Madeline's Birth Story: Part II

The Birthing Suite at The Birth Center

Day 4

It was best night's sleep I'd had in days, but it was an odd sleep. I was still very aware that I was having contractions, but the sensation was completely different. At times I would wake in the middle of the night feeling particularly strong contractions but I was able to fall back to sleep immediately. I also had the oddest dreams I've ever had in my life, though I don't remember any of them. I was in a strange sleep/wake/dream state through the entire evening, but at 6:30 am I woke feeling more rested than I had in days.

I forced myself to stay in bed until 8:30am. Though I couldn't fall back to sleep because the medication had worn off, I did my best to rest, relax, and attempt to ignore the contractions. After days of labor I was well aware of the fact that labor is a marathon and not a sprint and that I needed to save my energy if I was going to be successful with our birth plan. The medication had slowed my contractions down a bit to about 4-5 minutes apart, and I was grateful for the extra rest time between contractions.

We ate breakfast and sometime after 10:00am we drove back to the birth center. I was eager to be checked and was sure that ten hours after being checked the last time that I must have dilated. But on the drive over I tried to prepare myself for the possibility that I hadn't dilated more.

I said to Brett, "If I'm still a two let's not be discouraged, deal?"

Brett smiled and said, "Deal."

My midwife checked my vitals and hooked me up to the fetal monitors for a few minutes to make sure our little girl was handling the contractions well. She was doing great.

"Okay, let's see how far you've progressed."

She checked me.

I was still a two. After days of labor I was only a two.

I tried to smile and be optimistic. My midwife could sense my frustration.

"Well we're going to start you on our natural induction plan today. It's great because you are already having good contractions, it seems we just need to strengthen them so you will dilate. We'll start by giving you a stronger dose of the homeopathics you have already been taking. Then we'll have you drink a blue and black cohosh tincture and use a breast pump. Both of these will help to strengthen contractions. Midwives have used these natural methods for centuries and we've had a lot of success here at our practice."

I was feeling a bit better. "Great, let's get started!"

She gave me my first round of homeopathics. After I finished taking them she asked me, "Have you eaten today?"

"Breakfast this morning."

"Well it's about noon now. Why don't you head out and get some lunch. There is a great Mediterranean restaurant nearby. Get something packed with protein while you are still in the mood to eat."

Lunch was incredibly delicious. We took our time and split two entrees. I was still in a strange labor land state and kept asking Brett if he felt numb or weird like I was feeling. I don't know why I thought he might feel the same way, but I kept asking him anyway. The restaurant was pretty empty and we were able to find a cozy quiet corner where I could get in touch with my inner-Buddhist monk/ mother bear and not frighten other people trying to eat in peace.

When we got back to the birth center we started the blue and black cohosh. It tasted about as delicious as an old sock, but I didn't mind too much. I liked taking it during contractions to give me something to think about. The contraction took my mind off the gross taste and the gross taste took my mind off the contraction.  I labored on the birth ball leaning against the bed between doses. I also liked standing and swaying during the contractions. I felt like I got the most out of a contraction that way and I hoped that using gravity would help open my cervix.

We brought a mini-DVD player with us and a few movies. Brett put on two of them. I only remember the first two minutes of 17 Again. Apparently we also watched Letters to Juliet, but I don't remember one bit of that. The contractions were growing a lot stronger and it was hard to focus on much of anything besides just getting through each contraction and preparing my body for the next.

Labor is a strange thing. I felt completely aware and focused on my body while also feeling as if I wasn't connected to my body.  Time seemed to pass faster than sound at times, while the five-ten seconds at the peak of a contraction could feel like days.

After a couple hours we started using the breast pump. The stimulation causes a natural release of oxytocin (the human body's natural Pitocin). Wow! I was shocked at how intense my contractions got once I started pumping.

Sometime that afternoon my midwife checked me. I held my breath praying for good news.

"You are a three!"

 I admit, I hoped that I was dilated to a four or five by now, but mostly I was so relieved that I was finally dilating.

We continued the doses of the tincture and using the breast pump. My contractions were strong and regular. After I finished eight doses of the tincture, our midwife suggested that we go continue to labor at home where we could be more comfortable and eat some food. She told us she would stay at the birth center because she planned on us coming back that evening to have the baby. We left our bags and just took a few laboring basics back home with us.

We went home and ate something, and again this whole part is completely hazy because I was so exhausted and so focused on laboring. I spent so much time laboring at home and the days seem to blend together. I know I showered a few times while I was home (the shower was another great coping method). We ate, though I don't remember what, and the only thing I really remember about this part of the labor was that Brett was always right there within arms reach to help me through each contraction. 

We tried to go to bed at eleven but I mostly just laid there trying to work through the contractions. I got up and took another two or three showers. The contractions continued to get more and more intense and sometime after midnight I told Brett I was ready to go back in to the birth center.

I was so exhausted from all the laboring that I was starting to hallucinate. I was in a dreamlike state at all times. Brett told me afterwords that while driving over I was speaking gibberish and saying random words out of nowhere during and between contractions. He said it was like I was talking in my sleep.

When we got to the birth center my midwife made sure we were comfortable and I labored for a bit before she checked me again.

"You are doing so great Haley. This is a fantastic pattern. You may just have this baby tonight. Let's check to see how close you are."

She checked me.

I was still a three.

"Don't get discouraged Haley. For a lot of first time moms the first four centimeters are the hardest to get to and from there on it goes fast. But we are back to the predicament we were in last night. You are exhausted and we want you to rest so you have the energy you need for later in labor. So I am going to fill up the birthing tub. Usually we don't put women into the birthing tub till they have progressed a bit further, but the water will help you relax so you can rest between the contractions."

She filled the tub with hot water and turned on the jets. I climbed in and immediately felt relief. It was amazing to be in the water. I definitely understood why they call the birthing tub the "birth center epidural". Brett pulled over a chair and held my hand through the night. As the contractions began to get stronger and stronger I turned to my side and put my ear under water to focus on the sounds of the jets. There were jets on either side of my body, so when I turned one jet pushed against my stomach and the other pushed against my back. It eased the pain tremendously and I was able to get into a good rhythm of resting and working through contractions in the tub. My birth assistant Adrianna came in around 2:00am and gave me additional verbal and physical support through the contractions.

Around 3:30 I got out of the tub and Brett and I tried to rest in the bed. During the contractions Brett would push on my back with a heating pad and offer words of encouragement. My birth assistant told me afterwords that I would work through the contractions and then snore loudly till the next one came on. My contractions were 2-3 minutes apart so that gave me 1-2 minutes of rest between each one. I was so relaxed (and exhausted) that I could fall asleep for those short periods of time.

The midwife and birth assistant took turns checking my vitals through the night and used a doppler to check on Madeline. It was so nice to not be hooked up to anything and to move freely while at the birth center. The midwife could check on the baby no matter what laboring position I was in and since it was waterproof they could check me in the tub as well.

At 6:00am my midwife came in to check how far I had progressed. It had been over five hours since they had checked me last and I remember repeating the word "open" in my head over and over and over.

I waited to hear the news.

"You are about 95% effaced now. +1 station, so this baby is really eager to get out."

She hesitated. "And you are still dilated to a three."

My heart sank. I had worked all through the night without progress. As a matter of fact I had labored for well over 16 hours without progress. I tried not to cry which became harder and harder the more she talked.

"Here are our options. Again, we are concerned about you being so exhausted. You labored very well through the night but without good sleep. Your body is working very hard to have this baby and it has for days. When labor is long and slow like this your body needs rest, which is hard to get because your contractions are so intense and close together. So our first option is that we can give you another injection like we did two nights ago. You can rest at home for a while and then come back and we'll go for another round of the homeopathics and pumping like we did yesterday.

"The downside is that tomorrow is your 42 week mark when we would transfer your care to the hospital, and there is no guarantee this baby will come today. Also, if the cohosh and pumping didn't work the first time it's likely that it won't work the second time."

"What's our other option?" I asked, although I already knew the answer.

"The other option is to transfer your care to the hospital. Our natural labor stimulators are only so strong. You need something stronger, Pitocin, to help encourage this labor along and if you choose, possibly an epidural so that you can rest."

I started crying the moment I heard the word "transfer". I had become so attached to the idea of a natural water birth that it was incredibly hard to let go of that dream. Brett held me close, my midwife grabbed my hand.

"Haley, I know that this isn't what you had in mind for your labor and delivery. You have been so strong and worked so hard, but you just need a bit of help that we cannot offer here at the birth center. In your situation the safest option is for you to go to the hospital."

"We'll step out of the room and let you two talk about it."

As soon as they closed the door behind them I started sobbing. Brett held me while I cried.

"I tried so hard," I wept, "I feel like such a failure."

I wish I could remember word for word every wonderful thing Brett said to me over the course of my labor. This moment is one of the top moments I wish I had recorded what Brett said to me. All I can say is that I was in a state of pure anguish and defeat, and Brett said just the right thing to make me feel as if I were the strongest most spectacular woman in the world. Though this was one of the hardest parts of the entire labor, this was also one that I look back with fondness. I wanted a natural birth because I felt it was an experience that would bring Brett and me closer together. This moment that we shared together brought us closer than I ever could have imagined. 

We already knew that we needed to go to the hospital, but we still talked about it together. Again, we agreed that we completely trusted our midwife and that if she thought that we needed to go to the hospital and use Pitocin that that was what we would do. Though our goal was to have a completely intervention free birth, we were also very open minded and understood that certain interventions are useful and necessary in birth. That doesn't mean it wasn't hard to let go of our birth center birth. I wish I could express how difficult this decision was for us. It wasn't difficult to make the decision to go to the hospital, but it was very difficult to let go of our dream birth, especially after days of laboring.

My midwife called ahead to the hospital and got everything set up for us. She also told us that our birth assistant would accompany us to the hospital and help us get settled. Brett packed up our bags and loaded our car.

I hugged my midwife.

"You are one of the strongest women I know." She whispered to me.

I started crying again but I was able to thank her for all of her help.

And just like that we said goodbye to The Birth Center and were on our way to the hospital.

Adrianna (Birth Assitant), Madeline & Me, and Becky (Midwife)

Coming Soon