I want to share a birth story with you. Not mine, however, but one of a very wonderful friend. Her story, from my point of view.
Thursday afternoon, I had made plans with Brock to spend dinner and the evening with our friends, Brian and Mary. We hadn’t seen them in a while, and Mary was nearly a full week overdue with their first baby – we weren’t going to get many more chances to spend time together before baby came. I spoke to Mary, and asked if it would be alright with her if Ronan and I were to come over in the early afternoon and chat before the men got home from work. She told me that it would be fine, only she had her OB appointment at 2, and to plan on coming over around 4, when she got home.
At that moment, I got a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had put a stew on in the crock pot that morning, and when I heard her words, I thought to myself, “I think Brock and I are going to be eating roast tonight.”
True to form, around 3 pm, Brian called me and said that they were going to cancel dinner. During a non-stress test at the clinic, the doctors had noticed that the baby wasn’t behaving quite as expected, and she was having some worrisome decelerations on the monitor. Seeing as how she was already overdue, they were told that it would be best if they induced. Immediately. So Brian and Mary made the short trek from clinic to hospital, and began their journey in labor.
About half an hour later, Brock called, and told me that Mary had taken her hospital bag out of the car to replace a few items that she had forgotten originally. She also forgot to put it back in her car once she’d filled it, and didn’t have it with her at the hospital. Brian had asked if Brock would be okay with driving up to the hospital to get a house key, and then back to the house to get the bag… and then back to the hospital. Of course, Brock said it wouldn’t be a problem, so he was calling to let me know he would be late for dinner. I told him I was eating without him – the roast smelled fantastic.
Another hour or so went by, and I called to find out how things were going. I didn’t want to be a pest, and I knew how overwhelming everything can be when friends and family find out labor has started. Brian said things were progressing well. Mary’s water had been broken, and she’d been put on Pitocin to encourage contractions. She was told she was dilated 3cm and 90% effaced already, so things were moving swimmingly. He mentioned that it was quite boring at the hospital, and invited me to come and spend a few hours with them, possibly bringing some videos to watch. I told him that I would be more than happy to, only I would have to wait for Brock to get home, as I didn’t have anyone else to watch Ronan.
Brock arrived home around 6pm, and dove into his dinner. He also mentioned that Brian had told him that I was interested in spending some time with Mary in the hospital. He asked me if I wanted to go, and I said I did. I told him that it might be nice for her to have a friend there as well, and any extra support helps when things are getting hairy. I asked him if he minded spending the evening at home with the baby, and he said he didn’t mind at all. I packed up a few things (including my camera and extra batteries!) and headed up to the hospital. On my way out the door, I told Brock I wouldn’t be gone long. Just a few hours, or until her labor became too intense for her to enjoy my company.
When I stepped into the delivery room, I could tell that the time for enjoyment of company had long passed. Mary was laying half reclined on the bed, with a look of calm determination on her face; the steady blip of the baby’s heart sounding out on the monitor. Brian was sitting quietly next to her, and stood up to give me a hug when I came in. He said softly, “The contractions have gotten a lot stronger, and they’re coming pretty quickly now.”
When the next contraction passed, Mary flashed a smile my way. I asked her how things were going, and could tell without her saying a word what she was feeling. Pitocin is horrible. The contractions never seem to actually pass. You finally get out of the peak of one contraction, and you feel like you’re being slammed into the peak of the next one. There’s no break, no respite, no chance to catch your breath or even change your position. Brian would hold Mary’s hand through each of the contractions, quietly notifying her when she’d reached the peak. My mind took me back to my own labor on pitocin, and the frustrating, never-ending, anguished pain. I remember scrunching up into a ball, stretching, squirming. I remember moving on the bed, off of the bed, begging for lower back pressure, and silence. Mary was the picture of poise. When another contraction approached, she simply closed her eyes. Her breath didn’t waver, her eyes didn’t flutter. She simply willed herself through the contractions with grace. I remember her making a face after each contraction had passed, when she told me the nausea had started to get unbearable. Brian asked the nurse for something to help with the nausea, and they gave her a shot of Zofran. Her relief wasn’t immediate, but it seemed as though her discomfort was lessened.
We continued like this for nearly two hours; Mary enduring her labor without a single word of complaint, and Brian and I conversing in hushed tones between contractions. Near her breaking point, Mary finally asked Brian if they could turn the Pitocin down. She was exhausted; pale and drawn from the fatigue of her effort. “They just keep coming so close together… If I could only have a break. I’d be fine if I could just have a break!” She was near tears, and I knew exactly how she felt. Brian quickly went to ask the nurse if it were possible. He came back with a somber look, “She said she doesn’t think it’s likely they would turn it down. That would only make the labor last longer, and they need us to progress. If we don’t progress, it will end up being a c-section.” At that point, she lost the battle with the tears that were threatening, and I went on a search for a box of tissues. Brian asked her quietly if she would consider an epidural if they wouldn’t turn down the pitocin.
I could see the struggle in her heart. Mary, a beautiful red-head, doesn’t handle anesthesia very well, and had gone so many hours drug-free. To her, it almost seemed like defeat to give in. She finally nodded once, and Brian went to tell the nurse. Someone came in to get consent, and someone else started moving things around. Mary’s midwife came in to check her cervix again, and see if she had made any progress. She pronounced her 4cm dilated, and still 90% effaced. At that point, Mary became more secure in her desire for the epidural – she had only dilated one centimeter in two hours of hard labor. It was almost more than she could take.
The Anesthesiologist showed up, and requested that I leave the room. I can’t vouch for what happened while I was gone, but I have been informed that it was one of the most awful epidural experiences on record. It took the doctor over 35 minutes to get the epidural correctly placed, and several attempts at the right dosage for Mary to feel the proper affects. She also had a rare but known reaction to the drugs; they caused her to shiver uncontrollably. Up until this point, I had still not heard her complain about a single thing. She continued to amaze me.
For several minutes afterwards, we spent time rolling Mary one way and the other. The baby’s heart rate had begun to drop again, and we needed Mary to find the best position to keep baby happy. Once the heart rate was back to normal, the midwife came in again to do another check. At this point, it had been over an hour since she was pronounced a four. With a little excited exclimation of surprise, the midwife said, “Oh! She’s an anterior lip!”
I laughed, with a thrill of anticipation and realized that neither Brian nor Mary had any idea what she had meant. “You’re fully dilated, Mary! You’re going to have a baby soon!” The midwife explained to her that an ‘anterior lip’ was just a sliver of cervix that had to thin out and move, before she could start pushing. She told Mary that she wanted her to labor down for a half an hour or so, and then they would do a test push to see what would happen from there. The next half an hour passed in a blink. Mary was smiling and chatty, and the excitement in the room was palpable. The “baby nurse” came in and introduced herself (See? I told you I wouldn’t remember her name!) and began to get the isolette ready for the birth. Everything suddenly became very real.
At that moment, the little blips on the monitor started to slow down… waaaaaay down… with every contraction. The midwife came back in looking concerned, and they tried rolling Mary again. “I think that baby’s cord is getting squeezed, that’s what I think.” You could hear the worry in her voice. She looked directly at Mary and said, “As soon as this baby’s heart rate comes back up, we’re going to push, ok? And you need to push harder than ever thought you could, because if you don’t get her out QUICKLY, we’re going to take you for a c-section.”
Excitement began to mix with a little fear as the heart rate on the monitor climbed back up to normal levels. The midwife asked for a test push, and shouted, “We’ve already got the head down here! Look, I can see HAIR!” The bed was made ready, nurses and brave husband at the bedside, and one single interloper in the corner.
“Do you want me to stay Mary? Do you want me to go?”
She wasn’t really paying attention to me, and she said sort of distractedly, “I don’t care… you can stay.”
“No,” I said, “Mary, this is YOUR delivery. I am only staying if you WANT me to be here with you.”
“Yes. I want you to stay.”
So I did. I stayed and watched as Mary pushed with all of her might. I stood and cheered her on as she felt the utter exhaustion overwhelm her between contractions. I stood and watched with tears as, on the third and final push, Mary delivered a beautiful, healthy miracle of a baby girl.
Alaina Rose was born at 11:21pm on Thursday, December 3rd. She was 6 pounds, 18 inches long, and every one of those inches was perfection.
Welcome to the world, sweet Alaina. You are already so very, very loved.