A caveat: I record my birth stories mainly for my own memory (because I never think I’ll forget, but I do) and also for people out there who just enjoy birth stories. (I do!) So, it’s long and it’s probably more detailed than it needs to be, but hey, now you’ve been warned 🙂
I had very high hopes for Milo’s birth. Freya’s pregnancy and delivery were rough (you can read her birth story here), but this pregnancy had been so different. I started the pregnancy 35 lbs lighter and had eaten well and exercised right till the end. My blood pressure had not been an issue, my blood sugars were beautiful. I passed all of my geriatric mom hurdles with flying colors and felt like quite the star patient of my new midwife office (my beloved Barbara retired a couple months after Freya was born).
That is, until my 38 week appointment. My blood pressure was only a little bit high, but high enough that they ordered bloodwork to check for preeclampsia (nope) and told me to keep an eye on my BP at home. I was told to call if it got higher than 145/95 (either top or bottom number reaching those thresholds). At home, it behaved nicely for the next couple days.
Two days later at a routine non-stress test to monitor baby’s heart rate and movement, my BP was 140/86. She rechecked me a few minutes later and the systolic was 142. Both were below my threshold, so I wasn’t worried, but I could tell the nurse was. She consulted the doctor and then delivered the news I was hoping not to hear this time: I needed to be induced for high blood pressure. Again. Despite all my healthy eating and exercising. I wasn’t going to get to labor naturally at home in my bath tub and get to the hospital just in time like the good old days.
I shed a few tears at the sudden change of plans and at the realization that I wasn’t going to get to pack my own hospital bag or kiss my babies goodbye before embarking on this ordeal. Then I rallied, called Trevor, and drove myself to the other side of the hospital to check myself into labor and delivery.
Once I was settled in my air-conditioned room with lovely nurses chatting with me, I began to remember some of the benefits of an induction. No parenting between contractions, no playing the when-is-it-time-to-go-in game (which always happens awkwardly in the middle of the night!). Just a comfortable room with a TV and some extended date time with Trevor.
I was swabbed for COVID (negative!), which was not as terrible as I had feared, although the swab was certainly long enough to reach right into my brain! I was pleasantly distracted from getting my IV inserted by the nurse on my left by having to list all my children’s birth dates for the nurse on my right. I breathed a sigh of relief once all that was done, and when Trevor arrived a couple hours later with Chick-fil-A, I felt excited to get started on having a baby.
My midwife (Kerith was my midwife for that first afternoon, isn’t that a beautiful name?!) suggested skipping the first medication I had had with Freya’s induction (cervadil) since I was already very slightly dilated, and starting with a stronger oral med (cytotec). I remarked happily (but mostly kiddingly) to Trevor that that should mean a 12-hour-shorter labor!
I felt mild contractions from the cytotec, but I was still mostly able to sleep through that first night, and when I woke up I had progressed from 1 to 2 cm. We started pitocin that morning at around 10. I was allowed to eat breakfast since things weren’t super far along yet. (And since I had told every nurse and midwife since we arrived on Wednesday afternoon not to expect a baby before Friday based on my previous labors!)
That day was mostly spent passing the time in between very noticeable but manageable contractions. We watched some TV, played on our phones, chatted. I even crocheted a little. Around 3 we video chatted with the kids, and I was still able to fake smile through contractions well enough to fool all but the most observant. We thought maybe we’d chat again later that evening.
I skipped lunch in favor of some snacks, but by dinner time I was hungry and still only 3 cm as of my most recent check, so they let me eat a proper meal.
After dinner I settled into some hard, strong, regular contractions that felt like they were really doing something. There was no way I was going to have that second video call with the kids. I put on some music and got into my zone for an hour or two. Trevor and I both sensed that things were getting close, but then…
At 7pm, the shifts changed. A new midwife (Pat) and the nurse team from the previous night (Lisa and Taylor) came in in a flurry of activity and introduced themselves . We picked up that there were several other moms close to delivering (including two sets of twin moms!) and something in me seemed to switch off. It wasn’t my turn yet.
My contractions spaced out a bit and became less intense. For a while I didn’t mind the break. Trevor took a nap in my bed while I labored in a chair. But by the time midnight rolled around and nothing much was happening, I was frustrated and ready to make some progress again.
Pat the midwife checked me, and I was 7 cm. Those hard contractions had been doing something after all! But at this point, my body wasn’t responding as well to the pitocin any more. We both remembered from Freya’s labor that the pitocin receptors get used up after too many hours of pitocin and they need to be flushed in order for the body to respond properly again. (I was skeptical of this last time, but apparently it is a real thing!) The midwife suggested switching it off completely at 1 am and switching it back on at 2 to have a baby.
At this point, although my contractions were weak, they felt like transition contractions, like it was *almost* go time. I agreed to the switch-off plan, but secretly thought my labor might just keep ticking along. It didn’t! With the pitocin off, I had two or three more weak contractions, and then absolutely nothing.
I’m not quite sure why, but this made me feel panicked. Like, that the baby might be trying to be born, but we had just switched off the vehicle that could make it happen. It was so strange to feel so close to giving birth and then suddenly be not at all in labor. We called Pat back into the room, and she listened to my concerns and hooked me back up to the monitor.
She reassured me that baby was fine, and we restarted pitocin at a little after 2am as planned.
They set me at a low dose, so although the contractions again felt *almost* like pushing contractions, they were sometimes ten or more minutes apart, intense but not quite strong enough to push with. It was a strange part of labor to be stuck at. With every contraction, she asked if I felt the urge to push. “I don’t know. Sort of?”
We also saw during this time that baby’s heart rate was dropping during contractions, which I don’t remember ever happening with my previous births (although for most of them I wasn’t hooked up to continuous monitoring.) It scared me, and I remember thinking (wishing, maybe?) that I might at any moment be whisked away for a c-section. I felt that my labor was never going to end, and at the same time, my old familiar fear of pushing haunted me.
Finally, at around 4, Pat suggested breaking my water. She really thought that would progress things quickly and I’d have my baby in no time. I think she was more nervous about the heart decelerations than she let on, and I am thankful in hindsight for her good poker face.
This was when things got exciting. I was lying on my side in my (state of the art, fancy, convertible, just-for-giving-birth-in) bed when she broke my water, which was the position I fully expected to give birth in. This was at 4:41 am.
On my very next contraction, I felt the familiar urge to push that had eluded me for so long. Suddenly Pat sprang into action, frantically instructing the nurses to remove the bottom part of the bed and raise the whole bed up, so she could deliver the baby without bending down (bad back, apparently). Just moments later on the second contraction, I was pushing and there was no stopping me.
Some of the events here I am only aware of because Trevor told me afterwards, but we have now pieced together enough of Milo’s actual birth to perform a very entertaining reenactment using our living room chair with the ottoman playing the part of the removable piece of the delivery bed.
I was lying on the crack of the removable piece when Pat ordered it to be dropped out from under me, so I scrambled (while giving birth, remember!) to scooch myself backwards onto the part of the bed that was staying put, while holding onto the arm supports for dear life. Then Pat told the nurses to raise the foot supports and get my legs up. I have never liked this position and vehemently told them no. The nurse on my left listened to me and stopped, but the one on my right kept trying to get my leg up.
Meanwhile, baby! Pat was desperately trying to encourage me to slow down and not push so hard, but I saw my window of escape and I was not to be reasoned with. I hated the pushing, but I knew it meant the end and my baby.
Milo came flying into the world on a moving table, caught (Trevor says rather precariously, midflight) by a very surprised midwife who apparently didn’t really expect breaking my water to work quite so quickly. He arrived at 4:53 AM, 12 minutes after my water was broken and exactly 12 hours to the minute later than the time Freya was born, just as I had predicted.
There was an immediate chorus of “it’s a boy!” I laughed and cried and thanked Jesus aloud and possibly even quoted some Scripture. Although we had both really felt strongly that he might be a boy, hearing those words still came as such a complete shock. Trevor was very quiet and serious for a while after he was born (I discovered later that this mainly because he had just watched them nearly drop first me and then Milo on the floor, and maybe only a little bit because we had actually had a boy this time.) Meanwhile I was raised as high as the bed would go to receive the couple of stitches I needed. I’m sure I was about four feet off the ground. I do believe we saw this magical bed perform just about every function in its repertoire!
Despite a rather frantic few moments at the end, I truly loved the team that brought Milo into the world. In the aftermath of his birth, the room was aglow with warm laughter and chatting and excitement. A nurse from a previous shift even stopped by to show me the prediction she had jotted down on a napkin the day before: “male”!
He latched on well right away, and we had a long sweet cuddle before they borrowed him to clean and weigh him. I know it didn’t feel it at the time (maybe it never does?) but I look back on his birth already with such fondness. It wasn’t the birth I thought I wanted, but it was just the right story for him.