Lakota Lawrence Sakamoto was born at 5:02 p.m. on Sunday, June 5, 2016, after 55 hours of labor and a whole lot of emotion. The birth of our son was quite an adventure, and we experienced a little bit of everything from induction to transition.
My husband, Tatsuya, “Tots,” and I checked in to Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, on Friday, June 3, around 9 a.m. to start the induction. Our decision to induce was a tough one. I have a heart condition called a patent foramen ovale, which is a small hole between the chambers of my heart; we’re all born with this hole but mine never closes. The biggest risk of the condition is the chance that a blood clot could pass through and travel to my lungs or brain, or cause blockage in my heart.
Additionally, I have prothrombin gene mutation blood condition, which means my blood clots a little more than normal. Neither condition affects me as long as I take care not to exacerbate it. I avoid things that can contribute to blood clots such as smoking, hormone birth control, etc. However, in pregnancy, your body creates so much extra blood that being pregnant puts me at risk for blood clots, which can be dangerous to mama and baby. A blood clot clogging the umbilical cord can be scary.
While pregnant, I gave myself a Lovenox (light blood thinner) injection daily. Additionally, my doctor sent me to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for three ultrasounds to ensure Lakota’s heart looked normal and healthy, and my uterus was free of clots.
I was induced at 39 weeks in order to minimize the chances of a surprise labor since that could potentially mean I had taken my blood thinner too close to delivery, putting me at risk of excess bleeding.
Upon admittance, I received two 12-hour doses of cervidil, a vaginal insert that is intended to ripen and open the cervix. Neither dose worked. At the doctor’s advice, we moved on to a catheter balloon, which is used to mechanically dilate the cervix, and pitocin, the synthetic version of oxytocin, a natural hormone that helps the uterus contract during labor.
It took about 48 hours of cervidil, the balloon, and pitocin to get my cervix open to just 4 cm.
At this point, I was having contractions that were tolerable with breathing, mindfulness, positioning, warm baths, and back rubs. I did a lot of walking up and down the hospital hallways, rolling along my pitocin IV. I’d bend over and hold onto the wall to endure contractions. I bounced on the birth ball and did some squats. Laying on my side with my husband pushing on or rubbing my lower back helped ease the pain.
Tots and I took a mindfulness-based childbirth class, so I incorporated a lot of what I learned in there as well as what I already knew of mindfulness practice. I tried breathing techniques, taking deep breaths and focusing on my contractions with every breath. At times, I tried silent meditation mindfulness, and at other times my husband played music. I brought my essential oil diffuser and diffused lavender oil the entire time.
By Sunday morning, at 4 cm dilated, Lakota was very low, and my water sac was bulging, so we agreed to rupture it to get things moving rather than wait for it to rupture on its own. This threw me into active labor within minutes. It was a fast, intense transition. I felt like my hips were being broken from the inside out and shattering into pieces.
Around noon on Sunday, 50 hours into labor, between moaning, crying, a little screaming, a little puking, a very concerned husband, and nitrous oxide that was making me dizzy, my husband and I decided I would get an epidural. Once I received it, I was able to take a small nap and within four hours, my cervix went from 4 cm to 10 cm and it was time to meet our baby.
It was not in my birth plan to get an epidural, but it turns out that was the very thing that finally relaxed both me and my cervix enough for the labor to progress. I learned that one has to be open to where their labor may take them and must listen to both their body and that of their baby.
My birth story can’t be complete without expanding on Tots’ role. He did amazing. Despite his fears of being grossed out by blood, vomit and other things, when the time came, he was immersed in it all and didn’t blink an eye. He even broke his own rule and watched me push rather than staying by my head, coached me on how close I was, and cut the umbilical cord. I felt closer to my husband than I ever have. The experience created intimacy and love in a new way that I never imagined.
I am truly humbled and amazed by the experience of labor and birth. I am so impressed with the ability of the baby and the part they play, as well as their endurance and resiliency. I am amazed at how far my body was pushed and yet I survived, and with the greatest gift ever. Despite the longest 55 hours of my life—which can be described as both the worst and best time of my life—I would do it all again in a second and wouldn’t change a thing.
Written by Jarah Sakamoto