Stephen Gabriel's Birth Story (part one)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I love reading birth stories....loved them before I was pregnant, or even thinking about being pregnant. After being present in a lot of deliveries during both my medical mission work and medical school (and delivering 12 babies myself) I didn't have a lot of expectations for my own little guy's birth story. Each labor and delivery that I saw was so unique...and to be honest I didn't want to think too much about my own labor as sort of a coping mechanism, which is just fine because little Stephen's birth story was a lot different than what I expected...

It started on Tuesday, May 20. I was four days overdue and dilated to a whopping 0 cm at my 40 week appointment, and I was frustrated (just read this post if you don't believe me). We had originally planned to move 8 hours and two states away, where I would be starting my residency, on June 4 but it became clear that it wasn't going to happen. I was a wreck...the tears were flowing daily (poor Stephen Sr.) and I told Stephen that I couldn't take it much longer with moving and residency oreintation looming over my head: I moved my 41 week appointment up to the following day (Wednesday) and planned on asking for an induction that Friday.

Stephen was off work that week and so we went to noon mass. Afterwards, Stephen asked if I wanted to go to Applebees for lunch, and I remember sitting down in the booth and the tears started to flow again. I told Stephen that I felt guilty about being so selfish and wanting the baby to come on my own timing, and that I felt like I had ruined our last days together just the two of us. I remember that Stephen said something comforting and I felt more at peace with everything after we left.

That night Stephen had a work party at the Italian restaurant in town. My mom (who delivered 8 children au natural) warned me against the heavy pasta and garlic bread "just in case" I were to go into labor, but I hadn't had any more cramping than what I had been having over the past few weeks (mild period-like cramping that never lasted more than 10 minutes and usually only happened once or twice a day) so I figured I was safe. We finished around 9 p.m. with no hint of any increased cramping and since I had been begging Stephen to go for a walk all day, we drove to one of my favorite spots near the lake. I had a cramp or two on the car ride there, but again no different from what I had been having so I didn't think anything of it.

We parked near the beach and when I stepped out of the car, I felt a weird leaking sensation. Stephen and I laughed it off as "probably just urine" (oh the joys of pregnancy) and walked over to the beach. I realized when we got there that we were at the exact spot where Stephen had proposed...I remember looking out at the surreal view of the ice still floating on the lake and feeling like there was something special about that night...almost a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Stephen and I started our walk then, and I felt a cramp that was just a tad stronger than normal...enough to mention it to Stephen (I hadn't been telling him when I would feel them because they always seemed to stop after 10 minutes and I didn't want to get his hopes up). Then I felt a sensation of more leaking. Stephen and I were both still a bit skeptical (after all, I was 5 days late and the baby was never coming), and I wanted to keep walking so we did (fools). Pretty soon, I had another cramp, about 7 minutes later according to Stephen. That was when I felt the sensation of more leaking and looked down at my yoga pants to realize they were soaked. Stephen and I looked at each other in disbelief: this was finally it (yaaay!)

After realizing that my water really had broken (or if you want the more technical term, my membranes had finally ruptured), we decided that we really better turn around. We had at least a 25 minute jaunt back to the car, which was not the best with my now sopping wet pants (sorry) but I was too excited to care. Stephen kept timing the contractions, which were coming anywhere from every 5 minutes to every 12 minutes, so I knew that I had a ways to go. My doctor recommends that her patients go to the hospital after their water breaks because of the risk of infection if labor continues past the 24 hour mark, so I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be able to labor at home. I was in no rush, however, to get to the hospital. When we got home, I realized that the amniotic fluid was a pinkish color and noticed, for the first time, a little bloody show in the toilet. I called for Stephen to bring me my doppler so I could check the baby's heartbeat (in case of cord prolapse) like a good almost-doctor and when I determined that it was strong and a normal rate, I decided to get into the shower (I also kept feeling/seeing him move, so I wasn't worried). I stood in the hot water for a good 45 minutes and then we called my mom, who I had asked to be my pseudo-doula, and the labor and delivery unit. I told my mom to not rush to the hospital since it could be a very long night, and that we would call her after we were checked in and the doctor had checked my cervix. I took my time adding a few things to my hospital bag, grabbing pillows, picking up things around the house (I told Stephen I was going to clean the bathroom before we left...he looked at me like I was a crazy person and that did it himself without saying anything), and then we headed to the hospital.

By the time that we arrived to the hospital, about two hours after my water had broken, I was having contractions about every 4-7 minutes. They were still fairly mild for the most part though, like a moderate period cramp, except for one when we pulled up to the hospital...I remember looking at Stephen saying "Ouuuch" (we both kind of laughed so obviously it really wasn't that bad yet). On the way into the hospital, Stephen and I tried to guess what my cervix would be when they checked it (Stephen said 4 cm, but I said 2 cm since I knew that realistically I had probably started at 0 cm based on my most recent prenatal visit).

They brought us straight to a room when we got to labor and delivery (probably a combo of them not messing around with a post-termer and them knowing from my rotations that I was a [new] doctor). When the nurse was checking me in, she asked me about pain meds and I told her that I really didn't want an epidural although I wasn't 100% opposed to it, and that I was open to getting Staydol if I felt I absolutely needed it (ha - I was so naive). Although no one seemed to doubt that my membranes had ruptured, they still needed to confirm it and so they called my doctor who agreed to come in to do the speculum exam herself (I was so happy because I knew both of the male residents covering OB and them doing the sterile spec would have been all kinds of awkward). In the meantime, the nurse told me not to eat or drink anything, but I was dying of thirst and proceeded to down a bottle of water as soon as she left the room to Stephen's disapproval (doctors and nurses really make the best patients). They had strapped me to a fetal monitor as soon as I arrived to my room and I kept watching it anxiously to see if it was reactive, not because I was worried about Stephen Jr. (I was convinced by all his moving and grooving that he was just fine) but because I really, really wanted to get up and walk - contractions lying in bed are torture. Finally they let me get up, and Stephen and I walked the halls leisurely back and forth, stopping every few minutes for contractions (which still felt like moderate period cramps and totally manageable).

My doctor arrived just before 2 a.m. and verified that yes, my membranes had indeed ruptured aaaand the bad news? I was only dilated to "a fingertip." Yikes. She told me that the good news was that I was 100% effaced, but that it would still probably be a long night/day. She knew that I wanted to try for a natural birth and told the nurse that I could eat, drink, and walk around monitor-free (thank God). After she left, Stephen decided it would be a good time for a snooze and approximately 30 seconds later was sound asleep in the hard-as-rocks recliner next to my bed (he really can sleep anywhere). Up until that point, I had told my mom to wait to come to the unit since I didn't know how far dilated I was....of course 5 seconds after Stephen was out like a light, I proceeded to have a painful contraction and so I texted her "Hurry!! These hurt." She was there in about 10 minutes (I didn't wake Stephen up, mostly just so I could bug him about it later...just kidding). After my mom arrived, I spent the next two hours walking the halls and sitting in the jacuzzi tub. The contractions were getting more painful and pretty consistently every 3-4 minutes. The jacuzzi tub was amazing at first; the sound of the jets and feeling of the water rushing over me really helped me to deal with the pain. I would close my eyes when the contractions would come and in between would chat with my mom, who kept assuring me of how well I was doing. The contractions started to feel like severe period cramps and when they begin to lengthen, my mom told me to start saying the Memorare, one of my favorite prayers...which really, really helped initially.

After a while in the tub, I had an excruciatingly painful contraction that sent me flying out of the tub. I could feel it through my whole body, a tearing type of pain that seemed like it lasted forever, and after the peak of it I started to violently throw up (I'm still convinced it was from the pain, since the four times that I vomited  during labor were all at the end of the worst contractions). My mom ran to wake Stephen up (I had started to get disgruntled right before the painful contraction that he was still sleeping). He helped me out of the tub and I remember wrapping my arms around his neck and burying my head in his shoulder for the next couple of contractions....they were really starting to hurt.

My doctor came back around 6:30 a.m. to recheck my cervix and when she came into the room, I was sitting on the birthing ball with my head buried in the bed. I remember thinking that I had no idea how I was going to get back into bed for her to check me and the nurse to put me on the monitor to recheck the baby; laying in bed during natural labor is the absolute worst. They also started an IV then and started to give me fluids because of the vomiting. When my doctor checked me, she told me that I was three cm...and I felt defeated. All that hard work and pain for a measly 3 cm? Maybe I was more of a wuss than I thought (my doctor informed me later that my cervix was so thin that some residents would have checked me and thought I was complete even though I was only 3 cm). Since my doctor had to leave the hospital and go to the clinic, she told me that the on-call doctor for family medicine would be watching me. I knew the on-call doc, she was older and more experienced than my doctor but I begged my doctor to come back soon (I saw the same family doctor through the whole pregnancy and so there was a comfort and security that came with that). And that's when the real craziness began...

to be continued...


  1. Cliffhanger!!! Ahhh. Can't wait for part 2! PS - How do those husbands fall asleep so easily at the hospital? It is some sort of conspiracy, I tell you.

  2. aaaahhhhhh.... can't wait for part 2!
    It's like I was there with you....

  3. Love this, Erika! Can't wait for part 2!!

  4. David was the exact same way at the hospital...fell asleep at the drop of a hat. I can't wait to read part 2!

  5. I just skimmed this because I'm short on time, but this sounds a lot like my Girl 1's birth. Water broke early in the process, lots of contractions w/ little progress. Agh! I remember one of the nurses afterward telling me I was probably only in "real" labor (or was it "active" labor) for the last part of it. I kind of wanted to smack her. Those first hours or contractions sure felt real, even if they didn't do much!

  6. Can't wait for part 2! I love hearing a birth story from a doctor's perspective! :)

  7. Definitely can't wait for part 2!

  8. Eeee, such suspense! Loved this and can't wait to read the rest. It really is amazing how different every woman's experience is - my labor basically started with that jump out of the tub moment you had (except mine was jump out of bed from being sound asleep), and with a "later" start, that really made a difference physically and psychologically, I think! You are so right that laying in bed during natural labor is the worst - thank goodness for exercise balls. And so interesting to think how you'd experienced delivery on the other end as a doctor-in-training... even though you had that kind of knowledge, I can imagine it would still be hard to relate that to what your own might be like, because it's so hard to imagine such a thing actually happening to your body until it does! Even with all the birth stories I read ahead of time somehow I didn't think that was REALLY happening to me ever (coping mechanism, yes).

  9. You are so lucky you had the option of a tub. And your mom. I am jealous. I can't wait for part 2!


Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment! Your lovely comments really make my day :) I appreciate and enjoy every comment even though I don't always have time to reply.

(I also often reply via email, unless you are a no-reply blogger).