I am not sure that Lucy's birth was so eventful. Not to say that any birth is not an "event" in itself. It was a significant event. Each child begins as a helpless, little creature, and with love and sustenance grows into a being full of beauty, worthy of being loved no matter the course their lives take. However, I feel like all the trouble I have had with my legs during the last bit of this pregnancy was my labor. The actual labor and delivery was simply the culmination of this birth journey.
So here is my journey. Things were going perfectly with this pregnancy. I had the varicose veins showing again and they hurt a little bit and they looked terrible. Then all of the sudden the pain in my legs got worse day-by-day. I think it was about at 28 weeks. Mondays are usually my hard day, because of all the laundry I do and the tidying up from not tidying on Sunday. Usually, I am up late folding laundry and dogged tired. Often just after dinner on Monday, the kitchen would need cleaning and I would be in tears from the aching in my legs. If it did not happen then, the tears would come later in the evening.
I thought I was just tired and over-burdened. This may have been the case, but there seemed to be something more. I kept showing my legs at my pre-natal appointments, because the appearance and the pain was concerning to me. The mid-wife assured me things were fine, but I could try support hose to help it. It did not feel fine. At first it was just a nagging pain. Then it became a nagging pain that was just enough to drive a person mad. Then it became pain that oscillated between nagging and screaming pain. For the final two weeks of pregnancy I had to spend two-thirds of my day with my feet elevated. I would make our dinner in the morning before my leg screamed, so I could slip dinner into the oven in the late afternoon. Then I would tidy the house and spend the rest of the day with my feet up with some moving about to care for the children. The usual discomforts of the last month of pregnancy are enough, but to add another pain, plus the job of being mother to three pre-schoolers; it was all too much. Being far from family who might help otherwise, left me with little hope.
Often, I was in denial about the pain. I would tell myself, "This is not so bad. I can deal with this. I just need to get to the end of this pregnancy. It is coming." The midwife suggested support hose. I didn't know what that meant. "How could that help?" I talked myself out of it. "I would not be comfortable in those stockings. I don't even like uncomfortable pantyhose. How could that help me to give me another discomfort?" By the next appointment, I asked for the hose. I had to wait a week for them to arrive. I put them on and felt a little depressed about them, but felt relief in my legs. Since I was relieved, I resigned my despair. Three weeks later they ripped. But by then things were dire. I did not feel I could live with out them. The pain was constant even wearing the hose my legs ached a little. I saw a vein doctor and he was excited, because he felt I was a perfect example to educate people about how bad varicose veins get during pregnancy. "Yay, now I am fodder for medical journals."
There was the pain and then there was the emotional anguish over not being able to perform my usually duties. Three weeks to go and I was feeling desperate to have it all end worse than any other time I was pregnant. I felt guilty about this too. I just did not feel I could go on like this, yet I had to. I kept telling myself, "If only you could get used to the fact that this is your life. This is how things are and you can't change it. You have to adjust. Then perhaps, you would not feel so badly about the situation. Then you could be happy." But I could not get used to not being able to perform. I could not get used to the pain. I kept asking myself, "Is this pain really as bad as you are making it? Can you try harder to not focus on it." A lot of times I could answer, "Yes, this really is that bad."
After a particularly bad Monday my husband asked if I wanted to induce and sobbing in pain, "I said, yes. But, I couldn't ask for that, because there is no GOOD reason I couldn't wait and do it all naturally. I didn't want to quit the race before it was over." He said, "No one needs to know. It's not a race. You don't need to be a hero." With two weeks to go, I was going to beg for an induction as soon as possible. It didn't take a lot of begging. I was on the schedule for a 39 week induction. This certainly helped my mental status. I bought higher compression support stockings that day and sat with my legs elevated for a week. I did some squats. I took the max limit of evening primrose oil to help prepare for birth. And I prayed that I would go into labor on my own. As much as I wanted to the pregnancy to be over, I hated to see it medically induced. But my labor, it seemed, was months long already.
I saw my midwife the day before the induction and I was 4 cm dilated and ready to go in every way. So she swept my membranes and later that evening I was in labor. It was slow and weak. I thought it might be false labor. I did not think I could be so lucky as to go into labor at 39 weeks as it has not happened to me before. I fell asleep at my usual hour and slept for two hours. At 1:00 a.m., I decided I needed a snack. But, I did not think the contractions were still going. I quickly realized they were and they were getting stronger. I was still not sure this could be real labor. 20 minutes later I decided it was too strong to sleep and maybe I needed to get moving, breathing, sitting on a yoga ball. I was not comfy. Then I decided I need to find something distracting on T.V. On PBS there was an image of a baby ape sucking at it's mother's breast. I stopped to watch. It was a show about mother's and babies. It was about how mother's give of themselves to protect and provide for there young. How fitting for labor. The narrator talked about how a certain species of spider hatches and the babies eat the mother. It talked about how deer eat up all the afterbirth so that predators are not attracted. The narrator adds, "Deer, being naturally vegetarian are repulsed by this." The image on the screen was a deer mother gagging on her afterbirth. It was hysterical.
Labor continued to get stronger. I was frantically looking for the heating pad, because I could not/did not want to get into a warm bath with my support hose on and I did not want to take them off, because did not want to stand without them. I began to debate when to wake my husband when Annie, our 19 month, woke up. I knew she was not going back to sleep without help. She had fallen asleep with a poop in her diaper. I woke my husband and told him to call his co-worker to come to our house to be with the kids. I went to change Annie's diaper--contractions and all. I finally remembered where I had stashed the heating pad and I laid on the bed with the pad and Annie. Annie was disturbed by my pain. She was not sure what was going on.
We were finally off to the hospital. I was 8 cm dilated. I was tired. For some reason, I could not get my head in the game. I did not feel like my deep breaths were helping me get through the contractions. The contractions felt sharper than the past. I found it difficult to focus my mind away from the contractions. I felt weary. I was weary not just from the labor, but from weeks of turmoil. So, I asked for an epidural. I felt badly like I was quitting that race again. But, I just could not get with it. It was more like when you are running a race and you get a leg cramp and you keep telling yourself that you should keep going, but your body keeps giving you shooting pain telling you to stop. Then you get really mad, because you could not finish the race. It was like that.
When the anesthesiologist came in, I think he scared away my contractions. I had one contraction the entire time he was in the room. It was strange. He joked, "You know, you actually have to be in pain for this to work." He left and they went back to being every couple of minutes. I was relieved that I could breath again. Then my water was broken. The baby started to descend. I could feel the pressure of her head coming down with every contraction. I laid comfortably on my side, because the baby's heart beat did better in that position. It came time to push and I did my work. It was the same position in which I gave birth to Annie. I think I found my magic birthing position. It went beautifully. I couldn't have asked for better.
My legs are not better yet. I am still wearing the support hose. But, the burden definitely feels a lot less without having to support the life of the baby as well. Over the last week, it has felt a little better each day. I will probably have a vein stripping to take care of the trouble-some veins. I need to get my weight down too. That's my birth journey.
38 weeks 6 days
Oh cute, fancy, support hose.
Does this look like it hurts? Because it does.