Alhamdulillah I've got my hands full with my three kids, so this may be the last birth story I'll have!
I was blessed that my first two labors were very quick, about three hours from active labor to delivery. Quick as they were, I still had plenty of time to panic! I could not remain calm.
For this (most likely) last labor and delivery, my goal was to be relaxed while in labor. I wanted to feel excited and happy, not panicked and anxious! I watched labor breathing technique videos on Youtube, read a bit about hypno-birthing, and told myself this is a natural part of life I already did twice...but my anxiety surrounding giving birth continued to grow!
I was having braxton hicks contractions frequently, especially the last trimester, even while driving! I never had them with my other two pregnancies and it made me more nervous.
On August 12, at 38 weeks pregnant, I had a sonogram appointment. I drove about an hour and a half to and from the office with braxton hicks contractions, which started feeling more intense. I was still able to breathe through them, and felt better when I drank water, so I wasn't concerned yet that they were real contractions. When I got back to my parents house, I was so exhausted and went to bed with my daughter around 7pm, but couldn't sleep. I was sending messages to my sister-in-law complaining about these braxton hicks contractions that were keeping me awake!
Everytime I was about to doze off, I would feel a contraction that would wake me up. I was timing them and noticed they were about thirty, sometimes fifteen, minutes apart. I kept drinking water and laying on my side, scrolling through Instagram and watching YouTube videos, while thinking about all the things I still had to organize and pack before baby arrives. I had so much left to do, I wasn't prepared to have this baby at least for another week!
Suddenly around midnight, even though I hadn't slept, I had a burst of energy, folded baby clothes and organized the changing table area. I couldn't do everything that needed to be done (like open the diaper boxes!) but I was more exhausted now!
Again when I tried to sleep, a contraction would wake me up. They felt more intense but still thirty or fifteen minutes apart. As 6am rolled around, I was holding onto the bed frame to breathe through them! Then I went to the bathroom and noticed a bit of dark brown blood and knew something was happening and that I had to call my doctor.
I thought my doctor would have me come to her office to check me, but she told me to go to the hospital. My mom was sure baby was ready for his debut, but I still thought this could be false labor.
It was a weird feeling going to the hospital, putting the hospital gown on and knowing I could be going back home in a couple hours if I wasn't in actual labor. When the doctor on call checked me, I was 1cm. Of course, that's not enough to be admitted to the hospital, but they had me hooked up to all the machines to monitor my progression. I had to wait until 6pm for my doctor to give the word if I should be admitted.
I soon noticed the nurses were checking the fetal monitor often and telling me to lay on my side only. It seemed like something was wrong but they didn't say, and I was too anxious to ask. I was sent to another wing in the hospital to have a sonogram.
When my doctor came around 6pm, she told me the baby's heart rate keeps decelerating every time I have a contraction, which means blood flow through the umbilical cord is compromised and this pattern is harmful to the baby. She would induce me immediately to progress the labor. She informed me if my labor wasn't progressing and baby's heart rate continued to decelerate, it's going to be a c-section delivery.
To induce me, I'll receive Cervidil to soften the cervix. However, when the PA checked me I was now 4cm and she said I wouldn't need it. Instead, they'll break my water.
This was the first time the doctor broke my water, both times before it happened spontaneously. The contractions became intense quickly and all thoughts of calmness went out the window. I wanted the pain to stop and I wanted to sleep! Around 8:30pm my doctor came by and asked if I wanted to consider the epidural so I can get some rest for the night.
I'm in no way opposed to pain medication. I'm the opposite, and have to take a pain reliever, or nothing will get done! But, I've always been anxious about having an epidural.
I had spinal fusion surgery as a teen, for scoliosis correction. To decrease the 'S' curve of my spine, two metal rods and screws to hold in place, were inserted permanently in my spine to straighten it. Any thought of a needle going into my spine gave me as much anxiety as the thought of being in labor for hours!
I'm cleared for an epidural below a specific part of my spine by my orthopedic surgeon. My first delivery was so quick I didn't need the epidural. My last pregnancy I was open to it, but still terrified and hoped to avoid. That labor progressed quickly as well so I didn't have time to think of it.
I planned to go over this with my doctor at that week's appointment to ease my concerns. I clearly wasn't having that appointment so I had to decide in the moment.
I took the epidural mainly out of panic of not knowing how long I would be in labor this time. With my previous two deliveries, once my water broke I delivered within half an hour. There's no guarantee how long this time would be!
As the anesthesiologist was explaining that there's a (very) low chance of infection of my 'hardware' that would require surgery to get the infected hardware out, I almost said forget it! But I hadn't slept for almost 24 hours and needed some sleep! What if I had these strong contractions the entire night? What if I ended up having a c-section with no rest? It would be a horrible experience!
Sitting up for the epidural in itself was a problem because I can't sit balanced how the anesthesiologist needed, and the nurse and my husband had to hold both my arms to keep me sitting up straight. When the needle went in I felt sharp, piercing pain and started screaming. The anesthesiologist told me that she hit a blood vessel and had to do the whole process again. I was having even stronger and frequent contractions now and it was hard to remain still.
The second time was a success...but I kept feeling all the contractions. Then they became even more intense with sharp, stabbing pains all over my legs and lower back that terrified me. I felt like throwing up and was screaming from the pain! The nurse saw I was still feeling all the contractions and the epidural wasn't having any effect. The anesthesiologist hadn't even taken her supplies out the room and the catheter not even set up, when the PA checked me and, sure enough I was fully dilated and ready to have this baby!
My doctor was called to the room and shortly after, baby Zakariya Laith was born, Alhamdulillah! He was healthy and I was so relieved.
I felt good, but was feeling all the after effects of the epidural - I was completely numb from the waist down. I had pain at the injection site too. I definitely had a better recovery with my epidural free deliveries, but I learned an important thing.
What I thought would be easier for me, clearly wasn't. Sometimes I don't trust my instincts or the signs in front of me. Trust the path laid out in front of you, and that's where you're meant to be.
-Ammara | @ammaraza