Elijah is almost a month old! It is time to get his birth story down. I didn't take any notes during the birth process, because honestly I assumed I would remember it all. Oh how naive I was! I can tell you everything up until a certain point. And then time stopped existing, events blur together and some events I have no memory of. The majority of this story was documented and written by our fabulous Doula Leah. I am so thankful that she took notes during the process and pictures! It is such a blessing to have this experience chronicled.
I was scheduled to be induced with Baby O (gender was a surprise) on Thursday February 26th. The induction was scheduled because I had Gestational Diabetes and there is concern over baby's size as well as potential complications related to shoulder dystocia. I had actually been showing positive signs that labor might begin naturally the week before the induction, so I ended up not going to work the days leading up to my induction. We didn't want to risk labor starting and me being so far away from home and the hospital. I spent the days leading up to the induction doing last minute cleaning, cooking and resting.
At 6:30am on February 26th, I called into the Birth Center and learned that they were full and couldn't take me first thing in the morning. I was told that the charge nurse would check in with me later in the day to update me. So, Paul and I decided to enjoy our day. We lazed around the house, read books in bed, went out for pancakes, made the local news, and reveled in our time together. I got a call from the birth center early afternoon and was told there still wasn't any room and was asked if I was willing to be on call in the evening. I said yes, and around 9 or 10pm I learned that I wouldn't get in, but to call in the next morning. What a let down! By this point we really just wanted to meet Baby O!
The next day (Friday, February 27th) we got THE call at 6:15am and was told to arrive at the birth center at 7:30am. Paul and I jumped up, got our stuff together, and left to grab breakfast and coffee. We were at the hospital at 7:30am on the dot. We were told which room was ours and given some time to settle in. I changed into the fancy hospital gown, my IV was put in, and the fetal heartbeat and contraction monitors were hooked up.
Dr. Goepfert, the on-call doctor came by to check on how I was "progressing", and sadly, I wasn't. I was only measuring about 1.5cm dilated, far less than the week before. So the first step of the induction was to take a dose of misoprostol to help "ripen" my cervix. The misoprostol started some mild contractions and I just went back to sleep because I figured I needed as much rest as possible! At 3pm, I was started on an IV drip of Pitocin. This was to help the contractions increase in frequency and intensity. Every so often, the nurse would come in and increase the dosage. By the evening time, I was starting to feel contractions a bit more intensely, but I was also able to manage them on my own. Paul and I spent the afternoon watching movies, playing an epic tournament of 5 Crowns (card game), and resting.
At 7am on Saturday February 28th, Dr. Goepfert came to check on my progress. I had almost reached the maximum dosage of Pitocin for induction, and my cervix was 4 centimeters dilated and 70% effaced. Dr. Goepfert stated that my options were that I stop pitocin and then restart it later to see if my body responded better to it, or I could have my bags of water broken. Paul and I started walking laps around the nurses station to encourage contractions. As long as I was active, the contractions picked up speed and then slowed down when I rested. When Dr. Goepfert came back in to check me, I was 80% effaced and still only 4cm dilated. So we opted to have my bags of water broken.
Paul and I ordered breakfast, and were able to eat before active labor kicked in around 9am and contractions started to progress and intensify significantly. Paul called our Doula, Leah to let her know that I was feeling ready for some additional support, and Leah arrived by 10am.
When Leah arrived, I was sitting on the birth ball and the nurses were in the process of applying a heating pad to my lower back to help soothe that area during the contractions. Baby O was presenting “Sunny Side Up”/Occiput Posterior, which meant that I would experience “Back Labor”. Paul talked me through each contraction - watching the monitor and telling me when I had passed the peak of each one, coaching, encouraging, and affirming me continually. Paul was really good about reminding me that all of my hard work would soon be worth it when it produced our beautiful, long-awaited, and much-loved baby. During each contraction I would press my forehead into Paul’s forehead for additional strength and support. As contractions became more intense, Paul and Leah chanted “Ooohhhhhhhhhhhh” with me to help me keep my breathing rhythmic and calm. Leah turned on a peaceful birthing music playlist, and held a ziplock bag of cotton balls covered in peppermint essential oil under my nose to help soothe me when I began to experience nausea and vomiting. At one point I remember I started chanting "I Can't, Can't" with the contractions and Paul encouraged me to start chanting " I Can, I Can" with each one.
The nurses recommended that I try taking a warm bath, so both nurses, Paul, and Leah all helped me make my way to the bath tub area down the hallway. It took a little while to get me comfortable and situated. Honestly, as soon as I was in the tub, I wanted out. But I felt bad that so much time and effort had been spent getting me to and into the tub that I decided to stay. Once the water level and temperature were adjusted to a good level, I found that the warm water provided a good amount of comfort and relaxation as my contractions continued to make great progress. Paul and Leah took turns pouring warm, soothing water over me, holding my hand, stroking my hair, and offering me sips of water to drink in order to stay well hydrated. I remember Paul offering water after a contraction and I would say that I didn't want it, his response was that it was fine, but I had to have water after the next contraction. The time in the bathtub tub was so peaceful and beautiful, and felt like such a sacred time. Paul and Leah started to notice with delight and excitement that I was gradually pulling my legs up into a pseudo-squatting position in the water, indicating that I might be starting to feel the urge to push sometime in the very near future. Sure enough, when the nurses asked around dinner time, I was feeling the urge to push, so they helped me out of the bathtub, wrapped me in some nice warm blankets, and pushed me in a wheelchair back to the birthing suite to see if she if my cervix was fully dilated and ready to push. They discovered that my cervix was asymmetrically dilated, so there was still one little part that needed a little bit more time before it would be safe to start pushing. They recommended waiting about half an hour. This was challenging for me because I was feeling a strong urge to push, so Leah recommended making a “Shshshshshshsh” sound whenever I felt the urge to push in order to express that desire but prevent from doing any harm to my cervix while it continued to dilate. In less than an hour, the nurses checked my cervix again and confirmed that it was now safe for me to begin pushing! The position that seemed to be the most effective for me during the pushing phase was semi-reclined, pulling either one or both knees up into a pseudo-squatting position. I would tuck my chin down, form a C shape with my body around Baby O, and do three or four good strong pushes per contraction, with lots of support and coaching from the nurses, Paul and Leah.
Around 7pm, I was starting to feel quite exhausted and the intensity of pushing out an Occiput Posterior baby was starting to feel overwhelming to me. The nurses discovered that my blood sugar levels were quite low (in the 70s), so Paul asked what they could do to help get my blood sugar levels back up to a good level for physical exertion and increased mental and emotional clarity. The nurses recommended an IV glucose drip, so Paul and I decided to try that (though I have little recollection of this). Leah offered sips of apple juice to me while the nurses went to get the glucose IV drip. The nurses and Leah encouraged me that if I needed to take a rest while waiting for my blood glucose levels to rise, I would definitely not make any backwards progress, and that the baby would continue to move down and out (albeit slowly) with each contraction, even without actively pushing, through a process called “laboring down”.
Around 8pm I was requesting additional help with pain relief. Leah mentioned that a previous client had successfully used one dose of a narcotic to get her through the toughest part of her birthing time, so I decided to try the narcotic. The hope was that the narcotic would provide longer rest breaks between contractions until my blood sugar levels could be restored to a better level. I found the sleepy sensation that I experienced with the narcotic to be unpleasant, and I found it more challenging to cope with each contraction because the narcotic eliminated my ability to mentally prepare during the “ramping up” phase of each contraction. Basically, I was only feeling the intense peak of each contraction, and I did not have any clue to when a contraction would start coming on. I would just be bowled over with each one. This period was fairly intense and at one point Paul said I yelled out to him with full emotion "I'm going to die, I'm going to die, Why won't you help me?"
Over time, my blood sugar levels rose to a healthier level, and I started to experience an increase in mental clarity and physical strength. At this point, Dr. McLennan strongly recommended that I request an epidural in order to more quickly resume pushing. Paul expressed his concern to Dr. McLennan that the lack of sensation and decreased natural urge to push would make it more challenging for me to push the baby out with an epidural. Paul and I were both fearful of a C-Section. I tried pushing without for a while longer before we made the decision together to request an epidural. The anesthesiologist was busy with an emergency situation at the time of the request, so it took about 30 minutes before she arrived to begin administering the epidural. The epidural brought immediate relief. A smile returned to my face, I was able to fully relax, and felt emotionally rejuvenated. Within a short amount of time, the combination of restored blood sugar and the relief from the epidural provided me with the strength and energy I needed in order to continue pushing.
Pulling my right leg up into a semi-reclined pseudo-squatting position seemed to yield the most progress, and I had so much enthusiastic and encouraging support from Paul, Leah, and the nurses Jillian and Katie. Also the the charge nurse that night was my friend Summer from college! Everyone rallied together to help support my head, shoulders, legs and feet during each contraction and cheered me on when it was time to curl up into a C shape around Baby O and push during each contraction. One of the nurses asked if I wanted a mirror, to which I said no. Paul however told the nurse that he thought I might like the mirror and once it was there I was so appreciative. I could see Baby O’s head as it began to crown, Seeing Baby O’s head move down and out was extremely reassuring and motivating. Seeing that dark hair, I just couldn't wait to meet him or her (though for some reason I associated all that hair with a boy). After some final amazing pushes, Elijah James was born at 10:54pm. He was 9 pounds and 2 ounces at his first weighing and 21 inches long. Elijah and I enjoyed immediate skin-to-skin time while the nurses cleaned him off and Paul cut his umbilical cord. Sadly, Elijah was having issues breathing and apparently had swallowed quite a bit of amniotic fluid. Elijah was about 80% oxygenated at this point and had to have the fluids suctioned out and was given oxygen to get his levels up. I was so thankful that Summer was the charge nurse that evening and could explain everything to Paul. I saw Paul staying calm and it helped me to stay calm. The process didn't take too long and before I knew it my sweet boy was back in my arms.
I have to say I never wanted to be induced and I definitely did not want to use narcotics or an epidural during the birth process. In hindsight I would not change anything about my birth experience (well maybe I would have skipped the narcotic and went straight to the epidural). This was an incredibly positive experience and I am so thankful for my encouraging and supportive husband and for Leah our fabulous Doula. I could not have done the hard work without their support.
Spring came early this year to celebrate the arrival of this beautiful baby boy!
Let's get this induction on the road!
Paul supporting me during active labor
That moment they put my son on my chest. Pure bliss.
Once we met Elijah, we crossed out our girl name.
Our beautiful son - Elijah James.
"For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him."
1 Samuel 1:27