Monday, September 15, 2008

Birthing Story, Part 1

As mentioned before, Lucia has finally arrived. However, she took her sweet time doing so. She was born about nine days after her official due date. We have recently come to the realization that the process started way before that.

About two weeks before Lucia's arrival, R was feeling some ser
ious contractions. We timed them, but they were erratic in intensity, length, and time between. Eventually, they subsided. So, we waited a little longer. About a week later, they started up again, but again, the contractions faded. R was extremely frustrated. We were ready, but Lucia was not.

In retrospect, these early episodes were actually early labor. We figure that R probably dilated 3-4 centimeters over that two week period.

Then it happened. Around 3:30 AM, Wednesday morning, R was complaining of contractions again. Remembering the two previous false starts, I slowly rolled out of bed to locate my watch and contractions record. R expressed that these contractions were different than the previous two times. So, we moved downstairs to the finished basement where we were planning to birth anyway.

As the contractions became more intense, I noticed that R changed her disp
osition dramatically. I was no longer able to distract her with simple chit-chat about the presidential race or work or whatever. This was the real deal. As my partner worked through the next contraction, I fought hard to hold back a smile. This was really happening. Cletus was to be a fetus no more.

We made the decision to call the doula, Erica, shortly after 4:00. At one point, she told me to be quiet so that she could listen to R's contraction. She was satisfied that things were in motion. Erica appeared in our basement within a half hour.

The laboring continued and I called the midwife, Kim, who called the doctor (Elizab
eth) and the midwife's apprentice. By about 8:00, our team of four (including me) was assembled to help R through this labor. Somewhere around that time, it was established that R was about 8 centimeters dilated. It wouldn't be much longer...or so we thought.
There was a great system in place for this birth. The birthing tub (in a box) was inflated and slowly filling with hot water. Blankets, pillows, cushions, towels, and various other supplies were set up all over the basement to allow several options for laboring.

R labored on all fours, sitting on the birthing ball, lying in our spare bed, and mostly submerged in the tub. We moved her from spot to spot to encourage the contractions. All four of us rotated between running to get supplies, encouraging R, giving massages, or checking her vital signs.

This stage of labor went on for nearly 24 hours. However, R's dilation ceased to progress. Erica assured us that progression still could happen even without increased dilation, but that didn't make it any easier.

R became exhausted. It was increasingly harder to deal with the contractions when little seemed to be happening. The birthing team all had to take food and sleep breaks. All the while, R kept working through contractions.
On top of this marathon labor, several concerns arose. First, R's blood pressure was disturbingly high. This was something we dealt with throughout pregnancy, but it seemed to be more a symptom of white coat syndrome than anything serious. As time wore on, it became noticeable that R's contractions slowed and were less intense. R's water hadn't broken, which wasn't strange, but it was getting late in the game. Upon one check by the doctor, Elizabeth discovered that the baby's head was tucked in a strange position. It was doubtful that it would be able to pass unless it was adjusted in time for full dilation. And that brings me to the scariest development: R actually went backwards in her dilation.

All this time, R had worked and worked through her labor with little or no sleep and a tiny amount of food and water. It was enormously frustrating that no progress had been made. I don't know how she kept it together. I was barely able to do so.

R worked hard to get her blood pressure numbers down, which she was able to accomplish. We tried various methods to move the contractions along. This worked to some degree. Elizabeth even made a major emotional and mental breakthrough with R. Additionally, the doctor had us try several different positions in order to move the baby's head. It seemed that we had done all we could. Why wouldn't this baby come out?

About hour 25 or 26 (I don't remember which.), there was talk of moving the labor to the hospital. Kim was concerned about the high blood pressure readings earlier in the process. Elizabeth discovered that the dilation had gone backwards and the baby's head had moved up instead of down.

Things looked bleak. Out worst nightmare of an overly medicalized birth with a possible emergency C-section was now a distinct possibility. R was scared. I was barely able to hold the tears in.

I hastily packed a bag and prepared the car. We were going to the hospital despite all our efforts. After 27 hours of blood, sweat, and tears, our worst fears were coming to fruition.

To be continued...


Lisa said...

be continued?!? I've been waiting for this story and I want it now. :)

GE said...

agreed. that's quite a cliffhanger.

jenny said...

Dang. It was at hour 28 that I gritted my teeth and said, "You mentioned something about an epidural?"

Elizabeth Hornbeck said...

Zac, I'm waiting with bated breath. Reminds me of my own birth story (28 hours of labor) and things slowing down when you expect them to intensify...very frustrating.