Jan-Mendelt and I wanted to let you know that we welcomed Mendelt Aidan Tillema into the world on May 4, 2009 (his official due date) at 3:35 am after 48 hours of labor!! He weighed in at 9 lbs, 5 oz. and 22 3/4 inches long. Huge and healthy (we had no idea he would come out that gigantic! I guess I should have just taken a look at his father!)
Our birth story goes like this …
Jan-Mendelt was taking home call the weekend that I went into labor. Friday evening (May 1), I had dinner with friends until around 11 pm without him because he got called into the hospital. We met at home around 11:30 and were both totally exhausted so we went to bed. Jan-Mendelt’s pager went off around 3:20 am early on May 2. The pager always wakes us both up. I got up to use the bathroom while he was calling into the hospital. As I stood up after using the toilet, I felt a gush of liquid fall onto the floor. It was not very much fluid, but I called out to Jan-Mendelt and told him that I thought my water had just broken. We were not totally convinced that it had, but I felt that there no way after just peeing that I stood up and peed more all over myself and the floor. The fluid was clear and did not smell like urine, but we decided to stay calm and wait to see if surges started. I started to feel a little anxious at the idea of going into labor, but was excited and hopeful that we would have our baby in our arms sometime Saturday evening. Unfortunately, Jan-Mendelt had to make another trip into the hospital within minutes and I tried to go back to sleep, listening to the rainbow relaxation. By 3:40 am I had my first surge and I knew that I was going into early labor. I called Jan-Mendelt to let him know so that he could make plans to get someone to cover him at the hospital so that he could come home.
My surges continued to come every 8 minutes apart, lasting for around 30 seconds. I could sleep in between them, but not through them. I stayed in bed until around 9:00 and then called my doctor to let him know that I was in early labor. We had already agreed that I would stay home as long as possible and periodically check in with him. He was not sure my water had actually broken since I was not having any residual fluid loss throughout my early labor. Jan-Mendelt and I had a light breakfast around 10 am and took the dog on a walk around the neighborhood, stopping by our friends’ houses on our street to say hello. I could still walk through my surges though they were getting stronger and closer together and lasting longer. When we got back home from our walk, I practiced breathing through my surges in some of the different positions we learned about in class. I sat on my birthing ball, got on hands and knees, got in the polar bear position, etc. I was amazed at how good I felt at this point in the labor. I felt that I could really relax through each surge.
Around 8 pm Saturday evening, my surges were coming 3-5 minutes apart and lasting from 45 seconds to 1 minute long. We decided to call our OB and make our way into the hospital. We arrived at Bethesda North around 8:30 pm and went to triage. I had not had a pelvic exam from my OB at all during the pregnancy, so when they examined me in triage, I was happy to learn that I was 3-4 cm dilated and 90% effaced. We were admitted and taken to our labor and delivery room. We dimmed the lights, put on the Earth Mama Angel Baby labor companion CD and gave a copy of our Birth Vision to our nurse. Our nurse was amazing and told us she had two natural births herself. She respected all of our wishes and was very encouraging and supportive. I continued to labor using hypnobirthing techniques over the next hours. We walked the halls, I sat on the birthing ball and Jan-Mendelt and I lied in the bed together to rest in between surges. I found that laying down when a surge started made the surges much stronger and harder breath through, so I abandoned the bed early on. I was checked again around 3 am and had dilated to 5-6 cm. At that point, I got in the tub and Jan-Mendelt sat next to me pouring water on me and talking me through some relaxation. He was an amazing coach and I am so lucky to have him.
Over the next hours we just stayed calm and quiet and made it through the surges together. At 7 am our nurse came in and said her shift was over and that we would have a new nurse. At this point, my surges started to become very irregular both in length and interval. I continued to labor and was checked again around 8 am. I was now 6 cm dilated, but it seemed like something was just a bit off. I continued to hypnobirth until around noon on Sunday, May 3 when I was checked again and was at 6-7 cm dilated. At this point, I had been in labor for over 30 hours and I was getting extremely tired and discouraged at the slow labor progression. I started to cry at that point and I did not know if I could take another 6 hours of labor to gain only 1 cm of dilation. I had been walking the halls all morning, trying my best to move things along, but after such a long period with no sleep, I starting to fall asleep on my feet between contractions. After a few more hours, I was checked again to still be at 7 cm.
We called our OB at that point to discuss the situation, because I was getting emotional. This was really having a negative effect on my ability to breath through my surges. I could not focus effectively anymore and I was getting scared that my labor would last forever. Our doctor called us on our room phone and we discussed what we should do given the length of my labor thus far. We discussed the use of pitocin to help my labor along, and we also discussed breaking my water. (I was certain that my water was already broken and both my nurses confirmed that they could not feel the sack of water around our baby’s head.) We (Dr. Bowen, JM and I) decided to start a low dose of pitocin to help get my labor kick-started again (it had practically stopped!) and I opted to get an epidural at that point as well. I had heard so many horror stories about pitocin and how bad the pain gets that I was terrified to use pitocin without some relief. I was also told that they would not administer an epidural past 8 cm and I did not want to find myself in a situation where the strength of my surges were not natural, but I was trying to cope with them naturally. I cried and was incredibly disappointed and felt guilty. I apologized to my husband for not being able to continue the natural course. Jan-Mendelt was super supportive and made me feel loved and strong again. I was worried about letting everyone down and he erased those thoughts from my head immediately. After nearly 36 hours of natural labor, it was time to get some assistance.
Dr. Bowen arrived shortly after both the pitocin and epidural were administered and attempted to break my water. He was unable to feel a sack of water around the baby’s head, and after a few pokes agreed that my water was indeed already broken. This was around 3 pm Sunday afternoon.
The low dose of pitocin was ineffective and they ended up having to crank it up pretty strong to get my labor on track. I was not totally effaced nor complete until around 11 pm Sunday evening. I finally got the okay to push and I tried with all my might for 2 ½ hours. In the end, I totally ran out of energy (no food, drink or sleep for so long). I actually started to fall asleep during the third breath of each push. I asked for a break and the nurse checked me again and was worried that the baby was not in a good position and called Dr. Bowen to come and check. We found out at this point that the baby was not only posterior, but that his head was at an angle which was making it difficult for him to come out. Dr. Bowen said that at this point, if we could get the baby to rotate, we would be looking at a forceps delivery. He suggested lying in a position called the sim’s position for an hour on each side to see if the baby would turn. It required me to lay ¾ on my stomach with my legs propped up on pillows. In the end these positions did not work and it was clear that our only option left would be a c-section. I was scared of having a c-section, but at this point it was 3 am on Monday, May 4 and I had been in labor for 47 ½ hours with my water broken. There was no other choice but to deliver the baby via c-section.
I was prepped and wheeled into the Operating Room with Jan-Mendelt by my side as we waited to hear our baby cry for the first time. I had pushed so hard and long that Dr. Bowen had a hard time getting the baby out. He was grunting and working hard for about 3 minutes to pull the baby out. Finally, we heard Aidan cry and both JM and I cried tears of joy and relief that he was okay and finally here.
I have cried a few times that I did not get to have the birth experience that I wanted, but I am coming to terms with the reality of a posterior delivery. The Dutch call posterior babies “star gazers” and I have decided to look at the situation in a positive light. My little Aidan is a star gazer, maybe he’s a dreamer and his position reflects that character trait. I guess time will tell.
The most important thing is that he is beautiful and healthy and we are so lucky to have him! He is doing great – breast-feeding well, gaining weight, and sleeping amazing for a newborn (even a few 4 hour stretches!)
Christina, JM, & Aidan