Once we got to the hospital, it got worse. I went to triage (or whatever they call it). First, they checked me and told me I was only three centimeters. I felt like someone had deflated my labor balloon. I looked across the room and saw the diagram of dilation; I saw those seven centimeters that I still had to go. Then they told me they had to do a test to make sure my water had broken. To this day, I do not understand why they did this. I had been gushing water for five hours. I could understand in a for-profit hospital where they can charge you an extra twenty or two hundred (if my recent ER bills are any indication) dollars for the test, but this was a military hospital. They don’t have anything to gain from running unnecessary tests and procedures. When they put me on my back to do the test, I felt like I was going to break in half. This was the point where I turned to Collin, and said, “I can’t do this.” And as the words came out of my mouth, I’m thinking I’m not supposed to feel this way until transition. When I sat back up it was better, but I think at this point, the damage is done. I’m entering into panic mode, and panic mode is what causes pain in labor.
The guy comes back and tells me (surprise, surprise) my water has broken. So I wrap a sheet around my waste, and I walk half-dressed down the hall to my room. I change into a hospital gown, which immediately makes me feel like I’m sick and possibly dying because that’s what I think of when I think of hospital gowns. I go to the bathroom and feel like I’m going to throw up. And I think again This is not supposed to happen until transition. Then the doctor comes in and tells me they have to do an ultrasound to check the position of the baby, even though my midwife has checked this at my last two appointments. So back on my back again I go. And once again, I feel like I’m splitting in half.
With that over, I’m handed over to the labor and delivery nurse. This nurse was a blessing and a curse. I’m forever grateful that I had a nurse that was supportive of natural labor; however, she decided to take over as my labor coach. Unfortunately, she knew nothing about Hypnobirthing. I spent the rest of my labor being told I needed to open my eyes and focus. Not at all what I practiced. Poor Collin got pushed to the sidelines. And I was in such a state that I didn’t know what to do except to listen to her. I was in constant pain. There was never any down time in between contractions for me to collect myself and regroup. They started the intermittent monitoring. People would come in wanting me to check things or sign things. I would basically try to ignore them, and they would look at the machine that goes ping and say, “Oh, we’ll just wait until the contraction is over.” I’m sorry, what part of back labor do you not understand? If you work in labor and delivery, then you need to understand that a woman who is having back labor doesn’t have an "in between contractions." She is in constant pain. In fact, a woman who is in labor with no drugs is not in a mental state to take care of business. Leave her alone.
Other than that, the labor was pretty uneventful. My friend brought us bagels, but they made her leave them outside since I wasn’t allowed to eat (it’s not like you need fuel when your working that hard, right???). Towards the end, the nurse thought having an oxygen mask might help me “concentrate” during contractions (Once again, not what I was supposed to be doing, but it’s hard to go to your happy place when every time you close your eyes, you’re nurse tells you to “open your eyes. You can sleep after the baby comes.” What planet was she from? I didn’t sleep again for a month!). So here I am hooked up to the stupid fetal monitor and breathing through an oxygen mask. I kept asking for ice chips because my mouth felt drier than the desert (I later found out that Collin didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to have water. He just thought I really liked ice chips!). I start feeling the need to push, and the nurse tells me I need to breath the baby down. This is the point in my mind that I see myself turn into a dragon and breath fire into the face of the nurse. Maybe if I had been doing my Hypnobirthing techniques, I could have tried to override the intense urge to push, but with the stuff she had me doing, I felt like I had reached the top of the mountain and now I was hurtling down like an out of control train.
So she goes to get the doctor. The general consensus is that I still have a cervical lip, but since I’m going all natural, I should be able to do it. I’m so glad they all got together and decided it was time to do what my body had already decided on. This is where things really fall apart (at least for me and the birth I had imagined and wanted – and once again, there was no reason I couldn’t have had). Suddenly there is this flurry of activity. Carts with trays full of equipment are pushed in. Bassinets and baby warmers appear out of the wall like magic. Half of the bed is pulled out from under me – stirrups appear at my feet, handles appear at my side. I don’t know the exact number but somewhere between ten and fifteen people show up in the room. Next thing I know, everyone is looking between me, my crotch, and the machine that goes ping, and yelling at me to “Push!” and counting, and then yelling at me to “Breath! Breath for the baby!”
Twenty minutes later (and seven hours from the start of labor), Caedmon was out. He was supposed to go straight on my tummy. Here’s what happened instead…They lifted him up, and I saw him. He wasn’t crying, which is perfectly normal. Then they took him over to the bassinet/warmer thingy. At that point, I panicked. The only reason I could think of that they would take him away instead of giving him to me like they were supposed to is if something were wrong. Over the clattering of the giant crowd in my room, I finally got Collin’s attention to ask him if everything was okay. It was the longest probably less than a minute of my life, and I was practically in tears by the time he responded, “He’s perfect.” By the time they gave him to me, they had been quite successful at getting him to cry. They had also wiped him off (against my wishes) and covered his poor little feet in ink for the footprint. He looked like he had been beat up.
I guess it’s at this point that they inform me that I’ve torn (Hmm…I can’t imagine how that happened. Maybe all that crowd directed pushing?), and I’ll need to keep my feet in the stirrups until the OB on call can get there to check the tear. Now the actual birth didn’t hurt, but having to lay there with my feet in stirrups for forty-five minutes while waiting for the OB was extremely uncomfortable, not to mention wondering that whole time if my vagina had been torn beyond repair.
Oh, but wait…this may be my “favorite” part of my birth story. You see once they got Caedmon to cry, he didn’t seem to really want to stop. I couldn’t get him to nurse, and holding a baby when your feet are in stirrups and you’ve got a freaking IV needle stuck in one hand is probably hard enough for the experienced, but for someone who hasn’t held a baby in ten years, it’s a bit confusing to figure out. So what does my nurse tell me? “The reason he’s crying is because you’re hurting him. See that bruise on his head? That’s from hitting your pelvic bone. You’re pressing on that bruise.” I can’t even begin to tell you what that did to what little confidence I had. Simply readjusting him would have been enough. She didn’t have to tell me I was hurting my new baby or that I had already inadvertently hurt him with my pelvic bone during labor. At that point, I handed him to Collin, and I really think it was that moment that started a lot of our bonding issues, which then led to breastfeeding issues.
Eventually, the OB showed up. I was stitched up. I was allowed to eat my bagel. And I eventually headed to my room in the postpartum unit. And that was that.
This is me after the birth. Notice the broken capillaries in my face. That's not supposed to happen. That is from crowd-directed Valsalva pushing.
Now that the birth story is done, I’m going to try to start my breastfeeding story. Stay tuned.