Around 12:30am on February 10, 2011, the day that Miss Audrey was due, I began having more difficult, menstrual cramp-like, contractions. I had had similar contractions several nights prior to this night, but when they began coming more and more often, I knew Audrey was getting ready. The contractions were so intense they would force me to get out of bed. Leaning on the side of the bed seemed to be the best position for me to get through the pain of each one. We began writing down the start time and time between each contraction at 3:54am. My hubby, Jeremiah, kept the stats for most of the contractions.
Looking back, I realize now just how not so very painful these beginning contractions were compared to what was to come. Around 4am or so I decided it would probably be a good time to call my parents to let them know that I was fairly certain that I was in labor since they were 3 hours away and would need to head out earlier rather than later. We needed them to be here to watch Ava for us. Jeremiah and I decided to go back to bed since it was probably best not to go to the hospital too soon and to allow Ava continue sleeping in her comfy crib. We, of course, didn’t really get back to sleep as my contractions just kept coming, but at least we were able to “rest”. Ava got up around 7:30am. At this point, some of my contractions were actually bringing me to tears. We fed Ava breakfast, packed our things, and head out to Ruby Memorial Hospital.
We arrived there about 9:30am. We headed up to the 6th floor and were initially placed in the triage room. My mom and sister, Brooke, had just arrived at the hospital. Perfect timing. They were able to take Ava back to our house so that she wouldn’t have to wait those long hours in the uncomfortable hospital. While in the triage room, the nurses asked me if my water had broke. I told them that I had felt a small gush at the time of my first contraction when I went to the bathroom but wasn’t convinced that it was my water breaking. Just about that time, shortly after they placed the band on my waist to hold the electronic fetal monitor in place, I felt a significant amount of fluid gush out of me as I was lying on the triage bed just about to have a vaginal exam. Sure enough, my water had broke. Perfect timing again. Betsy, my mid-wife, then checked my cervix for dilation and effacement. I was only 1 ½ cm dilated and 90% effaced. We were then admitted into a large, birthing room.
The contractions began coming faster and longer. In the beginning I was more tolerable to certain sounds and smells, but as time progressed I didn’t hold back on letting someone know if I couldn’t stand the way they smelled or if they were talking too loud. It took an immense amount of effort to focus on breathing and to distract myself from the pain when I was having a contraction. As time went on, the contractions grew closer together and the pain of each began to get worse and worse. I tried different positions. I tried lying, squatting, standing, walking, sitting on the exercise ball, showering, and leaning. No matter what position I was in, the contractions were continuing to take it out of me. I was really starting to get exhausted. I remember a couple times when Jeremiah had to hold me up because I thought I was going to pass out. If I lost focus on how to breathe or forgot to breathe during a contraction, the pain overcame me, and I almost felt as if I was going to faint. My husband truly was a blessing during my whole labor. He let me squeeze his hands during every contraction. He later showed me a mark on his hand where I had squeezed so hard. He was calm and comforting, and I know that I couldn’t have continued to the end without him. He also rubbed my back during most contractions and during the pushing phase. My lower back hurt immensely throughout the whole labor and delivery. Later I found out why… Audrey was posterior (facing my abdomen) and came out with her face pointing upwards. This is also the reason why my contractions were so painful, that and the fact that my water had broke early in labor, which reduced the cushion-effect that would have been provided had it not broke.
I think it was around 2pm when Betsy decided to perform another vaginal exam. She had told me a couple hours before that if I hadn’t progressed to at least 4 cm, she would administer Pitocin to speed things up a little bit. I really did not want Pitocin after having read about the pain involved and contributing negative effects (like almost always having to have an epidural, which I was adamant about not having performed unless absolutely necessary). However, when she checked me, I was right at 4cm, which was a huge blessing. I was also a little sad, though, as I was hoping to be further along, but I continued to think about what Betsy had previously said, “Don’t think about how many contractions are left, just focus on the one that is happening and know that you got through it.” That’s what I did. I knew that if I continued to fear each and every contraction, they would eventually defeat me, and I wasn’t going to give up.
An hour or so went by, and the contractions just kept coming… harder and harder. At this point I was beginning to feel a little defeated. I remember saying that I couldn’t do it anymore. I was thoroughly exhausted… not having slept for many hours and having to literally fight each contraction. The nurse, Kim, and my mid-wife, Betsy, offered me a narcotic, Fentanyl, to take the edge off. Betsy actually told me it was a half dose as she considered that would be more appropriate for my size. The pain med didn't seem to reduce the amount of pain, but it did provide me with the ability to relax a little more, which helped me get a little rest. After the effects of the narcotic wore off, the nurse asked me if it helped any. I told her not really, so Betsy decided to administer the second half. Again, I was able to rest a little, even though the pain was still awful.
After a couple more hours, around 5pm or so (I’m estimating the time because I had more important things to do during my labor than watch the clock) I was really feeling the pain. At this point, I heard myself say again, “I can’t do this anymore!” Betsy then decided to do another vaginal exam to see what, if any, progress my cervix had made. Then I heard her gloriously say, “Oh, Breena, you’re going to be so happy. You’re 8 centimeters.” I then said, “Hallelujah Jesus!” I was past the point of administering an epidural and so very close to the end. Betsy then suggested I get in the shower. I was hesitant but willing. After a couple contractions in the shower, I was begging to get out. It was so difficult to stand without support during those contractions, so Betsy retrieved the exercise ball for me to lean on when I was having a contraction. Although this helped a little, I was still begging to get out. She calming yet firmly said that I could get out after 3 more contractions. I unhappily agreed. After the third one, I got out. I then slowly walked back to the side of the bed. I had shed the gown because, due to its massive size, it was continuing to get in my way. I also requested that they didn’t put the band back on my waist to hold the EFM. I didn’t want anything constricting me or getting in my way at this point.
(Later Jeremiah told me that throughout the whole labor, Betsy was amazed at how calm Audrey was. Her heart rate remained between 130s and 140s. At least one of us was able to remain calm! I’m so proud of her.)
It was then time for Betsy to again check the size and position of my cervix. The time had finally come! I was 10 cm and fully effaced, or as she called it, I was complete. The time to push had come. I initially tried squatting beside the bed, but that quickly became too tiring. Betsy then suggested I squat in the bed with the aid of a squatting bar and lean back in between contractions, but again this was very tiring having to lean up and back every 3 or less minutes. She then suggested I lie back completely. I was, at first, defiant, but decided to give it a try. I, in fact, laid back on my right side having someone continually hold my left leg in the air. This seemed to be the best position. I wouldn’t say the pushing phase was less painful, it was just different painful. Jeremiah rubbed my back throughout the whole pushing process, and he let me squeeze his hand. I was squeezing one of the nurse’s hands as well. When Audrey’s head began to emerge, Betsy told me to reach down and touch her. I couldn’t believe she was almost here. After a couple more pushes, Betsy then told me to reach down and grab my baby. She had finally come through after 16 long hours of labor (roughly an hour of pushing). Jeremiah and I were overwhelmed with joy and love. I held her in my arms watching her take her first breaths of life. She was very alert, breathing perfectly, and a beautiful color. The effects of the narcotic had long worn off, and she hadn’t been affected by it. After the cord quit pulsing, Jeremiah then got to do the honors of cutting it. The nurses then checked her vitals, weighed her, and clothed her before giving her back to me. I then put Audrey on to breastfeed. She immediately latched on and knew just what to do. What a relief and a blessing. Jeremiah and I fell in love with her from the moment we knew we were pregnant, and we will always cherish Audrey’s birth as one of the most miraculous and blessed times in our lives!
Audrey Claire Johnson was born via VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) at 6:34pm on February 10, 2011. She weighed 7 lbs, 12 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. She is healthy and absolutely beautiful!