Options, Support, Respect: A Birth Story
Name: Shannon Kaschak from The Full Pursuit
Baby’s name: AJK
Weight: 7lbs 13oz
Length: 19.5 in
Birthday: May 12, 2019
Place of birth: Danbury Hospital
From the moment I got a positive pregnancy test, I began to dream about what my child's Birth Experience would be like. I began reading everything I could get my hands on- with the clear goal of having an unmedicated birth.
I sat on an exercise ball every day, for as long as possible. If I wasn't on an exercise ball, I was sitting tailor style on the floor- only the best posture and keeping the pelvis open for me.
I walked 2-5 miles a day. I ate as well as I could through the morning sickness and when I finally started meds I made sure I had a really balanced diet. I drank 120 oz of water a day. I did pelvic tilts. You name it- if it was going to help prepare my body for birth, I was going to do it.
I had a low risk, healthy and normal pregnancy. I was young. I was in shape. I had the mental stamina to take this on head first and do this. I was ready to run the marathon that is giving birth to a baby. I had even talked to my doctor about not inducing until I was at 42 weeks as long as everything was healthy so that my body could be fully ready to do this thing (who wants to go to 42 weeks these days?! =p).
Then at 38 weeks my blood pressure was slightly elevated. There was no red flag thrown yet, but now, we were going to keep watching it and see what happened.
39 weeks rolls around. "Are you having contractions? Were you running late to your appointment?" The answer was no to both of these things, and my blood pressure was still elevated. Our watch continued. We scheduled a non stress test (where they hook you up to a monitor and watch baby's heart rate, movements, and any contractions you're having) and an ultrasound to check her amniotic fluid levels.
It was at this point that the word induction was mentioned, and I started to get concerned. This was not a part of my plan!! I had worked so hard to be healthy and avoid this. I went home and for a week did everythingpossible to try to induce labor on my own. I ate four whole pineapples. I walked all day. I did squats and lunges, I broke out my breast pump, I hand expressed- if it was going to kick start labor without destroying my bowels I was game to try it.
40 weeks. Same questions. Same response. Tiny Girlfriend was happy on the inside, moving just the way she was supposed to, and her amniotic fluid was totally perfect. In my head, this was great news! I was going to be able to push it for another week, with more monitoring, and keep trying to get my body ready for labor.
But the doctor looked at me and said: "I can't make the call. With this pressure, we should send you to L&D for further monitoring and then the on-call doc will make the call."
I knew from my appointment just two days prior that the doctor I had been seeing every appointment since 12 weeks was the on-call doc that night. We headed to the hospital and I was still thinking I could go home and just come in for monitoring more frequently.
I was in good spirits- after all, Gene had never been an alarmist with me. He had been nothing but supportive of my goal for an unmedicated birth and had agreed that if nothing was wrong, we could keep waiting. He had even said if there was no imminent risk we could delay induction by a few hours so I could walk at my graduation ceremony. I still felt calm, cool, collected and in control. I was smiling and laughing with the nurses, drinking my water and watching the erratic contractions that I wasn't feeling, taking these all as good signs that I would be headed home soon.
I then asked Nancy, the first of many incredible people who were on my team, some important questions.
If you induce me can I be up and walking around? The answer: no. If we put medicine in your body, we have to know the baby is okay. But I knew the hospital had one telemetry unit that was waterproof, so I hadn't begun to panic yet.
Will you be able to get me the wireless monitoring system so I can walk and use the tub? I am trying for an unmedicated birth and these are things that really ease my discomfort. The answer: our one unit has been out for repair. Me: could you please see if it has come back yet?
Now I was starting to worry. My birth preferences were going south very quickly here. A very dear friend of mine recommended a book to me that I gobbled up in just one day. It is called Birth Without Fear by January Harshe. In it, Mama J emphasizes the importance of having Options, Support, and Respect. This became our mantra and rallying cry in the last few weeks of our pregnancy, and rather than having a meltdown, I began to repeat these three words to myself knowing that we could handle this new set of challenges.
They moved us out of triage and over to the room where I would give birth to my daughter. I was still a little bit in denial because Gene hadn't told me I was for sure admitted, and Sean, my mom and I waited for the final verdict.
Bracelets were printed. Forms were signed. And Gene apologized that I was going to have to miss my graduation. I told him that I trusted him, and agreed that the safe arrival of my daughter was a far greater good, but I was going to eat this dang cheeseburger before they admitted me =p. He happily agreed and we were on our way.
As mentioned earlier, my body was not at all ready to have a baby. So the first part of my induction process was what is called cervical ripening. My nurse for the evening, Cyndi was just lights out, explaining what was going to happen and having a great sense of humor to help me be less stressed. Nancy gave me a tempur pedic mattress topper, and everyone was just being so kind. I had a brave face on, and was trying to remain positive, but I was a little bit scared. This is not the natural way to do this. I truly felt that my body just needed a few more days and would have done this on its own, but now I felt I was somewhat backed into a corner because my blood pressure made it unsafe to continue to carry my little one.
Options. Support. Respect.
We started with the first dose of misoprostol and then settled in for a long wait. Every four hours, I could receive another dose, and the hope was that this would kind of kick start the process. I slept through the first dose, and we saw no changes. I was told this was normal, and that this would be a slow process. They gave me the second dose and I began to sweat profusely. I was wide awake, watching Guy Fieri and thanking God that my mom needs a fan to sleep with at night and had brought two because I felt like I was just going to melt into a puddle of sweat. We lowered the thermostat dramatically to get that room cold, and I tried to get some more sleep. By 4:00, we had seen no change in my cervix, but my body realized something was supposed to be happening and I was having more regular contractions. This was a problem for this part of the induction process because they couldn't administer the next dose if I was contracting, so I had to be pumped full of fluids to slow down my irritated uterus.
By 6:15 I was only 30% effaced and was beginning to feel really dejected and bitter about the whole situation. I knew that blood pressure was nothing to mess around with, but I also knew my body clearly was not ready to have a baby. My mom had stepped out of the room, and I was crying to Sean, telling him how much it sucked and how unfair this was- I had worked so hard for my whole pregnancy to notbe in this situation, and in a cruel twist of fate, here we were. Thankfully he knew that inthat moment I needed him to just hold space for my feelings, and he agreed that this really did suck. He redirected my attention to the poster he had made me with Mama J's mantra: Options, Support, Respect and we set about finding ways to gain back the empowering birthing experience we had envisioned for our daughter.
Taking a line right out of Birth Without Fear, Sean looked me in the eyes and said: it's about to be our daughter's birthday we can choose to be happy instead of feeling like everything has gone to shit. And with that, we recommitted to celebrating every step of this journey.
At 8:00, Sean and my mom helped me out of bed and got me set up on my beloved exercise ball. I figured- this got her into the right position, maybe the forces of gravity would be on my side. We watched Billions, and I pretended that the Lemon Ice was enough sustenance to make it a few more hours.
By 10:00 I was begging for just a few minutes off the monitor, and for some food. Dr. Goldstien took pity on me and allowed me to eat breakfast and take a shower. I ate as much as I could, and that shower was just heavenly. My nurse, Kimberley even let me walk a couple of laps- which was how I had always envisioned my labor going. It was nice for even a few minutes to have what I had hoped for.
At 1:00 we checked again and had not had any progress. Once again I felt super dejected and cried a little bit more. I was beginning to get concerned that they were going to put me on some kind of clock and make me have a c section if I didn't have the baby by the deadline. I asked multiple people, and they assured me that would only be if something went wrong on the baby's end, but that she was tolerating everything really well, and was behaving perfectly.
At this point, I had missed my graduation and still didn't have a baby. I was miffed but kept reminding myself that I got to choose the way this day was going to go. My sister brought me some magazines, and some snacks for when I'd be allowed to eat, and my dad came to say hi. He surprised me with my diploma, and even was able to bring his Trustees robes to the hospital! My husband, and family, as well as the amazing day time team, hosted a graduation ceremony just for me, and my dad got to present me my diploma after all. It wasn't on the big stage as I had planned, but it is a moment I will cherish forever- and is even better than waiting for hours with everyone else.
At 4:30 I was 50% effaced and was approaching my last dose of misoprostol. The hope was that this would ready my body enough to try a gentler form of induction than just hitting me with Pitocin. I settled in for my last 4-hour stretch.
I'm sure you can guess where this went. when we had our final exam, I had made no progress, and it was decided we would be moving forward with the Pitocin. My night nurse, Allison asked if I could eat and shower, and once again, Dr, Goldstein took pity on me. I had not slept in 30 hours. I was about to perform the greatest athletic feat of my life. I was nervous but excited because even though I had heard horror stories about Pitocin, I was going to work through this pain and on the other end was going to be my sweet baby girl. I ate a cheeseburger, took another shower, and braced myself. When I got up to pee, I had what seemed to be my bloody show, and then they started the Pitocin.
From 12:00 AM- 2:00 AM the contractions were manageable with the exercise ball and leaning over the bed. Then, my water broke, and they upped my dose. Allison quickly attached my penicillin to my IV, and I began a deep journey into myself. It was as if something just clicked: I was the only person that could get this baby out, so now was my time.
We called our doula,and found out that Angel was going to be a part of our support team. We were over the moon- we had met her on our hospital tour and had been hoping beyond hopes she would be on call the night we gave birth. She arrived and I was still vertical. On the ball then leaning over the bed and swaying, ebbing and flowing through the contractions. Angel helped me to try some other positions to help ease the contractions, but my legs were so tired I couldn't really stand any longer.
Angel helped me to get the bed into a seated position and propped me up with pillows. I felt like I had been hit by a mac truck. she was helping me through each contraction, and I was sleeping between them. With tears in my eyes, I looked at Angel and told her I needed to get out of my own way,and get the epidural. I told her the pain wasn't unbearable but after 38 hours with no sleep, and only a few minutes between contractions to sleep, I was going to have to choose between the unmedicated labor I had worked so hard for, or not having the stamina to actually push the baby out. We decided to ask for an internal exam to see how much I had progressed- and make a final decision.
I was at 4cm. I was so proud of myself for getting that far, but knew it could be hours before getting to 10cm, and looked at my support team, pulled a Dean Winchester, and got out of my own way. Around 4:15 am I got an epidural and I passed out once it went into effect.
By 6:30 am Dr. Goldstein came in to check on my progress. He apologized for waking me up, but what a victory it was when he told me I was dilated to 9.5 cm! The room was charged with entirely new energy, and I knew I was going to be able to bring this baby into the world confidently.
My epidural had begun to wear off slightly, and I was really feeling the contractions in my right hip. I hit the button, and Angel massaged my feet and legs. I slept for two more hours, really allowing my body to labor down. When I woke up, I could feel my legs and the contractions on a mild level but was not feeling any pelvic pressure. This was a dream epidural, and I could not have been any luckier for a plan that was not my original one. Angel explained to me how we were going to push, and we started to get more excited to meet our little girl.
Gene came back and told me we were going to do some practice pushes to see how things were going. At this point, I was not doing nopractice pushes. Momma was ready to have this baby after 46 hours of waiting and throwing my entire birth plan out the window.
Gene explained to me again how we were going to push- hold my legs, chin to chest, deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds, three times per contraction. Back into that deeppersonal spaceI went, acknowledging I was the only one who could bring this baby into the world, and the doctors realized we would not be practicing. We were having a baby!
Everyone was so good to me. At this point, we got the birth plan back on track as much as we could. Angel had brought a mirror for me, and Gene even let me feel her head (something I hadn't thought to ask to do!). Everyone was so excited, cheering me on, telling me how great I was doing Between pushes I was sucking in oxygen to try to regain my strength, and everyone was talking about Game of Thrones.
Before I knew it, I was on my very last push, my eyes closed tight giving it my all and Gene says: look down, look down she's here! He scooped her up and put her immediately on my chest. Her cry was the most amazing thing I have ever heard. I looked into her eyes and said We did it, girlfriend! You're here! Welcome to the world! Nothing could possibly have interfered with that moment. Sean cut the cord, and they delivered my placenta before I even knew what was happening. I recall Gene telling me that I had sustained a mild tear and he was going to fix me up, but I could honestly have cared less at that point. I had done it! She was here!
I kept her on my chest for over an hour, talking to her, singing to her and just looking at this perfect little being that I had just brought into the world. Nancy was our daughter's nurse, and was so good to me- she asked if they could do her stats, and I was like no- not right now, I'd like to keep her here a little longer if I could. And she happily obliged.
I cannot say enough good things about Danbury Hospital and the team that helped me bring my daughter into the world. Words will never be enough.
I have never felt more powerful in my life than in those moments working to bring her into the world and I am so excited for all of the incredible things this little girl is going to teach me about myself, her point of view, and the world in general.
My birth experience taught me to let go of my illusions of control. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and embracing the chaos and going with the flow can be freeing in the best possible way.