isaac's birth story: part three

This is part three of Isaac's birth story. Catch up here first:
Part One 
Part Two

Suddenly, it was morning.

My nurse was a tall, blonde, athletic woman who greeted us with a smile as she entered the room. I watched as she quickly and efficiently went about her routine checking my vital signs and listening to the baby's heartbeat. She switched out the bag of antibiotics that were being given to me by IV, and asked how I was feeling.

I didn't sleep well, I admitted.

Try to get some rest, she said cheerfully. I'll be back soon with your Pitocin to get things started.


When I was younger and first contemplating things like marriage and pregnancy, the long epidural needle frightened me more than the thought of simply enduring labor pains. As I got older, and my friends began to have babies, it always struck me as funny (and a little odd) to hear them talk about napping and watching television during the late stages of labor. So when I became pregnant myself, I immediately knew that I wanted to try to have a natural, unmedicated birth, with as few interventions as possible.

Which is why, when the nurse said the word Pitocin, my heart sank. Inducing labor with Pitocin was an intervention I had fervently wanted to avoid, but at this point in our situation, I knew I probably didn't have much of a choice.

The gap between what I had hoped to experience and what was actually happening began to widen.


The midwife on duty was apologetic and prone to rambling.

I'm so sorry, she said. I should have come and talked to you before sending in the nurse. It's just that most women can't wait to be induced. We don't get many women who actually want a natural birth these days.

We listened closely as she explained in detail the situation we were in.

I had experienced a Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes (PPROM), a fairly rare situation where the water breaks before the 37th week of pregnancy, prior to the onset of labor. One of the biggest concerns at that point was the risk of infection - the protective amniotic sac was broken, it was no longer able to shield the baby from dangerous and potentially fatal infections.

At 33 weeks, the standard procedure is to use medication to try to keep the baby growing in the womb. At 35 weeks, it's widely accepted that it's safe to induce and deliver.

I was 34 weeks pregnant, a little bit of a gray zone. Sometimes babies do well if delivered that early, and sometimes they do not.

My midwife and the other doctors believed that at this point the risk of infection was greater than the risk of delivering early. They agreed that the best course of action would be to induce and deliver.


Aaron and I spent some time praying and talking about it. I cried and worried that the baby wouldn't be ready. My mind wandered through scenarios and statistics. I cycled through anger and frustration.

But in the end, we agreed to the induction. The decision felt a little like rolling a die or flipping a coin.

Even at that point, despite the obstacles, my midwife was very kind and sensitive to my desire to try to labor without drugs. She knew that the contractions from Pitocin would likely be unmanageable without an epidural, so she offered to first let me try a very small amount of an oral prostaglandin, a drug that ripens the cervix.

Best case scenario, she said, it will kick start your contractions, and then your body will just take over. If it works, you won't even need the Pitocin.


It was three o'clock in the afternoon when I took the prostaglandin.

An hour passed. Aware of what was coming (and not willing to go through it with unshaven legs), I begged my mom to bring me a razor. When she arrived, I showered, and then sat in front of her and let her braid my hair like she used to do when I was a little girl. Her hands were cool and comforting.

I felt a dull ache wrap around my body and squeeze my abdomen. The contractions seemed to be intensifying, but they were still uneven and irregular. Our doula arrived, bearing gifts of candy. She practiced breathing with me while we sat, waiting for something to happen.


At seven o'clock, a new nurse arrived. Her name was the same as mine, and she was young and sweet. At this point my contractions were coming fast and strong. I remember everyone in the room being excited that the prostaglandin had worked - labor had started, I was on my way.

I spent time on the birthing ball, trying to speed things up by bringing the baby down. During contractions, I leaned on my mom while Aaron applied counter-pressure to my back. In between contractions, I was still able to talk a little. Because of the high-risk nature of the pregnancy, I was tethered to the fetal monitoring machine and an IV, so I wasn't able to leave the room.

I shuffled a small path from the ball to the bathroom, from the bathroom to the ball.


Time started to slip away. I remember that at one point I saw blood, and I began to panic because it was a graphic glimpse of the reality of what was happening to my body.

I couldn't handle being upright anymore, so I moved to the bed, where I laid on my side and closed my eyes.

I grasped the bed rail, tightly.


It is dark and late, and I am drowning. I see it looming: a wave. A huge, gigantic wave that I am powerless to escape. I watch as it threatens to overtake me, and then suddenly - impact. The strength of it knocks me down and drags me under, sending me hurtling, flailing, into the void.

I desperately want to breathe.


The pain became so intense that I started to fear every contraction. I became frantic as it would build within my belly, my eyes roaming around the room, my voice desperate and shrill.  I was a wild animal searching for escape. Please help me. Please. Help. Me.

My doula grasped my hands and fixated her eyes on mine. She spoke in a firm, calm voice, and I clung to it. Over and over we faced them down together. 

There and back. She saved me every time.


It was eleven o'clock, maybe later. The contractions were unbearable and I thought I felt the urge to push. The young nurse came and checked my cervix.

Five centimeters, maybe six? she said softly, with an apologetic tone.

I was crushed.  How could I only be halfway there? If the pain was this bad at only five centimeters dilated, I knew I would never be able to handle it during the later, more intense transition period that I had learned about in childbirth class.

I faltered. I began to whimper for something to relieve the pain. Drugs, I whispered forcefully, in between contractions.

I think I need it. I'm pretty sure. Please. I can't do this anymore. I really think I need it now.


My midwife entered the room. She watched me labor for a few minutes, listening to my unsure requests for medication. Something must have caused her to question the young nurse's assessment of five centimeters, because she decided to check me herself.

Nine, she said authoritatively. You're almost there.

I smiled a huge smile. Instantly, I knew I didn't need the drugs after all. The pain was the same, but mentally - a switch had been flipped.

The end was in sight.

Click here to read the final installment: Isaac's Birth Story: Part Four


1 comment:

  1. You write so beautifully and with a sweet vulnerability that I admire and would, in fact, be jealous of, if I did not delight so much in the reading...