Labour is going to go how labour is going to go… as one of my midwives tell me. I now understand how true this statement is. You can prepare for as much as you want, with your birth plan, but your labour will progress the way it does and it is largely out of your control. Some women are more fortunate than others.
It’s interesting the expectations I had going into labour the first time. I wanted this and not that, but had no real idea how it was going to go. Even though I had done lots of reading and research prior to my first birth, no one can really tell you. I was a little disappointed looking back, but overall very happy to be done with it and have had my baby naturally. I reviewed my first labour with my new backup midwife the other day, and also spoke to my Naturopath about it, both who have had children in the past couple years. It was comforting to know that they too did not get their birth wishes… meaning that circumstances took over and things needed to be done, at absolutely no fault of their own and it does not reflect on them poorly or mean they aren’t a strong people because of it.
Don’t let this scare you, but my first labour was long. It does not mean yours is going to be. Every labour and pregnancy are different. I was in pre-labour for about 24 hours or more. I was anxious and thought things would get going. My midwife suggested taking Gravol and trying to get some rest, I should have listened. By the following night she came over and I took some homeopathic remedies to try to jump start things, within a couple hours I was in early labour and contractions were noticeable stronger, closer together and more painful. The next morning I was in the same place, and my midwife stopped by my house again. She decided we should go to hospital to do a stress test on the baby, and she wanted to check my bag of waters as she thought I had a slow leak. I remember going in around 10am on Sunday morning and choosing to stay at the hospital, I was 100% effaced, and 3cms dilated by this point, or so I thought. Looking at my notes I was only a finger tip dilated, but 100% effaced, which I find embarrassing now that I stayed in the hospital. Contractions were coming every 5 minutes, plus or minus a couple minutes and felt quite strong. Reviewing my past labour with my backup midwife she said so after 10 + hours of labour you chose to stay in the hospital and you think you went and stayed in too early? Okay so, you really think after 10 hours of labour it was too soon to go and stay, 10 hours is quite a while Julia…. that made it sound differently to me.
By that evening I was about 3cms dilated, contractions were about the same distance apart (anywhere from 3-8 minutes) but feeling much stronger and painful and I was noticeably more tired having not slept since Friday night, and it was now approaching Sunday evening. Around 7 PM it was suggested I get an epidural to get some rest, after asking everyone in the room that they would not be disappointed in me if I got an epidural, we decided to get one. My caregivers were also thinking it might be necessary to augment my labour as things were taking a long time and more importantly they were concerned about my exhaustion having to deal with strong contractions that were not furthering my progress.
So ladies, when they say once you choose to get an epidural PLAN to be able to cope with labour for the next couple hours in case hospital staff are not available to give you one. Oh SO SO true. I was prepared for a couple hours, but not the 7 MORE hours that passed waiting for one AFTER I decided to have one! A nurse needs to be dedicated to you and in your room to monitor you if you have an epidural, although your midwife is more than capable, it’s “hospital policy” to have a nurse. Around midnight my midwife gave me a shot of Demerol, and checked my cervix before doing so, I was only 4cms. It took the edge off but I could feel the peak of each contraction, so I slept for a couple minute intervals between them. A couple hours later it was wearing off and finally at 2 AM the nurse was ready, and the Anesthesiologist came in (I thought we’d have to wait for him! But not so he was ready). I hate needles (I’ve fainted in the past with a needle) and hate the thought of an epidural, but I can honestly say it was no big deal. I was so exhausted and in pain I didn’t notice.
When you have an epidural you are on your back confined to a bed, I have not heard of any woman who had a walking epidural and was actually allowed to get out of bed. I was hooked up to all sorts of monitors by that point. They have a constant monitor on the baby, and it was turned up too loud, it rung in our ears for days after. My midwife would turn it down, and the nurse would crank it back up. I don’t know if they augmented me with Oxytocin right away or just at the beginning or end. I sort of remember the OB coming in to check on me that my midwife consulted (as things were going on a while and I think it’s in their ‘handbook’ that they need to consult an OB at that point) and asking why I was not get Oxytocin. I remember someone saying well she’s progressing now, but I guess he wanted things to go even faster?! I have no idea if that meant they did give me something after that or not. I’ll have to ask my midwife to look back in my records to see.
My son was having decelerations in his heartbeat after contractions. The nurse (which I did not like, I wish we were able to keep the nurse that relieved her for her break) was scaring me saying I might need a c-section, which was my ultimate fear. My midwife didn’t seem overly concerned as his heart rate was recovering well after each decel. I remember the nurse wanting to put a screw in the top of my sons head to better monitor his heart rate, I midwife kind of looked at her like… you’ve done that before, and politely skirted the issue, luckily it was not done. When he was born we found out the decelerations were because he had the cord wrapped around his shoulder.
Around 5:40 AM or so my midwife checked my dilation again. There was a small lip of the cervix left, she moved it out of the way with her finger as I pushed through it. I started pushing. I pushed for 45 minutes and my son was born at 6:30 AM on the dot.
Because of my exhaustion they were concerned that I would not have the stamina to push the baby out and my uterus would be too tired to do the work. I remember thinking to myself there is NO way I’ve gone through all this and am going to still have to have an operation! I was very determined to say the least and got second wind, I ordered a couple people around telling them how to hold my back or legs and pushed as hard as I could. The OB came in to check on my progress and was like, ‘oh she is definitely making up for a tired uterus no problem, she’ll get this baby out.’
I wrote notes a couple days after my first birth so I would remember as much as I can. It’s funny how my memory alters things. It was what it was. In the end I was delighted to have a healthy baby out of it born naturally. Yes it was long, but that is not abnormal. Labour start and stops, that’s not abnormal either. Contractions can go from 3 minutes apart back to 8 minutes, yup in the realm of normal too. First labours can be longer and yes that’s normal too.
Knowing what I know now I will TRY to listen to my midwife better this time, and REST when she suggests it. I still have wishes for this birth of course, but I am way more open to assessing things as they go along and doing what is necessary. As I found out from the first time, labour is going to go how labour is going to go. It doesn’t mean I am broken or abnormal etc… it just is and it’s all okay!