, because I was so preoccupied with whether or not I was in early labor. Late in the afternoon, my aunt called me to see if we wanted to go out for dinner with her, and I agreed. As soon as I hung up the phone, I started to wonder if it was a good idea. I started feeling really nauseous, but decided not to back out. She, David, and I went to a local Mexican restaurant (because I thought some spicy food would help) and had a nice dinner. I had pretty regular contractions throughout the meal, but again, nothing incredibly intense.
After David and I got home, we settled in on the couch to watch the NBA finals, and at around 9pm, I asked him to start timing the contractions. We timed them for a little over an hour, but there was never any pattern...but I was reassured that by this time, I'd been having contractions for about 15 hours. I just prayed that they would begin to intensify and settle into a pattern so that we could avoid the induction which had been scheduled for the next night. After the game, we went to bed, but I didn't last long there. I just couldn't lay still for the contractions any longer. I had to get up and move around when they came, and they were coming about every 10 minutes. I wanted David to sleep, because I knew that he would need his energy one way or the other for the next day. I settled in on the couch for awhile, getting up to walk around during each contraction. Soon, the couch wasn't comfortable anymore, so I went and laid on the floor in Campbell's room. That wasn't comfortable between contractions, so I moved to the glider. That was actually a nice place to be during and between contractions for a little while. The rocking motion was comforting and soothing, and it gave me a rhythm to concentrate on. I guess I wandered around the house from about 11pm until 4:30am, working through the contractions on my own without much trouble. But at about 4:30, they started to really get intense. I had to be standing during them, and I started to vocalize softly throughout them. At 5am, I went in to our bedroom and woke David up, telling him that I needed help getting through the contractions. He was up and out of the bed in an instant! I think he felt pretty useless, but he was such a great support. For another 2 or 3 hours, the contractions were intense enough that I had to brace myself against the bar, sway, and vocalize throughout them, and David applied counterpressure to my lower back. Sometime around 8am, he went and got the birth ball, and I leaned over it for several contractions. Not long after that, my Mom called, and David asked her to come over. We'd been timing contractions for hours, and there was still no recognizable pattern. They were anywere from 4 minutes, 30 seconds apart to 15 minutes apart. Even though we planned to wait to go to the hospital until contractions were a minute long, 5 minutes apart, for 1 hour, I think David knew we'd be going to the hospital soon. I think I was in denial. I just didn't want to go to the hospital and be sent home. Not long after Mom got here, I went to the restroom and noticed that I'd passed a small bit of tissue, and that scared me to death. After talking to Mom and David, I decided to call Dr. Basham's office to see if they recommended that we head to the hospital. When I talked with one of the nurses there, she told me that they weren't all that concerned with a pattern of contractions, but rather how many I was having in an hour. When I told them I was having anywhere from 5 to 9 per hour, she told me that she'd call me right back. In less than 5 minutes, she returned my call, saying that Dr. Basham wanted us to head to the hospital. It was about 10am by this time, and I'd been having contractions for about 16 hours. They were really beginning to intensify, and I just couldn't sit down during a contraction. I felt so much pressure in my lower abdomen and back, and couldn't imagine how I'd sit in a car during the 40-minute trip.
Luckily, I made it through the car ride without too much discomfort, and we got checked in to the hospital without any trouble. We got to our labor/delivery/recovery room at about 11:15 and met Michelle, my nurse. I was so glad that she told me that she enjoyed working with women who wanted a natural, intervention-free birth. I gave her our birth plan (which I'll post sometime soon), and kind of held my breath as she read it. I was waiting for her to give me the side-eye or be skeptical about it. When she finished reading, she said, "Well, this is totally doable. Lots of times we get birth plans and we say 'This one's ending in a section,' but your birth plan is totally reasonable. It looks good." I breathed a sigh of relief then!
Once I was settled into the bed, she got me hooked up to a fetal heart monitor. My main concern with the monitor was that I wouldn't be able to move around, and I think I must have asked her this about 12 times. She told me that they wanted me to just lay in the bed for a few minutes to get a baseline reading, and then if everything looked okay, she would take it off and just put it on as needed for a reading. She also did an internal exam, which I was apprehensive about. I was terrified that she would say that I was only 3 cm dilated or something equally as disappointing. She asked what my last internal exam showed, and I told her that Dr. Basham said 2cm the week before, but a two days before, Dr. Brown said, "Maybe 1cm." During the exam, she got a funny look on her face and said, "What did the doctor say?" And when I repeated the 1cm line Dr. Brown fed me, she kind of laughed and said, "Well, you're about 6 cm now!" I could have hugged her! What a relief to know that I'd made that much progress...and was almost into transition! After the exam, Michelle asked me a ton of questions related to my health, etc. During this "interview" (for lack of a better word), Gretchen, another L&D nurse came in and said, "Hey, Michelle, you've gotten a few variables on the monitor in the last few minutes." I didn't really know what that meant, but Michelle explained to me that it meant that Campbell's heart rate had decelerated a couple of times. Michelle explained that this might change our birth plan a bit. She told me that a lot of times, it indicates that the baby had passed meconium due to some kind of distress. She started talking about having Dr. Basham break my water to move things along quicker. I so wanted to avoid having my water broken by the doctor...and to my amazement, just a few seconds after Michelle started talking about having Dr. Basham break my water, I felt a really warm gush, and I was pretty sure that I hadn't wet myself. I said, "Michelle, I just felt something...maybe my water broke!" She went to get some kind of paper that distinguishes amniotic fluid from urine to be sure...and sure enough, my water had broken on its own! She also gave us the good news that there was no meconium in the amniotic fluid. Because of the heart decelerations, she wanted me to lay in bed for a bit longer, just to determine whether or not they would continue. Those were by far some of the worst contractions. I was so glad that Michelle let me lay on my side, instead of flat on my back, because I really don't think I could have endured that. During those contractions, I held on to the bed rails and vocalized while my Mom and aunt applied counterpressure to my lower back and David held my hand. Between contractions, Michelle asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 0 - 10, with 0 being no pain, and a 10 being the most excruciating pain I could handle. I think I pretty consistently rated my pain at about a 4. I think I'm pretty much a wuss, and I don't think I handle pain all that well, but labor pain is a funny thing. It's amazing that once the contraction ends, the pain subsides completely and totally, and I think that's why I always rated it as a 4. If the pain had been constant, I definitely would have rated it a 10, but because I knew that it would go away and I'd get a break, it was completely tolerable.
After a bit, Michelle decided that Campbell's heart rate looked okay and gave me the go-ahead to move around, but with the monitor on. We decided to try using the birth ball, and I'm so glad we did! I sat on the birth ball next to the bed and leaned over the edge of the bed during contractions. During each contraction, I swayed on the ball and vocalized while Mom and Paula applied counterpressure and David held my hand and talked me through them. The three of them were amazing! It made all the difference in the world to have them all there. Mom and Paula were great at counterpressure, and I'm pretty sure it's because Mom knew where the pain was (from her experience with my sister and me!). David was so supportive through each contraction, letting me know when it was almost over and encouraging me to keep up the good work. By this time, the contractions were really starting to hurt, but still nothing I couldn't tolerate. During each and every contraction, I told myself two things. The first was that each contraction would only last a minute or so, and I kept reminding myself that I could do anything for a minute. The second reminder to myself was that there was a precious baby on the other side of all of this pain.
After laboring on the birth ball for awhile, Michelle asked to do another internal exam. I was honestly a little disappointed when it revealed that I was still at 6cm after a couple of hours of laboring. She told me that I had what was called a "forebag," meaning that when my water broke, it didn't break completely, but pretty much just "sprung a leak" and Campbell's head was acting as a cork to keep it from rupturing completely. She told me that Dr. Basham could come and finish rupturing the amniotic sac to speed labor along, or I could just let it resolve on its own. She was so good about explaining everything to me between contractions and helped us work through the pros and cons. She explained that once the forebag was gone, the contractions would intensify and come closer together, but that this also meant I would deliver my baby sooner. Since my water had already broken on its own, I knew I was "on the clock" and didn't see any real reason to wait longer. I gave her the go ahead to ask Dr. Basham to come in and break my water, and she said that she didn't think it would be long before Dr. Basham was available. While Michelle was gone, I started to have a little crisis of self-confidence. I looked and Mom and said, "I don't know if I can do it if the contractions get stronger. I'm scared." She, Paula, and David all gathered around me and assured me that I could deliver her. It helped so much to know that they believed I could do it, so feeling much better, we waited for Dr. Basham. It seemed like it was taking forever for her to come in, and finally Michelle came back to let us know that there had been an emergency that Dr. Basham had to attend to, but would be with us soon. At some point during all of this waiting, my sister, Allison came in to the delivery room to be another support person, and I'm so glad she did!
Finally, Dr. Basham came in and broke my water with the amniohook. I was amazed at the amount of fluid that came with the rupture. I think I said, "Oh my gosh, that's incredible! How can there be that much fluid in there?!" She told me that she thought my labor would speed up considerably and that we would have a baby "sooner rather than later." I was so excited and scared at the same time. I knew that with one more centimeter of dilation I would be in transition, which is the shortest but toughest part of labor, and I tried to prepare myself. When the contractions started coming stronger, I was able to get on my knees and lean over the head of the bed, which had been raised. That was such a relief to be in that position. During those contractions, I continued to vocalize with my eyes closed, Mom and Paula applied counterpressure, and David kept on holding my hands and talking to me. At one point, I said, "I just want to push my feet up against something!" And my sweet little sister jumped to the foot of the bed and let me push against her hands during each contractions. I don't know why, but that helped so much. After each contraction, I would open my eyes and say, "That was a mean one." And they would tell me what a great job I'd done. I think that constant encouragment was what helped me get through. I don't know how long I was in transition, but it didn't seem to take all that long.
I felt a lot of relief when Michelle told me that I was at 10 centimeters and was ready to push. One of the things in my birth plan was that I wanted to wait to push until I felt the urge to do so...and at that point, I didn't. There was a huge flurry of activity in the room, and when I turned around from my position of hanging over the head of the bed, there were a ton of people in the room, a table full of surgical instruments, and very bright lights on overhead. I'm not sure how it happened, but they all talked me in to trying to push. They got a squatting bar for me, which I requested in our birth plan. I tried squatting and pushing, and that was HORRIBLE. I think it was a combination of not feeling like I had to push and being too darn short for the bar. Dr. Basham suggested bracing my feet against the bar, hooking a sheet over the bar, and pulling on the sheet while I pushed. I tried that for a couple of contractions, and that's where I would say I kind of lost control and focus over the whole thing. It just didn't feel right to be pushing, and the position was uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure I screamed like pregnant women scream on sitcoms when they're in labor...only it wasn't funny. It was frustrating and terrifying. Apparently during my pushing episodes, Campbell's heart rate decelerated significantly and she did pass meconium. Dr. Basham put her hand on my calf, looked at me over her glasses, and said calmly and quietly, "Erin, you have got so much energy, but I need you to focus that energy right now. Your baby has to be born RIGHT NOW. You've got to push and get her out." I still didn't feel like I needed to push, but I took her comment to mean that if I couldn't push her out, I'd be delivering Campbell by c-section anyway. One of the nurses said, "When the contraction comes, take a deep breath like you're going to swim a long way under water and just push as hard as you can!" When I felt the contraction coming, I said a prayer to ask for strength and comfort, then took a deep breath and pushed. It felt like I pushed forever, and then I opened my eyes and there she was! She wasn't crying, and Dr. Basham was working furiously. Campbell had been born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and I heard Dr. Basham say, "Hurry, Dad!" I looked down to see David cutting the cord, then they whisked her away to a warmer where two neonatologists were waiting to look her over. I hadn't heard anyone say whether or not she was a boy or a girl, so I asked. I guess I was too caught up in pushing to hear Dr. Basham say, "It's a beautiful baby girl!" but everyone else heard it! I remember looking at my mom and asking why she wasn't crying. Soon after that, she did start to cry, and everyone said she was fine. I really thought I would be shocked that we'd had a girl, but I think I was just so relieved that she was okay that it didn't matter! It seemed like an eternity before they handed her to me, but it must have only been a few minutes. I thought I knew what love was before that moment, but nothing compares to the incredible love I felt for Campbell when I first held her. It's a love so strong it nearly hurts. When they told us she weighed 8lbs., 11 oz., I was sh0cked and SO glad that no one had estimated her weight! On more than one occasion, Dr. Brown told me that an 8 pound baby would "buy me a c-section." We proved him wrong again!
I'm still kind of in shock that I delivered this beautiful baby girl, and honestly, pretty proud of myself that I did it with no medication! I really didn't think I had it in me. The first medication I got was the lidocaine I asked for when I saw Dr. Basham coming at me with what looked like one of my father-in-law's fish hooks to repair a couple of third-degree tears. I told her that these would be the first stitches I'd ever had, and she said, "Well, you've made your first stitches count!" Recovery has been pretty easy over all, and I can't complain about anything. While we didn't get everything we'd outlined in our birth plan, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. I look back over it all and I can see how things could have gone down a very different path, and I count myself lucky. Michelle, our nurse, was a great advocate and support during labor and delivery, and I told her that I would vote her Nurse of the Year if I could. I know that things would have turned out differently if it hadn't been for her. I remember hearing her advocate to Dr. Basham for me, and I will be eternally grateful to her for that.
The whole experience was amazing, exhilirating, empowering, and exhausting. I can't say that I want to do it again anytime soon, but I am so happy that I delivered our little girl without medication. The nurses commented more than once about how alert she was compared to most babies born in a medicated birth, and I think it helped us establish breastfeeding pretty easily. While we were in recovery, Campbell did the "breast crawl" and it was amazing. She crawled to my breast and latched on completely independently...something I'd seen in a video, but never imagined I would see my own baby do.
We're settling into a routine at home now (well...at least as much of a routine as you can get with a newborn), and things are going well. She's regained her birth weight (and then some!), and she sleeps pretty well. We've had a few little meltdowns (she and I both!), but I think that's to be expected as we adjust to this new phase of life. But overall, I'm enjoying every moment I have with her because I know it'll go by all to quickly!