It occurs to me that my birth story could be written differently every single day. Had I sat down to write this the day after, it would have sounded different than if I had written it three days after or a week after, or a week and a half after. To be honest, processing this birth has been an ongoing thing for me, and I may have to return to this post and make additions later as I continue to understand different aspects differently. So please bear in mind, (and try not to judge) that this is simply an honest reflection of where I am right now. Oh, and if you were looking for the short version, this is probably not for you ;)
The Birth Story of Bronwyn Joy Colvin as remembered by her mother...
I woke up at 1am on Saturday March 24th and was
feeling really crampy. I poked Jeremy and told him this and said that I wanted to go sit on the toilet for a while. I peed and came back to bed and grumbled a bitabout how much the cramps hurt. I tried for about the next ten minutes to sleep and then ended up sitting up and really trying to figure out what was so painful. Jeremy suggested we go out to the kitchen. I sat and ate a bowl of cereal and we started paying attention a bit more to the rhythm of these pains and decided that they were probably contractions. Given that it was the middle of the night, we weren’t sure whether to try to keep sleeping or walk, so we did a bit of both. By 6 am when mom and dad started to get up, I was feeling pretty yucky and we were totally confident that these were labor contractions. For the next several hours, I did laps around the living room and kitchen, sat a bit in the glider rocker, sat on the couch, sat on the birth ball. Things were rather painful. Not knock me on my face painful, but enough that I was feeling like, “this is going to get worse?” I was feeling nauseas, which for me is the worst feeling ever. And I was feeling conflicted. I really wasn’t sure that I wanted this labor to continue. I was afraid of how “bad” it was going to get and was afraid that I couldn’t handle it. I told Jeremy at one point that I didn’t really want to do things to “speed” labor because, to me, that was like ushering in my own demise, bringing on my own pain. Its one thing if somebody else hurts you, its another thing if you hurt yourself. I’m strong when pain is inevitable, but I have a hard time mentally putting myself into pain. Jeremy lovingly tried to convince me to get over it and not be the one to hold up labor because of my own fear. The internal conflict did not subside, but I tried hard to follow Jeremy’s prompts regarding sitting up and staying on the ball, etc. By late afternoon contractions were coming every 4-5 minutes apart and the pain was significant enough that I was really having to focus. I was feeling persistently nauseas and trying to eat little bits of cherios, cliff bars and ice hunks. I was trying to figure out where my strength was going to come from. Jeremy made me smile with some youtube videos, and mom thought that was a good thing. Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” video and Shakira’s “waka waka” video were fun the first time around, but they didn’t exactly provide peace. I asked for itunes to be set to the “Current favs” which is all worship music. The first song up was Aaron Shust’s “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” I just cried. The fear was dissipating and this was really happening. We were going to have a baby. Bronwyn was going to come. A few more hours at home and we decided to call the midwife. She told us to come on in to the hospital and we agreed. Jeremy and mom both thought that I was in late first stage. I assumed I should be 5 or 6 centimeters by that time, and we knew that we wanted our 2 doses of penicillin, so we didn’t want to wait at home any longer. The two seats in the back of the car were folded down and the blue gymnastics mat was laid in the back. I put some clothes on and made my way to the car. I climbed in and continued to breath through contractions as we pulled out of the garage. Dad drove the speed limit and no faster, but I didn’t really mind as long as the starting and stopping was smooth. I was in the same position I had just been in at home and was likely to return to in the hospital, so the fact that I was in the back of the car wasn’t really a big deal to me. We pulled up at the hospital and a wheel chair was brought out. The lady at the desk was nice to us and didn’t hold us up but sent us up to maternity right away. They had a room ready for us and I went right in and laid back down on my side. They put the fetal monitor on me which was relatively unintrusive except for the fact that I had to lift my hips up off the bed which engaged stomach muscles that hurt to be used. Bronwyn’s heart rate was fantastic and all my vitals sound. Kate came in to check my dilation and when she told me that I was only 4, I think I literally said the words, “Are you serious?” I had expected so much more progress and was genuinely discouraged by the words I had just heard. After everybody left, my discouragement was obvious to Jeremy and mom and we had a little pow wow as to what to do now. The nurse came in to start my hep lock and get the first round of penicillin going which burned so badly as it coursed through my veins. The entire lower half of my forearm and top part of my hand hurt so badly that I was actually distracted from the contractions for the 30 minutes it took for it to all drip in. The next 4 hours were spent going from bed to rocking chair to walking the halls. I was tired, nauseas and unsure of myself. At some point I begged Jeremy and mom to let me lay down and snooze for a bit. Waking up for each contraction, I caught a few zzz’s before my coaches felt like my sleeping was slowing down labor too much. I got up and did more rocking and walking. I was still nauseas, still shaking uncontrollably from time to time. Weren’t these signs of transition? I was sure that at my next dilation check I would be atleast 7 if not 8. By 6 am I was checked again and had progressed a whopping 1 cm over night. Really? Another ten hours of pain and only 1 centimeter more? More discouragement. I started praying through my contractions, asking for strength and praying that my uterus would open and not be inefficient. My back was hurting something terrible so I got into the shower and just stood there while water rolled off of me, taking the pain with it. I stood and swayed and prayed and focused. For 2 and a half hours I stayed under that water stream, eventually needing to sit on a stool. Every time I changed positions I went through a period of intense pain. I feared getting out of the shower, worrying that leaving the soothing stream of water would hurt so badly. I was starting to feel faint. Jeremy was feeding me little bits of graham cracker and ice chips. I got out of the shower and dried off and went back to the rocker. The time line, to be honest is all very fuzzy. I know that over the course of the day Sunday I walked, I rocked, I ate small pieces of food and drank small bits of water, I threw up several times, I wanted to throw up almost all the time, and I cried at least a few times. I What was my body doing to me? My contractions were all over the place, sometimes 3 minutes apart, sometimes 10. The fact that they were not getting regularly closer together made me afraid that I was not progressing like I should. The pain was intense, but was it accomplishing anything? Why was I spacing out? What was going on? My biggest discouragement was that I felt like it was my fault, that I in some way was failing myself by not doing something that I needed to be doing to progress. Jeremy sat me down at one point and told me I needed to let go. I was trying, I honestly was. I didn’t know what else to do. I cried and cried because I felt like I was disappointing my coach and not doing what he wanted me to do. I saw the disappointment on his face at how long this was taking and that hurt worse than the contractions. He promised he was not disappointed, and kept telling me he was proud of me, but I was still discouraged. I continued to pray. The battle field of the mind was more crucial to my success than the battlefield of my uterus. The harder the contraction was, the louder I prayed in my head. I recited scripture mostly, yelling in my own head, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” “God is good – he does all things well, he makes no mistakes – every good and perfect gift comes from Him!” I repeated these things over and over. The pain was intense. There were times when I wasn’t sure I had anything to pray for the next contraction and told Jeremy he needed to pray me through it so that I could withstand the pain. I found heprayed too slow. I asked him to talk faster and pray louder and stronger to try to match this coping mechanism that had been actively working in my head. He did his best to give me what I needed. We asked to be checked again at some point and I was told I was 7. I figured I was close to transition even though my contractions were still spacey and random. We decided to get in the tub and let that sooth me a bit. I sat and focused for a few hours, still getting more penicillin on my every 4 hour cycle. Jeremy sat in the tub with me also at one point. I remember repeating over and over in my head through that tub phase, “I will praise you in this storm! You are still worthy of worship!” “God you are doing it! You are bringing this baby down and out into the world!” The pain was so intense. I got out after a few hours of working through contractions in the tub and stayed in the room a bit longer to dry off in a warm environment. I hated the shaking that seemed to take over my body so easily. Each time I would shake I would writhe in pain because I could not relax through contractions. When I felt ready, we made our way back to the room and got checked again. Still 7. Really? How can such intense pain be accompanied by zero dilation? Was God actually not doing what I had been praising Him for? I was so confused. This is what I could not understand. Why was my body punishing me so brutally and not dilating at all? Kate started talking intervention. She suggested breaking my water, or giving Pitocin to advance me. I didn’t really want to hear any of it. I was so happy that my water had not broken up to this point and I was terrified that if it broke now and I still didn’t progress that they would force me to have a c-section. Kate left the room and we talked about it. Actually I think mom and Jeremy talked about it first and then came and talked to me. They were in favor of breaking my water, feeling like, if I didn’t go into transition soon, I was going to have no energy left to push. I was nervous about being “Artificially” thrown into transition, worrying that it would hurt worse than if my water broke on its own timeline. Again, Jeremy and mom encouraged me to let go, embrace the process and decide to bring this girl into the world. They wanted me to progress, almost at any cost, fearing that a c-section would be inevitable if I didn’t start pushing soon. They were confident that this was the right thing to do, and so we called Kate back in and she broke my water and stripped my membranes and told us to call her when I felt the need to push. I was in transition almost immediately. I stood up over a pad on the floor and just watched water leak out of me. There had been only trace amounts of bloody show before this, but now there was something substantial coming out. Despite my fear, it felt good to see something happening. My body writhed in pain. I didn’t know what to do. I tried relaxing to it, but that seemed nearly impossible. I kept saying to Jeremy, “this is the shortest time, right?” He encouraged me that yes. But an hour later, I was still in transition. My time on the birth ball was hurting my back so much. Mom was massaging me from behind and Jeremy was encouraging me from the front. I was hot and cold and kept having them put blankets on me and take them off in between each contraction. They were so kind to oblige. At one point the exhaustion of holding myself up on the ball was wearing down my resolve so I decided to try side lying. Worst idea ever. For about an hour, I laid on my side and moaned as every contraction, I was convinced was trying to kill me. This was really the first time I had uttered any noise at all, but I just couldn’t mentally manage this pain. This was too much. I finally said somewhere in that hour, “I can’t do this. Please bring me something for the pain.” I really meant the “I can’t do this” part, but I think Jeremy knew that I didn’t really want any pain. Had someone walked in the door right then with a tray of drugs I probably wouldn’t have taken any. As bad as it hurt, and it hurt like something unimaginable, I was still stubborn. My tolerance was pretty much shot, but my resolve was not. Quite the combination. I finally sat up in the bed and focused my energy down. That helped localize the pain a bit more and gave me something to focus on once again. The pain was so bad in my tailbone region that with each contraction was trying to lift my rear off the bed to alleviate some pressure. The IV in my hand was being squished by my doing this and my hand was swelling something atrocious. I tried to just sit there without doing the lifting and frustration was growing. I got checked again and they said I was 8. I remember at this point being equally disappointed at my slow progresses as during previous dilation checks, but at this stage in the game, I felt like I didn’t have the energy to waste on doing anything other than focusing on beating each contraction. I didn’t have the strength to cry about my lack of progress. I just got back to work. One contraction at a time. Keep it together. No falling apart now. No more tears, just triumph. This was the hour of manning up. I wasn’t sure what to pray any more. After my crisis of faith with the whole 7 cm being stuck after praising God for progressing me, I wasn’t sure what to think of God’s involvement with my uterus any more. I knew He was with me, and with Bronwyn, but I was starting to think that Eve and the curse were having their way. I wasn’t bitter. It is what it is. They told me I could probably start pushing in about an hour, so we watched that clock. I tried to not ask for a time update too often. Every 15 minutes or so I’d ask. But by 7 o’clock, I was ready for another check and wanted to know if I could start pushing. I was told I was a little more than 9 and I could probably push whenever I felt the urge. I don’t think that urge came physically, but mentally I was so there. I asked for the squat bar and we tried that out for a bit until I realized that that was crazy uncomfortable as a long term position. Hands and knees was excruciating, and so after 3 or 4 contractions with really poor pushing efforts, I finally sat down on the bed and accepted a less exotic pushing position. It took a little while to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I actually admitted to Kate, “I don’t know how to do this.” She encouraged me to listen to my body and work with the contractions. She tied a towel to the squat bar and had me pull on it to bring some leverage into the pushing. It didn’t feel right. I think, similar to the dilation portion of labor, I was also fearing in the pushing that more effort would equal more pain. For the first 30 minutes or so I think I more or less tried to figure out what everything was supposed to feel like. Kate’s promptings about making progress and having a “progress push” during every contraction was helpful. I was really tired and realized fairly quickly that I did NOT want the pushing phase to go on forever as that would do nothing but extend the agony, not lesson it. So I started pushing without reservation. I would get 2-4 good pushes in on each contraction. I got into a rhythm. Mom and Jeremy were holding my legs up and for a while I would rest them down in between each contraction until I eventually lost the strength to move them up or down myself. I was sipping water in between each push and trying to rest, giving my all each and every time. There was an OB doctor on call, doctor Georgeson, who gave a look and helped figure out that Bronwyn was posterior. She attempted to turn Bronwyn and help her negotiate my tailbone region. On two occasions she fiddled with me internally and was happy with what was going on. I have no idea what was going on. But she and Kate were still talking to each other about whether this girl was going to come out on her own. They mentioned c-section and vacuum, which only made me push harder. Later Kate would admit that she said those things out loud in case I needed motivation to keep going. I lost all track of time and could think of only one thing. Pushing this baby out. Every so often I would look at Jeremy for love and mom for encouragement and Kate for confirmation, and then I would close my eyes again and focus once more. They asked if I wanted a mirror, and I declined feeling like I couldn’t handle the distraction. I either wanted to see Bronwyn all the way out or not at all. That was my thought. I was so scared that at any minute I would literally pass out unconscious from all of the strain. They brought me an oxygen mask to inhale during the rest periods. Maxine, the nurse was holding my head and telling me that I was doing a good job. I kept talking to Bronwyn in my head. “Ok girl, lets do this. Come on out.” I asked Kate at one point, how many more pushes. When she said less than 10, I knew I could do it. They had been talking about her hair and I could see Jeremy and Mom looking down at me every contraction and they showed encouragement on their faces. There was a point when She was so close that I almost couldn’t stop pushing because the pressure was so great. Eventually I could see her head from my own perspective. She was so close. I pushed a few more times saying to Bronwyn each time, “this is the last one girl, the last one.” It was not easy. Kate said twice, “Im going to smack this girl when she comes out. She is not making this easy!” Finally we came to the push where Kate was saying, “this is it! Push push push!” Her head came out with a hand up by the side and I just kept pushing. Next came her shoulder and then her little body and her hips and her legs and the next thing I knew there was a baby on my chest. I looked at her for a brief second and then my head fell back on the pillow. I was so exhausted I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I tried to hold my head up and talk to Bronwyn, to tell her I loved her. Periodically my head would fall back again. They suctioned her and she gave a cry. We had a daughter. I tried to put her to my breast and she suckled for a minute, but had some goop in her lungs. They suctioned her a bit and were still worried about her gurgling so they took her to the table under the warmer to suction her properly. I was spent. As in completely and utterly spent. I was still catching my breath as Kate asked me to push out the placenta. She immediately began stitching me up. It occurred to me that Bronwyn’s umbilical cord must have been cut if she was taken away. I guess I saw Jeremy do that. The daze I was in was intense. I was just so tired.
It took time for that rush of happy and in love emotions to flood in. The relief of the whole labor and delivery being over was the top emotion I felt for quite a while after Bronwyn actually came out. I never regretted going natural, even though it meant an insanely long labor and delivery. Kate admitted that she would have given me Pitocin a long time ago. I just didn’t want that for my daughter. For days after birth, every time I heard Jeremy tell the story, I would just cry and cry because the memory of how hard it was was still all so fresh. I didn’t feel proud of myself or particularly accomplished, just traumatized by everything my body had gone through. Now as I’m starting to forget much of the pain, I look back on those 42 hours of active labor and 3 hours of purple faced pushing and I consider it a necessary sacrifice for my daughter. I am trying so hard to count it all joy. Hopefully I will reach that point in the next several years before we try for number two.
In the mean time, does anyone have any advice for processing a hard labor?
|Bronwyn Joy, 1 day old.|