Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Birth Story, Part 3: Labor of Love, or Getting Acquainted With Genesis 3:16

I felt my contractions quickly grow stronger. Everyone was gabbing with each other when I started to feel a crampy sensation in my lower abdomen. Surprised, I breathed slowly and deeply and tried to focus on relaxing my whole body like the Bradley book had said was so important. The sensation stopped and I glanced at my visitors who seemed oblivious to my sudden silence or the paradigm shift in my labor that had just occurred. A pain-ish sensation, finally, about 19 hours into my labor. A harbinger of what was to come, I realized. My hope for Wendy's miraculous painless labor was forgotten. And before I knew it, another crampy feeling was upon me, this one a little more consuming than the last. I took slow, deep breaths.

The contractions quickly escalated both in strength and frequency.
"Guys? I think I need a break," I managed between contractions. My visitors scattered.
Alone with J and our nurse, the next hours are piecey and blurred together in my memory.

Early on in labor (as I mostly labored on a birthing ball), trying to channel Dr. Bradley

A nurse rapidly turning the Pitocin down, down, down.

Sitting on the birthing ball at J's suggestion.

Breathing, breathing, breathing. Slow, deep breaths. In. Out. Iiiiin. Ouuuut. Over and Over.

The relief of a warm rice sock on my lower back.

The dread with the menstrual-cramping sensation that signaled the impending contraction, breathe breathe breathe, relax your body, relax your body.

Focusing on this one moment. Nothing else exists outside this one moment.

My servant husband holding pressure to my hips and pressing his thumbs in my lower back like we learned in our birthing class.

Wendy telling J "See how she's getting irritable? That's actually a good sign."

Nausea and dizziness.

Increasing intensity.

Wendy opening my birthing book, my focal point, asking where I bought it.

Seriously, you think I can answer you?

"Borders," I grunted. Speaking required too much focus and energy.

J suggesting a shower and feeling like if I stood up I would just fall right over from the light-headedness.

I can't possibly get up and move without fainting.

I am trapped on the birthing ball.

Contraction upon contraction upon contraction. Only moments between them.

I can't catch my breath. I can't breathe. I need to...breathe. breathe. breathe.


I need to rest.

When will I rest because here's another contraction?

How can I be thinking these calm thoughts but be unable to speak, be so physically incapacitated?

Trapped in my mind.

I want to go somewhere away from here - but I can't escape because it's my body. I can't stop this. I can't rest.

Weak sobs.

"I can't do this."

How am I going to do this? I'm so tired. There's no rest.

Just focus on this one contraction.

But how many more contractions are there going to be?

How am I going to push if I'm this tired now?

"Wendy, I'm thinking about getting an epidural," I gasped.

"Well, what were your reasons for not wanting an epidural?"

"I don't want BB to come out all drugged."

"That's very unlikely to happen."

"I don't want it to slow down my labor."

"At this point it shouldn't slow down your labor. It may actually allow you to relax and finish dilating until you are ready to push."

"How far along do you think I am?"

"Would it make a difference?"


"Let's check you."

Maybe. Maybe if I'm transitioning I can keep going. I just need rest. If rest is close, maybe.

I walked back to bed, contracting in the middle of the 3-step walk, amazed that I could move without keeling over.

6 1/2.

I sat cross-legged in bed.

It felt better.

Minutes later the contractions intensified again, and I was trapped in my mind again, thinking, thinking, breathing, breathing.

I just need to rest. I'm going to have to push this baby out and I need to rest.

Awake for so long.

I asked for my friend A, Mommy to Little C and future Doctor.

She appeared at the bedside. I grimaced through a contraction.

"When you got your epidural, could you sleep? Does it only take away the pain but you can still feel the pressure and you can't sleep? Or can you sleep?"

She said yes, she could sleep.

She told me to make whatever was the right decision for me, and later revealed how she just wanted to tell me to get the epidural, but she knew she shouldn't.

I looked at J and said "I think I'm going to get the epidural."

He looked nervous. I know he wanted to be supportive of my desire for a natural birth, and wasn't sure what he should say or do.

I told Wendy I had decided.

The anesthesiologist was there quickly. I curled up in a ball, trying not to move as I contracted in this awkward position. One other reason I didn't want an epidural was because I had fainted in nursing school watching an epidural. My best friend from nursing school - we met on the first day of orientation and instantly connected, and we carpooled, studied, and planned all of our clinicals to be together for all 2 1/2 years of our program - had told me in detail about how she had fainted watching an epidural being placed, and all the details about how they had actually finished inserting the epidural but when they were positioning it, pulling it in and out, she just got disgusted and then she passed out. Days later, I was in preop excited to head into the OR and watch a nephrectomy and the anesthesiologist came to place the epidural - I remember being surprised at how aggressively he injected the anesthetic and watching the epidural being inserted, but lo and behold, as he was pulling the tiny plastic tubing in and out of the patient's lower back, at the exact moment she had described, I knew I was about to faint, so I walked over the wall and lost consciousness as I slid to the ground. Since then, I have been squeamish about needles in the back. Lumbar puncture in the ER=Nursing student K lying on a stretcher in a cold sweat with low blood pressure while the walls and ceiling spun around me. Every nurse has her thing that she just can't do, and needles in the back is mine. So as much as I wanted to have a natural labor for BB's health and for my own empowerment and fulfillment of this aspect of womanhood, I also was just plain afraid of the actual procedure of getting the epidural. And I was afraid it wouldn't work, or that it would puncture some part of my spinal column and I would be paralyzed forever.

But turns out that when my entire abdomen is one round flexing muscle doing the most intense workout of it's entire life, needles in the back are totally my thing. With the intensity of the contraction, I was back inside my mind, trapped by the pain, and I barely felt a pinprick. The anesthesiologist said it would kick in quickly and he was true to his word. Within minutes, I was experiencing some relief, and shortly thereafter my entire thorax was numb.

The relief was incredible. I felt such gratitude for the anesthesiologist and his magical work. And I could still sense my legs! I could even move them a little if I really concentrated! No phantom limbs like I had feared!


My mom and my sister appeared at my bedside, as my sister had arrived sometime since I had kicked everyone out. It was sweet and encouraging just to see them. I remember my sister looking at me and saying "Sunday's child, full of grace," with tears in her eyes. All I remember saying to them is "I'm so glad I got the epidural," in a sleep-deprived daze. And they laughed as I said it a few more times before they stepped back out and I got ready to take the nap I had been longing for.

I got comfortable in bed and J laid down on the recliner chair and we both fell asleep while my body continued laboring.

1 comment:

  1. Didn't Kendra faint while witnessing an epidural too? :) I think I'm more scared of an epidural than actually childbirth, but taking a nap during labor sounds really good too!

    You've got a couple more days probably to finish the birth story before Violet is born :D