Seeing as how Cyrus is three months old today, I thought it would be appropriate to finally share his birth story. Before he was born, I enjoyed reading others' birth stories, and had already decided that I would post mine as well. I figured that I would get it up not more than two weeks after he was born. Well, a few things have kept me from that, not the least of which is Cyrus himself. But, if I'm really honest, part of the reason that this is such a hard story to write is that it isn't the story I wanted to be writing. Let me warn you in advance, this is a looooong post. I won't be offended if you don't read the whole thing. I tried to pare it down as much as possible, but then, my labor was long too!
Jason and I planned and prepared for a natural birth, and by that I mean unmedicated, with as few interventions as possible. At the very least, I wanted to avoid an epidural and I wanted absolutely no part of a c-section. In my preparation, I read lots of birth stories and a few books, followed a few blogs and, most of all, enrolled Jason and I in the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth classes. There were 12 classes in total and they covered good nutrition and exercise, information on various forms of intervention and how best to avoid them, relaxation exercises, and strategies for our labor coaches - our husbands. We tried to go with a midwife at a Birthing Center, but it wasn't covered by insurance and we couldn't afford to pay out of pocket. We ended up with a midwife practice through Kaiser. And, even after all of our planning and preparation, I wanted some extra insurance for my natural birth, so we hired a doula, our childbirth instructor Sarah.
Now, I knew that if I had to be induced, I had a higher chance of getting additional interventions, particularly if pitocin was used, and a higher chance of ending up with a c-section. So, starting from 37 weeks, I began praying and hoping that I would go into labor. Then June 27th (my due date) came and went. I tried acupuncture, nipple stimulation, pressure points, and walking. Oh my did I walk. I met with one of my midwives and discovered that I was dilated at all - "Not even a dimple" she said. We decided that as long as I had a few non-stress tests, I could wait until July 11th, a full two weeks after my due date. The stress just kept building. I even tried the Murphy's Law of labor induction - at 41 weeks, Jason and I went to Black Butte for 4th of July, a good 2.5 hour drive from Portland, and at least 2 hours from the nearest Kaiser hospital. Still nothing. A few days before July 11th, I met with another midwife to plan my induction. If I didn't go into labor on my own, the I would come in at 6am on July 11th to be induced. Oh the stress!
On Friday, July 10th I had contractions off and on all day, and they were certainly stronger than they had previously been, but still nothing to get excited about. That night we took our dog to Jason's sister's and got ourselves all ready to go and then went to bed. We were nervous and stressed, but also a little excited, because we figured that at the very least we'd have our baby by Sunday night.
I woke up at 2:00am for no particular reason, and then about 30 seconds later I felt my water break. I bolted for the bathroom, calling to Jason as I went that my water had broken. Well, he decides that the best course of action is to just put down some towels and go back to bed, especially since my contractions weren't particularly strong. However, I realized pretty quickly that there was meconium, which can be a sign of distress, so I decided we should go in. After all, they were expecting us in a few hours anyway.
When we arrived, the contractions were coming every 3 minutes and lasting 45 seconds - usually a pretty good sign. However, they still weren't particularly strong and I was only dilated to 1.5cm, and about 65% effaced - not great for a woman who is supposed to be in labor. Now, one thing I have to mention is that our Kaiser hospital experience was amazing. The very first thing the labor triage nurse did was ask for our birth plan, and then she proceeded to inform the first midwife we saw of our wishes. This happened every time there was a nurse shift change. So they put me in a room, and Jason and I commenced waiting. We walked, I ate some breakfast, we walked some more. Around 11am, I thought the contractions were picking up so I asked Jason to call Sarah and I asked the nurses if I could go in the labor tub. Sarah arrived at about 1pm, while I was in the tub. Things had died down a little while in the tub, so I decided to get out and walk around.
Around 2pm, everything stopped. Nothing. No contractions, not even a twinge. The nurses wanted to start pitocin, but we asked them to hold off. We tried EVERYTHING. I walked all over the hospital, I got in the shower, I tried nipple stimulation, the whole thing. With each passing moment I got more and more stressed out, which I'm sure didn't help. I felt like time was just ticking away. At around 8pm, Jason asked our nurse, a fantastic woman named Ann Hathaway, of all things, if I could maybe get some sleep. I had been up for a long time, and we thought that might help. So I did. I slept for maybe 2 hours or so. Then I woke up with what I thought was the start of my real labor. I had a few strong contractions over the next two hours, so we called our nurse back in. Of course, the minute she arrived, they stopped. Finally, at about 1:30am, we consented to start pitocin, almost 24 hours after my water broke.
Even with the pitocin, which I knew could bring on brutal contractions, I was determined to labor without any pain medication. We called Jason's sister Angie, who had planned to be with us, and we got labor going. The contractions slowly built over the next several hours. I continued to walk around the halls as much as I could, squatting with each contraction to try and bring that baby down. At around 11am (this is Sunday morning now) we called Sarah back (we sent her home when labor stalled) as the contractions had really picked up. At some point I got back in the tub, which sort of helped, but not really. And yet, I still felt like I had it under control.
At about 2pm, I was in the shower, and the contractions were intense. I was exhausted, and really struggling. My labor nurse at the time, a woman who supposedly was very pro-natural birth, came in and said something along the lines of, "It's ok if you get help if you need it. Maybe you just can't handle this". Well, that was what I needed. I gathered myself up, and just started repeating to Jason "I can do this, right? I can handle this?"
We headed to the bed, and I found my groove. I was holding Jason's hand on one side, and Angie's hand on the other, and they were pretty much supporting my body weight, and Sarah was sitting in front of me. The contractions rocked my body, and I could no longer stay silent. Sarah told me to try saying "Yes" instead of no, and to moan deeply if I needed to make noise, which I did. All I could concentrate on was saying "Yes" as I was hit with each contraction. At some point, I threw up and I knew then that I was going through transition, which I had been told usually happened around 7 or 8 cm. At about 6:30pm I asked to be checked. I figured it wouldn't be much longer now. The midwife checked me and, are you ready for this? 4cm.
That's right, all that work, and I was only at 4cm. That broke me. I lost all motivation, and I pretty much knew at that point that I couldn't do it anymore. My supports tried to keep me going, Jason and Sarah and Angie kept encouraging me. We tried the tub again, but the contractions were peaking at the very beginning, giving me no time to prepare. Plus, I was so tired from having been at this for so long that I kept falling asleep between contractions, and then waking up in excruciating pain. We got a new nurse at around 7pm, Shannon, and she was incredible. She kept encouraging me, and holding me off as I began to ask for drugs. Looking back, my whole attitude had changed. I was no longer saying Yes with each contraction, but instead "I can't do this". At about 8:30, they all convinced me to get checked before I went ahead and got the epidural. I got out of the tub and threw up again. When the midwife checked me I was at a 6. Better, but I knew at that point that I if I had any hope of pushing this baby out, I needed to get some sleep. I caved and asked for the epidural.
At 9pm, I got the epidural and was surprised that I wasn't pain free. I felt intense pressure at the top of my stomach with each contraction. However, it was enough that I could go to sleep for a few hours. I woke at about 2am (Monday morning - 48 hours after my water broke) with intense pain in one little part of my abdomen, going straight through to my back. This is what they call a "window," where the epidural doesn't work in one little area and the a pain peeks through. But, because of the epidural, I couldn't really change positions on my own. I was stuck, and it was awful.
Finally, at about 4am I was fully dilated. I pushed a little, but they realized he was facing sunny side up. They reposition me to see if they could get the baby to turn and I laid like that for about an hour and a half. At 6am I began to push. By this point, there was no epidural, and I was at the highest level of pitocin. I pushed in every imaginable position - squatting, hands and knees, on my side, on my back. The contractions were coming every 1-2 minutes. Now, what I didn't anticipate was that I would be in pain in between contractions - excruciating pain in my hips and legs. I had no break.
A little before 8am, the midwife on-call, Tom, came in and checked me and said that if he pushed on my perineum he could see the head. I asked him for a rough estimate of how much longer and he said about an hour. Ok, I can do this, I thought. At 8am, the shifts changed and the new midwife on call came in to check me. She realized they had been tracking my heart beat instead of his, so she called for an internal fetal monitor. Then she checked me again and gave me some crushing news. After pushing for 2.5 hours, the baby hadn't dropped into my pelvis - in fact, he was still at a -2, where he was when I came into the hospital over two days before. Her words were "Your baby is doing fine, so you can keep pushing if you want to, but I'm not convinced he's going to be born vaginally".
That was it for me. I looked at the faces around me - Angie, Jason, Sarah, - and just said "I'm ready to meet my baby". Jason and I had a minute together and we decided to go ahead with a C-section - the one thing I had dreaded above all else. Even now, it brings tears to my eyes to think about it.
So, at 9:35am, on Monday, July 13th, 2 weeks and 2 days past his due date, Cyrus Thompson Wells was born via C-section. He weighed 8lbs 6oz, was 21.5 inches long and had a 15 inch head. Here are some labor stats for you:
Total hours in labor: 55.5
Total hours with pitocin: 31
Hours on pitocin with no epidural: 19
Hours pushing: 2.5
I have several thoughts on my labor, but seeing as how this post is already a novel, I will save those for another day. I'll just end with this: The process was not what we hoped for, but at the end of the day, every decision was ultimately ours, and, what matters most is that we got our baby boy.
Jason, Amber and Cyrus one day after Cy's birth.