Confession: I never quite understood documenting birth stories. I mean, what’s so novel anyway? Woman starts having contractions at home, they get stronger, longer and closer together, couple goes to hospital, screams a lot, pushes some and out comes baby. But perhaps maybe that’s how I envisioned my birth story.
I never really had a “birth plan.” I basically told my doctor that I would prefer a vaginal delivery, wanted an epidural and if for some reason I need a C-Section, just let me know up front to avoid any emergencies. Yep, pretty much none of that happened.
I woke up one morning almost 39 weeks pregnant with a massive headache and very itchy hands. I knew a headache was a red flag, so I took some Tylenol and the headache eventually went away; however, the itchy hands did not. I figured itchy hands might just be some odd-ball pregnancy symptom, so I consulted Google, who scared me, so I called labor and delivery. The labor and delivery nurse told me to come in right away – take note: if you are over 38 weeks pregnant, itchy hands are a bad sign. Figuring we were in for another fire drill (we were no strangers to false alarms by this point), we didn’t even bring all our luggage. At the hospital they took my blood pressure, which was through the roof and I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is hyper-tension would could eventually end up in seizures and a still-born baby. Because I was so close to my due date, the on-duty OB decided it would be best to induce labor. I was told that with inducement we could potentially be there for days on end, and so we settled in for the long haul.
I was only 3cm dilated, so they gave me an oral medication and eventually Pitocin. Little by little I felt the contractions come on, which would increase in strength over the course of the next 24 hours. Truth be told, the contractions were nothing compared to the pain I felt from all the frequent blood pressure measurements and the general discomforts of pregnancy. I didn’t want to get an epidural yet, because I felt I could handle the pain thus far and if I was going to be spending days in the hospital, I didn’t want to be under anesthesia for hours on end. But 24 hours after being induced, I still had not made any progress, so the midwife and the anesthesiologist talked to me about getting an epidural to help my body relax into dilation. They explained that since I had been contracting for several weeks, the muscles in my pelvis were very tight and hindering dilation. Made sense to me, so I gave everyone the green light.
Once the epidural was in place I felt nothing but complete bliss. It was great, and finally I could relax. Oh wait, not so fast. About 5 hours after I received the epidural I could feel my toes again. Then they wanted to a pelvic exam. I screamed, I shook and I completely traumatized the midwife who did it. Everything inside me felt completely alive, and I just didn’t know how that could be. We decided that I would be “topped off” before each one. Worse still, I hadn’t really progressed. I believe by this time I was only 4.5cm dilated. I was able to sleep through the night, and was checked again the next morning. No progress. This was my 3rd day in the hospital. They increased the Pitocin and we were to wait for 4 hours. It was 4 hours of absolute hell. My contractions came on strong and fast and required all of my focus. I had a monitor inside of me that tracked the severity of each contraction on a scale of 1 to 100. I was well over 75 each time. My water had also broken. It was clear that the epidural was not working at all. The new anesthesiologist on duty thought it hadn’t been placed properly, and we decided to insert another one. By this time I’ve had drugs going through my body for over 24 hours.
They placed the 2nd epidural, and I was happy to have sudden relief again, just like the first time. I was able to have a pelvic exam with virtually no feeling at all. Then after a couple hours my left hip began to hurt. It was around the same time that they decided to up the Pitocin really high to get the baby show on the road. My contractions were rating off the charts (well over 100), and I could feel each one in my hip. The feeling was spreading, and after another pelvic exam I could feel everything on the left, but not on the right. This pain was far more excruciating that anything I had felt on this journey, so much so I couldn’t make any noise except shrill screams. I had been in labor for a total of 57 hours.
Then the doctor came in.
The baby’s heart rate had begun to drop.
OB: A woman has just come in for a scheduled C-Section. I’m canceling it. We need to get you into the operating room.
Me: Is this an emergency C-Section?
OB: No, it’s an urgent C-Section.
Me: What’s the difference?
OB: You already have an epidural in your back.
Me: Let’s do it.
I was screaming, screaming into the operating room. My hip was on fire. There were bright lights and gloves. The room was filled with people, but I was all alone. My husband was not allowed to come in yet. Anesthesia was administered and I began to shake uncontrollably. I shook and shook and I couldn’t stop. I started feeling pain my shoulders because of the tension. My husband came in and held my hand, my shaking, cold hand. They cut and pushed and pressed like they said they would. It didn’t hurt, but it was massively uncomfortable. Then I heard them.
“Whoa! 1! 2! 3! 4! A knot! Oh, look at that black hair!”
I was waiting for someone to lift the baby above the curtain so I could see, but they never did. I was waiting to hear some screaming, but I couldn’t hear anything.
Me: Matt, what does he look like?
Matt: He’s blue.
Me: What’s 4? Why did they count to 4?
Matt: That’s the amount of times the cord was wrapped around his neck. There’s a knot in the cord too.
I could see a number of people surrounding the baby in the distance. They were frantically doing something. Then finally, a cry. The sweetest cry I ever heard.
I was taken to another room where I was filled with all kinds of narcotics, and I still couldn’t stop shaking. I felt as though everything was slipping away from me. I hadn’t seen my son. I was told he was in the NICU. The only way I could stop shaking was to breathe deeply and fall asleep. My husband and my father were there at times, and at times they weren’t there. I was shown pictures of a baby on my phone. He was so beautiful and pink, and I was told that he was doing really well.
I recently saw a photo of a woman I know immediately after giving birth. Her baby was covered in white goo and attached to her chest, skin-to-skin. I didn’t see my baby until 6 hours after he was born. He was clean and swaddled and looked as if he had hardly come from my body at all.
But he was alive.
My son had managed to tie a knot in his umbilical cord and wrap it around his neck 4 times. Every time I had a contraction and his head was entering my cervix, he was hanging himself. If I had not had a C-Section neither one of us would have survived.
Moral of the story: Hospitals suck, midwives and labor and delivery nurses are really annoying most of the time, but all those people in the operating room were nothing short of heroes. I am forever grateful to them for giving me the best gift I ever received.
P.S. The dog just assumes the photo shoot is for him. 🙂