Birth Story: epidural to pitocin

The reasons I think I ended up getting pitocin (when I went in not wanting it AT ALL):

1) when you’re asked 4 times if it can be given to you, each time wears you down

2) I was told I should be dilating 1 cm every hour, on average, but that I was “stuck” at 5 cm for 4 hours

3) A huge reason I never wanted pitocin was because of the more painful contractions it causes. But because I ended up getting the epidural and could feel no pain, I figured… why not?

4) With the nurse and OB pushing the idea of pitocin every time they entered the room and for the reasons above, I forgot my grounds of not wanting to force my body to do something it wasn’t ready for. Yes, I’m frustrated by this.

We started at 1 ml/hr of pitocin and the nurse said she’d raise it by 1 every hour.

Tweet at 3:04pm:

I can’t believe I’m on pit. But dr very convincing. Said it shouldn’t take much as I’m having own contractions and that it has very short half life…. so if we decide to stop it’ll be out of system quickly.

Too bad that wasn’t true. I stayed on pit until we were at 24 ml/hr….

Twitter friends kept suggesting I get up and walk, but I was on an epidural and they wouldn’t let me. I asked I could get up and they said no. (I know, I shouldn’t have asked, I should have just done it.) At 4pm I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes and with the pit, I could feel them–just pressure, no pain. At 4:40pm my contractions slowed to about every 5-6 minutes… then I slept for an hour.

Checked at 6pm: 6-7 cm. Pitocin working and I was starting to feel lower back pain… really low. Baby’s head? Anyway, I fell back asleep! I was sooo tired. Slept for another 2 hours and woke up around 8pm. They checked  me and I was still at 6-7 cm and still at 0 station 🙁 New symptom: shaking. Like, teeth-chattering-shaking. The nurse was excited like it was a sign of labor, but the doctor said it was an effect of the epidural. Hmpf.

At this point I was at pit level of 10 ml. As dilation wasn’t moving, they started upping the pit by 2 every half hour.

At 7:30-8pm I got the night nurse. I loved the day nurse, she had great personality and was really friendly. The night nurse? Awful. She never smiled, she’d turn up my pit without telling me so I’d have to ask every time, and when I asked her if I could at least just stand up next to the bed with Steve’s help, she said “absolutely not.”

9pm check: a “good 7” and still 0 station. Pit level: 12. I started to feel pain through the epidural so they made me lay down and they upped the epidural. They wanted me to lay down because the epi works with gravity… so sitting straight up as I was (trying to help baby move down) was concentrating the epi more in butt area, than helping with uterine pain.

10pm check: dilated to a “soft 8” meaning a bit more than 7, stretchable to an 8. Around 10:45, I wrote on twitter that the back pain was worse, stronger with contractions. Almost like needing to go to the bathroom (urge to push), but not quite… dr said it was baby’s head.

11pm check: still at 8cm. +1 station. Moving along! But still sooo tired, couldn’t keep eyes open… went back to sleep.

My next tweet didn’t come until 1am so I’m guessing I slept till about midnight and then they checked me and I was still at an 8. So they put in a catheter to measure the strength of contractions (I shouldn’t have let them and I wish I hadn’t. But… when you’re in the moment, it’s like you don’t know what’s going on and you just want things to go well and you figure what’s the harm in looking at contraction strength?) We waited awhile… the nurse came in at one point and I asked about the strength and she said it looked like they were NOT strong enough, which would mean I need a c-section because the pit isn’t working. I couldn’t stop crying. But.. we still hasn’t heard from the doctor.. now 1:20am and they’re still upping the pitocin: 22 ml.

Keep in mind the MAX level of pitocin is 20ml. The day nurse said that and it said it all over the IV machine. With the doctor’s orders, they can administer more. I ended up going up to 24 ml, which finally was my doctor’s personally set max level. In this time, the pain came through the epi full strength and I thought I’d die. The pain came back suddenly and brought tears to my eyes–people say to concentrate and distract yourself–the pain was so bad that doing anything else was impossible. I asked for more epidural, but the nurse said that if I was progressing and IF it was time to push soon, I couldn’t get more epi…. so we had to wait for the doctor to check me. (Why couldn’t the nurse check me? I don’t know). It took the doctor like 45 min to check me and I was STILL at 8cm. So I got more epidural. I asked the nurse later if the doctor had other patients and the nurse said no. Hmmm… why did it take her 45 min to come then, when I was writhing in pain?

3am: doctor came in, still at 8cm and she said the contractions WERE strong enough to be doing something so the worry is why they weren’t doing anything. The reason she said: the baby is too big to fit out vaginally and I should get a c-section. Her little speech went something like: we could wait forever to eventually make it to 10cm, who knows how long or how much pain at 24 ml of pitocin, and after all of that, we could get to pushing and it may not even work if he really is too big to get out.

Wow. That sounded like pure misery. I started sobbing – and this emotionless doctor and nurse just stared at me. Not a word of comfort or understanding. So Steve asked if we could have a few minutes to talk about it and they left the room. I honestly felt like we didn’t have a choice. I really thought we’d go through all the time and pain and have delivery not even work (by what the doctor told us). She came back in the room like 5 minutes later wanting to know our decision. I told her I felt like we had no choice and she said we do, but she recommends the c-section and that although that may not have been part of our “plan,” a healthy baby was part of our plan so let’s focus on that.

OK. Time for a c-section. 3:30am. The next post will be a bit harder to write–why I ended up with the c-section and what I think of it now.

Steve waiting to be taken to my surgery room for the c-section (my mom took the picture)--he was so worried about me!

12 comments to Birth Story: epidural to pitocin

  • Kim

    ughhh! I’m so sorry you ended up having to have a c-section 🙁
    I too wanted a vaginal birth soooooo bad and ended up having a very rough c-section- the whole experience for me was excruciating and I felt wayyyyy too much!
    Luckily it’s all over now and we both have beautiful babies in our arms who were totally worth all the trouble!


  • O hunny, you are amazing.

    Doctors and Nurses who suggest things repeatedly do have the tendency to break you down. I’m glad you’re being open about that here and hopefully it will be a help to other new mamas!

    Congrats on your beautiful little one!


  • adjunctmom

    I am so sorry that this happened to you the way that it did.

    You need to check out ICAN. They’re an amazing group and really supportive for all experiences. I had two (three, depending how you count) c-sections, and though one was an “emergency” it was not a situation where I was pressured into something. My situation involved scary high blood pressure prior to going into labor add in a couple of other risk factors and my doctor and I decided it wasn’t worth chancing it. But it was a decision we made together.

    The second one was decided for me. I have fibroids and since the first pregnancy a new one had “appeared” in the “wrong place”. My OB circled it on the screen and said, that’s why we’re not doing a VBAC.

    I’m okay with my experience because I know I would not be here if it weren’t for my doctor’s skill, BUT he listened to me every step of the way and fought for me on points that I couldn’t get across to other doctors. I have a great OB — I just wish every one did.


  • Thanks for being open. PLEASE don’t be angry at yourself or blame yourself! You can only move forward and you are doing a great job sharing your story now. One thing I’d appreciate, and that may help you feel better… Advice to people like me who may go through the same thing. Knowing what you know now what advice would you give me? … Please don’t say homebirth lol. No offense to people who do it but I’d rather take my chances with my OB.


  • I am amazed at your strength through all of this. Despite what you may feel you are most certainly not at fault. You have a right to grieve the loss of your birth and if you are sad or angry or anything over it you are well within your rights to feel that way. You will find acceptance at some point. I am sorry for the way you were treated by the doctor and nurses. I have seen this time and time again. Your story is soooo much like soooo many other women I know. I second the advice to look into going to your local ICAN chapter meetings. I think you may find healing there.
    Many blessings of joy and peace to you mama. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your story via your blog and twitter.


  • Emily, this story brings tears to my eyes. I am SO sorry that things did not work out as you had hoped. Thank you so much for being willing to share your story with the rest of us. You are a very strong woman, and I am proud of you for getting through this!


  • There an ICAN of DuPage meeting this Sunday in Elmhurst.

    There’s also an ICAN monthly meeting a little closer to you in the South Suburbs.

    Honestly, ICAN meetings are very warm, inviting, and offer lots of support and understanding. The best thing you can do for yourself in terms of healing is to surround yourself with people who understand what this feels like, and don’t think it’s okay.

    Good luck to you. Let me know if you need to talk privately.


  • Keep writing, you’ll find it cathartic to get it all out.

    And as for the shakes, I was like that for about 10 minutes after I gave birth. Never had anything like it…. I forgot about that until you mentioned it!


  • kia

    Watching your twitter stream during your labor it was obvious you were tired and this had been a long process. Please don’t beat yourself up over your decisions, they were hard decisions to make when you were exhausted and had professionals in your face urging you to do the pit and other choices you had prepared yourself to avoid.


  • Sue

    So very sorry to hear about your birth experience. It is pretty typical though. I am a licensed midwife and I hear the same story over and over. Each intervention leads to another and eventually you end up with a c-sec. I hope next time you will consider having a doula for labor support and stay home until you are in transition to help prevent unnecessary intervention. Enjoy your new little one.


    babydickey Reply:

    Thanks, Sue – you are very right! And I actually just gave birth to baby #2 on Sunday… we had an amazing homebirth with a doula and midwife <3


  • Blues Girl Babe

    I had three 100% natural childbirths…farm girl who grew up with animals birthing babies so for me it was “chill” – just walked the whole time and told them I was not being hooked to any machines or taking any chemical crap and I told them when I was ready to go to the birthing room – and once there told them to crank the birthing bed to pretty much standing position. I took charge of my own labor. I wonder why so many women in the developed world are such drama queens when it comes to having a baby – like we are so special here and having the first baby ever born in the whole wide world. Billions of women for centuries have had totally natural childbirth, and the majority of women in the developing world still have natural childbirth every day with the help of women in their communities. So women, take charge, and be strong. I used M.O.M. methods – “Mind Over Matter” where I visualized women through the ages having babies, and that I was just following what billions of other female humans and female animals have done since the dawn of time, and I counted my way through each contraction knowing that each one I calmly went through was one step closer. I stayed on my feet right up to mere minutes before I headed to the birthing bed leaning against hallway walls as I walked my way one literal step at a time through each contraction. I must say my husband was the absolute best 100% of the time, right beside me each step of the way, and being a farm kid as well, was totally calm and supportive, which is extremely important. I have known other women who had great personal strength but folded to giving up their control to the “hospital machinery” that just takes over and bosses you around like a little child – all because their husbands flipped out when they went through labor, and they felt they did not have another shoulder to lean on.


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