On Monday, March 4th, I was 41 weeks pregnant and we went into the hospital at 8:00 AM for the first step of my induction. I wasn’t at all dilated so I was a given a dosage of Cervidil inserted vaginally. “The devil’s shoelace” as I later called it, since it essentially looked like a long shoelace and it soon made my life a living hell. I had to be monitored for 20 minutes before insertion for baby’s non-stress test, or NST, and then again for a full 2 hours afterwards. This meant lying perfectly still in a perfectly awful bed with two large belts strapped to my belly, which is really not fun at 41 weeks pregnant.
While we were waiting, a lady obviously in labour came into the bed next to us for assessment. She was clearly in pain and experiencing contractions. I overheard the results of her assessment. She was 6 cm dilated. I told my husband Nick to use her distress levels as a gauge and when I started sounding like her, we could come back into the hospital.
We were dismissed around 11:30 AM and were prepared to come back the next morning for a second dose if I hadn’t started contracting, But I was hopeful my body would react well to the Cervidil.
We went for lunch with a friend to keep ourselves occupied on other things besides waiting. I was told to expect some cramping and that we’d likely be in the next morning for a second dose as it might take a few days for the process to get started.
The cramps were fairly mild through lunch; nothing too different from cramps I’d already been experiencing for the previous few days. We went home after lunch to nap since neither of us had slept great the previous night and we knew that a marathon was approaching in the very near future.
The cramps got much more intense so I threw on a heating pad and did my best to rest but didn’t have too much luck. I eventually got up around 4:00 PM and tried to keep myself busy by bouncing on my yoga ball and watching tv. Nick woke up an hour later to start dinner and shortly after that I started getting some contractions. I wasn’t timing them or anything at this point as I knew the fact that I had started the morning at a fingertip dilated meant it would take hours before I was making much progress.
I wasn’t very hungry for dinner so I made myself a smoothie to sip on. Things continued to build and I started having to use some breathing techniques to get through things. Around 7:00 PM Nick started worrying about when we should head to the hospital. I told him we should maybe start timing the contractions first since they wanted me to wait until they were 3–4 minutes apart and lasting close to a minute for a full hour.
Upon timing them, contractions were already 2–3 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to a minute each. About half an hour into timing them, Nick said I sounded too much like that 6 cm dilated lady so we may as well head to the hospital. I knew that it would be at least a half hour before we got there so we’d have an hour of tracking completed by then and even if they sent us home at least we’d know if these contractions were doing anything.
It took a while for me to get ready and into the car and I knew that was another good sign. They say if you can get to the car in less than 10 minutes then you’re probably going to the hospital too early.
It was around 8:45 PM when we checked into assessment. After another NST they did a check and I was dilated to a 2. I wasn’t overly surprised as I’d only been through a few hours of painful contractions at this point but I was glad that progress had been made. They told me we were free to stay in assessment for another hour or so and could then get rechecked. Once I reached 3 cm they would be able to start the next phase of induction with the oxytocin drip. Nick and I walked the halls for a bit to work through the contractions as swaying my hips and standing upright for them worked a LOT better than taking them laying down.
I tried out the laughing gas but didn’t find it helped too much with my breathing. I did find that vocalizing on my out breaths was the best way to regulate my breathing and release the pain. I ended up probably being pretty loud for someone still in early labour and not yet in the active stages. I half-wondered if by the time they did my next check if they just rounded me up to a three because they were sick of my singing/yelling. They did offer me the morphine shot quite a few times, but my plan was to stay as natural as possible so I turned it down. When the hour was up, I had indeed progressed to a three, so they pulled out the Cervidil and said I could be admitted. I was also told that we could wait a bit before going on the oxytocin drip to see if that gave me a break. I loved the idea of a break, since walking and swaying through contractions was getting pretty tiring with only a minute to recover by the time one ended and before the next one started, and laying down was so so much worse.
The nurses that took me to the delivery room were amazing. They were aware that I wanted to try to keep my labour as natural as possible and worked well with me to find natural methods of dealing with contractions. One of the nurses was Lynne. She told me I was a rockstar for wanting to try a natural birth and she had had all her children that way. I had to sit still on the bed for another monitoring of the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. There were a few decelerations of baby’s heart rate so it ended up being a bit longer than I hoped but eventually they got me off those pesky monitors so I could go back to moving through the contractions.
Around this time they mentioned the possibility of breaking my water. Things were already pretty difficult so I agreed as it would help keep things moving and could help me avoid being on an IV for Oxytocin as I knew that would limit my mobility which was really important for helping me manage pain.
They did another check when breaking my water though they didn’t tell me at the time where I was at. This was likely a good call on their part though I later overheard them whispering that I was at 3 cm still. This was sometime in the early morning and Nick vividly remembers the panicked look of terror on my face as I sobbed “I’m still at a f***ing three!?” when I realized how far we still had to go.
The nurse set up the shower for me and that was amazing. The shower head had almost no pressure but the hot water really helped me get through things.
It wasn’t long before they needed to do more monitoring of me and the baby. I begged them not to make me do it on the bed. One of the awesome nurses sat next to me holding the monitors on my stomach by hand for a half hour or so while I rocked and swayed on the birthing ball. It only half-worked but I was so grateful to them for allowing me to labour the way I wanted.
While the nurses went on break, their replacement was some magical angel sent from above. She showed nick some massage techniques and hip compression to help me through each contraction. She had a sweet, calming and reassuring voice and I wished she would never leave my side but my nurses eventually came back and she left quietly without us getting to thank her or even know her name.
Contractions were getting insanely difficult at this point. They were still only a couple of minutes apart and getting stronger. They didn’t even attempt to put me on Oxytocin as my contractions were still very effective on their own. I was worried about how intense contractions brought on by oxytocin would be as I’d not heard great things from others. Turns out the Cervidil induced ones were terrible enough.
At this point, I knew I was starting to lose control. I’d been managing contractions with little rest between each one for at least 6 or 7 hours now. I was trying some meditation techniques to put myself in a different place mentally and detach from the pain but there just wasn’t enough time between each wave for me to reset and focus. My vocalizations were now just blood-curdling screams and my deep inhales were more desperate gasps.
I was sobbing into Nick’s arms and I was also having convulsions with the longer, stronger contractions. It was time for another check. I felt things had really ramped up in a big way and I was confident that I had made good progress. I was at 5 cm. In hindsight, this was really good progress as this was likely around 3:00 or 3:30 AM. However, I knew that my likelihood of making it through the transition phase of labour, when the pain tends to ramp up even more, without any pain management was going to be tough as there were still likely a good 6–8 hours before pushing time. I was losing my grip on things and quickly. I knew that nobody in the room was going to offer it to me, I had to be the one to ask. It wasn’t too long after the 5cm check that I finally told the nurses I was ready to consider something to help me with the pain.
Lynne got everything ready to set me up for an IV. She reassured me that I wasn’t taking the easy way out, that there were no wrong choices in a situation like this, and helped me feel good about my decision. I didn’t know what they were giving me and I really didn’t care at the time.
Lynne even came into the bathroom to try and start my IV while I was labouring on the toilet since she knew that putting me down on the bed wouldn’t be a great time for anyone. My veins are quite troublesome though so after a few failed attempts we eventually did have to go to the bed to get set up. Lynne left on a break and another nurse came in to administer the pain relief. I found out it was fentanyl they were giving me.
This was the one thing that I had really wanted to avoid giving me and my baby, but I had also really tried hard to keep an open mind. The prenatal class nurse had gone through everything with us many months before and reminded us that while the heavy drugs sounded scary and all of them would affect the baby in some way, they were all also there for a good reason. Labour itself also affects mom and baby and if these things are able to provide some rest and relief, it’s not necessarily a bad thing as a little rest can sometimes be the difference between vaginal birth and a c-section.
While I had some hesitations, I knew I needed something to take the edge off if I was going to continue and come out of this successfully. I laid down on the bed and waited for relief. They gave me the first dose and I then suffered through several of the worst contractions I’d had yet. I remember seeing the look in Nick’s eyes as my whole body started convulsing severely and he tried to hold me still while I lay there screaming.
The nurse seemed a little taken aback that the fentanyl had seemed to have no effect. She said we hadn’t maxed out the dosage yet though, so she would just give me a second dose and that should help. But the result seemed to be the same. I felt no relief whatsoever and taking the contractions laying down was just pure agony. I was shrieking, and sobbing uncontrollably between them at this point and poor Nick was just standing there feeling helpless. I believe we got out of the bed at this point and very soon after, I requested the epidural. They offered more Fentanyl but I really didn’t want to keep feeding that to my baby if it wasn’t going to help me move forward.
My original nurses came back right around the time the anesthesiologist was coming in to give me the epidural. I signed all the waivers without much concern. My mind was not in a place to second guess myself too much. I was well aware of the risks and downsides, but I needed to find a way to get a grip on things if I was going to be able to deliver a baby at the end of all of this.
While I knew I needed the help, I also felt like I was letting Lynne down in a way. She’d been so excited and supportive of my choice to try for natural labour. She later told me she wasn’t overly surprised that I needed it though, based on how little rest I was getting between each contraction and how strong they were. I was grateful that the choice had been left entirely in my hands. The nurses never once offered the pain relief and Nick didn’t try to tell me to consider it, though I know he was thinking it. It was my choice alone to make the call for help.
They warned me I’d have to keep very still for the epidural and we were all worried about that based on how poorly I’d been able to control myself through the last hour of contractions and how little time we had between each one at this point. As they were prepping me, Nick asked the anesthesiologist to please wait until after the next contraction. He wasn’t too concerned and just said he had a lot of other people to see. He was clearly a professional and kept right on working. I knew this was my one shot at relief and put everything I had into controlling the next contraction while he placed the line.
It went in quickly and while it took a while to be fully effective I did feel some relief right away as I was able to handle the contractions immediately after the epidural a lot better. Then finally, sweet, blissful relief. For the first time that day, I laid down in the bed without any concerns. I knew epidurals tend to slow labour down and I was fine with that as I desperately just needed some rest to recharge before the big moment of pushing a human being out of me.
It was around 4:30 AM at this point and Nick and I both finally got to get some sleep. I wasn’t fully asleep but got decent rest while secretly listening to the whisperings of the nurses as they monitored me and the baby. I believe they tried to start Oxytocin a few times but baby’s heart wasn’t handling it well so they continued to let my body work through contractions on its own. 7:00 AM was shift change and we said goodbye to my wonderful nurses and thanked them for everything they had done to support us through a very traumatic evening.
The next nurse came in and got me checked. She said I was at 8-9 cm and we’d likely be having the baby very soon. She called in a resident to confirm the check and they confirmed I was 8 cm dilated. My contractions were still effective with the epidural and they said it was just a matter of time before we pushed the baby out.
As exciting as that was, I was VERY groggy from the drugs at this point. I was nauseous too and really didn’t feel capable of pushing or in a good mindset to meet my baby. I got Nick to start putting some cold cloths on my forehead to try and wake myself up a bit. I mentioned how nauseous I still was and the nurse mentioned they could get me some drugs for that. I was a little hesitant about taking even more drugs as I knew they were likely the reason I was feeling how I was. But after no improvements over the next hour, I decided to take them. That did help but I was still feeling a bit off.
My next check showed I hadn’t made any progress. There was still a lip of cervix in the way and baby’s head was rotated a bit in the wrong direction. Baby and cervix were both swollen and hadn’t budged. It was back to waiting. I wasn’t overly concerned yet as this was around 10 AM and I desperately wanted the drugs to fade a bit before meeting my baby. At this time the Dr. did mention the possibility of a c-section as my temperature was a bit elevated but we were to continue to wait and see if things resolved on their own.
Around 12:30 PM I was checked again. No progress, but I was finally starting to feel a bit better. The lip of cervix was still there and the rotation of baby’s head wasn’t helping. Shortly after that, the epidural started wearing off and I got an insane pain in my left hip. They’d rotated me to that side in an attempt to help the baby rotate into a better position. I can’t say the pain was on the same level as the contractions but after the previous night and the fogginess of the morning, my brain was just not able to cope with pain and so when they offered a top up on the epidural to reflood my body with numbing drugs, I gratefully accepted. They put a different mix of drugs into the top up to help me feel less drowsy and help me maintain a bit more mobility.
An hour or two later, the next anesthesiologist on shift stopped by. He said he’d been briefed on the story of my labour and wanted me to know he was available to assist me. If at any time I needed another top-up, he was there to help me out and make sure I was able to remain pain-free. It was so nice to know that there was staff looking out for me and that it wasn’t all in my head that this was proving to be a difficult labour. The staff all seemed to feel that this was not a typical situation.
The afternoon passed in much the same way. I had a couple breakdowns at this point. I felt utterly helpless at this to help my labour progress. I sobbed into Nick’s arms as he held me and reassured me I was doing amazing. I had asked the nurse if there was anything I could do to help the baby rotate as my legs were no longer feeling heavy and completely useless. Other than flipping me from one side to the other there wasn’t much they said I could do though I did try to keep my legs moving after my top-up.
Overall, it was a long day of waiting, feeling helpless and trying not to worry. Baby’s heart rate kept having decelerations and they were also watching my temperature. Both those things, as well as stalls in labour, are very common side effects of epidurals and I was worried that I’d fallen into the typical labour intervention funnel and was en route to a c-section. I couldn’t help but wonder if I could have avoided this if I had somehow been able to manage the contractions better and avoided the epidural. But looking back, I know I dug as deep as I could and had done my very best to hold out for as long as possible. The epidural didn’t cause baby’s positioning to be off, nor was it the cause of my cervix descending with the baby.
We made it all the way to the next shift change and the new nurse, Kayla, was amazing. She took charge of the situation and immediately got me up and moving into different positions to try to help the baby turn. This was where things started to feel a lot more positive as I was finally able to contribute in a meaningful way. I had no pain, but I did have control of my legs again so we were able to do some hands and knees work, some pelvic sifting with a sheet, and work with a peanut ball between my legs and feet in various arrangements to try and open up the back of my pelvis where my cervix was still in the way.
My contractions were still frequent and effective at descending baby. The nurse said after a few hours that we should do another check as she was feeling confident we’d be ready to push soon. I wasn’t so sure as I’d heard this before many times that day. It was around 4:00 PM and sure enough, that pesky cervix was still firmly in the way.
The next nurse, Sarah came in to cover Kayla’s break. She was the admission nurse who saw me when I first came in the previous night. She remembered me from the night before and was shocked to see me still in labour. She had gone home and come back for her next shift already. It was nice to see a familiar face but it was also a reminder of just how long we’d been at the hospital.
When Kayla returned from break, I ended up needing another top-up on the epidural as it seemed the previous one had only worked on one side and I was starting to feel contractions again. Shortly after that Nick and I asked what the game plan was. It was 6:00 PM now, and I’d been 9 cm dilated for 11 hours at this point, and in labour for over 24 hours. We were curious how many epidural top-ups my body could realistically take before complications arose. We also wanted to know if or when the c-section option would be revisited so we could mentally prepare ourselves for whatever outcome might be in store for us.
We were told that the waiting could continue until either my fever came back or baby started showing signs of distress again. Baby’s heart rate had been doing well since my first top-up in the early afternoon so that wasn’t a concern. But shortly after our discussion, my temperature shot up to the highest it had been all day. 20 minutes later they retook it and confirmed I had a fever and that we needed to call in the doctor for another check and a review of my situation. The nurse prepared us that this indeed could mean we were headed for the c-section. It wasn’t the news or outcome we were hoping for but we also knew I couldn’t sit there waiting forever. The baby needed to come out one way or another.
After another check confirming the cervix was still in place despite baby’s head now being descended to +2 position, the doctors met to discuss my case and I was referred to the OR doctor.
My nurse had a little chat with me about the reality of what c-section meant. Because the baby was so low, they would have to pull baby up and out of the birth canal which might mean going in vaginally as well to help push the baby up and out. There was no way to prevent me from feeling this so it was definitely going to be uncomfortable. Dr. Mayo was the OR doctor on shift and he would be performing my c-section. The nurse said he may come by to do another check of me first or we may be sent straight to surgery, it was up to the doctor how he wanted to proceed. He was one of the best, most experienced doctors they had and Kayla did a great job of reassuring me and reminding me that my labour had been very atypical and not to let it discourage me from future children, as each labour is very different.
Dr. Mayo did end up coming by to check me. He also explained all the side effects and downsides of c-section which Nick and I both understood. At this point, there wasn’t really another option and we were both willing to do whatever was necessary to bring our baby into the world healthy. I may have had another little breakdown here but I was also ready to finally meet our baby whatever the cost.
Dr. Mayo decided to do one last check. After the check, he said he felt that if I pushed, he could push back the final lip of the cervix, rotate the baby by hand and I could still have a chance to deliver vaginally. The nurse explained this had already been attempted earlier in the day but it was definitely worth another shot. The OR was booked for an hour so he said we may as well give it a shot while we wait.
I was instructed to push and Dr. Mayo managed to move the cervix back and rotate the baby. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience but honestly compared to everything else, it was nothing. He said he I was now officially 10 cm dilated and he’d be back in an hour to check on me. If we hadn’t made any progress, then the c-section would go ahead, but if we did, there was still a chance at vaginal delivery.
Well, that was all the motivation I needed to push with everything I had in me to give. My nurse who’d been with me all afternoon working through positions and just being all around amazing refused to take her break. She wanted to make this baby happen on her watch! She was so encouraging and amazing at coaching me. This was about 7:15 pm. 12 long hours after I was first told that I was close to pushing time.
At this point, my epidural was coming down enough that I had really good mobility in my legs and could feel the contractions and push with them but was still relatively pain-free. After a few initial pushes on my back, we were able to pull out the squat bar and give that a try. Nick had to lift me back up in the bed after each push but it was really effective. It didn’t seem like very long before the nurse said she could see the head! My baby had hair! This was exciting.
Nick got to take a peek and I got to feel baby’s head. Baby’s heart rate was doing amazing through all the pushing too. It was an hour in and things were looking good!
Shortly after, Dr. Mayo came in to see the progress. The nurse confidently stated she was quite sure we were delivering this kid vaginally!!!! Dr. Mayo seemed to agree. This was the best news we’d had all day.
The squat bar was a lot of work for me and Nick with him having to pick me up each time. Eventually, I went back to pushing on my back but was still making good progress. I was SO ready to not be pregnant anymore.
About 2 hours in, we started getting really close to the big moment. Baby’s head was on its way out. The nurse said that the baby would be born soon, by 10:00 PM for sure. The time was flying by. Finally, the nurse said 2 more contractions and sets of pushes and she would call the doctor. I was digging deep to push as hard as I knew how at this point. The end was truly in sight. Dr. Mayo wandered in right about then and the nurse said not to go anywhere as she was just about to call him. Another doctor arrived shortly afterwards and I was able to feel the head make its exit. I could actually feel my baby’s face! I could also feel myself tearing. I always thought I’d care more about that but honestly, the pain was nothing compared to what I’d been through and I knew we were so so very close now. There was no hesitation on my part to push right through it. They got me to slow down a bit right at the end and then baby’s head was out!
One more contraction and our baby was born. The doctor got Nick to announce the gender. Nick exclaimed, “It’s a boy!” And we immediately heard him start to cry. Words can’t really describe that moment. But it was an incredibly happy ending to what was an incredibly long, traumatic journey. My entire pregnancy had been so textbook perfect that I went into labour with nothing but positive thoughts. I knew that these things almost never go according to plan, but I didn’t want to go into it being afraid and kept an open mind. But nothing could have prepared me for that journey.
Kayla told us that no other doctor likely would have done what Dr. Mayo did for me that day to give me the chance at a vaginal birth. He was an incredibly experienced doctor and I’m so lucky that he was the one on shift to save me from a c-section.
Nick and I had our little emotional moment and once they confirmed our little boy was ok (there was a bit of meconium in the last gush of amniotic fluid), and they put him on my chest (where he promptly pooped again getting the two of us quite filthy). He was 8lbs, 7oz of perfection. They’d warned us his head would likely be cone shaped when he made it out due to being stuck so long but we were pleasantly surprised to see that wasn’t the case at all. He was strong, beautiful and healthy.
The doctors immediately moved in to start stitching me up. Most birth stories I’ve read say at this point you are so enthralled with your baby that you don’t even notice the stitches. I can definitely say that wasn’t the case. I did my best to just focus on my baby but it was increasingly uncomfortable as the epidural was really wearing thin by now and it wasn’t long before I was feeling the needle moving in and out and started flinching each time so I asked them to freeze me. Luckily they did and were able to finish up and I was able to give my first attempt at breastfeeding a go.
The craziness doesn’t stop there as I’m sure all parents know, but Carson’s birth story does. I got wheeled into our private room and Nick, Carson and I got to begin the next phase of our lives as a family together.
It was the hardest, most traumatic, terrifyingly insane roller coaster I’ve ever been on. I can’t say I loved every minute of it but it really changed my perspective on the value of human life. Throughout my pregnancy, I gained a greater appreciation for just how much effort (and luck) goes into bringing a life into the world, but labour put it on an entirely different level. From conception to each milestone of pregnancy, to the insanity that is childbirth, it’s no small feat for a tiny human being to arrive on the planet.
Carson cost a lot in terms of time, commitment, support from friends and family throughout my pregnancy, and most importantly in terms of support and love from Nick to make sure he did everything to help ensure I could take care of our growing baby and eventually push him out.
Labour seems designed to completely break you as a person so you can remake yourself into a parent. It’s been overwhelming even to look back on it but I’m so glad I wasn’t alone in it. Nick did an amazing job supporting me in just the way I needed. And all the staff at the Royal Alex did everything possible to try and ensure I had the birth I wanted. It definitely didn’t go down even close to how I envisioned, but I looked back on my birth plan the other day and was surprised at just how many of the key points that I was able to maintain, despite how many things went the opposite of how I hoped.
It was traumatic but there were also some beautiful moments. Eventually, I think I’ll come to terms with it all, but for right now, I’m just grateful to have my little boy safely here with me and Nick and excited to start the rest of our lives together.