September 27, 2010

My Marathon

In the beginning of this pregnancy, Jason and I started to take Bradley classes and during the classes, the teacher frequently referred to giving birth as a "marathon".  Well, here's the course of My Marathon.

Before I begin, I'm going to give you some basic guidelines to help you understand what I went through.

Medical Interventions:
Breaking someone's water = harder contractions because there's no cushion between mom's pelvis and baby's head.
Pitocin = a synthetic hormone that causes contractions to be more intense and more frequent.
Epidural = last time I had an epidural it didn't work correctly.  When you think epidural, you assume there's no pain, this is not true, it takes away about 60% of the pain you're experiencing.

The race began at exactly 43 weeks pregnant, 5:30 in the morning when I woke up with contractions that I could not sleep through.  I rolled over and told Jason I didn't think he'd be going to work that morning.  I don't know for sure what he was thinking but part of me thought, 'he doesn't believe me' since I was so far overdue.  Not only was I exactly 43 weeks but it was poor Abby's last day of daycare.

So, I labored at home from 5:30 a.m. to about 4:00 p.m. (10.5 hours).  I was curious as to how far along I was but since the hospital was all the way in Hudson Wisconsin, our midwife said she'd be willing to check my progress at the birthing center before we headed to Wisconsin.  She checked me and I was dilated to 4 cm's.  My first thought was "seriously?  I'm only 4 cm's??"  But, my next thought was that I was glad we didn't make the treck all the way to WI.  We then went home and at around 6:30, I just couldn't take it anymore and we decided to go to WI.  We called the midwife and the midwife had actually gotten violently sick within the 2 hours we'd seen her so she sent a doula to help with the birth.  So, painfully at 7:00 pm I contracted every 3-4 minutes through rush-hour traffic all the way to Hudson Wisconsin, (yes, I was was literally yelling at some points during this drive.)

We finally arrived at the hospital were a nurse checked us into a room.  Unfortunately, the birthing rooms were all full so we had to be in a room with no birthing tub.  Luckily, we were only in the room for about 1/2 an hour before someone left the birthing room and I could get into the tub. They then checked me and I was STILL at 4 cm's  (I've now been in labor for 14.5 hours.) 

After seeing the Doctor and contracting for a few more hours, the doctor offered to break my water.  He said I could make the decision and he was alright with either decision but breaking my water would speed things up a bit.  I was hesitant because I knew the above statistics about breaking my water so I denied his offer.  Later on during the evening, I had progressed to about 5 cm's after a few more hours and I decided things needed to be sped up a bit so I requested that the doctor break my water.  The only reason I agreed to this was because Jason was being an amazing coach and the doula was really helpful so I knew, with their help, I could get through the stronger and more painful contractions.

My labor from 5 to 9 cm's felt really long but Jason informs me it was about 1 cm, every couple of hours.  During this time, I was in and out of the tub about 3 times and it was into the early hours of the morning.  Personally, I had no concept of the time and all three of us (Jason, Me and the doula) had had no sleep.  I started falling asleep in between contractions and the doula actually told Jason to go to the bathroom and get a snooze in to regenerate.  I didn't even notice he was gone for very long but he said it was 45 minutes. BUT, because they were both so helpful, I finally got to 9 cm's. 

For several hours I stayed at 9 cm's.  The nursing staff had switched out the overnight nurses to the day nurses.  The new nurse was another enormous help.  Her name was Theresa and before she was a nurse, she was a home delivery midwife and had helped birth over 400 babies.  She was AMAZING!  She was so caring and so helpful and never left our side.  I had frustratingly been at 9 cm's for several hours during the night and when she came into the room, I asked her if she would help me get from 9-10 cm's.  She said she'd do everything she could to help.  And boy she had a lot of tricks up her sleeve and we tried everything.  Unfortunately, none of them really worked.  I was so exhausted from not sleeping and now laboring for 30 hours that the doctor and the nurse were concerned about "Maternal Exhaustion" which would cause me to not be able to push once my body got to 10 cm's.  So, they urged me to have pitocin.  I still had not had any pain medication and I was very hesitant but Jason and the Doula assured me they'd be there for me to take it one contraction at a time.  I agreed to do the pitocin, the doctor thought it would just help my body to get pushed to the 10 cm's that I needed.  It was awful.  Several times I told Jason I couldn't handle it anymore but he was always there to reassure me that he knew I could. 

With the pitocin, my body eventually decided to start pushing for itself even though I was not at 10 cm's.  Because this was happening, my cervix started to swell and it could have been torn if the baby were to come out through a hole that was too small.  NOW not only was I having, strong, frequent, intense contractions but I was being told to tell my body NOT to do what it wanted to do and STOP the pushing.  That's damn near impossible.  For about 4 hours I dealt with the pitocin pain and I still hadn't gotten to 10 cm's.  I hadn't slept for 34 hours and the doctor said he recommended that I sleep and to do that I could do 1 of 2 things, get an epidural or have a narcotic sleeping pill.  The thought was that the pitocin would continue to work while I slept and when I woke up I would be at 10 cm's and ready to push.  So, I was either going to be knocked out with the narcotic and expected to push before it wore off or I could have an epidural which could be turned off when I was expected to push.  So, I opted for the epidural. 

I really didn't want to do either of these options but I had been in labor for 34 hours and sleeping for a few minutes between contractions and eventually on pitocin with no relief between for the past several hours.  There had to be an end in sight.  I slept for 2 hours and the doctor came back to check me.  He didn't say anything to me and had the nurse double check me.  The nurse had a confused look on her face and said to the doctor, "I think she's only 5 cm's now." The doctor agreed.  I was at a loss ... how could I have gone from 9 cm's (SOOOO CLOSE) to regressing almost 50%.  ALL that hard work, ALL what I had endured had digressed in 2 short hours.  How is that possible?  The doctor explained that this happens to less than 2% of people who have epidurals.  Go figure, I fall into that category of people.  At this point, I gave up.  I was bound for a C-section.  The doctor allowed me to chose the elective C-section or I could keep going but he warned me I could just end up at 9 again and still not pushing and eventually so exhausted that I would have had a C-section anyways.  It was an extremely difficult decision to accept but I knew I had to have a C-section.

Fortunately, I was able to be more involved in the decision making of the C-section, I didn't have my arms strapped down to the table, I was able to converse with the doctor and have someone tell me what was going on, someone was always by my side to talk to me and hold my hand and Jason was there as long as possible.  There was also someone with me in recovery to make sure I was okay. 

And finally I could see the finish line.  I made it back to the postpartum room before Jason and Andrew but when he brought him in, I was so happy to be done and see my boys.  He was born at 7:31 pm on Saturday September 18th.  10 lbs 7 oz.  Average baby head is 13 inches, his head was 15 inches.  The nurse said if I had delivered him normally, I would have needed 11 cm's dilation.

It was quite the marathon.  But I am so happy to have been able to do it.  All three of us survived a long and torturous delivery.  I am so proud of Jason and I couldn't have asked for a better coach and dad.  Several of the nurses commented that they had never seen a dad be so involved and supportive.

I am also proud of myself.  Not only was I in labor for a long time, but I did about 34 of my 36 hours of labor pain medication free.  I stood my ground when everyone said I was crazy, I believed in myself when people tried to tear my down and when I was tempted by intervention.  With this birth I feel I justified my last birth in knowing that I did everything in my power even though the end result was similar.  This was not a failure in my eyes but an opportunity for my to grow.  I learned a lot about my limits mentally, physically and emotionally and now all is good.  All is good. 

~Mama Beal


  1. Wow -- what a marathon ... I can't even begin to imagine. I'm excited for all that God showed you about yourself and who He's made you to be through this process.

  2. YAY Julie!! We couldn't be happier for you guys or more proud of you. You did awesome! Andrew and Abby are lucky to have such a strong, brave mama. :)