Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Punchy McShort Fingers

I hadn't given much thought to labor and childbirth by the time I was pregnant other than knowing I'd rather not give birth. My sister and I always joked we would have babies once they could be grown completely in a test tube. I'm glad I experienced it first to tell her she couldn't do it. (she faints putting eye drops in her eye...really)

So in typical me fashion I researched. I watched Birth Day and A Baby Story religiously and read my pregnancy books. I was planning on having an epidural, even though I don't like needles. When I learned it stayed in your spine and you needed a catheter I changed my mind. I researched other pain management options, but they either drugged the baby or weren't really used in most hospitals in the US.

Around 6 months into my pregnancy I decided I would go for a natural, unmedicated birth. I always felt I had a strong pain tolerance, but I was new to this childbirth thing. It could be way worse than I ever imagined. I was determined to try though. My research led me to the Bradley Method, sometimes call Husband Coached Childbirth. I read the book, did the exercises (OK I did them for a week and then pretty much slacked off) and bookmarked sections for The Captain to read. He doesn't read. He's not illiterate or anything, he just doesn't like reading. I pushed and prompted him to read, I read excerpts aloud, but I still don't really know if he ever read or payed attention to it. Regardless of whether he did or not, I felt confident that with my research, and being a woman, I had the ability to pull off an unmedicated birth.

The Captain and his First Mate

I had a pretty easy pregnancy, no morning sickness or anything. Just the occasional unexplained rash, and a 3 month sex ban for a low lying placenta. Then they were concerned my baby would be too big. A expert ultrasound confirmed he was on the large side, but nothing unmanageable. Overall I loved being pregnant and everything was going well.

Then one day, at a routine appointment, my blood pressure was high. My OB said she would take it again at then end of the appointment and if it was still high I would have to go to the hospital. That is not the way to get a pregnant woman's blood pressure to go down, that's for sure. I was off to the hospital for monitoring and tests.

At the hospital I was hooked up to a blood pressure monitor and told I couldn't go home until the saw it go down. Then they sent in person after person to have me sign this form, hook me up to this monitor, and draw blood. Can't a girl relax?! After about 37 minutes of crazy, it finally calmed down. I was able to lye there and watch my baby's heart rate on the monitor and see the contraction monitor. Apparently I was having contractions (normal at this stage in my pregnancy) but I just couldn't feel them. This gave me some reassurance that maybe I could do this pain free. After about two hours, they let me go home, but not empty handed.

I went home with a pee jug to test for preeclampsia. In case you weren't sure what a pee jug is, it's a jug that you collect your pee in for 24 hours. Yup. You pee, pour it in the jug and keep the jug on ice. Then they test the levels of something or other to see if you have preeclampsia, a condition pregnant woman can develop that is harmful to both mom and baby. Luckily, the results came back negative. However, all this led to bed rest. My Doctor feared if I didn't take it easy I would end up with blood pressure issues after all. I guess working up until labor wasn't panning out as planned.

OK, to skip forward a bit, after some time on bed rest and no progress to my labor yet, my OB recommended an induction. This is a bad word in the natural birth world. Forcing your body into labor can lead to all sorts of scenarios, like stalled labor and a c-section. Also contractions can be much worse on pitocen, the drug used to start contractions. I was terrified, heartbroken, and unprepared. I was having a baby tomorrow and it wasn't my birth plan! That night I went in to get the induction process started with pg gel to ripen my cervix and in the morning I would head to the hospital for a full blown induction.

Sweet Baby Boy
Bright and early the next morning, after a pass through the Wendy's drive-thru, we headed to the hospital. I went through the standard hospital check in and got all set up in my birthing room. Nice big room, private bathroom, corner window, IV drip. I don't like needles, but I HATE IVs. I've flat out refused one in the past. However, it was necessary to administer the pitocen and fluids. Not quite how I had wanted to start my labor. My amazing nurse Taffy came in to start me on the drug. As soon as it hit my body I burst into tears. I think I scared her with this reaction. I felt the medicine affecting my body, I hated that feeling. What really made me cry was that I had I idea what to expect now. How would it affect my body and my labor? What would these contractions I'd never felt actually feel like? Could I still make it through without pain meds? It was an overwhelming feeling and I couldn't even put it into words then when Taffy asked why I was crying. I think I just shook my head and uttered a teary "I don't know!" An hour or so later of pretty much nothing, I had calmed down. My Doctor came in and broke my water. She assured me things would get moving now.

Labor began and I started to feel my contractions. I had my calming music playing and The Captain by my side. I seemed pretty content and he asked me how the contractions felt. I thought for a second how to best describe them. "Like I just ate Taco Bell," I said. I still stand by that description, and trust me, I still eat Taco Bell too.

Part of labor is dilation. The cervix dilates up to 10cm to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal. Another part of labor is checking how far you've dilated. Let me say again that I loved my nurse Taffy. She was understanding, supportive, and helpful through the whole process. However, I hated her during checks. After the first dilation check The Captain could see the discomfort on my face. She left the room and asked what was wrong. "Punchy McShort Fingers just punched me in the vagina!"

Our first family photo. The doctor was good at delivering babies, not photography.
Things moved along and around 6 o'clock in the evening, 11 hours into labor I started to get stronger contractions. I was entering the transition stage and I knew it.  Thanks to my research, I knew this meant I was getting closer to the finish line. Up to this point I had managed the pain pretty well.  I would close my eyes, focus on the music, and breathe through the contraction.  The tools of The Bradley Method were really helping me, minus the husband coaching.  Now don't get me wrong, The Captain was doing exactly what I needed. He was staying quite, leaving me alone, and doing what I told him.  I learned that my coping method is to center myself and tune out everything around me, so any distraction by The Captain would potentially pull me out of my zone. Things got more intense and I finally did need him.  I had to throw up! He grabbed a trash can and caught. He did a pretty good job too, no mess.  Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for the next three times.  Good thing he brought a change of clothes. Who knew he would be getting messy too, and we know how he feels about body fluid.

At 7:30pm Taffy ended her shift and the next nurse took over.  I was not a fan, and it made me miss Punchy McShort Fingers after all. I could tell I was nearing the end and just tried to ignore her annoyances. Finally, sometime after nine at night, I felt the urge to push, but my Doctor wasn't there.  She had gone home and the on call Doctor was supposed to deliver my baby, but she wanted to come back.  She was curious to see if I would make it without pain meds. She arrived and confirmed it indeed was time to push.  At that moment I felt the need to tell the Doctor I hadn't finished filling out a hospital form! That seemed like something important to me. She laughed and said we could worry about that later.  I grabbed my legs and gave it all I had.  In about 30 minutes, it was time to meet my baby boy! One final push and he would be here.  My Doctor cut the cord, (she knew The Captain's issues with things like that and didn't want him to faint) and he came in at a healthy 8 lbs and 21 inches. He was perfect, adorable, and bound to be trouble when he grew up.

I felt great, exhausted, but great. I had done it without pain medication and I was proud of myself.    Besides, it was nice to be a mini superstar at the hospital.  Nurses would stop in and say, "Oh, you're the one who didn't get the epidural!" and "We were hoping you'd do it!" Even my Doctor's husband asked when she got home if I had made it through without it.  I apparently did have a high tolerance for pain.  My pain level never went past a 6 or 7 and I never felt the need for an epidural. I was able to enjoy and experience my labor. In fact I actually miss both being pregnant and the labor. I would do it again in a heartbeat.


  1. Thank you for sharing your birth story! I love them! Especially when they make me laugh =)

    1. Thanks Stacie. It's such a big event in my life, so it deserves to be shared. People think I'm crazy, but I really like the whole labor thing. Thanks for commenting, now I discovered you have a blog too.

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