I’m a planner. I research and think through every eventuality and make contingency plans for everything in my life. My pregnancy and labor were no different. I had a plan. The plan was to give birth in a birth center with a midwife. I was low risk and had a perfectly normal pregnancy until around 34 weeks when my blood pressure started slowly creeping up. Around week 35 they officially referred me to an OB and I was no longer eligible to give birth at the birth center. My medication free birth was no longer an option. I had preeclampsia. Fortunately, it was very slow onset. We watched my blood pressure creep up slowly over two weeks. We waited for the scale to balance between my health and baby’s readiness. That scale balanced out the day before I hit 36 weeks. After many trips to the hospital for monitoring and not one, but two, failed twenty-four hour urine tests, the call was made to induce when my blood pressure was moving into dangerous territory, the serious symptoms were starting, my baby was showing signs of being ready as well, and I’d had the shot for his lungs.
The doctor sent us over to the hospital for induction.
I had been having contractions of increasing intensity for days, but they would stop when I rested. I was dilated to 1cm, so we were able to do a Foley Balloon and Cervidil for dilation. That’s when the fun began. They placed the balloon and tape around 3:30pm and that started 12.5 hours of what I would describe as the worst period cramps I’d ever had. I have endometriosis and I am no stranger to bad period cramps. I knew I just had to survive 12 hours and that helped my goal oriented focus kick in. The doctor had prepared us for 12 hours of dilation and likely another 12 hours once Pitocin was started. My husband got as much sleep as possible between my trips to the bathroom that required his assistance. I let him sleep while I stayed as still as possible in one position until I could not handle it any more. Than I would slowly roll over to my other side which would make it so much worse and then be as still as possible on that side for as long as I could. When it got completely unbearable, my husband would help me to the bathroom. This rotation provided just enough relief to make it through the night.
Before I jump into the next part of the story, I want to make something very clear. I have great respect for nurses. My little sister and my brother-in-law are both nurses and I know how amazing they are and how hard they work and how obnoxious patients can be. We tried really hard to be as easy as possible. My husband quickly learned how to unhook and re-hook my monitors, so we did not have to bother a nurse constantly and we only used our call button maybe 3 times during our entire three day stay in the hospital. I would not even include this part of the story, except that the story would not make sense without it and it actually highlights the importance of a good nurse in labor.
Our nurse through the night was not our favorite. She clearly did not respect my preference for a natural (as possible with induction) birth. She also was not very nursely. She would come in to do her work throughout the night and would not speak to me or ask if I needed anything, even though I was clearly awake. She happened to be in the room when I needed a bathroom break, so I asked if she would help me (so I did not have to wake my husband for the millionth time). She unhooked me, harshly told me how to reattach the monitors, pushed my IV pole to the bathroom and left. I had not been waking my husband up to take me to the bathroom because I enjoyed it. I actually needed the assistance to and from the bathroom. When 4 am hit and I had accomplished my goal of surviving twelve hours of dilation, I was beyond ready to have the Foley Balloon removed! When 4:30am came and went, I could not take it anymore and called for the nurse. She came in and I asked when it would be removed. She responded with an impressive amount of attitude that the doctor knew I was ready and walked out. Fifteen minutes later, she returned, and per the doctor, removed it herself. She checked my cervix and said “I can’t even feel your cervix. I don’t think this did anything” and left the room again after telling me I had an hour to shower and be off the monitor before they administered the Pitocin. By this point my cramps were feeling more like contractions and I asked her what the monitor was showing. She responded “Yes, you’re having mild contractions. You don’t want any pain medication, remember?” She repeated this refrain several times throughout the morning.
My sweet husband helped me get showered and settled back in bed. By this point my contractions seemed pretty intense for me. At 5:30am I was back in bed and on the monitor for thirty minutes before they started Pitocin. During this thirty minutes, my water broke. We did not know if it mattered or not, so we called and told the desk. Our nurse came back in, pulled back the sheets, said “Yep, your water broke. There will be more. I’ll get you a towel.” She stuffed a towel between my legs and left the room. 6am rolls around and she comes in to administer the Pitocin, repeats her “mild contractions” refrain, and leaves. Between 6am and 7am the contractions really ramped up. My poor husband was trying to get his last few moments of sleep (he needs sleep) and I was trying so hard to let him. But, my contractions were bad enough I woke him up and informed him sleep time was over. I was holding onto the side of the bed as hard as I could during each contraction. The nurse had to come in multiple times because my IV kept getting kinked. Each time she told me I was having mild contractions and mockingly reminded me I did not want medicine.
At this point, I was feeling really bad about myself. I was sitting in my own puddle, I was almost to the point of not being able to handle my “mild contractions”, and I was less than an hour into induction that could last all day. What was I thinking?? Why did I think I could do this naturally? Am I really this weak? I was seriously beating myself up.
At 7am life got a whole lot better and a whole lot worse. Shift change! Our new nurse breezed into the room and was perfectly pleasant. She pulled back my sheets and saw my puddle. After a pitying look, she said “let’s get you cleaned up”. I knew I was going to be ok. She helped me to the bathroom. By this point, I was barely functioning. I could barely think clearly. I did not know what to do. She left me in the bathroom and changed the sheets. When she came back in I managed to ask a few questions about the midwife coming on shift and was able to request to see her. I was hoping to see if she would be able to help me or if I needed to just start pain medicine. During this conversation, I threw up twice. She offered Zofran and I caved. Yes, please. She helped me back into my room where my husband took over and she left for the Zofran. I stood leaning over the bed in agony until she returned. I promptly told her I needed pain medicine. She told me I had to get back in bed for monitoring. I could not imagine lying down. She said if I could make it around to the other side of the bed she could try to attach the monitor while I was standing. I made it to the other side of the bed when all of the sudden I exclaimed “His head is between my legs!!” multiple times. The nurse immediately made me get in bed and grabbed the monitor and started trying to find my son’s heartbeat. This was the longest how many ever minutes of my life. She could not find it. My husband and I stared at each other in pure panic until she dropped the monitor really low and there it was, as strong as ever. If I had the time I would have cried. She told me not to push, hit the call button, and started getting the team in place. Minutes later the midwife swept in, gave me a once over, and told me to push whenever I was ready. The room was a buzz of activity. Being a “36 weeker”, he required special teams to check him out at birth. I pushed through about five contractions and my son was born just as the room was ready for him at 7:41am. Exactly one hour and forty-one minutes after the Pitocin was started. Exactly forty-one minutes since the overnight nurse told me I was having mild contractions. I never did get the Zofran or pain medicine. All it takes is one bad nurse to convince you are not capable of natural childbirth and all it takes is one good nurse to help you achieve your goals. If not for the shift change, I am convinced my husband would have been the one to catch our son. Thanks to her, he arrived safely to an in place team. A perfectly healthy baby boy. Five pounds, nine ounces and nineteen inches long.
If you are planning for natural childbirth, check out my post of my Top 5 Labor Tips.