I thought I'd try to write out how the birth of Elsa came about while I still remember it :)
Friday I started swelling but assumed it was due to the heat. Saturday, I felt moderately better, but also did quite a bit of work outside and the swelling was persistent. Sunday, we went out early to pick up a gift for Ethan's friend and run a few errands. I felt pretty icky and was swollen again. My blood pressures were coming back quite high at home but I wanted to try to get one on a different machine to make sure. We did that at a pharmacy and it was high, so I called the midwives, who told me that I needed to come in ASAP.
So Jason dropped me at the hospital and took off to entertain the kids and, presumably, pick me up in a little bit with nothing more than maybe orders to do some bed rest and drink more water or something. But he waited and waited and waited and didn't hear anything. I was in the triage area in the hospital and there was NO cell coverage and they didn't want me to move around, as even laying down my blood pressure was quite high. They drew blood and found a few signs that things were going downhill. Even after laying down for nearly 2 hours my blood pressures were still in the unsafe ranges.
My midwife showed up and started talking induction and I started crying. I really wasn't prepared for this to happen, and I didn't want to be induced! For the time, my midwife agreed to put me in a room for observation and that I'd need to stay overnight just to make sure I wouldn't get worse. So I got moved to a regular room and was finally able to contact Jason and let him know what was going on.
My Mom and Jen (my youngest sister) came and got the kids and Jas and Becki (another one of my sisters) showed up at the hospital. They both did a great job of really talking things through with the midwife and discussing various options. After lots of consideration and discussion, I agreed to have Cervadil placed to soften my cervix and see where I was the next morning. They put that in at 4:30pm and at 4:30am on Monday removed it.
I was checked at that point and found to be around 4cm and not really in labor. I asked to be taken off the monitors and given time to shower, eat, etc. While I was doing this, I started contracting more regularly, especially when walking around. The new on-call midwife (the male midwife, the one I really didn't want to deliver me. He turned out to be a real gem) came to talk options with me and since I was contracting more regularly, he agreed to just let me walk around for awhile and see if things would progress on their own as long as my blood pressures didn't go over the 140's/90's. He was great, and gave us hope that we'd be able to do this as naturally as possible.
After a few hours of endless laps with Becki and Jason, he checked me again and found me dilated to a 5. I still wasn't contracting when still, only when walking. We discussed breaking water vs. pitocin and, because my blood pressures were high, they did want to continue with the induction in some form and we agreed at this point because it was clear that even after long periods of rest that things skyrocketed very very quickly. We decided that breaking the water would be better than pitocin so we did that. We continued to walk and I again, while active I had very regular and strong contractions. After a few more hours, my midwife came back to check on me and found me still a 5. I was discouraged. She suggested nipple stimulation to jump start things and see where that put us. If that didn't work, they'd want to do at least a little bit of pitocin.
I had just started applying the warm washcloths for the stimulation and immediately the contractions got much stronger and for about 3 hours I was in hard labor. I contracted regularly, sometimes contractions right on top of each other, and they were progressively stronger and longer. We used a variety of positions for pain relief and it was really great to have Jason, my midwife, Becki, Mom and the nurse all in there encouraging me, wiping my face, working with me to get through each contraction.
At about the 3 hour mark the contractions were getting much more painful, closer together, and I was vocalizing more. My midwife told me that she believed I was either in transition or just coming out of it based on how I was acting. You cannot believe how much this cheered me. I thought, "Oh my gosh, I did it! I made it this far and I can make it through now. Transition is the hardest part!". I was really hurting at this point and each contraction was agony to get through, no matter what I was doing. My midwife suggested I get into the tub, but I really didn't want to. I don't like bathtubs. I regret that now, because I think perhaps it might have helped avoid what happened next, but c'est la vie.
My midwife wanted to check me to see if I was ready to push (I had twinges of pushiness) and she tried to check me while I was leaning on the bed. She checked, and I knew right away something wasn't quite right. She asked me to lay down so she could check me better because she wasn't able to get a good feel. So I laid down and she checked me again (triggering a most massively painful contraction too) and then she said, "Kristi, I'm really sorry to tell you this, but you're still a 5 and the baby is quite high".
Oh my Lord, I just lost it then. It was inconceivable that all these hours, all the position changes and pain and everything and I'd not progressed at all? The baby wasn't even close to coming out?
At this point I'd been awake since 4:30am, with a very sketchy night of sleep before that (and weeks of poor sleep before that!). I'd been stressed out, I'd walked miles around the hospital. Physically, I was weak, but up until that time my mental strength had been good. When I found out that I was still only halfway through the battle, my mental strength left me.
My midwife was concerned that I'd made no progress at all after all this time and the strength of the contractions. Before she even said anything I told her upfront, "If you want to give me pitocin, then you'll have to give me an epidural. I can't do this anymore". And it was true. If I'd been a 7 or something, I would have been able to retain that mental strength but I'd let myself think of how much farther I had to go instead of how far I'd come and now was just so tired, so overwhelmed that I couldn't pull it together any longer.
So they moved me to the bed, gave me the epidural and a very slow pitocin drip and I don't think it was even 2 minutes later that I was asleep. I remember hearing things, and still being able to feel the contractions through the epidural, but I mostly was dead asleep. I slept for about an hour, and when I woke up I was 10cm and ready to push.
Pushing was great. Honestly, it was the best part of the whole thing because it was a stark contrast to how it had been with the other two kids. I was able to feel things, I was in complete control of when I wanted to push and for how long and how hard. There was no counting, no yelling, no stress. It was just me doing what I wanted when I wanted. It didn't take many pushes and she was out and it was great!
After her delivery, they kept me on the pitocin as I was bleeding pretty heavily. I ended up on pitocin all night to help the uterus contract because the bleeding wasn't slowing down on its own. However, by the next morning I was feeling good and things were normal and we were able to go home as planned.
I've left out many details and such and this is still so long :) Even though things didn't go as planned, and maybe if I had done the bath I would have been able to relax and rest enough for the baby to come down on her own, I still feel a great peace over how it all went. For the first time, I feel like Jason and I were in charge. We didn't just follow directions, but were active in making those decisions and staying as true as possible to what we wanted. It was the most peaceful and satisfying birth "experience" I've had to date, even though it ended up being the most divergent from what I had planned, and I guess that is a bigger sign of success than anything else... well other than the baby sitting on my lap right now.
Elsa is also our first child who didn't have jaundice, who has been an active nurser from the first moment, who weighed the most at birth, who lost the least amount of weight after birth, and many other tiny firsts. I have to think that our preparation prenatally and also our decisions during the birth process helped her avoid the minor complications we had with the other kids.