For the first part of Duncan’s birth story, click here.
As I left things off in Part 1 of Duncan’s birth story, we had just decided that we were going to go ahead with an induction given my pre-eclampsia symptoms. It was now about mid-afternoon, and we’d gotten settled in the labour and delivery room. The nurse hooked me up to an external monitor. I was surprised to find out that I was already having fairly regular contractions that were 4 minutes apart, but they weren’t strong enough yet for me to feel them.
We went over our birth plan with our nurse. Who would be in the room? Mike. Would he cut the cord? Yes. And the big question, would I want an epidural? Maybe. During my pregnancy, everyone from friends and family to strangers in elevators and supermarkets had told me that an epidural was the only way to go. Although not opposed to it, I planned to wait and see how things went. I was mostly just scared of the potential risks of the epidural. I wasn’t scared of the needle, but more of the extremely rare but extremely terrifying complications I’d learned about at my prenatal class. Despite my fear, I knew I’d probably end up opting for the epidural because I am a pretty big wimp when it comes to pain and I had heard that contractions from an induction could be especially strong.
The nurse asked me what I was generally envisioning for my labour and delivery. I told the nurse that if it was at all possible, I’d prefer not to have the entire hospital staff in the room for the delivery. Having watched a few videos at our prenatal class, I was hoping to avoid what seemed like a super frenzied environment with a whole bunch of doctors and nurses all huddled around. She told me that unfortunately, that’s just how it was but once the baby was born, I probably wouldn’t notice all the people anyway.
A resident came in at some point to introduce himself, and to let me know that the OB that was on call would be coming by to meet me soon, but everyone was caught up with another patient who was having an emergency, so it might be a while.
At 6pm, a nurse asked if I was ok with having my water broken to further encourage the labour process. That was done with what looked like a long crochet hook. It was a tiny bit uncomfortable, and the funniest feeling to just gush and gush water for the next hour or so. I soaked myself and the bed twice before, after a shift change, a nurse realized I hadn’t been given a pad. That helped.
About an hour later, I was started on Pitocin, which is the synthetic version of oxytocin, and administered through an IV. I’ve read that it can really bring on contractions hard and fast, so I must have been started on a pretty low dose because I went another several hours without feeling much of anything. During that time, we relaxed, watched TV, and my sister and Mike’s brother stopped by for a visit. I also remembered that I hadn’t yet written my letter for Baby Duncan for the baby book, so I did that on my phone.
I really should have been using all this time to be sleeping, since I’d already started the day off feeling exhausted, and I still had to give birth. Unfortunately, by 10pm, I’d missed my napping opportunity, and my contractions started to hit. The first few that I felt were like a gentle wave, but they quickly became increasingly intense and I let the nurse know that, yes, I’d be wanting that epidural after all. She encouraged me to labour for as long as I could before getting the epidural, since it might slow down the labour. I think the evidence is mixed on that, but I took her word for it and agreed to hold off on the epidural until I really couldn’t stand it. She assured me that once I was ready, the anesthesiologist would be right over. I remembered that the nurse running our prenatal class had touted that the hospital was great because there was a dedicated anesthesiologist and you’d never run into one of those situations that I’d heard about where it was “too late” for the epidural. That’s why I was more than a little disappointed when after two hours of very painful labouring, I told the nurse that I was definitely ready for the epidural to find out that, because of that medical emergency, the anethesiologist would be a while. I kept asking her to call again, which she kindly did, and I reminded myself that although I was in pain, someone else was experiencing a much worse situation at the moment.
During this time, I stood for a little bit, which helped me through a few contractions. None of the other comfort measures appealed. I didn’t try the birthing ball, and although Mike suggested some of the positions that we’d learned at our prenatal class, and which were illustrated on a big poster on the wall, I wasn’t keen on trying anything, and mostly just moaned in my misery. A friend had told me before to try not to take my pain out on Mike, so I was very conscious of being kind towards his efforts to help. Although it was hard for me, I also knew it must be hard for him to see my pain and not be able to offer relief. I succeeded at responding to his attempts to massage my back with, “Thank you so much for trying to help, but please don’t touch me,” rather than swearing at him to get away, so I felt good about that. haha.
After much “I hate this” and “I don’t want to do this anymore”, the anethesiologist finally showed up. It was now just after midnight and I was tired, miserable and ready for the relief the epidural promised. But I was still scared of it. Fortunately the anethesiologist was great. He listened to my concerns and reassured me that although there were risks, they were going to monitor everything very closely, and I would be fine. At the point, the pain was so intense that I really felt I didn’t have a choice. I realize now that if I’d wanted to avoid an epidural, I definitely would have needed to put some real effort into learning and practicing some techniques.
I got into the seated position on the bed and leaned over for the epidural. My contractions had been so intense that I didn’t see how I’d possibly hold still. Once I was in position, the contractions didn’t feel very strong at all, so I was sure that the nurse had stopped the Pitocin drip. I was shocked to find out later that she hadn’t, since that would have really prolonged my labour. Maybe it was mind over matter, and my fear of flinching overpowered the pain of contractions. It didn’t last though, and the contractions came back stronger than ever. 15 minutes later, when the pain was still excruciating, the nurse administered a second dose and the pain started to subside.
For the next several hours, I was able to rest fairly comfortably. I could still feel the contractions, but they weren’t painful. I was grateful to have the opportunity to sleep a little bit. By this point, I had gotten so tired that I was actually dreading giving birth because I felt like I was too exhausted to even feel excited about meeting my baby. Not how I wanted to feel going into this, so getting some rest made all the difference.
My sleep was disrupted every once in a while as the nurses came in to check on how my epidural was treating me. When the nurse checked to see how far up the epidural had traveled by using a bag of ice, she became nervous when she touched it to my chest and I didn’t feel the cold. I started to get anxious, too, as she checked and re-checked. It finally occurred to me that, since my double mastectomy, that area had always been pretty numb lol. The anethesiologist came back to double-check and reassured the nurse and me that if the epidural was truly numbing me that high, I’d already be having some serious respiratory problems.
By 4am, I was fully dilated, but the nurse suggested we wait a while longer before calling the doctor if I didn’t want to be pushing forever. An hour later, she checked and found that the baby had made his way down and she could feel his head. She called the doctor and woke Mike up. It was go time.
The OB came in with a resident and apologized that she hadn’t been able to meet me earlier, since it had been a busy night. Because the team was still busy with that medical emergency, I lucked out and got the quiet delivery I was hoping for. In the room, it was just Mike, the nurse that I’d gotten to know over the last several hours of labour, and the two doctors that would deliver the baby.
At 5 am, I started pushing. Although not painful thanks to the epidural, I could still feel the contractions, and the nurse also watched the monitor, and encouraged me to push with each contraction. She told me to hold my breath and push, push, push. I asked if my lungs might burst, but was assured that they would not. My nurse and Mike were both really encouraging and told me I was doing great. They didn’t have a mirror for me, but I was able to see what was going on in the reflection of a light fixture in the ceiling. When I was able to see the top of the baby’s head, I felt really encouraged and a few more pushes later, the OB said, “Look down, look down!” I’d been so fixated on what was going on in the light fixture reflection, that I forgot to look down and there he was!
Baby Duncan had entered the world at 5:23am, on March 23rd weighing 7 lbs 13 oz. They placed him on my chest right away and he had his big eyes wide open. Hello world! I noticed that the doctors were sort of exchanging looks, and then it occurred to me that he hadn’t cried yet. I don’t know if that’s why, but they started to cut the cord. Just as I started feeling anxious, he let out a tiny cry, and I felt like the whole room let out a sigh of relief. They then handed the scissors over to Mike and let him finish cutting the cord.
And that’s Duncan’s birth story. We haven’t stopped cuddling him since <3