Labor Part 3: The Hospital

If you missed them, read the earlier parts here:

Part 1: Start and Stop Labor

Part 2: How I ended up at the Hospital when I planned an unmedicated homebirth

Labor Part 3: The Hospital.

I felt like a part of me died. All those days of work, for nothing. I had actually regressed and we were heading to the hospital. Please understand that I think hospitals are a wonderful choice for many women. I just wanted to be where I was most comfortable, and for me that has been at home. My priority has always been my family’s comfort and safety so though I chose to birth at home, I always knew I would transfer in case of an emergency. I knew this intellectually. I never for once believed it would happen to me. I wanted my baby born at home. I wanted him to wake up in his house. I wanted to stay far from hospital germs and unnecessary interventions. I couldn’t believe this was happening. But I believed it was the right choice for our safety. So we made it.

We threw stuff into bags (we never packed a hospital bag) and rushed out the door with Anita who called ahead. We actually got a doctor that I had seen once or twice at the fertility clinic. Anita was thrilled, she also liked this doc and said he was a pleasure to work with. This relaxed me somewhat. We drove to the hospital in our own cars because it wasn’t an emergency, it was just prevention of what might be an emergency. I was taken in a wheelchair to labor and delivery.

Contractions were horrible and painful up against that swollen cervical lip. I couldn’t remember hypnobabies techniques (of course, I decided to use self-hypnosis while in labor, so that it worked at all for me was a miracle). I was emotionally numb and quickly losing my grip on everything. The plan was for me to get some pain relief so I could sleep and hopefully my cervix would dilate while I was relaxed and pain free.

I knew an epidural was in the works, and I agreed to it. But because this was never in my plan, I didn’t fully realize that an epidural also meant an IV, a catheter, continuous fetal monitoring and contraction monitoring, a heart cuff and pitocin. We counted the number of tubes on or in my body. Not counting the individual tubes for each IV, I had seven. Seven tubes. In the space of an hour, I went from feeling like a strong, powerful woman, to an inmate chained by tubes.

I couldn’t understand why this would be a first choice for anyone. I still cannot. The pain was deadened, yes, but it was still there and it was replaced with a new discomfort—numbness. Numbness in my legs was so uncomfortable. I hated not being able to move. I hated that I couldn’t get comfortable. That every time I needed to shift positions, a couple of nurses AND my husband had to help me through some ridiculously laborious process. I hated the epidural. Hated, hated, hated, hated it.

The numbness would build to the point it would wake me up, so I only got an hour or so of sleep. And then I noticed the contractions were getting stronger. I requested a light epidural so I would know when they were coming. But these were starting to get super painful. I was hoping the numbness in my legs would wear off when it came time to push, so instead of increasing my dosage, I put on hypnobabies, tried to get back into my headspace, and labored through them.

When I finally got the urge to push, it was around 4 AM. Our FABULOUS L&D  nurse (who had 2 of her 5 babies at home) asked if I would like to be checked, and I said no. Anita wondered whether she was doing this so we could be left without the doctor for as long as possible. I think she was right.

For some reason, I thought pushing would make sense. Like it would feel necessary and helpful, and I would do it and get relief. That the baby’s head would just pop out after a few pushes. Maybe if I had been at home, relaxed, with the help of gravity. Maybe then, pushing would have more closely resembled what I had imagined. Here is how it went down: I STILL had a cervical lip. It killed. Though the baby had been correctly positioned throughout the entire pregnancy and even in labor at home when we checked him and his heart, he flipped “sunny side up” at some point and was pushing up against my pelvic bone instead of down and out through my vagina. Of course, we didn’t know all that at the time. We just knew we had to get the baby out. It. Was. Awful.

Remember when I thought that start and stop labor was the dark night of the soul? I was wrong. It was pushing. I pushed and pushed and made little progress and was in so much pain. I quickly lost my mind. I was in a weird place that I can barely remember, but I remember not being myself. I remember crying out to push standing up and being denied (tubes, epidural, etc.). It made no sense to push while lying down with gravity and my anatomy working against me, but that was my only option. All hands were on deck putting my legs into better positions, giving me focal points, getting me to breathe. For most of that time it was my original birth team plus our L&D nurse. We worked. Every time, I thought for SURE this would be the last push. That he would be out. I stated believing this around the 30 minute mark. It was two hours later before the doctor even joined us.

He came in chipper and I remember shouting “TELL HIM TO NOT BE CHIPPER!” He matched the tone of the room and stayed respectfully to the side. He was a good doc. Finally at some point, he joined the team with a few extra nurses. Oxygen had be put on me at one point, and a pulse ox thingie(what are we at now? 8? 9 tubes?). I asked him to cut me. He said not yet. It felt like years of unproductive pushing. I guess it was productive, because he’s out. But nothing like the 30 minutes of pushing unmedicated in a good position and baby in a good position like I had at home.

I was told later that he made several little incisions around the opening of my vagina. I think if you have an episiotomy, this is an awesome way to do it. How much easier is it to get heal from several little slices than one big one? Good man, my doctor. I remember that my husband’s voice was the only one I could listen to near the end. He was so good to me. So confident that I could do it. So steady. I overheard the nurses talking about how awesome he was the next day when they thought no one was listening.

I remember being so, so hot. Ripping off my hospital gown. Getting water dumped on me. A fan that eventually sucked up my hair in the middle of a contraction. I remember trashing and flinging off the pulse oxometer and it hitting a nurse who said “HEY!” and feeling so, so badly about it, like she thought I did it on purpose. I apparently spent the next three contractions apologizing to her. I remember at one point telling my doctor to look into my eyes, and he did, and it helped. I remember the feeling when he finally began the cuts. Sharp pin pricks which I trusted to bring the baby out. I remember sweating so much that I couldn’t grip my legs as instructed.” I remember shouting at people that I didn’t believe them when they told me I was “almost there” and crying “that’s what you said 10 times before!” I remember losing strength. I couldn’t push effectively on so little sleep and on the standard stupid hospital diet of starvation. I begged for electrolytes. They gave me ice chips.

Finally my husband told me it was close. “Do you see the doctor. He’s here now. He’s setting up. There are tons more people here. You are ACTUALLY close. They know that. That’s why they’re setting up.” Finally it happened. I don’t know how because I remember feeling so weak and that my pushes were getting less effective. But somehow, he came out.

At 7:30 AM on Christmas Eve morning, they placed his slimy, squirmy body directly on my chest and put a warm blanket on top of us. I could not believe it. I looked to my husband who broke down for the first time into weeping. He told me later that his first emotion was not excitement over seeing his baby he’s been waiting 2 years for, but knowing that I would no longer be in so much pain. I was teary, but so relieved. I couldn’t see him very well, but I felt my baby’s body and declared him the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.

I got stitched up from my partial 3rd degree tear (yeah, ouch), heard the doc explain that my baby was “sunny side up” and that’s why he was so hard to get out, and then finally, FINALLY putting my legs down into a normal position, being covered with blankets, and not being able to keep my eyes open. It was the nurse shift change and I said goodbye to my nurse. Goodbye to my wonderful midwives. Goodbye to my doctor and telling him that while I enjoyed working with his clinic it was not a great pleasure to work with him on this particular day, but that I was ultimately glad to have him. He understood what I meant.

I met my new nurse briefly who gave me a few options for breakfast. I remember saying French toast. They propped me up with pillows so I could try breastfeeding. My husband fed me. He took our baby so I could sleep, and they slept together, skin to skin on the bed/couch. I remember waking awhile later and asking my nurse whether I could go to the bathroom and take a shower. It took about seven years for my nurse to help me walk those 15 steps to the toilet. The epidural was gone, but I could barely move, I was so, so weak. My butt hurt. She helped me shower and washed my hair. She was tender and kind and even though I was out of it, I knew she was amazing.

Since there were lots of new laboring women waiting to be admitted, I had to be moved. I was too weak to hold my baby in the wheelchair. It was that bad. After that point, there was lots of peeing from all the fluids that had been in me. We slept in our new room for an hour and woke to all the crashing doors and crap. I said screw it. I’m uncomfortable. The food sucks. It’s Christmas Eve and I’m going home. I called our nurse and told her to get the ball rolling for discharge.

We did the bare minimum tests. Just enough so they wouldn’t have to write “left against medical advice” on our chart. I started to feel a little more human. My parents and sister visited. I could tell when they looked at me exactly how awful I looked. My dad—who is NOT affectionate, actually pet my hair and stroked my arm. You know how Bella Swan looks after the C-section of the vampire baby who had been stealing her strength? Yeah.  I looked like the puffy, saline-injected version of that. I cried when I saw myself in the mirror. How did I end up like this?

My family helped us leave the hospital and get our car seat set up. We met Logan’s family back at our immaculate house that Alex spent hours cleaning up before joining us at the hospital. We were so happy to be home. I had a breakdown when I saw some of the unused homebirth supplies, but I recovered and started explaining our story to our poor concerned family.

We slept and woke up Chirstmas morning with the most beautiful baby boy I have ever seen. I was so happy we came home. It’s a little hard moving around still, but I’m here with my tree and some presents that my family left us. Husband and sort of forgot to do gifts for eachother this year. We had a little bit on our plates.

It was very important for me and my healing to tell you what happened to me. I still think that choosing my midwives and homebirth was the right decision. I think if I had ruptured my membranes and failed to go into labor at the hospital, I would have been in much the same situation. Only I would not have had Anita and Alex fighting for me and my choices. This way, my pre and post natal care was exactly how I wanted it. I got to have a homebirth experience, minus the actual birth part.

I really mourn the homebirth that never was. I know we did what we had to do and that it was ultimately the safest decision. Really, the only decision. But I still long to have the peaceful homebirth that I had planned, and so if you see me, please be gentle. Don’t let the fact that I transferred to a hospital confirm all your deeply held suspicions about home birth. Please know that I really loved laboring at home. Please be assured that most people who choose home or birth center births are like me—they are smart and do what is safest. That home birth is not inherently unsafe. That inherent in the process of choosing home birth, you choose to have a hospital birth when necessary.

Also for natural birth advocates, please know that my choices were very respected at the hospital. I don’t think all hospitals are this great, but I had really excellent people working for me. They were so respectful. They never gave any indication to me, my midwives, or my husband that we were stupid and dumping our stupid problems on them. They were practicing the integrated healthcare model that results in THE best birth outcomes in the world. I hated the circumstances, beyond my control that led me to the hospital. I hated the epidural. But I never once hated the hospital or the doctor or nurses. I’m glad it was there, and I’m grateful to have had the care I needed even if it wasn’t in my plan to need it.

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6 thoughts on “Labor Part 3: The Hospital

  1. He’s here and he’s absolutely perfect. I believe firmly that you made the best decisions you could. I think anyone who judges or belittles you should be infested with the fleas of 1,000 camels in their nether regions. You are a warrior mother. You are amazing and Logan is amazing and therefore your offspring likewise has awesome material with which to be amazing, too.

    I’m so glad that you’re home for Christmas and sleeping in your own bed. Hospital beds are rubbish, and who can rest with nurses bustling about? (Nothing against nurses. It’s their jobs to bustle. Just doesn’t mean I want it around me while I’m trying to sleep.)

    When you feel up to it, I’d love to talk to you just to hear your voice. It’s been an intense time for many of us who love you.

    Thank you again for writing your birth story.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. Sometime you and I will need to talk about the poignant mixture of grief and gratitude that is the birthing story gone awry. Sending you love and hugs. And, once more, congratulations on your beautiful, perfect little boy. Give him an extra snuggle for me.

  3. Oh my goodness, sunny side up baby?! You poor poor dear! I am sorry everything didn’t go exactly like you had hoped, but I am so happy to hear that they treated you well at the hospital. I was scared they’d treat you condescendingly. I know the sweet feeling of waking up at home that first day with a new baby and it is wonderful. I plan on (if we have another) getting discharged ASAP again. The memory of my older boys coming into our bed to meet their new little brother is one of my most treasured memories. Congratulations!

  4. Wow, what an ending! Goodness. I just need to email you because what I have/want to say is way too much for a comment box. Just know for now that I understand and love you.

  5. Oh, dear Maret – You remind me of how strong we as women can be. You have truly gone where many of us fear… and you survived. You shared your story with us so you could begin healing. I, for one, feel empowered by your words. You and your family are precious. Thank you for sharing your tremendous birth story with us.

  6. Ugh, I’m so sorry that you had to go through that. I also had a sunny side up baby and a hospital transfer (from the xtreme birth center 😉 I know what you mean about disappointment. I know I felt (still do a little) let down by my body. And all the tubes and wires, yuck. I’m glad you wrote it down and put it out here, it’s nice to hear from someone else and may help others too. I hope you also write down (not necessarily publicly)your first thoughts about baby/motherhood. I wish I had, with everything going differently than hoped for I had to talk about that so much I feel like some of those other thoughts got lost.
    So glad that after all of it, baby is here and you’re both doing well. Smell his milky breath for me – I miss it so and my baby’s not even 1 yet!

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