36 hours after arriving at the hospital, Jason Wayne Cheney was born. It’s taken me a year to finally write it, but here is our birth story…
My name is Nancy and ‘birth without fear’ was my motto going into labor, since I had never been through it before and had no clue what to expect. I wanted a positive outlook, regardless of the horror stories I’d heard from countless other women. I had read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and thought “I got this!” My sister Diane was set to be my doula, my husband knew my intentions, and I was determined to not have painkillers or Pitocin or an epidural or a C-section. My mantra was “Breathe…open up as big as a grapefruit” just like a girl in one of the birth stories from that book. Two weeks before going into labor I was placed on bed rest - I was 36 weeks along at the time, dilated to 2 cm and effaced 80%. So I used the time to practice breathing during every Braxton Hicks contraction. It was really helpful for the long labor I was about to endure, though I obviously didn’t know it at the time.
Week 38 came around and on Friday, March 2nd, at 4am I woke up with the worst back pain and contractions I had had yet. I walked around the living room and practiced breathing. I got down on my hands and knees to alleviate the pain but unlike other contractions these weren’t going away. They were getting stronger and closer together. I kept changing positions, kneeling in front of the couch, lying on the floor, walking around. They were getting closer and closer and felt worse and worse. They weren’t nearly unbearable though; I had period cramps worse than these. The back pain was what surprised me the most. So I called my sister who lives 2 hours north of me and she suggested calling Donna, my midwife. When I did, she told me she’d like me to get to the hospital and have them check to see how far along I was. She would send me home if it looked like it would be awhile yet. So I woke my husband, called Diane back and she said she’d be on her way. We took our time, packed a couple bags and then embraced for one last moment of just “us”. We knew our lives were about to change forever… we didn’t really expect it to be the next day though!
So we get to the hospital and by this time it’s about 8am. They attached me to a monitor and found that Jason’s heartbeat was slower than they liked to see. They also put an IV needle in me “just in case” they said. Because I had gestational diabetes, they wanted to be extremely cautious in my labor. Ok, understandable. Annoying, but understandable.
So in triage they decide they are going to get me a room, not really because of my progress but to continue monitoring Jason’s heartbeat. My midwife couldn’t make it over to the hospital so one of the OB/GYN’s from the office came instead. She told me she’d like to give me something to “augment” my labor since Jason was posterior – sunny side up, I was only dilated to 3 cm at that point and had already been laboring for 4 hours and my water hadn’t broken. The nurse, whom I had already informed of my desire to not have Pitocin, was looking out for me and said “You know that means Pitocin right?”. HA! The OB/GYN gave her kind of a dirty look, and I politely said “No thank you, I want this to happen on its own.”. Thankfully she didn’t make a fuss and said she’d be back to check on me later.
So basically the rest of the day was spent changing positions, laboring at the hospital with little progress. I walked around the entire floor, used the birthing ball, sat in a rocking chair, kneeled, etc. My nurses were amazing and gave me all kinds of different ideas on what positions to be in. My husband, Chris, was so supportive, massaging my back when I needed, and my sister encouraged me to keep going and that I would make progress eventually, I just had to ride it through. We even watched an episode of the TV show Psych on Netflix to get me laughing and keep me relaxed. But it seemed like things were slowing down, not speeding up. By the time the evening rolled around, my midwife had come to see me and I was only dilated to 4 cm! I started to get really disappointed at that point and she suggested sleeping pills and ‘Tylenol 3’ to help me sleep during the night and then try to get things going some more in the morning. I asked my sister what she thought and she agreed that it would probably be best since I had been up since 4 am. So that’s what we did.
The next morning, I took things slow and my midwife came in around 11am. She suggested breaking my water because I was still at only 4 cm, but 90% effaced. I really didn’t like the idea of having them break my water but I was so tired I thought maybe it would help. So they go to break my water and first of all I see what looks like a giant crochet hook about to go in me! Holy crap! Seeing my facial expression, Donna says, “It’s ok it really shouldn’t hurt too bad, just relax.”. Ok. So I relax… until they stick the thing up in me! It took what seemed like forever for them to get the water to break! And it hurt , a lot! I was definitely not prepared for that. “Wow that took longer than usual sorry about that. Jason’s head is pretty far down so it was hard to get around him,” she said. So now I’m thinking “Did I do the right thing?” I knew I couldn’t change it now, but I could feel my emotions start to swing all over the place.
A couple of hours later contractions finally started to get intense to a point where I couldn’t talk during them at all. Eventually it got to a point where I had Chris on one side, me squeezing the life out of his hand, and Diane on the other side saying “Great job…just breathe and relax…take a sip of water.”. The nurse had also shown me this position on the bed where I sat up and had my feet kind of on a lower foot rest than the rest of the bed. My legs were in a yoga-like position kind of like this: <>
After awhile, I didn’t want to move from that spot. The lights were dim and the only sound allowed was of me breathing and sipping water. It was amazing how I felt my cervix continually stretching and opening. I focused solely on breathing and realized if when I exhaled I blew through my lips like a horse it really relaxed my entire body and especially my cervix and abdomen. I had read about that technique in the Guide book but thought it was funny when I read it. It was pretty funny to Chris and Diane too, but it worked so I kept doing it! This went on for about 3 hours. I thought for sure around 5pm when Donna came to check on me that I would be almost ready to push.
So she came in and checked me and said “Great job! 6 cm!”.
WHATT???!!!! All that time and only 6 cm!???!
She acted like it was a great thing, but I couldn’t believe it. I was so distraught and felt hopeless. I was determined still not to get an epidural but was so scared as to how I would make it through the night if things continued this way. Donna then suggested the smallest dosage of Pitocin and I cringed and started crying. I couldn’t take it anymore. This was not going the way I had hoped and planned. I was in so much pain and all I could think of was that Pitocin is even MORE painful and the slippery slope to C-section. I couldn’t bear to think that after all this time I’d have to have a C-section! So Donna got in my face (I was lying at my side at this point) and said “Honey what scares you about the Pitocin?”. I told her my fears. She said that she would give me that absolute lowest dosage, that Diane would be my witness. She said the contractions were going to get more painful anyway… this would just make them get there a little faster. I asked Diane what she thought and she agreed. She didn’t want me to get even more fatigued. So that’s what we did. They hooked up the Pitocin as well as some glucose fluid to give me a little more energy. I stayed on my side for a little while so they could monitor Jason’s heartbeat which was still not as fast as they’d like to see.
All of a sudden, shortly after the Pitocin, I felt the worst pain yet and felt a *KNOCK* in my pelvic area! I cried out LOUDLY! Diane said “What happened!?” and I knew immediately he had flipped! My back pain was gone but suddenly the contractions became immensely painful. I couldn’t focus on breathing as well. They were so close together and so extremely intense. At one point I lost it for a moment and let out a gravelly “RRRRrrrrrrrRRRRRRaaaaaa!!!!!” and started shaking the bedrail with all my might! Diane got in my face again and talked me down, told me to focus, told me to do horse lips. I did and got back on track. She had me sit up and get back in my meditation position. Once again, we sat there and just let contractions come and go. I felt like I was in a trance. I didn’t even notice anyone else entering or leaving the room, although I was told later that Donna came in several times to check on me. The only thing I was concerned about was getting through these contractions and opening up to get this baby OUT!
Finally, it’s about 7 pm and Donna comes in to check on me. I was 9 cm and I felt the need to push. She wanted me to wait while they got everything prepped but I wasn’t sure I could stand it any longer. By this time, I was leaning over the bed with my head in my hands. A new nurse was coming in and said “Nancy can I check your temperature?” right in the middle of a contraction. I didn’t say a word… all I could think of was “Ummm no crazy lady!!! I’m having a baby here! Leave me alone!”. Then I said to Donna “I have to push NOW”. So she asked me what position I wanted to be in and I told her I wanted to lean over the back side of the bed which was tilted up with my knees on bed. That might sound kind of weird but for some reason it’s what I wanted to do. So I got up on the bed and leaned into the pillow and pushed. Hard.
With every new contraction I felt more power to push. I would take sips of water in between and I would keep squeezing Chris’s hand and instead of focusing on breathing I focused on the deep guttural groans I let out as I pushed. It wasn’t from pain but to give myself more power. Donna was coaching me along and massaging my perineum to help me stretch. I felt this lack of emotion, like I should be excited about my baby coming but I wasn’t… all I wanted was to get him out and get this process over. After a little while my legs became too weak for the position I was in so Donna asked me to flip over and they would hold my legs out and up for me. So we did that and it seemed like just a few moments later (to me anyway), his head was crowning! A few more pushes and his head was out! What a relief! Finally just a couple good pushes more and WHOOSH! His whole body was out! It was 7:57pm, March 3rd. I let out the biggest sigh of relief and leaned back into the bed. He was 6 pounds 11 ounces and 19 inches long.
They placed Jason on my chest right away and the first words I uttered were “Oh my gosh he’s so cute!” His little face just looked up at me and I finally felt the emotions I had wanted to feel all day long. Here he was my beautiful baby boy. So worth it.
He didn’t cry at all. Just looked around, kind of dazed and confused. But I’ve found throughout this past year that that’s pretty standard for Jason. He’s the most laid back kid in the world. So Chris cut the cord and they took Jason to get him cleaned up and then placed him back on my chest to nurse right away. He did so like a champ. Latched on perfectly! Somewhere in there the “ugly twin” placenta came whooshing out and my midwife got me stitched up where I had torn just a little bit. Two stitches, nothing terrible. While she did it she commended me for a job well done. She asked if I had taken a hypnotics class or something to be so relaxed. I told her about the Guide to Childbirth book and she said “Ahhh that’s a good one.”.
Everyone including my sister told me how relaxed I was the whole time. They couldn’t believe it. Yet for me, I felt like I battled more inside with my emotions than outside. In fact, I think because I suppressed so much pain and emotion during my labor, that’s why it’s taken me a year to write my story. I’ll be honest I felt a little traumatized when thinking about the pain afterwards. But like I said, Jason was certainly worth it. And I definitely feel much more powerful and confident now as a woman. Our bodies are so amazing!
The next few weeks and months after birth are an entirely different story that I would be glad to share sometime as well, all about irritable bowel syndrome, how I found that a LOT of women deal with that after birth as well as postpartum depression. But I’ll save that for another day.