Happy birthday — a birth story

WARNING: This birth story does not have a clean, happy ending where I got the beautiful birth of my dreams. It was messy and sometimes quite scary. Having said that, if you happen to be pregnant when you come across this blog post, don’t panic. Judging from my Google research, this happens in, like, 4 percent of all births ever.

It all started October 22, when I went in for my 39 week exam. I had an ultrasound scheduled to check my fluid levels. They were at a 4.1. They start to worry at 5. So, I got scheduled for an induction! I had two choices– I could either go in later that afternoon or early the next morning. It seemed like a little much to get my head around doing it that afternoon, so I got scheduled for 2 AM the next day.

We packed up the car and headed to the hospital, where they took my medical history and inserted the Cervidil, which would soften my cervix and get it ready for actual labor. This was about 3 AM. I probably should have slept, but we were too excited, so we ended up watching How I Met Your Mother episodes on DVD. This part wasn’t a whole lot of fun, since I was constantly monitored and pretty much confined to bed unless I had to go to the bathroom.

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Finally, at 3 PM, they took out the Cervidil and I got to eat a baked potato, which was awesome, because I was absolutely STARVING.

I had progressed to 1 1/2 centimeters dilated and 60 percent effaced, so the nurse said she felt I would do quite well on the Pitocin. They knew I wanted a natural labor, so they started out with the smallest dose and went on from there. The nurse on duty taught me several pain management techniques… and I would end up using them all. Throughout the next several hours, I rotated between walking the halls (thanks to a portable fetal monitor), sitting on the couch, sitting on the glider, and the birthing ball while my husband rubbed my back. (Honestly, I thought the back pain was the worst part.)

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About 6 PM, I labored in the shower, which was… wonderful. I didn’t want to get out, but after awhile the hot water made my husband uncomfortable, so we took a break. I warned him I would probably want to get back in.

I am a Jeopardy nerd, so I thought playing along would get my mind off of things. Instead, labor got… real. I went from mildly uncomfortable to feeling some pain. We decided to ‘slow dance’, where I held on to my husband and we swayed back and forth. The nurse brought in a labor bar to attach to my bed, and I managed the pain by holding myself up and moaning through each contraction.

Just before midnight, things got weird. We slow danced for a good thirty minutes, but I started to feel sore, so I told my husband that I needed to sit down. Once I sat on the glider, my water broke. They checked me one more time and I was at 4 1/2 centimeters. About ten minutes later, the pain was horrific. My husband asked if I wanted the epidural, since I told him I didn’t think I could do this anymore.

I hesitated, but when the nurse came in, he asked her about it. I hesitated again, since I really, really wanted a natural birth. “The pain you’re experiencing isn’t your body’s reaction to labor,” she said. “It’s medicated, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting help.”

I gave in. At this point, I would have described the pain as a 12 on their 10 point scale. As she got the IV adjusted for the epidural, I felt a bizarre urge to push something out. I told her, but she told me it was just stuff related to my water breaking.

They were just getting ready for the anesthesiologist to come in when I felt the urge to push again. She gave me a quick look and decided it was still due to my water breaking.

When I had to sit up in bed and adjust my position for the epidural, I experienced an earth-shattering contraction. I bit my husband’s hand, because all I could think was maybe I could transfer some of my pain to someone else. The pain was probably a 20 out of a possible 10.

If this is a 4 centimeter level contraction, I don’t understand the natural birth movement at all, I thought.

After they administered the epidural, they advised my husband to try and get some sleep, since it would probably be at least another 5 hours. This was at 1:45 AM.

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They asked me about my level of pain and I cried out, “10!” They started to think that it was a failed epidural and considered the possibility of redoing it. It’s rare, but apparently it does happen.

Finally, my contractions started to subside, but I felt a strong pain in my hip. When I told the nurse, her eyes widened as she checked me. Unbelievably, I had progressed to 10 centimeters in less than an hour. Whether we were ready or not, it was time to push. I’m pretty sure they were supposed to have checked me once more before they actually administered the epidural, and they didn’t. So… there was that.

At this time, I was completely numb. I pushed twice and the doctor stepped out to change shoes. I think at this time, things were starting to feel out of control. Since they administered the epidural so late, I couldn’t feel when to push at all. Literally, the nurses had to feel my belly and watch the monitor to tell me when to push.

Suddenly, the nurse told me to turn to my side and breathe into an oxygen mask. I was too scared to ask why, I just did what I was told. Turns out, they had lost the baby’s heartbeat. After what seemed like an eternity, it came back on the monitor, but was only beating at a 44. (Average is 150s.) The doctor came running back in, barking, “I don’t care what happens, I want to find that heartbeat!”

Then she said, “Who told this woman her fluid was low? Her fluid is not low!”

Great. So I had been induced for no reason.

They were also having trouble locating contractions, which compounded the problem. They just had no idea when to tell me to push. I was positive I was about to have an emergency c-section.

Instead, the doctor pulled out the forceps and said, “These are forceps. Usually in cases like these, we worry about cord compression. They will likely do more damage to you than to the baby. Do I have your consent to use them?”

Dazed and terrified, I agreed. She asked me to give the push of my life, which is darned near impossible when you can’t feel anything.

I pushed as hard as I could… I think. But, despite everything, she was able to rip the baby out… And place her on the bassinet. To horrible, horrible silence. My baby didn’t cry. My husband and I looked at each other in fear. An eternity seemed to pass — neither of us could believe we had made it through 40 weeks of pregnancy only to potentially lose this child. I asked a passing nurse if everything was okay. She just said, “It’s okay, sweetie. We’re working on it.”

Oh, God.

It was still silent.

I made eye contact with the doctor and asked if everything was okay, desperate for some kind of reassurance. She just said, “They’re working on it.”

She worked on stitching me up and made sure I understood that I had just had a third degree episiotomy (out of a possible four.) Thank goodness for epidurals, is all I have to say.

But then I stopped paying attention because then I heard the sweetest sound– my daughter crying. She was born at 3:14 AM at 6 lbs 4 oz and 20 inches, very much alive.

She was perfect.

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We also have a picture of the placenta, but I doubt you want to see that.

By the way, the cord wasn’t around her neck. We may never know what happened there.

Anyway, for me the birth experience was frightening, and for much of the last part I felt like everything was spiraling out of control. I’m healing well, and feeling a bit better about the birth, although I keep reliving it in my mind. I do think the staff at the hospital saved my daughter’s life, but without all those interventions, would we have had to go through all of that? I know I’m probably being annoying to those I’m close to, but I keep running through “if only” scenarios in my head. If only I hadn’t been induced. If only they had checked me before the epidural. If only we hadn’t lost her on the monitor. Maybe I shouldn’t have consented to the forceps so easily. I know it’s silly to ask myself these questions, but I can’t help it.

At least I have a beautiful baby girl.

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