Alice's Birth Story
It all started Friday morning, September 17th, at 4:30am, when I had contractions and cramping. I wasn’t convinced it was actual labor, since I had felt the same thing three times before in the last couple of weeks. However, I woke Don to let him know that I might be in labor, and I’d hoped it was the real deal. By 7:30 am I was starting to feel better, so then I truly thought it was false labor. I went downstairs to get some Cheerios as I was really hungry, but by the time I poured the cereal my water broke. I came upstairs to tell Don that it was show time. We were both really happy that it was actually happening now. The contractions started again, along with the cramping feeling. I coped by doing some yoga poses and different breathing techniques, and Don helped me with relaxing and gave me massages. By 10 am I was hungry again, so Don brought me an apple with peanut butter and raisins – I thought it would be a good snack for energy, not realizing it would be the last thing I would eat for over 24 hours… The books say that when your water breaks you are supposed to notify the hospital right away (since it’s ideal to deliver the baby within 24 hours due to risk of infection). However, we waited until 11:30am as it was my plan to stay at home and labor as long as possible. I called and spoke to a nurse who recommended I come in right away and plan to stay, as I most likely would be admitted. So we called my mom and let her know that was our plan, and we went to the hospital. My contractions were about 5 min. apart and fairly strong by that point – a car ride is not ideal for a woman in labor! When we got to the hospital my mom was already there waiting for us, and we went to the 6th floor into an assessment room, where we waited for a nurse to check me; she brought a 4th year student in with her. They both checked me, but because one was a student it took a long time and she had to keep feeling around to determine how many centimetres my cervix was dilated, etc. She finished seconds before my next contraction. Anyway, they said I was 3-4 cm dilated and 80% effaced – I took that as a really good sign of progress and was happy my birth experience was going better than I had hoped. However, it took a long time to get into my labor and delivery room, as we were waiting for the nurse to take us there. It was 1pm by the time we got into my room and I was in active labor by then, so I immediately stripped down and got into the shower for relief (since you can’t use a bath tub once your water is broken). It’s funny how when you’re in labor you don’t care about being around strangers in a strange place completely naked. I labored in the shower until 4:30pm – the contractions were about 1 min. apart and very, very strong. Don had to wear his trunks and spray water on my lower back during each contraction, since that was where I felt the pain. Lucky me to have back labor! ( I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on anyone, but I was convinced I could do it naturally). My nurse Juanita was done her shift soon and Gena, my new nurse, came in to introduce hereself at 4pm. She said that she read my chart and the anesthesiologist that would perform an epidural on a patient with MS was only on duty for 10 more mintues. Therefore I had to decide in 10 minutes what I was going to do – not much time to decide the outcome of my birth experience. We decided that she should check my progress and we would decide from there – I was only 5 centimeters after 3 and 1/2 hours of hard labor. I felt so defeated and thought that there was no way I could continue and make it to 10 centimeters without dying, even though mom and Don were so great – I would hold mom’s hand and scream during the contractions while Don sprayed the warm water on my back. I was knealing on these foam pads and leaning against the seat in the shower during contractions with my head pressed against the shower wall; it was really exhausting. When it came time to check me, Juanita got me onto the bed quickly and asked if I wanted some laughing gas, as she found it helpful with her labor – you take a couple gasps before a contraction starts and it’s supposed to help – but it didn’t. She also tried to get me to breathe “Hee Hee Hoo” during contractions instead of screaming, but I couldn’t get on top of it, I would just end up screaming anyway. Getting out of the shower and onto the hospital bed seemed to impede my ability to cope with my labor, I felt more out of control and it was also more painful. So once they checked me and told me I was only 5 centimeters I decided to have the epidural – something I swore I wouldn’t do unless I really, really had to. The anesthesiologist Dr. Leipert came in and explained how the epidural works, the risks, blah blah blah – do you think I was paying attention? The only thing I processed was the fact that it would take between 2-20 min. to perform and he may have to redo it if the first one doesn’t work. Also, he said I had to be still while he put the needle in even if I was having a contraction. Since I didn’t want to damage my back in any way, the only thing I focused on was leaning over the pillow still as I could be, and then the contraction came. It took so much strength not to move, but I did it, and luckily I didn’t have another contraction until after he was finished. Thank God! So then at that point I was confined to the bed; he knew I wanted natural child birth, so he didn’t have it set on 10 automatically like he normally does, only 9, and the test dose he gave was at 6. I was able to walk to the bathroom only once after I had the epidural, and it made my left leg really numb. Around 6pm, before Gena was finished her shift at 7:30pm, she checked me again for progress and I was only 5-6 cm dilated. Since my progress was slow, she phoned Dr. Pow. He prescribed oxytocin to speed up my labor, and I was started at 3 drips an hour. Mom and Don each went to the cafeteria separately to get something to eat, since they missed lunch and hadn’t had supper, they suffered through my labor without taking care of themselves … I felt really bad. The next nurse on duty for me was Jana, and she was really nice. We were all convinced that she would see Alice be born as her shift was 12 hours, and thus I wouldn’t have to have any new nurses. Dr. Leipert came in periodically to check on how my epidural was working, he was so sincere. Jana checked me about 8:30pm and I was only 6-7cm dilated. They increased my oxytocin even higher to speed up my progress, as my labor was getting to be really long. Another nurse came in and said that my glucose level was probably getting low, so I should have something to drink. She gave me a glass of apple juice and told me to sip it – it tasted so good since I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since 10am. My epidural was wearing off and the bolus shots you can give yourself didn’t seem to be working. Another anesthesiologist (Dr. Shaw – Dr. Leipert’s wife), came in and gave me a shot in the back. She told me that it would be much easier if I just increased the straight dose so I didn’t have to waste her time coming back in every hour to give me a shot through the catheter … not a nice doctor … it was after this that I began to get really shaky and couldn’t stop, and my temperature went up as well. I also felt sick, and suddenly began vomitting all over my blankets and gown, etc. No more apple juice, I guess it wasn’t a good idea after all. I attributed all these things to Dr. Shaw’s dose of medication she gave me in the back, since I was fine before; I also felt really drugged and numb in both legs. I would just have to wait for it to wear off back to normal which wasn’t fun. The resident obstetrician on duty came in and introduced himself to me, Dr. Half, in case Dr. Pow didn’t make it for my delivery so I would know who he was. He checked my progress right after Jana did and I hadn’t changed; after he checked me Alice’s base line heart rate went from the 150’s to 180’s and remained high for over 1/2 hr. which would indicate distress for the baby. They called Dr. Pow to notify him, and he came in and examined me at about 10pm. He was very calm and didn’t seem overly concerned and said they would just watch it to see if the heart rate would decrease by itself, which it did after about 1 hr. Jana also did a routine vital check while Dr. Pow was there, and my temp. was 37.4, which could indicate an infection, which would mean more complications with birth. To bring the fever down, they gave me 2 different antibiotics, plus the option to have tylenol. Because I had vomited, they gave me a shot of gravol to settle my stomach, then the tylenol. The gravol made my mouth even dryer than it was (the epidural also causes dry mouth), but because I had gotten sick, the doctors didn’t want me consuming any liquids, including water, so the only thing I could do was to chew on ice chips and then spit them out. Sometimes I would disobey orders as my throat was so dry also I could hardly stand it and I would swallow the tiniest bit of water- I had hours to endure of this! Later in the evening, about midnight, there was some question as to Alice’s position in the birth canal. Instead of the usual position, LOA (left occipito anterior), Jana thought she felt Alice was more head turned sideways, which would mean I would have to get a C section. Dr. Half, Dr. Pow, Jana and Dr. Chang (resident obstetrician) all checked me and agreed that they should monitor the strength of my contractions internally to make sure that they were strong enough to continue with labor. They did this using an intrauterine pressure catheter, which was fixed onto Alice’s head and taped to the inside of my right leg for the remainder of my labor. This monitor verified that my contractions were very strong, so the doctors and nurses continued to monitor me for progress. If my cervix didn’t dilate further within a reasonable amount of time a C-section would be a strong possibility. I didn’t want this! Many women in this situation would welcome the possibility, but I silently prayed in my head to God and swore I’d go to church every day if he would just let me have a vaginal delivery…. I didn’t come this far just to have a Cesarean, and I knew Alice would come in her own time. Since I couldn’t get up to use the washroom, I had to have an in/out catheter several times (6 in total). These are not fun; I would grab Don and hold him around his neck while he talked into my ear, saying it would be okay. It wasn’t painful (because of the epidural) it just felt really weird. I was fairly numb, and it was uncomfortable, and besides, it’s hard not to think about what they’re doing. Yuck! Plus, I had been checked so many times, by so many staff that I was getting very sore. Dr. Chang came back to do an enzyme test on Alice to make sure that she was tolerating labor; they did this by inserting a cone onto her head and scraping the skin to get a sample. The sample gets tested within minutes and the technician came back with the results, indicating all was positive. So, we continued waiting until I was fully dilated. I managed to get some rest after this test, from about 4am until 6am. I was fully dialated by 7:30am but did not feel the urge to push. Jana called Dr. Pow to advise him, and she came back to say his advice was to not push until I did feel the urge. By this time Jana’s shift was over, and nurse Karen took over. At 8am I was feeling like I had to push, so thus we began the last phase of my labor. Mom and Don would pull me up while my legs were in the stirrups and count to ten when I had a contraction. Karen comented on how well I was pushing- she said she wished more women knew how to push, as many didn’t understand exactly where they should focus their efforts. I told her my prenatal yoga classes helped with being aware of my pelvic floor muscles. Alice was quite far down into the birth canal, but every time I pushed, her head would slip back into the same position, like a cork bobbing in water. I thought that maybe if I pushed longer during each contraction that Alice might make more progress, so instead of the usual count of 10 for 3 pushes I tried 4, then 5 pushes per contraction. All this seemed to do was tire me out, not that I would admit it. Dr. Pow came in and told me he wasn’t happy with my progress, that most women push for an hour or two and that’s it. We had already been at it for 2 1/2 hours and made little progress. He told me he was going to consult with the obstetrician on duty to see what he thought of my progress. We were afraid he’d recommend vacuum extraction or forceps. I did not come this far to have another intervention! Again, I knew Alice would come out in her own time. We decided to change positions and use a bar for me to push against with my feet while I held onto a twisted up sheet for leverage. This really brought me along and when Dr. Pow came back with the obstetrician they both agreed that I was making good progress. Dr. Pow told me he should threaten me more often, as the head was right there and I wouldn’t have any problems delivering this baby. He said, “you’re going to make me get dressed now, aren’t you?” This is the same phrase he used on my friend Erin who gave birth on Sept. 4th.. He meant going from scrubs to gown and instruments laid out ready to deliver the baby. I kept pushing, and Alice’s head got closer and closer. I began feeling the contractions much stronger and kept giving myself another bolus to try to relieve the pain and pressure, but it was useless. I just closed my eyes and pushed into the pain and used it to get Alice out. Don said that I was pushing so hard the bed was coming off the floor! Eventually her head came out and Dr. Pow asked if I wanted to reach down and touch my baby’s head. I said no, I just wanted it out – it was a very strange feeling to have a head just sitting there between your legs. Plus I could feel her moving, which was also a weird feeling. I kept pushing so he could get her shoulders out and then Dr. Pow and mom told me to stop pushing as he rotated her shoulders to come out one at a time. Dr. Pow had fingers in all sorts of places – you get a lot of this when you’re having a baby. It was very distracting. I could feel Alice moving a lot through this whole process, which only took a couple minutes, but it was the most bizzare thing I have ever felt – I could feel her arms and head moving outside of me, and her legs kicking inside. She came out and mom, Don and I all started crying. Dr. Pow laid Alice on the blanket on my stomach and she was quiet, purple, very warm and smelled like amniotic fluid. He told me to rub her and help her start breathing; he and mom did, but I couldn’t. I stared at this little human being laying on me and I couldn’t believe she came out of me. I kept saying, “holy crap, oh my God!” Dr. Pow gave Don the scissors to cut the cord; once that was done, Alice was brought over to the warming bed where the nurses assessed her. Dr. Pow delivered the placenta and told me I had a tear the size of an episiotomy which went through 3 layers of tissue, and began stitching me up. I could hear the nurses use phrases to describe Alice relating to her maturity, cyanosis, head shape, etc. She had a huge cone head and burst a blood vessel in her left eye from the birth experience. She had lots of dark hair which appeared to be curly at the time. She was 7lbs 9 oz. and 18.5 cm long, born at 12:42pm. She also had a large bruise on the back of her head with swelling, most likely caused from the cone test during labor. Once they had Alice on the warming table Don went over and started taking pictures of our little one. Dr. Pow came over to do his assessement of her and even held her up so Don could get a good picture of her cone head. When Dr. Pow was finished with his stiches on me 2 nurses came over and started cleaning me up and asked me if they could get me anything to eat or drink. Finally I could have some food! They gave me 2 pieces of toast with strawberry jam, a ginger ale and water. This was the best food ever! After I had a chance to come down off the celing from giving birth, I had the strangest feeling like the room I was in was not the same room in which I went through my whole experience of labor and delivery. It felt like a totally different room, and wondered where all the equipment was, etc. Plus there was a wonderful view of the mountains which I was just now admiring, whereas mom and Don claimed there was a wonderful sunset the night before, Don even has photos. I still believe in my mind that I was in a different room, the books say it’s normal to feel disoriented after labor.