Martha's birth was . . . well . . . SLOW. This, however, was NOT Martha's fault.
Martha has a blood disorder that causes her to clot when she shouldn't. So for the last part of her pregnancy she was on blood thinners and bedrest.
Because of the meds, laboring at home would not have been the responsible option for her. Also because of the meds, going past her due date would also have not been a responsible option, as blood thinners cause premature placental degeneration.
When the due date neared, rather than go the risky pitocin route, Martha opted to have her membranes stripped, which worked like a charm to get labor going. She called me at noon from the hospital with contractions at 5 minutes apart, so I hurried straight there. These five-minutes-apart contractions, however, were VERY mild, very short and very unproductive. No problem, it's early labor. Once they get a good 30-minute reading on the fetal monitor, (hospital policy), we'll get up and walk and move things along.
It was the "good 30-minute reading on the fetal monitor" that will forever be the overriding memory of this labor, as the monitor just did NOT work for Martha. The monitor itself was fine. Martha, herself, also fine. But the combination of the two did not work. And every 4 to 8 minutes every hour for hours, the nurse would come in . . . "KNOCK KNOCK! It's not working!" (Tap the machine, check the paper) RIP RIP (velcro straps being jerked off Martha's belly) Reposition the probe, press hard, and FLIP FLIP (tighten the velcro straps). Okay, so this might not seem like a big deal, but when it's happening 8 to 12 times an hour it gets highly annoying. Not to mention the fact that it NEVER worked. I don't think the monitor ever picked up the baby's heart rate for more than 3 consecutive contractions. And because of THIS, they wouldn't let her get up to walk. And because she couldn't get up and move, labor wasn't progressing.
Personal Rant: The baby could have been in distress and who would know? I know the GOAL of the monitor is to determine that, but it WASN'T WORKING. And if she HAD been in distress, it would have been SO much better to have labor progressing faster to get her born sooner. Policies, like rules, are made to be broken. Common sense is a lovely thing. (Stepping down off soapbox now.)
Finally, after about 6 hours and only 2 cm of progress, we talked them into giving us a half hour to go outside. No sooner was Martha up and going than contractions started coming steadier, longer, harder. YES! But we promised to be back to the room after 30, so we were, and they strapped her back up, and contractions slowed and lessened. Not to help matters, the monitor was showing delayed decelerations in the baby's heart rate (a potential sign she is not getting all the oxygen she needs). At this stressful news, labor basically CEASED. After nearly an hour with no contractions, I was becoming concerned that Martha was going to be the first notch on my C-section belt, and I didn't want this for her, and I KNEW she didn't want it for herself. So, I suggested she go back to the ONE thing that seemed to work for her. It's a little something that, well, when done right is something you don't talk about publicly, but when done clinically is almost funny. Trust me, it's TMI. Besides, if I used the words "nipple" and "stimulation", I would have to raise the MPAA rating on my blog.
Speaking of funny, Daniel (Martha's husband) was great. Supportive, helpful and entertaining. Everything I write about here, he was part of, so don't take the lack of his name to mean he wasn't front and center. He kept trying to get Martha to "visualize her cervix opening like a flower reaching for the sun" and as he encouraged this, he did a little interpretive dance. Definitely worth the admission price.
Still, contractions remained weak, the monitor unstable, and by midnight she was still only 5 cm dilated. Any other area hospital would have been prepping her for a C-section by now, so I am at least thankful for a very patient midwife who was content to let us labor on, slow as it may have been.
At 1 a.m. the midwife broke her water (at Martha's request) and then after a while: transition. HARD transition. I got her onto her knees and we moaned through them. At this point, Martha is EXHAUSTED, but let me just say, she was SUCH a trouper, and the BEST breather of any laboring mom I've worked with. She has now been in labor for 15+ hours, but she is determined.
From Martha's blog: "Stephanie was there to tell me I was so close. I remember asking her “what if I’m not?” But, she told me I was -- that I was in transition and it wouldn’t last much longer. Having her tell me this was such a great comfort and motivator. I was able to focus on each contraction as it came, hoping each one would bring me closer to the end. I was in such pain. However, guess what? The monitors weren’t picking up any contractions, so the nurses were in there the WHOLE time I was in transition moving around the sensors, pressing on my uterus. I must confess, I have never fought back the urge to lash out at someone as much as I had to then – I was so tired of them messing with me! They continued to try to get my contractions to appear on the monitor right up until I was pushing."
If you want to know the rest of Martha's birth in detail, click on her link at the top. She's a great writer and detailed it beautifully. Finally, at 4:43 a.m. her daughter was born. Perfect. Healthy. GORGEOUS. All babies are pretty, but this one especially so. (Oh, that is SUCH a lie. Most babies look like goopy versions of Alien. This clip is rated R for graphic ickiness.)
I'd like to say there is a moral to this birth story, but there isn't. It solidifies for me what I already know: 1) Labor at home for as long as possible. Unfortunately for Martha, that just wasn't an option, and 2) Stay up and moving. Let gravity be your friend. Again, for poor Martha and the evil monitor, not an option.
You know what, there is a moral after all: Educate yourself. Decide what's right for you. Then hold your ground. That's what Martha did. Even though NOTHING about her birth went as she expected, she still stayed determined to have a natural birth. Her daughter will never have to wonder if her mom has her best interest at heart. She's already proved that.