Remember how I was telling Brynja's story a hundred years ago? Yeah. So if you don't want to hear about birth in all it's messy glory, skip this!
So, the kids were dropped off, the photos were taken, a blessing was given and we were on our way. I choose to see a Certified Nurse Midwife for my pregnancies and the one I like happens to be in a town that is 30 miles away from where I live. So, I deliver at a hospital that is a good half hour trek from my house. For Ella and Rohan's birth, this half hour drive worried me a bit because I always have my babies fast once I'm in labor. With Brynja? Not so much. The worry factor was missing as I was not having any contractions to speak of. The whole ride up to the hospital, Dustin and I commented several times at how weird this was. "We're going to have a baby and I'm not even having contractions? Have we ever even done this before?" It was bizarre.
So, we arrive and get ourselves all checked in. My midwife, Helene, had called ahead and told them I was coming and needed to be started on my lovely little antibiotic. She had also told me, in our previous appointments, that I should probably plan on spending two days in the hospital because it was likely that I would miss my second does of the antibiotic for the beta-strep since my labors are so fast. (My previous labors were FAST!) So, I was going in with that mindset, that I would just be so fast...but, I'm wasn't even having contractions. I was all screwed up in my head because how can I go fast when I'm not even having contractions!? It had never happened this way before and it was trippin' me out.
So, me and my screwed-up mind got plugged into a tasty little drip of penicillin and proceeded to sit on the bed and get watched by Dustin. Now you have to understand that Dustin's usual role by the time we've reached the hospital is "labor coach extraordinaire". In my previous labors, he's all in my face with breathing patterns and firm-voiced commands for me to focus and look in his eyes. Nope. Not. this. time. As he's sitting in a chair ten feet away from me he marvels again, "I don't even know what I'm doing!" ...and, "It's like we've never done this before." ...or maybe a, "You'd think on our fourth kid we'd know what to expect, but this is all brand new and so bizarre."
Yep. It was weird.
We just stared at each other. I was tethered to a monitor that revealed that I actually was having some contractions. Nothing regular and nothing strong enough to write home about, but contractions there were. Despite the contractions, I found myself getting dozey. I wanted to just fall asleep. And Dustin decided he was hungry. But before I fell asleep and Dustin got some take-out, we decided to get up and walk the halls to see if we could get things going.
After our fifth or sixth lap around the Labor and Delivery floor, a nurse sitting at her front-desk-post said, "You must not be having very strong contractions because you're making WAY too good a time around this desk." And she was right. We had nothin'. In fact, I was walking faster than Dustin and he was asking me to slow down. Well, the term walking is a stretch. It was severe waddling, really.
We went back to our room and picked up where we left off, with Dustin sitting in his chair watching me not have any contractions. His stomach spoke up again and demanded attention and I told him to obey his body and feed it. Nothing was happening with my body anyway. So, he left.
And, of course, that was right about the time that Helene showed up. Perfect. Helene came and looked at my monitor readouts and marveled at the lack of action (considering I was eight days overdue) and, with raised eyebrows, said, "Let's talk options."
Options... that sounded ominous. I've never before had "options" during labor. It's always just been a "GO" thing. Well, a "GO" and a "OH MY GOSH! SHE'S COMPLETE!" and then a "CATCH" thing.
Helene started laying it out for me. She didn't want to check my dilation, due to my broken water. Didn't want to increase the risk of any germies. So, who knows how much I'm dilated, right? Right. Because my water was broken, she wanted me in active labor 24 hours from the initial break. We could do this one of several ways. I could continue walking, walking, walking the very boring Labor and Delivery floor, all the while hauling my "puppy" (as Dustin not-so-affectionately dubbed my I.V. cart) by it's leash. Or we could bring in a breast pump and get that oxytocin flowing that way.
"Does that work?" I asked.
Helene replied that she had just had a woman about a week before who used a pump and got her labor started. Cool. I was leaning toward that option.
"Or," she said, "we could start you on Pitocin and get you going and take you off when you're at about 5cm and let you labor on your own the rest of the way."
That option didn't sound so good. Anyone who's talked birth with me knows that I'm sorta anti-induction. I like to go "natural" or unmedicated and I had heard that Pit makes your contractions much more harsh and hard to deal with. They are hard enough to deal with on my own, so 'no thank you', I thought to myself.
"Well, Dustin is gone to grab some food and he'll be back in a minute, so how about I talk to him when he gets back and we'll figure out what we want to do." I told Helene.
She agreed and was going to leave to take her daughter, who was out in the hall, home and we'd call her when we decided what to do. Good plan.
Then, just as she was leaving, I asked her if she might want to check the baby's head to see if it had engaged in my pelvis because things had felt different the night before, like maybe the baby had dropped. "Good idea" she said.
And she grabbed that little baby head through my stomach and wiggled back and forth, the standard check. And she gasped.
"OH. MY. GOSH. That baby is still floating, Clancy!" Helene exclaimed. "I can't believe it!"
I couldn't believe it either. Just like everything else about this experience, this had never happened before. My babies have always dropped and been engaged at a normal time and stayed put. Not Brynja. She was floating all around in her little warm world with no interest in "dropping" into that exit position.
"This changes things, Clancy." Helene told me.
She explained to me that, since my water was broken and the baby was not engaged, it significantly increased the risk of cord abruption and we needed to get things happening sooner rather than later.
I think this was about the time that Dustin showed up, appetite sated, and he was brought up to speed on recent discoveries. Helene decided to go ahead and check how far I was dilated so we knew where we were starting from. At my last appointment I was dilated to a measly 2 cm. She checked and, disappointed, told me I was not quite 3 cm.
Everyone was a little dismayed that I wasn't any further along than that. Helene, knowing how I felt about induction, told me what she thought the best course of action was: Pitocin. She wanted to put me on Pit and the monitors so they could watch the baby and make sure there was no problems with the cord and then take me off Pit when I was dilated to 5 or 6 cm and let me finish on my own. Dustin and I, not wanting to risk something as dangerous as cord abruption, concurred that Pitocin was the best course of action.
Lucky for me, I was already hooked up to an I.V. so they just plugged in the Pit too. I noticed the contractions picking up soon after they plugged me in but they were fairly easy. Helene had left to take her daughter home and told me to have the nurses call her when I thought I needed her.
I know that the time was 12:30 pm when it all started, but there were no other markers of the time in my memory of that afternoon, except when it all ended at 7:14 pm.
I don't remember time, but I do remember the various stages of those seven hours. Those easy first contractions didn't last very long and quickly morphed into something I was having to breathe through. In my past labors I managed on my own with deep slow breaths and focused relaxation until I hit about 5 or 6 cm. So I did that for a little while. And I mean little. In no time at all I had Dustin in my face, back to the role he knew so well, Labor Coach. I had to change breathing patterns from those slow deep breaths to our "Ratio Breathing" that had gotten me through those tough contractions of the past. We did that for a while and then a nurse came in to check on us. She watched me go through a contraction and told me what great control I had. I managed a weak smile. I wasn't feeling so great.
Another contraction started up and I told her that she better call Helene because I was panting. It felt like I might be pushing soon.
The nurses called Helene at my request and then decided to check my cervix. At this point I was working HARD to keep myself focused and in control during the contractions, and I felt like I might need to push soon. I was sure I was going to be at least 7 cm dilated. I was working as hard as I ever had at 7, so it had to be so. The nurse checked me and gave me a 4 on my report card. What? Did she just say 4 cm? WHAT?! You've got to be kidding me. I couldn't believe it. COULD. NOT. BELIEVE. IT.
So, I continued on, breathing, moving as much as I could, tethered to the monitor and the I.V. cart as I was. (FYI, if you've never experienced unmedicated labor, moving helps A LOT in your ability to deal with the pain. At least it does for me and most women I've talked to.)
I had invited a few people to come to the delivery room., and one by one they showed up at various points throughout the day. My mom was first and then my dad. My good friend Rebby came at some point. And lastly, my sister Lacy. Some people freak out when I say that my dad was in the room. Labor is a personal experience and I'm ok with him there, so get over it! ;-) My dad coached my mom on all five of their kids (all unmedicated except my own birth) and he loves and honors the process of birth. He was there for several of his grandchildrens' births and since all his daughters are now done having babies, I wanted to make sure he was here as it was likely the last birth he'd be able to witness. And he was so grateful.
So I was working through contractions and they were getting harder and harder. Helene showed up again after they called her and I only remember begging her repeatedly to turn off the Pitocin. She wanted me to be at 5 or 6 cm before they turned it off though, so I continued. And before I was actually there, I begged some more and asked if I was a 5 cm yet.
Things get hazy here. Early on in this story, when I wasn't even having contractions, I mentioned that I was "dozey". I was falling asleep before I even started but, as things slowly progressed I got more and more tired. I remember hanging on the birth bar during a contraction. I was so exhausted that I couldn't even stand back up after the contraction ended. Dustin had to pull me up by my armpits. And I wasn't even at 5 cm yet! On that same birth bar I remember crying in between contractions. Sobbing... dripping tears and snot off my face. My brain was wacked out and I was completely exhausted and things were moving slow and contractions were coming HARD and FAST. It was misery at it's finest.
It was then that Helene suggested that I have a change of scenery. She had checked me at some point and I passed whatever milestone she was looking for before she turned off the Pit. I think she said I was at 7 cm then. In all honesty, I don't even remember the Pit getting turned off. I only know it was because she let me go try the shower or the jacuzzi. I chose the shower first. Bad move. It was FREEZING. For some reason, I didn't want to get my hair wet, so I was contracting, freezing and trying to keep water off my hair. Did I mention that I was crazy in my brain at that point? I really was.
The shower wasn't cutting it so I asked for the jacuzzi. It was down the hall and I remember trying to dry off and get to the jacuzzi before another contraction came. Dustin could tell I had one coming while I was in the hall and tried to stop me to get prepped for it. I pushed him aside and just told him to HURRY! I practically ran into the jacuzzi room, threw my hospital gown off and jumped into the water. I was insane.
I stayed in the jacuzzi for something like an hour to an hour and a half, I'd guess. Off Pitocin, my contractions started slowing down. It actually allowed me to rest between contractions which was just what I needed, I think. I remember falling asleep as I lay in the water. I only knew I was asleep because I had dreams. And I woke up to yet another contraction.
I remember making some crazy noises trying to deal with the pain. My voice got all hoarse from whatever I did. I remember feeling sorry for how pathetic my voice sounded. It sounded like a baby that has cried too long in it's bed. You know that scream? So sad. So pathetic. That was my worn out voice.
Dustin told me later that I had completely checked out at that point. I think he said it was about 5:00 when I got in the jacuzzi. He told me he gave up about that time. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know how to help me anymore. I was off in my brain and body somewhere and I wouldn't come back and focus on him no matter what he tried. That had never happened before either. He's always been my rock. I would always turn to him and he would keep me grounded. In retrospect, I am 100% positive that it was the Pitocin coursing through my body that made me so nutty. Hormones make women crazy and Pit is just a synthetic hormone. I was out of my mind and didn't cope well at all. At least not compared to how I usually am in labor. I would lay there sleeping or zoning, sit up and howl through a contraction and then slide back into my stupor.
I remember laying in one of those stupors between contractions, sort of sleeping. It had been just Dustin and I in the jacuzzi room for a while. I heard the door open and I saw, through the thin crack I had let my eyes open, legs walking in the room. Legs wearing scrubs followed by legs wearing black velour pants, my mom's legs. I heard Helene whisper the question to Dustin, "How is she?"
"I think she's going backward," he whispered back.
That wasn't good, was it? There was longer and longer in between contractions giving me respites that I desperately needed. Can't be all bad. I remembered at a few moments in that jacuzzi thinking that maybe I should get an epidural. I really thought it would never end. Never.
Helene spoke to me then. "Clancy?"
I opened my eyes.
I think we need to do something different. Your contractions are slowing down and I think we need to get them going again. I'm thinking you need to get up and walk some, or maybe we could put you back on Pitocin for a little while.
*Whimper from Clancy.*
My mom heard the desperation in that sound. And, being my mom, offered another option. "Clancy," she said and looked right into my eyes, as only my mom can. "Maybe you can get out of this tub, go back to your room and get checked. Maybe you're really close and you just need to move a little bit to get things going again. At least then you can make more of an informed decision."
"Ok." I croaked with my howling-scream tired voice.
We managed to get back to the bed in my room. As Helene checked me I saw her eyebrows draw down and in a crestfallen voice, she told me, "Clancy... you're still a seven."
And, in Rebby's words, this is when Clancy swore. No one said anything then, but all those present in the room were ACHING for me. I hadn't progressed at all in the last almost two hours. I can't remember whether or not I cried.
Helene just looked at me with a furrowed brow for a minute or two. "What do you want to do?"
I had no idea. I wanted to die. I remember asking Helene to just make it come out. Just get it out, please.
Her face shifted a little bit. Light came into her eyes and she said, "You know, I wonder if that membrane is completely ruptured?"
"When I was checking you, I thought I felt some membrane still covering the baby's head."
"How can that be?" I asked. "My water is broken, right?" Clearly, from all the "gushing" fluids earlier.
She told me that the amniotic sac actually has two layers. The outer one is thick and strong and the inner one is thin and weak and they usually break together. She even told me the names of them, but I don't recall them now. It might have been that just the outer layer broke.
"Would you like me to see if I can break that?" she asked.
"Sure. Yep. Do it." I replied.
So, the nurse fetched her the magic crochet hook and voila! There was still a little membrane left that she broke.
And that's when all hell broke loose.
...To be continued....