it's hard to begin trying to put into words the events of the most intense and important day of your life. i began writing down the facts as i remembered them almost as soon as eleanor was here but it has taken me the better part of three weeks to process it all and to really begin to understand my feelings. it wasn't until i typed it all out with tears streaming down my face that i really saw clearly. this story is long but then again so was my labor.
a week late and facing induction in a mere 4 days i woke up at 4:30am wednesday morning with mild contractions. i had been having braxton hicks for about three weeks and these were definitely different, more intense and resonating in my back. i was hesitant to believe that this was the "real" thing as i had been having "false" labor for days so we began timing and to my disappointment they were irregular. unable to go back to sleep i laid in bed thinking about the excitement that lay ahead of us. she was making her way to us, i just knew it. i called our doula sometime in the morning and chatted with her about my symptoms. she suggested i either try to get some sleep or walk to get things to progress. my contractions had slowed at this point so we opted for walking to kickstart them back up again. and it served that exact purpose, until i stopped walking. discouraged i laid down when we got home and slept for about an hour waking up to the same intense yet irregular contractions. i didn't get it... a bit of relief came when i chatted again with monica, our doula. she informed me that braxton hicks don't radiate in your back, braxton hicks often get better when you change positions and when you walk. my contractions were felt mostly in my back, they were painful no matter my position, and they were 10x more intense if i was walking. phew, this was the real thing and shorly after our call they normalized. five minutes apart and one minute long. so i baked some cookies, took a bath, and we headed to the hospital.
we arrived around 9:30pm, met monica, and i was set up for thirty minutes of monitoring. i was aware that change of scenery can slow labor but i was not prepared for what came next. the midwife informed us that i was in labor but that my cervix had not begun dilating. i was devastated. she proposed giving me a sleeping pill to allow me some rest as the previous night had not been restful, i had been laboring at home all day, and was going to have a lot of work ahead of me. i agreed, she left to get my pill, and we told the doula to go home to get some rest. about fifteen minutes later the midwife returned sans pill. remember my irregular heart beat a few months back? apparently even though my twenty four hour heart monitoring had revealed that i do not have arrhythmia she couldn't give me a sleeping pill. she had a second proposal. she could give me a pain killer that would allow my contractions to continue but would lessen the feeling of intensity so that i may sleep through them. not five minutes after administering the medication i was vomiting. i felt terrible but was able to fall asleep and get about three hours of intermittent rest.
i woke up around 2:30am with strong contractions. the midwife checked my cervix and i had managed to dilate 3cm. in my sleep. the midwife filled the birth tub for me to try and bring some relief to my back. stijn sent monica a message at 3:30am letting her know that i was now 4cm. dilated and in the tub and she could make her way over whenever she was ready. once monica arrived i was at 6cm. and the tub was no longer helping to relieve the pain that i was feeling in my back. she and stijn began using counter pressure to try and help but eleanor was posterior, sunny side up, and she was not moving. not only did this account for the back labor but the length of my labor as well. the midwife checked me again around 6am and i was back to a 5. i remember thinking is that even possible? i got out of the tub and she broke my water to try and speed things up.
this is where things took a turn for me mentally as the midwife said the words i hoped to never hear. she said she believed that at this point an epidural was medically necessary as it would allow my pelvic muscles to relax, eleanor to descend, and my cervix to dilate. she was concerned that after such a long labor, when the time came for me to push that i wouldn't have the energy (boy did she underestimate me). i was crushed. i felt defeated. i wanted to trust my body but i was also trusting this midwife and for the first time in my labor i doubted myself. i felt that i had failed. i was not going to have the natural birth experience i had planned for. the anesthesiologist came to place the epidural and i checked out. i just couldn't accept that this was happening. i was able to get a little relief and managed to sleep for about a half hour before the pain was right back to where it was before. i labored through to 8cm. before i was delivered with yet another blow. i had been stuck at 8 for two hours. my labor, according to medical standards, was not progressing and i knew what that meant. i knew all about the cascade of intervention and was already catastrophizing and planning for the VBAC i would have with my next birth. the midwife called the doctor in and proposed that they allow me to labor for another hour before intervening. eleanor's heartbeat and my own were both strong and stable and so the doctor agreed. they turned a pitocin drip to it's max and i spent the next hour practically willing myself to 9cm. those that know me well would not be surprised that i responded well to ultimatums.
a couple hours later and the midwife had "good news", i was at 10cm. eleanor was still quite high though so i spent the next hour bearing down during each contraction and then at 12:30pm it was time to push. so much for me not having the energy to push. instead of just getting through my labor as i had been feeling for the last twelve hours i was now doing something. i felt strong and in control. e was still facing up, making it harder for her to get under my pelvic bone but she was working as hard as i was and at 1:18pm on august 18th my little bird, eleanor faye, made her entrance into the world.
it may not have been the birth i had planned for but none of that mattered the minute she was in my arms. this was our story. this is what we had spent the previous 32 hours working for. to finally after 41 weeks look into each others eyes and know a new kind of love.
stijn was an amazing partner; holding my hand, applying cold compresses to my face, whispering encouragements and i love you's into my ear. i am so grateful for his love and support. simply put, he is the best! we are also so grateful to have had monica there as our coach for her support, her knowledge, and for being my advocate.