This year Labor Day has a special meaning for me. That’s because today is my son Nico’s 15th birthday. 15 years ago today he was born after an excruciating 27 hours of labor. That’s right, 27 hours. If I had a blog back then, heck, if I knew what the internet was back then, I might have blogged about it. I may have written about it like other mommy bloggers memorialize their children’s birth stories. It probably would have served as a lesson for all those expectant mothers who are so wedded to a “birth plan” that they throw good sense out the window, ignoring the advice of their obstetricians, friends and even their own husbands. Since I didn’t have a blog back then I couldn’t post my son’s birth
horror story for all the world to read. No worries, the events are burned in my brain enough that today, 15 years later, I can recount it all. Spoiler alert: it all ends well, which is why I am posting this on my son’s 15th birthday.
Nicolas, or Nico as we still call him, was expected to make his arrival on August 16, 1998. I knew that the date was accurate, since I had been charting my fertile periods for months. I was excited and nervous about the birth, but relieved that my pregnancy had progressed so well, even after two previous miscarriages. As soon as I got past the 12 week mark I began to let myself think about the childbirth experience I wanted.
I read about the different methods and resolved to have a natural, low intervention childbirth, the Bradley way. My then-husband and I enrolled in a Bradley birthing class. We did the homework, including focus exercises, practice birthing positions, massage, and we even wrote a two page birth plan. The birth plan included instructive phrases like “non-intervention” and specific instructions for the music we pre-recorded, the non-use of medication, and even that the baby would immediately placed on my chest when he was born. I never even thought to include words like epidural, fetal monitor, episiotimy, or, c-section.
I took my leave from my law office four weeks before my due date and spent the time nesting and resting. August 16 came and went. All the while I noticed every twinge, cramp or ache, and thought, “This was it!” But every little cramp and turned out to be a false alarm.
Every other day I would visit my doctor who would monitor the baby’s heart rate. And every other day he would tell me that we could induce labor. Every other day I refused. I was determined it would happen naturally. As the long, hot days of August wore on, I became more and more uncomfortable and more and more anxious to speed things along “naturally.” I read all I could about inducing labor and even tried a few natural remedies–herbs, a restaurant that was famous for its spicy salad dressing known to induce labor, acupressure, even S-E-X. (Ugh). Nothing worked.
Finally, on August 31, 15 days past my due date, I went into labor. I was awakened from my sleep at about 3:00 am., with excruciating back pain. I was definitely in labor but the contractions were still about 20 minutes apart. I called the doctor and she said I was in early labor and to call again when my contractions were closer together. This was it! The backache was painful but I managed it with all the exercises I’d learned in my Bradley classes. “Here we go,” I thought, until around mid-day when my contractions seemed to stop.
We went to the doctor and he said I was definitely in labor but I still had a ways to go. We went home and tried to get things started again. Walking around the block, stretching, squatting. Finally, around dinner time we went out to Thai food and I ordered extra spicy, recalling that I read somewhere about capiscium helping to induce labor. I called a mid-wife and she recommended I try an enema. Yeah. No thanks. I wanted things natural, but not that natural.
That night I went to bed feeling tired, frustrated and anxious. Shortly after midnight on September 2, I was awakened by back pain, more intense than ever. For the next four hours I managed the pain using my Bradley exercises. About 5:00 am, my water broke and I realized there was meconium in the fluid! The dreaded baby’s first poop in the embryonic sack. Everyone had warned me about this and I didn’t listen. I panicked and we called my doctor and Bradley instructor. She came over immediately and tried to calm me down. I could hardly stand the back pain as she explained that it was likely that my son’s head was putting pressure on my spine, causing the back labor.
My husband drove us to the hospital during morning rush hour traffic while I tried to manage the back pain and now full-blown contractions by facing backwards in the front passenger seat, draping my torso over the top of the seat. It seemed to take forever to get to the hospital, which was normally 25 minutes away. After I was admitted to the hospital things seemed to happen quickly even though I labored another six hours without pain medication.
Finally, after about 24 hours of labor, I was so exhausted I could no longer focus and concentrate, I broke down and asked for the epidural. I cried, not because the needle hurt, but because of my disappointment in myself. Then I cried because I was relieved to be free of the pain of back labor. At last, the pain was gone and I was able to sleep.
An hour later I awoke to the sound of alarms beeping and nurses rushing into my room. The doctor examined me and said my cervix was swollen. He inserted a fetal monitor inside me and attached it to the baby’s scalp. So far, I had gotten every medical intervention I tried to prevent! The doctor told me that after all my labor I was still only 4 centimeters dilated and I would need a cesarean.
I cried again but this time because of of fear for my baby’s health. They wheeled me into the surgery room and 20 minutes later my son was born. He was a perfectly healthy 6 ½ pound, 21 inch long baby. I heard the doctor say that he had a short umbilical cord, and and perhaps that was why he never fully descended into the birth canal.
Ha! Now I know that Nico’s delayed arrival and prolonged delivery was a signal to me. Nico has always done things on his own time, at his own speed, sometimes to my great frustration. I can grow impatient with him when he doesn’t act as quickly as I expect, and moves more slowly than my own frantic pace. But then I realize, this is who Nico is. As he moves through life with his own deliberate stride, he reminds me to slow down. His own way of being in this world helps me understand that not everything is planned and fully executed on my timetable, or under my control. I am also reminded that he is a thoughtful, careful, and loving son, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. He is definitely worth the wait. Happy Labor Day to me and happy birthday to Nico.