Being the anxiety ridden person that I am, I started researching immediately. I talked to people who had children and their advice was all the same: get the epidural as soon as you possibly can. But this was not what I wanted. I didn't care so much about the all-natural aspect of it, as much as the big scary needle being stuck in my spine part. I was so sure that I'd be in that 1% of people who become paralyzed. I'd probably get stuck with that horse needle right in the middle of a contraction and force her to poke me in the wrong spot.
As I continued to do some online research, I was finding that you either do it naturally with no meds or you get the epidural. I was pretty shocked that there weren't other options. There is this one medication called stadol, but you have to get it super early on (before contractions become intense and before you're 4cm) and it does, in fact, get through to the baby, unlike the epidural. That was not what I wanted, either.
I continued talking to people about it, and found out that one of my co-workers was pregnant at the same time as me. She recommended a birth class that she had signed up for, called "The Bradley Method." She explained that you learn to....
- manage the pain through meditation techniques instead of drugs
- use movement during labor to your advantage (as opposed to being strapped down to a hospital bed)
- stay hydrated, eat well, exercise during pregnancy
- work with your body, not against it to make labor more efficient
- deal with stress and increase self awareness
- prepare and learn, with your husband as your birth coach
- avoid labor by induction (pitocin) and let the body go into labor on its own
- They have a 93% success rate for people who took the course across the country
When my due date came and went, I reiterated my birth plan to my doctors (it was a practice)- please allow 41 and 1/2 weeks before inducing. I learned in Bradley that a full term is anywhere between 38-42 weeks, but lawsuits in hospitals have become so prevalent, they try to induce you soon after the due date to avoid anything potentially dangerous happening. By 42 weeks, the health risks become much higher. I understand that, which is why I said to induce at 41 and 1/2 weeks.
So as I was warned, Holy Cross is pretty quick to jump in and induce. But I didn't want to change doctors in the middle of my pregnancy. Big mistake. Don't ever be afraid to move on to someone else if you feel that your doctor isn't on the same page as you. You're not going to hurt their feelings, you're only going to hurt your own when you find out that your doctor is forcing you to do things you don't want to do.
I convinced her to wait until the 23rd- 9 days later (a little less than I was hoping for, but I'll take it). But when I went in for a routine check up and fetal stress test on Friday, November 20th, my doctor was concerned that there weren't enough bumps of activity in the heart rate. She just didn't feel comfortable sending me home, so she asked me to go pack my bag and head to the hospital to be induced.
From that point on, I may has well have put my birth plan through the paper shredder. I cried the whole way home, knowing that it is close to impossible to achieve a natural birth with pitocin. It's like amping up your already painful contractions with 50 cc's of lightning bolts. But Matt helped me get it together. We mentally prepared ourselves for what might lie ahead and decided we would try to still be in control of our birth plan as much as possible.
After arriving at the hospital, what do you know, the baby's heart rate was fine but "we'd really prefer that you not leave now that you're registered, etc. and the doctor had an initial concern." At this point, Matt and I had mentally and emotionally committed to being there anyway, so we agreed to stay. I told them that it was important to me to try a prostaglandin before being shot up with pitocin, which they agreed to. At this point, I was almost 1 cm.
Well, I swear I remember every little detail my Bradley teacher taught us except for this one... they decided to use the prostaglandin called "Cytotec" which, is the really bad one that hits a lot of women hard and could potentially cause physical damage to the uterus. Luckily, I didn't seem to be too badly affected by it.
About 5 hours later, I started having contractions. How exciting! They were about 10 minutes apart for a while and then they started getting really incredibly (and un-naturally) strong and really close together. Sometimes, they were only about 2 or 3 minutes apart. This went on for 18 hours until the doctor came back. That's right. I'm not exaggerating for the sake of the story. But I welcomed the intensity- this meant I was making progress.
I couldn't wait for the doctor to give me the internal and tell me I was 6 or 7 cm. She checked me, which I might add was equally as painful as a contraction, and informed me that I was, drum roll please....... 1 cm. I had made NO progress. All that pain and all that work for nothing. I was devastated. I insisted on trying a few more hours.
She came back and checked me later that afternoon and I was almost 2 cm (about 5 hours later.) This was getting to be agonizing. Around dinner time (this is now 24 hours from when the contractions started), they strongly suggested that I get the epidural so that I would have the energy to labor through the night. I agreed that there was no way I could continue at this rate and be able to push and do what I needed to do.
I absolutely hated the feeling of my legs becoming 2 huge tree trunks that I couldn't feel or move. It was too weird. They decided to crank in the pitocin at this point to really get things going. I was all for it. I was instructed to get as much sleep as I could and they would check me the next morning.
12 hours later, I was at 3 cm and my cervix was reversing- instead of getting softer, it was getting hard and swollen at this point. Now for the moment I had been dreading... My doctor recommended a C-section. I waited for her to leave the room and give us a little time and then proceeded to cry for about 20 minutes. Poor Matt didn't know what to do to help me. We were both pretty devastated but Matt knew he needed to put on a strong face and help me through the situation.
For the c-section, the numbness moves all the way up into your chest, so it becomes hard to breath. I have to admit, though, that I was relieved to see an end point in my near future. It was nice to know that I would finally see this baby in an hour.
I was so drugged up and out of it that by the time they pulled the baby out, I couldn't really open my eyes to see him. The wonderful surprise of the baby's gender that I had insisted would be the most amazing moment of my life and refused to find out ahead of time- was completely null and void at this point. I don't even know if they told me it was a boy; I just heard "Here he is," and responded "Give him to Matt," because I was shaking so badly from the anesthesia, I would have dropped him. I couldn't wait to hold him but I was practically convulsing for over an hour, and literally couldn't hold him without Matt's help.
Even when the time came, my mind was still not really there. I felt so strange, and not like myself, I wasn't sure if I was dreaming- from drugs, not happiness. I will never be able to fully explain that foggy state of consciousness, but I know that I never want to experience it ever again. I don't even remember the first time he latched on to eat- that special bonding experience is completely wiped clean from my memory.
Despite a horrible birth experience, we are loving every minute with little Niall and I learned a valuable lesson- get to know your doctor. I mean really get to know them- what they're about, what they believe, learn about their experiences, talk to them about your concerns. Get to know them as a friend, someone you really trust. This is the person who will be handling the little miracle inside your belly. There's nothing wrong with being picky about who you choose.
I have already begun doing some research on V-BAC (vaginal birth after cesarian) for my next little one and will most likely try to at least labor in a birthing tub at Shady Grove hospital with a midwife. The midwives there work closely with the doctors, who are able to intervene medically if anything goes wrong.
The most important thing I learned was that you can't force the body to do something it's not ready to do, even if you are a doctor!
My favorite quote from the doctor before agreeing to c-section: "You did everything you possibly could; it's not your fault that you have a dysfunctional uterus." Well thanks doc.