Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Birth Story - Part 2

If you missed the lead up, get part 1 of the birth story here.  This is going to be another long post!

At 42 weeks pregnant, I checked into the hospital on a Tuesday evening for my induction the next day.  I got changed into a gown, and they started monitoring me.

"You're actually having a lot of contractions!" the nurse said.  I'd told her that I was having pretty regular contractions when she hooked me up to the monitor, but I guess she didn't believe me.  I'd been having them for at least a week, maybe more.  They just never got painful or closer together.

Because of the contractions, they decided they couldn't do the "cervical ripening" portion of the induction, so they'd just start the pitocin in the morning.  I don't think my husband and I got much sleep that night.  It's hard in the hospital anyway, when they check on you frequently and the beds leave quite a bit to be desired.  But then there was the excitement that we'd be meeting our son soon, which made sleeping almost impossible.  I played a lot of Lineup on my Ipod.

The next morning finally came, and they started the pitocin drip around 6:00.  The nurses asked me very briefly about what I wanted for pain medication, and I told them I'd like to try to get through without anything.  One of the nurses scoffed and said, "Yeah. Sure. Talk to me about that again in a couple of hours."

Even though I was hooked up to the IV and the fetal monitor, once the contractions started, I tried to move around as much as possible.  The contractions weren't bad at first, and I was still talking and joking between them.  My sister and a couple good friends showed up at some point.  And then my sister's boyfriend arrived with muffins - not that I could eat them, but I think the nurses appreciated it.

Around 8:30, one of the nurses decided to do a cervical check to assess my progress.  As she got into position, my water broke. "I didn't do that!" she exclaimed. "It just happened!"  It must have startled her.  I think I was about 3 cm dilated at that point.

Once my water broke, the contractions really started to pick up.  That was the point where I knew - one way or another -  I was having a baby that day.  I was 42 weeks pregnant, my water had broken - there was no stopping it now.

I said to my friends and family in the room, "Do you think I should ask them to turn off the pitocin?"  It probably wasn't a fair question to ask, since none of them were really in a position to answer it for me.  They just sort of shrugged, and I didn't press the issue.  There are two things I'd change if I could go back and redo my labor.  This is one of them .  But, I know, there's not much use in second-guessing it now.

I think someone was timing them, but I never really knew how close together the contractions were or how long they were lasting.  All I knew is that they were intense.  I was still breathing through them and moving around as best as I could.  I think I was doing ok for a while.  Then things sort of become a blur.

A couple hours after my water had broken, things got really intense.  The contractions were coming every minute and lasting for 45 to 50 seconds, which meant I only had about ten seconds from the end of one to the beginning of the next.  No matter what I did, there was just no way to focus and get ready for the next one.

I've been told since that you really need at least a minute or so between them, and that's about as close as they ever get during "natural" labor (2 to 3 minutes apart. measured from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next, and lasting about a minute each) even during the hardest parts.  What this meant was that the pitocin had hyper-stimulated my uterus.

I was kneeling on the bed, resting with both of my arms around my husbands neck.  He was supporting my entire weight.  I think I almost broke his back.  It was the only position that was even tolerable.  I know I felt like I needed to vomit for a long time; I'm not sure that I ever actually did.

 I remember looking at him, and saying, "I can't do this anymore." At one point, I remember my little sister crying, and her and my friends decided to leave and take a walk.

The nurse offered to give me something in the IV "to take the edge off."  I agreed.  She delivered a dose of Fentanyl.  This is the second thing I'd go back and change if I could.  This was the worst decision I made during my labor.  I've heard some people have good luck with Fentanyl, but - for me - it was awful. 

It did absolutely nothing for the pain.  The pain may actually have felt worse. But, I was also completely out of it.  I felt drunk and confused.  I was in so much pain, but I couldn't even speak to tell anyone.  I don't remember this lasting for very long, but my husband says it was probably 30-45 minutes.  "You looked like you were half-dead," he told me.

I was expecting that they drug they would use would be some kind of pain reliever. Since the delivery, I've learned that Fentanyl is also a sedative, which explains why I felt the way I felt.
At some point, a nurse came to me and said, "It's time for the epidural, sweetie."  Apparently, I agreed.  (This part of the labor is kind of a big black hole in my memory).

This was also the time when things got really scary for the baby.  My OB rushed in, and I remember her telling me that she didn't like what the baby's heart rate was doing.  I know now that this is not too uncommon in situations where you're getting too much pitocin; just like I didn't have any time to recover between contractions, neither did Little Spaghetti's heart rate.

All at once, they turned off the pitocin, gave me a drug to stop my labor, inserted a tube into my uterus to reinfuse amniotic fluid to give the baby a little more "cushion" from the contractions, and put a fetal scalp monitor into the skin on my baby's head.  During the chaos is when the Fentanyl was finally wearing off and my memories become less foggy.  This is also when the anesthesiologist arrived to place the epidural.

To be honest, the epidural probably saved me from having a c-section.  It (plus the other actions to stop my labor) slowed the contractions down enough to give the baby and I both a rest.  At this point, I slept for more than three hours.

As I was waking up, my sister and my friends returned.  It was about 4:30 in the afternoon by that point.

My contractions were just tiny bumps on the monitor compared to what they had been earlier in the day, and they didn't seem particularly  consistent.  The nurse suggested turning off the epidural for a half hour or so tp let some of it wear off.

They were pretty busy that night, and a half hour came and went.  Then another half hour.  I think it was almost two hours that the epidural was off.  The contractions weren't particularly painful, even still. I had regained most of the feeling in my lower body except for the fact that I couldn't move my right leg at all.

At some point, things started to feel different.  I felt a lot of pressure and told a nurse.  She said, "I'll check you, but there's no way that you're ready to push.  You're not even really having contractions.  We're going to have to turn the pitocin back on if you want to have this baby."

Sure enough, though, I was at 10 cm - fully dilated and ready to have a baby.

The nurses started helping me get my feet up to push.  I remember having to scoot over to the side of the bed for some reason, and I said to the nurse, "You'll have to hold that leg for me.  I can't move it."

"Sure," she said.  A minute later, she stopped holding my leg for some reason, and it fell with a thud off the bed.  "Oh!" she said in surprise.

"Yeah...I told you.  I have no control over that leg at all."

Eventually, I was in position to push.  I remember things feeling so calm and peaceful at that point.  In my memory, even the lights were kind of low.  Especially compared to the terror and chaos from earlier in the day, things seemed to be moving so slowly, and everyone seemed relaxed.

It was a little before 7:00 p.m. I remember my husband joking about how we only had a few hours before April Fool's day, so I better get this baby out.

The nurses gave me the ok to try pushing.  I apparently was doing a better job of it than they expected because someone had to rush to get the doctor.  It only took a couple of pushes for the baby to begin crowning.

"You're doing a great job," my OB said.  "It's like your body was made for having babies!"  You think?  Maybe that's because it was!

Then my husband said, "What's that cord?"

"Cord! What cord!??" I panicked thinking he meant the umbilical cord.  I knew it was a bad thing for the umbilical cord to come out before the head, so I was terrified.  It turned out that he was talking about the cord from the fetal monitor that was still attached to the baby's scalp.

I remember being able to sort of see the reflection of my baby crowning in a tv screen that was turned off on the wall across from the bed.  At 7:18, Little Spaghetti was born, after just a few more pushes.  I remember seeing tears in my sister and my friend's eyes, and the look of awe and wonder on their faces and in my husband's smile.

The doctor held up the most amazing bluish-gray, pointy headed little baby.  My son.  She held him up for what was probably only a couple seconds to look him over, but it felt like an eternity, and I wanted to shout, "Just give me my baby already!"

She placed him on my chest.  I know at some point I delivered the placenta, but - really - I'd stopped paying attention to what was happening.  That is, until the OB announced that something wasn't right with the placenta.  The next thing I knew, her entire forearm was inside my uterus.  To this day, I can't even fully comprehend how that's possible, but I'd rather not think about it.

Apparently, my placenta had an extra lobe (which isn't that uncommon), but it hadn't come out with the rest of it.  That could have caused big problems down the line, so she had to fish it out. I remember her bringing it over for me to see, but I really didn't care whether I saw it or not at that point.  I was cuddling my baby, and that was all that mattered.

They took the baby to the warmer to get him checked out, and the doctor told me I needed just one little stitch.  Little Spaghetti had been born with his hand up next to his face, which caused a little tear.

The friend that was there was a medical student, and my OB was happy to have someone to "teach."  She was showing her a couple of different stitching techniques as she sewed up the tear.  "And her epidural is so good, she isn't feeling any of this," my doctor was saying to my friend.

My friend looked at me, "Are you not feeling any of this?" she asked.  The epidural had been off for hours.  I shook my head...I was definitely feeling all of it.

After I was fixed up, they brought Little Spaghetti back to me.  Everyone left except maybe a nurse and my husband.  Him and I sat there in awe, looking over every little thing about our beautiful baby.  He was so hairy; he had fuzz all over his back and shoulders and arms.  One of us joked that he was like a little werewolf.  And he had the most shrill, ear-piercing cry.  My mom said the next day that there was no mistaking which baby was mine when he cried.

After about 45 minutes of family bonding time and nursing (Little Spaghetti was already latching like a champ!), a nurse came to take him and my husband off to the nursery for the bath and check-up.

And then I was alone.  Surrounded by crumpled up, bloodied cloths and trays of equipment.  It was very surreal to be by myself for the first time in more than nine months.  It was so quiet.

I probably had an hour to myself.  They moved me from the delivery room to the recovery room where we'd stay until we checked out.  Someone had left a Jimmy John's sandwich on the table in the room. I don't know where it came from, but it was - without a doubt - the most delicious sandwich I'd ever eaten.  I scarfed it down; I was totally ravenous.  I remember being sort of embarrassed when a nurse came by to check on me as I was trying to wipe the crumbs off my face....and my chest and my lap and the bed.

I'm not sure why, but there's something I really cherish about that quiet hour I spent by myself.  Somehow, it was a chance to transition from me to mommy me.  For me to relish what I'd done and get mentally prepared to take on the task of parenting.  Of caring for a real live baby who would join me any minute.

And soon enough, my men came back to me from the nursery.  My husband and my sweet little boy.  And we started out our crazy, wonderful journey as a family of three.


  1. This is such a wonderful story Lisa, you truly are an incredible mother, that was some heck of a labour!

  2. These stories scare me, but in the best possible way where it helps me to think about and clarify what I want from my own impending birth experience. Thank you so, so much for sharing these thoughts, and I'm sincerely hoping for a better experience this time around!

    1. I'm glad to know it's useful. And I hope your birth experience is beautiful!

  3. Whoa, what a story! I am 25 weeks pregnant this week and the worries and fears of delivery are definitely coming to me now.


    1. I know how you're feeling! If you ever want to chat, feel free to send me an email. There's not much I can do, but just having support from other women makes me feel better!

  4. Whew.... I'm so glad you didn't have to go through a c-section, but wow... what a scary situation!

    1. It was. Luckily, though, the end was really nice - the actual birth was peaceful and a good memory, even if the labor part wasn't. Hopefully we can avoid the scariness this time around.

  5. Ok, I need a little break before reading the next post, cuz I can't stop crying right now...

    1. Awww! I may be super hormonal right now, but you crying makes me want to cry.