Friday, March 26, 2010

Lauren Jade's Birth Story - Part 3

Warning: There's moderate discussion of uteri and birth canals approaching. If you're a boy (which I highly doubt), feel free to take cover. If you're a squeamish girl, you should stay; it's really not that bad. In fact, it's quite awesome.

While in the examining room (and for reasons unknown to me) I was subjected to some of the worst pain and frustration of my entire labor.

Despite knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was real labor, I was made to wait -- laying down -- for 20 minutes to have my contractions monitored so the nurse could make sure it was real. I'd been doing a pretty decent job of working through the pain without yelling up until then, but the second I had to lay down, all bets were off. I was miserable.

To make it worse, the nurse was not respectful in the least of my contractions. She continued to ask questions in the middle of contractions, getting what seemed like my life history, and seemed annoyed when I couldn't answer immediately. When she heard that I had a birth plan, her attitude went from bored to disdainful. "Oh. So let me guess: You guys took Bradley classes, right?' she scoffed. Her eyebrows were arched skeptically while my doula and I exchanged glances.

"No," I said. "We were just hoping to keep this as natural as possible."

Though it's cynical of me to admit this, I'm pretty sure the birth plan secured us on her hate-list. What was supposed to be a 20 minute monitoring session dragged on for over an hour. I tried to lay down, as instructed, but each time a contraction built, I leaned and rolled into my husband's arms in expectation. The monitoring belt wouldn't stay put with me heaving myself up every time a contraction began, so the readouts were inconclusive.

The nurse didn't grant us a labor room until it was close to 1:00 AM. I was discouraged and upset, but barely had time to register those emotions in between my contractions. They rolled ahead with no concern for haughty nurses or slipping monitor belts.

Once in our own room, my outlook improved immeasurably. LeeAnn turned the lights off, set up her stereo with soothing music, and wafted a lavender-soaked towel through the air; my laboring room became a calm and quiet oasis when compared to the cramped, stark examining room. I finally got back into my dancing rhythm with Justin, and settled in for what I assumed would be a long night -- maybe even a long next day -- of labor.

I still had to be monitored for a few minutes each hour (doctor's orders due to my previous c-section) and had an IV for my Strep-B antibiotic. But those things didn't hold me back in the least from moving around as I needed to. I wandered in small circles close to the side of the bed, trying to relax while walking between contractions. The down time was spent trying not to worry too much about what I knew was coming: another contraction, probably stronger than the last. If I could ignore the anticipation of a contraction, I did well enough in relaxing. But as soon as I thought too much about the work that lay ahead of me, I began to panic.

If Justin happened to be on the other side of the large room when a contraction began, I barked at him to come back to me; without his arms, I don't think I could have done it. I bowed my head onto his chest, gripped his shoulders, wedged my elbows in his, and sank into him. My legs went more and more limp as the night wore on, and we swayed together under his strength more than mine.

I repeated a low Ohhhhohhhh over and over as we danced, trying to feel the resonance of that deep note in my chest, rather than the pain that raged below. Keeping my face relaxed and open helped me not clench up the rest of my body, an having Justin to lean on let me go almost completely soft. LeeAnn let me know if my body was tensing up too much, and reminded me in her calm, confident voice that everything was proceeding perfectly.

Time around me must have gone on in the usual way, but in my own mind, it was gone. I only knew contractions and swaying and moaning and silence. No time. No machines. Just my body, my baby, and my husband's arms. It was a powerful night, mine was a powerful body, and I was simply riding the waves from crest to crest.

Not riding as gracefully as I might've hoped, though. My moans got louder and louder, my swaying became more and more frantic. After a particularly difficult contraction, I remember saying to whoever was nearest: I don't think I'm handling this very well. I was having a hard time relaxing into the contractions -- my body felt tense and panicky -- and I couldn't imagine managing the pain for several more hours. It was too much for me.

Right about the time I thought that, I also felt something -- something hot and sticky between my legs as I was walking.

I looked down, and there were several drops of dark, red blood collecting on the floor. Nervously, I wiped myself and my hand came away drenched in blood.

After knowing the baby was in the right position for birth, and knowing labor had begun spontaneously, I had put most thoughts of a repeat cesarean out of my head. Well actually, I'd put all thoughts out of my head which didn't pertain to moaning and swaying through contractions. But when I saw the bright blood, my worries returned. Had something gone wrong? Was the blood a bad sign -- one meaning I needed an emergency intervention?

I looked to my doula, whose face was happy and calm. Without even hearing a question from me, she said, "That's a good sign, Sarah! It means your cervix is changing!" She nodded and used big eyebrow movements to accentuate her words -- I must have seemed like a deer in the headlights.

The nurse, too, seemed thrilled that I'd had a bloody show, and asked if she could check my progress in between contractions. (This was a different nurse than the one in the examining room -- she'd been with us since we entered our room, about an hour earlier. She was wonderful: supportive and enthusiastic and loving.) I agreed to be checked, but I was nervous to hear the result. I would have been crushed to hear my progress hadn't changed, but I was trying to keep my meager courage up anyway.

At 2:10 AM, the nurse checked and declared me to be 9 centimeters dilated! I'd gone from 2 centimeters at around midnight, to 9 centimeters at 2 AM.

My labor had gone so quickly, I couldn't believe it. "You're kidding..." I stammered. "Are you sure?"

She was positive. My bag of waters was bulging and I was almost ready to start pushing. I laughed with disbelief, cried with joy, and smiled with relief that I'd made it mostly through transition without even realizing it.

I stood back up with renewed strength, and weathered a handful of contractions while I waited for my doctor to arrive.

Please come back tomorrow morning for the 4th and FINAL installment of Lauren's birth story!


  1. You are kidding me. We have to wait until TOMORROW?!

    Your descriptions of clinging to your husband through the pain are beautiful.

  2. By tomorrow morning, you mean "later today" right? :)

  3. Sarah, you are such a stinker! I want Part 4 NOW!!! :D

    That is too bad that the nurse was not receptive or respectful of your birth plan. I am in awe of your resolve and strength to carry on, even as the pain got more intense. None of my deliveries have been natural, and I find myself wondering... Could I ever do it? I have convinced myself that I can't, but your story is quite motivating and inspirational.

    Can't wait for Part 4!

  4. You're evil! I thought THIS would be the last installment of your story! Tomorrow, huh?

  5. I remember that shock over completely dialating so quickly. And may I say that your first nurse sounds like a nightmare.

  6. So beautiful Sarah!! And so capturing that instead of playing with my sweet baby I'm catching up on your blog and reading all 3 installments ha ha. I think it's so wonderful that you have these birth stories written down (and so beautifully at that) so one day your girls will be able to enjoy them as well!! Oh and as much as I enjoyed reading Mia's birth story, I was some what familiar with it and this one is that much more exciting because I don't know that I ever heard you talk about Lauren's birth! Happy Birthday Lauren, we can't wait to help celebrate!

  7. I thought we were doing this in 3 installments! You are a problem child! Although we are all waiting eagerly for part four, I'm sure I'm not the only one resting in the joy of knowing the, holding your beautiful baby girl. (Of course we still like to hear all the details!) Can I add to your story and write about being in the waiting room with your dad while this was going on? :)

  8. What a mean nurse! What's wrong with taking Bradley classes, anyway?

    I never realized when I was in transition either! I thought I was keeping track of the stages of labor all along, but I never really registered any of them. I felt like I was in pre-labor for about ten years, and then went straight to pushing!

    You are mean, though, it DID seem like this was supposed to be the final installment.

  9. Actually, I'm kind of glad you stopped to linger here. This post is beautifully written and (I think because it's so powerful) it filled me with strong, but conflicting emotions. Mostly, I'm just happy you had such perfect (albeit painful) moments in your birth experience. Mean nurse aside, this sounds like a labor dream-come-true, and I think that's why it makes me kind of sad. I'll never have an experience like this one, ever. It's sort of bittersweet, you know?

    Anyway, I can see why you're such an advocate for natural birth!


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?