Elwood Wise O'Reilly
The birth of Elwood Jeffrey
During my pregnancy, I always enjoyed reading the birth stories that happened the way I envisioned my own: low/no interventions, no complications, calm and peaceful. It helped build my confidence in my own abilities. As it turns out, mine did not end up that way entirely. I'm sharing it anyway because I do think it's helpful to hear these stories of complications. For one thing, I would be sure to have a birth plan written out even if you don't intend on going to the hospital - it'd make things easier if you do go. Also, I've learned that when you have your sweet baby in your arms and you've recovered from your surgery, you realize that it really doesn't matter so much how he got there.
When I learned that there would be a stand-alone birth center run by midwives opening in Duluth, I was very excited and knew that was where I wanted to birth my baby. My husband, Kyle, and I became pregnant in September with a due date in early June. The pregnancy went well with no major concerns - just some early morning sickness, swollen feet and heartburn towards the end. I started going to a prenatal yoga class and read books on water birthing and mindful birthing to prepare myself.
Meanwhile, Kyle and I closed on our new home on June 3rd. Not the best timing, but fortunately we had a 3-week overlap till we needed to vacate our apartment. We worked on getting essential items into the home as I wanted to do my laboring in the new house. We spent the following Saturday packing things at the apt. and cleaning at the house. On our trips back and forth, I began having the sensation that I was going to get my period. I kept thinking, 'Oh, I'm about to get my period.' Then I'd catch myself and think, 'No, I'm pregnant. I don't get my period.' I recalled that it was an early sign of labor to have cramping similar to menstruation. I had been expecting to go about a week late because this was my first pregnancy and that is common; however, my own mom had both my brother and I within a day of our own due dates. It would have been more convenient to go a week late so we could finish packing and moving, so that is what I was counting on. I mentioned the cramping to Kyle, and when I discovered what is called, the "bloody show," we thought it would be a good idea to give our doula, Katie, a heads up. She responded to the text, saying, "Sounds like it will be soon!" I wondered how she defined 'soon.'
Kyle got the last of the essentials from the apt.- the coffeemaker, the cat, the record player, and the bed - for our first night in the new house. He did forget to grab my little brown suitcase which was mostly packed with things I would need at the birth center. We settled into the couch to watch 'Back to the Future' at about 9:00 p.m. that night. I was having a difficult time getting comfortable and resorted to standing and walking around while watching the movie. Around the time Dr. Brown was sending his dog, Einstein, into the future, I woke up Kyle and suggested we go upstairs to bed. I had started getting the Braxton-Hicks contractions weeks ago but this was something else - much more persistent. I kept telling myself that this sort of thing could go on for days, as I was in denial that I might actually be in labor. First night in the new home, and I didn't sleep at all. It was about 10:00 p.m. when we went to bed and I woke up frequently with contractions. I focused on breathing through them and then I'd fall asleep again. I had been able to stay in bed for the contractions but I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I recalled meeting the new midwife, Jacqueline, who had suggested that I just ignore the early contractions and to just keep doing whatever I was doing. I wondered how I was supposed to ignore these contractions. I finally could not stay in bed any longer and decided to go downstairs and walk around a bit. I figured it must be about 3:00 in the morning, but when I looked at the clock, it read: 11:00 p.m. I gasped aloud with dread, "oh...my...god." This was going to be a long night. I walked around the house and rested on the couch until Kyle came down and started timing my contractions. I had been timing them about 15 min. apart, and they were now 5 min. apart and increasing in intensity. The sun was rising by 4:30 to my amazement, which explained why I always felt like I was sleeping so late when I'd get up at 7:00. I called Katie at 5:00 a.m. and she was on her way over. I also called the midwife-on-call, Paula, to let her know where I was at. The contractions were becoming quite intense and Katie applied deep pressure to my lower back as I leaned my forearms against the wall - this felt wonderful. It was decided at about 7:30 that we should head to the birth center. Kyle had gone out to get food, drinks and my little brown suitcase and when he returned, we headed out. I had a contraction just outside the car and while I was aware that my new neighbors were possibly seeing me in a rather vulnerable position, I didn't focus on that. I focused on breathing through it and keeping my mouth open and not clenched. With me on all fours in the backseat (I had read another birth story where the woman did this and I didn't think twice when it was my turn), we drove to the birth center with Katie following behind. It was not a pleasant ride - Duluth's streets are the worst for a laboring mama. Once inside the birth center, I discovered how perfect the swirling stair railing was for me to lean over as Paula and Victoria got the green room ready. I could hear the water filling the tub and I focused on that. It must have been during the car ride - or possibly due to my shyness with my doula observing the labor - that I started closing my eyes to cope. I generally kept my eyes closed throughout the rest of the labor. I recall snippets of moments when I would open my eyes to see: the sparkling sunshine on the lake outside the window and filling the birthing room with a soothing brightness, my husband's hand as it held mine and looking up at him smiling with his reassurance and confidence, and Katie with her nourishing honey stick. It was just so calm and peaceful at the birth center even while going through those intense contractions.
There was a point during the labor when the contractions stopped for awhile. I figured this must be the 'transition' when I would feel the urge to push. I didn't want Paula to check me because I was afraid she would tell me that I was only at a 6, although she responded to my fear saying that "that would be great!" I declined. Gradually, the contractions began again and I enjoyed their short-lived mildness. I still didn't feel an intense urge to push but I did feel the urge to use the bathroom. Paula suggested that I sit on the toilet and try. She also noted that I could be feeling the baby's head coming down. I couldn't go and I didn't like laboring on the toilet so they suggested that I try the birthing ball. Eventually, I went back to the tub. Paula asked if I could feel the head, but I couldn't. She suggested checking me and I agreed. I climbed out of the tub and onto the bed. My bag of waters had not broken yet and she said that she could feel it bulging. She suggested that I push to break the bag of waters. I began to get frustrated, however, when I couldn't get my water bag to break. I pushed with all my might when Paula informed me that when my waters break, the baby won't be too far behind. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed - but could not break that bag. In my head, I went to plan B: Instead of trying to break the bag, I decided that I would just birth the baby in the bag. This wasn't working out either. The baby was becoming distressed as his heart tones were dropping, (and had gotten rather low) and were not recovering between contractions. When the bag of waters did finally break, the meconium that was contained within it showed just how much the baby was in distress. Paula made the call to have the ambulance transport us to the hospital. All of the calm and peace I had been enjoying soon faded and was replaced by what felt like swarms of people surrounding me, all talking and doing things at once - first with the ambulance crew and again at the hospital. My eyes were still closed throughout all of this. They transported me by ambulance and I was relieved when we got to the hospital and they said that we'd be going to the 6th floor. I knew this was the birthing unit, and I was so thankful that I wasn't going directly to ER or surgery. Once in the room, the frenzied mayhem, as it felt to me, started again as various people (just doing their jobs, I know) had me turn this way then that way and this way again while poking, prodding and strapping things to me. The on-call OB asked me if I wanted pain meds or an epidural. I said, feeling defeated, "I don't know.... No, I don't." When I was sufficiently poked and strapped, the OB came over to my bedside and said, "Look at me." I opened my eyes and met hers. I closed them again when she gave me my options: Have a C-section now, or wait and see if my swollen cervix will open up and continue trying to push the baby out. I was about to choose the latter when she added that I could end up having an emergency C-section if I decide to wait it out. I could be awake and aware with Kyle by my side if I chose to have the C-section now, or take a chance on having an emergency C-section where I would be put under and Kyle would not be there. I didn't want either option. I didn't have time to focus on the nagging question in the back of my mind, 'what happened to my water birth?' I also couldn't bring myself to say that I would take the 'have a C-section now' option. So when Victoria said, 'this may be one of those times when a C-section is warranted,' I simply said, 'ok.'
It was difficult trying to control my body's instincts as I was instructed not to push but couldn't help what my body was doing. We had to wait for the anesthesiologist and I just wanted to get this show on the road. Once it had been decided that I was getting a C-section, I didn't want to have to wait around any longer while my baby was still possibly in distress. They gave me a spinal block which hurt more than anything causing me to sit straight up after they had me sit all slumped over in such a way. I wondered if I just paralyzed myself, but no one seemed concerned. They hung up a blue curtain at my chest level as my discomforts subsided and I was able to open my eyes. After awhile, the anesthesiologist came by with a smile and said, "Isn't it nice to not feel those contractions anymore?" I nodded in agreement, but was struck with the thought, 'no, actually, it isn't nice. I wanted to feel it all.' Meanwhile, I laid there with Kyle by my side and we waited. I didn't have any idea what was going on as I couldn't see or feel anything. Everyone in the room seemed to have the same elated reaction when we heard the cry. I can't describe the immense joy that I felt hearing him wail. Ironically, because my intention was to birth him peacefully in the water so he wouldn't have to wail like that. At this point, I was just happy to have my baby breathing in the air around him. It felt like forever as they cleaned him up, but soon I was able to have him by my head as they stitched me back up. And although he had the conehead look going on, he was the most beautiful creature I'd ever laid eyes on.
It's not the birthing experience that I envisioned, but I can't let that get me down. We've been blessed with a healthy baby, and I am ever so thankful.