This one's just for the record. Read at your discretion.
Throughout our pregnancy I've referred to marathon training as my comparison to preparing for the arrival of Asher. The 26.2 mile race is long, exhausting and requires months of training to prepare for and complete successfully. While I realize that this baby was coming whether or not we "trained", it's not in our DNA to go into something like this unprepared. What we didn't realize is that nothing can truly prepare you...
Some background - Austin and I chose to use what is known as the Bradley Method for our natural childbirth plan. This method includes a coach (in this case, Austin) and a quiet environment to labor in. There are no special breathing techniques or particular distraction mechanisms. This method deals with labor head on for what it is and how to manage through it without drugs. I made Austin promise me that if I reached a breaking point during the labor process and asked for an epidural that he push me. I wasn't going to allow myself to give in easily, even if I had to make Austin be the bad guy.
And so the last leg of our pregnancy race begins...
10:30 pm Sunday, January 3oth -
We were five days past our due date. I had been experiencing contractions all day but they were sporadic and manageable. I refused to think too much of it as I had experienced false labor twice in the weeks prior.
At 10:30 that night I noticed the contractions were getting a little stronger and more organized. I asked Austin to time them and sure enough, they were about five minutes a part and about 45 seconds long. According to the Bradley Method you could labor like this for hours so you're better off staying home. Still, something in my gut said to page the doctor on call, just to brief her on what was happening. By this time it was 11pm on Sunday night and I thought it was only fair to let her know what was going on. Dr. Sloan said what any doctor would say - go to the hospital and get checked and they'll send you home if you're not ready. It as a good thing too because my water broke while packing up our bags!
11:30 pm Sunday, January 30th -
We checked into the hospital. After some tests they determined that my water had at least partially broke and I was 1 cm dilated (which I had been for three weeks.) We were on lock down, not going home. We unpacked, Austin set up a cot in the room and we attempted to get some rest, however futile the effort.
6:30 am Monday, January 31st -
There's a shift change with the nurses. Another check and our new nurse says I'm at 2 cm. Dang. We needed to be progressing faster if I was going to the beat the 24 hour threshold from the time my water broke. They say after 24 hours the risk of infection and other things climbs and they start talking about a C-Section. That was definitely not in the birth plan.
Later that morning Dr. Shimer, the next doctor on call, arrives and checks me. No progress. He mentions starting me on pitocin to help speed up the process. We decide to hold off and he'll see where we're at mid afternoon when he returns.
4:30 pm Monday, January 31st -
I'm still having contractions, walking the halls, trying to get things going but no real progress. Because we're now staring down some serious decisions in the next six hours, Austin and I decide to opt in for the pitocin to see if it helps. Keep in mind, I still don't have an epidural. Dr. Shimer finally returns to the hospital around 5 pm after performing an emergency C-Section at another hospital. He checks me and breaks the rest of my water. Still only dilated to a two.
Here's where the uphill climb begins. The contractions intensify drastically over the next six hours thanks to both the pitocin and the rest of my water being broken. We learn that Asher is face up which meant his spine was up against mine and with every contraction our bones were grinding on each other. This is referred to as back labor. Payback for what I put my mom through when I entered the world.
We labor for a solid four or more hours. Austin's in full coach mode. Every contraction he's by my side, rubbing my back, talking me through it. He's getting me wet wash cloths, helping me to the bathroom and helping me change positions when I need to. As the night progresses the contractions, (thanks to the pitocin), start to come at me one on top of the other, some stair-stepping in threes in intensity, leaving little to no time for rest in between.
10:00 pm Monday, January 31st -
The nurse checks me and I've reached a six...not enough to keep me in good spirits. I'm sick from the back pain and relentless contractions, I haven't eaten in over 24 hours and sleep is somewhat of a pastime at this point. I think to myself, I'm suppose to get to a ten and THEN push him out face up??? I lose it. I break down and tell Austin I can't go on without an epidural. Staying true to his promise he pushes me to keep at it for another hour. The entire time he's torn up inside, watching me suffer.
11:00 pm Monday, January 31st -
I'm in tears and with every contraction that starts up I begin to hyperventilate. I beg for the epidural and Austin gives in. The nurse calls for the anesthesiologist. We wait for another 45 long minutes, continuing to work through the labor.
12:00 am Tuesday, February 1st -
The epidural is in and I'm finally able to rest. The only thing I feel is relief. I don't regret anything. The hours of pain and breaking down was part of the journey for us. We gave it our best. I even made the statement of "we'll try for it again next time."
Our family had been camped out for hours in the waiting room and Austin and I agree to let them back for a moment to say hi before we settle in to rest.
Once everyone is gone our nurse, Nicole, dims the lights and says she'll be in to monitor our progress every few minutes. Austin drifts into a light sleep and I lay there waiting. Within the next hour Nicole is back, asking me to change positions as it seems the baby doesn't like the way I'm laying. After a few tries we find a spot he likes and his heart rate stops dropping.
Another 30 or 45 minutes goes by and Nicole is back with another nurse. I grow a bit concerned. Seems that no matter which position I'm in (including on all fours on the bed, which was interesting with a epidural) the baby was struggling. She tells me to hang tight, she's going to call Dr.Shimer. I try to stay calm.
Little time passes before Dr.Shimer's back at the hospital and standing at my bedside. He checks me again and I haven't dilated any further. Austin stirs from his light sleep to catch a few words..."baby's heart rate is dropping with contractions...may need to think about a C-section". The roller coaster has just plunged with little warning, especially for Austin. With the nurses in and out I had wondered if this might be our fate. Once the idea of risk was introduced there was no question - let's get this baby out. C-sections it was going to be. Everything starts to move quickly.
Austin's being thrown scrubs and told to grab the cameras. I ask if he can tell the family before we start. That walk had to be one of the longest of his life...it's almost 3 am, 28 hours into this leg of the race and he now has to tell our family that we've reached a point that the baby is at risk and we're now headed in for a procedure puts me on the operating table. There wasn't even time to digest it.
3:00 am Tuesday, February 1st -
Austin's back, my additional block has been administered and I'm being wheeled into the operating room. The drape goes up and we're asked if we have a name for the little guy. We had picked out two but hadn't decided on which one. I look at Austin and we agree on James Asher. He grabs my hand, kisses me and then looks on as I'm being sliced open. Jay, the anesthesiologist, stands by my head and gives me the play by play. The anesthetic is causing me to shake and all I can do is stare at the ceiling, breathe and wait for the first cry.
Within minutes Jay is telling Austin to go ahead and start taking pictures. Asher's being lifted out of my belly and suddenly we hear a cry. I exhale. Asher's here. He's alive. We made it. 3:38 am on February 1st, 2011. He weighed in at a healthy 8 pounds and 3 ounces, 20 and half inches long and has one nasty bump on his head from the contractions trying to pushing him out of my not so dilated cervix. Austin follows the nurses to the corner of the room to be with Asher and take pictures while while the doctor sews me up.
The next hour is a blur. I get to meet Asher for about 30 seconds while I'm still on the operating table. All I can do is kiss him and talk to him before they take him away. Austin goes with Asher and I'm rolled into recovery. Shaking like a leaf from the anesthetic and exhaustion I ask for something to eat and water. I hadn't had anything but ice chips and popsicles since dinner, Sunday night. I also ask for the new grandmas to come back. I knew icy weather was rolling in and that everyone needed to get home soon so there was no time to waste.
The grandmas and Austin come back, say hello, hold Asher. I attempt to nurse for the first time, still shaking like crazy and finally cave and say I need to rest. I had nothing left. Everyone, including Asher leaves and I attempt to sleep.
A couple of hours later I'm wheeled into our post-pardom room where I find Austin. The sisters are still there and come in for a moment to hold Asher and then head home. I attempt to nurse again. All starts to quiet down and now we're alone, with our new son. The roller coaster has come to stop and reality sets in. And so do the tears. The last 36 hours were surreal, leaving us little time to think. Now it was time to digest everything. The last .2 of our race was complete and we had finally crossed the finish line. It was just different than we had planned.
Looking back I regret nothing. While we had a plan and attempted to stick to it we also knew when our plan was no longer going to work. Austin was amazing. He rolled up his sleeves and was literally an active part of the labor process, on my bed, sweating with me. I wouldn't have made it as far as I had without him and without attempting the natural method we would have missed the opportunity to grow as a couple. I am a lucky girl.
I now have an even more profound respect for both what God has made as well as modern medicine. The Lord gave us life and we in turn have created ways to insure that we remain healthy and safe. Such a gift.
As for the scar, I will wear it proudly, forever. And so we are a family of three.