Spencer

I immediately felt a great connection with Austen and her husband Steven. They were very excited about their baby coming and obviously had a strong and loving relationship. I felt they were going to make a great birth team.

Both of them were in great shape. Austen had been working out and taking good care of herself both nutritionally and physically throughout her pregnancy. During their prenatal we talked about yoga, labor positions, “dancing” moves such as powerful woman pose and comfort measures to assist her in the days to come preparing for her birth. Austen had been working on all of these things she shared with me before her “birth” day arrived.

Austen was using an OB practice that had a standard of inducing at 40 weeks. Her due date was the 21st and in her doctors assumption they were pushing it and scheduled an induction for the following Monday morning. We talked a long time about what that meant and went over several things she could do to bring her labor on naturally. The process of her baby coming in his own time was important to Austen and she wanted to do everything she could to support her baby coming in the best way possible, however she also had the added pressure of thinking about the small amount of time she would have to spend with him before she had to go back to work. It was  struggle and I could hear that in her voice. We both agreed taking it one day at a time was the best relief to that stress. Perhaps nature would take its course.

The first call I got was on Friday, September 24th. Austen reported strong contractions every 5 minutes and felt it was time to go to the hospital. I agreed on her request to meet her there. We ended up doing a “dry run” as the contractions subsided while Austen rested on the monitors. She was noted to be 2cm and about 80% effaced. We headed home just before midnight, everyone in good spirits and knowing the time just wasn’t right yet.

The next call I received from Austen was a report that her water had broke on Sunday, September 26th around 5PM, she was instructed by her doctor to head to the hospital. I encouraged her to take her time, she was planning a  shower and food. Often labor doesn’t start right away after water breaks, but it was the SOP of her practice to get her in to check things out. When she arrived at the hospital she was still 2cm and contractions were gentle but coming with some consistency. I know Austen and Steve thought this was going to happen soon. They were focused on a quick and easy birth without complications and had no reason to think otherwise.

The doctor came in and suggested a quick delivery to the couple. Interventions that would speed things up…she put her “thumbs up” to the idea of a nudge to make things happen quickly. Both Austen and Steve wanted an un-medicated, un-intervened birth. They weren’t up for a plunge into labor and wanting it to happen in their own time. At Gwinnett Medical Center their choices were guided by a “time map”  The time allotted to allowing a woman to labor after her water had broken was 18 hours and they were intending on making sure it happened within that time frame.

Austen’s labor progressed very slowly as numbers go. She had to have a dose of antibiotics due to being Strep B+, her reaction to the antibiotics was the beginning of a chain of events that had the couple reassessing their “perfect birth plan” every step of the way. The reaction of itching and breaking out in hives was the first of many challenges they would face.

During the next hours and through the night Austen labored intently, Steve supported with a gentle nurturing. Contractions were closer but not very productive and the hospital staff began to introduce pitocin to get things moving. As the night progressed Austen was experiencing her contractions as intense. From observation on my part she appeared to be a woman moving into active labor. Each time the nurses checked her progress however there was little to “show” for the contractions she was experiencing. They weren’t even really considering her to be in “active” labor. The definition of which is contractions that are producing a change in the cervix.

Pitocin was upped on a regular basis and we began a kind of dance with the hospital staff. And a dance with Austen’s labor. The perspective of the nursing staff was to keep her monitored and the best way to do that was lying in bed. We kept finding positions to make her more comfortable, she would find the place to relieve the contractions pressing deep into her back by getting on her hands and knees. After a while the nurse would pop into the room, try to find a place to position the monitor and  “suggest” again that Austen move on to her back to get a good “read”. We played this back and forth for many hours.

I could sense there was some type of obstacle to the baby in making his way down the birth canal. It appeared by Austen’s contractions that she was having good contractions to move him into position but they weren’t bringing about the anticipated progress. I noted on the monitor that every once in a while his heart rate would plummet and then pick right back up. I thought he might be pressing on his chord…knowing babies sometimes will even grab their chords and squeeze them. I kept thinking of the 3D sonagram picture they had shown me with his feet up around his chin and looking as if he had little room to move around. The consistent pain in Austen’s back indicated to me that he might also be posterior.

It is never easy to work so hard in labor and be told that you aren’t progressing. Austen tried all types of positions, her favorite feeling ones were childs pose and pigeon from yoga, positions that had brought her great relief during her last weeks of pregnancy. She tried as much as we could get away with to be on her hands and knees on the bed with her chest resting on pillows. She also worked with the ball. The nurse kept coming in to move and adjust the monitor, unhappy with the progression of things and the inconsistent monitoring. Austen was forced to lie down, which put more pressure on the ever increasing pain in her lower back. Her level of frustration was climbing each time she tried something new, worrying about the monitor was taking over her internal focus.

Morning rolled around and the day progressed and Austen and Steve (and myself) were operating with no sleep but we just kept moving through Austen’s contractions one at a time, we worked on many ways to guide her through her labor. Her labor intensified with each bump to the pit drip. Steve watched as his powerful wife was experiencing contraction after contraction in waves of pain he had never witnessed in her before. I could see his difficulty with seeing his beloved in so much distress. I knew he wanted to fix it for her and was frustrated because he couldn’t. We used ice packs to alleviate the pain, but as time progressed throughout the day and Austen did not open more fully the tension became greater for everyone.

As we all began to note the mark of 24 hours passing we did our best to support Austen and each other to keep focused on the “next right move” attempting to shut out the pressure of time and progress we focused hour by hour on just the “next right move” Austen gave her body and her baby every attempt to move into position. I could see her strength was waning and that was understandable. She had fought a long hard fight without the progress she had hoped for. Another bump up in the pitocin brought on a 7 minute contraction that had Austen convulsing in pain. She was already riding one contraction into another with little or no relief. Each wave of contraction required an absolute surrender on her part, giving her body over to it and riding the waves.

After much work and more than 24 hours of laboring with the report of 5cm of progress Austen made the next right choice for her… to get an epidural. She had made every choice she could along the way to give her body and her baby the chances that they needed. Along with the epidural there came some much needed sleep….for everyone.

Within a few hours of her epidural and deep into her sleep the birth team burst in to the room in response to a plummet in the baby’s heart rate. They were pulling people awake and snapping orders to the room and Austen spent several minutes pushing with all of her might. Little Spencer came into the world facing posterior and tangled in his umbilical chord, but healthy and into the arms of a loving family.

Even though this may seem to be a story of things going wrong….it is not. It is the story of a courageous and powerful woman finding her way through the journey that brings her baby into the world. We can know what we want, we can dream the perfect birth and choose our best options but when the time comes we need to know we have the strength and the power inside of us to do the next right thing. Not only in birth…but in life. To know when to hold strong and when to surrender. To trust our intuitions and choices…and certainly as a parent we will always want to have the strength to make decisions by facing the next right thing. This was two days of Austen and Steve surrendering control of what they thought “would” happen and taking each step towards bringing their son into the world with what needed to be.

I happen to know little Spencer is surrounded by waves of love every day. His parents are immersed in the joy of being his parents. His birth story is no doubt a beginning to his life in a very purposeful way, I can’t say that we can know that purpose just yet. But his astrology chart says he will no doubt be a leader. I am sure the strength it took him to get here and fight against the obstacles in his way imbued him with a powerful force. I hope to follow up this story one day down the road…with the story of Spencer, a mover and shaker and leader in his world.