Journey to Homebirth, Part I: Aria’s Birth Story (A)

This is the beginning of a series of posts detailing my daughters’ birth stories and the way each has changed me and my life for the better.

Aria Grace Nelson arrived into our lives at 7:45pm on May 12, 2007. She weighed 6lbs, 15.7 oz and was 20 3/4 inches long. She was born with eyes of gray blue, the colour of the sea on a rainy day, and auburn hair that shimmered and glistened in the sun, traits that she’s held onto to this day. She was and is beautiful and every moment with her is awesome and a blessing.

I was induced on the morning of the 12th, one day after my due date, a strong recommendation by my midwife based on my 40-week ultrasound which estimated the size of the baby to be over 9lbs. My midwife was adamant that should we wait to go into labor on our own, the baby would be even bigger and the vaginal, natural birth I wanted would be impossible. We questioned the accuracy of the ultrasound but she assured us that the radiologists at this particular office were superb and rarely off by more than a pound. Be induced or be prepared for a c-section. Those were our choices.

As I was already 80% effaced and dilated to 2-3cm, I did not need to go in the night before for the typical Cervadil treatment. So I checked into the hospital at 7am Saturday and Pitocin was started by 9am. Nurses came in every few minutes to up the dosage, despite telling me they’d start me slowly and gradually. Once a nurse came in, upped the dosage and left and not 5 minutes later another nurse came in and upped it some more. I questioned this, still thinking we were going to start off slowly and let my body take over, but she said, “that’s what you’re here for; might as well get things going.”

This being the pattern, my contractions got pretty strong, pretty quickly. A short time into the induction, during one of my many dilation checks, my midwife asked to break my water. I didn’t want it and hesitated, but she assured me it would help move things along. I agreed, with some reservations I couldn’t quite put into words.

Contractions continued to intensify and I used the breathing techniques learned in one of the hospital’s birth classes and the rocking of either a birth ball or rocking chair to silently deal with them. Over the course of several hours I progressed to 6cm then dilation (not contractions) stopped for about an hour. Convinced I was stalled, my midwife said an epidural was key to going forward, that I needed to relax and the medication would help me do so. At that point, my contractions were getting very intense, double-peaking and bouncing off the monitor tape. I was still trying to use my breathing techniques, but they were failing to help with this new level of contractions and I started to whimper instead, feeling overwhelmed, not sure how to handle what was happening to my body. At a vulnerable place and with the knowledge that other pregnant friends had been helped by epidurals when they stalled, I agreed. But as the epidural was being placed, I broke down crying, not from relief, but from a sense that things were not going as I’d hoped.

As the anethesiologist inserted the needle into my spine, I felt a painful twinge under my ribs. It went away quickly and the meds started to kick in. The anesthesiologist, nurse and my midwife left the room, convinced I was taken care of for the time being. Moments later I was in horrible pain, not from the contractions, but from something else – in the same spot I’d felt that painful twinge. I asked Keith to go get help; the pain was so much worse than any contraction. My midwife and the nurse rushed back in and started checking things out. The pain got worse and I started vomiting; the staff brought ice/warming packs, checked my urine for signs of liver failure and the anesthesiologist rechecked the epidural. When I asked him what was causing the pain, however, he said, “Labor?” like I was the biggest idiot on the planet. The fact that the pain was not in the same place as my contractions and that I hadn’t had anything similar until he placed the epidural apparently didn’t matter. He said everything looked good and he couldn’t redo it or move it at that point.

So, labor went on. I no longer felt the contractions but as I was throwing up and in tremendous pain I never relaxed and never dilated any further. Around 7pm, both the midwife and supervising doctor examined me and the doctor “strongly recommended” an immediate c-section. If we waited, he said, we would start to see distress in the baby. I hesitated again; was this the right thing to do? Keith and I were scared by the doctor’s words, the possibility that the baby could be in danger. We felt there really was no other choice. We agreed to the section and the doctor and midwife both rushed out of the room to prepare for surgery. It was all happening so fast. I began to second-guess our decision. “Wait. My mom was in labor for more than 24hrs; why are we doing this so fast?” I asked the nurse. She could only explain that doctors like to see a certain progression during labor and that I wasn’t meeting that goal. I wasn’t reassured, but didn’t know what else to do. They began to prep me and Keith for surgery.

In a short time I was wheeled into the OR for the section and the anesthesiologist moved the epidural so that the spot the pain was in was covered. The pain went away as my arms numbed and my ability to breathe began to feel restricted. I told him as much but as long as I could talk, he said, I was fine.

The surgery itself went well. Aria was out fast and she gave a couple of short cries, then one long one. She was taken to a table within my eye line and her exam was done so that I could see her even as they continued to work on me. When I turned my head, though, I felt like I was going to pass out, so I couldn’t watch her for long. Keith was sitting by my head through it all and told me what he could see during her exam. Soon they placed her in his arms and it was love at first sight, the proud papa and our new little girl establishing what continues to this day to be a very strong bond.

While Keith held Aria, they continued to work on me. I was pretty out of it and still feeling odd but my midwife talked me through it, letting me know when a sensitive area was being worked on and helping me stay calm when I felt I couldn’t breathe well. They finished with me about 20 or so minutes (I think) after Aria was delivered and Keith wheeled her in her bassinet to my room. I attempted to breastfeed but my arms were numb, especially my left arm (I’m left-handed), and even with the help of the nurses it was nearly impossible. She was interested but didn’t fully latch on and I couldn’t help her. They placed her on my lap and took a picture. I looked so tired and as drugged up as I felt but I was happy our daughter had arrived safely.

Keith’s brother and sister-in-law were the first to visit, having arrived at the hospital during my labor. They came in and watched Aria’s one hour exam and held their new niece. We made some calls, announcing our little one’s arrival, Keith doing most of the talking. Slowly, the feeling in my arms returned and I finally felt strong enough to trust myself to hold her. Leslie (sister-in-law) placed Aria in my arms and I felt the weight of her there for the first time, more than two hours after her birth. She was breathtaking.


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