DISCLAIMER: This is a birth story. If you don't want to, you know, hear a story about birth, I advise you to not continue reading. That being said, it isn't super gory. Beautiful as it may be, due to the nature of, well, birth, I probably will use words like 'cervix' and 'dilate' and maybe even a 'fluid' thrown in here or there. Consider yourself warned. :)
Wednesday the 12th of May was a quite non eventful day. My mom was in town, helping with the house, keeping my extremely 40-week-pregnant mind occupied so as to not let me go any more stir crazy and to hopefully be around for when my labor began. We moseyed around Spokane, bought some groceries, some flowers and planned pedicures for the following day. After dinner we all took the beasts for a pretty good walk, came home and lounged on the couches for a bit before retiring for the night around 10PM. I tried to ignore the fact that our due date was a mere day away and I wasn't having many contractions, I hadn't dilated much if any in the last four or five weeks (at 35 weeks I was dilated to a 1-2 and 50% effaced) and generally wasn't showing any signs of impending labor. Except for, you know, the giant 40 week old baby that was living inside of me. Like every night, I fell asleep picturing what our daughter would look like.
I woke up shortly before midnight to console my screaming bladder. This was typical; for the last few months I was literally getting up 3-5 times a night to use the bathroom. Just as I stepped from the hallway onto the bathroom floor, I felt a weird popping sensation, and fluid started steaming from 'down there.' The excitement was INSTANT. I knew exactly what was going on, and I knew that labor was imminent. I called for Rob in the same shaky voice when I had called him into the bathroom 9 months prior to show him the pregnancy stick. This time, though, he SHOT out of bed, made sure he glanced at the clock (11:58PM) and came to see what had happened. He immediately got on the phone with our doctor's office who told us to come on in. I ran downstairs to wake my mom, threw a few last minute items into our hospital bags and loaded into the car. We were heading to the hospital. To give birth. To meet our daughter. To start our family.
I was in a stellar mood. Though my water had broken, I wasn't really experiencing any contractions and was filled with pure joy and excitement. We were sent straight back to OB triage, and after having verified my water truly had broken (a much more difficult task than it should have been since my body will never act normally medically) I was gowned and admitted into our labor and delivery room. I was checked and was dilated to a 2-3 and 50% effaced. Rob posted a message on Facebook letting people know it was 'game time.' It was surreal. We were sitting, comfortably and content, in the room in which our baby would be born.
No more than an hour later, I began contracting. I was extremely pleased my body began on my own, as I desperately wanted to avoid being induced. It only took a few contractions until they were strong, consistent and ALL in my back. Though I hadn't pictured myself having back labor, we still went through the motions. I relaxed my body, going entirely limp, allowing my body to do it's work. I breathed slowly and rhythmically, groaning as I exhaled, not from the pain but for distraction. It felt good to make noise. Rob would rub my back, putting pressure on as I requested, while my mom kept a cool washcloth on my face. All the while I pictured my uterus moving our baby down and out. It wouldn't be long until I could see her, hold her, breathe her in. We just had to get through each contraction, and one by one, they brought us closer to our sweet little girl.
I wont lie- the contractions were painful. But they weren't unbearable. They were not nearly as bad as people make labor out to be. The worst part is that they were in my back; it made it more difficult to picture my uterus working to deliver my baby. It also limited the varying positions I could labor in, as very few were comfortable. It was literally like having the kidney stones again, though this time I had a couple minute break every minute or two. The best part is there was zero pain between contractions. I was chipper and alert between them, and though for the most part I wasn't hooked up to a contraction monitor, you could tell instantly when one started because I would go limp and groan with my exhaled breaths.
My labor appeared to be progressing efficiently and pretty normal. I was contracting every 2-3 minutes, with the contractions lasting about one and a half to two minutes each. For the majority of the labor I was laying in the Bradley Methods "side relaxation position" where you are on your side, almost belly, with your knee pulled up and resting on a pillow. This was by far the most comfortable position I could find, though we tried many. Our amazing day nurse, Maggie, was so supportive and helpful. She had us trying all different kinds of positions, she would practically take the bed apart to provide support for various positions, and she had all kinds of helpful advice. Not only was she an absolutely sweet heart, she was amazing at her job. I took a few showers, and one bath. (I was allowed only one bath with the tub plugged because since my water had broken, that could allow for infection which all of us wanted to avoid.) We had packed two (count them, TWO!) different things for me to wear while in the shower/tub so I could maintain my modesty, which didn't ever leave our bag. It is true what they say- modesty was out the window during labor and delivery. I count myself a VERY modest person, and I really, truly couldn't have cared less about who saw what.
I was checked at about 3:00PM, 13 hours into labor. I was only a 3-4. It was pretty disheartening; 13 hours of labor and only one centimeter to show for it. Dr. Zwiesler gave us until 6PM to show progress, or we were going to have to put me on a penicillin drip (an antibiotic since my water had been broken for so many hours) and pitocin to help with dilation. I was demoralized, but determined. For the next few hours we went gung-ho with walking, using the birth ball and hands-and-knee type positions that are known to help move baby down, thus further dilating the cervix. It was extremely painful and I was losing steam. I was on 24 hours of no caloric intake, I had been puking from the pain and thus losing liquids, and it had been nearly two full days since I had had some decent sleep. Between contractions, my mom swore I was going to faint because my eyes kept rolling back into my head.
About half an hour or so before they came to check me again, my contractions became AWFUL. They were literally one on top of another. I would have three to five minute long contractions with mere seconds between them. We thought for sure I was in transition, so we were very hopeful I had made some great progress and wouldn't have to be hooked up to an IV. But when she checked me, no such luck. I was still only measuring a 3-4. No progress meant the IV. It meant antibiotics and induction. It meant more time and more pain. I broke down.
Maggie, our wonder nurse, brought up pain management. I knew the pitocin was going to strengthen my contractions and, though I was relaxing pretty well on my own through each contraction, my morale and energy reserve were shot. She said if we could get my pain managed, my body would be able to better do it's work and move our baby down and out. 19 hours of the hardest work I've ever done, and I felt it was all in vain. We discussed our options between narcotics or an epidural. Narcotics, we were told, would be administered through the IV and into my blood stream, thus straight into the baby. The epidural wouldn't affect the baby nearly as much. Rob and I asked for some time alone to talk about it, and I totally lost it. I'm not so sure I've ever sobbed so hard or so long. I had failed. I knew I was going to take the epidural. I had to. Here we were practically starting from the beginning, and I was already 19 hours into the hardest work of my life.
About an hour later, I was given the epidural. I didn't really see the big deal- so many people complain about how painful it is and I didn't even feel it. Mind you pain has taken on a new meaning after 20 hours of back labor with no medication. Within about a half hour, I was no longer feeling my contractions. I attempted sleep, but felt too numb to drift off. I couldn't stand the feeling, so the anesthesiologist came back in and turned the epidural way down. That helped a bit, but I still wasn't a fan of not being able to feel my legs.
A little before midnight, right around the 24 hours of labor mark, I felt the very distinct feeling of needing to push. I was actually convinced I needed to poop, but when checked and told I was complete, 10 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced, we knew it was FINALLY time to meet little Reagan. After a few practice pushes, we decided to have me labor down. This was the most painful thing of the entire labor. It is hard to describe the need to push without using the needing to poop comparison, so I apologize. But laboring down is literally like having to use the bathroom extremely badly, but not being allowed to. With each contraction that was pushing our baby out, my body desperately wanted to push but I would refrain from doing so. What this does is allows my uterus to work at getting our baby out, without me expending energy.
While I still had my epidural, it had been turned WAY down and I was so uncomfortable during each contraction, that I was shaking like mad. I also had gone a little mad. I kept saying, over and over and over, "I am so hungry but I don't want food. Please don't make me eat food. I'm so hungry but I don't want to eat." I then obsessed with the manufacturers sticker on the ceiling light, complaining that I couldn't read what it said. And was that a phone number written on it? Does it say MKL? I then began complaining that through each contraction, as I moaned, I sounded like a whale. And I was SO afraid of pooping on the table, I kept asking if I pooped. "Are you sure? It stinks. I don't want to poop. Please don't judge me if I poop." (After the fact I was assured it never actually stank and I truly hadn't pooped. Thank goodness.) Like I said, I'd gone crazy.
During this whole time, though I was pretty unaware, Reagan's poor little heart rate shot down and then straight back up with nearly every contraction. While they were glad it would come right back, they didn't like how low her heart rate was dropping and were concerned with the stress it could be causing her. After consulting with a few different nurses, they all decided she seemed to be handling it, so we kept on keeping on.
Finally, shortly before 1:30AM, it was time to push. The relief was instant. I LOVED pushing! Rob and my mom each held one of my legs and we did three 10 second pushes through each contraction. The amount of pressure I felt was amazing, but it wasn't painful. It felt very good to actually be able to DO something. Dr. Zwiesler (sorry in advance...) massaged my perineum with mineral oil the ENTIRE time I was pushing to help prevent tearing since I wanted to avoid an episiotomy if at all possible. He really was a rock star. Reagan's heart rate began acting up again, and though I was unaware of it at the time, Dr. Zwiesler had ordered in the anesthesiologist and another doctor because we were pretty darn close to having an emergency c-section.
On my last contraction, after my three pushes, Dr. Zwiesler asked me to push one more time and I felt amazing relief as Reagan was born into this world, looking straight up. In no more than a second, she was screaming. As the doctor prepared her umbilical cord to be cut, I kept asking, "is she a girl? is she a girl?" Rob cut the cord, and then per my very adamant request, she was handed straight to me and I snuggled her right on my bare chest. It was pure and utter bliss.
Reagan was pretty purple since her oxygen had been being cut off with each contraction, thus the reason her heart rate had been fluctuating. They assumed her cord had been wrapped around her leg or something, and with each contraction, it was being squished and the oxygen supply cut off. They set an oxygen mask just next to her face while still on my chest, and in no more than a minute or two she had pinked right up. It took a bit for me to give her up to the baby nurse so they could check her vitals and get her weight. I laid in the delivery bed getting stitched up, (thanks to Reagan's idea of coming out face up instead of down, I got a nice 2nd degree tear and she came out so banged up and bruised she looked like she had been in a bar fight) and watched my husband watching his baby. My mom commented on how patient I was being while they were taking care of her, and I told her I was enjoying watching Rob with her too much to mind that I wasn't holding her. We finally had our family.
Reagan Lee Billiau was born at 2:02 AM on her due date, Friday May 14th 2010. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 15 ounces and 21 inches long. She was here and she was healthy. She was beautiful and she was perfect. And she was ours.