Birth Story: Part 2 - Epidural, Pitocin and Pushing

When we arrived at the hospital, as I got out of the car and walked to Labor & Delivery, I felt fluid trickle down my leg.  About 90% sure it was amniotic fluid at this point, I waited in Triage to have the fluid checked.

Instead of immediately checking the fluid, they hooked me up to a machine that tracks the baby's heartbeat and my contractions, which at that point, had not started, and relegated me to a hospital bed while being monitored.  About an hour into waiting for the fluid to be tested, the baby's fetal heart rate dropped rapidly.

A nurse came in and hooked me up to an IV immediately in order to create a larger fluid cushion around the umbilical cord, and just like that, all my hopes of applying the birthing techniques from my Childbirth Preparation class, walking in the courtyard to bring on labor and using a birthing ball went out the window.  I couldn't even get up to go to the restroom because they were concerned about the baby's heart rate dropping again.

A Midwife came in, checked the fluid and confirmed it was amniotic fluid and checked my chart and explained that if I didn't start labor by 2am, it's hospital policy to start induction with Pitocin.  I wanted to avoid induction because of the strong and unnatural contractions. I explained to the midwife that I would rather not induce and she explained that the risk of infection dramatically increases 24 hours after the bag of waters breaks. She then told me to think about it and we would talk again at 2am.

We were moved to a Labor and Delivery room and I was kept on continuous monitoring. At 2am, the midwife came back and said it was time for the Pitocin.  I told her I'd like to wait until 4 or 5am.  She asked, "What do you think will happen between now and then?" I told her that I just hoped to get a nap before starting labor which she thought was reasonable and agreed.  The truth was, I hoped I would start laboring on my own without needing the Pitocin.

By 4:30am, when the midwife returned, I had started contractions.  She seemed satisfied and stopped insisting on induction, performed a cervical check and said she would come back in a couple of hours to see how my labor progresses.

Now, I understand that contractions feel differently for everyone.  For me, it was like a combination of menstrual cramps and the extreme need to void my bowels.  The pressure on my bowels was the most overwhelming.  I was desperate to go to the restroom based on that feeling and they allowed me to disconnect my monitoring temporarily since the baby's heart rate remained steady to go to the bathroom.  When I finally got onto the toilet, I didn't have the need to void any longer.  Apparently, it was just the contractions.

DH did what he could to relieve my pain.  Tennis balls and back massagers didn't work.  What did work was him kneading a knot out of my shoulder.  The pain from releasing the knot took my focus off the pain from the contractions enough to get through each one.

By 9am, I had not progressed and my contractions were still irregular and not productive.  The contractions were painful enough that I was willing to get an epidural which allowed me to finally get some sleep.

Throughout my pregnancy and up until that moment in labor, I had been worried about the pain of a needle going into my back for the epidural.  I was so scared of needles that I figured I could forgo the epidural because the pain of contractions couldn't possibly compare to the pain of a needle going into my spine.  Turns out, when the contractions got painful enough, that fear went out the window.

The anesthesiologist administered a local anesthetic that numbed the area he would work on to insert the epidural.  I felt the needle go in with a wince of pain and then a cold feeling spread from the injection point.  It didn't take away all the pain associated with the placement of the epidural tube but it made the pain bearable enough for him to work without me writhing around.  When the happy juice started flowing, I was given a button to self administer if I needed additional relief and immediately felt the need to pass out from the exhaustion of being up all night dealing with contractions.

When I woke up, the new Midwife on staff brought up the possibility of needing a C-Section if I failed to progress by the time the 24 hour mark came up at 8pm.  She recommended that I receive Pitocin to create a productive contraction cycle to which I agreed in hopes that a vaginal labor was still a possibility.

In an effort to get my contractions in the right symmetrical single hump pattern every three minutes (my pattern up to that point was two to three humps varying between three to seven minute apart), the nurse played with the Pitocin levels.  That result in fetal distress and a gang of hospital employees came in, worked quickly and the OB on staff had the nurse take me off the Pitocin until the baby's heart rate was regulated again. An hour later, the nurse was allowed to administer low levels of Pitocin again to try to progress labor.

At 7pm, I felt the need to push and after another cervical check it turned out I was fully dilated but the baby was not well descended.  It was pushing time!  I vomited water from all the ice chips I had eaten.  I hadn't been allowed any food or drink since I was admitted and the IV was keeping me hydrated.  Pushing, it turns out, is a lot like pooping.  And I'm a very effective pooper.  I didn't involuntarily void on the table but the nurse did manually express my bowels in hopes that it would make more room for the baby to pass.

After over an hour of pushing, the baby had not descended far enough to be birthed vaginally, nor did the OB or Midwife believe I would be able to push him through my pelvic area.  It was time for the C-Section.

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