This is the second part of my VBAC story. The first part is here
After some hours of active labor, being taken care of by Marissa and Greg, I started to feel different. We asked Marissa, my doula, if it was time to go to the hospital and she suggested to wait a bit longer. Maybe give it time till four AM, and then decide.
By four I was certainly feeling like things were moving along quite nicely, I was still not really tired and I had lots of energy in me. But contractions were much more intense at the peak and my deep vocalizations sometimes would reach a high pitch that meant that I was not keeping control so well; Marissa and Greg would remind me to keep it low and breath, and I would bring myself back to a controlled state. When we made it to four O’ clock I asked Marissa if she thought we should head to the hospital, I definitely thought I was entering transition and I dreaded the idea of going down three flights of stairs and the car ride. She agreed and we got ready to leave.
I was right… going down the stairs was very painful, I did not want to vocalize loudly because it was 4 AM and my neighbours already were putting up with enough (they got “thank you for putting up with the noise and I’m sorry about it” candies some days later) and that made it harder to deal with the labor. Outside it was so cold!! I really did not want to go in the car, I did not want to ride in the car and I wanted to go back to the warmth of my room… but c’est la vie… I placed a towel on the car seat to absorb leaks and off we went.
The car ride was very difficult. The pain was intense and I could do nothing about it but moan/scream, try to breathe and think to myself that it was actually a short ride because the hospital is not far and thanks God that there is no traffic at 4 AM. We arrived at the hospital and checked in at triage. That took a while… all the time I was chanting through contractions, holding on to Greg’s neck and hanging a bit to help release the pressure. I almost died when the check in lady said only Greg (and not Marissa) could go in, but then someone else stepped in to say doulas were allowed in the L&D area. Yay! I was offered a wheel chair, but there was no way I was going to sit through contractions again, so I chose to walk to my room so I could lean against walls or Greg when I needed.
Once I got in they helped me on a bed and they started asking questions. Greg answered as much as he could and I chipped in when he didn’t know the answer. I rejected the IV but accepted to have a port in my arm (not my hand so I could move better) got half undressed, which took a lot more strength that I would have thought of! (incidentally, I couldn’t gather myself enough to take my socks off, which looked really funny, I was that lady in a blouse and socks!) and the resident doctor came in, he needed to see how dilated I was. I asked if I could stay kneeling and he said no, I had to lay, I also asked him to be gentle (remember, I cry during paps?) and he answered “I will only be as forceful as I have to” making him the recipient of
asshole of the year worse beside manners award. The examination was as painful as you can imagine, with me screaming in real pain (no contraction would compare to that!) and asking him to stop. I remember screaming “Enough! Enough!” and finally Greg saying in a very angry, low voice “OK, that was enough!” and the guy leaving.
I got back on my knees and tried to gather myself again. I asked if they knew how much I had dilated and Marissa said she thought she heard “seven”. I wanted to cry. For the first time since labor started I just wanted to cry. On one hand I was happy because my objective was to arrive to the hospital at least at 6 cm, however I was sure I had gone through transition for quite some time and I didn’t know how I was going to cope if I had to open four more cm, or how long it was going to take. Marissa saw my posture, heard me muttering “Oh, God!” and realized I was discouraged, she started telling me that she thought I was more than that but that the examination had tighten me up because of the stress, to keep thinking “ten cm”, that soon I was going to meet my baby and that I should keep doing a good job breathing and chanting. I just nodded, regathered myself and kept laboring.
At some moment they passed me to L&D and connected me to all kinds of things. They asked me if a wanted pain relief such an epidural and all I could say was “not now”, honestly I never felt I needed anything to control pain because the pain was bearable as long as I was off of my sacrum and I could move when the contractions washed over me. I did ask for wireless fetal monitors because I wanted more freedom to move, a nurse took off to place an order, but they never came (I think it is because my labor was shorter than bureaucracy, Greg thinks she never meant to bring them… but remember, I tend to think everybody mean their best) so I was plugged to the wired ones. I was not expecting the pressure cuff and the finger heart monitor they put on me, I asked if hey were really needed and of course they said yes, so now I was connected by three different points to monitors, which made moving freely challenging. I found the way to go on my knees again and kept trying to focus on laboring.
As Marissa kept encouraging me I had an image of my Infinity Lotus Knot burnt in my brain, I did not try to see it, it just was there. Somehow it made its way there, being a perfect representation of my want to open like a flower for the baby to pass. Suddenly I heard inside me a noise as if old wood was put in tension, a “crack”, like an old ship in the ocean, and I just had to push. I felt panicky. I could not push at 7 cm, that would make me swell up or tear! “I think I have to push!” I remember saying. I realized we were alone, and Marissa exited to find the nurses. The L&D doctor came in he asked to see my dilation and I felt I could cry. Marissa explained how the triage doctor had hurt me and he promised to be very gentle and allowed me to stay on my knees. He was fast and I barely felt him before he declared “yes, 10 cm, you can start pushing”, I laughed of happiness, it was such a relief!
I started to push as the contractions came, and then the doctor told me that I needed to lay down because the fetal heart monitor did not perceive the heart rate as I was on my knees. I really did not want to lay down but this was one of the things that I had discussed with Greg and I was ready to compromise. I knew that by then the baby was going to come out, labor was not going to stall and I was not going to be offered drugs, I also knew beforehand that it was going to be more than likely that they were going to push for me to lay down at this stage, so I was ready to do so.
I hated being on my back still, but the pain on my abdomen and sacrum was nothing compared to what it had been before, now the contractions were working different and I just felt like I needed to bear down. I was terribly afraid of having a bowel movement in front of everybody but I just pushed when I needed to. Soon the doctors started to tell me when and how to push, I just wanted to not tear and I wanted to push as and when I wanted. Then an oxygen mask came on to me and I hated it. They all said that the baby was doing much better now, but the thing was too large for me and too loose, it would keep moving around my face and it was one more thing connecting me and making it hard to do my job. They placed the squat bar in the bed but I had a very hard time reaching it during contractions, so they took it away. I remember breathing in the mask, and taking it off while I was pushing, to then put it on back again and breath. I was very frustrated at it and getting rid of it for a few seconds helped me to focus… it is not like you breathe in while you push anyways.
At one moment one lady doctor placed her fingers on me as if she wanted to go inside me, it was uncomfortable and painful and I told her not to, she later touched me again and I remember shooing her hand away “Don’t do that!” I think I was more bitchy than during transition, to tell the truth. Eventually I felt the famous ring of fire, I felt I was going to be torn opened in half and that I was becoming undone pulled inside out… which if you think about it that is what happens. I can truly say I did feel a lot of pain during this stage, but still all the time it felt manageable. The problem with the pushing stage is that the pain does not subside once the head starts crowning, I mean, it is there and it stays there as you wait for the next contraction, unlike the rest of labor, in which you get a lot of rest in between contractions. Despite the doctor telling me how to push more effectively I couldn’t get myself to do it, when I did follow his instructions I thought I was going to tear up quite badly, so I pushed in a not so efficient way, allowing the baby to come out slower; there was one moment in which I started panting to pass the contraction without pushing because I really felt I needed time to let the skin stretch a bit instead of going all out as fast as possible. After a particularly painful moment in which I thought for sure I was going to be hurt beyond repair I shoved my hand between my legs to guard the area and I could touch the head of my baby! Talk about surreal! Soon after that, the head was born and they pulled the baby out, which I wish they didn’t because it hurt a lot! I pushed my baby out in less than an hour. Santiago was born soon before 7 AM, not even two hours after checking in at the hospital.
They put the baby on my chest, which was exhilarating. I couldn’t stop thanking everybody: my husband for his support, Marissa for the great job she did helping me through this, the nurses and doctors for not trying to push drugs on me and doing their best to let me do things my way. Santiago was born alert, happy and hungry, he latched fast and nursed for fifty minutes straight; he was robust and with a head full of hair, almost no vernix on him.
One of the doctors started to pull the placenta out and asked me to give one more final push, the afterbirth was more painful than what I thought it would be, after all I had just passed an almost eight pounds baby, bones and all, and the placenta is soft and boneless… but at the same time, I had just passed an almost eight pounds baby, bones and all, and I was hurt. Then came the stitches, the doctor assessed me and declared that I “had been lucky” because I had torn very little needing only one stitch (I rather think I knew what I was doing to protect the perineum), I have to say that the stitches were probably the most painful part of the whole process. I rode the hormones surge for many hours and crashed at about 2-3 PM.