By Bonnie Bruner
By 11:30pm everyone had made their rounds, it was just Derek and me in the room, and I was instructed to get some rest. Rest was not an easy thing to do with the blood pressure readings and frequent adjusting of the baby heart rate monitor. I felt almost claustrophobic knowing that I could not get out of bed for 2 hours, but the next the 2 hours of mobility and intermittent monitoring brought huge relief from the uncomfortable contractions that had started as well as the mental stress of being bedridden. The first 4-hr round of Cytotec was successful in thinning and dilating my cervix, but not enough to start the Pitocin. I was hopeful that the next 4 hours would bring more progress. While we planned to do another round of Cytotec, the nurse and resident explained that there was another way to help dilate my cervix that would get me to more active labor as a next step. This was an inflatable catheter bulb that would gradually apply pressure until my cervix was dilated to 5 cm. To me, this seemed like a quicker and easier way to get closer to delivery (compared to another 4-hr round of Cytotec), and it also allowed me to be out of bed – a win win! When my second round of Cytotec was complete, the resident explained that I had not progressed enough to start the Pitocin and that instead of doing the catheter bulb, she would be doing a third round of Cytotec. I was overwhelmed with emotion and disappointment that I would have to be in the bed for the next 2 hours (for the third time). It seemed almost unbearable. By now it was mid-morning on Thursday and Sandee and my family were back at the hospital with me and Derek. My cheerleaders and comforters sprang into action to dry my tears and get me ready for this next step down the path of meeting my baby. I rearranged pillows and found a better position to try for some sleep—and thankfully I was able to sleep for at least half of the 2 hr period. For the last 2 hours of that round, I walked the floor and moved around as much as I could.It was now early afternoon on Thursday, and although I was having contractions, I still was not in active labor. Sandee helped me understand the different interventions that the hospital staff suggested. I had done some research, but decisions in the hospital needed to be made quickly and I did not know all of the questions to ask. It was such a comfort to have Sandee’s experience and knowledge, and many times I looked to her for a head nod or a shake as I was asked to make decisions about my labor induction and pain management. She understood my wishes and birth plan and knew how to help me navigate the questions to ensure I would have the birth experience I so desired. At my request the resident consulted her superior and decided that we could try the catheter bulb next. The follow up question to this decision was ‘what about pain management?’ The nurse and resident explained that this could be a very uncomfortable and painful procedure. From the beginning of my hospital stay I explained that I wanted to attempt to go through labor without pain medication but that I was not completely ruling it out. Sandee encouraged me, “You can do this. We can get through this without pain meds.” I stuck to my plan and they proceeded with the catheter bulb free of the pain meds. I was completely surprised at the lack of pain or discomfort that I felt. I was smiling and walking around as the bulb was doing its job. While I was on a stroll around the floor, the maintenance crew discovered my bathroom had a leak and we had to move to the bigger nicer room next door. Again, a reason to smile! We expected the bulb to take as long as 3 hours to dilate my cervix to 5 cm, but it worked in only one hour. My excitement was mounting, and we celebrated with banana popsicles.
At about 6pm, now that I was at 5 cm dilated, we started the Pitocin. I sat on my birth ball and chatted with the nurse and my family while we watched my contractions become more frequent—I saw them on the monitor more than I actually felt them for the first hour. The goal was for the contractions to be 1 minute long and 3 minutes apart. The Pitocin dosage would be increased every 15 minutes until I achieved this frequency. At shift change, I met my new nurse Marsha. She wanted me to get some rest while the contractions were becoming stronger. I got nice and comfortable lying on my side with a peanut ball, and the lights were turned off. I started my labor playlist that Derek had made for me. I was excited to hear all the songs he had picked out. I dozed and could feel the contractions becoming more intense. I took deep breaths and tried to focus on the songs and memories that they brought to my mind. One song that made me smile was “Smoke Rings in the Dark” by Gary Allan. I visualized my cervix as the smoke ring expanding with each contraction. Strange, I know, but it kept my mind calm and focused on the progress my body was making! I kept my eyes closed but I could hear my sister Katie’s voice as I started to wake up. The contractions were starting to take more of my attention and energy. I wanted to get up and walk around—this is what helped ease my discomfort earlier in the day. I started to feel pressure, but I did not realize that this meant that labor was almost over. I thought that I still had hours to go. Katie helped me up to walk around, but being up did not ease the contractions as I had hoped. I was shaky and felt nauseas. I came back to lean on the side of the bed. When the contractions came I did not think that my legs could hold me up, but they did. I got back into bed and tried different positions, but nothing seemed to bring any relief to the contractions. It was time to check my progress, and as they announced that I was fully dilated my water broke! I could not have been happier to hear this news! And then the nurse said that it was time to push, and I was even happier. Although I had been in the hospital for 24 hours, my labor pains had lasted less than 2 hours and it was almost time to meet my baby. My mom and sister each held a knee and Marsha coached my pushes. After pushing for only a couple minutes I was able to reach down and feel the top of my baby’s head. My sweet baby girl was delivered at 9:41 pm after about 15 minutes of pushing, and her loud and healthy cry filled the room! I held my daughter, and Aunt Katie cut her umbilical cord. As she met Dad and family, the residents and doctors explained that I had blood clots that needed to come out of my uterus and a 3rd degree tear that needed repair. I continued to hold my baby girl for the next hour while the resident raked out blood clots and patched me up.