Ever since I learned I was pregnant, I’d wanted to have a natural (i.e., no drugs, and no artificial induction if possible) childbirth. If there was an issue with Scout’s health, I would be open to inducing labor. Otherwise, I wanted Scout to remain on his/her own schedule.
They checked the baby’s heartbeat at the OBGYN’s office that morning. It was its usual 140. They did an ultrasound and checked the amount of amniotic fluid available; everything looked good. As far as they could tell, the baby was healthy and thriving.
Then it was time to talk to the doctor.
I don’t remember the details of the conversation. I do know that I expressed my desire to let Scout pick his or her own birthday, and not to induce unless medically necessary.
But at some point, she mentioned “stillbirth”—something about how, as the pregnancy goes further past term, the chance of stillbirth increases.
I imagined giving birth to a stillborn child. I was horrified. She wanted to talk about induction. With the word "stillbirth" echoing in my mind, I listened.
Somehow, when we left the doctor’s office that morning, I’d agreed to check into the hospital the following morning so they could break my water and get my labor started. I had a bad feeling about it; this was exactly what I didn’t want. But then, I would get the image of that stillborn child …
No, I told myself. My baby is healthy; the heartbeat is fine, and the ultrasound showed that everything is normal. The baby isn’t even too big, even though it’s a week past due. Scout is fine, and I don’t need to force him/her out before he/she is ready.
I went to work that day. There was a lot to be done at work, so I didn’t think much about the decision we’d made that morning. But when I got home that evening, I thought back to the morning’s appointment. Had I really agreed to let them induce labor? What if the water breaking didn’t work? Would they then need to give me pitocin? And if they did, wouldn’t an epidural be next? And what if there were complications with the epidural? What if I couldn’t push, or my blood pressure shot through the roof? Wouldn’t a C-section naturally follow?
I agonized. I cried. I talked to Hubster. Everything felt wrong. I honestly felt like I was doing something morally wrong by inducing labor when it wasn’t medically necessary. Not only that, I felt like I was being unfair to Scout. So Scout wasn’t ready to be born yet; who was I to force him or her?
I tried to sleep. I couldn’t. The tears just kept coming. I couldn’t do this. The appointment had been made at the hospital, and they would be waiting for me that morning, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let them induce labor.
But then there was that image of the stillborn child being taken from my womb.
I woke up the Hubster. I cried. We talked for a couple of hours. We finally agreed that we would call the hospital in the morning and tell them that I wouldn’t be coming in. We would wait for Scout to come on his/her own, even if it meant waiting another week or more.
December 12, 2009. Around 2:30 a.m., exhausted from the tears and emotional stress (following what had been a full day at work), I finally fell asleep.
I woke up at 3:30. As had become typical throughout my pregnancy, my bladder was on the point of bursting, and I needed to maneuver myself out of the bed and race to the bathroom before I peed all over myself. So far, I hadn't had any accidents. But this time, when I got to the bathroom, I thought, “Oh, no. I think I finally did it. I finally peed all over myself."
But (and I know this is TMI), it didn't smell like pee. So I thought, “Is it possible that my water broke?”
I woke up the Hubster. “I think my water broke. Maybe.”
Hubster and I decided that we’d go to the hospital for our scheduled time, to check and see if my water had broken. If it hadn’t, we would come home. We spent the next few hours wide awake, waiting, timing the contractions that had begun.
At 6:30 that morning, we were on our way to the hospital. I was having regular contractions, maybe five minutes apart. They weren’t very painful. I still wasn’t sure if my water had broken, since I’d been having regular contractions, on and off, for a couple of weeks. I wasn’t particularly excited; I knew this might be another false alarm.
At the hospital, we learned that my water had indeed broken. Labor had begun.
One of my original “birth plan” components was that I wanted most of my labor to occur at home. Since we were already at the hospital, we decided to stay there. We had no way of knowing how many (or how few) hours of labor were ahead of us. We were going to stay put.
My parents got to the hospital later that morning, then my sister. I ate a donut. The contractions weren’t bad. The nurse was surprised at my relative lack of pain, considering how close together the contractions were. “Some people just don’t have a lot of pain,” she said. “Maybe you’re one of them.” I could only hope.
I didn’t wear any kind of a monitor. I didn’t have an IV. I wasn’t planning on using pitocin or getting an epidural, so neither of these were necessary. These were all part of my desire to have a natural childbirth. I also had a room with a large birthing tub. I planned to use the birthing tub for pain management, and possibly for a water birth. We also had a birthing ball, which I also planned to use to help manage the pain.
Wouldn’t it be cool if there was very little pain at all?
I was exhausted. I tried to sleep for an hour or so, but I’ve never been one who could sleep during the day. Glenn Gould played the Goldberg Variations on the CD player, but it didn’t do the trick. I wasn’t going to sleep.
I drank lots of water. I walked. I waited.
The contractions were getting longer and more painful. I don’t know when they went from being mildly painful to moderately painful, or from moderately painful to very painful. It was mid-afternoon when I said, “OK, I’m ready for the tub.” I’d read that hot baths are excellent for pain management during labor.
They ran the water and filled the tub. The water was cold.
They emptied the tub and filled it with hot water. The water was brown.
Turns out they were doing something with the fire hydrants in the area, and the water wasn’t fit for birthing. They were going to need to run the hot water for a long time to get all the impurities out of it.
Meanwhile, I was on the birth ball, groaning. The real pain had begun. I don’t know how many centimeters dilated I was at the time. But I was hurting. The birth ball helped. But I was a long way from pain-free.
At one point, Hubster said, "One step at a time. Just one step at a time. It's just like the AT."
"No!" I yelled. "This is not anything like the AT!"
At another point my mom came in and asked if I was having fun yet. I exercised great self-control and simply said, "Be quiet."
Come to think of it, I was pretty polite thoughout the whole ordeal.
Finally, the tub was ready. Ahhhh. What a relief. It felt so good. The warm water felt wonderful and allowed me to forget about the pain … until the next contraction, which was just as painful as the previous one had been. I moaned. I groaned. I held Hubster’s hand. I bit down on a washcloth.
“Breathe through the contractions. Relax. Don’t tense up your belly muscles.” All the mantras and good advice were right there in my head, but I couldn’t relax. I was so exhausted. I tried very hard to relax, to breathe deeply. It would work for a contraction, or part of one, but then the exhaustion kept clouding things up.
I got out of the tub and back onto the ball.
Dan had come to me an hour or so earlier. “I just talked to the nurse. She said that, if you want to consider an epidural, you need to let her know. The anesthesiologist is a good half-hour away. Do you want us to contact--”
“No,” I said. “I don’t want an epidural.”
I was on the ball, swaying my hips, trying to breathe into the contractions. Then another contraction came and I saw little silver slivers clouding my vision. I felt myself losing my balance, then gaining it again immediately.
I’d never seen little silver slivers due to pain. Or if I had, it had been a long time.
I got back into the tub. It was at that point, probably around 5:30 p.m., that Dan came to me again and asked if I wanted them to call the anesthesiologist.
"Last chance," he said.
I paused. This wasn’t what I wanted. But I was exhausted. I was spent.
“I can’t take this anymore,” I murmured.
“So you want them to call the anesthesiologist?”
Weeks before, I’d asked myself the question, “Under what circumstances would I agree to an epidural?” And my answer had been, “If I’m in labor for 24 hours and so exhausted I can’t go on.”
Well, I’d only been in labor for 14 hours so far. But I also hadn’t slept the night before because I’d been crying so hard. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t have any more fight in me.
I got into the bed to wait for the anesthesiologist. I was 8 cm dilated. My sister was in the room with me, as was the Hubster. I asked my sister, “Would you like to be in the room for the delivery?” Her eyes got big and she smiled. “I would love to.”
Once the epidural kicked in, around 7 p.m., I could breathe easy again. But I didn’t get to relax for long. At 8:00, it was time to push.
And I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. They set up a mirror so I could see the progress. It took forever to get it situated just so. But that was OK, because I had to push forever.
In reality, I only had to push for about an hour. The baby got stuck in the crowning position for about ten minutes; called “supercrowning,” she never went back in whenever I stopped pushing. She just stayed there. Stretching me.
“It hurts,” I said. “It really hurts.” The epidural wasn’t doing anything for the pain of the crowning.
“Just push through the pain,” said the midwife. “Just keep pushing.”
So I pushed. And pushed. And pushed.
And finally, at 8:51 p.m., the baby was born. I can remember seeing Dan help “catch” the baby, and then Amanda, the midwife, expertly maneuvering it out. They placed it on my belly, and I took it into my arms.
Oh, how that baby cried! “Don’t cry, baby,” I said through my own tears. “It’s okay. Don’t cry, baby.”
“What is it? What is it?” Somewhere in the haze of my emotions, I could hear my sister asking the question. It was a boy. Of course it was a boy. I looked between the little baby’s legs, searching for the telltale sign.
“Where is it?” I thought. “Where is it?”
Then it struck me. It wasn’t supposed to be there. This was a little girl!
“It’s a girl! Oh my God, it’s a girl!”
“Little Anne Megan,” I said. “Little Anne Megan Rogers.”
I took her to my breast and she immediately started nursing—and stopped crying. At some point shortly after, Dan cut the umbilical cord.
Remember all that pain I was feeling? That was my skin tearing. I had second-degree tears. Apparently, they were pretty bad, and I had to get stitches in several places. At some point, they weighed and measured the baby, who was 7 pounds, 10 ounces, and 19.5 inches long.
Once I was stitched up, my parents came into the room to meet their little granddaughter. And that’s when the pictures began.
So, that is my birth story. Not everything turned out the way I’d hoped, but some things did. Some unplanned things—like having my sister in the delivery room—made the experience infinitely more meaningful. I’m so glad we didn’t find out the sex before Anne was born; it was such a wonderful surprise to find that our baby, who we just knew was going to be a boy, was actually a little girl.
I am so thankful we had a healthy pregnancy and a complication-free delivery. I’m so thankful for my wonderful husband, my sister, and my parents, and the fact that they could be there to welcome little Anne into the world. And I’m thankful for Amanda, who was such a calming presence for me during the delivery. I’m thankful for the nurses, even though I was ready to use one of them as a punching bag when the contractions got really bad.
Most of all, I’m thankful for my sweet little Anne. Nine months of pregnancy and sixteen hours of labor was a small price to pay for this amazing gift.
As I re-read this post, I realize that I've forgotten to include a lot of things: how I typed Facebook updates to help distract me from the pain, how my mom found me biting the plastic side of the bed during one contraction, how I lost all sense of modesty somewhere that afternoon ... but I've written most of the important things.
~ The End ~