Veronika Bush cracks me up. If you’re ready for a fairly raw portrayal of her birth, I’m pretty sure she’ll crack you up, too. Beyond her humor and honesty, there are some real lessons in Veronika’s tale. First, it’s important to surround yourself with a team you adore and trust. Also, this birthing business is a pretty unreliable industry, especially in terms of timing. But mostly, you’ve got to trust yourself… especially if you’re the one delivering.
The truth is, births rarely go as imagined! They may be messy, they may be embarrassing, they will probably be exhausting, and all we can really hope for is a wonderful ending. (But even then, we’re allowed to complain a little, right?)
So please join me in welcoming Veronika. (And just in case you’re reading, I’m sure there are no hard feelings, Terri!)
Warning: I talk in depth about poop for a bit.
With Eva being born at 41 weeks and five days after a 26-hour terrible induction, I was determined to do everything in my power to not have to be induced this time. This included hiring a doula to be my advocate and help me try to not have an epidural. With my low pain tolerance, I knew if I ever wanted a chance at a natural birth I’d need more help than just George.
At my doctor’s appointment on Friday June 6th, which was also my due date, I was dilated to a 1 and 20% effaced. The midwife at the practice recommended inserting evening primrose oil pills every night to help soften up my cervix even more. So I obliged, along with drinking pregnancy tea and red raspberry leaf tea. I also felt like it was helping things along that Eva was still nursing, because breastfeeding releases oxytocin which causes contractions. My next appointment was a week later, Friday the 13th, full moon and all. When they checked me this time I was at a 2 and 70% effaced. They also did a non-stress test (NST) to determine if my baby’s heartbeat was reacting normally. Unfortunately the machine at their office was a bit wonky and kept losing the heartbeat which resulted in not being able to get a good reading. The midwife, Chastain, sent me over to the hospital to do another NST with a better machine, and to get an ultrasound. Three unnecessary hours later (except the part where Eva and I got to ride around in a wheelchair) I was sent home and they said everything looked perfect. During these days I was having contractions from time to time, usually for a couple hours at night, but nothing consistent.
Sunday night after I put Eva to bed, my contractions started coming regularly every 10-12 minutes. I tried to sleep from midnight to about 2:00 am but they were too painful and I had to get out of bed. I started timing them for the next few hours, and when they were regularly ten minutes apart I called my doula, Carissa, because I felt like I should give her a heads up that I could go into active labor soon. I also asked if she had any pain management recommendations and what she thought I should do as far as getting my contractions to be closer together. She told me to try to sleep and get as much rest as I could – so not exciting! At 4:30 I laid back down and eventually fell asleep, and mostly stayed asleep. The contractions became fewer and farther between, although still there.
The next day, Monday afternoon, I had another appointment at my doctor’s office for another NST. They hooked me up, and like before, the heartbeat kept getting lost and it seemed ineffective. The nurse came in, looked at the test results paper, and then I heard the midwife, Terri, call out from the next room “Tell her she’s going to the hospital to have that baby today!” So then, of course, I got all teary-eyed because I did not want another induction, while the nurse told me my baby was having decelerations in his heartbeat and that it’d be for the best. Terri came in to talk to me and decided to check me again, and I was at a 4 and mostly effaced. She showed me the paper strip from the NST and said things like “Your baby has decels – this can be terrible and lead to brain damage and other scary things.” I can’t remember the specifics, but she made sure to weave in a whole bunch of medical terminology so I would have no idea what she was actually saying. She also told me if I were her daughter, she would’ve never let me leave the hospital last Friday because I was having decels on Friday, too. I told her at the hospital they said everything looked great and I asked her if she saw those results from the NST test done there. She admitted she didn’t, and then dismissed it. She just kept going back to “The same thing is happening today on the NST that was happening Friday – this is not good – and you need to go into the hospital so we can break your water.”
Everyone assured me that with being as far along as I was and with this being my second baby, that things would progress quickly and everything should be fine. The fact remained it would be an induction, which I was scared of and against. Because Terri kept comparing the most recent NST results to those done on Friday with the wonky machine, it was hard for me to believe this was truly a medical issue that warranted an induction. I still had five days until I hit 42 weeks, which was the agreed upon induction date should no complications arise earlier. I asked Terri if I could just go to the hospital and have another NST done there and if it looked fine if I could go home. She said I could negotiate with whoever was there, but as I left she said she’d see me and the baby the next day, as that was her scheduled day to be at the hospital.
I then went home and decided I needed to be sure my baby boy was safe, so I would meander on over to the hospital, but I’d take my time in doing so. I got home, put Eva down for a nap, and then tried to sleep myself but my contractions kept me awake. They weren’t regular, but they were regular enough that I couldn’t sleep. I ended up getting all my stuff together, dropping Eva off at my mother-in-law’s, and George and I finally left for the hospital around 7:00 pm. I knew they were expecting me, and when we got there the lady at the desk said I was supposed to be there five hours ago, and that my doctor’s office called and told them I was in labor. Weird. They sent me back downstairs to wait for 45 minutes until they got a room with a nurse ready. My doula, Carissa, met us there in case I actually did have a baby. As we got called back upstairs and were leaving the front desk, all the ladies were saying congratulations to me – as far as they knew I was about to have a baby! I heard one of them say I was here for an induction, and just hearing that made me cringe. When we finally got put in a room, I immediately told the nurse that I did not want to be induced, and she put me on the monitors.
The monitors were on for an hour, and then Chastain came in to talk to us. She confirmed that indeed everything was normal, that the baby has decels associated with my few and far between contractions, but that they were normal decels. She said she talked to the OB on duty and they wanted to keep me on the monitors at the hospital overnight, and also do an ultrasound. When she left the room, Carissa told me there’s no reason I should still be at the hospital. The monitoring proved my baby was fine, I definitely did not need to stay the night there, and it just meant I’d be really uncomfortable all night. When Chastain came back I told her I’d feel more comfortable going home, to which she agreed, but wanted an ultrasound done before I left to make sure fluid levels were good. She said she’d try to make sure that happened before midnight. When she left the room, Carissa again said an ultrasound was unnecessary and that I should just walk out and get as much rest as I could. Chastain came back in and I told her I wanted to leave with no ultrasound, that I would monitor my baby with kick counts, and that since I already had an ultrasound scheduled the next day at the doctor’s office I would just go to that. Chastain really advised me against leaving, because she had to professionally, and she said if I left the hospital it’d be against medical advice, or AMA. While it was scary to hear that, I said I still wanted to go, and signed a waiver and left.
It was incredibly hard for me to be that assertive and go against what the doctor and midwife recommended, and I’m sure I never would have left had Carissa not been there to talk me through it. She, George, and I were all in agreement there was nothing wrong with the baby and the best thing for everyone (except maybe the hospital it seemed) was for us to go home and wait for labor to take its course. Chastain must have known how I was feeling about the whole thing because she gave me a hug on my way out, told me there were no hard feelings and that we were welcome back anytime. I will also add she was the most natural of the four midwives in the practice, so if anyone were to deliver my baby I’d want it to be her. Terri, the midwife who sent me to the hospital, on the other hand, was the most aggressive.
As soon as we got in the car my contractions picked up big time, and baby boy started moving around a ton more. I definitely believe there is something to be said for the environment one is in, and that I would labor better outside the hospital.
We got home around midnight, and as Eva was still with her aunt Lizzie at a sleepover, I was hoping I could get some sleep. Unfortunately my ideas were all wrong and I couldn’t sleep at all because my contractions wouldn’t let me, despite how tired I was. I also noticed they hurt a lot, lot more when I laid down as opposed to when I would be sitting on my exercise ball or standing and trying to walk/rock my way through them. On top of the pain, I was freezing cold with an achy back due to lack of sleep, and super emotional. I saw Eva’s stuffed foxy on the couch and started crying because I missed her and was disheartened due to this baby taking seemingly forever to come out. I remembered my friend Melissa had an annoyingly long birth with her last one so I found her birth story online and re-read it, which helped me feel the slightest bit better.
Just before 6:00 am my contractions started coming five minutes apart, which I conveniently was timing with my Time Your Contractions app. This thing seriously was awesome and I don’t know how anyone had the patience to time their own contractions before apps were made. For about 45 minutes they were consistently staying five minutes apart, and I called Carissa to see if I should go back to the hospital. She said she would still wait if she were me, and that I didn’t sound like I was in enough pain (which was really annoying to hear). I told her I’d wait another 20 minutes or so to see how the hour finished out, because the doctor’s office advised going to the hospital for your second baby when contractions are 5 minutes apart for one full hour. I waited, and sure enough by 7:30 they were getting further apart. At one point I took a long, long shower and that helped greatly with making me feel better and the pain issue.
The next day we let Eva stay with Liz for the morning while George and I went to my ultrasound. They told me the baby looked super healthy, my fluid was at a level 14 (8-10 is when they start to worry), and the tech warned me that by her measurements my baby boy was nearly nine pounds, and that I really should go in to deliver him today because he was big. I’m not sure if she gives unsolicited advice to all her patients, but I thought it was weird how she just saw how healthy the baby was, and then told me I better go get an induction today just for the heck of it. I told her I knew Terri was working in the hospital today so I’d rather not.
After we got home, George picked up Eva, we chilled out at home, my contractions kept coming, and I felt like giving up because I was so tired and exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was worthless to do anything, and I was ready to give the doctors (and even George because he was getting frustrated too) what they wanted and go check myself into a hospital so they could break my water. But I kept going and just told myself it had to be tonight. As I was trying to keep myself motivated to have a natural birth, I of course turned to googling and natural-birthing-website reading, which actually did help. Through these websites I read about a movie on Netflix called The Business of Being Born. Of course I immediately turned it on, as it was produced by none other than Ricki Lake. That definitely helped strengthen my resolve (and George’s too) that I didn’t want an induction. (There is a lot of pregnant nudity in the film so be prepared for that if you watch it.)
When it was time for Eva to sleep we decided to put her to bed at home so she could have some sense of normalcy in her crazy week (she is a terrible sleeper and especially bad at falling asleep without her mama). Immediately after I nursed her and she went to sleep, my contractions started coming every four minutes. I figured they were only this close because I’d just nursed, but I called Carissa anyway to let her know. Once again she said she’d wait a bit longer, so I held out and stayed home. I told George to go to bed around 11:30 so at least he could get some sleep. I kept praying that this baby would come, that my water would break, or something would tell me to go to the hospital, because I couldn’t handle another night. Again, I was so completely drained physically and mentally.
My contractions continued, but they slowed (like always) to maybe every five to seven minutes or so. They were not super consistent and were getting farther apart. Finally I was half passed out sitting upright on my couch and a contraction came from which I was startled awake, and thought it felt a little different and that maybe it was time to get to the hospital. Then I passed out again and seven minutes later was startled awake again, and again thought I should go to the hospital now. I was also paranoid because so many people told me that this second baby might come really fast, and I definitely did not want to have the baby in the car on the way to the hospital. Since my contractions were not five minutes apart or regular, I felt a little silly just leaving for the hospital, so I decided I would leave but I’d get in the shower first because of how great it felt the day before. This also would give my contractions a chance to get closer together. After I was done showering, as soon as I turned the water off I was pretty sure my water broke. It wasn’t a big gushing, just a little bit of fluid coming out that I was pretty sure wasn’t pee because it wasn’t warm and I hadn’t had any bouts of incontinence recently.
It was now 12:45am, I woke up George to tell him we were leaving, and he was annoyed because he had just fallen asleep – he suggested we leave in two hours. I called Liz and she came right over to sleep with Eva (or not sleep from what I heard later), and I also called Carissa and told her I was pretty sure my water had broken and that I felt like it was time to go to the hospital, so I was going. I didn’t ask her opinion because I knew she would tell me she didn’t think it was time yet based on my voice, but beforehand we had discussed that as soon as my water broke we would go to the hospital because things could escalate quickly. And also I wasn’t waiting around any longer; I was more than ready.
We got to the hospital around 1:30am and I went up to the front desk and told them I thought my water had broken. The ladies there said “Trust me, you’ll know when your water breaks, there’s no doubt,” but they sent me to triage anyway where a nurse did a swab test to see if my water had ruptured. She said sure enough it had, so I felt vindicated that I wasn’t imagining anything. Then she checked me to see how far along I was and she said I was at a ten(!), fully effaced, and the baby was descended to a zero (from a scale of -5 to 5).
This was great news to me of course, and I was glad I trusted my instincts as to when to go to the hospital. I was ready to go to my room and start pushing this baby out already!
A nurse wheeled me to a room, and all the while I was feeling so great about my pain tolerance coping abilities, as everyone was commenting on how calm I was for being at a ten. We got to the room at 2:15 and they hooked me up to monitors and put a hep lock in, as I said I didn’t want an IV to tie me down. Carissa got them to bring be a birthing bar, which attached on top of the bed and was awesome. After they monitored for 20-30 minutes they let me get off the monitors and then I realized I had to get this baby to descend a bit more before I would/could start pushing. Carissa had me do some squats and rocks and she really encouraged me to grunt/growl through my contractions, which was weird because I didn’t feel a need to, but I did it all anyway. I was also taking sips from my juice box and eating graham crackers intermittently to keep my energy up, as one of my biggest complaints in Eva’s birth was not being allowed nourishment. An hour later the nurse checked me again, and the baby hadn’t descended at ALL. I kept trying to rock and will the baby to move down, and at 5:00 am (almost two hours later), the midwife, Terri, came in and checked me and told me my baby is still at a zero. Then she told me that most second-time moms who come in at a ten have a baby fifteen minutes later…and here it’s been four hours. She said maybe the head was too big, and that I still had intact bags of water somewhere inside so she wanted to rupture what was left in hopes it would allow the baby to descend. I obliged because it made sense to me, and they had already ruptured by themselves so I saw no harm in it.
Terri also told me to start pushing and trying to push that baby down into place, even though I didn’t feel an urge. The most comfortable position I found was kneeling on the bed holding onto the birthing bar – seriously, that thing is great. The midwife and nurse told us about “McRoberts Manuever,” which they said helps a lot in opening up the pelvis so the baby has room to descend. I was super hesitant because it meant being on my back which made my contractions hurt more, but I had to try. The nurse pushed one of my legs up so my knee was by my ear, bent like a frog leg, while Carissa did the same with my other leg. I grabbed under my knees and lifted my head and pushed. I absolutely hated it but I did it through three or four contractions. Then I quit that and returned back to my bar. I kept pushing to try to make the baby get down into position, and eventually I actually started developing an urge to push. Except it was just an urge to push out poop. All modesty thrown out the window, I was kneeling on the hospital bed with my body forcibly trying to empty my bowels, yet nothing was coming out and it was super frustrating. It hurt so, so badly. I thought I could feel the baby down there somewhere, but mostly I was focused on needing to get the poop out of my body, and it was the WORST constipated feeling/pain I’ve ever experienced. But what made it even more worse is that I couldn’t not push – even though I tried really hard to will my body to stop.
At this point I was full on screaming and yelling and George claims roaring, but he doesn’t have proof. Pushing was taking everything out of me and I just wanted to quit. Eventually I got the poop out and George cleaned it up, and then my body still wouldn’t stop pushing through contractions even though I wanted it to stop and needed a break. I was telling everyone I couldn’t do it anymore and that I quit and I said I wanted an epidural. I didn’t know they could still give me one at this point, but they said ok. They explained that first they had to get a full bag of IV fluids pumped in me, which would take about fifteen minutes. I told them to hurry. They attached the bag and I didn’t know how I was still surviving. I had George give me a Priesthood blessing so I could survive until my epidural came.
At one point during all this (I’m not sure exactly when) I was sure I felt the baby crowning, but when they called the nurse in she said I wasn’t.
I remember thinking It was weird how the midwife hardly ever came in my room during this whole time, I’m pretty sure it was because she hated me for defying her orders from my Monday office visit. The nurse also kept asking to put the monitors back on me (they would do 20 minutes on every hour) but I kept not responding or saying no because I was in too much pain. Also around this time, the nurses switched, and the new nurse came in and my eyes were closed the whole time but I just heard a really annoying voice start talking a mile a minute, and when she left I asked my first nurse to tell her to stop talking. She said she would.
I just kept hanging out, dying, draped over the birthing bar, waiting for my IV bag to drain so I could get the epidural, and the nurses kept saying “We have to get the fluid in you” and I kept thinking “Yeah, I thought that was happening right now.” Apparently since the IV was in the crook of my elbow I needed to keep my arm straight for the fluid to drain in but they didn’t tell me that so I didn’t know it wasn’t working. Finally, Carissa realized and immediately told me I had to keep my arm straight and I was super annoyed nobody told me sooner. All the while my body kept pushing uncontrollably, I kept yelling, the annoying nurse (AN) came back and started talking as much as she ever did, but fortunately I was able to drown out most of her annoying noise. George told me later that Carissa tried to tell the AN to shush and that I wanted it quiet, which irritated the AN and she said she would talk and say whatever she needed to say. Then she got up in my face and was asking me questions and telling me what I’d have to do for my epidural and asking if I could do it. George said he was positive I was going to punch her, but I just remember not answering her and looking ahead with dead eyes.
Now it’s all a blur, but at some point I could definitely feel the baby’s head start to crown, despite all my efforts to stop the pushing and wait for the epidural. I was kneeling, holding on to, keeled over the birthing bar on the bed, not opening my hips up so the baby would stay in and also because I was scared of pain and it hurt. Carissa tried to talk me into laying back down on the bed in that McRobert’s position again. I reluctantly agreed but made her and George pretty much move my entire body into the right position because I couldn’t move as I was in too much pain. They got me into position, both said they could see the baby’s hair, called the nurses and midwife in, and I was pushing out a baby.
The nurse told me about an hour beforehand that when the baby crowns many women refer to it as the “ring of fire” because it burns so bad. I told her I didn’t want to know that and she responded with “Well, I’m not trying to sugarcoat it.” I would now describe the experience the same way. So the baby was coming out, I wanted to do controlled pushing so I wouldn’t tear, but Terri was giving me zero guidance. George and Carissa later told me that Terri stuck her hand in and got her fingers around the baby’s head and pulled it out. Then she proceeded to twist it 180 degrees (my pediatrician said to help get the shoulders out) before pulling out his body while I pushed. I’m fairly positive the baby would have come out on his own so hearing this happened annoyed me a bit. It was a great relief getting his head out, and then finally getting his body out, but not as relieving as I thought because I was in so much pain down there. I ended up tearing (six stitches worth) which I couldn’t feel distinctly happening at the time, but definitely could feel it lumped in with the awful awful pain that was a baby coming out of me. As soon as he was out I immediately asked for Motrin, and it took them at least 15 minutes to give me that and Percocet. Next time I’m bringing my own Motrin.
They put little boy on my chest right away, but his cord was a bit short so it was more like on my belly while Terri stitched me up. She injected a needle full of numbing stuff before she started stitching which was great and I couldn’t feel the stitching at all, but she didn’t tell me about the needle shot itself until I was kind of yelling about what was going on. Once I knew what it was I was fine, as needles don’t bother me, but I thought it was rude on her part to not say anything. Then it was time to deliver the placenta, which hurt a fair bit but nothing like before, so I could deal with it. Terri held up the placenta for me to see and explained where the baby fit in it, so that was pretty cool.
And finally my labor was over! I could feel my legs, move around, eat some graham crackers and juice, and hold my baby. They weighed him an hour later and he was 8 pounds, 7 ounces, 21 inches, and born at 7:08 am when I was 41 weeks and five days, which is exactly the same amount of time I carried Eva before she was born by induction. We decided to name him Theodore Bruce Bush.
I immediately told everyone I was never ever ever not in a million years doing that again – meaning the no epidural portion. Afterward, a nurse asked me what the marks were on my hands …Oh yeah! Those are just my teeth marks. Nothing to worry about.
I do feel like if I wasn’t so sleep-deprived, if I wasn’t pushing for so long, and if I had an enema before hand, that I possibly could handle not having an epidural again.
As for George, he went from being super duper anti-doula to now wanting to BE a doula! Ok, just kidding, but he is so supportive of them now, so that’s awesome.
I’m not sure which birth was worse, this or my induction. Truthfully, I hated both experiences.
I know you laughed at Veronika’s last thought, didn’t you? She is too funny. Thanks for adding your humor and honesty, Veronika!
For all you out there waiting to be moms, does it help to read these very real accounts of the birthing process? Does it make you nervous or empowered? I hope the latter!