John Paul's Birth Story: Part III

Thursday, July 4, 2013

So when we left off last time, I had been having regular contractions for 21 hours, got to the hospital, and found out that I was dilated...



We went home to try to get some sleep.  I think Andrew may have gotten some?  And my sister may have, but she probably just stayed up reading Sweet Valley Twins.  I, however, was lucky enough to keep experiencing regular contractions that no position could ease!  Hooray!  

I was sleeping like a baby

I lay in bed for a few hours trying to breathe through them, pray through them, adjust positions to make myself more comfortable.  I went downstairs and used the exercise ball to find a comfortable position.  I knelt on the floor and played computer games between contractions.  Finally the house started stirring and everybody began waking up!  Company!
Not me.  Pretty sure I was still sleeping. I'm usually still sleeping.

Andrew had told everyone at work that I was in labor when he had left the day before, so he awoke to a few angry texts asking WHY he hadn't given them news about the baby yet!!!  Um, because the baby was still in utero!  I ate breakfast (and puked it up shortly afterwards) and we went walking outside, timing the contractions all the while.

I think they woke me up for this part.

But it was Virginia.  In July.  So it was a liiiiittle hot!  We ended up inside watching Ice Age at about 2 pm (because there was no way we were keeping our date to see Ice Age 2 in the theater) while I moaned, flung over the exercise ball.  Things stayed spaced about the same, but the contractions were getting more and more painful.  I was crying through every contraction and was sooooo exhausted, because I hadn't been able to sleep or keep any food down in the past 33 hours.  We finally called the doctor and told them things seemed to be getting more intense, so they had us come back in around 5 pm.

We got to the hospital excited and exhausted.  Maybe NOW we would be having the baby?  After all, it was his due date!  And I had been in labor for 36 hours at this point - surely I had made progress!

They didn't make me go to triage this time - they saw how miserable I looked, how I couldn't talk through the contractions, how the tears continued streaming down my face because of the utter exhaustion, and sent me straight to a delivery room.

The nurse took my temperature and then we waited what seemed like an eternity for her to get me a cup of ice water.  She finally returned with the OB on call, who checked me.

Actually, Rosie asked for ice chips and the nurse told her she couldn't have any till after they'd taken her temperature. We're all pretty sure that's not a thing. Rosie moaned from thirst (and probably pain) for 45 minutes before I tracked the nurse down and asked if she could take Rosie's temperature so she could have something to drink. She looked at me like I was stupid and said she could have had something a while ago if we'd asked. This was when I figured out that I was going to have to do more tracking down of nurses and nagging than I'd anticipated.

One.  Centimeter.


One centimeter.

Need I remind you that's where I was BEFORE I WENT INTO LABOR???  And again AFTER 21 HOURS OF LABOR???

And now, after 36 hours, still only ONE centimeter dilated.  I probably cried.

She definitely cried.

She suggested I take some sleep medication and go home to try to get some rest.  I think the look on my face with that suggestion made her realize what my answer to THAT suggestion would be.  Then she said they could try breaking my water to speed things along.  But I was a Bradley girl - no way was I going to consent to all those medical interventions!  The nurses were on board with my birth plan - no medication of any sort unless I asked for it specifically.  And I was going to stick to my guns, by golly!!!

To the nurses' credit, they really were on board with a natural birth. The only time anyone mentioned medication was when I went and asked them about our options for my poor, miserable, barely-conscious little sister.

So we seemed to be in it for the long haul - my sister set up camp in the waiting room with her Sweet Valley Twins Save Christmas, or whatever she happened to be reading...

I don't really remember why I was in the waiting room at any point--maybe just to give Rosie and Andrew some space? But I was out there in the middle of the night--one of the nights--and I was reading some Sweet Valley Twins book. That in itself would be bad enough, but I think that in this one they went back in time and became princesses. Usually when I tell this story I make something up about how I wanted something mindless so I wouldn't mind being interrupted and so I could read it even when I was exhausted. This being the anonymous internet, I'll tell you the truth: I love princess books written for 14-year-olds. Judge away.

So I was sitting there, reading my awesome book, when the gentleman across the room from me struck up a conversation.
"Is your mom having a baby?"
"Oh, no, my sister, actually."
"Oh! Your older sister?"
"Nope--my little sister. And her husband. They're having a baby. They're married."
Now, I'm pushing 30 and people still think I'm in college. So I can see why he thought my younger sister had no business having a baby. That's why I threw the husband thing in there. We kept talking and I must have mentioned something about college.
(Glancing at my book, then humoring me) "You went to college? Good for you!"
"Yeah, Notre Dame actually. For undergrad and grad school." At this point, I realized the man had gone from thinking I was young to thinking I must be mentally handicapped. "Oh, this? No, I read real books. It's just that this was the only one I had and...well, I wanted something that I wouldn't get too into,'s actually kind of an interesting book, see...I should go check on my sister."
One perk of being there forever is that by the time I gathered the nerve to go back to the waiting room, he was gone.

And Andrew and I walked the halls trying to keep my gown closed in the back (don't you love how they design those?).

The nurses came to check on us periodically and hook up the monitor every hour or so to check on John Paul.  His heart rate looked great, so we just kept going the way we were going.  I refused cervical checks because I wanted to make sure I had REALLY made progress before letting them check me again.

Things were rough though - the contraction were getting stronger and nothing was relieving them.  I had asked them originally if I could be in a room with a tub, but both rooms with tubs were in use when we got there.  Well, lucky us, when you're at the hospital for that long there will be MANY women who give birth and vacate their delivery rooms while you're still in labor!  We picked up our stuff and moved to the other room, filling the tub so that I could climb in for a little relief.

No relief.  Still awful.  We were about 43 hours in and I began wondering about those non-epidural pain relief options...  So I asked them to check me.

You guessed it.

One centimeter.

I asked about the risks to the baby for pain relief options, and we decided that morphine would be a gentler approach and since there was no way the baby was coming in the next 4 hours, that would be an okay option. 

(I just want to say here, the Bradley Method is great and works for lots of people.  But all those videos we had to watch that basically terrified me that an epidural would pretty much be a guaranteed C-section made this a rather difficult decision...)
For those of you who are keeping track, this is 9+ hours after checking into the hospital. Still 1 centimeter.

Since Rosie had been adamant about not wanting any medication, neither Andrew nor I had researched anything. As it became apparent that she was going to need medication, we tried to do some Googling but couldn't get a signal even though we'd brought a computer for just such a purpose and the hospital claimed to have wi-fi. This was back in the ark ages of 2009, though. I remember calling our older brother to Google for us but having weak cell signals. We also tried calling their Bradley instructor but didn't get an answer. Finally, we decided that if the nurses thought morphine was reasonable, it wasn't going to kill anyone. All either of us knew (from what Rosie had told us) is that epidurals are bad. Morphine wasn't an epidural, so it must be better, right? Turns out, maybe not.

So 44 hours in, I got hooked up to some morphine for some sweet, sweet pain relief.

(I don't even remember how they gave it to me)

Oh sorry, NOT RELIEF AT ALL.  Somehow everything hurt MORE.  And I started hallucinating.  And I think there were issues with my breathing, too?  John Paul was still doing great, so that was something!

But this was CLEARLY not working.  And then an anesthesiologist walked into the room and said,

"So, I hear we're prepping you for a C-section!"


(Aren't you glad I didn't leave you on THAT cliff hanger?)

The nurses shot daggers at him and told him, "YOU'RE IN THE WRONG ROOM!!!"

(If I had made any progress at that point, I'm sure I would have closed up tighter than the Hoover Dam...)

But at that point it seemed to me that my options were limited - if I didn't get SOME sort of rest or sustenance (did I mention I was still puking up those hospital popsicles?), there was no way I'd be able to push this baby out.  So we made the decision to get an epidural.  Because, even 47 hours in, I was still only dilated 1 cm.

At this point, Rosie was practically incoherent. She was so tired and so hungry and so miserable that she couldn't think straight. Andrew had been prepped well: Rosie can do this without medication, he'd been told. She's going to want it but you have to be strong. Just keep saying no.
And, to be honest, I think she'd only given him the negative information about epidurals since that's what had stuck out to her. So when Rosie started toying with the idea, he knew to stand his ground and defend his baby. He did a wonderful job but they hadn't been prepped for this situation: 48 hours in, no sleep, no dilation.

I was beginning to be concerned, so I went to talk to our nurse. Because John
Paul was doing fine, she wasn't terribly worried. But she told me that the way things were going, Rosie's options were epidural, c-section, or death. She explained it gently, but that was the gist. So I went--against all Rosie and Andrew's requests--to convince them to get an epidural. Rosie kept crying and looking at Andrew and he kept saying he didn't know but it was pretty clear that nothing was going to progress without an epidural. We discussed how she wasn't a failure and that this was a good choice since it helped her avoid a c-section. Andrew kept telling her how every contraction was helping their baby grow stronger, which I think gave her a lot of strength. But at a certain point you have to recognize that lots of women can have unmedicated births but medication exists because some births can't progress without it. This was clearly one of those situations.

So the anesthesiologist (a different one that my awesome nurses called in from a different floor because they all HATED the one who had come into the room before) came in and administered the epidural, and it wasn't nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be.  I finally had some relief from the contractions that had been incredibly painful and about 2 minutes apart for I don't even KNOW how long!

They checked me after I was back in position.


Just like that, pump me full of pain meds, and my body is willing to get stuff done!

As is inevitable with epidurals, the contractions slowed down, but my OB wasn't pushing for any faster progress.  My water hadn't broken, and at least we had finally made SOME progress (at this point there were nurses coming back on their shifts who had been on during the beginning of my 2nd time at the hospital.  "You're still here???" was their incredulous query, because any other OB would have pushed for a c-section by then!).  I finally got some SLEEP.  

Hallelujah--sleep! Well, not for me--I was on ice chip duty, as Rosie kept waking up thirsty. But I'd slept the night before--2 nights before at this point, so I was good.

I remember it all as a hazy sort of progress - I'd wake up and open my mouth and she'd shovel ice chips in (those things are SO delicious!), or I'd moan "Yellow button!" and she'd press the yellow button for more medication to be administered.

The epidural wore off eventually, but I was still not dilated enough to push, so we got a SECOND dose around 54 hours.  That one turned out to be a dud, so I got to experience some lovely pain until they got a new bag. 

It was around here--I'm guessing transition--that Rosie turned to me and said, desperately, "Can you just tell everybody to please pray for me? And call St. Veronica's and ask them to pray?" Rosie's pretty shockingly strong and I don't think she'd ever asked me to request prayers for her before, so you'd better believe I got on it. I texted all my praying friends--pointing out that she'd been in labor for 58 hours--and called the church to ask them to pray for her. Looks like prayer works, because:

Then THAT ONE wore off around 59 hours and GUESS WHAT???

I WAS READY TO PUSH!  FINALLY!  And, despite the epidural, I could feel every urge, and all the pain associated with it.  And that was fine by me, because that's what I wanted anyway. 
As she was pushing, the dear priest from the parish they didn't even belong to showed up with communion for her. I thanked him very much and told him now wasn't a good time. What a wonderful priest!
The nurses asked Andrew and me to each hold one of Rosie's feet which was cool and ridiculous and not something I was expecting. They asked her if she wanted them to set up a mirror so she could watch and she shouted NO! Which I totally get but it was funny that she yelled at them.

John Paul finally arrived after an hour of pushing, and his lovely, conical, 15-inch head (always and forever in the 99th percentile) seemed to have been the reason it took SO. FREAKING. LONG.  To get that baby out of my small-hipped, 5'2" frame.

8 lbs 6 oz, 21 inches.  But do you SEE that conehead???

I was pretty disappointed that I didn't have the unmedicated birth I was convinced I would have.  But I don't think there's any way I could have lasted that long without food or sleep and STILL been able to push off a baby with a massive head...  The only thing that got me through it was what little rest I got from the epidural.

This was after 2 days and a shower...  I did NOT allow any pictures of me to be taken immediately after that ridiculous labor!
 Healthy mom, healthy baby, right?

So there you have it.  60 hours of labor, and he was FINALLY born at around 5 pm on Wednesday, July 15, the day after his due date and the feast of St. Bonaventure.  Clearly he just didn't want to be born on Bastille Day. 

Also the feast of some random St. Benedict. I tried to get them to name him John Paul Benedict Hill so his name was less monosyllabic and more hardcore, but I lost that one.

Again, 2 days after he was born.  I'm still ridiculously puffy and swollen from all the IV fluids, and yet Andrew looks glowing and wonderful.  Also, do you see John Paul's massive feet???


  1. Glorious!!!! You are amazing. This experience sounds horrifying. I would have passed out and gotten the epidural 40 hours earlier :). And Stephen and I graduated from St Bonaventure University- go St Bonaventure!!!

    (Also please don't hate me when I post my extremely short and easy Ava birth story next week...)

    Meg I am dying about the Sweet Valley Twins!!!!!!! I kind of want to go reread them now....

    1. I love reading short easy birth stories - makes me thing that maybe someday I'll have a short and easy birth!

  2. No shame - totally teared up.
    And yes, John Paul had (has?) massive feet! :)

    1. Seriously, I hope his foot growth slows down some day!!!

  3. I'm so sorry you didn't get the birth you wanted but man, you were a trooper!! I wonder if breaking your membranes at some point would have sped things up for you? Love that sweet cone head :)

    1. I do wonder that, too - it was one of those things that we were coached to avoid at all costs, because it would put us on the clock, risk infection, etc. But it probably would have been better than an epidural! I consented to having them ruptured with Cecilia, and that was a much shorter labor :)

  4. My cervix also refused to dilate beyond a centimeter, and I ended up getting pitocin (and an epidural) because my water broke spontaneously and I still wasn't progressing. But my labor was 20 hours ... not 60!! Yikes! You are amazing.

  5. Wow, just wow!!
    Oh and profound empathy ~ with my first I also had a long prodromal followed by a narcotic that made me paranoid and delusional (which I don't remember but Charlie and my midwife told me) and epidural which cause my right leg to go numb for 36 hours but ultimately a baby!

  6. You are amazing! So impressed you avoided a csection and pitocin. That is a crazy labor story, a crazy huge head, and a beautiful (unexpected) outcome. You must have an amazing doctor and nurse to support you through that! I had one birth with water breaking, slow labor, pitocin (horrible contractions), epidural and then emergency c section. For the 2nd I did a VBAC with no epidural (love pain meds but now I am scared of csections) and some mild IV meds, big head and 1 1/2 hrs of pushing but healthy baby, good recovery and overall good labor experience :).

  7. Wow! You are awesome!! I've heard some long labor stories before, but I think that one takes the cake! You poor thing! And good for you getting an epidural. I had to have pain meds during my labor, too, because it ended up being longer than expected (though no where near yours!!!) and I had mixed feelings, too...until I realized that epidurals and pain meds were totally made for situations like ours!!! So good job making a good choice for your baby and sharing it with all of us so that other women in the same position can know it's ok to get help when you need it :-)

  8. Wow, you are so tough. All that talk about crying made *me* cry, too. And this: "And, despite the epidural, I could feel every urge, and all the pain associated with it. And that was fine by me, because that's what I wanted anyway" probably sounds ridiculous to most people in the world, but shows the kind of hard-core mother you are!

  9. Ummm who told Andrew that contractIons make the baby stronger? Or did he make that up? Haha

    I hope Cecilia and the twins' labors were shorter!

  10. I feel really bad that you figured heck, your wuss of a mom could push four babies out with no meds (except a local for some stitches) and so you endured such a horribly awful long labor, insisting on no meds! But I'm really, really impressed. I mean, super impressed. You're my best birthing daughter!

  11. Oh my gosh you are my hero!!! How did you do that? I caved and asked for an epidural loooong before that, but I also freely admit that I'm a wimp. I'm glad you didn't have to go the C-section route. The only good thing (okay, other than finding out that your body can withstand so much) is that subsequent births are pretty much guaranteed to be easier!

  12. Oh, Wow! That is a really long labor. None of my labors were more than five hours. I'm so scared of getting an epidural, but I think I would be with you in getting one if my labor was that long.

  13. are amazing...what a birth story!

  14. Rosie, good job getting it written down before JP's 4th birthday. I still need to write down both of mine. I'm glad Meg convinced you to get some relief. I know I hit a point when I was having Colton that I knew if I didn't have him within a few hours there was no way I was going to have the energy to push him out.

    I absolutely loved Meg's additions to the story! Let's face it, usually we (choose to) forget things while we're tired, delusional and in labor anyway so we need people to fill in the blanks. Thanks for putting this out there!

  15. What a beautiful story, Rosie! Thank you for sharing! I cannot imagine being AWAKE for 60 hours, let alone being in labor that long--you're outstanding.

    I saw maybe around 50 births on my OB rotation (before my about traumatic!)--by far the sweetest birth I ever saw was one with an epidural where the woman also felt every urge. She and her husband were just so present, as I'm sure were you and Andrew.

    Will you please help me destroy the myth that epidurals = c-section? The evidence on that is horrible, and any correlation has a ton of confounding factors. At the hospital where I delivered, one could have an epidural with the midwives, and the midwives would talk about how in many labors they felt like epidurals prevented a c-section because--guess what?--they gave moms a quick relief so they actually had the energy to push.

    And it breaks my heart that so many women feel like pain meds say something about strength and weakness. It absolutely does not. Breaks my heart...

    Much love to your beautiful family. How you do it all, I will never know!

    1. It drives me nuts how one-sided the information is, and how OLD it is - epidurals have come a looooong way from the old "get a spinal, get cut open" variety. We had to watch a video for our Bradley class in which women got epidurals and then were forced to lie on their backs, undergo episiotomies, and have vacuum or forceps extractions because they couldn't feel the urge to push. CLEARLY that is not the case anymore!

    2. Oh goodness, that's awful! Rosie, most of the women I saw with epidurals were WALKING, using squat bars, doing pretty much everything they would/could otherwise be doing (except maybe the tub...Pennsylvania has some regulations regarding when one is allowed to use the tub). The only published lit I've seen that I think hit a middle ground between granola, absolutely no interventions EVER and completely medicalizing childbirth might have been the Sears birth book, and maybe the Mayo clinic book, with a slant toward the more scientific.

      But again, 60 hours of labor...simply, wow. I would not have survived.

    3. At the hospital where I delievered (IU in Indianapolis), they only do c-sections if they become medically nessecary at some point. They all assumed that even with pit and an epidural that I would have a vaginal birth, and I did. They were in no hurry to get her out, haha.

  16. Hey don't feel bad about the epidural! Everything worked out, you're fine, he was fine and beautiful-move on! Haha I say that because I was in labor with Gemma, my first, for 34 hours and would have gotten the epidural if I was in the hospital. I just didn't because I was at home and didn't want to be moved to the hospital...I was a little crazy. Every labor and birth is different and thank goodness for that because mine have gotten easier! Anyway I'm also really impressed you could remember this much. I remember hardly anything from my births it seems like...I think I may be blocking them out...I'm sorta kidding!

  17. Oh my goodness, your story sounds like mine, only I was not in labor nearly as long. (Only 30 hours by comparison). I had to be induced at 39 weeks because I'm diabetic, so it took me 24 hours on pitocin to get from 3.5 cm and 50% to 4.5 cm and 100% effaced. I had an epidural that didn't work, so I needed another, because the pit contractions were so bad.
    Then I had to push for three hours (and needed forceps) because I have a very small pelvis. Except my M had a small head and only weighed 7 lbs. Doc told me afterward, "If she'd have weighed half a pound more, you would have had a c-section."
    Oh babies! :)

  18. Oh, this was like my first birth! 55 hours total, but it took 36 hours to dilate 1 cm.

  19. I think its just hilarious that you have you and your sister writing this together! Makes it so entertaining to see the inside and outside perspective!


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