The day before my induction was scheduled, I grieved the loss of my final chance to have a drug-free labor. Three times In my life, I had spent my pregnancies preparing for an unmedicated childbirth and three times my stubborn offspring refused to vacate my uterus until being forcibly evicted by a healthy dose of pitocin. I'd always said that my desire for this kind of birth was because “pregnancy isn't a disease,” but in reality, I just wanted to have that life experience to my name. It's true that you don't get a merit badge for giving birth without an epidural, but nevertheless, it was an accomplishment I would have been proud of. Would have, but never had the opportunity of trying.
This was my last child and I knew it. And the doctor said it was time for him to come out.
I grieved this loss of the experience and then quickly moved to acceptance. I was comforted by the familiarity of the routine. I’d had two inductions and the two most complication-free labors and deliveries of any of my friends. Both of my daughters were born after relatively short labors and painless, epidural-numbed deliveries. When my second daughter was born, I actually laughed while pushing because it seemed ridiculous that I could possibly be doing anything effective as I felt nothing at all. I was looking forward to getting the boring part over with and being handed my son.
As the nurse got me set up with the monitors and I.V., she reminded me that I would be given antibiotics for Group B Strep (GBS). If you're not familiar with GBS, it's a bacteria that is present in the vaginas of a quarter of all healthy adult women and is harmless to us but can be very dangerous to newborns if it passes to them during birth. The drugs are meant to prevent that from happening. Since I had a history of brief labors, I asked how long it would take to get a full dose of the antibiotics and the nurse said four hours per bag of the liquid administered through my I.V. I relaxed when I heard that, feeling reassured that I my little guy would be fine.
I knew from previous experience that all the coping mechanisms I've learned, from hypnosis to positioning, were no match for the intensity of a pitocin-induced labor, so upon I shamelessly requested an epidural at the anesthesiologist’s earliest convenience.
The predictable routine continued—My doctor broke my water, my mother and sister arrived, and I received my requested epidural. After being in labor for three hours, the sleepless night and early morning arrival overcame the adrenaline that I'd been running on and I started to drift off as I reclined in the hospital bed. The nurse told me I was at progressing well and had dilated two centimeters in the three hours I'd been in labor, so I told my family that they could go get breakfast since I wanted to grab a few minutes of sleep.
Afer months of being too big to get comfortable in my own bed, that tiny hospital bed with the adjustable back felt like heaven. I rested soundly, awakened occasionally by the sound of my own snoring (am I the only mom who’s done that while pregnant?). When that happened, I would notice the faint tightening of a contraction in my abdomen and blissfully, painlessly fall back asleep, happy to think that each wave of pressure was bringing my baby closer to birth.
After an hour, I woke up one last time and realized I no longer felt any pressure in my stomach. I started to worry that my labor had stalled when I felt a curious pressure in between my legs. I'd never felt anything like this before. I'd always been completely numb for delivery with my previous two births.
When the nurse came in, I brought it to her attention. I hedged when I spoke, not wanting to sound too confident or demanding. “I know it's probably nothing,” I said, “And I know it's probably way too early, but I feel like I might be getting ready to push.”
She checked my cervix and announced that I'd gone from 5 cm dilated to 9.5 during the hour I slept! She called my doctor and made some notes on the computer and while she did, my body was overcome with such tremendous pain that I struggled to be polite. I told her I felt like I needed to push. She checked me again and discovered that I was already completely dilated.
Apparently my epidural couldn't keep up with the rapid pace that my labor was taking. I was wracked with pain during every contraction and since I strapped to a heart rate monitor, an epidural, a blood pressure cuff, and an I.V., there was no change I could make to relieve the pain. My husband held my hand, my mother rubbed my legs, and I tried to relax as much as I could knowing that each contraction would only last for a few deep breaths.
I warned he nurse that I felt like my body was going to start pushing whether I wanted it to or not and at that moment, my beautiful doctor arrived on a white horse and wearing a suit of shining scrubs. At the next contraction she told me to push. I pushed through it and the chorus of voices around me cried that they could see his head! The contraction ended and I prepared to rest when the surge was over, but instead my doctor told me to keep going. I was confused and in pain and a little pissed off that my pain medication wasn't making a difference. “What the hell is going on?!” I screamed as I obediently pushed again.
And suddenly it was over. The baby—my baby—my Dylan—was in my arms after a few minutes of effort.
The labor had been so intense and I had lost so much blood that I couldn't hold him on my own. My trembling arms held on as long as I could, but I had to hand him off to his father.
My last labor was not the kind I'd dreamed of nor was it the kind I was used to, but I have no regrets. My childbearing years came to a close quite dramatically as though the door to my womb slammed shut, but I've had five years of healthy pregnancies and three healthy babies. No miscarriages. No cesarean sections. There's no point in me ever buying a lottery ticket because I'm pretty sure I've used up all the luck a person can ask for in life.