So I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite awhile now. Birth stories are actually the reason I was inspired to start writing a mama blog. You see, back when I was pregnant with Parker I was so fearful of what giving birth would be like…just afraid of the unknown and being out of control…that I scoured the internet reading ALL THE blogs and watching vlog after vlog to hear what other people’s experiences were like. Again, type A here, so even when I knew I couldn’t control everything that would happen, I at least wanted as much knowledge going in as possible. However, it’s evident after all that ‘research’ that no two experiences are alike, so I wanted to share mine with you. It has taken me some time to feel comfortable writing this up and sharing it out with the world because it feels so deeply personal, but I hope that it helps some expectant mama feel more in control like reading other’s stories did for me.
Here it goes…fair warning guys this is gonna be a long one. I am no expert in medicine, so I may use the wrong terms or explain things incorrectly, but just take this as being from a layman’s perspective, not a medical professional. Also, this should really go without saying, but for anyone squeamish about childbirth or related things, this probably is not the post for you 🙂
My birth story requires a little bit of a background. At 35 weeks along in my pregnancy, I went in for a routine checkup. Everything up until that point had gone very smoothly (from a medical perspective at least – the term morning sickness is such a complete misnomer). However, on that day, the nurse was taking my blood pressure (as they always do at every checkup) and gave me a puzzled look. She pulled over a different blood pressure machine, told me to make sure my feet were flat on the ground, and took it again. She then furrowed her brow, and I asked her “what’s wrong, is my blood pressure too high?” She nodded and said, “let’s take it again after you sit down in the examination room otherwise I am going to have to send you to the hospital.” My brain immediately went into a panic mode worrying about what could be wrong. After laying down in the room, the nurse came back and took my blood pressure. I can’t remember at this point what the exact numbers were, but she went and got the midwife (the practice that I went to used a combination of midwives and obstetricians) who came to talk to me. The midwife said that there was no protein in my urine that day in the sample I had given, but she was concerned about my blood pressure. She thought that I may have gestational hypertension, but it did not appear that I was pre-eclamptic due to the lack of protein. She told me to go to the hospital for monitoring right away, and they would decide what to do based on how the monitoring went. Of course at this point, I was very scared, but she calmed me down a bit, and I called my husband and headed over to the hospital (which was just across the road from the practice).
At the hospital I got all checked in and was taken back to a room. They hooked me up to a blood pressure cuff that automatically checked my blood pressure every 5 minutes or so, and hooked up the electronic fetal heart monitoring device around my belly. The baby kept moving away from where they attached it, so it was constantly being adjusted. As I settled in there, my husband arrived and my blood pressure dropped back down to normal. The midwife on call came in and agreed with the other midwife’s opinion that I may only have gestational hypertension at this point, but wanted me to do a 24 hour urine collection to be sure. She explained that gestational hypertension can be a precursor to pre-eclampsia, but felt that if I was pre-eclamptic it would have shown in the test at the office. She would not say at this point if I would be able to return to work, but wanted me on bedrest until they knew the results of the test. So off I went with two huge red jugs with the task of collecting all of my pee for 24 hours.
My husband dropped off the containers after I was through, and we awaited the results. Later that day in the afternoon, I got a call from the office. Turns out that I did have mild pre-eclampsia. (If you are not familiar with this condition, you can search for more information, but it is a disorder of pregnancy that can lead to severe complications. The midwives explained it to me as it essentially your body being over-taxed by the pregnancy and your kidney and liver beginning to disfunction. The only cure for it is to deliver the baby, and it is something that can go from a minor, mild issue to a major one very quickly. The big concern during delivery is the onset of a seizure due to your blood pressure getting too high, which can cause both maternal or fetal death.) There is a certain level of protein that they have to find in your urine to diagnose you, and I was above that threshold. I was told that I could not return to work, I had to stay on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy and take my blood pressure every 4 hours, and I was scheduled to come into the office each week for checkups and monitoring. I was given a whole list of symptoms that if I experienced, I was to call the office and head into the hospital immediately. My blood pressure seemed to largely stay down at home as long as I wasn’t stressing out about work or the pregnancy and stayed mostly off of my feet. I went to all of my appointments, and the doctor told me the goal was to make it to 37 weeks and then schedule me for an induction because at that point the risks began to outweigh the benefits of waiting longer due to my condition. They did lots of extra movement tests and another ultrasound during this time, and the baby appeared to be doing very well. So far so good.
After one of appointments nearing the 37 week mark, I scheduled the induction, which ended up being just a few days short of the 38 week mark due to their availability. I also had to come in the day before to have my cervix checked to see if I needed to come into the hospital the night before or the day of the induction. Basically if I was not at least 2 cm dilated they would need to ripen the cervix overnight using a balloon catheter dilation. Fortunately, I ended up being 2 cm dilated and was all set to come into the hospital at 7am in the morning to be induced.
My husband and I came into the hospital bright and early after a restless night of very little sleep. Who can sleep when they know they are going to be induced the next morning? I certainly couldn’t. We got checked in and taken back to a labor and delivery room. They hooked me up to all the monitors to watch my blood pressure and the baby’s movement and heartbeat and immediately started me on a Pitocin drip to induce labor. Now going into this delivery, I wanted to avoid an epidural if I didn’t feel like I needed it. I was not dead-set against it, but I wanted to see if I could get through without it. I was not a huge fan of having something inserted in my spine, and it just made me a bit nervous. Just a preference, with an open mind that I may end up needing or wanting one. Of course, I had done a lot of reading on inductions, and had seen that epidurals were much more common when induced, so I had all of that in the back of my mind as well.
I sat in the bed and basically just waited and watched the monitors as I began to dilate and the contractions started and got more and more intense. Now for those of you out there who may be wondering what a contraction feels like, I would describe it as the muscles in your stomach clenching, like at the top and middle part of your abs, if you flex them it sort of feels like that and then gets more intense and painful as they progress. I’ve heard people describe it as really intense menstrual cramps, but for me they felt different since they occurred much higher in my stomach than my menstrual cramping. The cramps began getting more painful, but were tolerable at this point. Additionally, my blood pressure was elevated but not high enough for concern. Now I was hooked up to the monitors due to pre-eclampsia, but I could still move around if I stayed by the bed and could use a medicine ball. As the contractions got worse and worse, I got out of the bed and sat on a medicine ball hoping that would help. I would rotate through various positions to try and find what would be the most comfortable. I should say that the labor and delivery nurse was fantastic and was with me a majority of the time during labor especially as things got more intense, she would help me with moving and suggesting things to try to ease the pain. The midwife came in to periodically check me, and I was dilating. By around 10am was around 4 cm dilated. She wanted to break my water, but I wanted to hold off as I knew the bag of waters provided cushioning for the contractions, and I had heard how much worse it became after your water broke. She agreed to wait to see if I continued progressing before breaking my water. They turned up the pitocin drip, and I continued having contractions and watching them on the monitor and breathing through them as they got worse.
Around 1pm the midwife came back, and I had not progressed past the 4cm mark. She recommended breaking my water to get the ball rolling, and I agreed. She returned with an amniotic hook, which is a long thin plastic device with a small curved hook on the end. It wasn’t painful at all for me when it broke, just a gush of warm water. It is slightly disconcerting afterwards because every time you have a contraction after that warm water comes out, so you feel like you are peeing yourself constantly even though you aren’t. Now after she broke my water the contractions got much, much worse. They came on much quicker and hurt a whole heck of a lot more than before. At this point they were also giving me the maximum amount of Pitocin as well in the drip I had been hooked up to since that morning. I would squeeze Kary’s hand and breathe as well as I could through the contractions. As the hours passed they came in to check me, and I had gotten to 6cm dilated. The nurse encourage me to use this thing they called a peanut ball to open up my hips. It is shaped like a peanut and your wrap your legs around it to open your pelvis up. I laid down on my right side with the peanut ball, and the contractions got worse and worse. I have heard people say that pitocin contractions can be a lot more painful, and I believe it after going through them. They came on fast and intensely with very little space between them. I looked at my husband and told him I hated the peanut ball, it was the devil, and I didn’t think I could do this. It felt like someone was pulling pelvic bone in opposite directions. I just remember thinking “I can’t, I can’t.” He encouraged me to move around and try something else, so I got up to sit on a medicine ball next to the bed. The nurse and him helped me, and when I sat down a really painful contraction started. I had tears in my eyes and the blood pressure monitor was squeezing my arm. When the reading came through, my blood pressure had jumped up into the 180s. The nurse knew that was not good and wanted me to get off the ball and back into the bed, so I did. I waited, having more and more contractions, and it was not really coming back down. I asked the nurse if she thought an epidural would help, as I knew the pain was making my blood pressure worse. She said that it very well might, and I asked for the epidural. I knew the alternative was anti-seizure medications if my blood pressure kept spiking, and I did not want to go that route.
By this time it was around 6pm, and after probably 20 minutes or so the anesthesiologist came in to give me the epidural. He had me get on the side of the bed and hunch over, after he spent what felt like forever prepping me, he attempted to insert the needle, and I felt a strong pinch in my spine. I waited, then I asked “is it in”, and he said no. He then had me pull over a stool and prop up my feet so that I could better arch my spine. After a couple more tries, he got it in. He finished things up, and then gave me a button which I could push every so often to get additional relief if I needed it. Shortly thereafter my legs got really heavy, and I felt a wave of relief. They do insert a catheter when you get an epidural, but I didn’t feel it at all since they did it afterwards. I could feel my muscles contracting, but didn’t have any of the real pain that I previously felt. After I got the epidural, the midwife continued to check my progress, but I was still at 6cm. The nurse again suggested the peanut ball to help open up my pelvis as the midwife had noted that the baby’s head needed to tilt just slightly to come through, and I agreed this time after the epidural. At this point, she and Kary had to help me move a lot more than before because my legs were so heavy from the epidural.
Now this was the best I had felt for hours, and my family had been waiting for most of the afternoon/evening out in the waiting room. At this point, I let some of them come in for a quick visit. I visited briefly, and would then rotate to the other side with the peanut ball. Somewhere in the middle of there, I started to feel the contractions again. I pressed the button for additional relief and waited, but the contraction did not lessen up. I began to notice that one side was completely deadened, but I still could feel my contractions. I honestly don’t know what time it was at this point, but probably close to 10 or 11pm if I had to guess. The midwife came in again to check me, and I still had not progressed any further past the 6cm. She said she would bring in the doctor. I told the nurse that I was in a lot of pain, and the epidural wasn’t working. She checked a few things, and had me switch sides and wait on the doctor. Now it ended up that a doctor from my practice was not there, but they had a covering OBGYN (one that I had actually tried to see, but she was not accepting additional patients at the time). It took a little while for her to come in, but she eventually did. She felt the baby’s head hitting up against my pelvic bone (so that was why I kept feeling like something was tearing my pelvis a part). At this point because I had not progressed for so long, she recommended a Cesarean. My pelvis was not opening wide enough for Parker’s head to come through. I was in so much pain, I didn’t even really give it a second thought. I wanted the baby out safely at this point, and whatever she recommended, I would do.
The nurse went into a flurry of action prepping to take me to the Operating Room. I had to sign consent forms, and they wheeled me away. Once we got down the hall Kary was given scrubs and a mask and told to wait there; they would come get him when they were ready. They rolled me into the room and transferred me onto the table in the room. From there they began prepping me for the surgery. Since I already had an epidural in, they were planning on giving me a heavy dose through that instead of a spinal. They gave me a dose, and after waiting, proceeded to prick me with a pin in my hip and ask if I could feel it. I definitely felt it…disbelievingly, they then asked me if I felt pressure or pain. They would poke me in the shoulder for comparison with the pin. It felt exactly the same in my shoulder and my hip, and I told the doctors and nurses that. They gave an additional dose. I was also having intense painful contractions at this point, and I told them my hips hurt still. They seemed really confused about all of this, presumably because they had given me a massive dose to no effect. They repeated the test with the pin with the same results…I could still feel everything. They sat me up to take a look at the epidural in my spine. Turns out it had become mispositioned meaning it wasn’t causing the desired pain relieving effects anymore; I felt vindicated because I had been feeling my contractions for quite awhile, and had told them I was in pain, so at least I was not imagining it. Since the epidural had come out, they opted to do a spinal for anesthesia at that point. They had me hunch over again on the side of the table like before and tried to get the spinal in. The anesthesiologist tried several times to get it in. I kept feeling pinches in my back, and would ask him if it was in after long pauses. Every time the answer was no. The labor and delivery nurse held my hands as I breathed and waited as they made another attempt. The anesthesiologist asked if I wanted to keep going stating it was either this or he would have to put me under general anesthesia for the surgery. I told him to keep trying, and said that the stool had helped with the epidural. So they gave me a stool, and after a couple more tries, finally got it in. Yay!! There was a sigh of relief in the room. They laid me back. My body became numb, and they repeated the pin test after a short while. This time, I didn’t feel a thing, and they then began prepping me. They gave me anti-neasua medications and shaved the area where the incision would be. They strapped down my arms and legs and put oxygen over my nose. There was a curtain set up so that I wouldn’t have to look at my insides, which I greatly appreciated. Apparently there is an option to request a clear curtain, but I had zero desire to see that.
Unbeknownst to me, a lot of time had passed, and Kary was waiting outside freaking out, thinking something had gone wrong. They finally went out to get him and brought him in and told them they had trouble getting the spinal in. At some point, they started the surgery, and I was distracted by the feeling that I couldn’t feel my lungs. The numbness from the spinal had extended all the way to my lungs. The good news was that I didn’t feel ANY pain at all from the c-section. I remember the nurse telling me over and over that I was breathing to reassure me. I kept telling myself to try and breathe and relax. Breathe and relax. At 1:38AM, we heard a cry as the doctor pulled out Parker, and she literally entered the world screaming. The sweetest sound I had ever heard. There was a table to the left of me where they took her to check her, do measurements, and clean her off. Kary got the chance to hold her after that as the doctor continued to work on me for what felt like forever. At that point, I had begun shivering violently with the chills. For those of you who haven’t experienced this, I should clarify, this isn’t like a little shiver or teeth chatter because it’s chilly outside. This is your whole body shaking violently and teeth banging so hard together it hurts your jaw and teeth. I have literally never felt that cold in my life. I asked the doctor if she was almost done, and she quickly replied with “do you have somewhere to be”, and I didn’t say anything else. To do this day, any time that I try to rush him along, Kary likes to bring up that moment. *Sigh*
Anyways, they offered me the chance to hold Parker, but I was shaking so much, I couldn’t, so the nurses took some pictures of Kary holding her by my head. I am always amazed when I see other people’s pictures from that moment, and they look amazing and happy, because I look like death in those pictures. Parker was adorable though, and there is even a live picture of her closing her hand on Kary’s finger. They did try to put some warm blankets around my arms and head, while the doctor finished. Eventually it was over, and they moved me to a rolling bed and covered my whole body in those warm blankets. I can’t even describe the feeling of relief at that moment; it was incredible!
Once I got back to the room, I was finally given the chance to try and breast feed Parker. Things were not great on that front, but that’s a story for another day. My recovery actually went really well, and I was walking (very slowly and painfully) the next day. The incision hurt, but sleep deprivation was absolutely the hardest part of recovering from a major surgery with a newborn baby. I had tons of swelling from all the medications they had given me. I was still puffed up like the michelin man when I left the hospital. My blood pressure immediately returned to normal after delivery, and I haven’t had issues since then, which is great. All in all, Parker was happy and healthy (even though feeding became quite a struggle) and so was I. The best outcome we could have hoped for.
I hope that my story was interesting and that it helps someone out there. Let me know if you have any questions or comments below. I am sure I left something out, so much to remember 🙂