From the beginning of this pregnancy, I kept thinking to myself that the second child comes easier. Somewhere along the way, I changed that to “earlier” in my mind. Maybe that is not always true, but I had to believe that it would be. Because pregnancy and me aren’t the best of friends. In spite of this, somehow I was induced without an epidural, and I’m here to tell you it’s possible. Here is Nora’s birth story.
The third trimester
By the third trimester, I felt like a runner who can see the finish line but all the sudden wonders if he can make it there. I was becoming more and more tired and uncomfortable, and sleep was getting even harder. There were nights when I didn’t get any true sleep at all. Thanks a lot, body. Don’t you know I should have been saving up my sleep??
Two weeks before my due date, I began to feel like baby was really low. Walking was…uncomfortable to say the least. People started giving me those looks like “Sorry, sister”. My doctor said she didn’t think I’d make it to my due date, and I agreed. So I went home and began finalizing everything for baby to come any day now.
My due date
Two weeks later, I went to my appointment praying that I would seem more progressed than the week before (which was no more than the week before that!). No contractions yet, and no discharge. Nothing to indicate that I would be going into labor any time soon.
I was still dilated between 2 and 3 cm. No progress.
I cried on the phone with Ryan as I drove back home. I was ready to hold my baby! And now my doctor wanted to induce me the day after I turned 41 weeks.
The whole pregnancy, I had almost been looking forward to labor. Not because it’s some transcendent experience. Don’t worry I’m not one of those people who thinks birth is wonderful and should be painless. I was so thankful that I didn’t have to be induced with Genny, and my experience turned out to be pretty great with her birth. I was looking forward to being able to do that again…only maybe shorter this time.
I like natural births because I’m able to be in control the whole time. I’m able to face the contractions and the pain and overcome them, then I’m rewarded at the end with a beautiful little baby. So I resolved that if I did have to be induced, I would still do it without an epidural.
I also resolved to try everything possible to get that baby to start coming on her own.
Trying to induce labor naturally (and avoid having to be induced)
So for the next week I did everything I could, short of castor oil. I tried over 15 different methods of natural induction.
My hope was that if I couldn’t get her to come on her own, I could go to my appointment at 41 weeks and ask if I could delay the induction.
But that idea was shattered with a call from the nurse who told me she had cancelled my appointment Wednesday morning since I was scheduled to go in to start being induced Wednesday night.
No way around it
To say I was not happy is an understatement. I was mad. And weepy. What made me most upset was that my doctor wanted to do this against my wishes, even when I asked if we could postpone it. I really liked her, and she delivered Genny, but I was really broken up about the situation. I felt like she wanted to induce me so it was more convenient for her, since she wasn’t on call that weekend. She had also indicated that she didn’t like patients to go past 41 weeks because of the increased risk of stillbirth.
I understand that last reason, but at the same time there were no red flags in my pregnancy. My first baby went 11 days past her due date, then she came perfectly fine on her own time. They always say, babies come when they’re ready. I also wondered if my due date had been a week off based on when I ovulated, which was later than the average.
Try to discuss those types of things with your average doctor though. They dismiss it immediately without another thought. If I was right, however, that would have put my due date at October 10th rather than October 2nd.
People told me that I didn’t have to do what my doctor said if I didn’t want to. But if you know me, I’m terrible at standing up for myself in front of doctors. I will pretty much go along with whatever they say in the moment, then complain about it later. Ryan also really felt like I should do what my doctor said, so, still mad and weepy, I went along with it.
All this to say…I was in fact induced.
But it wasn’t that simple.
In the beginning: The night I was supposed to be induced
My mom arrived to pick up Genny at 4 pm Wednesday night. All our bags were packed and sitting by the door.
At 4:30pm, I got a phone call from Labor and Delivery saying that they were really busy and needed me to wait to come in. “We’ll call you,” she said.
“Do you think it will be before midnight?” I asked because they told me not to eat or drink anything past midnight.
“I hope so,” the lady answered.
So Ryan and I, having our evening suddenly free, decided to go out to dinner. We had a nice meal, though it felt very strange to be waiting for a phone call to go to the hospital to have a baby.
Afterwards, we brought some food to friends of ours who were in the same hospital. All the while waiting for the phone call.
Finally, we went home and decided to go on a walk then go to bed. At 9pm. I left my phone ringer on, and we tried to calm our nerves and get some sleep before we were up for God knew how long.
I drifted in and out of sleep, not getting much. At 1:30am I got up to use the bathroom. I wondered if they had forgotten about me or if they would just call in the morning. I decided I didn’t care and maybe I would go into labor by the time they decided to call.
Well I must have jinxed it because as soon as I had laid back down with this hopeful thought, my phone rang.
Part of me thought I should have ignored it. It was 1:30am after all. It was ludicrous to ask me to come in at this time.
But I did.
And they did.
So we did.
The day I was induced
At 2am, we walked into L&D. Still resentful, and now even more-so, I grumbled the whole time about how we shouldn’t be there.
The nurses got me into a room at 3am, hooked me up to all the things, then put in the Cervidil. I hoped that would be enough to start my contractions.
So I laid down and tried to sleep. Have you ever tried sleeping in a hospital bed with an IV in one arm and nurses coming in to “check on you” every hour?
It’s nearly impossible.
I may have fallen asleep for 45 minutes.
Ryan got more sleep, somehow. Though he woke up and instantly regretted having slept at all, his back hurt so badly. Those rooms really aren’t designed for comfort.
Breaking my water and starting Pitocin
At 8am, my doctor showed up to check on me. She brought no encouraging news, however, as I was still somehow only dilated to about 2.5cm. I asked if they could break my water before they started me on Pitocin in one last effort to start contractions on my own.
They broke my water, then my doctor said she would come back around 3pm.
Ryan and I passed the time by watching TV and sneaking me gluten free pretzels. They told me not to eat anything, but come on! I hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before. Around noon they told me I could have a little something, so we both had Honey Nut Cheerios.
At about the same time, I started to feel contractions. They were irregular and didn’t get too bad, but I was hopeful.
Unfortunately, at about 2pm they slowed down. It was so frustrating! I felt so close to the end, and I just wanted my body to start doing it’s thing on its own. I just knew that if they started me on Pitocin it was going to be a rough ride. My body obviously doesn’t like doing things before it’s ready.
At 3:30pm they did in fact start me on a Pitocin drip. My nurse started me at 2ml/minute. Every-time I seemed to have stalled, she upped it by 2 or 4ml/minute. My parents came in with Genny at 4pm, and my mom wanted to stay. But I wasn’t progressing, and I hardly felt the contractions yet, so I asked her to come back later. The thought of having someone else in there for who knew how long caused my anxiety to skyrocket. I told her to come back around 8pm. At the time, that sounded like forever away.
Starting to make progress
My contractions finally began to even out around 5pm. And began to actually hurt. Ryan kept slipping me pretzels because I was so tired and hungry I would have thrown up if he hadn’t. I don’t know if the nurse would have been happy about that, but I didn’t wait to find out and made sure to gobble them up before she came in again.
By 8pm I was literally ready to start calling for my mommy. My contractions were becoming so severe I had to almost step outside of myself to endure them. Sometimes contractions are described as a wave – rising and falling. Well, these waves would wash over me, but instead of then falling and fading away, another wave, even bigger and badder than the one before it, would smack me in the face.
The metaphorical face.
Feeling like I couldn’t go on much longer
Eventually I couldn’t help but sound like the poor woman I’d heard moaning from the room next to me the night before. Once the second half of those contractions hit, I started wondering if I was going to be able to get through this. I wondered what would happen if I just gave up. Would they perform a c-section? That didn’t sound so bad anymore. Just cut me up, pull her out, I’m done.
When I had Genny, I remember feeling this way. I told Ryan that I couldn’t do it much longer, and he encouraged me to keep going because it was almost over. And in fact it was. By the time I reached the brink of my endurance, it was time to push, and Genny was born an hour later.
Not this time. The nurse checked me around 8pm, and I was only 4 cm dilated. I wanted to cry, but I was too tired so I just moaned some more. I told Ryan I couldn’t do this for another 6 hours. He told me again and again that I was doing such a great job. At one point, I remember thinking that he was only saying that to encourage me. I was surviving. So if that’s what you consider to be a great job, then sure.
Being induced vs going into labor on my own
I did not feel like I was in the zone, like I was letting the contractions wash over me. During labor last time, I remember being able to go almost into a meditative state, where I could relax and let the pain wash over me then dissipate. Because of the Pitocin, this time I couldn’t get into a rhythm. The increasing severity of my contractions was inconstent, so sometimes I was taken by surprise with how hard and long they were. At the same time, some were less painful than others. I remember thinking how strange it was when that happened, but then I realized it meant my nurse was going to up my Pitocin dosage.
Epidural or no…?
When you say you’re going to try and not have an epidural, they’re pretty good about not offering it to you at that hospital. As I was breaking the bones in Ryan’s hand (not literally, I was nicer to him this time around), I briefly wondered if the nurse wanted to ask if I wanted one. I don’t know if there really is a cut-off to when you can get one, but by the last couple hours I seriously considered asking.
It was 10pm, and I was only 6 cm dilated. The hopelessness washed over me. My poor nurse was so sweet, I could tell when she was checking me that she didn’t want to tell me the truth. At one point she stopped telling me the number and just said, “You’re coming along.” Nice try. When she said that, I knew it wasn’t good news, but I made her tell me anyway.
For more than two hours, I barely dilated 2 cm. The late hours of the night were changing to the early hours of the morning, and still I wasn’t dilated enough to start pushing.
The pushing sensation
At about 11:30pm, with each contraction I began to feel that familiar pressure sensation. You know, the one you get when you have to poop. That’s the signal that you’re almost ready to start pushing, and I was ecstatic to feel that feeling. The end seemed nearer. Maybe I could stick it out after all!
Of course, I hollered for my nurse to check me again. Some people don’t want to be checked if at all until they’re ready to push, especially when their waters have been broken, but I was on an antibiotic IV anyway, I wasn’t worried about infection. I was more concerned with being able to mentally motivate myself to get through to the end. If I knew I was making progress, I could better focus.
Again, I was disappointed. I was dilated to an 8.
At this point, I’d felt like I was dying from the inside out for about 5 hours, and with 2 whole centimeters left to go there was no telling how long it would be to the end.
My body continues to resist
This was the whole reason I was so resistant to being induced. Forcing my body to do something it wasn’t ready for kept making my labor stall, and with each stall came more Pitocin, and with each additional ml/minute the contractions grew more ferocious and out of control. I felt the chaos of it all in my uterus. The push back. My body may as well have been shouting, “No, I don’t wanna!”
What really got me was when my nurse said that Nora wasn’t low enough. For four weeks I had felt her so low in my belly that walking had become awkward. She felt so low, I thought I could reach down there and feel the top of her head. All those lunges and squats and miles and miles of walking… and she wasn’t low enough?? After now a good 12 hours of labor??
Birthing positions and my “birthing team”
When the contractions first started, I alternated between the peanut ball, a “birthing ball” (or exercise ball), and this strange seat thing designed to mimic the effect of sitting backwards on the toilet. Personally I preferred the toilet because all the gunk that comes out during labor could come when it pleased. I finally lost my mucus plug around 11 or 12, I think, which was pretty late to me. I felt like I was more excited about that than my nurse, which told me that it didn’t necessarily mean much.
Everyone kept saying, “You’re coming along” and “You’re doing amazing”. Sweet, but I kind of wanted to tell them to shove it. In the moment, that felt like the very, very, very last thing that was going to help. When you’re running a marathon, it doesn’t help to hear someone tell you you’re doing great when you still have 20 miles left to go. In my case, I felt like it could be 20 miles or 40 miles.
A couple of times, my nurse asked me to get in bed and lay on my side during contractions because the baby’s heart rate was elevated. Not sure why this happened except that there was a lot going on, and she was getting ready to come out. But when I did lay down for a few minutes, her heart rate went back down.
While I wanted to either sit on the ball or on the toilet pretty much the whole time, my nurse told me that alternative positions would help me progress faster.
If she’d told me that climbing 30 fights of stairs would make me progress faster, I would have dragged my sorry, excruciating carcass up and down those bad boys.
Fortunately she made no such claim, but she did suggest some less-than-comfortable positions, and every 30-45 minutes Ryan would have me change to a different one. One position was laying on one side with my legs straddling a small peanut-shaped ball. Another was standing and rocking back and forth.
It was past 12am when the pressure sensation kept getting stronger with each contraction. I listened hard to my body to try and discern if it was really telling me it was time or not. I wanted the next time I called that nurse in to be the last time. So I pulled my body out of the bed and did squats, clutching the hospital bed with my shaking hands.
The amazing Papa: Available for encourage, support, and abuse
Ryan was right beside me the whole time. He only even took a bathroom break a couple times – which maybe is tmi…? He was fantastic, and so sweet. He wanted to help. He told me over and over to do whatever I needed to do, even bite or punch or strangle him. Sometimes I wanted him to hug me close, and other times I felt like I could barely breathe and instead wanted to push him away. There was no rhyme or reason to how I felt through a contraction, I just went with it when it happened.
Wearing out – tired, hungry, and losing it
I was so tired. Despite the horrendous pain, I was hungry, too. The pretzels had long since worn off their effect. Every fifteen minutes or so, I would ask for water, and my mom stepped in at that point to be the “water boy”. I took a tiny sip each time, just enough to ward off the nausea and the dizziness. Any more and I knew it wouldn’t stay down. Now and then I’d ask for peppermint oil to smell (to help with nausea) or chapstick, and my faithful entourage snapped into action.
There was a point near the end when I felt all my strength was gone. I almost fell asleep between contractions, not out of peacefulness but out of shear fatigue. During a contraction I would cry out, moan, and push or pull at Ryan. Then when it had passed, I would grow so still. Just me and my breath. Trying to imagine when it would be over, how I would feel. Now and then I would get a small rush when I remembered I would soon be able to hold my Nora. It’s funny what tiny things get you through.
It was past 12am when the pressure sensation kept getting stronger with each contraction. I listened hard to my body to try and discern if it was really telling me it was time or not. I wanted the next time I called that nurse in to be the last time. So I pulled my body out of the bed and did squats, clutching the hospital bed with my shaking hands. I swayed back and forth, my lips moving as I whispered to myself. Or Nora. Or God. Asking, praying, pleading.
Then suddenly with a contraction came the tremendous urge to push. So much so that I could feel the hidden muscles in my body clench and surge without my consent. I shouted at Ryan, “I really have to push now, I really have to push.” Ryan quickly pushed the nurse Call button, then ran out of the room when someone did not immediately appear.
I jumped in the bed, praying that this was for real, that my body wouldn’t psych me out yet another time and the nurse would have to give me another one of those encouraging but-you’re-not-there-yet smiles.
In the span of thirty seconds, the occupants in my room went from three to about eight. My nurse checked me and said she could feel baby’s head. I kept saying, “I feel like I have to push,” but she told me to wait. I replied that I didn’t know if I could. I felt the baby’s head and the pressure start to build, even though I was trying not to push.
Trying not to push. Essentially I was not actively trying to bear down, but I felt the muscles in my body do it without me. It sounded absurd to me when she said to not push yet. I could taste the end, and I wanted it to come fast. As fast as humanly possible. She told me to wait for my doctor, and I wondered where the hell she was.
It was probably a minute or two before my doctor arrived, but it felt like an eternity to me. She walked in the room, now buzzing with nurses and medical aides setting things up in anticipation of my baby girl’s arrival and the end to my personal hell. The doctor looked at me and at my nurse, whose hand was up my cervix and appeared to be trying to hold the baby in. I doubt that is what she was actually doing, but at the moment in my mind that’s what it was. She kept telling me to wait.
Ready to push
Throughout my pregnancy, and leading up to that moment, there had been a lot of moments where I was irritated with my doctor. But I have to hand it to her, during labor she’s a champ. She tells me exactly what needs to happen in a serious yet normalizing, this-is-going-to-be-fine way. After jumping into her scrubs, she was ready for action. She explained to me that she wanted me to push slowly and on cue because she wanted to prevent any tearing if possible. That sounded great to me, and I nodded, still kind of trying to hold the baby in.
I also became aware that there were now about four other nurses crowded around my bed. One I recognized from a little earlier as the nurse for the baby. A couple others were new faces, and they all were focused on a different job. They had dropped the bottom half of my bed, so my butt was nearly hanging off the edge. My doctor coached me on when to push, and when she gave the word I leaned into that pressure feeling and gave it all I had.
This part amazed me the first time, too, and despite all the terribleness that was the last 24 hours, I now would almost do it again because of this last part. With every push, I literally had a cheering squad urging me on: the nurses, my doctor, Ryan, even my mom though silent on the sidelines. The nurses told me I was doing great, and that time I really needed to hear those words. They told me when they could see her head. They told me when I only needed to push one more time.
About three solid pushes, and it was finally over. It’s a very strange feeling when the baby actually comes out. I used to think that babies come an inch at a time – head first, then slowly the rest. But actually it happens all at once. You feel all this stuff go through you, and it feels very strange. But then you see the doctor holding your baby. And that moment is so crazy.
They held onto her for a second, using a nasal aspirator to suck some fluid from her nostrils and mouth before thrusting her on me. I felt tears welling up but at the same time I was so happy I couldn’t let them go. My heart caught in my throat as I saw my little Nora for the first time.
Nora Lorene – Born Friday, October 11th, at 1:30 AM
She had so much hair, maybe a bit more than Genny. She looked a lot like Genny in fact, which may have been the first thing I said. I was surprised by how big she was, and marveled at the fact that she had been inside me. Holding her felt so familiar and right.
I kissed her head over and over and smelled her baby smell, which given given the circumstance it’s kind of strange that it smells good. Ryan was holding us both in his arms, and for a minute we just stayed there. I have no idea what was going on around us, all I knew was it was over and she was here.
Next, they asked Ryan to cut the cord, and then they took Nora for a few minutes to check her out and weigh her. My doctor coached me through the placenta delivery, which didn’t take but a half-hearted push, then she started stitching up the one small tear I had. While that sounds so icky, at that point you really don’t care. The worst is over, and a couple of stitches down there seems like nothing.
The pediatric nurse said they suctioned a lot of fluid out of Nora’s esophagus and held up a container with 12 ml of cloudy amniotic fluid. They seemed to think that was a significant amount, though I had nothing to compare it to. Nora was 8 pounds 1 ounce and 20.4 inches long.
What I learned the second time around
Though this was my second birth, it was so different from when I had Genny. I did learn that I never want to be induced again if I can help it. If I do, I may choose to have an epidural, but we’ll deal with that when and if it happens.
I learned that giving birth is essentially outside of your control. You cannot tell when it’s going to happen or how it’s going to happen. You can prepare for it the best you can, and you can have preferences on what you would like to do, but when it all comes down to it you have to just go with what happens.
I think that’s why I was so determined to not have an epidural. Nearly everything about Nora’s birth story was out of my control, and I had to just let it all happen to me. But not having an epidural was the one thing I could control. I could feel everything when it happened. Yes, the pain too, and yes it was worse than I could have imagined. But when it was over I could hold on to the one thing that really went my way.
Call me crazy, but that meant something to me. I think it’s important to hold onto something. It may be something small, like wearing your own birthing gown or having the person you love beside you. It sounds like a small thing, but in the moment, you’re feeling more pain than you’ve ever experienced, you’re more exhausted than you thought you could be, and that small thing means everything.
What’s your birth story? Share with me by commenting below!
Love, Emily XOXO