Recently the wonderful Catnip suggested that I blog my birth story. Finding nothing in my mind worth posting today, I'm falling back on this suggestion and at least starting on this tale. It might take a few posts to get through it all, depending on how much detail I can bear to recall and recount!
To preview a few essential facts:
1. The little one was breech for most of the third trimester.
2. My research had convinced me I needed to try a natural birth (no drugs).
3. I am a major pain wimp.
4. We were VERY nervous parents-to-be.
5. The story ends with a c-section.
So. I'll actually start with #4, because it was a critical element in the story.
Our first pregnancy had ended very early in miscarriage, which is a subject I'll take on in another post. What's important to understand about it here is that that first experience robbed us of our innocence and turned us into extremely anxious expectant parents. (We're both anxiety-prone in the first place, so this was NOT a good development!) I ran to the bathroom constantly in the first trimester, not only because I had to pee a lot but because I was always looking for the telltale sign that this pregnancy too would end. Fortunately no such sign ever came, and as we now know, this pregnancy was a keeper.
But our anxiety lasted through the entire 41 1/2 weeks nonetheless. We rented the home doppler so we could check her heartbeat as often as we pleased (this was both a blessing and a curse, because though we were relieved every time we heard it, there were times when we didn't know if what we were hearing was normal, so it caused some needless worry). Once I could feel her, we would panic when a few hours would pass without movement. We did our respective exhaustive (and exhausting) research (mine in books, his online). By the time we reached the end of the third trimester, we were suffering from serious information overload.
Our research had convinced us that we should go for a natural birth, not because I had any ideals regarding this (I did not feel that I would be any less of a woman for accepting pain relief, in fact, I felt quite the contrary and had intended prior to research to avail myself of every drug offered) but because we wanted the fewest risks for our baby. But there was a slight hitch in our plan. The baby was breech.
We were told not to worry, that she would turn on her own. I secretly hoped she wouldn't turn too soon, because I had grown attached to feeling her little head pop up just below my rib cage, and didn't want to let go of that familiar feeling just yet. But I did want her to turn in time to labor naturally, and when she hadn't turned by 35 weeks I tried the various midwives' tricks to encourage her to do so (I seem to recall that this involved some rather uncomfortable poses, but my memory is fading of those particulars). As week 37 approached, we had to make a decision: should we go through the procedure to turn her (known as external cephalic version), or continue to wait and see if she turned at the last minute?
It was an agonizing decision. We wanted the chance at natural labor and a natural birth. But to undergo the version meant subjecting our baby to the first medical intervention, one that might not be necessary. And even if it was successful, she could turn again into breech position before I went into labor. After much thought, research, worry, and consultations with those whom we trusted, we elected to have the version. I saw one done on an episode of A Baby Story (which I, like every first time mom-to-be, watched obsessively), and it seemed uncomfortable but not bad. I felt prepared.
Now, if you are considering such a procedure and are reading this as a result, I don't want to scare you, but... NOTHING could have prepared me for what it was like. My OB had told me I would experience discomfort, but she never mentioned that it could be VERY painful. Not to mention fucking frightening. I know some have had better experiences, but ours was terrifying, for both of us, and let's just say I was using breathing techniques to get through the pain. I knew my doctor had lied to me when she complimented how I'd handled the pain afterward, telling me that I would have no problem in labor. (HA!) We had been informed that there were risks in the procedure, but we were utterly unprepared for the heart-stopping minutes after the (successful) version was over. I don't remember the precise details, but the worry was that the baby's heart rate wasn't showing the expected pattern, and we had an anxious period of time waiting to see if it would return to normal or if we would be heading down the hall for an emergency c-section.
We were both shaken by the experience, though her heart rate did indeed return to normal and we were able to go home. Both of us agreed that we would never choose to have an ECV performed again, should the question arise in the future. (But that is because of our particular experience, and how terrifying it was. In the end, it worked, and so I wouldn't say not to do it, because you can get through the pain. But be aware that it's not the inocuous, routine procedure it's portrayed to be. You need to know that it might HURT, a LOT, and it might SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU, to say the least, and you might end up with a c-section in the end anyway, like I did a few weeks later.)
After that I stayed on bed rest for two days and then returned to normal activities, which for me by then consisted of nesting and waiting. Mostly waiting. Around week 38 I became convinced
that she would be born early, and awaited the first signs of labor, becoming impatient as they failed to materialize as anticipated. It felt like my intuition was broken.
A few (agonizing!) weeks later, after many walks and much eating of spicy foods and whatever else I did to bring labor on (I honestly can't remember anymore what I did, but I'm sure we tried all of the usual suspects!), the pains began around 1 a.m. After weeks of Braxton-Hicks contractions, I worried I wouldn't know the real thing. Ha! As if. (Though there's a twist coming in the plotline here.) I was contorted like a pretzel by about the 10th contraction, certain I could not bear even ONE more, much less hundreds more, and all breathing techniques had gone out the window. As far as I was concerned, I was lucky to be able to breathe at all through this pain, so to hell with trying to control said breaths.
We fudged the numbers a little on our call to the OB, because we were close enough to their magic interval and I needed HELP, professional assistance to handle the pain. I was in way over my head. By the time we got in the car, the pains were coming on top of each other (what we would soon learn were called "camel-back" contractions). Timing them was no longer possible.
After arrival (and a painful walk up to L & D) we were thankfully able to skip triage, as I had been scheduled for an induction in just two days' time and was thus an automatic admit. Even so, it seemed an eternity until we were in our labor suite, and an even longer time until I was fully transformed into a proper object of medical intervention (a welcome transformation at this point, I must sadly admit) with gown, monitors, and IV. As I clambered up onto the bed, the pain became so intense that I began to vomit. Now, here's the kicker. When the nurse checked me, she found I was only a fingertip dilated. A fingertip. And the contractions were thus "unproductive." This meant that the awful pain I was in, that I could not stand? Was likely not real labor. I was unable to handle PRE labor.
They call this "prodromal" labor. It apparently can be as painful as "real" labor. No shit.
To be continued...