So without further ado, the story of Lilly's birth:
I distinctly remember the day in Bradley class where we were asked to create our Birth Plans. Becky, our (awesome) teacher started off by saying “the one thing you can plan on when it comes to your birth, is that something will not go as planned”. Boy, was she right.
Wednesday, February 27th
At my weekly doctor’s appointment, my blood pressure was high - 150/100 (when it’s usually in the 100s/60s). I wasn’t seeing my doctor, since she was out that day, but the doctor I was seeing suggested we do an ultrasound and Biophysical profile to check on the baby, and decide what to do about my high blood pressure. This freaked me out, big time. I thought I was just having my routine, boring weekly appointment, and now there is a chance I could be sent to the hospital immediately (which by the way, was my biggest fear). The nurse even made a comment - “you might be having this baby sooner than you thought” NO THANK YOU.
So we went for the ultrasound, and after maybe 15 minutes the tech said that everything looked fine, baby got a perfect score on the test. They wanted to check my blood pressure again after resting, so I sat in a recliner and waited for the nurse to come in - attempting to relax and not freak out at what was happening. My blood pressure had gone down thankfully, so we met with the doctor again to discuss the next steps. He wanted to let my doctor make the decision, so he scheduled me for an appointment the next morning with her. Since baby scored 8/8 on the BPP, and my blood pressure returned to normal after rest, it wasn’t as immediate of a concern as initially thought. He wanted me to go on bedrest for the rest of the day, and just try to keep my blood pressure down. Consider me officially freaked out at that point. I went home and did everything I could think of to get ready for the baby to arrive. I wrapped up everything I could at work, tentatively started my maternity leave, and tried to rest (although that was nearly impossible).
It’s funny because I actually had a strange feeling as we were pulling into the parking lot that day, that something crazy was going to happen. I didn’t know what, and I honestly didn’t think it had anything to do with the baby or my appointment, but I definitely had an anxious feeling. I didn’t realize until afterwards that I had the intuition that the appointment would go bad (but that’s probably a good thing).
Thursday, February 28th
We went in for my appointment at 9:45, and started with a blood pressure check. It was lower than it had been on Wednesday, and after I laid down for a few minutes and she re-checked it was even lower, and in the normal range. I was breathing a sigh of relief at this point, thinking I was in the clear. Well, I was wrong. My doctor came in and explained how concerned she was about my blood pressures over the past 2 days, and that this was very possibly an early sign of preeclampsia, which can be very dangerous. Her recommendation was to have me come in on Friday evening, and be induced on Saturday morning. My heart sank when I heard her say this. Throughout my entire pregnancy, the biggest thing I worried about was having to be induced. I wanted to avoid it at all costs. I wanted to allow my body to go into labor naturally. I explained to her how I really did not want to be induced, asked if I absolutely had to, or if I could wait and see what happened over the weekend - basically tried to get out of it in any way possible. She told us that they can’t make us do anything, but she strongly recommended the induction, and she flat out said she thought it would be a mistake for us not to do it. We were still hesitant (the only issue I had at this point was one high blood pressure reading. The biophysical profile proved that the baby was fine, and I otherwise felt perfectly fine, so I really did not see the need to be induced so quickly.), so she agreed to have us come back on Friday for another BPP and blood pressure check, and if I “passed” both of those and didn’t go into labor on my own over the weekend, I would come back on Monday. I was ok with that, and planned to try every natural induction method under the sun over the weekend, because I wanted more than anything to go into labor on my own. This time I went home and officially started maternity leave, finished packing my hospital bag, and again tried to rest and stay calm so as not to raise my blood pressure.
Friday, March 1st
I spent the day trying to stay calm and relaxed, although I was pretty much just anxious for my appointment. I distracted myself by looking up natural ways to induce labor, and had a list ready for what I was going to try over the weekend. Matt went to work, and wrapped everything up, not planning to go back after our appointment (assuming we’d be having the baby sometime in the next few days), so his time off would start Monday. We went to the doctor’s office that afternoon, and once again I had that funny feeling. This time I knew it meant this appointment wasn’t going to go as I had hoped, but I tried to just stay calm and go with it. I kept telling myself that everything happens for a reason, and whatever is going to happen is going to happen, it’s out of my control. So at the appointment I had yet another blood pressure check, and this time it was perfectly normal. Still a bit high for me, but in the normal range which was the goal. We also had another biophysical profile, but this time we didn’t have the perfect results. The tech wasn’t able to find a measurable pocket of fluid around the baby, which was yet another concern. We met with another doctor (mine was out again - actually she was on call at the hospital), who sat us down and told us that between these 2 issues (high BP and low fluid), I pretty much didn’t have a choice and I needed to check in to the hospital tonight to be induced. They were not willing to risk the baby’s health with the potential of low fluid, and induction was the only option. It was about 3:00, and she wanted us to check in to the hospital by 5. We agreed, and off we went to go home and get our things. I cried as soon as we got into the elevator, it felt like my whole plan was completely uprooted. The one, single thing I was most afraid of, and did not want, was happening. I was afraid this was going to spiral out of control and my whole birth experience would be completely different from what I had planned. Matt stepped in and calmed me down, reminding me that this was only one piece of the puzzle, it was not the end of the world, I could still have my natural birth, and by the way - we’re having a baby tomorrow! (or so we thought...)
We went home and I packed a few last things in our hospital bags, cleaned the house (Matt thought I was insane, but I just could not fathom bringing my baby home to dirty dishes in the sink!), and then grabbed one last meal together before heading to the hospital. The doctor had told me not to eat anything...which I took to mean that I should definitely eat something. :) We sat in Mr. Goodcent’s, Matt super anxious about what was to come, and me surprisingly calm.
We got to the hospital a little after 5 (Matt was so concerned about being late, it was hilarious), and waited to get checked in. It was so surreal standing out in the waiting room, holding all of our bags, just waiting to go have our baby. It was not at all how I pictured it happening - the same with the drive to the hospital. Not at all how I imagined it! I had imagined laboring at home, wondering how we’d know when to go to the hospital, Matt speeding down the highway to get there with me fighting through contractions...yeah none of that happened.
Anyway, we got checked in finally, and they gave me Cervadil to soften my cervix. I was holding on to hope that the Cervadil would send me into labor, and I wouldn’t even have to have the Pitocin that was planned for the next day. No such luck. Becky (our doula) came to the hospital later that night, and we stayed up chatting with her for quite a while. We finally got to bed around midnight I think, but I didn’t sleep well at all. I was incredibly anxious, realizing what was going to happen the next day, and having no idea what to expect.
Saturday, March 2nd - my due date
We were woken up at 6am, so I could take a shower and get moved to another room (one with a tub) and get the Pitocin started. I was a giant ball of anxiety at this point, having no idea what was in store for me the rest of the day, and if I was going to be able to follow through with my plans for a natural birth. Matt got a breakfast plate from the nurse, and I attempted to sneak a few bites knowing I would need energy for the day but my anxiety didn’t allow me to eat much. We took a shower, I tried to relax, and we took our time getting everything packed up and ready to move to the new room. I was trying to delay the Pitocin as long as possible. :) We finally got to our new room, had shift change of the nurses, and it was time to put on the monitor and hook up my IV of Pitocin. My nurse for the day, Lauren, was wonderful and so sweet, and fully understood my plans of a natural birth. Becky had arrived at this point, as well as my mom, so I was feeling a lot less anxious now that I had my full support system there. They started my Pitocin around 8am (I think), and Becky asked them to start at the lowest possible dose which they agreed. Dr. Carricker came in shortly after my IV was started, and wanted to break my water. They had checked me and I was dilated to 1.5, so had a long ways to go, and they thought breaking my water would speed things up. I asked if we could wait, though, because I really wanted to try and get my body to do things on its own. We were hoping to also back off the Pitocin once I was progressing, anticipating that my body would take over and the Pitocin wouldn’t be needed any longer.
So as the morning went on, I started feeling contractions. They were very mild at this point, just felt like cramps. More family arrived, and I was able to sit and talk with them in the room, my mom even walked the halls with us for a while. In the afternoon, the contractions started getting a bit more intense, but I was able to close my eyes and breathe through them, while holding on to Matt. The KU game came on at 1, and I remember sitting on the birthing ball trying to watch the game with my parents, but I would just stare at the screen not paying attention to what I was watching at all. It was a nice distraction, and at least they were winning so I didn’t have to pay too close attention. I was still getting through the contractions pretty easily, but they were definitely getting more intense. They upped my dose of Pitocin as the day went on, but it only got up to about 1/2 of the normal dose used (per Becky and my request). I was still progressing through labor, though, with intensifying contractions, and other signs of active labor. I used just about every position/aide available throughout the afternoon and evening - I got in the tub, tried the shower, the birth ball, walked the halls, sat in bed, stood up and leaned against Matt...you name it, I tried it. Each position would help for a short time, and then I needed to switch, as things intensified. I don’t think they checked me at all throughout the day (also per my request), but based on how I was feeling, how intense the contractions had become, and all of the outward signs, by the evening it appeared I was in full on active labor, and that I was getting close to transition. (in Bradley, they teach the stages of labor and how to identify them based on behavior and physical signs, rather than based on how far dilated you are. In early/first stage labor you are able to talk/move through contractions and try different positions, and then in active labor and transition you’ve gone to not wanting to talk or move at all, losing modesty, sweats, hot and cold, nausea, shakes... and I was going through all of that.) Dr. Carricker came and checked me, and much to everyone’s surprise I was still only dilated to a 2. That was pretty devastating to me, but I tried not to let it get me down, because there wasn’t anything I could do but keep going. As the night went on, the contractions were getting so much more intense. I needed Matt and Becky’s help to get through each one, and they were still about 2 minutes apart as they had been all day. I was getting incredibly tired, shaky, went back and forth from hot and cold, and had even started to vomit. It again appeared as though I was progressing, but when the nurse checked me one more time, I was still at 2, maybe 2.5. They spoke with Dr. Carricker on the phone, as she had gone home already, and she suggested that we turn off the Pitocin, let me sleep for a few hours, and then in the morning start Pitocin again and break my water in hopes that things would progress much quicker after that. It was around Midnight (I think) by this time, and although it meant I was going to be in labor for a lot longer, I could not have been more relieved to hear this plan. I was exhausted, and starting to feel defeated that I had done all of this work and didn’t seem to be getting very far. I’m lucky that they hadn’t broken my water earlier in the day, otherwise I would have had to continue laboring through the night, and if I got to the morning without progress still I probably would have ended up having a c-section. So they turned the Pitocin off, and after about 30-45 minutes the contractions finally slowed down and got less intense. They never went away, but they became more bearable. We tried to get some sleep, but that was much easier said than done. Matt ended up sleeping in the rocking chair pulled up next to my bed, so that I could hold onto him through the contractions. I was able to fall asleep here and there, but I did get woken up every hour to check my blood pressure, not to mention the lingering contractions, and the hour it took to get up and go to the bathroom and get back and settled. Needless to say it wasn’t a great night of sleep, but it was something. I remember lying there wondering to myself if I was ever going to have this baby.
Sunday, March 3rd - Lilly’s birthday!
We were woken up early again Sunday morning, and I was allowed to take the monitors off and the IV out long enough to take a shower, which was glorious. They started Pitocin again pretty early, I think around 7am, and then we were just waiting for the doctor to come in to break my water. Both of our parents were there (our moms stayed the night) and I was able to chat with everyone while we waited for the doctor, although once the Pitocin kicked in the contractions went back to being quite intense. I think it was around 10 or so when the doctor (Dr. Martin, as Dr. Carricker was off that day) came and broke my water. They didn’t expect much to come out since I had “low fluid”, and when she initially broke it there wasn’t much, but when I went to the bathroom a few minutes later there was a huge gush. That really kick started things, and my contractions went pretty much back to where they were on Saturday night, and only got more intense from there.
Honestly the day is a bit of a blur...I do remember pacing back and forth in the room, stopping to lean on Matt during contractions for the first part of the morning, and then I remember lying on my side on the bed for a lot of the time, with Matt behind me squeezing me through the contractions, and I remember sitting on the edge of the bed leaning on him through some as well. I was in a lot of pain, and they didn’t allow me to eat anything so I got very tired very quickly. I know that when they checked me first thing in the morning I was at a 3. Several hours after they broke my water (I would guess 3 or 4 in the afternoon?)) I was at a 4. By this point I really didn’t have any concept of time or what was going on around me, all I could do was focus on the pain and get through the contractions one by one. From here on out, things got really intense. I couldn’t manage to get out of the bed, I was vomiting in between just about every contraction, and I was either sweating and boiling hot, or freezing cold. I went from a 4 to a 7 in less than an hour, and in another short stretch of time one side of my cervix was at a 9.5. The other side of my cervix was still stuck at an 8, though, because of how baby’s head was turned and stuck. I tried several different positions to try and get the baby to turn, and the rest of my cervix to dilate. The one side had gotten fully dilated to a 10, but the other side was still stuck at 8. Finally, after laboring in every position under the sun it seemed like, baby moved enough that the remainder of my cervix could fully dilate, and I started feeling the urge to push. When they told me I was complete, and could start pushing, it was music to my ears. I thought this meant the baby would be here any time, and I had almost made it through. HA! Once again, I was oh so wrong. For the first few pushes, with that mindset, I was pushing with everything I had, and exerting so much energy. It took me a few contractions to figure out how to bear down and push correctly, too - although I did feel an urge to push, it wasn’t the overwhelming urge I expected. After probably an hour or so, I was just plain exhausted. I realized this wasn’t going to happen quite as quickly as I thought, so I tried to focus on conserving my energy, and get some water in me in between contractions. I was once again vomiting in between contractions, it was almost like the dry heaving would start my pushing for each contraction. This was probably the only point where I wasn’t sure I could do it...it wasn’t that I wanted an epidural, or a c-section, I was just so exhausted I knew that if I didn’t get this baby out soon I would just plain run out of gas. I remember looking at Matt starting to tell him that I can’t do this much longer, but he cut me off at “can’t” and encouraged me to keep going. So this went on for 3 1/2 hours. It’s also a bit of a blur...I remember a lot of pain, Becky and Matt holding onto me and helping me through every push, and a lot of vomiting. Oh, and popsicles. :) Becky was trying to get me some sugar to help give me a boost of energy, so between pushes she was feeding me cherry popsicles. Eventually, I was finally at the point where baby’s head was starting to come out, and it was go-time. I remember seeing tons of nurses rush in, hearing the nurse tell the doctor to get here asap, and I was thrilled. I had been waiting hours for that to happen, always thinking (hoping) it was right around the corner. Once the doctor came in, my legs went up in the stirrups, and I had to muster up all of the energy I had left to keep pushing. Once the baby started coming out, I was having trouble stopping pushing between contractions, I remember the doctor and nurses yelling at me to stop pushing, and as I was practically hyperventilating telling them I can’t stop pushing, everyone was frantically trying to calm me down, telling me now would not be a good time to pass out. :) The baby crowned, and I did feel the “ring of fire” but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was afraid it would be - probably just because it was nothing compared to how much pain I had endured up to that point. A couple more pushes and she was out, and they put her straight to my chest. Matt and I both held her and cried and were just overwhelmed that she was finally here, and she was so beautiful. She was incredibly alert, and just stared back at both of us. I know that I delivered the placenta, was stitched up, and a number of other things, but I was oblivious to all of it. The doctor kept telling me what she was doing but I wasn’t even listening, I just kept saying “yeah, ok, do whatever”. I was too busy staring at my baby. We had skin to skin time (which I am so thankful for, and out of the whole experience is the moment I remember the most vividly - feeling her body on my chest for the first time), and we attempted to breastfeed, while everything else went on around us. Eventually they took her to weigh and measure her, while I attempted to make myself presentable for the family to come back and meet her. I was finally allowed to eat, and I remember Becky giving me a chocolate chip cookie that was undoubtedly the best cookie I’ve ever eaten in my life. :)
So in the end, I was in labor for around 40 hours from when I first started feeling contractions, to when Lilly was born, and I spent 3 1/2 of those hours pushing. It was the most intense thing I have ever experienced in my entire life. It was also one of the most gratifying things I have experienced, as it assured me how strong I can be, and hell if I made it through 2 days of labor I can make it through anything. Not to mention the beautiful little baby I got out of the whole deal! Something I didn’t expect, though, was how it made me feel towards my husband. Matt was absolutely positively the most amazing support person I could have ever asked for, and I honestly can say that I fell in love with him all over again through this experience. He knew exactly what to say, and when to say it, and he stuck with me through the entire time, holding my hand, holding me up, anything I asked. And Becky, our Bradley teacher who so kindly offered to also be our Doula, was equally amazing. I could not have gotten through those 2 days without both of them by my side. I knew it was going to be hard going through labor with no pain meds, but I didn’t expect it to be as long, as painful, or as intense as it was.
I think that had my last doctor’s appointment gone differently, this whole story would be different, but I guess everything happens for a reason. Looking back, I still don’t know that I needed to be induced that urgently, and clearly my body was not quite ready to go into labor, but I can’t change it now, and I don’t regret any of it. My girl took her time coming into this world, and made me work to get her here, but she was worth every minute of it, and so far she has been such a good baby, I think that’s my payoff. :)
WHEW! If you made it all the way through that, you deserve a medal. But I don't have any medals, so instead your prize is seeing this story in pictures. Click the link below to view our birth slideshow, with images by the wonderful Sarah Maxey of Sarah Maxey Photography.
I cannot say enough about how thankful I am to have these images. Sarah is a fabulous photographer, and I am eternally grateful to her for being there through this experience. Birth photography is a priceless investment, and I will treasure these photos forever.