Here it is...Samantha's birth story! For you casual readers of my blog, I must warn you that this is a birth story, so if you are grossed out by the details of such things, you may want to stop reading now. ;)
My water broke around 7:00PM on Thursday, May 4th. I was in the kitchen fixing dinner when I suddenly felt a couple of gushes. At first I didn't think much of it, assuming it was just more of the usual, but when it kept on going, I realized that something weird was going on. I ran to the bathroom and discovered that I had a constant leak, almost like I was peeing, but couldn't control it. I called to Mike and told him that I was pretty sure my water had just broken. He didn't believe me at first, so we just hung out for a bit to see if things continued. I had accidentally left the stove on when I ran out of the kitchen, so we had to spend a bit of time cleaning things up! Within a few minutes after the first gush of water, I started having some mild cramping, like menstrual cramps. After we finished eating, I finally convinced Mike that my water had, in fact, broken. The waterfall just wasn't stopping! I called my doctor's office and let them know what had happened. Since it was after hours, I had to wait a little while for him to call me back. Within an hour, Dr. Biter called me and asked how I was doing. I told him that I felt mildly crampy, but that I was not having any contractions. He recommended that we hang out at home for a while until things got started, and to try and get some rest.
Since the baby's birth was now imminent, we took advantage of the time we had before labor started and got all of our final preparations ready. Mike installed the car seat, and we put all the last details into our hospital bags. We went to bed around 10:00 PM, and got a couple hours of sleep. Around 1:00 AM, the contractions were strong enough to wake me up. They were still pretty mild, and I was able to breathe through them easily enough. By 2:00 AM, the contractions were strong enough that Mike woke up and started helping me relax through the contractions. I stayed in bed (and on the floor a couple of times) and used the relaxation techniques I had learned to get through them. I found that visualizing myself floating on the ocean worked the best for me at that point. Sometime in the middle of the night Mike and I both felt hungry so we ate some toast and I went through a lot of juice and water. I wanted to be sure I kept my energy up since I wasn't sure how long I would be in labor for the rest of the day. My contractions were about 2 minutes apart, and 1 minute long. While they were very regular, I didn't feel like they were strong enough to be very productive so I didn't call the doctor right away. This entire time my bag of waters continued to gush and leak continually. We ended up falling asleep again around 5:30 AM (Wednesday, May 5th) when the contractions eased up a bit, and didn't get up until about 9:00 AM.
While I was getting cleaned up and ready for the day, the doctor's office called to check in on me. I told them that my contractions had really slowed down and were only coming inconsistently, about 10-15 minutes apart, and they were not strong. We decided that I would go into the office to get checked and make sure that things were going okay. Mike and I stopped for a smoothie for some extra energy to get us through the morning, and then headed to the office. It was a busy morning, and we had to wait for a while. I had about 2-3 contractions in the lobby while we waited, but they weren't too bad. I could still talk through them. Dr. Biter checked me for dilation, which was extremely uncomfortable. It felt like a strong contraction that was not natural. I am so glad that I waited to have this done until it was necessary! He found that I was 4.5cm dilated, and about 90% effaced. This was great news and we were very excited. He said that a lip of my cervix was blocking the baby's head, so he had moved it out of the way to help get things started. (Normally we wouldn't have done this, but since my water had already broken more than 12 hours ago, the countdown was on. Most doctors will make you go to the hospital immediately when your water breaks, and require you to give birth within 24 hours. Since my labor still hadn't really gotten started, we wanted to avoid going to the hospital too early, since there was a good chance it would lead to a C-section.) Dr. Biter said that after being checked, labor would probably pick up again. He suggested that I eat lots of protein and walk, walk, walk. Since my bag of waters had ruptured, he said that my labor needed to get going actively again by 7:00 PM.
Mike and I went out to get breakfast, and I made sure to order something with lots of protein. Then we headed to the beach in Encinitas and walked for about a mile up and down the beach. My contractions started coming pretty regularly, about 1 minute long and 2-3 minutes apart. It was very nice, just walking and talking together, and during each contraction I had to stop and hold onto Mike. I wasn't able to walk and talk through the contractions anymore, but I still didn't feel like they were all that strong. The beach visualizations were very helpful at this point since I was hearing the waves crash in the background. When we were done at the beach I knew I wasn't ready to go to the hospital yet, so we decided to keep walking. We went to the Botanical Garden and walked around there. It was really nice - since it was the middle of a week day, there were not many people there and we had a lot of privacy. We walked all around the gardens for a few hours, looking at plants and discussing what we could plant in our own garden. My contractions continued to intensify and come more frequently throughout the day. I held onto Mike for some of them, leaned on a bench for others, and once or twice I tried squatting through a contraction. I found that staying vertical was the easiest. The baby's head was getting lower and lower, and it was getting harder and harder to sit. I focused on my breathing through all of them, and used several different visualizations. I liked using the mental imagery of an opening flower while we were in the gardens. We had a great afternoon at the Botanical Garden so we decided to buy an orchid from their gift shop to help us remember our day in labor. We will plant it in our outdoor garden once we get it landscaped. After a few hours in the gardens, my contractions were getting really intense. They were lasting closer to 2 minutes now, and were coming about 2 minutes apart. I could definitely not walk or talk through them now. We called the doctor's office again, and they suggested that we come in to get checked again.
We got to the office around 4:45 PM. Dr. Biter saw me right away and found that I was about 5.5 cm dilated. By this point I was getting a bit nervous about the baby, so he did a quick ultrasound to check her position, heart beat, etc. Her head was very low, and everything else looked great. He recommended that we continue walking around a while longer since things still weren't moving that fast. The less time we spent at the hospital, the better. We headed out to do some more walking and had a hard time finding somewhere to go. We were trying to find a park, but didn't know the area well enough. I had to use the restroom so we ended up stopping at a gas station. We spent quite a while in that parking lot since, after being checked for dilation again, my contractions were coming very quickly now. I was starting to get really frustrated and felt like I needed somewhere to go and feel settled. All the wandering around was getting irritating to me. We considered going to the beach again but I was having a hard time making any decisions at this point. I was still focusing on my breathing through each contraction, but I was having a hard time relaxing. Mike helped me come to the conclusion that we should probably head to the hospital. He knew how nervous I was about going there and getting stuck on a 24 hour countdown, so we discussed it for quite a while between contractions. At the hospital, I'd be able to change my clothes and get comfortable, and we could set up our room so that I would feel like I had a place to relax, rather than keep wandering around. My contractions were getting very intense now and were coming every minute. I wanted to be sure that we did not go into the hospital until I was sure that my contractions were going to continue at that rate, so we agreed to go sit in the hospital parking lot until I felt ready to go inside.
Around 5:45 PM (still Wednesday, May 5th) we arrived at the hospital. We stayed out in the parking lot for quite a while so I could make sure my contractions were going to continue at a regular pace. When I finally decided that I felt ready to go in, I was hit by a wave of emotions. It suddenly became very real to me that we were about to have a baby. I cried for a while, worked through another contraction, and we headed inside. At this point I could hardly talk or answer any questions. Thankfully they got us inside and set up in the LDR (labor, delivery, and recovery) room quickly. I changed into my nightgown and the nurse checked my vital signs. She wanted to hook me up to the electronic fetal monitor which is something I really did not want to do. I told her right away that we wanted to have a natural birth. She said that was fine, but that they needed to monitor both me and the baby for 30 minutes. I agreed to the monitor as long as she promised we would be able to take it off after 30 minutes so that I could keep moving around. Contractions were a lot more painful when I was laying down, so I couldn't wait to get the monitor off. Everything looked good with me and baby, so we were able to get up again quickly. I wanted to wait for Dr. Biter before getting checked for dilation again, since I had just been checked at his office a short while ago. After a few more contractions, he arrived at the hospital and said that he did need to check me again. He found that I was at 6cm, which was a slight improvement. I was still feeling good about everything and Mike and I decided to labor in the shower for a while. I lost all track of time while we were in there, but I think it was at least 2 hours, if not more. I sat on the birth ball in the shower, and Mike stood behind me, helping me through each contraction. My new night nurse came while we were in the shower, and she came in several times to check the baby's heart rate. The water felt so good! I could have stayed in there all night, but I eventually felt very thirsty and decided to get out to try some new positions.
My contractions were getting stronger and stronger now. We tried several different positions and found that only the vertical positions were working for me. The birth ball worked pretty well, but any other sitting or lying position was incredibly painful since baby's head was so low in my pelvis. I felt like I couldn't bend the lower half of my body. Mike kept encouraging me to switch positions regularly to keep labor going. The longer I stayed in one position, the farther apart my contractions were getting. It was really difficult for me each time I switched positions, since it would instantly start a new contraction. I was still doing really well with my breathing and relaxation. The nurse came in a couple more times during the evening to check me for dilation. (Every time I had to lie on the bed to get checked for dilation, I would get the shakes REALLY badly. The nurse kept telling me it was a normal part of labor.) Each time she checked me, she found that I was still at 6cm. This was discouraging news, but we continued to shift positions to try to keep the dilation going. By about 10:00 PM, the nurse told me that Dr. Biter had said that if I didn't make any more progress in the next couple of hours, he was going to recommend Pitocin to kick things up a notch. I really didn't want Pitocin, so we tried as hard as we could to keep labor going. Around midnight, the nurse checked me one last time and found that I was still at 6cm. She let Mike and I discuss things for a while and decide what we wanted to do.
At this point my contractions were getting really painful, and I was getting very discouraged. I knew that normally this would have been a sign that I was in transition and that I was almost there, but since I had been stuck at 6cm for 6 hours, I knew that I was not in transition. This was really hard for me to deal with since I so badly wanted to do this naturally. However, between the pain and the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, I wasn't able to relax through my contractions anymore, and I could hardly deal with them as it was. I knew there was no way I'd be able to handle the intensified Pitocin contractions naturally. If I was going to do the Pitocin, I'd have to get an epidural too. We looked through my birth notes, which included my personal thoughts on the epidural. I understood in advance that sometimes things just don't go the way you hope or plan, so I had written out a few circumstances in which I would be willing to get an epidural. The main reason I had written as an "OK" was that if labor goes on for over 24 hours and I am completely exhausted and really struggling with labor, an epidural can be a compassionate choice to allow me to get some rest. I had noted that I would ONLY do it if Dr. Biter personally recommended it. I did not want to allow the hospital staff to talk me into it. After discussing it for a while, Mike and I realized that our current situation was precisely the situation I had allowed for in my birth plan. I knew there was no way I could physically continue labor with Pitocin and no epidural, and due to my ruptured membranes (which happened 29 hours ago at this point) I didn't really have much choice but to intervene and try to jump start labor enough to get me past 6cm. The nurse reminded me that an epidural would require a few other things that I didn't want, such as the electronic fetal monitor and an IV. My main reason for not wanting these things was that I wanted to be able to move around unrestricted, and did not want to be confined to the bed. By this point I was too exhausted to move around anyway, and all I wanted was to be able to lie down without pain, so Mike and I both agreed to go ahead with the epidural and Pitocin. I was a little bummed about it but I felt 100% sure that I was making the right decision.
The anesthesiologist came in shortly after and talked me through everything. He was very understanding and made me feel comfortable. I was pretty nervous about the needle, but I knew it wouldn't be as bad as the contractions. At 1:00 AM (Thursday, May 6) they hooked me up to the IV and then began the epidural. We had to pause a couple of times for my contractions to pass. I couldn't WAIT until I was not feeling them anymore! I felt a bit of a sting that made me uncomfortable, but it didn't last long. I felt one last contraction at full strength but it didn't last long - the epidural kicked in during the middle of it. I didn't feel anything else after this point. I did get the shakes really badly when I first got the epidural. The nurses told me it was a normal part of labor, but I think it was because I was so cold. There was a vent right above the bed, and when Mike adjusted the temperature, the shakes stopped. They started my Pitocin drip at the minimum recommended amount. The nurse got me comfortable, and Mike and I both fell asleep quickly. Two hours later the nurse and Dr. Biter came in and checked me (I didn't feel it at all this time!!!) and found that I was at 9cm. They said they'd be right back. What felt like minutes later, everyone was back, along with more nurses. They woke Mike up and said that we were about to have a baby! I wasn't feeling any contractions, but I was feeling a LOT of pressure in my bottom. Each time I had a contraction I would feel this pressure. Everyone got in place to help me push. I was able to pull back my own legs and each time I felt the pressure, I took a deep breath and released it, then took 3 more deep breaths, pushing while I held my breath each time. I didn't feel any pain, but I felt like I was pushing harder than I possibly could. Everyone could see my baby's head, but it was difficult pushing her past the pubic bone. It felt like I was pushing forever, and I was getting frustrated. (I know I started getting snappy after a while...everyone was encouraging me to push past it, and I kept telling them that I WAS pushing as hard as I could and it just wasn't working!) Just when I felt like she would never be born, everyone gathered around and everyone got excited - I had done it - my baby's head was born! Dr. Biter caught her head and pulled her a bit of the way out and then let me hold her and pull her the rest of the way out. I could see her little face looking at me as I pulled her the out of me and held her to my chest. At 3:54 AM, Thursday, May 6th, my daughter was born! While it felt like the pushing took a very long time to me, I actually pushed for less than an hour. I had my perineum massaged with oil during the entire birth, and I only had one tiny little internal tear. Dr. Biter stitched it up so quickly that I didn't even notice he had done it. I overheard the nurse asking Mike if we wanted to keep the placenta and I noticed that she was already packaging it up for us. I was shocked when I realized that it had already been delivered. I had been expecting to have to do at least a little pushing to get it out!
We spent a couple of hours with the baby on my chest, skin to skin. I tried to nurse her right away and successfully got her to nurse from both breasts. She was a natural! I was thrilled since I had been really nervous about breastfeeding. Little Samantha is absolutely perfect. She weighed 7lbs, 5oz, and was 19 inches long. She has lots and lots of dark hair, which Mom and Dad are both thrilled about! She was born with a little cone towards the side of her head, which went away within the first day. Her head had been coming down the birth canal at a strange angle, which is why I was having such a hard time dilating and pushing her out.
All in all, I am very happy with the way things went. I think I am still coming to terms with everything. I still think about it constantly and I feel like I am justifying things in my mind. After re-reading this birth story, I am brought to tears when I got to the part about having to get the epidural. I do feel a bit of sadness that I did not get to experience a 100% natural birth. I also feel a little disappointed that I have to tell people that I couldn't do it, and I know I missed out on the euphoric feelings that often come from a natural birth. At the same time, I am very proud of myself for going as long as I did without medication. I went for for 29 hours from the time my water broke until we realized that medication would be necessary. Not many women can say that they labored naturally for 29 hours! I also feel okay about everything, because the reason I got the epidural was the ONE reason I had listed in my birth plan that medication would be okay. While I am still a bit sad about the missed experience, I still can say I feel no regret about the way things went.
I am so thankful for my doctor who allowed me to stay home and allow things to progress with labor naturally, rather than sending me to the hospital right away. I am also very happy with the way things went at the hospital. I had been very nervous about whether or not the staff would give me a hard time about trying for a natural birth, so I was very happy to find that they didn't question it at all. They happily complied with my wishes and never once bothered me about getting pain medication or any other unwanted interventions. They let me wait until I talked to Dr. Biter before suggesting anything. The hospital was a bit slow in getting us to our room and we had to switch rooms an extra time since the birthing wing was so full, but it really wasn't a problem. All of our nurses were great, and the staff was very helpful and nice. I am so very happy with the way everything went and the way our birth was handled. I'm so incredibly thankful for Mike, who helped me get through everything, and was my support. I couldn't have done it without him! I'm not ready to get pregnant and have another baby right away just yet, but the memory of the contractions is already fading away as I spend time with my beautiful daughter. She is worth it all!!!