This blog has seen a lot of race reports. Here’s a first birth report. What’s it doing in a blog about running and fitness, you wonder? But this blog has kind of morphed into something which is related to running and fitness but more about my thoughts in general. And there are so many parellels with a race, I think it would be appropriate to write about it here. Anyway, read at your own risk, some gory details included :).
You’re also wondering how do I have the time to blog now, 20 days after birth, the days and nights are melting together into feed times, burping, changing diapers. It’s also full of lovely moments where I nearly crush my baby in my arms, heart exploding with love. I look at him and wonder how he was in my tummy and how incredible it is that we played a part in creating something so perfect. No one is perfect until you give birth to them. Fact. But I can do it because of the incredible support from family (husband and mother-in-law) during these post partum days. My main job is to feed Arhan and bond with him. Cooking, cleaning, laundry is handled by MIL and I help when I can. I cannot even imagine having to do this on my own. So I get some time to blog and internet :).
Anyway, this post is more about my weeks prior to birth and labor. I always wanted a natural delivery but given that I was having a lot of fake contractions through pregnancy I had all but given up exercising in June, my 8th month going into 9th. Also work was terribly busy and I was having 10 hour days. So working out, including yoga was distant in my mind. I rationalized it thinking I didn’t want to go into early labor. Maybe it was prudent. But, I don’t recommend it. Even with frequent and irregular Braxton Hicks (fake) contractions I recommend all to-be-moms to continue some form of exercise routine. Even if it’s at home and about 20-30 minutes of yoga (the best) or walking (second best). Yoga really helps tone the birthing muscles (pelvis, thighs etc.) and bring baby into position. Walking helps in those last few weeks to help baby descend.
I stopped working 2 weeks before my due date. And that’s when I went back to exercise. The baby had dropped I felt (called, lightening) and I felt a new lease of energy. The pressure against the chest had eased. I took to taking 2 mile walks a day interspersed with 15-30 minutes of yoga a few times a week. My baby wasn’t in the right position (right until birth) so that’s what I was doing.
I completely believe he got down to zero station (head on cervix) due to my walks. The walks were exhilirating and inconvenient at the same time with all the pressure his head put on my pelvis. Yet I do not doubt it worked, as my mom and my doctor and midwife told me it would. But it didn’t start labor.
Contractions continued intermittently but not regular. Finally due to a minor complication in the final week of pregnancy, I went in to get induced. I was devastated. I thought this may snatch the natural delivery from me. Oh how I’d researched and studied labor comfort positions, my husband was well prepped to be my birth coach and I shuddered at the thought of an epidural making my lower body go numb. In my head, induction (using pitocin, a drug to induce labor that mimics oxytocin that brings on labor) implied epidural and could lead to c-section. Countless women’s stories had tested this hypothesis. I won’t go into the details. I viewed pitocin as the drug that brought on strong and regular but unnatural contractions and I thought I might not withstand the pain.
But I was also secretly excited. I was finally ready to meet my baby! We were ready with all his stuff and everyone at home was just waiting.
When I went in to get induced, the doctor on call started with non-drug interventions. They started with a foley bulb that helps with cervical ripening. At the end of that procedure (overnight), I was 7 cm dilated. We were elated. Maybe I would start labor! They broke the water and I spent the whole day walking, doing yoga poses to get labor started. But labor did not start. Finally after nearly 24 hours of being in the hospital with no labor (was a great time actually, like being in a hotel, we listened to music, watched shows on Netflix and ordered dinner), they started the pitocin drip at 6 pm on Friday Aug 2.
And in an hour labor began. I knew this was it. The contractions were spaced 3-4 minutes apart and they came strong. My husband was phenomenal during this time. We used ALL the tools we came to hospital with – the myriad positions, the birthing ball, the yoga mat, and tips from the birthing classes. It was going really well. The thought of an epidural didn’t even cross my mind. I knew exactly when a contraction would come (pitocin doesn’t give any relief like natural labor) and knew how long my breaks were. I’d relax during the breaks and think about eating a burger, P Terry’s in particular. We had hindustani classical music playing to help through the relaxation.
Things suddenly began going downhill when the nurses couldn’t get the baby HR monitor to stay on my rotund belly. They kept poking and prodding and we were getting very agitated with this unnecessary disturbance. All we wanted to do was work through the contractions. But they kept coming in and prodding the monitor. Finally, my doctor came in and explained we might need internal monitoring. That’s when they insert an electrical thingy and stick it on the baby’s head and the electrical charges help with monitoring the heart rate. We were appalled and against it. But we quickly understood it wasn’t much of a choice between that and being supine to have the monitor do its job. So finally we acquiesced and that’s when she said I had progressed in terms of dilation. But I was close to 8 cm. That was great. Things were moving.
I tried to sit on the floor on the yoga mat to lie down. The bed was too soft. As soon as I sat on the floor, I felt an incredible urge to go to the bathroom! Yikes, it was already time to push. I’d been in labor only about 2 hours. I kept saying, it’s probably too early but we should call the nurse. I got back on the bed and as soon as I did, I felt the baby was coming. Pushing was the hardest part about labor. The contractions were the most painful and the urge to push was so strong I had to scream to manage the pain. That was probably the only time I might have wanted to epidural. I told myself, it was too late. The midwife came in and began instructing me. She was absolutely amazing. Bharath says my connection with her during this noisy time was quite remarkable. He kept me hydrated and kept encouraging me, saying I was doing just fine. But I zoned everything else out and it was me and the midwife. They got the delivery table ready with what looked like torture implements. I looked away and just kept focus on pushing. I was fading at this time. In between contractions I drank water and the nurse got me an oxygen mask which felt like heaven.
The final push, I will never forget. When we knew it was time,I asked Bharath to change the music to a vedic chant we liked, the Gayatri Mantra. Neither of us are very religious but we wanted Arhan to come into calm amidst the hospital chaos. The music also helped my mood change even though the pain level just spiked. I knew it was time. It felt like a ball of fire came through the birth canal. The midwife told me not to push hard and to calibrate the push. I almost stopped pushing for fear of spilling out the baby on the floor. I tried a little harder and like a ball of fire he came out. Oh my, what a relief it was. There wasn’t a minute to feel anything except extreme relief and exhaustion. The nurses helped Bharath cut the umbilical cord. I don’t know what else was going on. Then they put him on my chest. All gooey from the birth canal in a towel. He came out bawling but as soon as they placed him on me, he went quiet and began starting wondrously at the lights in the room. Everyone kept saying, what a beautiful baby. But I was still too dazed from the whole experience and how fast it happened. Labor of 4.5 hours including pushing! Unbelievable. All the things that I imagined that could have gone wrong with drug induced labor, none of them happened. I had pitocin. I had internal monitoring. But I hadn’t needed the epidural. (Had I been in labor a few more hours I don’t know how this story would have gone I hope I’d have done it without my spine getting numb).
Holding Arhan in my arms was pretty darn awesome. I silently thanked him later for making it easy on me. He was kind to his mother. He was a good baby through the pregnancy but he was especially remarkable for how good he was to me during labor. I’ll forever be thankful for that.
So my continued advice to all to be moms – exercise, eat well, sleep well. And make those last few weeks count – get on the floor, sit on the floor in Indian style, squat, cat-cows and lots of walking. There is no guarantee your labor will be short but these things help, tried and tested!!