Our fourth baby arrived 12 days overdue, after 47 hours of labour and a medical emergency! This is the conclusion to our crazy long labour birth story.
You can read Part One of our story here, if you haven’t already. Here is Part Two:
We were on hour 33 of labour, and my birth team was undoubtedly exhausted. I was physically weary but I barely noticed. I was ferociously tunnel-visioned on my goal.
With every hour that went by, I zeroed in on the triumphant moment when baby would start to crown and I could finally push him out into the world. I envisioned it happening in the birth pool there in our bedroom, and imagined everyone’s collective joy and how much sweeter it would be after so many long hours. I could see it clearly in my mind with an intense longing.
Another 2.5 hours went by as I laboured still. The contractions were coming on more frequently and more painfully. They grew more intense, and I laboured in the water. I reached around my gigantic belly to see if I could feel my baby’s head with my finger at all, and I could! Surely this was a good sign!
At 1am, I was elated to hear that I had moved to a 7. Small progress is still progress, and I was overcome with a fire and fury to “get this thing done”.
Operating on sheer adrenaline and a cup of strong bulletproof coffee that my dear husband (lovingly, ha) shoved in my face, I went for my last resort: aggressively climbing the stairs up and down, taking them two at a time, and stopping at every other to do a deep lunge with one foot on the stair above, and the other – two steps down.
Inevitably, with each lunge, I got a long and intense contraction, the kind that you roar and sweat through. I squatted deeply at each step, willing my pelvis to open and my baby to go down, down, down.
My brow was dripping with sweat, my feet were swollen and aching and numb, and I was contracting like crazy, but I was more determined than I’ve ever been before.
This would work. This had to work.
My eyes were closed nearly the entire time as I drew from depths I didn’t even know I had to work this baby out.
The power of adrenaline is all kinds of crazy – I did this for well over an hour without stopping. I climbed and lunged and contracted and yelled and breathed and roared into the lunge as if I could squat that baby out right there on the staircase.
I truly have no idea how my body accomplished this, especially with (later discovered) severe anemia. Prior to labour I was wiped out by walking ten feet, let alone unleashing my inner amazon warrior woman on my stairs in the middle of the night.
Heck, I couldn’t even repeat that again now, not pregnant.
But hell hath no fury like a woman in her 35th hour of labour who just wants to GET THIS BABY OUT NOW.
Finally, I was encouraged to take a break. It was 3am, and I had been in labour for 38 hours so far.
I heaved my weary bones onto my bed and awaited the verdict from my efforts. After all of that…
Nothing. N O T H I N G.
Still at 7cm.
Lyanne gently recommended that we make the decision to transfer to the hospital for some help, and I immediately burst into tears from the depths of utter exhaustion and grief.
As I wept, everyone in the room exhaled and it sunk in.
I felt numb as I watched Chris scurry around packing a bag. I listened to the tone of the room change and focus on getting out the door, plans to meet there, who was going in which vehicle… and all of it sounded like a distant clamour as big, hot tears rolled down my face, and I sobbed from exhaustion and sadness.
From that moment on, I didn’t feel in charge anymore. It was happening to me instead.
As soon as the call was made to go, I knew instantly that I would get an epidural. I knew what pitocin contractions were like, and I knew my body had precious little left to give, and I wasn’t interested in killing myself for an unmedicated hospital birth. For what? I thought.
Truth be told – I was also angry. I didn’t want to feel anything anymore. I wanted to check out. This was no longer the triumphant and empowering birth scenario I imagined, and I was done.
My body responded immediately to the situation, and slowed the contractions right down to every 20-30 minutes as we got ready to leave, during the drive over to the hospital, and getting into the hospital room.
I asked for the epidural immediately and received it sitting on the edge of the bed in a dimly lit hospital room. It was just after 5am.
As the epidural took effect I sank back in the hospital bed, exhaled all of my sadness, and gave way to precious sleep. Lyanne started pitocin in my IV. The contractions remained sluggish. They upped the dose.
I dozed on and off for a few hours.
Around 7am, I was awake and talking with my midwife. She checked me for dilation in order to assess how well the pitocin was working. She had already upped the dosage twice in the last hour and a half due to persistently sporadic and sluggish contractions.
I was 7cm. Zero progression in the four hours since I had been checked at home, and I had been at 7cm for at least seven hours by this point.
Lyanne was surprised that there had been no change, even with the pitocin. She gently told me that we’d give the pitocin a few more hours to work, but that eventually we may have to consider a c-section. I said I understood.
A few minutes later I asked if there was a bedpan handy that I could keep beside me in the bed because I was feeling quite nauseous. I remember being handed one, setting it down beside me, and Lyanne standing at my bedside asking me questions about how I was feeling.
I woke up from a deep, deep sleep to a male voice calling my name. It sounded like I was listening from under water. “Beth! Beth, can you hear me? Can you hear me, Beth?”
My eyelids fluttered slowly and I cracked my eyes open as the voice became louder. There were intense, bright lights blaring in my face and a dozen doctors and nurses surrounding me in a flurry of activity.
The room sounded fuzzy with the combination of medical personnel speaking in urgent voices, the beeping of machines and monitors, and the doctor intently focused in on me, speaking directly to me as if trying to wake me up. (In fact, that’s exactly what he was doing.)
There was an oxygen mask on my face and I had no idea how it got there, and it scared me.
My body felt like a ton of bricks. Then I saw Chris at my side with tears in his eyes and a panic-stricken look on his face, as if he had seen a ghost. Fear crashed over me and I burst into tears.
(I was unconscious in the above photo. It’s the only photo we have during the incident – I believe it is occurring just after the emergency code was called and nurses had arrived, but moments before the doctors rushed in. Naomi stayed in her spot and didn’t move for fear of being kicked out of the room.)
The doctor spoke in a reassuring voice and said “You’re okay.”
My hand went to my belly and I croaked out “baby” as I held my breath in the oxygen mask. The doctor assured me that the baby was fine, and his heart rate back to normal. The tears kept flowing, falling down the sides of my face and dripping onto the pillow, taking my worst fears with them.
Lyanne was on the other side of me. She told me that we had been talking and then all of a sudden my eyes went blank and then rolled back into my head, my arm shook, and I became unresponsive. I appeared to be having a seizure. Then my eyes closed and stayed shut.
She called an emergency code and in an instant – full, bright lights were flipped on and multiple doctors and nurses burst into the previously quiet, sleepy room with a flurry of activity.
My blood pressure plummeted to 55/10, and baby’s heart rate was dropping dangerously low. I was unconscious. They shoved an emergency IV in my hand for extra fluids and a nurse squeezed the bag with all of her strength to force it into my body as quickly as possible. They put an oxygen mask onto my face, and discontinued pitocin in my other IV in order to give me a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline).
In the background, Chris hastily slipped his shoes back onto his feet, afraid they’d be whisking me out to surgery any second to save the baby.
I was unconscious for about four minutes before waking up to the sound of that new voice calling my name.
My blood pressure was responding to the epinephrine and was rising back to normal levels, and baby’s heart rate was back up too. As the chaos died down and everything stabilized again, the room let out a collective exhale and slowly returned to “normal”.
(Why did this happen? The next day, the doctors still had no answers. Extreme low blood pressure is a rare complication of an epidural, but reactions are typically within the first 20-30 minutes. This was two hours later. They found that my hemoglobin was down to 82, so their best guess was maybe a combination of extreme fatigue and severe anemia, but ultimately they had no definitive answers. I received an iron transfusion before going home.)
The next 4-5 hours are a blur to me as I continued to sleep on and off and allow my body to labour with the epidural and pitocin. My midwife’s notes are blank at this point as she had transferred care to the OB on call when I lost consciousness. I believe I was checked for dilation once more, with some progress to around 7.5 or 8cm, which was a little bit of progress… but still not enough.
We were dangerously close to the edge of a c-section, but giving it just a little more time…
A few hours later, the lovely nurse who had been with me for much of my time checked me and as my entire birth team held their breath, expecting the worst, but hoping for the best, she looked at me with a smile and declared that I was at 9.5cm.
All of the emotion of the last several days of labour just flooded out of me and I lost it. I cried from happiness and relief, mostly, but there were so many other tangled up emotions there too.
She said that there was just a bit of a lip remaining and that she could probably stretch that back and get me to 10 easily, so she did.
I was finally… finally ready to push.
Whatever my body lacked in dilating and labouring, it made up for in pushing. Pushing felt so natural and easy to me.
Since they had transferred care to the OB earlier, at the last second they asked me who I wanted to deliver. Caught off guard, I said “um… my husband?” They handed him a pair of gloves quickly!
Chris caught him. He was out in five minutes.
On my chest.
My first words to him were triumphant and a little shocked as I whispered “we did it!!” into his ear.
It was an unbelievably hard labour. It brings up so many big emotions, even seven months later. (This contributor post from the R&H archives made me cry when I read it after Everett’s birth.)
Nonetheless, in that moment nothing mattered but my perfect baby boy on my chest, in my arms, looking into my eyes for the first time.
All love stories have thorns, but the bloom is worth it.
He’s worth it all a million times over.
(All photos above by the amazing Acorn & Oak Birth Photography. <3)