I am going to blog Riker’s birth story. Be forewarned, it’s long, and while not going into grand detail, there is mention of blood and uteruses and things along those lines, since birth is kinda messy and I use good adjectives. Censor as you need to for your own well being. 🙂
On Wednesday night my mom, Aaron and I were sitting down to watch a movie. I’d been feeling crampy all day long, but it was nothing to write home about (not painful). As we watched the movie, Riker moved in a way that HURT my cervix. Next thing I know, I’m laying in a puddle. “My water broke!” I told mom and Aaron. Aaron ran for some towels, and mom ran for her phone, and I laughed, because my water KEPT breaking over and over, and I kept getting more wet while trying to scramble onto something absorbent. Pregnant women don’t scramble well and we don’t keep towels in the basement.
After getting cleaned up and calling my midwife, I decided to eat a bowl of cereal and head for bed. Anita, the midwife, told me that contractions normally start 24 hours after your water breaks, if you water breaks prematurely, like mine did. I figured I could get in some solid sleep before the real work started, especially since contractions normally begin 8-10 minutes apart, and not that strong, so you can snooze through them.
Two hours later, at 10pm, I was in real labor. I laid on our bed in our dark room, the only illumination coming from the Mac screen as Aaron used contractionmaster.com to time out my contractions. During each gripping pain, I’d open my mouth and hum, having heard that’s a good technique for staying relaxed. It sort of worked. I didn’t want to be touched, but I did want to hold someone’s hand. I tried several positions to help cope and nothing worked, though a couple of times I got caught in a bad position when a contraction started, which made it about a thousand times worse, and made me panic. Right away the contractions were between 3 and 4 minutes apart, and about a minute long. Keep in mind that time is from the beginning of one, to the beginning of the next. I was getting about a 2 minute break between contractions.
Around 3am the pain became intense enough that I needed more help, so Aaron called Anita and Amber and asked them to head over, then headed down to the basement to start filling the birth tub, so I could get in the hot water for some pain relief. At this point the contraction pain was getting really intense, and the contractions were getting longer. It was physical effort to stay relaxed, and bearing down on someone’s hand (my mom’s at this point) was the only thing that helped remind me to breathe. There are not proper words to describe the level of pain that truly takes your breath away. Just try to imagine.
Anita arrived at 4, shortly after Amber, and pulled out a fetascope to listen to Riker’s heartbeat. Waiting until I had a contraction, she held the fetascope to my stomach, and I sensed from her body language something wasn’t right. Listening through another contraction, she crept to the head of the bed and said, “Jennifer, we need to have a moment of honesty.” I told her to hurry up and talk before another contraction hit me. “His heart rate is decellerating quite low with each contraction, which would be fine if you were 8 cm dilated, but you’re maybe a 2. This is not a safe home birth scenario, we need to go to the hospital.” Aaron and I agreed immediately with no regrets.
You all have to understand, it wasn’t the homebirth that was my priority, it was the vbac. I didn’t particularly care WHERE it happened, as long as I got to push my son out MYSELF. I told people we wanted a homebirth because it was our best vbac option, but the second that it was no longer the healthy option, we’d be in the car to the hospital in no time flat.
The midwives and mom and Aaron whipped into gear, tossing me pants and a shirt, collecting id’s, admonishing Aaron not to speed. It took me two contractions to get downstairs, as I had to stop and drop to all fours to cope with the pain. Moving became a sprint to get somewhere semi comfortable before another contraction hit me. I’m not even going to go into how awful it was to have contractions in the car.
We got to the hospital, and by then the contractions had once again intensified to the point my vision was going out a bit. Walking to the ER door a BIG ONE hit, and I dropped to all fours panting, as a nurse asked, “Do you need help?” Luckily I was focused on breathing and staying alive, or I’d have had a snappy retort to that question, down on all fours on concrete 5 feet from the hospital door.
They admitted me and got some monitors going, and it was true, Riker’s heart rate was decellerating with every contraction, which is not good. Amber looked into my eyes and breathed with me, and we sat around for a while, while I contracted and monitors were watched and paperwork was signed. Nothing, by the way, is more annoying than having people explain forms to you while you are coping with the most intense pain of your entire life. I remember vaguely yelling once, “SHUT UP OR GET OUT.” They were very understanding. After a bit, Riker’s heart rate evened out just fine, and stayed that way. No one knows what caused the decellerating Anita had been hearing.
The time line is a little fuzzy for me, but at one point I got in the shower, to try and cope with the pain that was quickly exhausting what little energy I had left. Remember that I went into labor at 10 at night, after a full day, and at this point it was around 8 or 9 in the morning. Contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, and some were double peaking, which means they were lasting for around 3 minutes, shocking even the nurses.
Every 45 minutes I had to get out of the shower to be on the monitors for a while, and at one point I remember staring desperately at the ceiling, breathing along with Amber, in the grips of a contraction that would not end. The pain was transcendent, exquisite, all-encompassing. The nurse watching the monitor had wide eyes, “That contraction was 3 minutes LONG,” she breathed quietly to Amber. “Yeah, no s***”, I thought, desperately whimpering “end, please end soon.” Aaron stood quietly by, letting Amber give me the help I needed, praying, bringing me ice, and generally doing everything I needed him to do.
Standing back in the shower, having 2 and 3 minute long contractions, I felt my energy slipping away. I tried moving my hips, remembering it worked well for my friend Erika. Stronger pain. I pressed my head into the shower wall, breathed as hard and slow as I could, envisioning oxygen going to Riker. Stronger gripping pain. I cried out in prayer, I told myself, “relax, it’s not that bad.” But the exhaustion was too much. I called it. “GET ME AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST. RIGHT NOW.” Aaron, who was sitting silently outside the shower, helped me out and the midwives gathered ’round to discuss options. At the end of the conversation, we decided an epidural so I could rest would be ok since I was only at a 5 (5 cm dilated) and needed to be at 10 to deliver. I had a long road ahead of me still, and I knew in my heart that without some rest, I’d have no strength left to push.
Those last few contractions, knowing the anesthesiologist was on her way, were the worst. Staring into Amber’s eyes, watching her breathe, was the only way I could remember how. A couple of times I looked away, and the intensity of the pain made me panic. “I can’t do this, I CAN’T, WHERE IS THAT DOCTOR?!” I moaned. “You can do this Jennifer,” Amber murmured, ” You ARE doing it, right now. She’ll be here soon.”
The doctor gave me the epidural, and I sank back into the bed. Anita went home to rest, Amber went home to take care of her kids and get some food. It was around 10am, after 12 hours of contractions, now it was time for me to rest, sneak some snacks and juice and pray my body continued to dilate.
Then I stalled out at 6cm, for four hours.