intensely trivial

Ellie’s birth story: The hard part

This is Part 3 of Ellie’s birth story. Click here to read the preceding part, Ellie’s birth story: The easy part.

Ellie’s birth story, Part 3: The hard part

Eventually, the contractions did intensify. Every once in a while, my nurse would come in and ask me how bad the pain was on a scale of 1 to 10. I thought it was pretty bad, but I had nothing to compare it to. She said if I didn’t make more progress within a couple of hours, then they would “start pit.” To me, the way she talked about it was like insider language, intimidating. She said pitocin would increase contractions, and I already thought they were unpleasant. I started getting afraid of the future. Being only at 5 cm was discouraging, and things weren’t progressing as fast as they were supposed to. Heather brought me popsicles. The hot tub seemed to help some, but it made me hot, too, which was annoying. Finally, my medical attendants decided to start a pitocin drip, because I was supposed to have the baby within a certain number of hours from the time of my water breaking. I sat on the bed next to the IV and the monitor, hooked up. We all watched the numbers on the monitor go up and down as my contractions waxed and waned. I dreaded seeing the numbers go up, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. And just as I expected, it hurt more and more the bigger the numbers got. I didn’t know then that the external contraction monitor isn’t an absolute way of measuring the strength of contractions. However, to me, it seemed the most authoritative version of my experience, and I hated it.
As my contractions intensified thanks to the pitocin, I began to hate the pitocin, and I feared each contraction. I clenched my inner thighs and tensed up the rest of my body each time a contraction built up. I was miserable. The nurse kept asking about my pain level, and reminded me that if I wanted an epidural, I just had to ask. Obviously, things hurt more than I thought they would, but I was really trying to do it without pain meds. My cervix’s progress crawled slowly toward 6 cm, and the evening got later. I thought I sounded like a cow bawling in pain, and I was embarrassed to sound that way, and miserable because of how it felt. Heather kept telling me to relax, and Dan was cringing the entire time because I was hurting. I was immobilized, sitting cross-legged on the bed, and I didn’t think to do anything else. I was mad at the stupid pitocin drip and embarrassed because I was taking so long; it was already suppertime, and I still hadn’t had the baby.
Ellie, meanwhile, was doing fine. I never was worried about her. I wasn’t even thinking about her most of the time, just feeling sorry for myself.
I was obviously not doing well. It was too hard for me. I couldn’t do it. I was failing. I was miserable. I couldn’t relax. I doubted whether I could do anything more without pain meds. I started telling Dan and Heather that I wanted an epidural, and they reminded me that I had planned to do it without pain meds, which frustrated me. Of course I knew that. I knew I wasn’t fulfilling my plan, but I didn’t think I could do anything else. I didn’t understand that relaxing would help with the pain. That didn’t seem to make any sense. My tactic was more to grit my teeth and clamp down on it – which was counterproductive, but I didn’t have any sense at the time, and I couldn’t make myself relax. A different nurse came onto the floor, and she helped me breathe differently, more slowly, “hee” on the intake and “hoo” on the out breath (or vice versa – I can’t remember). It did help me get into control somewhat, but the pain didn’t go away, obviously.
By this point, I was at 7 cm, entering the most intense part of labor. Finally, at 7:30 or 8 p.m., I asked for an epidural, and Dan and Heather didn’t try any longer to dissuade me. When the anesthesiologist finally arrived, I was very relieved to see her. She made me sit still on the edge of the bed and curl my back – all the standard epidural procedures. While she did it, I entered a different state of mind. There was no option of clenching or writhing; I had to be still and in control. Interestingly, the contractions hurt less while she was putting in the epidural, but the medication had not taken effect yet. The pain began to dull soon after, and very soon, I didn’t feel pain anymore. It was a huge relief. I was exhausted, and the nurse had me lie down for a rest. I rested for about 30 minutes, and then my nurse did a vaginal check. I was at 10 cm, less than an hour after the anesthesiologist arrived. What?! I believe that as soon as I had to relax, my cervix dilated practically instantly. I know this about myself now: that I can be the queen of tension. And I also know that no sphincter opens without being relaxed.
So at about 10:20 p.m., Dr. Priddle told me it was time to start pushing. Of course, I couldn’t feel the proverbial “urge to push,” but I didn’t really care, because I was still so relieved not to be hurting as I had been. I felt a bit guilty about getting an epidural, but it was done, and I hadn’t seen any other way to get through labor. Now that I was pushing, I just followed the directions of the nurses and Dr. Priddle, and I worked as hard as I could to push Ellie out. Soon, they told me that her head was crowning, and I reached down and touched it. What a surreal feeling, to touch with my hand my baby’s head, which I couldn’t feel any other way. I was so excited that she was actually coming out and I would soon meet my baby! The nurses cheered me on, and I pushed eagerly. Dr. Priddle cut a little episiotomy, which of course I didn’t feel, and I didn’t care about it. And at 10:51 p.m., Ellie entered the world, screaming her head off! I could hardly believe it. Dr. Priddle asked Dan if he would cut the umbilical cord, and Dan said he didn’t want to, but everyone argued him into doing it, so he complied. Then they wiped her off, quickly wrapped her up, and handed her to me. I tried to comprehend that this was our child, Elanor Liseten. Glad as I was, it was still quite a bit to process. Heather and Dan told me what a good job I had done, and I felt very successful with the pushing. It had only been about a half-hour of pushing, and it hadn’t been hard.
Go on to Ellie’s birth story, Part 4: Getting to know Ellie.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Ellie’s birth story: Getting to know Ellie « intensely trivial pingbacked on 9 years, 4 months ago


  1. * Terri says:

    I love hearing more about what was really going through your mind during this process…especially now that I’ve given birth myself I get it more. (hug)

    Posted 9 years, 4 months ago

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