Tuesday, December 7
9:15 I had my 39 week appointment with midwife Cathy; she said I was 3 cm dilated. She offered to strip my membranes at this appointment (39 weeks) when I saw her the previous week and I let her. Afterwards I returned to work, spent some time organizing things for my temporary replacement and left at noon assuming I'd be back at 5pm to train my temp. (In the not-so-back of my mind, I left things well organized in case I didn't come back!)
12:30 I eat lunch at home and realize contractions are starting. I had been having contractions for over a week, they’d be time-able and then space out or go away. These started out at 8-10 minutes apart and were lasting under a minute. I didn’t have to do anything special other than change position how I was sitting or take a few deep breaths to get through them. Emailed Mike at work about an hour later and told him I thought things were happening. His response: tell me when you see the head (I had said this many times in preceding weeks)
3:30pm Contractions still going, I check in with Jill to let her know what’s going on. They’re getting about 5 to 7 minutes apart, still under a minute. Jill encourages me to call Christie Clinic and go in to be checked to see if I’m making progress before they close. I call and they say they don’t do labor checks (despite the fact they told me they did if it was during office hours) and go over the right time to go to the hospital with me, and tell me to go straight there when I’m ready. Cathy’s nurse says they’ll page Cathy when I go into Labor and Delivery that night.
5:30pm Mike gets home from work and eats some dinner. We talk to Jill on the phone. She gives us the quotable line, “You don’t sound like a woman I’d be taking to the hospital to have a baby.” I agree though- I don’t feel anything is bad enough to go to the hospital yet. I’m just annoyed by a few hours of mild contractions more than anything else. Evening continues with contractions about 5-6 minutes apart and 45 seconds, maybe a few right at a minute. Jill tells us to get some sleep and to call her when things pick up in the middle of the night so we can head in.
9:30pm We head to bed. I have a hard time getting comfortable. I end up sleeping about 10:30pm-12am. Then I get up and go downstairs so I don’t wake Mike.
Wednesday, December 8
12-4am These hours kind of suck and are a blur. I remember contractions were spaced out when I woke up at 12am, but then they picked up and got closer together again. I laid on the couch and sat on the birthing ball mostly. Mike came to check on me a couple times and Jill was texting to see how I was doing (in the middle of the night, what an awesome doula!).
4-5am I sleep again for a short while.
6am Mike decides he’s not going in to work in the morning. Amy convinces Mike to not go to work as he thought things were very mild at this point and so that he can have all the vacation days he can with his son, he wants to go to work. However, he is rebuffed. We decide to call Christie Clinic again to see if they’ll bring me in to be checked after they open at 8am, and then he’ll decide if he’ll go to work or not. Contractions still 5 to 7 minutes 45-60 seconds apart.
8am Call Christie Clinic, Cathy’s nurse is surprised to hear from me again. She tells me the same thing, that they don’t do labor checks but that I should head to labor and delivery when it gets “bad enough”. She says people go to the hospital at this point with the contractions I’m having, but that she knows I want a natural birth and that I might want to postpone a trip to the hospital awhile longer.
10am We have to run to the clinic anyways to wrap up some testing I had done from the day before (due to repeat high blood pressure readings). Its starting to snow. Afterwards we head to the mall where we walk for a little less than an hour. Then we walk around Target for awhile. Mike’s hungry so we go to Fazoli’s and get some lunch. I had a couple breadsticks and a small piece of pizza. Contractions get stronger after walking, many just three minutes apart and over a minute.
1pm We’re back at home and talk to Jill. We say we’re ready for her to come to the house to see us for a bit. She says she’ll see us in about an hour.
2pm Jill arrives. Looks at me and says (once again) I don’t look like someone who needs to go to the hospital. First we go for a walk outside in the neighborhood (despite the snow and ice) and then we walk laps back in the house and I do stairs (down to the basement and upstairs). I start to get a little tired as I remember holding on to the railing each flight. I also do some squatting and lunges. Contractions seem to slow down though.
4pm We send Jill home for awhile. Mike and I say we’re going to wait until after dinner to go into Labor and Delivery to get checked out to see what’s going on. Contractions space out when I lay down, but I don’t fall asleep.
5:30pm We call Labor and Delivery and tell them we’d like to come in, that we’re having contractions approximately 5 minutes apart for over a day. They say come on in and they’ll determine if I stay. We pack things into the car and head over.
6pm We check in to the hospital and they put me in the triage room and I gown up. Nurse checks me and says I’m 3 to 4. Nurse goes to call midwife to see what she wants to do with me.
7pm We find out there’s no midwife on call that night, and that the on call doc will be contacted about me, Dr Helfer. She would like to see some more progress before deciding if I’m going to stay, so instructs me to walk for 1-2 hours to see if I progress. Mike goes into super-coach mode and I walk around the hospital room for 1 hr 45 min. He keeps me focused on squatting as much as possible and keeps me engaged in conversation to pass the time between contractions. Text from Mike to Jill at 7pm: Now she’s ticked. No midwife on call. Doc said to walk 1 to 2 hours and get rechecked.
8:40pm Checked again, 4.5 cm dilated. Nurse calls doc to get further instructions. Text from Mike to Jill at 9pm: Starting labor! Come on over! Notice this is when Mike officially thinks labor has started.
9:15pm I have my HepLock inserted and we change rooms. Jill shows up shortly after.
9:45pm Dr Helfer arrives and introduces herself. She already had a chance to review my birth plan at the nurse’s desk. She vetoes a water birth and laboring in the Jacuzzi. Makes it required that I have Pitocin immediately following delivery of the baby. Talks about how she uses forceps, not a vacuum, if its an assisted delivery since that’s what she was trained on. And discusses what kind of progress she wants to see before we “see if there’s a better way to get this baby out”. Nice to meet you too. Mike realizes that all the planning that he, Amy and Jill did means nothing to the medical ‘professionals’ and all they want to do is make it as convenient as possible for them. Mike hates hospitals and doctors.
10pm Dr Helfer breaks my water. HUGE gushes of water, she and the nurses are surprised by the quantity it seems. Mike and I are thankful it didn’t break at the mall. I get up to start moving around the room to labor. Dr Helfer leaves saying she’ll see me when I’m ready to push, or maybe she won’t see me at all if I’m still in labor when she goes off call.
10:30pm-3:30 am Contractions are 3 to 5 minutes apart lasting over a minute and are stronger than before my water was broken. I walk around the room with the support of Mike and Jill, and I spend two chunks of time in the shower dealing with contractions (which felt awesome). The shower also has a tub, and being the rebels we are, I sit down in the tub for awhile to relax. I have a few snacks and drink lots and lots of water. Mike sleeps (as much as possible) on the couch because he can’t handle seeing Amy in pain and not be able to do anything about it.
Thursday, December 9 (Troy's Birthday!)
4am I hit breaking point #1. Exhaustion sets in and it looks like there’s no end in sight. Jill snaps me out of it and Mike is right there to support me. After this, I end up in bed for the first time really, and proceed to deal with contractions in bed for about 2 hours, sleeping in between contractions and coping mostly through breathing techniques and relaxation each time they come up.
5:30am I start to feel a bit better, as the sun is going to come up soon and Dr Helfer is going off call at 8am and it looks like I’ll be getting Cathy after all after that, and she’ll let me labor and possibly deliver in tub, just as I wished. I send out a text to my prayer warriors: Hey prayer warriors, pls be lifting us up! 41 hrs into labor and still going natural. We’re in home stretch and praying for birth by lunch. Thanks so much!
7am Our fabulous nurse Mia goes off call and we get two new nurses, one who is in training and has just started at Carle from working at Provena.
7:30am Cathy shows up! She checks me and I’m at 7. So I’ve basically progressed less than 3 cm overnight. She is concerned that I’m stalling and while she okays me to go to the tub she wants me to walk for awhile afterwards because we need to get things moving, otherwise she wants to administer pitocin later in the morning to get me fully dilated.
8am We start prepping to go down to the Jacuzzi room. As we’re leaving the room, I ask for a glove for my HepLock and they check it (flush it) to make sure its still working properly. I am told its not (even though it was when Mia left an hour earlier) (several hours had gone by) and before I know it, its pulled out and they are looking for a vein to place a new one. So begins the one hour of poking me in 6 different places, with two additional nurses brought in to try. I hit breaking point #2 and tell Jill and Mike after I relax in the Jacuzzi I don’t think I can walk and just want an epidural. Jill reminds me that I’d need a full bag of IV fluids in me before they administer an epidural so I may just want to skip the Jacuzzi and go straight to the fluids when they place the IV. A nurse (other than my primary 2) comes in and I tell her I want the epidural. I think she’s surprised. I remember the other 2 nurses coming in and saying “I hear we have a change in plans”. They finally place the IV, start the fluids and order the epidural. Brutal time for Mike as he watches Amy get treated like a voodoo doll and she can do nothing but cry.
10am The nurse anesthetist shows up to perform the epidural. Jill is in front of me helping me focus through contractions and Mike sits behind me to watch the whole thing from the couch. I remember the local stinging, and the pressure from the epidural needle itself but that’s it. Then I’m laid down and it seems to be working on one side more than the other so they roll me from side to side to even it out. It seems to work and I fall asleep. I knew they’d order pitocin now since I had the epidural and was stalling, so they start that shortly after.
12pm They wake me up and check me again. I think it was 7.5 cm, so basically no progress. Talk of a c-section starts up and seems serious. I’m told Dr Nelson is on call should I need a c-section. Jill calls in her backup doula who has attended c-sections before and Trish shows up to introduce herself to us around 12:30pm. It was around this time that I remember being totally irritated by the catheter and its placement. I could feel it a ton despite the epidural. Ugh.
12:30 Trish leaves. Jill comes over to my bed and we pray against a c-section. I fall asleep again briefly to wake up with a horrible pressure feeling (mostly against the catheter, but just in general, feeling pressure). They check me after less than an hour of since the last one and I’m 9.5 cm! They call Cathy and things get interesting really fast!
1pm Cathy shows up, checks me and I’m 10. Its show time folks!
1:15pm Pushing officially begins officially began at 1:19. Pretty much what I expected. I remember feeling a lot of pressure, and I could definitely feel pain from the pushing, so that was helpful to push through. I remember Cathy ordering the pitocin up at some point in early pushing. I don’t redeemer Pitocin being upped during the 1st hour.
1:45pm or so Cathy gowns up and says we’re going to have a baby soon, “maybe by 2pm”. Everybody in the room gets excited. Mike starts looking (which totally shocked me) to see the head. Cathy asked me if I could see the head. I quickly glanced but did not really look. I said yes, but I really didn’t.
2:35pm The next time I remember looking at the clock and realizing baby still wasn’t here and it was definitely past two. Cathy, the nurses and Jill just keep saying he just needs to make it under the pubic bone and he’ll come flying out. Pretty soon Jill starts suggesting different pushing positions, including squatting. I am strong enough to get up and support myself using the squatting bar. Nothing changes though. Troy is posterior and stuck.
3:00pm Cathy and the nurses are talking about calling the OB on call. Even though Dr Nelson is on call, Dr Haug is in the hospital right now for another patient and can come up to check on me. Meanwhile I keep pushing. Almost 2 hours of pushing at this point. I remember thinking I’ve been pushing for two hours so I have to recover from that, AND I’m going to have a c-section. I remember them only calling Dr. Haug to see if he can do a vacuum, not to assess whether a C-section is needed.
3:20pm Dr Haug shows up and I know he’s there to decide if I’m going for an emergency c-section or if he’s going to try delivery with a vacuum. He evaluates me in one contraction and by the next contraction (I think) he’s all gowned up and working on getting Troy out. It was two contractions, and two tries with the vacuum and…
3:35pm Troy is born! He’s placed on my chest immediately and though a bit beat up, he’s doing okay. Not crying much though so they take him to check on him. His health is fine, he’s just not crying. Dr Haug turns things back over to Cathy (which was encouraging for me because I remembered hearing midwives can only repair 1st and 2nd degree tears, and when I heard the word vacuum, I thought I’d be beyond that.) She delivers the placenta and stitches me up.
Some random thoughts from Troy's birth
Our birth plan was to have an all-natural, un-medicated delivery, preferably as a water birth if we were not "risked out" by one of the several factors that can exclude you from a water birth during the end of pregnancy and labor. I knew that things don't always go according to plan but was not prepared for what I experienced with my care providers when it actually came time in labor.
I was under the care of the midwives at Christie Clinic and had explicitly asked two separate times (once early on and once towards the end) to describe their on-call schedules. I was told both times that patients of the midwives were NOT put on the OB service (In fact, a friend of mine was set to deliver three weeks later and had been explicitly told months earlier that she would be put on the OB service due to one of the midwives being on vacation around her due date.) It didn't seem to be a likely scenario that I would end up in the care of an OB for my delivery; if it had been, I would have promptly switched to the care of the midwives at Carle, as my insurance covered them as well.
Why didn't I want to be under the care of an OB? After tons of research, discussions with Mike and prayer over the decision, I felt the care of the midwives would fully meet my needs through pregnancy and delivery. I definitely agreed with the mindset that birth is a natural thing and not a medical experience; it only turns into a medical experience when (unfortunately) hospital procedures, restrictions and rules are in place. Midwives are fully trained to deliver healthy babies of healthy moms, and are under the guidance of an OB if they need to consult with one. I have complete respect for moms that choose epidurals, inductions and scheduled c-sections, but none of those options were for me and we knew that.
I knew all along a birth plan was just that: a plan. Plans don't always go according to plan. I knew that I could have high blood pressure that would keep me on the monitors the entire time, Troy could have experienced drops in his heart rate which would have been cause for concern for a number of reasons. I wanted a water birth but knew there was a long list of things that could make me "risk out" for a water birth in the hospital.
Unfortunately my delivery went down a different path (and a very familiar path, for people who end up with labor interventions) not due to health concerns of me or Troy but because of a change in a rotation schedule that I specifically asked to be made aware of and an unpleasant OB I had never met before being on call. I should have waited to even go into the hospital, fully knowing that I would be in a battle for my natural labor and delivery the time I walked in. But after two days of light laboring, I simply wanted to be checked and headed in.
I did experience failure to significantly progress while in labor, though I believe my body was so dead set against delivering with that doctor, that despite active labor, I simply just didn't progress the way a laboring body should.
The "path" my delivery was on was headed straight for a c-section, I know that from reading other birth stories that sound a lot like mine in the beginning. There were at least three different instances, two where it seemed quite feasible, that I could have been headed for a c-section. Never was Troy in any distress, thank God. After not progressing for hours on Thursday morning, we prayed together in that room against a c-section and I was fully dilated within an hour. That in and of itself is a miracle.
I'm so thankful for both Mike and Jill. They supported me like crazy and loved me and Troy and had the highest standard for our care while I was in labor and delivery. And as for Jill, we're fully convinced I would have ended up in a c-section if she hadn't been there advocating for us every step of the way, talking to the nurses, praying with us, etc. I'm thankful that I was able to have a vaginal delivery, even it was an assisted one. Recovery was a little rough in the beginning but quickly got better after the first week or two. Most of all, I'm thankful that both I and Troy were healthy at the end of it all, immediately able to bond, begin breastfeeding, and spend time as a family :)