I’m going to warn you up front that this story may have more detail than you’d like to read. But I hope my experience helps someone else who has a childbirth outside her hopes and plans.
I was due with Grant on April 18th and all my measurements were on target with that date. I gained a whopping 50lbs with this pregnancy and a good percentage of that was in the last 6 weeks. I lost my mucus plug at 35 weeks was 50% effaced and started to dialate a little. I continued to experience long periods of contractions from that time forward that would eventually stop without helping to progress labor any. At 41 weeks I was exhausted from being up at night with contractions, yet hadn’t dialted or effaced any more for all the work. 5 of my 6 babies had been induced by AROM near 42 weeks, mainly because I have so much amniotic fluid that it prevents the contractions from putting pressure on the cervix.
The day before my 41st week appointment, I felt Grant move in a big way and then all the kicking was down low instead of high like the rest of my pregnancy. I was afraid that he had turned breech and was upset with myself for not letting the midwife induce me earlier when he was positioned correctly. But at my appointment she felt that he was head down and I didn’t worry as much. I decided to schedule the induction for the next day. Normally my inductions only require AROM (arificial rupture of membranes) which removes the pocket of water and allows my contractions to be effective.
This time my midwife wasn’t sure this would be enough. She started talking about pitocin and cervidil, two drugs I’d never used before. I was anxious about it, becuase I wanted a natural delivery. I wasn’t confident I would be able to deliver without pain medication if they administered pitocin.
Darren took me to dinner at Smokehouse Bar-B-Q, the same restaurant he took me to the day I found out we were expecting Heidi, our first. We went to the hospital from the restaurant to start cervidil to help the cervix ripen. They offered me a sleeping pill since this process can start early labor which would keep me up all night, but I didn’t take it for fear that it would make the baby sleepy too.
I was up all night listening to the heart monitor for the baby. Grant’s heartbeat seemed to be unusually slow and would slow even more during a contraction. The nurses would run in and out during the night messing with the monitor to make sure it was reading correctly. Finally they rolled me to my right side instead of the customary left and Grant’s heartbeat came closer to normal. The cord and placenta were on the left side and when I lay that way it reduced his oxygen supply.
During that long night, I tested the idea that I might not be bringing a baby home with me. My own blood pressure was taken every 15 minutes or so and hovered around 90/50 which is low even for me. I was afraid to go to sleep, wondering if I would be able to wake up.
In the morning, they broke my water and instead of Grant’s head moving down into position, it floated up and away. The midwife kept her fingers in place to prevent the cord from prolapsing down while the labor nurse pushed on my stomach to force Grant’s head down. When they were satisfied, they got me up to walk around. My contractions started coming stronger, but not strong enough and at several points I leaned against the wall to cry. Something was wrong…I could feel it.
After an hour, they brought me back to the room for fetal monitoring and to check my progress. When the labor nurse checked the cervix and for Grant’s head, she felt something else…a foot. Grant had positioned himself sideways in the womb to make more room for his foot by his ear, which explains why all the kicking was down low. This took the pressure off the cervix again and made the contractions ineffective.
We called for the elder’s from our church as described in James 5:14 to annoint with oil and pray for a healing. Meanwhile the nurse tickled Grant’s foot on the inside while pressing on the outside to encourage him to pull his foot back. This was most effectively done during a contraction which was very painful. She suggested we try pitocin to make my contractions stronger which might make him uncomfortable enough to pull his foot back and straighten out in the womb.
This was the beginning of my biggest fear. Pitocin, leading to an epidural, leading to an ineffective labor and infant in distress, leading to a c-section. But without trying all options, I was headed to a c-section any way. I gave the okay to start the pitocin and the elder’s came to pray. After they left, the nurse suggested I get on all fours and lay my head down on the bed. She thought the change in gravity might inspire Grant to move. This was a very uncomfortable way to labor, but after a few minutes I felt a huge movment in my womb.
The nurse went to check my cervix again and when she inserted her fingers, he grabbed one of them with his fist. He certainly had moved, just not in the way we had hoped. I knew they would need to try manually adjusting his position again and the dread and fear of the pain made me wish for a c-section just to make it all end.
Then I thought about the epidural. It would be better to have that in place already if we needed an emergency c-section. Without it they would have to use a general anesthetic, admit me to the main portion of the hospital for recovery, Darren wouldn’t be allowed to join me for the surgery, and I would need to pump and dump my milk until the drugs were out of my system. I started to ask questions about the epidural. I found out that it doesn’t cross the placenta, it could cause my blood pressure to drop even lower (a concern that they would monitor closely), and that I would no longer be able to move about (a relief.) I told her to request the anesthesiologist and then I cried.
I had to mourn the loss of the perfect labor I had dreamed about. And relieve some of the stress of wondering if Grant and I would be okay. It’s amazing what good a little cry can do to lift the spirits and bring on new resolve. I knew God was with me and I tried not to think about the judgements of family who would not understand or approve of the medical choices I was making.
The epidural brought instant relief, both from pain and from anxiety. The nausea went away. I was able to think clearly and communicate with the medical staff. I was instantly ready to face another labor and delivery if God chose to bless us with another child.
I was nearly completely dialated at this point and Grant was still in a bad position. The midwife decided to try one more thing. She put on a long veterinary glove and reached her entire hand into my womb. She was able with one hand to straighten out Grant’s arms and legs, pulling them back into position. The labor nurse then pressed on the outside of my stomach to engage his head into the pelvis, hopefully locking him into place. I couldn’t feel anything this time except for a little pressure. It worked! Grant’s heart rate improved, and they tucked me into bed for a nap. I had been awake for nearly 30 hours by this time and had nothing to eat for a night and day.
After a little rest, Grant was born in just a few minutes. Pushing was different with an epidural. I had to concentrate to discern what was just pressure from Grant being so low and what was a true contraction. When he was born, he was bluish purple and did not breathe without an oxygen mask and help from the nurses. I did not feel strong enough to hold him, and was ready to give his care over to my husband and the nurses. After getting a good meal and nursing him for a few hours those feelings totally changed and I didn’t want to put him down. I’m so thankful for the love of God that allowed me to endure the hard labor and that ultimately brought forth life.