Thursday, May 16, 2013

26 Minutes to Spare: My Birth Story

I have given birth three times. And each of those three times were completely different than the others. It amazes me how the body can do such different things each time you go through the same experience. I decided to record the memories of the experiences - especially this last one - so I would never forget the stories. Those experiences are part of me now. They were major events in my life that impacted me in ways I could never have predicted. So this is my "birth story".

When I had my first child, I was an excited first time mom-to-be and I was full of expectations and plans of how my birth was going to go. A bit naive, like most first-timers, I thought I had it all figured out and it was going to be just like I planned it. I was determined to do it without drugs because I assumed that real women give birth all natural. I mean, after all, women have been given birth for thousands of years. Our bodies were designed to do this. (There is nothing wrong with this way of thinking - it's true. But I didn't realize that the human body can override your best made plans.) So I planned to labor at home as long as possible (no one was going to tie me to a bed and plug me into an iv and a fetal monitor). I was going to eat, walk around, and whatever else I wanted to do. And I did. My contractions started in the early afternoon and I stayed home for several hours enduring my labor (which was not very painful at the time) until my contractions were 5 minutes apart, which was when I went to the hospital. On the way there, the contractions became very strong and painful, and I could hardly stand the pain anymore. A nurse checked me upon arrival and I was 9 cenimeters dilated! Normally, this would have been considered success since that is what I wanted. But my body did not cooperate with the rest of my plan. I got stuck in this stage of labor called the "transition" stage. That is the stage of labor when you are about 8-9 cenimeters just before you deliver. It is the most painful and intense phase, but it usually only lasts about 30 minutes to an hour. Well mine lasted 4 hours! I just wouldn't progress beyond it. I was too far along to get an epidural, but I wasn't far enough to push and deliver. The pain was horrific and indescribable. I remeber wanting to just pass out and go unconcious. And a few times I thought that would happen. I was screaming and crying and it was physically and emotionally traumatic. They finally gave me a spinal, which is a temporary shot of the same medicine used in an epidural and it gave me about 30 minutes of relief before I finally was able to push and deliver my baby. I had 12 family members and friends in that delivery room with me when I gave birth, and I think we were all traumatized by the experience. I vowed I would never give birth without an epidural EVER again.

With my second baby, I most definitely remembered my plan to do things differently. My water broke late at night, and although I was not having any contractions yet, I went straight to the hospital and asked for an epidural. I actually got the drugs before I had a single contraction so I never felt anything at all. Once I got the epidural, I went to sleep for a few hours, woke up, and pushed out my baby withouth ever feeling an ounce of pain. I'm not gonna lie - it was blissful. It was the best way I could imagine giving birth. No pain, no screaming... it was calm, and quiet, and easy. I had very little trauma to my body and a very easy recovery. It was the complete opposite experience from my first birth. And boy was I glad. THIS was the way I was gonna do it from then on. I didn't need to be anybody's hero. And I didn't need to be the all natural super woman I once thought I had to be.

When I got pregnant the third time, I was adament about having the exact same experince as the second one - an early epidural, no pain, and an easy delivery. I made my plans and thought I knew exactly how it was going to play out. It started out just as I planned - my water broke in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. The gush of water woke me up, but I was not having any contractions yet so I was feeling no pain. I left for the hospital early, determined to get my epidural just like the previous time. But this time, things took a different turn. On the way to the hospital, I suddenly started having painful contractions and they were very close together. It was like I had skipped the early stages of labor altogether and I had advanced to the later stages right away. When I got to the hospital (less than an hour after my water broke), I was having pretty intense contractions and they were only about 3 minutes apart. Still, I wasn't in horrible pain and I assumed I had plenty of time to spare, so we parked the car and I walked into the hospital and up to the labor and delivery unit without a wheelchair. I walked up to the desk and informed the nurse that I was in labor and that my water had broken about an hour ago, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, and that I had a history of fairly fast labors and I wanted an epidural immediately. She gave me some paperwork to sign and fill out, and I stood at the desk and filled them out (stopping every couple minutes to breathe through a contraction). The entire time I was on my feet, not in a wheelchair, and not giving much indication that my labor was progressing rapidly (which it was). The nurse put me in a bed in a holding room and checked my dilation, which was about 6 centimeters. We all assumed that meant I had plenty of time to get into a room and get my epidural before the baby would arrive. We were wrong. They put me in my wheelchair, wheeled me to a room and ordered my drugs. I got out of the chair without help and climbed into the bed, and I knew at that moment that my dreams of getting an epidural were dashed. Suddenly my contractions became super intense and about 30 seconds apart. I was in intense pain and not getting a break between contractions. I suddenly felt that all-too-familiar feeling from my first birth of a huge amount of pressure in my bottom and the burning feeling you never forget once you experience it. "This baby is coming right now," I thought to myself, "and I am not going to get my drugs!" I began to freak out at the thought of not having any drugs and I yelled at the nurse to hurry and put the iv in my arm so I could at least get some narcotics if the epidural was out of the question. But she didn't have time to get the iv in. While one nurse was checking for a vein and the other was trying to get the fetal monitor on me, I felt the pain go into over-drive and I had the extreme need to push. The baby was on it's way out and there was nothing I could do but go with it. The doctor looked between my legs (as she was getting ready to asses me again and was attempting to do a quick ultrasound to make sure the head was down in the pelvis). She did not realize that the baby was on it's way out and there was no time for any of that. I realized it, but was in denial, still hoping to get some drugs in my arm before I had to deliver. The doctor suddenly exclaimed that I was 10 centimeters fully dialated and that the head was visible! She looked at me and said, "You're gonna have this baby right now!" "No!" I yelled, "I need my drugs first! I can't do this without drugs!" My husband, who was holding my legs up, looked down at the crowning head and then at me and said these words: "You can do this. I see her head, it's coming out, one push and you got this." So I decided it was time to let go of my hope for drugs (the nurse hadn't even gotten an iv into my arm yet) and push the baby out. I had to end the pain and that was the only way it was gonna happen. So I pushed. A small, timid, little push at first. And then another one - a big one. I felt her little head pop out and then felt her body slide out fairly quickly. I barely had time to realize what was happening and I looked down to see a baby placed on my chest. There she was! I had just given birth to this baby, and it all happened so fast. No drugs, no fetal minitor, no iv, no nothing. I didn't even really do any work. She just came, and I just went with it.

I looked up at the clock and it was 5:26 am. I had walked into the hospital at 5:00 am. It had only been 26 minutes since I casually strolled into the automatic doors of Mission hospital and rode the elevator up to the 4th floor. Less than 26 minutes since I stood at the desk of the labor and delivery unit and filled out paper work that gave them permission to deliver my baby. It was only about 10 minutes since I was wheeled into my delivery room and walked over to my bed. And now I had a baby on my chest. I vaguely remember watching the doctors and nurses scramble as they realized my baby was coming out whether we were ready or not. The looks on their faces was unforgetable. The look on my husband's was great too. I think I was the most surprised of anyone though. I laid there looking at this sweet baby girl, stunned and in shcok. What just happened? What did we just do? I just had a baby. In minutes. It was a crazy feeling. But it was also so empowering. I was so proud of myself for doing it naturally, even though the entire thing took only minutes.

I had texted friends and called my mom on the way to the hospital, hoping they would make it to witness the delivery. But they were all as shocked as me when I called them a half hour later to tell them that the baby was already here. I still love remembering the events in my mind, and sometimes I go back through the whole experience in my head as I fall asleep at night. It was such a whirlwind of chaos and emotion. But it was so amazing too. Two days later I brouhgt home the most precious beautiful baby girl I've ever seen. Her name is Piper Leigh, and she made her debut with 26 minutes to spare.

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