Natalie shares the story of her son’s induced birth.
I’d been researching about babies and birth for as long as I can remember; so when my husband, Greg, and I found out we were pregnant, I was so excited to put what I had learned into practice. I hated reading stories about all the awful things that went along with pregnancy and I was determined to love carrying this baby. I had only mild morning sickness, and I never had any swelling, heartburn or cravings. I credit this to eating a really healthy diet with lots of whole foods.
Our due date was Leap Day 2016, and in October we found out we were having a little boy.
Through all my research I had outlined a very specific birth plan: I’d labor at home with my husband for as long as possible, then we’d go to the birth center where my midwives would help me deliver our baby in a very calm, peaceful environment with few interventions. But we all know what they say about best-laid plans…
At 35 weeks, I started having itchy feet. It was odd enough for me to Google it and I read about Cholestasis—a potentially very serious complication with the liver/gallbladder in pregnancy. The risk of stillbirth is much higher than normal pregnancy, and induction before 37 weeks is strongly recommended. The labs came back at my 36-week appointment on February 1 and were very high—borderline severe—so I was referred to an OB practice.
After wrapping up things at work in the morning, we went in the next day and had a biophysical ultrasound. Our little man looked great; he had perfect fluid levels, and they estimated his weight to be about 6.5lbs. We met with the OB and he recommended we induce ASAP as there were no guarantees how long he would be okay in there. The problem with Cholestasis is that things can go from fine to terrible without much warning. We were to go in the following morning at 7 a.m., but the Maternity Unit was full; so we ended up going in Wednesday evening, February 3.
My cervix was high and unfavorable; not great conditions for inducing – but we needed my baby out. On Wednesday night they gave me Cervadil to try and soften my cervix. On Thursday morning, February 4, they administered Cytotec to try and get things moving. All day I had mild irregular contractions, and we kept moving around in between long stints of monitoring. At 6 p.m. they started a low dose of Pitocin to try to get things started; but I was still barely dilated.
Later that night they gave me a Foley Bulb, which was the most uncomfortable thing ever. The constant ache from the Foley bulb, mixed with the artificial Pitocin contractions, was way too much to handle. We decided to turn the Pitocin off, and I was able to get a half decent night of sleep.
On Friday morning, the OB removed the Foley bulb and I was dilated to about 3 cm and was not having regular contractions. At 10 a.m. our dog escaped from the sitter. She was loose on the town for two hours, and my labor stalled until she was found. Once my husband came back from canvassing our neighborhood, they started Pitocin again and I labored all afternoon as they turned the Pitocin up and up. At the peak I was on 15ml/hour. I had to be on the monitors constantly, which I thought I’d hate, but it was reassuring to hear his heart beating steadily. The OB checked me at 6 p.m. and I was back down to 2 cm but 70% effaced. It was really disheartening, but I was determined to get him out.
At 10 p.m. the OB checked and I was dilated to a 5 and 80% effaced. This was awesome news as I was doing loads of work. I labored in the shower because I was having a hard time relaxing during contractions, and I was definitely questioning my decision to go pain-med-free. It wasn’t that the contractions were unbearable; I just didn’t think I could handle another eight hours like that.
Greg was able to give me the “Tyler Durden” pep talk and got my head back in a better spot. While in the shower my body temp rose, which caused baby’s heart rate to stay too high. Greg was really concerned so I got out and lay on the bed and tried to rest between contractions, but I was having both back and front labor. The contractions focused in my lower abdomen, but I was having really painful back spasms, and the only way to help was to have Greg massage my lower back and push on my tailbone. The nurse said that when I was ready, they would move us into the delivery suite and break my water. I knew this meant the end was near, but I spent a while on the bed, scared to take the leap and move forward because I knew it was about to get harder.
I walked to the delivery room sometime around 2:30 a.m., where the OB broke my water. I was 7 cm and 100% dilated. Breaking my water definitely started transition. It was a lot of intense contractions with no break. Transition was difficult; Greg was working so hard to help me, but nothing could make the pain go away. At this point they turned off the Pitocin and let my body take over. I needed to pee but there was no way in hell I was going to get up and go to the bathroom so I asked the nurse if I could pee there. It apparently I didn’t get my point across because she and Greg were surprised when I just started going on the bed. Not a single f*** was given at that point; plus, the bed was already covered in pads and towels from my water breaking. We all had a good laugh about this afterward.
Transition was over quickly and soon I started to feel my son moving down. The pressure was immense and my body started to push involuntarily, so I went along. The OB came back in, checked me quickly, and said “His head is moving down and you’re fully dilated.” I thought I was going to want to push on my hands and knees, but my legs were too unsteady. Greg held one leg and also held the Doppler in the right spot so we could hear his heart beat, and held my hand while I pushed. Pushing was really uncomfortable; the pressure was insane and felt like I couldn’t breathe very well. But besides the discomfort, pushing was actually the most romantic experience I’ve ever had with my husband.
Between contractions I looked into Greg’s eyes, and he encouraged me while I held his hand. The feeling in the room at that moment was something I’ll never forget, and is difficult to put into words. I breathed our baby down slowly and I held my hand on his head as he crowned then popped out. The OB assisted in getting his shoulders out and I got to pull my wiggly little babe to my chest. James Gregory was born at 3:20 a.m. on February 6, 2016.
He had tons of hair, a thick cord and was covered in vernix. I held him skin-to-skin as I delivered the placenta, which looked amazing (the concern with Cholestasis is that it breaks down the placenta rapidly). James started crying right away and pinked up quickly. He received an APGAR score of 9, and the nurses couldn’t find anything to take off.
The OB checked me, and I hadn’t torn at all! After I got to hold James for awhile, I passed him off to Greg and he got to hold him skin-to-skin before they weighed him. He weighed 6lbs 8oz at birth, and was 20″ long – both great measurements for being technically premature. They brought him back to me and we tried breastfeeding. He latched right away and all the nurses were amazed. Preemies of his age usually have a hard time with breastfeeding.
Labor was hard; it was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done – but I am so in awe of what my body was able to do. This birth wasn’t the one we planned for, but it ended up being perfect. I got to have the best of both worlds: the one-on-one personalized care from a midwife, and the specialized yet compassionate care from an OB and medical team.
For more information on Cholestasis, or ICP, visit icpcare.org. Awareness saves little lives!