Labor Part 2:
I continued to have on and off contractions from Friday to Saturday. Not a single hour passed where I didn’t have a contraction. This meant I never had a period of sleep longer than an hour From Friday until what would eventually become Monday (72 hours of labor. Oh yeah). I had at least three periods where I thought, surely, this was real labor. Three spaces of time when I was having regular contractions 90 seconds long, 3-4 minutes apart for an hour. But they never went anywhere. They would just die. It was unbelievably frustrating. I wept. I was so tired and so ready. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. At the time, I was sure this was my dark night of the soul. I had no idea.
It was Sunday morning when my midwife, Anita called and told me we were going to get the baby out. Oregon midwives need to deliver (or be damn close) the baby after water breaks within 72 hours to reduce the risk of infection. I was totally on board and told her I would do absolutely anything she suggested. We started with castor oil. 2 oz in orange juice with Epsom salt. I held my nose and drank it over the course of 45 minutes. The idea is that the laxative will stimulate your bowels which will stimulate the uterus. I threw it up.
She came to my house I told her that I had the most contractions when I was sleeping or listening to a hypnobabies CD. In other words, when my active brain was “off.” This made sense to her, so she and I went to my bed, put in a CD and had some contractions. When I wasn’t having contractions I was told to sleep. So I did. We were like that for about 4 or 5 hours. She fed me almonds and yogurt and kept me drinking fluids and taking bathroom breaks between them. Otherwise we lay in bed, slept and had contractions. We finally got a well established pattern of 60 second contractions building in intensity coming every 5 minutes. We were both ready to do something else.
Though we hadn’t done any cervical checks to reduce infection, we decided to look. I showered and sanitized myself. When she checked we were at 4 cm! But my cervix was pointed in the wrong direction and this was likely responsible for my failure to progress. She recommended that she move it manually and warned me it was going to hurt. It did. It was one of the worst parts of the whole ordeal. She very gently moved my cervix forward and we waited together for a few contractions for baby’s head to lock it into place. By the time she was done, I was at a 5, baby’s head was very low, and it was time to get moving.
That’s when we started walking. The student midwife, Alex, joined us and we walked, and walked around the school near my house under the awnings. I was so happy it was Sunday so we had the privacy and time to do this. Whenever I would have a contraction, I squatted while the midwives supported me. The greatest support I needed was for them to pull the stretchy belly material of my sweatpants away from my contracting belly.
The few people who saw us probably thought we were an interesting group: A middle aged Mexican woman, a clearly in labor pregnant woman, and a cute 20-something with a nose ring, all together in the cold. Walking, squatting, moaning, and pulling away at my maternity pants. At one point, Anita apparently caught my pubic hair (though I had no idea) and we all laughed that when you in addition to prenatal, delivery, and well-woman services, the birth center would now be offering Brazilian waxes. It was fun, and exhausting, and thrilling. Finally after days of zero progress, we were going to have a baby today.
As the walk progressed conversation died down as contractions became longer, more intense, and closer together. “Can we go back home now?” “Not yet they said.” And because I had agreed to do whatever they told me to do, we kept walking until I had involuntarily peed or spurted more amniotic fluid into my adult diaper. We finally headed home.
Meanwhile, my husband was at the house re-sanitizing and re-filling the giant padded birth tub. I spent another hour or so trying to get comfortable in my house while contractions kept coming, kept building. I finally got in the tub. Oh, the relief. Hypnobabies was put back on, and I was left to labor alone with my husband. Our house is small and my vocalizations were not quiet, so they kept time and rested in the baby’s room. I remember being in transition thinking, “This is just not that bad. This is uncomfortable, painful, but so, so manageable.” I loved the relief the water brought. I loved finding positions that worked for me. I loved that my husband was my partner and helped me relax with gentle touch or firm counterpressure when he could tell I was not relaxing, not opening up. They kept coming, kept building. I was thrilled. I was euphoric. Even though I hadn’t slept for more than an hour at a time in three days, I was energized.
Then suddenly, a break. I had heard about this break between transition and pushing and welcomed it. I rested in the tub and the midwives joined us. I eventually got some contractions, but never felt an urge to push. I remember asking if this was right. Was it supposed to feel like this? It can, they said. They suggested trying to push during a contraction. It felt weird. We checked to see if my cervix was in fact fully dialated and whether there were any lips. It was dialated and there were no lips. They suggested I push. So I did. I pushed for awhile during contractions. I squatted, I sat, I stood. I could feel the head a fingertip away. I had made so much progress. I was joyful.
I don’t know what exactly happened next. I just remember that after one push, it felt wrong. My midwives watched me and could tell something wasn’t right. The head was crowning, but nothing was happening. And I felt wrong. I don’t know how else to describe it. I remember the push that changed everything. I had been so mellow, so into my body with everything. But this push killed me, the pain was so intense, so wrong. I screamed for the first time in labor and Alex and Anita and Logan had to tell me I was safe just to get through it. Anita checked me and saw that a small lip had formed and pushing into it was causing it to swell. We don’t know how to happened, but it did.
We tried some herbals. Massage, and resting for an hour to get it back down, but the tone had changed. I was in severe pain, pain that was not productive. Pain that was shutting me down. I could do nothing but lay in bed with my husband while Anita touched me soothingly and brought me hot towels to relax. She encouraged me throughout to “breathe like you know how. Accept this, be okay with this, let it relax.” I tried. She checked me after an hour. “You’re not going to like this” she said. “You’re back down to 5 cm. I think we need to call the hospital.”
I begged for this not to be the case. I asked if there was anything we could do. I wept. “Maybe if we had started labor today, we could get you to relax and we could work our way back to a 10, but you’re in pain. You’re exhausted. Your membranes ruptured two days ago. Right now, both you and your baby are healthy. If we stay here, we might still have to transfer to the hospital. They’ll push for you to have a C-section and I don’t want that for you.”
I told her I trusted her, and she called the hospital.
To be continued…