Please forgive me for taking a little break from my teaching resources to share the news of our newest addition! If you like birth stories, this is for you. If not, skip to the end. 🙂
I think it should be a rule that women who are 5’2″ should not have big babies.
If there is such a rule, my body hasn’t gotten the memo.
As always, I spent the last month of my pregnancy assuring people that “No, it isn’t twins. Yes, we’re sure. No, really. It’s impossible.” Those last thirty days were long and painful. I don’t know that I’ve ever had so many looks of sympathy from friends and strangers – as I walked at a snail’s pace in the grocery store, in the parking lot, or at church. The baby was mercifully out of my ribs, but it was so low that every step hurt.
As much as I dreaded natural childbirth, I was ready to get it over and done with.
My doctor wanted to induce me because of my history of big babies (our fifth baby was 12 days late and huge) and the fact that I had gestational diabetes.
But even though I was miserable, I wanted the baby to come on its own timeline. I resisted the idea of induction, mainly because I didn’t want a host of medical interventions – least of all Pitocin, which would make it very difficult to have a natural birth because of the increased intensity of the contractions.
I felt that I had proved that my body could have big babies. I had done it before. What was the urgency? But my doctor’s concern was that big gestational diabetes babies are built differently than regular big babies. He was concerned about shoulder dystocia, and was adamant that I not go past my due date. He was willing to break my water first and see if labor started on its own before giving Pitocin.
Finally, I gave in. We prayed fervently that the baby would come before the induction (at 39 weeks, 6 days), but that wasn’t God’s plan. On December 21 we left the house at 6:30 AM for the scheduled induction. I was worried and scared, and the tears flowed on the ten minute drive to the hospital.
At 7:15 AM, the doctor broke my water to start the induction.
My husband and I began our walks around the birthing center. I held onto the railing, and he held my other hand as I hobbled along. And so we moved – ever so slowly – around the perimeter, while I received the same looks of sympathy I’d been getting for the past month. After short periods of walking, we took breaks in which I sat on the birthing ball. It was important that I keep moving to give my body every possible chance to begin labor on its own rather than with Pitocin.
Happily, at about 10:15 AM my contractions were becoming noticeable. Soon afterward, they began to be painful. I was ready to move into the shower, the place where I spent most of my labor for our fifth baby.
At about 11:30 AM I began what would turn out to be more than ten hours in the shower.
I sat on the ledge, with the jets spraying my back, and I held the long hose to spray water on my contracting belly. My husband talked me through my breathing and relaxation exercises. It was all doable. But it was obvious this was not going to be quick.
Don’t you think that when you’re on your sixth labor you should get a short one? I seem to defy all the birth predictions. My labors have not gotten shorter – they have stayed about the same – typically 10-11 hours from first contraction to delivery.
At about 1:30 PM the doctor had the nurse check me to see how I was doing. By this point he had decided we didn’t need Pitocin, since inducing labor by breaking water had done the trick. (Thank you, Lord!) I was in enough pain that I hoped to be at least 6 cm dilated, especially since I had been at 3 cm for the last few weeks.
How discouraging, then, to learn that I was dilated just 4 centimeters!
Ugh!! Three hours of painful contractions, and I had only moved one centimeter. All I could think was, “This is going to take forever. I should just get an epidural now and save myself the torture.”
But in my heart I really didn’t want an epidural, and getting one that early felt ridiculous and premature. Sure, I was in pain, but it was manageable. And there were at least 5 minutes between contractions. I’ve always had my mind open to an epidural if it felt necessary, but I knew it wasn’t time to give in.
My biggest goal was staying on top of my contractions and not giving in to fear.
Through each contraction I closed my eyes, breathed in and out, and visualized a tiny mountain climber getting to the top of another mountain. I repeated “perfect peace, perfect peace,” as he climbed. I was remembering a Bible passage which helped calm my fears in the weeks before labor: “You will keep those in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
At 3:30 PM it was time for another check. My husband asked if they should keep the dilation number secret from me, and I quickly agreed. I knew how easily I was discouraged.
After labor was over he revealed what the number had been, and I’m so glad he hadn’t told me during labor – because it was still a 4! That would have put me over the edge!
Two hours later, I was checked again. Again the number was kept secret. It was a 6.
The day dragged on and on and on. It was getting much more painful now.
I was switching between sitting on the shower ledge and moving to the floor on my knees, draped over the birthing ball. This position was much more painful, but it increased the intensity of the contractions, and we knew that the more painful and intense the contractions, the sooner this whole ordeal would be over.
All I could think was, “There is no way I’m writing about this birth story. I don’t want to remember this!!”
Every two hours, the nurse checked my blood sugar. The concern was that, with my gestional diabetes, my blood sugar would be high at the delivery, and then the baby’s would come crashing down after it was born. If the reading was too high, I would be put on an insulin drip. The last thing I wanted was to be tethered to an IV.
After each blood sugar check, my husband brought me cheese, carrots, and some crackers. It was imperative that I stay well nourished, but I had to time my carb consumption so that it had two hours to work through my system before my next blood sugar check. I’m not sure if this was “working the system.” Whatever the case, it worked. 😉
Things were getting more and more painful now. I couldn’t believe we were still at it. Oh, how I wanted to be done!
Before long I was hitting transition. Oh, the contractions! They wouldn’t stop!
They just went on and on, and now the breaks weren’t breaks at all – just lower intensity contractions. I was groaning with my breathing now, and the little mountain climber in my head had disappeared – because he never came down that mountain!!
I began to feel pressure and felt it must, must be time to push. We took the dreadful walk from the bathroom to the bed for the nurse to check. This time she revealed my number, and horrors – I was at an eight! I couldn’t believe it! Two more centimeters to go at this pace – how on earth could I do it? This was the only time during the labor that I lost it and began to cry. “An eight? What?! How can I only be at an eight? I can’t do this anymore!!”
The doctor (who had come by in case this was it), nurse, and my husband all encouraged me. “You’re doing great, Anna! Keep going!”
Miserably I hobbled back to the shower, where transition was in full force. This was where an epidural would have come in very handy. But it was too late to go back. There was no way I’d be able to sit still for it. I knew we had to be near the end.
By now I was elbowing my husband, hard, with each contraction, completely overwhelmed by the pain. My last labor included a very short, manageable transition. This, by comparison, had turned into my hardest, longest labor.
Finally at around 9:30 or 10:00 PM we headed back out for another check. I was at nine centimeters, and the nurse encouraged me to stay on the bed, as I had just a little while to go.
That last hour was a whirlwind of pain and misery.
I elbowed my husband with my left arm and gripped the nurse’s hand with my right.
The doctor wanted to check me to see if it was time to push – but how? There were no breaks!
Finally he had a chance – “The head is right there. It’s time!”
They urged me to hold my legs up behind my thighs, but I couldn’t focus – I couldn’t fight the pushing, and I couldn’t think about anything else at the same time. I don’t remember if I ever grabbed my legs, but I just pushed past the pain, and in just a couple of minutes my husband cheered. “Anna, the head is out!” I screamed through the last push, and we had our baby! Oh, praise the Lord!
Immediately upon his exit our big boy sprayed the doctor. I turned to my husband in exhaustion and joy, “We did it – praise God, we did it! Four boys…!”
Our precious gift weighed in at 10 lbs 12 oz, joining his two sisters and three brothers in our busy, blessed home. He was baptized just a few days later, in a beautiful Christmas service.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever!”