A's Birth Story: My Hospital Based Water Birth  (Part 2)

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Dragonfly Doula.

(if you missed Part 1 of A's Birth Story, read it here)

When we left off, I'd just endured a crazy day where I was in labor for 15 hours - which then abruptly stopped. 


After enduring 15 hours of labor and having nothing happen, I was a little frustrated. The following day, I told Joe to go back to work since I didn't want to use up his vacation time without having the baby. I also avoided going to church that day since I didn't want to answer a bajilion questions about why I was still pregnant.

Waiting was also surreal because even though I'd had some Braxton Hicks contractions a few times a day for the last few weeks, after the day I had contractions for 15 hours, there was nothing. NOTHING. It was like time stopped. And my body stopped. And I was stuck. 

Marta was good at encouraging me during this time. She would check in on me via text and see how I was doing, how doctor visits were going, etc. My doctor checked me at my appointment with her that Monday and I was 5cm dialated and 70% effaced. She told me that if I started having rhythmic contractions again to just come into the hospital because she was worried I might not make it on time.

And then the itch came back

I talked in Part 1 about how I'd developed a mild case of ICP that was able to be controlled by taking Dandelion Root and Milk Thistle supplements. So much so that my itching had pretty much disappeared 4 weeks after starting to take it. On June 5th (a thursday), I noticed I was starting to get itchy again. I'd gone swimming that day and thought maybe the chlorine was just irritating my skin and I needed more lotion. 

After two days and lots of lotion, I decided that wasn't it and the ICP might be coming back. At this point, I was 38 weeks. ICP babies are supposed to be delivered before 38 weeks so that made me a little nervous. On Monday, I told my doctor what was happening. She ordered labs and put a rush on them but the fractioned bile acid test takes so long to come back that if I did have ICP, the baby could be in danger before we got the results.

She had Tuesday off but said to call her Wednesday morning and tell her how I felt. If I felt the same, she thought we should ride it out to the end of the week but if I was worse we should look at getting the baby out ASAP. The good news was that because I was so dilated, she was optimistic that she'd only need to break my water to get labor started. 

Wednesday, June 11

Tuesday night I didn't sleep more than a few hours due to the intense itching as well as a weird pain that had developed in my right arm that was worse when I was lying down. So Wednesday morning I was tired. And itchy. I spent the morning cleaning my house and texting with both Marta and my family before calling my doctor to update her around 11am. I had to leave a voicemail but when I got a call back I was told that the maternity ward was short staffed that day. My doctor thought we should really move on getting the baby out, though, so talked to the charge nurse and asked to be updated as soon as they had a bed and a nurse for me. The charge nurse worked her magic and I was told to come in around 4pm to get checked in.

The IV that hated me

We headed to the hospital with K in tow. Once I was checked in and settled in the room, my dad and stepmom came to collect K. They visited for a bit and then headed out to take K back to their house.

Because I tested positive for Group B Strep, I needed an IV to get a dose of antibiotics into me before they tried to start labor. A couple labor nurses tried to start one on my left arm - and it didn't work. Another nurse tried on my right arm - no dice either. They then called the IV Therapy Nurse - a nurse who only does IVs all. day. long. Kind of like the special ops of IVs. She tried 3 times and even she couldn't get the IV in my arm. If I weren't strep B positive, I'm sure we would have stopped trying at that point but since the risk of Strep B disease in babies is pretty high if you skip the antibiotics, we really needed to make it happen. She tried one more time on the back of my hand (a less ideal location for a mom wanting to do a waterbirth) and finally got it.

Once that was in, my doctor came back to break my water and the nurses hooked me up the the IV antibiotics. I was sitting on a pile of towels on my bed setting up a game of The Settlers of Catan on my hospital table when Marta came in. We didn't get much further than a couple dice rolls in before my head started itching. I didn't think much about it at first until it started itching so bad that I could no longer play the game. After about five minutes the itching spread to my face and neck, we called my nurse to tell her we thought I was allergic to the antibiotic.

The nurse rushed in and unhooked my IV and handed me a cold towel for my face. When she checked my IV bag, she saw that we'd only done about 2/3 of it. During the sensitivity test for Strep B, they determined that this antibiotic was really the best one for the strain of Strep B I had and we really needed to get the rest of it into me. After a consult with my doctor, they gave me a shot of bennadryl in my IV and then dilluted the rest of the antibiotic in saline to prevent the reaction called Red Man Syndrome - which is different than an allergy.

And then it started

Once the antibiotic was done, my nurse came back to disconnect the IV and take the monitors they'd had strapped to my belly off. I headed to the bathroom and put my underwear and pants back on (with a pad) since that was more comfortable for me than wearing a gown or walking around with a naked butt.

It wasn't much later, at about 7:30pm, when the contractions started. Timing them was hard because it was hard to tell when they ended because I didn't feel like my uterus was relaxing all the way in between. I was standing up to rock back and forth through them but all I really wanted to do was sit down. A nurse brought me a labor ball to sit on - which was awesome because I could sit and rock at the same time. 

I was sitting on the ball, facing Joe - who was sitting on my bed. Leaning forward toward Joe and pushing on his legs really helped. Joe would later tell me that he was kind of freaked out by the whole thing but that Marta really kept him grounded by affirming me and confirming for Joe that everything that was happening was normal. At this point, I would have gotten in the tub if I could but they needed some time to fill it up and get it ready. 

Tub time

Once the tub was ready, they had to move me down the hall to the room where it was. At this point, contractions were pretty steady and I'd been coping with them mostly by pushing on Joe. Once the contraction I was working on stopped, I started down the hall as fast as my pregnant legs could waddle. The nurse commented that there wasn't a rush and I could take my time - but I just wanted to get there before I started having more contractions!

I had two big contractions in the hall before making it to the room with the tub. Joe helped me go to the bathroom and get out of my clothes except my bra. A nurse helped me put a glove on my hand to protect my IV and then I was finally able to get in the tub. And I felt SO much better. For about 10 minutes.

Ten minutes after getting in the tub, contractions picked up again and because I was in the water and the tub was squishy, I had to find a new coping technique since pushing on things wasn't helping since they weren't firm or providing much resistance. At that point, Joe ran back to our room to switch into swim trunks so he could stand behind me in the pool and do hip squeezes which was the only thing that was providing additional relief (other than the water).

Having Marta was really invaluable at this point because when Joe needed a break - either to go change, to use the bathroom or just to walk a lap or two around the room, Marta was able to take over helping me. In a room full of people - a doctor, a midwife, 2 labor nurses, a baby nurse plus me, Joe and Marta - it was great to have someone whose only job was to help me.

Now, you may have seen videos of waterbirth on YouTube where it's very zen. It's dark, there are candles, mom is kind of gently moaning and then all of a sudden she pulls a baby up out of the water. My waterbirth was not like that. It may have been the least zen waterbirth ever (although my blogging friend Lauren had a similar experience just 3 days before me so at least I'm not alone). In fact, later my husband told me he thought I was freaking out the nurses since I was screaming so much.

I also entered about 45 minutes of what I can only describe as "crazy birth delirium" where I was screaming and in pain and cursing at the doppler deal they use to check the baby - because my baby was so low they had to push the doppler into the soft part of my belly to try and hear his heartrate and it HURT. Honestly, that stupid doppler was the worst part of the whole experience. I felt kind of pushy but then I felt like pushing wasn't doing anything. I kept saying the baby was stuck. At one point I had a conversation with my doctor that went about like this:

Me: Ok. I don't want to get out. And I don't want an epidural. But I need some kind of pain meds.

Doctor: There are no pain meds.

Me: No, seriously. Someone has pain meds somewhere. I don't need an epidural, I just need a little extra help.

Doctor: Carissa, I really can't give you anything. It will go straight to the baby. You're almost there.

Me: No, but I need options. What are my options?

Marta was great at keeping Joe calm at this point, as well. Joe knew I was in pain but wasn't sure how much was normal and wasn't sure why I'm suddenly trying to negotiate with my doctor for pain meds when I'm not normally a pain med person. At one point I said I was quitting and couldn't do it anymore. All of this is normal and Marta was great and helping him know that and stay calm during that part, too.

After the 45 minutes of delirium and whining about the baby being stuck, something changed and he was suddenly RIGHT THERE. I told my sister in law this the next day so I'll tell you in case you've never experienced giving birth without meds:  pushing out a baby feels exactly like taking the hugest poop of your life - and it's about the size of a small bowling ball. Literally. It's not hyperbole. It's not a metaphor. It really feels like you're pooping out a bowling ball. 

I remember consciously trying to relax so he could come out on his own but it also hurt so much I just wanted it to be over. So when I started having a contraction, I pushed as much as a could. And then the contraction stopped and I kind of panicked - worrying that he was going to go back in and all my work would have been in vain so I tried to use my muscles to hold him in place until the next contraction came. I'm not sure this was really the best idea as far as birthing techniques that are good for babies but all in all, I only had to push for 10 minutes before he came out and I finally had him in my arms.

Baby A

Born June 11, 2014 at 10:52pm
9 pounds, 13 ounces.
21 1/2 inches long.

Why I'm glad this didn't happen at home

If you read my first birth story for Baby K, you could see that I have a tendency to collect unusual medical issues - which is exactly why I didn't want to have the baby at home. A couple minutes after he was born, the cord stopped pulsing so Joe was able to cut it. The placenta was born a few minutes later. But then the nurses noticed there was a lot of blood in the water. Joe took the baby and the nurses helped me onto a bed that they'd pushed right next to the tub. I got out and started shaking (Marta said this is a normal birth thing - although I totally don't remember it happening with K) and my doctor was better able to examine me.

I got a shot of something in my IV to stop the bleeding before she put in some stitches for the second degree tear I had (another reason why only pushing for 10 minutes was not a fabulous idea). Once that was done, I got the baby back and were able to spend time snuggling for about 2 hours before they finished cleaning us up to do weight and height check for A and footprints for the birth certificate.

Would I do it again?

I was asked the next day if I enjoyed my waterbirth experience. My answer to which was, " 'Enjoy' is not really a word I think can be used to describe any vaginal birth experience for most women" (sorry). But I will say I don't think I could have made it through epidural free without the help of the tub and the support I got from Marta and Joe.

Overall, I'm glad I have a healthy baby and I'm so glad I got to work with Marta. If you are looking for a doula in the Portland, Oregon area, I really can't recommend her highly enough. Check out her website, Dragonfly Doula or her facebook page. She did a great job asking questions and supporting both me and Joe through the whole process from end of pregnancy to the day I was in labor but didn't have the baby, through actually giving birth in the hospital. If cost is a concern, be sure to talk to her anyway. She offers reduced rates for moms on WIC as well as for single moms.

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