Dr. Stany arrived to break my water at 9:15ish. The mood was lighthearted and joyful - we joked about making sure this baby was born before 4pm (she was in a wedding that evening), and a nurse popped her head in and declared that this baby was going to be born at 1pm. "1pm?!" we thought - that would be AMAZING!
I had been having off and on mild cramping since we tried Pitocin the first time, so the plan was to break my water and see if these contractions gained strength and progressed into labor. If they spread out, we would restart the Pitocin and see how my body responded.
At 9:30am my water was broken. Labor pain is much worse after your water breaks because there's no cushion between the baby and your uterus/pelvis. My water broke on its own during Amelia's induction and I was ready for my epidural shortly after. This time, I was surprised that having my water broken didn't seem to make much of a difference in how I felt overall. I thought maybe Bettye would feel lower or more uncomfortable, but I just felt the same.
At 9:45, Geraldine came back in and said my contractions had spaced out so we were starting Pitocin. I was bummed, but had felt the light cramps I'd had easing up so I knew this was likely. At least Dr. Stany gave me an opportunity to try and I was really thankful for that. The "no-nonsense" side of Geraldine somehow comforted me. She acted and spoke with authority, but not in an ungentle way. She told me about her first birth: unmedicated, relatively easy, her daughter came very quickly. For her second birth she had planned for it to be unmedicated but she was induced and couldn't handle the Pitocin contractions without an epidural. Her experiences with childbirth were what (we hoped) ours would be - but reversed. She reminded me that making noise during a contraction just causes you to focus more on the pain, but if you quietly focus on your breathing your brain will be distracted and the pain won't overcome you as easily. She said she'd helped deliver babies from a wide variety of cultures and the women who handled childbirth the best were her Amish mothers and Indian mothers. She said they didn't make a sound.
As soon as she started the Pitocin drip, Geraldine helped me change the bed around to be more like a straight-backed chair so I could sit and completely relax and listen to my "Easy First Stage" Hypnobabies track (to which she said, "you're funny..." when I told her about them HA) but be in a good position for contractions. I knew the tracks wouldn't hypnotize me (I hadn't practiced enough), but I knew they would be helpful in keeping me relaxed. Geraldine left, and I told Logan I was going to listen to my tracks as long as I felt like I needed to, despite feeling sort of bad that I was "leaving him out" as I labored. He didn't seem to mind, so I put in my ear buds, relaxed, and focused. (This is what's happening in that right photo up there - he snapped a photo without me knowing, and I'm so glad he did.)
Relax. Breathe. Focus. Repeat.
The contractions came almost immediately after the Pitocin started, this time with power and pain. Through every one I would remind myself, "This pain is helpful. Bettye is moving down, closer to being born. We'll get to see her soon, and this pain is bringing her closer to me. I can't wait to meet her, so I welcome the pain." I would breathe deeply and slowly and focus on relaxing my jaw (thanks to Ina May Gaskin's book on natural childbirth for that one!) in hopes that my entire body would follow.
At some point I realized there was worship music playing behind my Hypnobabies track. I glanced over toward the window seat and saw my sweet husband crouched over his Bible, intently reading. He looked up and I took out one ear bud and quietly told him, "They're starting to get pretty intense." and put it back in. He probably thought I was crazy. I'll never forget breaking my concentration to look over at him in the midst of my pain and seeing a picture of such quiet strength and faith. The whole room felt heavy with a palpable peace, almost like you could take a bite out of it and swallow it.
Kicking It Up A Notch
After maybe 45 minutes (? it felt like that long, but I feel like they bump Pitocin every 20 minutes so I'm not sure?) of sitting on the bed breathing through contractions, Geraldine came in and bumped the Pitocin up. I never made it past the first dose with Amelia (but they left it on that first dose for all seven hours), and seeing her do that sent a wave of panic through me. I quickly refocused on the words I was listening to and went back to reminding myself of why these contractions were positive.
Not long after Geraldine increased the Pitocin, I became restless sitting on the bed. I decided to try sitting on my birth ball while laying my head on the side of the bed, so Logan helped me move between contractions. I'm not sure how long I stayed on the birth ball, but I remember immediately feeling the intensity increase once I was off the bed. It feels like I only stayed on the birth ball for 20 minutes before wanting to try the shower. The second bump of Pitocin certainly made a difference.
A little *IMPORTANT* sidenote: Centennial offers mobile monitoring. This may not mean much to anyone who has gone into spontaneous labor, but if you're being induced you generally have to have continuous fetal monitoring. For Amelia's birth, this meant that I was tethered by a five foot cord to my bed. It was a big elastic monitor wrapped around my belly that was not comfortable and after the 33 hours it took her to arrive, my skin was raw and sensitive from having the gel rubbed on it with the monitor for so long. At Centennial, they place a small patch over your belly button with electrodes coming off of it onto your belly. THAT'S IT. So you can walk around the hospital, use the bathroom, GET IN THE SHOWER (!!!) for pain relief, and feel like a somewhat normal human being while you attempt to birth a baby. IT IS AMAZING.
After not having hydrotherapy available to me (due to continuous fetal monitoring) during Amelia's induction, I was eager to try it this time. But I knew it would be an ordeal to strip down, get the water comfortable, get out without freezing, get dressed, etc, amidst labor. So I wanted to wait until I really felt like it would help.
I had reached that point.
Logan got the water running at a good temperature while I stayed on the birth ball and buried my head in a pillow trying to maintain my relaxation. He asked me how I was doing at one point and I believe I replied, "They're strong.. but I'm feeling good."
After a contraction ended, I stood up to walk to the shower as he pulled my IV pole along. Another contraction began before I made it to the bathroom and I couldn't stand through it so I just dropped to the floor and did my best to keep breathing. I had just taken my earbuds out of my phone and Logan laid it on the floor so I could still hear the track in the bathroom.
I hadn't thought about how I would sit in the shower, and at that point it was difficult for me to find any comfortable position. I couldn't put the monitor on my belly directly in the line of the water, and I wanted the water on my back anyway, so I sat with my back to the stream of water on the edge of the drop down seat they had mounted on the wall. It was terribly uncomfortable. The shower head wouldn't stay up high enough for the water to reach my back, so Logan had to stand there holding the shower head up and I tried not to think about how his arm was probably getting tired. I couldn't hear the Hypnobabies track over the water and I just remember feeling like I was losing control. I reached out and gripped the hand rail in front of me and hung on for dear life through every contraction and kept struggling to focus and remind myself of why this contraction was beneficial... but the pain was taking over.
Maintaining the Peace
Starting to feel completely overwhelmed by the pain, I looked at Logan and barely blurted out, "I'm reaching a point..."
I wondered if I had a full bladder again, so maybe the contractions were this painful because of that. I also tried not to think about how long it had been and when Geraldine would be back to crank up the Pitocin again. I tried not to think about Dr. Stany's 4 o'clock wedding, and the nurse guessing this baby would be here by 1pm. Focus. Relax. Breathe. Loose jaw--DEAR LORD IT HURTS SO MUCH. I somehow made it to the toilet (about two feet away) and told Logan to call Geraldine to check how dilated I was.
Feeling like the stress of the pain was starting to break the peace, I wanted to know how close Bettye was getting. When I felt this way with Amelia, I was at 6cm and ultimately decided to get an epidural. I figured I was probably at a 5 or 6 currently and that it was time to get the epidural so I could return to a peaceful state of mind. I wondered if I would regret that later on, but remembered our goal of a peaceful birth and felt good about getting one.
As I attempted to use the bathroom (no luck), Logan jogged over to the bed (like I said, the room was enormous!) and called the nurse. Everything suddenly felt urgent. He was looking at me when he said, "I think we're ready for an epidural!" to the nurse on the line and I shouted "NO!" - I had just asked to be checked and would THEN decide if I wanted an epidural - and immediately collapsed into another contraction. Shouting had completely thrown my zen off and I suddenly felt completely overwhelmed and scared. I told him to turn off my phone - I didn't want to hear the Hypnobabies woman anymore. I needed quiet.
Geraldine rushed in as I tried to get to the bed. "I feel weak.. I feel like I'm going to throw up..." is all I could get out. With a sense of urgency, she grabbed my arm and tried to help me on the bed but another contraction came. I just laid there halfway on the bed as we all waited. When it passed I crawled as fast as I could up the rest of the way and flipped over. I briefly thought, "I hope another contraction doesn't come while she's checking me.." knowing how painful that can be.
Before I knew it, she said, "You're an 8! Maybe a 9!" and at this point I was completely terrified by the pain. I managed to mumble, "I feel like I need to poop!" (Oh, the things you say during labor!) Her face lit up with a huge smile and she said, "That's the baby's head! DON'T PUSH." and ran out of the room.
Bettye is Born
Immediately after she left I looked at Logan (I'm sure I looked like I was staring in the face of a ghost, I was so scared) and said, "I have to push. I have to push!!! I can't not push!" He was squeezing my hand and yelled toward the door, "SHE'S PUSHING!!!!" I kept thinking, "Dad gummit I should've gotten that stupid epidural! I waited too long! It's too much, what was I thinking?! Am I a 10 yet? She said I was almost a 9..." (I guess I went to a 10 pretty quickly because it wasn't an issue.)
The first push brought so much relief, but the pain immediately intensified following it. Geraldine ran back in with a whole entourage of nurses and I couldn't breathe anymore. She saw me holding my breath and told me I HAD to breathe. She said to imagine a feather above my nose and I had to keep it in the air - "hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo.." It helped a lot.
It washed over me again. I HAVE TO PUSH. Logan said, "Look at me! Look at me!" trying to help me focus and I said, "I can't! I can't!" and had my eyes dead set on this random dot on the ceiling. I couldn't take my eyes off it.
I hear Geraldine say, "Dad! Dad! Look down!" and Logan looks down and his whole face is overcome with emotion. His eyes well up with tears and there it is again: that urge.
I pushed and immediately feel the biggest sigh of relief I have ever felt in my entire life. She was here! Logan was smiling and had tears rolling down his cheeks and we both just kept saying, "We did it! WE DID IT!" and I just couldn't believe that she was here. I watched Logan cut the cord and I got to hold my precious Bettye as Geraldine toweled her off (that's her in the photo!). I just kept repeating, "I can't believe it.. I can't believe it.. Did that just happen..." It was probably the most emotional moment of my entire life. I was emotional on my wedding day, but I knew what I could expect. This was an entirely new and different experience, and with Amelia's birth I was incredibly sick immediately following her birth and I didn't meet her for five hours.. so that moment was delayed.
From me saying, "I'm reaching a point," to Bettye being born was about the span of ten or fifteen minutes. It all happened so fast, I was in complete disbelief.
The worship music was still playing and our room felt like it had a whole choir of angels in it. Everyone was smiling. Geraldine said she'd walked past the room and didn't hear me making any noise so she thought, "Oh there's no way she's close.." We laughed that I took her advice on not making noise, and that she got to catch her first baby after being an L&D nurse for almost two years. She told me how proud of me she was. Then someone mentioned that the official birth time was 11:07am.
I had completely lost track of time and could not believe my EARS that my entire labor had only taken an hour and a half. I was absolutely shocked. Right about at the same time, Dr. Stany came running in and said, "Nooooo!!!"
She was in jogging clothes and sweaty. I remembered that she said she was going to go for a jog after she broke my water (we were the only patients on the floor and inductions generally aren't scheduled for the weekend). She said when she was paged that I was pushing, she flagged down a car and asked if they could give her a ride back to Centennial. She was running in Centennial Park, and the woman in the car had been there for a 5k for ovarian cancer. Dr. Stany said the woman shared that her mother had passed away at the age of 33 from ovarian cancer. Dr. Stany asked her if she still had her ovaries (yes), her age (56), and promptly told her to get rid of her ovaries before thanking her for the ride and jumping out of the car at the hospital. We all laughed that she got such a good story out of my quick delivery. She was so disappointed that she missed the birth, but I assured her I was just happy Bettye was here and healthy, and thanked for her helping create our perfect birth for us.
After Dr. Stany finished all the post-birth stuff up and everything settled down, Logan and I were left alone with Bettye to contemplate the morning. The worship music was still playing, we couldn't seem to keep the tears out of our eyes, and in the quiet of the afternoon we just felt overcome with humility and gratefulness. We both felt so overwhelmed by the gift we felt was just given to us. The funny thing too, is that I don't feel any sense of pride in having an unmedicated birth. I feel like somehow I cheated the system... that I was given this birth as a gift. I didn't do anything of my own strength, rather just relied on the peace of God and focused on relaxing, and I don't really feel a sense of pride or badge of honor that some do about their unmedicated birth.
All in all, Bettye's birth brought us healing. We felt the Lord's presence with us throughout the entire process - His peace, His joy, His strength - every step of the way. We are so thankful for the redemption He has shown us through the whole experience, and we are immensely enjoying being a family of four. We feel like He took us on a very personal journey starting on September 3, 2014 and "ending" on October 22, 2016 as it relates to childbirth. He lead us through a learning process, a growing journey, and a crazy adventure with a lot of highs and a lot of lows, and while we did not do anything to deserve such a beautiful birth this time around, we are incredibly thankful. I learned a lot about pride and humility, and His deep and unending grace.
Thank you for reading our birth story. There is so much more I want to share about this pregnancy and the way the Lord prepared my heart for her early arrival, but maybe I'll get to that later on. Thank you for making it this far!