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Belated Birth Story

Rachel Rabkin Pechman

Thank you VERY much to everyone who read this blog! In case you're interested in how the actual birth went for us (sans epidural), here is the play-by-play...

On Thursday, March 13th, 2008, I went to my midwife for a 1pm visit. Since I was due on March 17th, she asked if she could do an internal exam and if I wouldn't mind if she stimulated the cervix just a little bit with her finger to nudge things along. She said this was nothing like inducing, but just a little nudge. I said okay. When she checked me, she said the baby was really low, my cervix was 75 percent effaced, and I was dilated about 1 to 2 centimeters. She said the whole picture made her very optimistic that we might be having a baby that weekend. She also mentioned that the internal exam and her slight stimulation might cause some cramping.

That afternoon, I did feel cramping and had some bloody show -- and I didn't know if it was just a byproduct of the internal exam or if it meant labor was beginning. That night I started to feel a lot of cramping. By midnight I started to think that the cramping was coming kind of regularly and that maybe this was contractions. Still, I thought it could be nothing or "false" labor, so I tried to go to sleep. But I was in too much pain to sleep, so I finally woke my husband up around 5 am and told him I thought something might be happening. We started timing the cramps and found they were coming fairly regularly -- around every 10 minutes -- but sometimes they were coming every 7 minutes or every 15 minutes. We decided to wait until my midwife's office was open on Friday morning to call. When we reached her around 9 am, she said that this could be very early labor or this could go away. She said to keep monitoring the contractions.

All day Friday, the 14th, my husband and I monitored the contractions and read every book we had to see if this really was prelabor or not. This very slow start to my labor was not at all what people told me labor might feel like -- I didn't "just know" I was in labor. Then the contractions started getting steadier throughout the day -- first 10 minutes apart and eventually they were around 5 minutes apart. I was breathing through the contractions and they were painful, but manageable. I spent a lot of time sitting on the birthing ball (a big Swiss ball that gyms have), and that helped.

Finally, around 10 pm on Friday, the contractions were about 4 to 5 minutes apart and they were getting more intense, so we decided to meet our midwife at the Roosevelt Hospital Birthing Center at 11 pm. My mom (who is in town to help) came to our apartment with a taxi and we all piled in and went to the hospital.

When we got there we did the mandatory 20 minutes of continuous fetal monitoring. The baby's heart rate looked great so they took me off the monitor so I could move around. (Because I didn't want the epidural I didn't need to be tethered to any machines.) My midwife checked me and found I was 4 to 5 centimeters dilated. I was a little disappointed I wasn't farther along but my midwife was pleased with where I was.

The rest of the labor is a bit of a blur. I spent a little bit of time in the room's Jacuzzi early on but that didn't give me a lot of relief. The contractions got closer together and more intense and it was really painful. I breathed through them throughout the night -- my husband or mom held my hands through every one of them, and the midwife and nurse were encouraging and supportive throughout. The nurse sometimes would rub my back, but really, I just wanted my space to find the least painful position for each contraction. I found the most comfort while on my forearms and knees or leaning on the bed (and for each contraction I really needed to squeeze someone's hands). It was VERY hard work.

I kept waiting for the urge to push throughout the early morning hours of Saturday, the 15th, but I wasn't feeling it. It seemed to take forever for me to progress more, and I was EXHAUSTED (by that point I'd been awake for more than 24 hours). They gave me intravenous fluids because I was dehydrated (it was hard to keep drinking enough) and they thought that might help me progress. Finally, my midwife checked me and found I was only 7 centimeters dilated. I was frustrated that I wasn't closer to being able to push but at least I was in the "transition" phase of labor. Then, inexplicably, my contractions got farther apart and the labor seemed to stall. They gave me more IV fluids and I walked around the hallway to try to move things along.

All the while, the intermittent fetal monitoring showed that the baby's heart rate was great, but by that point I was hitting a wall. I thought I would never make it through this. My muscles were shaking uncontrollably, and I was so tired and in such pain, so I asked for some injectable pain medication. They said it might relax me enough to help me progress. They gave me Stadol, and I swear it did not take the edge off the pain one bit, but it did allow me to sleep in between contractions for a little while.

Still, when the Stadol didn't really seem to do anything to alleviate the pain, I was starting to get desperate. So we decided to break my bag of waters. My water still hadn't broken and we were hoping that at that point, breaking the water would help get things going faster. My midwife broke the bag of waters on Saturday morning -- it was painless and I felt a huge gush of warm water. After that, though, I still didn't feel the urge to push, and I felt I couldn't go on anymore. I couldn't imagine having to push the baby out feeling this exhausted and spent from the pain, so I said I wanted the epidural. I was SO disappointed that after all of this laboring, I was going to get the epidural after all, but I just didn't see how I could go on.

As they were getting my room ready on the regular labor and delivery floor so I could get the epidural (you can't get the epidural in the Birthing Center so you need to move to the hospital's labor and delivery floor for that), my midwife checked me one last time and said I was 9 ½ centimeters dilated and that I was really almost ready to push. Because I was too tired to even move to the other floor, and I'd come that far, I just said, fine, then let's just start pushing in the Birthing Center without the epidural. I thought I felt an urge to push, but honestly, my body didn't "take over" or anything like that -- and I couldn't exactly tell where or how I was supposed to be pushing.

I tried to start pushing in a squatting position but I was too tired to maintain that, so I just lay down on my back to push. With each contraction, I pushed (and screamed!), and everyone (my husband, my midwife, my mom, and the nurse) would cheer me on and tell me that I was making progress. My mom and the nurse also helped prop up my back, and my husband and midwife held my legs. They also showed me with a mirror how my pushing made the baby's head come down farther. Seeing the progress in the mirror really helped me understand which muscles I needed to use to push. I pushed for about an hour and a half. Everyone was yelling encouragement with each push, and I needed it because it was HARD! (Later they told me that each time I pushed the baby's head farther down, they could see her dark hair more clearly.) And finally, after A LOT of groaning and yelling, I pushed my baby's head out! Very quickly after that, I pushed out the rest of her body -- and there she was! I couldn't believe it. Beautiful Lena, with her thick black hair, was born at 12:36 pm on Saturday, March 15th. My husband even got to help pull her out and catch her. It was very special for him. (My mom got to cut the umbilical cord!) Then Lena was in our arms. We'd done it! After the birth, the placenta came out easily with one quick push while I was holding Lena. The whole experience was surreal and overwhelming.

All told, the labor and birth was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. But I'm really glad that I stuck to my guns and didn't have lots of medical interventions because I believe that could've interfered with or slowed my labor and possibly led to a C-section. Truthfully, I don't know if I could do my labor again the same way (did I mention it was HARD?!). But all that matters is that Lena is here, healthy, and wonderful. My husband and I are overjoyed with her. AND we are so grateful to our wonderful nurse-midwives, Barbara Sellars and Elizabeth Boyce of CBS Midwifery in New York City. They guided us and reassured us throughout our pregnancy, and Barbara navigated me through the birth beautifully. We are also grateful to our nurse-lactation consultant, Maria Parlapiano, who runs the Postpartum Place in New Jersey, for helping me learn to nurse Lena -- not an easy feat!

And again, thank YOU for reading my blog (and commenting) -- from before conception until the birth. Though pregnancy and birth isn't easy, it IS miraculous and completely worth it! I wish you all healthy and happy pregnancies and babies!

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