Avaâ€™s birth story â€“ recorded July 1, 2004
The entire weekend, June 19-20, 2004, I wasn’t feeling very well. I felt kind of achy, like maybe I was coming down with the flu. I was tired too and tried to sleep as much as I could.
On Sunday night (or actually early Monday morning) around 1:30 a.m., I started having surges (HypnoBirthing-speak for contractions). Jody was sleeping in the basement that night, as he’d come down with a cold and didn’t want to get me sick or keep me awake with his coughing. I started roughly timing the surges and they were about 5 minutes apart and definitely tolerable. I stayed in bed for a while, trying to sleep, but not being able to. I kept timing my surges for a while and they stayed pretty consistent at about 5 min. apart. I finally decided I should get up and finish packing my bags, as I definitely wasn’t ready to go to the hospital should the need arise. I also decided to take a shower, which felt nice.
Around 4 a.m., I went to the basement and woke up Jody. My surges were still coming at about 5 min. apart, sometimes closer together. I told him I thought we should go to the hospital and he seemed surprised and definitely excited. We decided to hang out at home a while longer. We ate some food (I had part of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) and I sat on the birthing ball. We decided we’d try to wait until the main entrance to the hospital opened at 6 a.m. (Monday, June 21) so that we could go in that door and bypass the emergency room entrance. In this time, my surges got closer together and then stalled. I sat on the birthing ball in hopes of getting them going again. They did start up again and, while they weren’t really consistent, we decided to go to the hospital and get checked out anyway. The worst that could happen is they send us home. So Jody packed up the car and we drove the 5 min. or so to the hospital. I’m glad it was a short trip, because it wasn’t a very comfortable ride.
Some time after 6 a.m., we went up to the Birthplace and I told them I thought I was in labor. They put me in triage and started me on a contraction monitor and a heartbeat monitor for baby. My surges kept coming, but weren’t very regular. Some were stronger than others but nothing was more than I could handle. The nurse tried to check me to see if I was dilated but because of the position of Ava’s head, she couldn’t reach the opening of my cervix. And it was quite painful to me for her try to get to it.
The triage nurse encouraged us to walk the halls in hopes of getting me to progress. We walked around for about 30 min., then came back to triage and ordered breakfast.
Around 9 a.m., I called my sister Carrie and let her know where we were and told her I’d let her know if they admitted me. By this time, the surges were few and far between and I was pretty sure we’d be sent home soon.
After my blood pressure starting running high, the nurse called my doctor who instructed her to draw blood because of my history with swelling in my feet. Not long after, the news came they wanted to admit me. I thought this was really odd considering my surges had pretty much stopped, but I was excited at the fact that we were getting to stay and hopefully we’d soon have a baby.
After we got settled in our room, a nurse came in and told me my doctor wanted to induce labor. Induce? I couldn’t believe it, but no wonder they wanted to admit me. There went my plans for a natural birth. We talked a little bit about our options for induction. Pitocin seemed to be what they were leaning towards even though it was the thing I least wanted. I asked if we could have some time to discuss it and she said yes, reluctantly.
I was dumbfounded as to what was happening. How could I have a natural birth if I was hooked up to an IV on Pit? I told Jody I wanted to talk to Susan, my HypnoBirthing instructor, to see what she thought and hopefully get some words of encouragement. So Jody made the call and talked to her first. She mentioned to him that based on what he described regarding my condition, that it sounded like I was on my way to developing HELLP Syndrome. This was the first time Jody had heard of the syndrome it would turn out that I did in fact have. (HELLP syndrome: A syndrome featuring a combination of “H” for hemolysis – breakage of red blood cells, “EL” for elevated liver enzymes, and “LP” for low platelet count – an essential blood clotting element.) I talked to Susan as well and she reassured me that even if I was on Pit, I was still in control. She encouraged me to listen to my HypnoBirthing cds and perhaps do some fear release work with Jody.
It took 4 tries for them to get an IV started on me and the only person who was successful was the anesthesiologist. The Pitocin drip was started around 1 p.m. I was reassured that they would increase it very gradually and I tried to remain confident that I could still labor pain med-free. I was told I’d have to stay in bed on my left side, except to go to the bathroom so I planned to make frequent potty breaks.
It didn’t take long for the news to come that they would have to start me on another drug, called magnesium sulfate, in order to prevent seizures. And that once I was on that drug, I could no longer get out of bed as it messes with your muscle control. That news hit me really hard. Not only was I on Pit, I was now completely confined to my bed and I would have to have a catheter! (In severe pre-eclampsia [HELLP is a form of pre-eclampsia], magnesium sulfate is used for short periods of time – 24 to 48 hours – until the baby or babies can be delivered, which is the only “cure” for pre-eclampsia.) While on magnesium sulfate, they also have to monitor the amount of urine that the body produces to make sure the kidneys aren’t failing. Side effects from the mag sulfate are: Flushing, Nausea, Vomiting, Palpitations, Headache, General muscle weakness, Lethargy and Constipation. It also burns a lot when the initial dose goes into the IV. The side effects I experienced were flushing and muscle weakness. I also think the drug messed with my memory and caused time distortion – or maybe that was just from labor itself or from sleep deprivation as I went a total of three days with hardly any sleep at all.
The insertion of the catheter was like no pain I’d ever experienced. I honestly had no idea what to expect, but it was worse than just about anything imaginable. As soon as the nurse started to put it in, I started bawling my eyes out. I couldn’t help it. I cried uncontrollably the entire time she was putting it in. Once it was in, I was fine, but oh my gosh, I never want to have another one for as long as I live.
I remember breathing through the surges the best I could. It helped to have Jody or my sister hold my hand and stroke my arm (which is a HypnoBirthing technique for relaxation). It didn’t take long for the surges to start getting very intense and I began to question whether giving birth without pain meds was going to be possible. Jody kept telling me I could do it and reminding me of the reasons we wanted to do it that way, but he wasn’t the one feeling what I was feeling. I decided to ask the nurse what my options were for pain meds. She mentioned there were a few they could do through the IV that could take the edge off or there was the epidural. However, due to my falling platelet levels, she wasn’t sure an epidural would even be an option. I asked her to check into it just in case. In the meantime, I tried a few of the drugs in the IV. They made the beginning of the surge slightly more tolerable, but then all of a sudden I’d be in the middle of a very strong surge from out of nowhere. That wasn’t any good at all.
The anesthesiologist showed up in my room later in the day and explained that because my platelets were too low, I could not have an epidural. In a way, I’m very glad this decision was made for me. I knew that I truly did not want an epidural and, even though I was feeling a lot of pain, I would and could get through this.
I don’t know when the back labor started, but I do know it was very intense. Thankfully, my nurse started applying counter-pressure with each surge and showed Jody and Carrie how to do it as well. The counter-pressure helped a lot. It got frustrating for me though when a surge would start and they didn’t apply the pressure right away, but they quickly caught on that this was something I needed and paid closer attention.
At 5 p.m. the nurse told Jody that it would probably be around 2 a.m. that I’d be fully dilated and then after that we’d have another hour or two of pushing. It scared Jody that it would be that much longer since he knew I was in a lot of pain. However, by 9 p.m., I was at 5 cm and by 10:30 p.m., I was at 7 cm. By 11:15 p.m., I was at 9 cm and the nurse said I could start pushing with surges if I wanted to and they started setting up the bed for the birth. It felt really good to be doing something (pushing) after spending the last several hours just lying there, trying to make it through each surge. The pushing really felt good to me. I no longer was feeling pain like I had been with the back labor and the intense surges.
For the last hour or so, before the serious pushing began, my labor nurse massaged and applied hot washcloths to my perineum (as I had asked for in my birth preferences) to help prevent tearing. At some point however, my doctor told me she knew I didn’t want an episiotomy, but she was sure I was going to tear if I didn’t get one. So I told her to go ahead with it, and I ended up with a third degree episiotomy.
I’m not sure how many pushes it took for little Ava to be born (it was about 45 min. of pushing), but she entered the world and was “caught” by her daddy at 12:06 a.m. Tuesday, June 22. Jody also cut her umbilical cord. Ava was born in perfect health and scored 8/8 on her APGAR.
We had asked that Ava be placed directly on my chest (skin to skin) right after birth; however, they put a sheet down on me. It was there briefly until Jody asked them to remove it. We also asked that she not be cleaned off until we had some time to bond with her, as we didn’t want her first sensations in this world to be an abrasive cloth wiping her off. We wanted her to feel us first. One of the first things they did after putting her on my chest was start wiping her off, but both Jody and I immediately told them to stop. We held her together as a family of 3 until I started feeling light-headed and they reclined my bed so that my head was lower than my feet. I, apparently, had a lot of blood loss with the birth, and had to be given a shot of heparin to stop the bleeding.
I stayed in the hospital until Friday, June 25. I had to remain on the mag sulfate until around 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 23. By Thursday, I felt well enough to get out of bed and take a shower and by Friday I felt strong enough to go home, yet I was still very weak and any activity quickly drained me. My doctor told me it would be about another week before my energy would start coming back and that I should start taking iron supplements to build my red blood cell count back up.
While this certainly wasn’t the birthing experience I expected, planned for or wanted, I feel absolutely blessed that everything turned out as well as it did given the circumstances, and that little Ava was/is such a healthy baby. Jody and I are truly blessed to have such a wonderful child.