Hi. My name is Karen and I blog over at folk haven. Thank you so much, Kelley, for allowing me to be part of your Labor of Love series! It is such a great idea. I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s accounts of their deliveries and I’m honored to be included.
To explain the story of Eli’s birth I need to start back at the November before I got pregnant. I had developed a strange pain in my stomach that made it nearly impossible for me to eat. None of my doctors could figure out a cause, and my primary care doctor wrote me off as an anorexic even though I was the one complaining that I was getting too thin!
Eight months later when I became pregnant I initially thought I had just lost my cycle as my weight was down to a point it hadn’t been at since Jr. High. Early one morning though I woke up and felt I should take a pregnancy test “just in case”. I was shocked when two dark blue lines appeared right away. And oh so pleased! I had always wanted to be a mother and here I was now 38 years old. My husband and I had spent the previous three years going through the training and approval process to adopt through foster care and then waiting for a placement.
As my health had declined I knew I was in no condition to take on a small child and had called the social worker to place our adoptive status on hold. When I called she told me that they finally had gotten a 12 month old baby for us and she had been about to call me with the news. At that moment I had felt so bereft, to finally have an offer of a long awaited child precisely when I could not accept him!
So a month later here we were, pregnant and both thrilled and terrified. I still could not eat. I was so weak I had to take a nap to recover from the exertion of going to the bathroom. Arranging the pillows behind me in bed left me out of breath. I reached out to friends and family that I knew would pray and I believe that we owe little Eli’s presence in our lives today to those prayers. During my fourth month of pregnancy my new primary care doctor suggested I try removing dairy from my diet. This was a big deal to me because I was using high fat yogurt and cheese to get most of the calories I was able to take in. It did the trick though. Within a week the pain was completely gone and I could eat to my heart’s content! Within the next 5 months I would gain 50 pounds.
We wanted to know if the baby was a boy or a girl so we could call the baby by name right from the beginning. I bought the IntelliGender test that had been well reviewed on the evening news. For a couple of months after this test and before Eli proudly revealed his true identity on the sonogram he was known as Elianna. At this point I began spotting and it looked like I had placenta previa. I spent a month on modified bed rest (ie. sofa and going to the bathroom and that’s about it). The next ultrasound showed that the danger of that had passed. Yay!
All these many months spent out of commission though had left me very weak. Now that Eli was getting bigger I was in near constant pain because my core muscles weren’t strong enough to support the weight of my uterus. From this point on through the end of the pregnancy I rarely slept as long as 90 minutes at a time between the pain, the frequent urination, and a period of weeks of intense itching at the end that had me dousing myself with icy water multiple times a night. While I felt more than ready to be done with the pregnancy, my body was so exhausted and deconditioned that I was worried about how I would do during labor.
|Eight months pregnant, at the baby shower thrown by my sisters-in-law|
I had wanted a natural birth, for all of the usual reasons. Added to them I have a phobia about needles, IV’s and the mere thought of a needle to the spine made me nauseous! We went though 6 weeks of Hypnobirthing training and had our instructor with us during the delivery as our doula when Eli, at 40 weeks and 4 days, decided it was time. The evening before, my husband watched the episode of the Office where Pam gave birth. I had been having irregular contractions for a while. At 1:45 a.m. my water broke. We went to the hospital within the hour as I had tested positive for Group B Strep and had been told I’d have to be on IV antibiotics to protect the baby once my water had broken. Although I was quite apprehensive due to my phobia, I’d been given enough forewarning to make a bit of peace with this reality ahead of time.
|Saddleback Memorial Hospital… I could not say enough good things about the maternity department of this place!|
I lasted on the birthing ball for only about 15 minutes because even with my husband’s support behind me I found it too exhausting to keep myself balanced on it. I tried using the Hypnobirthing techniques I’d learned and practiced, but I wasn’t very successful. I don’t know if I have a lower threshold for pain, or if the months of exhaustion and lack of sleep had left me unable to muster reserves I’d have been able to call upon in other circumstances. Either way at 6:45 a.m. I declared “I can’t do this!” (Like at that point I had any choice in the matter!) I was completely dismayed to learn that I was only at 4 cm, and the Needle-Phobia Queen herself began pleading for an epidural. It was delivered at 7:35 a.m. At 8 a.m. my doula tried to cheer me up by telling me that the baby could be there by 3 p.m. Seven more hours of this! If that made me feel distraught, I am glad I didn’t know then how much longer it really would end up taking.
What came next was ironically the best rest I had gotten in I don’t know how long! With the blessed catheter in place I no longer had to keep getting up to relieve my walnut-sized bladder! I am very sensitive to medicine and although the epidural was on a low dose it really helped me to relax. Too much. There were times when I could hear people talking and moving around me but I just couldn’t respond. I remember wondering if that was what it was like to be in a coma. I wasn’t even frightened by it, because it felt so good to finally rest.
This is when the Pitocin arrived on the scene and the epidural was turned down lower, because my contractions were every 2 minutes but had become very weak. By noon I was throwing up again and again. In our classes we had learned that this happens when it is just about time to start pushing, yet that didn’t seem to be the case for me. The baby still wasn’t descending. I felt so frustrated when my doula kept telling me (with what sounded to me to be an edge of impatience in her voice) to “just relax” as I really was trying my best to do so.
Finally by 5 p.m. I felt a lot of pressure on my lower back and was told I was at 9 cm. Finally, the end is in sight?! Or not. By 6:45 p.m. I still hadn’t dilated any further. The nurse was trying to reduce the cervical lip by pushing on it and by turning me on my side. I never did dilate any further. I began the pushing stage at about 7:30 p.m. In Hypnobirthing you are taught to “breath down” the baby, and I had spent much time practicing the technique. I now concentrated and was giving it all I had. Much time in the class had been spent explaining why “purple pushing” was bad. Now the nurse was coaxing me to do just that. At first I just ignored her so I could concentrate on what I was doing. I thought my doula (our instructor) would come to my defense and act as my advocate for the style of birth we’d chosen (even though by now we were far afield from what we had planned on!) I looked at her pointedly but she just said, “Karen sometimes you just have to do it their way.” Ok then, let the purple pushing begin!
I pushed, and pushed, and pushed for an hour and a half. I could feel that I was getting weaker and that not much was happening regardless of how hard I was trying. At one point the doula said to me “You know Karen, you have to be willing to do a bit of work here. It isn’t going to just happen.” I felt like I’d been slapped, because I was at that point working harder than I ever had in my life. At this point (about 10 p.m.) we began talking with the doctor about a c-section. First my husband had to plead with the nurse to turn down the Pitocin in order to decrease the intensity of the contractions so I could actually participate in the conversation, and then to leave it off as we were headed for a c-section anyway. (Other than this blind spot, the nurse was actually quite wonderful.)
The doctor had to leave suddenly to perform an emergency c-section for a woman having twins. They said she would lose them if they weren’t out in the next couple of minutes. Since I was going to be going to the OR, and the doula had been there since the wee hours of the morning, she chose to leave at this point. My husband, brother and sister-in-law all stayed to welcome Eli when he arrived. As I lay there delightfully Pitocin-free, I prayed for that woman and her twins. I was so aware that although I felt like I’d been through the wringer I had so much to be thankful for. My baby was not in danger, and as much as I have always felt so strongly that I NEVER wanted to have a C-section (needles-bad, scalpel-unthinkably horrid, not to mention all the additional risks to mother and baby) I knew that if we had been in a time or place where we didn’t have that option, my baby and I very well could be in danger. As it was, we were in a great hospital, under the care of a caring and well-regarded doctor. By the time it was my turn to be wheeled into the OR, I was very calm and just feeling excited that I would soon FINALLY be able to hold my baby!
Eli was born at 10:57 p.m., 8 lbs. 8 oz., with Apgar scores of 9 and 9. His head was so large that the doctor told me during my follow up visit that there would have been no way he could have been born without a C-section even if I had been much stronger during the delivery, as I have a very narrow pelvis. It was amazing that the shriek he let loose upon entering the world didn’t shatter glass a few blocks away. (My husband bought earplugs immediately when he finally left the hospital, but never used them. Eli has a capable set of lungs but he never made a sound like that again. Thank goodness!)
Here we are getting to know the one who would redefine our world. I still tear up when I see these pictures.
Eli communing with his Daddy in the hospital..
With the doctor that delivered Eli during the post-partum follow up visit
A few more newborn shots, ’cause you can never see too many baby pictures!
And Eli today, now 2 years old.
Such a great story! Eli is growing into quite the little man! Thank you so much for sharing Karen!