Birth Story – Aurora

After two weeks that included false labor (three times, but I didn’t believe it after the 1st), being sent to Triage twice due to too high blood pressure but being sent home by Triage, my OBGYN’s partner trying to schedule an induction for me 9 days before my due date, and my trying to will “natural / spontaneous” labor to start, here’s the birth story.

—————- Prep —————–

I was called in to Triage late on June 16th for cervical ripening. I was SO excited I was dancing to music in the car on my way there. I got a Foley balloon, which I was allowed to go home to sleep with it in – I said that was what I was in there for and what I wanted and what my doctor and I had talked about and agreed to, just to make sure that was what happened as different nurses/mid-wives/doctors had multiple ideas. I was only ½ cm dilated still. But the doctor going to do the procedure said that was enough, that she’d get it in (and it’d work?). They said if it works, it can fall out on its own, so not to be surprised.

Elizabeth Taylor, my birth coach and neighbor / friend, surprised me by showing up! It was nice to have her there to talk you while waiting. It became ESSENTIAL she was there when the doctor did the procedure to insert the Foley balloon. I had no idea I’d need my birth coach, I had no idea how painful getting a Foley balloon inserted was, nor how LONG it would take to insert it! If it were not for Elizabeth, I would have wept (crying without sound), I might have broken a tooth, and I just might have told them to stop and not do it. She was amazing, I had no idea when I asked her that she would be such a good coach. She looked me the eyes and talked me through the whole thing. She was able to help me remember relax my muscles and body over and over. She helped me to find my center, and to get my mind off the pain enough so it was endurable, and somehow refer it to my knee or foot.
Once the Foley balloon was in, inflating it didn’t hurt. There was a tube that stuck out of me several inches. It was awkward to sit with that, to pee with it, and kinda to sleep with it. It also leaked blood drip by drip. One of the nurses gave me a few infant diapers and said I could keep it wrapped with one of them to prevent stains. What a great idea! Even the doctor the next day thought so.
In the morning the Foley was still in. When I used the bathroom, I gave it a gentle tug just to see if it would come out. Nope. Sad.

Also, the baby felt much higher in my abdomen. Apparently she didn’t like her “pillow”, as she definitely had moved up, the parts of her on my left side being just under my rib cage now – I don’t recall her being that high any time before.

———————— Induction ————————-

That morning Elizabeth came along with me, drove my car in fact so we didn’t have two cars to deal with. I was a direct admit to Labor and Delivery – woo! No having to go through Triage again! I also managed to get a tub room. I was so happy for that, I really wanted one but St. Joe’s only has 2 and so it seemed unlikely one would be available. But it was! Room 11 the front desk said (room 12 was in use). Good thing they said the room number, because the manager in the back on the floor was going to send me to another room, but I said “I thought I was going to 11?” and the nurse taking me back said that’s what the front desk said, so the floor manager agreed.

They asked if I was having contractions (or was this when I went in the night before for the Foley balloon?). I said yes. They said good! I said, not really, that I’d been having them off and on for two weeks, so I wasn’t putting any stock in them. Onto the monitors the baby and I went. After 15 or 20 or 30 minutes, I was allowed to get set up on “Telemetry” which is the monitors plugged into a device on a pole with wheels that transmits back to the nurses’ station, so that I could get up and walk around.
I also made sure I’d be allowed in the tub while on Telemetry. My OBGYN had assured me weeks before and again the last time I saw her that I would be. But as with everything else, I was making sure by stating it and asking again. My nurse was not on board, but it was because she was really worried about the wires and monitors in the water. I assured her it was safe. I told her “I’m an Electrical Engineer by education (or did I say training?).” I told her the monitors were water proof, that the wires were insulated, and that the batteries were up in the device attached to the pole and since the wires unplugged from the bottom of the device if anything were to fall in the water it would just be wires not attached to a power source, and so there was nothing to worry about. She was still reluctant, but didn’t seem like she’d prevent me.

Well the doctor went to remove the Foley balloon, and said it was out! That it was just hanging in my vagina. Yay! It actually did work! The doctor checked me, and I was 4.5 cm dilated now. YES!
That put me at a Bishop score of 7. 5 or less indicates having an induction has a high chance of turning to cesarean. 8 or more indicates an induction will most likely succeed. As the doctor said, 7 is at the high end of the middle range. We all agreed to go forward with it.

Dr. Ziff, one of my OBGYN’s two partners in her practice and the only male, was on staff until 7pm. I liked him enough, and we agreed the plan was to get this baby born by 7pm! I was gung-ho about it, whether or not it was feasible. ;)

Then, they offered to wait to start Pitocin until after I ate lunch! Elizabeth and I were surprised, we thought I was only allowed clear liquids. It took longer than I wanted to find food I wanted. Elizabeth tried the cafeteria and little shop downstairs – which was hard to coordinate because her cell phone refused to transmit her voice while in the hospital! Elizabeth got a salad from downstairs. I ended up ordering delivery, a meatball sub, which took a little while too. But my lunch came, and we ate – both a little disappointed by the mediocrity of our respective foods (I was later glad I had eaten a meatball sub though). Then we called in the nurse.

Pitocin was started at 2:30pm. The allowed range is from 1 to 20. We start at 1, and they can up it by 1 every ½ hour. So at 3 I went to 2, at 3:30 I went to 3, and so forth until I reached 7 at 5:30pm. Spent those 3 hours talking with Elizabeth. We took walks at least 5 times, both ways down the L&D hallway. My nurse had to chase us down a couple times to reposition the baby’s monitor as it liked to stop recording while I was walking. We also found out how far towards the NICU and nursery we could go before Telemetry was too far away to send a signal back. I remember one time we had to go back in because the machine was getting too low on batteries and needed to be plugged in to charge. Once, maybe twice, my nurse upped the Pitocin right there in the hall. We checked out the staff picture directories on the wall, and did some rough calculations on demographics (women vs. men amongst Dr’s, midwives, nurses. Then black vs. not, and minority vs. not, amongst Dr’s, midwives, nurses). The midwives were diverse minority wise, and the doctors were diverse gender and minority wise. Much to our surprise, the entire nursing staff was white. And female, but we weren’t very surprised by that. Actually, I think there was 1 male. Elizabeth asked me how all the nurses being white made me feel. I wasn’t sure.

At one point I remember looking at the tub in the bathroom. I wasn’t using it, I had thought I would but turns out I didn’t need to. I felt bad for taking it away from someone else who would have used it. That thought happened twice throughout the day / evening.
Later in my room we played Rummy with a deck of cards Elizabeth went and bought at the gift shop, (because the deck I always carry with me was in my backpack as normal but my hospital bag was not my backpack it was the diaper bag). Eventually we had a quiet period. We also had to start making / fielding updates by phone. And of course we eventually tried to get on the hospital WiFi. Not so easy. Elizabeth’s computer refused. My tablet worked after a little effort, but I had a horrible time with Facebook. It took quite a while before I realized the trick to getting on the WiFi was to not use a browser that was already open when the computer connected to the network. It was the next day before I realized there was only 1 browser that would work with FB on the tablet, and it wasn’t my favorite or IE.

The entire time from 2:30 to 5 I had contractions. Sometimes they were regular, sometimes not. They would start up, and then back off. Same pattern I’d been having for weeks. Sometimes I could feel them, sometimes not. But none of them hurt or even really bothered me. Then level 7 of Pitocin at 5:30pm. My contractions got to 3 minutes apart, and they seemed to stay consistent. Then I even started feeling pain that required me to breathe through it. Still wasn’t anything I couldn’t managed or would say was indicative of labor starting. But hey, finally progress! My nurse left the Pitocin on 7. Elizabeth went into Doula mode – I hadn’t known when I picked her that she had previously been a Doula too! – and gave me back massages that helped with the pain. She was great. Between her technique and my breathing, we managed to make the contraction pain stop! Ugh. Backward progress again, typical. But it had been an hour and a half since the last step up in Pitocin – they didn’t up it any more once labor seemed to be happening.

I was checked at some point here. Only 5cm dilated. That’s almost no progress! Argh! BUT, the baby had moved down from -3 station to -1. Woo! FINALLY. This baby never seemed to want to go the correct direction.

After the shift change for dr’s / OBGYN’s at 7pm, a male (minority if it matters) whom I hadn’t met before came in to talk to me. He said he’d read up on things in my file, which I appreciated. I get tired fast of people asking me the same questions over and over. Basically, he said the next step was to break my water. In fact, he said it multiple times: “Whether it’s in 20 minutes or 2 hours,” breaking your water is what’s going to move labor forward. I was hesitant because of the research I’d done on inductions which said breaking water does not start labor, but it will get labor going again if labor has stalled. And to me, labor hadn’t started yet. I said I’d think about it.

I asked about upping the Pitocin one more time and seeing if that helped. It had helped going to 7, maybe 8 would work too. The nurse agreed, and at ?? I went to 8.

I also asked who the other doctor / OBGYN on duty was. Not only was it a female, it was the doctor who had put in my Foley balloon last night! I REALLY wanted to switch doctors to her. Though I’d only met her once before, I at least knew her. And she’d done exactly what she said she would and it worked, so I had trust in her. I asked the nurse about it. Over the next few minutes I gave a few reasons, and I really prefer doctors who know me / my situation even if it’s one time compared to none. But it was really the male doctor issue of mine that was driving the request. I didn’t want him to be upset though. I remember when I was an EMT-B at the St. Mary’s ER and a very young lady came in with female issues and asked me to change her from the male dr she was assigned to a female, and I brought it up at the nurses station, and that dr got very upset – because he was hurt / frustrated by it. The nurse said it was okay, I need to feel comfortable, and this doctor would be fine. Elizabeth pointed out that some women don’t want female doctors “down there”, only male. True, I agreed. That made me feel some better.
Level 8 Pitocin didn’t make much of a difference to me. Elizabeth told me about the 3 other labors she’d attended while we waited. I did get to contractions 2.5 minutes apart regularly, and the nurse said they couldn’t up it anymore.

I started pushing Elizabeth to get some dinner. Eventhough I couldn’t eat, I wanted her too. We still had lots of progress to get through and I thought she’d need the energy. I decided to take a nap. Pretty much the only way I could get more energy for the night ahead.

About 10pm I woke up feeling good. No more progress labor wise though. Contractions from the Pitocin still didn’t hurt or bother me. I decided to let them break my water. Elizabeth ordered dinner.

———————– Labor and Delivery ——————-

At 10:30 pm the doctor, my female dr, climbed up onto the bed “below” me, and broke my water. It was WAY warmer than I expected. The dr said “Woah!” with amused surprise, and called the nurse over with “Come look at this! It’s like a flood.” She tried to hold up the bedding mat to keep it from spilling to the floor.

Well, all that water must have been cushioning the contractions, because immediately I could feel them. And almost as quick they got STRONG! So strong the pain was not manageable with breathing.

Elizabeth started applying hot water clothes to my back. They felt nice, and did help. Then she got a call that her food had finally arrived! She refused to go out and get it, I remember her telling whomever because “she’s in active labor, I’m not going to leave her.”

The hot clothes didn’t help enough, and not for long. So fast I was at “AHHHH it HURRRRRRTS!”, and then just as a fast I was at no-techniques-are-helping! I asked to be put in the tub, I said I need to be in the tub. Elizabeth and the nurse started filling it and got me in the tub. Which DID help. For a short while…

On getting in the tub far enough so my belly was under water, I IMMEDIATELY felt better. While in there I alternated between sitting forward, over my feet, and leaning half way back, only because my feet started to hurt and loose a little feeling when I was in what felt like the preferred position of sitting forward – almost squatting, and I remembered that laying on my back made it hurt on its own separate from contractions. Elizabeth tried to talk me through the contractions, and ended up finding that telling me how long I had to endure the pain for each contraction worked best. “Count through it,” she said. “Only 10 -15 seconds.” Then she amended to “only 15 seconds.” and told me that at the end of all this I would have my baby. I said “I can do 15 seconds.” So we counted though a couple contractions, and I was fine. Then Elizabeth said “just 20 seconds”. “You upped it!” I called her on. “Oh, you noticed,” she replied. But 20 seconds was still doable.

Lisa was in and out of the bathroom adjusting the baby’s monitor and watching the computer screen. It wasn’t a water issue, but the monitor was having an ever worse time finding the baby when I was sitting forward in the tub than when I was standing and walking. The baby must have been moving now that I think about it!

It was when I got over 30 seconds that I started complaining again. Elizabeth helped me more and more up to when the contractions were 45 seconds, trying to tell me exactly when the contraction’s pain was over or releasing – except she was watching the monitor for the peak and I was feeling the pain just as intense form the peak all the way to the very end. So her counting stopped aligning with mine and what I was feeling. I started protesting again. The nurse said they were waiting for the contractions to be two and half minutes apart and one and a half minutes long. “One and a half!” I replied incredulously. “I can’t do one and a half!” I asserted in a loud whimpering kind of way.

I don’t remember the exact order of all my words. I remember calling the nurse – Lisa – over to the tub from next to my bed in the delivery room, and asking her if we could back off the Pitocin. She said no. they weren’t allowed to back down when labor was… something active?

I remember all of the following over and over while laboring in the tub:
- Begging, saying “I want to go back.”
- Crying out “It’s not fair! Creating another human shouldn’t hurt this much!”
- Saying sadly in pain “I can’t. It hurts. It hurts.”

At one point someone said I was yelling. So I lowered my volume. I couldn’t tell anymore how loud I was being. Now (as of writing this) I think I was just making myself heard to myself over the pain.

Then it was all so bad I just started crying. But I cried so hard my nose blocked up and then I couldn’t breathe. I had to force myself to stop crying, I even said so. “I can’t breathe when I cry.” But then it was like my reasoning abilities just shut down. I was still able to listen, just like I could the whole time. But now I couldn’t figure out anything on my own anymore. “I don’t know what to do.”

Finally I asked for an epidural. I said I wanted one. Then, “Please, make it stop!” I started begging over and over.

Someone, Lisa?, said something I don’t remember exactly now, but was a response to me saying how much pain I was in and wanting it to stop, something phrased in a way that made me respond: “I just need to say how I feel. I just need to say it. I just need to say how I feel.” because I wanted them to know I was still able to respond eventhough my eyes were not interacting. And I went into repetition on that sentence instead of the “It hurts. It hurts. Please. It hurts.” over and over.

Lisa came up to the tub (not the first time she’d been there), and said she talked to the doctor and that they didn’t need to check me before I got the epidural, they’d only check after. Then she said, “I’ll make a deal with you. You take off your bra (it was soaking wet by now), but on this gown, and get on that bed, and I’ll call the anesthesiologist.”

“Deal!” I responded quickly. But it was much easier said than done. After a contraction finished, getting up out of the tub and bra off took until the next one started. “I can’t stand,” I said, and went down to one knee for the length of the contraction. Then got the gown on and set my sights on the bed. I didn’t make it. Was on the floor, both knees, and head on the foot of the bed for contraction #2. Then managed to get up and sit on the bed in time for contraction #3.

I noticed during the tub to bed excursion that Elizabeth and Lisa traded places as my primary support person. It was a very seamless transition, Elizabeth just seemed to know when to step back and stop interacting with me. Lisa was now the one holding me up when I needed, and talking me through everything.

Lisa kept her word and called the anesthesiologist then. He said he was in the next room and would be there in one minute. Lisa turned to me and pointedly explained, “that’s not a literal minute!”

“I know,” I responded. Lisa said she’d start prepping the cart (for him). But I swear he was there in 3 minutes. I was so happy relieved, until I realized he couldn’t just do the epidural. He had to scrub, prep the medicine / syringe, get my back prepped, and whatever else. I had been telling myself “Just 3 more contractions, then it’ll be over. Just 2 more contractions…” which is when I figured out relief was not as eminent as it appeared. I tried to focus on just 2 more, or just 2 more more, to keep myself from going back under in that despair of pain.

I needed someone to either scratch my back or put a hot cloth on it, I don’t remember which. But Elizabeth was keeping out of the way and Lisa was doing something with I don’t remember what (the monitor misbehaving again?), so the anesthesiologist ended up doing it for me. But then he had to rewash his hands.

He got the needle and first push of medicine in my back without a problem that I remember. I lay back, and then he tells me it’s going to be 15 minutes before it takes full effect. 15 minutes!! I about cried, except that he was still talking telling me things and I could feel it starting. He told me they could give me a second dose in a few minutes if I needed. He told me there was a button hanging over my bed that I could push to get more of the epidural if I felt the need, that I could press it as much as I want because it would not let me overdose myself, and that when I pressed it the medicine would take 15 minutes to be effective just like with this first dose. I forced myself to look him in the eyes and tell him I understood and say Thank You.

I was already starting to feel less pain, it was odd though because my right side and my front felt like the epidural was working but by left side was still just as harshly painful. At this point he said the medicine should have taken the sharpest of the pain away. And that was how to describe the feeling: my right side and front felt like manageable contractions, like “normal” labor contractions, but my left side was still feeling sharp stabby contractions. I said as much. The anesthesiologist said that was because I was laying on my right side so the medicine was falling to that side. Oh. As I looked to turn myself over, I saw the button, pressed it so that I’d get more epidural for the left side, then turned over on my left.

(When did?) Elizabeth suddenly said “Oh!” and turned around, then back. In doing so, she moved the picture of Amber from the wall to the inside of my bed on the right side so I could see it. Seeing my big girl immediately made me feel better. “Aww, Amber!” I said. Momentary reprieve from contraction pain, it was nice.

The doctor came in, and it was time to check me. I had to roll back to center, before the epidural had helped on the left side. Oh well. The doctor put on a glove, put the gel on the glove, and put her hand down to check my cervix. Almost immediately she picked her hand back up. I was thinking: it usually takes longer than that, and she usually has to go far up (but she didn’t this time).

Next thing I know, I see three new people flood into my room. The doctor is getting a seriously thick plastic gown put on her by someone while someone else is starting to dismantle the bottom of my bed. I hear Elizabeth ask “is it time?”

“Oh yes, it’s time,” the doctor responds.

Then either the doctor or my nurse Lisa says, “Jennifer, it’s time to start pushing,” and immediately something in my brain flips like a switch and the contraction pain changes from horrible / torture to YES! THAT’S what this pain is meant to do! Let’s DO it!! (the word I use now, given to me by a midwife during a postpartum check-in is: productive)

Only one problem. I look up at the doctor and say, “I don’t know how to push.” I don’t remember what the reaction of the various people were. But I then said “Tell me what to do.”

So the doctor coached me through pushing. She said when a contraction starts to stop breathing and push like I was pooping. So I tried. It wasn’t easy to get that all together the first time. I managed to “practice” attempts during contraction #1. I slowly exhaled and vented the pain while I pushed: “Aaaaaaaaa!”

The doctor then said to hold my breath while I pushed. So for contraction #2 I kept my mouth closed and held the air while I pushed, still making a grunting noise. With the second push on this contraction I realized pushing like pooping wasn’t quite right, I needed to be pushing just a little “higher” off the ground in my current position (as in I needed to be pushing from the middle/inside of my lower abdomen and not from my back). That seemed to work much better – at least it felt better.

Then the doctor amended her instructions to “No noise when you push!” So contraction #3 I was silent and pushing well. Pushed 3 times on this contraction. “Good!” was the response I got. Then we paused again to wait for the next contraction.

Contraction #4 was amazing: I pushed. I pushed again. And on the third push I felt her move. I felt her move through my body. WOW. I felt her pass by everything on the way out, almost as if I could see her moving through and out. It was AMAZING. It felt like a miracle. That is the word. It was literally a miracle, a miracle I both experienced and felt.

“Jennifer, look down!” someone called to me. I tried, but I couldn’t see past my belly. That’s okay, I got to feel my baby being born. A first for me. And an experience that has made me question if I really am done having children like I said I was all throughout the pregnancy…

Aurora came into the world at 12:51am.

The doctor took Aurora right from being born and put her on my belly. My first thought was along the lines of ‘Yay! Yes! Baby mine! Aww!’ I got to AWW and put my finger in her hand and try not to cry while I smiled so much and tried to love on her immediately while they gave her a quick yet strong wiping off. But all at the same time my second thought was: ‘She’s pink! Pink like a White baby! If they hadn’t just pulled her out of me and put her on my belly I would have told them to take her back and bring me MY baby. Wow. Why is she so pink!?’

I don’t know how long they let me hold her, it wasn’t long enough. They took her to do all the newborn baby stuff over next to the incubator, Elizabeth went over with her to watch (good). Back at me, I asked if they pull out the placenta or if it needs to be pushed out. They said it delivers on its own. I don’t now remember when or how that happened, but it did, and I remember asking to see it. I was in really good spirits and very lucid. The nurse brought over the bucket they caught the placenta in and picked it up so I could see it. Huh, and red blobby mass. Then the nurse pulled up a translucent part that looked kinda thin plasticy and stretched WAY far and told me “this is the sack your baby was in”. Cool! I asked if they got the cord blood for the donation. Someone held up which looked almost like a ziplock bag and the doctor said something to the effect of “looks like we got enough”. Yay! Good.

Oh, hey, (I then realize all of a sudden), I’m still going numb from the epidural!

Later I thanked Lisa for helping me so much. She said we helped each other, and thanked me for helping her learn we could be on the monitors in the tub.

We spent way too long waiting to be transferred to the Mother & Baby room. We had been told 1 to 2 hours after the birth moms and babies were transferred. It was 4 am when I finally got moved over. I was not happy about that because I really wanted to go to sleep myself and because Elizabeth was planning to drive home once I was transferred and I really didn’t want her being up so late and so tired and trying to drive.

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