samuel henry – a birth story

Samuel Henry

May 12th, 8:04AM

8lbs 13oz, 22”

Like his sister, Samuel came into the world in a dramatic way; unlike his sister, he took his sweet time doing it.

My pregnancy with Samuel was fairly routine despite being closely monitored for possible repeat complications.  It was to be a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian) and I had been approved by an OB to be a good candidate.  Even though it was very routine, I and my midwife (and everyone else for that matter) was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks.  I had a lot of braxton hicks contractions from about 25 weeks on, and when I got to about 36 weeks they were a regular part of my day.  At 38 weeks I started experiencing painful (but still tolerable) contractions that would come 5-8 minutes apart and last for a few hours each day.  Every day we waited for them to get closer together but every day they just stayed the same.

At 40 weeks, my midwife tried doing a cervical check (and possible sweep) but Samuel was so low that she could barely reach around his head to do anything.  It was definitely frustrating.  We made all the appointments for the coming week to have NST’s (non stress tests) and an ultrasound to make sure fluid levels were good. Our plan was that if by 41 weeks and 3 days (10 days overdue) nothing had happened, we would start a slow induction (with a foley catheter and possibly oxytocin)

I had my first NST on Monday the 9th at 41 weeks and 1 day.  Sam was happy and moving and showing no signs of trouble.  The nurse performing the NST mentioned to me that the fact that baby was so low, he was not actually sitting on my cervix, and that might have something to do with why I wasn’t progressing with labor. She mentioned going on all fours and sticking my bum up in the air to get him repositioned and it would surely get things going.  That afternoon I went home and did that as much as I could handle.  I did end up getting stronger contractions that night and was woken up every 30 minutes or so by a strong one.

The next morning I still wasn’t convinced that anything was going to happen and went on throughout my day feeling sure that I was going to end up getting induced (and/or having a c-section).  Contractions kept getting stronger, more painful and closer that evening but still nothing that would send me to the hospital.

That night (Tuesday) I was up the whole night with 10 minute very painful contractions.  Again, not close enough that I could go to the hospital, despite the pain.  By Wednesday morning (the 11th) they were 5 minutes apart when resting and 2 minutes apart when walking.  I called my midwife and she came to my house right away to do an assessment.  She didn’t want to send me to the hospital only for me to get sent home disappointed.  When she checked me I was about 3-4cm dilated, but baby had an unusually high heart rate which concerned her.  We went straight to the hospital to get an NST done and make sure everything was fine.  It turned out he was just being very happy and active when she had been checking him–but at the end of it all (since I was already overdue) she and the OB on call recommended breaking my water to get the party started. I gladly agreed.

Once my waters were broken, contractions got a lot more intense and more painful…but still never more than 3 minutes apart.  My plan was to use laughing gas to cope, but I was hoping to avoid anything else.  But by Wednesday evening, I had basically been laboring since Monday with only slow progression.  I was very tired.  My midwife did a cervical check and found that I had dilated to maybe 5 or 6cm but was starting to swell which was causing things to slow.  That, and the fact that I hadn’t slept for the previous 2 nights brought her to recommend getting an epidural so that I could get some rest.  She said my body was probably just too tired to progress any more without some proper rest.

I never thought I would agree to an epidural but at the moment I came to a realization and said to myself “when he’s a grown man, no one will care that his mom had an epidural. Even when he is 1 day old, no one will care.”  So I agreed.

The epidural went very smoothly.  I was able to sleep on and off for a few hours (maybe 2 or 3 in total?) but by 2AM still was not having contractions any closer than 3 minutes apart.  I was SO frustrated.  We started oxytocin to pick things up which made my contractions more intense…but still never closer together.

By 4AM my midwife did another check.  I was not convinced that anything had changed, but lo and behold, (and much to EVERYONE’s surprise) I was actually fully dilated and ready to push if I felt like I could!  Because of the epidural though it was hard to tell at first when I could.  We upped the oxytocin again though and I just sort of went for it.  My midwife was great at coaching me and making sure I didn’t expel all my energy in the wrong way.  At about 6:30AM though, progress had still been slow.  I was exhausted and not sure how much more pushing I could do.  We tried numerous different positions at that point but still nothing seemed to be helping.  I could feel him moving down with each push and as soon as I would stop I’d feel him move back up.

We were using at rope with a handle at each end for me to pull on (and Dave pulled the other end) while I tried pushing.  It was working a bit, but I could only just start his head crowning before he’d go back in.  By about 7:30AM my midwife consulted the on call OB to see when our next steps would be.  We knew the baby was happy because I was on continual monitoring (because of it being a VBAC) but couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t get him out.  He felt around and realized that baby was actually posterior in the birth canal (facing up instead of down–babies should be facing down to come out easily).  Not only that, but his head seemed to be angled in such a way that he was just getting stuck.  The OB said my options were to have a c-section (which would be tricky because he was already so far down the birth canal) or to attempt a vacuum.  We decided to do the vacuum first and c-section later if that didn’t work.

While they were fiddling with setting up the vacuum though, I started getting some crazy contractions one on top of each other.  I was trying to get everyone’s attention and to get Dave or my midwife to grab the other end of the rope but they seemed to be preoccupied with the new plan.  So I grabbed my knees and went crazy pushing and within a few minutes had his head out.  A few more pushes and he was all out!  

I found out later that the reason he was so difficult to push out was because he was coming out brow first (not just sunny side up) and didn’t turn like a lot of posterior babies do.  That, and the fact that he was almost 9lbs (8lbs 13oz) meant I had my share of tearing (3rd degree).  He ended up with a lot of bruises on his head, as well as a black eye from when the OB was trying to determine his presentation earlier and jabbed his finger in the poor boys eye socket.

We are so thankful that he is out and safe and sound.  I only realized later how crazy the whole situation was when my midwife pointed out all the variables that made this birth epic (a VBAC brow presentation birth of an almost 9lb baby!)  We joked that if I ever had a third child (which is a definite NO) that it would have to have an equally crazy story to match its siblings.

//Photo Credits//
(in order of appearance)

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