Beginning at roughly week 37 of my pregnancy, after no ultrasounds, my doctor ordered a diagnostic ultrasound to determine the position of the baby. She thought baby might be coming out face first rather than crown first. Results were good in that category, but not good in another: my amniotic fluid was low-8.5. So she asked me to follow up with another ultrasound two weeks later. That ultrasound showed amniotic fluid level of 6.0, even closer to the induction level of 5.0. My doctor agreed to give Damon and me the weekend to try to get labor going on our own before taking further measures. I was stressed and scared that the natural birth I wanted was slipping away. I began with two sessions of acupuncture on Saturday and another on Sunday, herbal tinctures, massage, nipple stimulation, and sex, followed with a dose of special Chinese mushrooms meant to increase amniotic fluid levels. By Monday nothing had happened, so my doctor ordered another ultrasound fluid check, which came out at 5.0, below the safe level.
I don't have any memory of what happened over the next few hours. I faded in and out of a shallow sleep, and my contractions steadily increased in power. I woke Damon at 2:30amin active labor. He was timing the contractions and notified the nurse after about 30 minutes of contractions spaced at about 1.5 to 2 minutes each. Our nurse notified our doctor, who was staying in the hospital that night as she had another patient giving birth too. The doctor decided to remove the Cervidil and see if labor would continue independently, and it did. By this time, my cervix had dilated to 4 cm and the baby was settling at +2 station with an excellent heart rate. Over the next several hours, I labored with Damon, periodically using the TENS unit, moving from the bed to the birthing ball, back to the bed, and finally to the bath tub. I really relaxed in the tub. I liked the warm water being sprayed on my shoulders, neck, and back between contractions and then on my lower abdomen and uterus during contractions. I guess the Ambien was wearing off, because this is where my memory of labor begins. After nearly 2 hours of spraying water on me in the tub and with the baby continuing to display excellent heart rhythms, our doctor suggested we move to a water world room with a large birthing tub. So between contractions, my nurse and Damon wrapped me in blankets and a bathrobe and began the walk down the hall to the new room. I still remember leaning on Damon as I stopped in the hallway by the nurses station, doing horse lips through a contraction.
Upon arriving in the new room, around 5:30am, the bath was nearly full. I was in the full throes of labor and Damon called my mom, Wanda, and Hannah, both of whom were staying at our house. I was kneeling, arms resting on the edge of the tub. Damon pushed on my lower back and pelvis through each contraction, and our nurse periodically checked the baby’s pulse, which remained picture perfect. When Hannah and Mom arrived, they jumped right in, feeding me sips of water and Gatorade, doing horse lips with me, and taking pictures. This lasted until a trip to the toilet to pee, after which I did not want to return to the tub, so we moved to the hospital bed. At first, I was standing and leaning on the bed railing, but our new nurse (there had been a shift change) suggested kneeling on the bed with my arms over the inclined backrest, similar to the position in the tub. This was much more comfortable, and between counter-pressure from Damon, and breathing with my mom and sister, I progressed fairly quickly through labor: 8 cm dilation by about 8 a.m.Shortly thereafter, my doctor came by and declared full dilation and suggested beginning to push. She asked how I was doing and I said I was at the end of my rope! Little did I know that most everyone feels this way in transition. She asked if I wanted a spinal nerve block, though my birth plan asked that I not be offered drugs. Our nurse quickly chimed in, telling me that the end of the rope is a holy place and that I could do it; there was no doubt in her mind. I felt so much encouragement, that I continued with no medication.
Although I didn't feel the urge to push, I was coached by my doctor to do so, and began pushing hard with each contraction. I settled on a half side-lying position with hips opened and knees bent, pushing into my own hands hooked behind my thighs, with Hannah & Damon helping on each side. All of a sudden, I vomited. Our nurse cleaned me up, and I continued to push with each contraction. By 9am the head was visible. I was going deep inside myself to muster up the final strength to finally push the baby out. The nurse put a mirror on wheels at the foot of the bed so that I could see the baby emerge. I said I couldn't see, so they adjusted the mirror. "No," I said, " I can't see because I don't have my glasses." Someone handed me my glasses, but I couldn't open my eyes; I had to focus internally! With every series of pushes, the head would advance, only to partially retreat at the end. Finally, at 9:25am on January 30, 2007, the baby exited head-first, facing Hannah at my right thigh. Our doctor held the baby there for Damon to cut the cord that was wrapped snugly around its neck. After the cord was cut, the left shoulder and then the right quickly emerged, tearing me a bit.
A tear-filled Damon declared, “It’s a boy!”. We had chosen the name Oscar for a boy. He was immediately placed on my chest, massaged, and covered in blankets. He calmly began to breath and cry as his color slowly transitioned from the very pale vernix- covered shade of white he appeared when first exiting to the normal human skin color he assumed after nearly an hour. The nurses took him to a heating lamp at one point to 'pink-up' while I delivered the placenta, and my tear was sewn up. I regret not asking that he be left on my chest. Despite occasional “shakes” of his arms and legs when exposed to open air, Oscar was a perfectly healthy little baby boy. My dad, Rob, arrived just in time to see little Oscar in his first hour of life. Over the next 36 hours in the hospital, despite having erratic sleeping and eating patterns, Oscar passed all tests with flying colors, acing the hearing test and the blood sugar test. My luck was less fortunate - I couldn't pee and so was catheterized twice, I felt very weak, and had prolonged bleeding & soreness, eventually requiring a Pitocin & fluid replacement drip to increase uterine contraction, stop further hemorrhaging, and re-hydrate me. But by the next afternoon, I was peeing normally and able to take a shower and go for a walk around the hospital floor. My family brought us home-cooked food, and that evening, we went home.