On Tuesday Sept. 25th, after two weeks of prodromal labor, I awoke just before 6 am with my bleeding and cramping. At that point, my surges became much more intense and more regular. I called the birth center, and my midwife Cathy G. was thrilled for me and told me to check in when things got more intense. That night around 11 pm, the surges really took off, and I labored all night on my own, finally waking my husband Frank at 4 am when I really needed his support. I knew this was finally happening for real.
I called the birth center at 6 am to find that Cathy had slept there knowing I was “going to go”. She told me to come in at 8 am to get checked. When I arrived, it was Katie who was now on call, and she checked me. I was only 1 centimeter dilated. Of course, I was disappointed because the surges were so intense, and I was having back labor as well. I went home to continue laboring, and at Katie’s suggestion I spent a lot of time on hands and knees to get the baby out of a slightly posterior position.
At 4 pm we went to the birth center to be checked again, as Frank had to go to work that night. I was deflated when I found out that I was 2 cm. I was sent home again, and Frank went to work. Thankfully, my friend Nina (who is a Doula), was with me to support me that evening.
At around 10 pm, I decided to take a shower to see if I could relax and get some sleep. The hot water felt amazing on my back, but when I got out of the shower, it all broke loose. I was in full-blown, undeniable labor. I called Katie and told her I was coming in. Nina and I went to the birth center, and when Katie checked me, I was still at 2 cm. I begged her to not send me home, and she agreed that I should stay there, get some IV fluids and use the birth ball to get the baby in better position. Frank arrived at around 1 am, and I felt like everything got easier with him there to put counter-pressure on my back, and to remind me to relax my jaw and my shoulders with each surge. Just his presence made me feel more relaxed.
Around 3 am, Katie checked me and told me I was progressing, so I requested to get in the tub. I labored in the tub for quite awhile, and Katie and the nurse prepped for the baby’s arrival. As the sun was coming up, I started to feel something in the pit of my stomach. Something was wrong. The surges were spacing farther apart, and the baby was not coming down. The next midwife, Cathy P., came in to start her shift at 8 am, and I got on the bed to be checked. She broke the news to me that I was still only 4 cm. I was heartbroken and confused. How could I only be this far along when I had been laboring for two days? She then told me her honest opinion that she felt I needed to transfer to the hospital for Pitocin and an epidural so I could sleep and progress. We were over 50 hours into natural labor, and we weren’t getting anywhere. I trusted Cathy’s instincts and made the heart-wrenching decision to transfer. I remember sitting on the toilet, Frank sitting on the edge of the birthing tub, both of us crying because we knew how much I wanted the natural delivery which wasn’t going to happen.
The hardest part of my labor was actually between the time I left the birthing center at 10 am and when I received the epidural at around 11 am. This hour was excruciating because I had mentally given up on the natural birth, and I was beyond exhausted. Thankfully, I had Frank, Nina, Cathy, and a wonderful labor and delivery nurse named Alice to support me. Once the epidural was administered, I was immediately comfortable and able to rest while the Pitocin did its work. I labored this way from 11 am until 5 am the next morning, with Cathy coming in every 2 hours to check me, and my beautiful angel of a nurse Alice regularly bringing me chicken broth, lemon ices, and vitamin waters to give me strength.
At 5 am, Cathy told me I was finally 10 cm dilated and fully thinned, so she directed me to start pushing. I pushed and pushed and pushed while getting feeling back in my legs and pelvis. When Cathy and Frank told me they could both see the baby’s head, my energy and determination were renewed. After 2 hours of pushing, Cathy told me she didn’t think I was making enough progress, that the baby wasn’t clearing the pelvis, and my pushes were getting weak. I begged her to let me keep working, so she agreed since the baby’s heart rate was fine. At 8 am, Cathy G. came in for her shift, and I asked her to let me keep pushing. I pushed for a total of 5 hours, in every imaginable position.
Cathy finally told me that her gut was telling her that it wasn’t his head coming down, but rather his head molding and creating the illusion of coming down. She broke the news to me that she thought a c-section was necessary now, and she earnestly said that she didn’t want to see an emergency situation. Again, I had to put my trust in the instincts of an experienced midwife. I grieved hard at this decision. I truly felt like my body let me down, and I felt like a failure. I would later learn that the baby was large (9 lbs 3 oz, 23 inches, and a 38 cm head) and also oblique, and his head had indeed been molding instead of coming down.
I tearfully told Cathy and Alice that I was mostly sad to not be getting the skin-to-skin contact with my baby with a c-section, to which Cathy said “Well, maybe you can”. She had a light in her eyes. She talked to the nurse, the attending OB, and the anesthesiologist and got them all on board with the plan that if the baby checked out okay, I could have skin-to-skin. Cathy told me to start calling for my baby once she gave me the ‘okay’ sign, explaining that she could not demand my baby be given to me. I had to do it.
Alice covered me with warm blankets, and I was wheeled into the icy operating room. I started laughing hysterically (or nervously) when suddenly there were, what seemed like, a dozen people fussing over me in the O.R., getting me hooked up and ready for surgery. Frank and Cathy then came in, and the operation started. I concentrated on relaxation breathing and Frank’s calming voice to combat the feeling of panic I could feel rising in my chest as they were cutting through the layers of my belly. I breathed slowly as I felt them pushing and pulling to get the baby out. When Franco cried loudly as they took him out of me, Frank and I both wailed in excitement and joy. It was done, and our baby was fine.
A few minutes later, Cathy told me the baby was ready. I started calling out “Where’s my baby?! Bring me my baby! I want my baby!” They brought him to me, and I will never forget the look of recognition when he was placed next to my face and I began talking to him. He was wide-awake and alert!
I threw the blankets off, and Frank and Cathy put Franco on my chest, skin-to-skin. With their help, Franco was held in place and latched on immediately. I was nursing him while my gut was filleted open with my organs outside my body during the repair part of the surgery! I found out later that this was the first time this has ever happened at our hospital.
After a bit, I started to get very woozy and felt I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. The labor and ensuing surgery were finally taking their toll. Frank took the baby (and had his own skin-to-skin time in the OR!), and all of us went to recovery together.
I was in and out of consciousness and shaking uncontrollably, but Cathy once again put Franco on my breast and helped him nurse. I recall her saying “Look at all that great colostrum!” as she squeezed my breast to prepare it for latching. In my fog, I was completely frustrated that I couldn’t participate in the experience the way I wanted to, but my heart was leaping for joy knowing I wasn’t going to be separated from my son and that he was getting what he needed at that moment. He was never taken to the nursery during the whole experience.
The recovery was difficult after over 75 hours of labor, 5 hours of pushing, and a c-section, and I have had to grieve the loss of the gentle birth I so wanted for my son, but I’ve learned that sometimes life hands you a difficult situation to teach you lessons about yourself. I am realizing that I didn’t let anyone down, and my body didn’t malfunction. It just happened this way. Cathy calls me a warrior after going through enough labor to birth 4 babies. In the end, I had to make a sacrifice to ensure the safe delivery of my son. I will always wish I could have had a different experience, and I have come to terms with that loss. And, of course, I have this beautiful, feisty, always-hungry baby boy to remind me that motherhood was the ultimate goal, no matter what twists and turns the path took.