The Thing About Birth

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The thing about Birth is that there is no predicting the journey.  This Birth had all the elements of surprise, all the highs and lows, all the things. This story is unusual, as in not the norm.  

Don’t use this story as a measuring tool for another birth journey, this one stands out as incomparable.

As sometimes happens at the end of a pregnancy, her blood pressure was rising, so a plan was made for an induction.  We knew it might be challenging, she got her body ready, calmed her emotions and together they were as prepared as they could be.  We met in triage for the first step, a straightforward gel application to soften her cervix. It went as expected and we all went home to rest.  She was cramping a little, and that increased over the next few hours. We were excited by this! A good start.

The next trip to triage the Resident Doctor’s assessment was that the cervix was now dilated to between 3 and 4 cm! Amazing progress in just 7 hours.

She was definitely feeling discomfort in both her uterus and her back, we could see on the monitor that the uterus was contracting.  We went walking the halls, lunging and swaying and doing whatever we could think of to help make space for baby to rotate and move down. 3 hours later the same Resident Doctor now assessed her cervix to be dilated open to between 5 and 6 cm!  The cervix is thinning out, effacing. We felt surprised by this progress, but thrilled.

An hour later the labour seems to shift, there is so much intensity that after 20 minutes of this the triage Nurse suggests another cervix check to be sure this body isn’t jumping ahead to surprise us all.  The assessment is hard and there is a look on the Nurse’s face that makes me wonder. She lets us know that the cervix is dilated to about 4 cm. She doesn’t expand on this and is called away.

We felt confused by this information.

25 minutes later we were admitted to a room to start the next steps of this labour,  the contractions are still coming consistently.  

An hour later, a very experienced Nurse does a careful exam and gently informs us that the cervix is actually dilated to between 1-2 cm, and still has some thickness to it.  In other words it is the same as it was when we first came in, 13 hours ago! This is hard. Too hard. The labour feels impossible to deal with, how can this have happened? Confusion, frustration, disappointment and even anger are being felt by us all.  

While trying to reframe, to overcome that mental space, it is decided to go ahead with the synthetic oxytocin iv infusion.  During the height of all that, she had asked for anesthetic help, but now the staff is advising against it. The anesthesiologist comes to discuss the risks and benefits at this stage of labour, he is amazing. Calms us all down, she is able to regain her breathing and focus.  

The labour seems to soften and slow. She alternates between standing and swaying her body, leaning over a the bed or the ball, sitting on the ball, and lying on her side. He is there for her to lean on, hold her hands, stroke her hair, breathe with her.

Five and a half hours later, there has been no change. A different Resident Doctor comes in to talk to us and suggests stopping the synthetic oxytocin, and focusing on softening the cervix again.  This makes sense. The synthetic oxytocin is turned off, they try to rest while waiting for the next step.

There is a shift change, we are waiting for the on call Obstetrician to consult with us.  He is patient and kind, talks through the options. She is still contracting at this point but able to rest through the labour.

26 hours after this journey began, we begin again.  This time a different softening agent is used. She rests, she stands and sways, she rocks, we walk, we stretch and release, she rests.

6.5 hours later… there is a slight change in the position of the cervix. That’s it.

Frustration, disappointment, tears.

So on to the next thing.  Now the Doctor tries a foley bulb catheter.  We all try to rest.

45 minutes later that labour is back with fire. So much intensity, more show and shakes and all the labour effects. Pain management options are limited because the Nurse says that if the bulb hasn’t fallen out the cervix hasn’t changed enough to open up the options. This birther finds her center, works through it, catches up.  And then the labour seems to slow up again.

Four hours later, the synthetic oxytocin is started up again. We are alternating between resting and moving around, changing positions, using gravity.

Another shift change is about to happen, it has been 11 hours since the foley bulb was put in, time for a reassessment. The on call Doctor says that the foley bulb has fallen out of the cervix, (although the tape on her leg is holding it in to look unchanged), and she is now dilated to 4 cm!  For real! He confirms that it likely changed back when she was having all that intense labour! His suggestion would be to rupture the waters, but since he is going off shift he leaves that decision to the next Doctor.

The labour is intensifying again, we do all our moves again.  She is moving around on the bed, and suddenly with two big pops her waters break! So much excitement.  Could things be changing? Are we really going to meet this baby?

The anesthesiologist stops in right then and it seems like a good time to use his services. Relief is quick, and so is an increase in pressure. We are all feeling much more positive at this point. We turned a corner, they refocused and centered themselves. She jokes and says “go for lunch, I’m not having this baby right away”.

50 minutes later that labour is strong enough to feel again, it has changed again, it is moving her.

She is focused, determined, ready to meet their baby.

One hour and 25 minutes after she was assessed as being 4-5 cm, she is now more than 9 cm dilated!



What is this labour? This path; so unpredictable.

Now she is moving and shaking and lifting her leg to alleviate the pressure, and breathing, so much breathing. Another hour and her cervix is fully dilated, baby has shifted down.  This is happening.

All at once, it is happening.  And she is just doing it, whatever she needs to do.

43 minutes later, they are gazing at their daughter with all love in their beings. She is here, and she is everything.


Did you do the math?  48 hours of lead up, false starts, blind alleys, lows and lower lows, and then 3 hours of wild active labour and delivery.

This is not your usual birth story, but it is theirs.  

And they did it.


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