At 11 am (3.5 hours after arriving!), they finally started the Pitocin low and slow like I requested. The hospital has a policy about increasing it a low rate, but the nurses took my desire to have a gentle induction seriously – there would be an hour with no increases. They treated me like I was in labor, but Mike and I kept looking at each other when everyone was out of the room and saying, “This isn’t labor.”
I walked the halls with my IV pole and wireless monitors, trying to help labor along. I had some contractions, but still fairly easy – nothing different than I’d been having for weeks.
About four hours after the Pitocin had been started, the resident told me the doctor from my practice (not my regular OB) asked him to break my waters.
I asked if I had to. I really didn’t want to have my water broken if I wasn’t in hard labor, because I knew with Pitocin AND water breaking, it would get hard quickly. Plus, there was always the risk of my water breaking and labor STILL not progressing, then I risked being put on a timetable where eventually a c-section could be real possibility. I asked him to check me, I had dilated less than a centimeter since we got there, so I declined.
He told me he’d run interference for me (favorite doctor ever) and for a few more hours, we walked the halls, I snuck food (you’re not supposed to eat when you’re in labor at the hospital-silly rules are meant to be broken), we talked to the nurses, and we tried to get me in labor.
Around 5 pm, the resident left for the day and gave us his phone number before he went, telling us to call at any hour with questions. I can’t rave enough about the medical professionals (aside from my practice) during my birth. They were just fabulous. Before he left, I asked him his opinion whether having my water broken or getting more Pitocin would more likely to help me avoid a c-section. I knew he was an advocate for low-intervention birth, so I could trust him. He couldn’t give me an answer, but said that I should keep asking questions of the medical staff because it showed I knew what I was talking about and would get me more respect. (Also here’s where I give a shout out to a few awesome women who I was texting with all day for support and to ask them advice. Especially my doula-via-text.)
A different resident started his shift and asked again about breaking my water. I declined (the nurse told me if there was meconium in the water when they broke it, I wouldn’t be allowed in the tub to labor and I really wanted to – she confided that most physicians see an induction as a destination to rush into instead of trying to allow the woman’s body to labor itself). The resident told me that was totally reasonable and that he’d come back in a few hours.
I finally started asking for them to increase my Pitocin in greater amounts because I wanted to make progress.
Things were still manageable (I could talk and move through contractions) and I’d been at the hospital for nearly 12 hours.
As the Pitocin continued to increase, I found that I could actually get a good contraction (finally!) if I sat on the toilet when a contraction started. I rejoiced! I was finally in pain! This labor was weird. I didn’t want to get in the tub for fear of stalling what little labor I had and I hoped I’d be in pain.
Around 7 pm (about 2 hours later), the resident came back to ask about breaking my water again. I asked if I could just get a little more time and a little more Pitocin to try to get more dilated. (The nurse would always say, “Let’s give them time to talk about it,” after a doctor came in the room. It was so nice of her to continually advocate for us.) He promised me that if they broke my water, it would all be over fast – he was confident that as a second-time mom, my body would know what to do, but he agreed to give me two hours. They increased my Pitocin and things started to get a little harder.
With an hour or two of good, productive contractions, I was hopeful that I had dilated a lot, that I could finally get in the tub, that maybe my body would even take over and I could turn off the Pitocin! I was almost giddy in my pain – things were haaaaaaaappening!
At 9 pm, the resident checked me and said I was around 4.5 cm. So after 10 hours of Pitocin and 13 hours after arriving at the hospital, I had dilated less than 2 centimeters. He told me I was running out of options – they couldn’t crank the Pitocin up much higher without an internal monitor (which I didn’t want) and again requested to break my water. He answered all my questions about what COULD go wrong – assured me that a c-section was very unlikely, that cord prolapse wasn’t a threat, and so on, so I consented to having my water broken and knew that things would get real.
I realized later I should have asked them to turn off my Pitocin or at least wait a while after lowering it to break my water. Because what happened next was: EXTREME PAIN OMG SAVE ME.
You might remember from my first labor that I didn’t use pain medication (ie: no epidural). This time, I kept telling people I was open to an epidural to see what it was like, but that I mostly just wanted it for pushing since that was the hardest part with Gabe. I knew that sometimes second labors were easier, so I’d wait to see what I felt like in the moment. If it was going well, no need for the hassle of an epidural!
At 9:30 pm, my water broke. Immediately, the contractions were incredibly painful. My body was tense during and after contractions. I hardly had time in between contractions to center myself. I couldn’t make sense of the pain I was feeling. I told Mike right away, “I am doing an hour of this, then an epidural.” That turned to, “I will do 5 more contractions, then an epidural.”
I went inside myself during these incredible contractions and could hardly hear what the nurse and Mike were saying. As I came down, I heard Mike telling me to relax, to which I snapped with gritted teeth, “I can’t relax.”
I finally nodded to Mike, “Get the epidural now,” I hissed.
The nurse asked me if I wanted to be checked before I got it and if I wanted to do give birth naturally. I shook my head, “I’ve done this naturally before and it freaking hurt.”
Minutes later, the anesthesiologist was there, setting up. “Just one more contraction,” I told myself. I was barely managing. All that was keeping me going was knowing that in a moment, I wouldn’t feel like I was dying anymore.
I hardly felt anything, just focused on not moving during the contractions. The only way I could remain still was to tell myself, “Last one. Last one. Breathe. One. Two. Three. Four.”
The epidural was in and the nurse checked me as the contractions got easier.
It was 10:30 pm. I had gone from 4.5-9 centimeters in one hour. No wonder it hurt so much! Mike and I gaped. I couldn’t believe it.
I was nervous an epidural wouldn’t work. I was nervous I would feel woozy. I was nervous there’d be some awful side effects. I was worried it would work too well and I’d be too numb to push.
Nope. It worked perfectly. And thank goodness, because I was soon completely dilated and had to wait 30 minutes for the doctor to get there. (I would NOT have been waiting to push if I wasn’t medicated. Holy hell.)
She got there at midnight, I started pushing and he was born at 12:28 am (after she “motivated” me by threatening to use a vacuum). They warned me if he didn’t cry, I couldn’t hold him right away since he’d need to have his airways cleared. The NICU staff was in the room waiting since there had been meconium in the water when it broke. His head emerged and was silent. Then with the next push, he was out entirely and screaming.
He was on my chest nursing before I could blink.
It was amazing. I didn’t even realize I had started crying. Mike and I were in awe, once again, at seeing our baby come into the world.
(And our baby was, once again, incredibly disgruntled about coming into the world.)
After two hours of soaking in this new little creature, we went up to our recovery room. Our fantastic nurse asked me how I felt about the birth. (A medical professional who recognizes that how the mother feels about the birth is also an important part of the whole experience — !!) I told her I felt good. That I felt like I got to call the shots for the most part (aside from having to be induced in the first place), that I was treated well by medical professionals and felt like part of the process. Even though I would choose Gabe’s birth (laboring at home, birthing in the tub) to this one, I still felt like it went as well as it could have for an induction. Though I was bummed my body didn’t take over like I expected it to until my water broke, I still got to feel all the pain of labor (which I weirdly want – same way I want to feel the heat of summer instead of air conditioning), but not the dreaded pushing. So now I might not have pushing PTSD should we ever decide to do this again. (I now have being-strong-armed-into-an-induction PTSD instead. Hooray!) But I felt like I got to play a role in my labor and delivery instead of it just being done to me without my consent. Also, I got a healthy, sweet baby in the end, which goes without saying is the most important outcome.
The rest of the hospital stay was a sort of blissful vacation with good food (yes, really), visits from Gabe, The West Wing, and plenty of this:
Today is our anniversary. Life is a little different today than it was for those (tan! skinny!) kids who got married that August afternoon seven years ago. Hopefully we are lucky enough to make it to 50.