Frassati was making no movements toward birth at 41 weeks. I couldn't go 42 because of Leiden Factor V, a hypercoagulability in my genes--i.e., genetically I'm prone to blood clots but thankfully have never had any. Medically, most would agree that it was risky to pass the due date. The doc and I made a compromise: he wouldn't induce at 40 weeks, and I wouldn't push him past 41.
I tried everything. All the teas, all the exercises, the walking, acupuncture--twice--, raspberries. But Little Man was not moving. At my 41 week appointment, the doctor came in to strip my membranes but he couldn't. You see, if we used our imaginations, I was dilated half a centimeter and baby was at station -3. Upon feeling the baby through my abdomen, the doc realized that the baby's head was at a 60 degree angle on my pubic bone. My abdomen wall was not strong enough to hold baby vertically, so in order for him to descend, somehow he would have to move back up, then down into my cervix. Doc gave me a generous 30% chance of delivering him vaginally.
I felt like I had been blessed with so many miracles already: I was pregnant (our love made a BABY!!!), I did not miscarry (I was the first lady in my family not to miscarry because of that clotting issue), I did not even have to be on blood thinning medicine during pregnancy (like the rest of my family had)... I was sure that I would be able to have this baby naturally.
Our original plan was a natural birth. No medicine. Bradley method. Now the choice was c-section or induction. The blood-clotting risk was now secondary to the concern of the position of the baby. The doc was incredibly gentle in delivering this news and gave us time to digest and decide.
I couldn't imagine not trying to deliver our boy vaginally, so I went to be induced that evening.
Because in the Bradley classes and in all of the natural birth school that your body was made to give birth. You can do it. Without help from doctors. YOU can do it. You are the one that delivers your baby, not the doctor. You do all of the work. And you can! For millennia women have given birth naturally and without doctors. And of course you learn about the risks of all the medicine doctors use. And the cascade of drugs.
I didn't want that--the drugs, and the possible side-effects. And since medicine was a requirement now, I felt like I'd failed baby F. Why wasn't my body working right? Is this a sign that I'm already a bad mother? I fought those feelings of being a failure all afternoon and evening. It was a rough day.
When we arrived at the hospital, the doc was deciding how to begin softening my cervix and realized I was already contracting. (I had been having contractions at night, but then they'd go away during the day.) So, they injected cervadil and said hopefully that was all I needed.
A dear friend sent over a doulah with years of experience. She brought a riboso (a long piece of woven fabric that Latin Americans use to wrap their babies onto themselves) to try to wrap my abdomen and lift the baby up. We used that during every contraction, hoping the contractions would squeeze our little man back up, so he could come down to the right spot.
But the next morning the contractions were gone. The Pitocin drip began at 7:00. And the induced contractions started. I labored without pain medicine until about 4:00 in the afternoon. At that point, the doc was insisting they have a more accurate measure of the contractions. In order to have that, they had to measure internally, which meant I'd have to stay in the bed. Up until now, I had been laboring in all kinds of positions. I'd get sick of one and move around. The most comfortable for me was on a birth ball.
Mr. F. and my sweet doulah friend Kaitrin were my amazing graces. Kaitrin just rubbed my back all day and Mr. F. held me up nonstop. Our theme song for the day should have been "Lean on Me." I surely did lean on both of them. We listened to my favorites of The Moth podcast and as I remember, it was a fun day with two of the best people I know.
Here's the thing about Pitocin, which I'm sure you already know if you listen to Riki Lake or her documentaries, the chemical that induces contractions skips your brain. Since your body isn't producing it, the chemical goes right to work on your uterus, failing to communicate to your brain. So, your brain does not release more adrenaline to deal with the pain you are experiencing. Oh and btw: the contractions from Pitocin can become harder, faster, stronger than natural contractions because the dosage can be upped beyond normal labor limits.
My labor was bearable as long as I wasn't in bed. It really is true what they say: on your back in bed is the most painful way to labor. Since I had to lay in bed, I didn't know if I could handle these contractions on my own. I was so resistant to the idea of an epidural. But dear Kaitrin basically helped me realize we were outside the natural realm. These contractions (which were still getting stronger) were too much. Finally, I acquiesced to an epidural, and they gave me as much Pitocin as is allowed.
It was too much. The baby's heart crashed to around 40--normal is 130-150ish. And his heart rate stayed low for several minutes. It was scary. Really scary. They stopped all medicine and gave me oxygen to help him stabilize. And we all stared at the monitors praying that this baby would be healthy.
After all the contracting, I had dilated a few centimeters; and the baby was still stationed at -2.5 or -3. A section was required. Everyone got prepped for surgery.
just kidding. here's the real prepped people:
All I'll say about the surgery itself is that it's... yanky. They do not gently lift out the baby. It was traumatic to me. I don't understand why people elect to have that procedure. I'm so thankful Mr. F. was there. He held my hand and looked into my eyes, pouring love so I didn't have to stare at white ceiling tiles and feel like a corpse.
Frassati Hugo was born on 3/23 at 23:23. The nurse said she was playing those numbers in the lotto that night. As Frassati was born, everyone in the operating room gasped and I wondered if he was alive. Then he cried. They cleaned him up and put him near my face so I could kiss him.
Then they weighed him. It was like The Biggest Loser. The scale flashed "calculating....calculating...calculating" and then the weight came up in grams - which meant nothing to me but everyone started hollering. When the English measurement appeared on the screen, the gasps and hollering made sense. 11 lbs. 3 oz. Whoa, baby.
Then I lay there as they stitched me up. Mr. F. and baby went to another room.
And at the same time so sad that I had surgery, so disappointed things weren't the way I'd wished.
It took a while for me to grieve the surgery and deal with the thwarted expectation of a natural birth. Maybe I still am in that process. And it aggravates me when people say, All that matters is that you have a healthy baby. Because that's not all that mattered to me. I wrestle my way back to pin my thoughts to "All things work together for good." But it's a process, not a switch. And in the process I learn over and over to rest in the goodness of my God who created this beautiful boy I get to hold 23 hours a day. And over and over I come back to a place of thanksgiving.