When I was pregnant, I loved reading birth stories and couldn't get enough of them. It was great to hear detailed, first hand experiences of other moms out there. They really helped me gain a better understanding of the reality of labor and delivery. I decided that once my baby arrived I would be sure to share my story too. I originally intended to post this as the first blog entry but at the time I was unsure about the best way to share it, and I'm actually glad I waited a while because I've gained so much perspective since then. The birth of my baby girl did not go as planned at all and I was a bit disillusioned by the whole experience at first, focusing on everything that went wrong. Since then a few other people I know personally either as a friend or friend of a friend, have experienced similar complications as I did, and unfortunately for two of them this ended up in a pregnancy loss or stillbirth. It was a big wake up call for me, and made me realize how truly blessed we are to have our healthy little baby despite all that went wrong. Although I tried my best to summarize it, I didn't want to leave out too many details so it ended up being quite a long birth story and this is only part 1!! I decided to break it up into chapters for easy reference:
In the beginning
The chips fall into place
This lady got no fluid
Induction or else
Last night alone
Lights, camera, action...
A child is born
In the beginning...
I guess the best place to start would be my due date which was Sunday April 15th. I always knew the due date was just a rough estimate so I tried not to be too hopeful, but as the date approached I honestly couldn't help wondering if the baby would come right on time. She didn't. My due date came and passed and nothing happened. I consoled myself with the fact that my due date was actually a day off since it was a leap year and there was one additional day on the calendar. My husband and I went to the mall, specifically so I could get a lot of walking done; walking supposedly helps to induce labor. I walked up and down the entire mall to no avail. I went to bed that night hoping I might go into labor before morning, but again nothing happened. Monday morning rolled around and I dragged myself in to work. I sat at my desk all day rubbing my belly and every tiny twinge or cramp would get me excited. My male coworkers kept nervously asking me about it, as though I secretly knew the exact moment I would go into labor and was purposely withholding that information.
The same thing happened on tuesday and then wednesday; lots of anxious excitement but no action! Every time I woke up at night to use the bathroom my husband would jump out of bed and ask "is the baby coming?" and each time I would flash him the look of death because I had already told him several times that I would definitely let him know if I was in labor!! By the time Thursday finally rolled around I felt as though I had been due forever. I had a routine doctors appointment that day, and I was glad to go see the doctor and check up on the baby. I was 40weeks and 4 days pregnant by this time.
The chips fall in to place...
Thursday I woke up and thought it would be another uneventful day. I had no idea what lay ahead of me; I firmly believe that God placed everything neatly in place to ensure the events unfolded with precise timing for my baby to be born healthy. I went into work as usual to the shock and horror of my colleagues. Around 2pm I left for my doctors appointment. I usually go for my appointments around 4pm or later, but this particular day they insisted I come in earlier. I didn't think much of it at the time. Just as I was leaving the office my husband called and said he wanted to come with me, this surprised me because he usually works till around 6pm. I told him it was just a routine checkup so I could go by myself. Much to my annoyance he insisted he wanted to be there, I grumbled a little because we didn't want to go in two seperate cars so that meant I had to go get him, which might make me a little late....
The appointment with my OB seemed to go well at first. Everything seemed fine, she checked my cervix and it was still closed but effaced, so I was a bit happier that there was a teeny bit of progress. We went over my birth plan and she confirmed that I didn't want to be induced and would wait til I was at least 41 weeks + to discuss anything further. She checked my blood pressure and it was a bit higher than usual, but I wasn't too worried because I've had high pressure readings throughout my pregnancy. She waited a while and checked the pressure again and it was still quite high, again I wasn't worried, I was convinced it was because I was so anxious about when I would go into labor. She measured my belly and thought it seemed smaller than last time,but said it could be because the baby had dropped lower. She suggested we do an ultrasound just to make sure everything was okay. I rolled my eyes thinking she was being overly cautious as usual. I was starving by this time because I didn't really have lunch at work, I had planned to eat after the appointment. I even had a pair of delicious donuts waiting for me in the car. All I wanted to do as this point was go home and stuff my face with as much food as possible. But my doctor had other plans. She asked me to go next door for an ultrasound, but her ultrasound tech had already left. I suggested I could do the ultrasound the next week when I had my next check-up but she insisted we get it done sooner just to clear our minds. She asked if I was available early the next day but I had work the next day so I said I would have to check my schedule and call back. She then looked at the time and said since it wasn't 5pm yet I could go to the hospital across the street for the ultrasound,they have better equipment in their perinatal department anyway. I thought to myself is this woman kidding me?, Is she really going to make me go to the hospital for this unnecessary ultrasound, as hungry as I am? I didn't see what the big deal was because we had heard the heartbeat, and I could feel the baby kicking so everything must be fine right? I asked if I could just do it next week and again she said because of my belly size seeming smaller and the high pressure she really wanted the ultrasound done just for her peace of mind. At this point I was kicking myself for agreeing to come in earlier than usual. Why hadn't I just come in around 5pm as usual, then it would be too late to make me go to the hospital. Little did I know that me coming in early was a blessing in disguise.
She called in to the hospital and tried to book an appointment for me to have an ultrasound done right away. They told her they were too busy, short staffed and it was nearly time to close so I would have to come in next week. I smiled to my husband, because it looked like things were going my way and we could go home. But my doctor wasnt taking no for an answer, she got back on the phone and called Labor and Delivery department ( L&D). She told them she really needed an ultrasound for a patient but the Perinatal department claimed to be fully booked. She asked if the L&D would admit me as if I was already in Labor and then wheel me over to the Perinatal department because she really didn't want to send me home without knowing for sure that everything was ok since I was past my due date..
This lady got no fluid...
At this point I was 100% annoyed. Pregnancy and hunger don't go well together. I thought all this was unnecessary and prior to this I had many other "scares" during the pregnancy ranging from possible kidney issues, high blood pressure and genetic counselling. And everything always turned out to be okay and more of a false alarm than anything else so I wasn't at all concerned at this point. The doctor told me to hurry over to the hospital before that department closed and check in to the L & D. So my husband and I walked on over and after being sent to the wrong desk twice we finally got to the right place just on time. There was no one there at the L& D front desk! It took us a while to get buzzed in. We couldn't see or hear anyone, just the eerie sound of fetal heartbeats emanating from a few open doors. My husband and I stood at at the desk for at least 10 minutes before a tired but friendly nurse showed up. She made me get into a gown, and then put me in a wheel chair and pushed me over to the ultrasound room. At this point I was smiling again. This was familiar territory, I always kinda liked ultrasounds, and I was starting to enjoy this little test run of what actual labor might be like. I got on the table and lay down excited to see the baby on the screen. I had done most of my ultrasounds at this hospital so I was very familiar with all the techs and perinatologists there. They were all really friendly and professional. But this time a new trainee ultrasound tech walked in. I disliked her immediately. She seemed to have no tact at all. She walked up to me and said "can't you walk? why are you in a wheel chair?" I was like woah what a horrible attitude. But I smiled and responded that I could walk but was asked to get in the wheel chair by the nurse due to my high pressure. Unlike the other ultrasound techs, she didn't turn the big screen on for me to see what she was doing. I had to strain to see on the small screen which is located behind my head so I just gave up and lay back and waited for her comments. Before she even turned on the machine she started making comments about me being past due and asking why I wasn't just taking the baby out. So infuriating.
As she began the ultrasound, she started making faces like she couldn't believe her eyes, she kept saying "uh-uh" "no-way" "this baby's gotta get out now" in a really unprofessional manner. She then ran out of the room looking very flustered and came back with her supervisor. She said to the supervisor "by my measurements this lady got no fluid at all, am I doing it wrong?" The supervisor didn't address me at all. She worriedly looked at the screen, rubbed the doppler over my belly and did her own calculations. She was very silent the whole time, while the trainee kept spitting out annoying and inconsiderate side comments. I was really hoping that the supervisor would figure out that the loud mouth trainee was wrong and everything was ok, but all I got was a long silence. Finally the supervisor said one short line to the trainee "you are right, it is what it is, we have to call her doctor" and she walked out.
At this point I was really angry again. No one was telling me what was going on. Thanks to loud mouth trainee lady, I knew there was an issue with not enough fluid but I wasn't sure what that actually meant. I just sat there looking at my husband wondering what the heck was going on. Was I free to go now? Someone showed up and told me to get back into the wheel chair and they wheeled me over to "my room" in L&D. I was so confused at this point. What was going on? I decided to take off the hospital gown and put my regular clothes back on. I just wanted to go home and pretend everything was okay. At this point the nurse came back in and I asked her what was going on. She told me she had just gotten off the phone with my doctor and that I wasnt allowed to go home, my doctor would be coming in shortly to explain everything in more detail, but she believed I would need to be induced. I was devastated. Induced? For what reason? All beacuse loud mouth trainee couldn't find any fluid on the screen? I didn't want to be induced, because I knew how easily that could lead to a c-section and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. She asked me to get back into the hospital gown, she put a tag on my wrist and then brought in a lot of paperwork for me to fill out.. She also brought a heploc, some IV fluid and then hooked me up to a fetal monitor and a contraction monitor.
All of these were things I expressly wanted to avoid. I didn't want to be connected to an IV and stuck on the bed, and I definitely didn't want the fetal monitor strapped to my belly. I tried to tell her this and she seemed a little irritated and impatient with me. I asked her if I could just hold off on everything until my doctor showed up. She said no the doctor was already in the hospital and really wanted me to be monitored and I needed the fluids since I hadn't eaten most of the day, she assured me there was no medication in it yet.
When she hooked me up to the monitor, she looked at me strangely and asked "don't you feel that?" Apparently I was having small contractions that I didn't really notice. I thought her machines were just not working right, but she put her hand on my belly and told me to pay attention to the tightening muscles and how hard my belly would become. She was totally right I was having contractions, some of them slightly uncomfortable but I hadn't paid much attention to them up until then! She then tried a few times to place the heploc in my arm but only succeeded in stabbing me in multiple locations and painfully rupturing a vein. She called for backup and a very nice nurse was swiftly able to insert the heploc. She made it seem so easy, I was resentful that the previous nurse had poked me so many times and still failed to get the heploc in. The cell phone shot below shows the heploc on my left arm and the bandaid on my right hand where the vein ruptured.
After all this, they left us alone for what seemed like a long time. My husband and I talked for quite a bit about how crazy and unexpected it all was and how we couldn't wait for the doctor to show up. I was so grateful to have him there at this point. It would have really sucked to go through all this alone. After what seemed like hours we still had not seen the doctor, I was confused about this since they had told me a while ago that she was in the hospital already. I asked a nurse about this and they told me she was in the OR.. I nodded as if I understood and later came to find out that OR means Operating Room. Finally after waiting what seemed like a lifetime my doctor walked in the room. It was so comforting to finally see a familiar face! She apologized for the delay and sat down to talk things through.
Induction or else...
My doctor explained that my fluid levels were dangerously low and that it posed a high risk to the baby. She told me that usually in a case like this they would immediately do a c-section but because she understood and respected my wishes to avoid a c-section, she was willing to try an induction since the baby's heartbeat was steady and they would play it by ear from there. I asked her what my chances were if I just went home and didn't induce because I still didn't really know what the low fluid meant and she looked at me and said very quietly that it could lead to a pregnancy loss.
She was very encouraging and told me that the induction might still end up in a semi- natural vaginal birth and that I shouldn't give up hope yet. Due to the low fluid she didn't want to do anything to distress the baby so she decided to go with a two-part induction. Starting off with Cervidil and then following up the next day with Pitocin if necessary. She started off by placing the Cervidil which is like a mini tampon, on my cervix, and we all hoped that this would kick start labor and everything would progress naturally from there. By this time my worried parents had arrived in time to see my doctor leaving. My mom brought me food and magazines to read and my dad said a prayer for us all and then they were on their way since it was already about 8pm by now. My husband ran downstairs to get my hospital bag from the car; I was so glad I had put it in my trunk a week earlier and we just hung out for a while watching tv and hoping for the best. They brought me a tray of food, but by this time, all my hunger had vanished, my stomach was in knots with worry and I couldn't swallow much of it. So I decided to hold on to the food and eat it later. Big mistake.
Last night alone...
Around midnight since nothing was happening, my husband decided to go home, shower, eat, get some sleep, pack his stuff, get the camera and then come back in the morning. Right at that point a nurse came and cheerfully announced that I wasn't going to be allowed anymore food. I didn't pay much attention to her, because I wasn't really hungry then. I was finally alone with my thoughts and just kept worrying about how everything would play out. I lay there on the bed trying to get comfortable with the belts strapped to my belly listening to the sounds of my baby's heartbeat and watching meaningless comedies on tv. This was not in anyway how I had envisioned my labor to be; strapped to machine waiting for some drugs to take effect. It just seemed so passive like I wasn't doing anything. The monitor continued to show small contractions, I didn't feel any of them, so I was still hopeful, that tonight would be the night the baby would come. Annoyingly I kept needing to go to the bathroom thanks to all the fluids they were pumping through the IV. This particular hospital has all private rooms, with ensuite bathroom so that was great but it was still very awkward getting to the bathroom with the IV attached. I had to push the entire contraption that holds the bag of IV fluid with me to the bathroom and then maneuver it around.
It was hard falling asleep lying on my back. My entire pregnancy I had been told to avoid sleeping on my back and only sleep on my sides, but it was really hard to sleep on my side with the monitor belts strapped to my belly and everytime I got comfortable a nurse would come and tell me that the heartbeat readings were too unreliable in that position. I finally fell asleep around 1 am only to be rudely awakened by a horrible beeping noise. It seemed to be coming from the IV machine. I blinked at it in confusion, what now? I buzzed for a nurse and she came and said it was because the battery was low. She said it was because I probably forgot to plug it back in when I went to the bathroom. What? It was never plugged in to begin with, I would definitely not have unplugged it for fear I might mess things up. So anyway she plugged it in and the beeping stopped. Then I really need to use the bathroom again but I was scared to unplug it again, so I had to wait a while until I thought it was sufficiently charged enough to risk unplugging it without that monstrous beeping. Again it took me a while to fall asleep and then an hour later another rude awakening, again a terrible alarm was going off. What now? A nurse came running in and said the paper that was printing out the fetal heartbeat rates and my contractions had run out. I realized at that point that these people had a pact not to let me sleep. After struggling to fall asleep a third time, I was finally woken up by a very cheery nurse at around 6am. How could she be that happy at 6 am!! She told me I had to get up, remove the cervidil, shower and get ready because my doctor was coming to check on me.
The nurse started the shower running and told me it might take a while to warm up. This was a major understatement because it never warmed up. I basically had a cold shower but it was nice to shower all the same. I was glad I brought my own shower gel, it reminded me of home and made me feel a little more human. A different nurse came in with a bag of Pitocin and said it was time for me to start the next phase of my induction. I told her I was waiting for my doctor to check my progress first and see how dilated I was first. She said we didn't have to wait for the doctor because she could check me, which she proceeded to do and then told me I wasn't dilated at all. I was devastated. Not even a little bit? Then my doctor came with a scary looking hook and said as soon as I started to dilate they would manually break my water. She checked me as well and confirmed that despite the contractions I was having, my cervix was still closed. The cervidil had basically done nothing for me. She was very positive and encouraging and said I should remain hopeful, maybe the pitocin would have more of an effect on me. She started me on a very low dose of pitocin, she wanted to proceed cautiously; not wanting to distress the baby any further. As the day progressed they very carefully and very gradually increased the amount of pitocin. They explained to me that Pitocin is notorious for causing contractions that are stronger, more frequent and more aggressive to the baby than natural contractions. Because of the low fluid complication they didn't want to risk the baby getting too distressed as this would have further adverse effects. I patiently nodded to everything they said, I already knew all the side effects of Pitocin, thats the whole reason I never wanted to be induced in the first place!! By this time my husband was there, we watched tv, took pictures, talked and laughed the day away, but all I could think of was food! I was starving and all they would let me eat was tiny cup full of ice chips
By mid day I was having very regular contractions, one contraction every 15 minutes or so, then they came even closer together, every 7 to 10 minutes. I was really excited that things were finally moving along! They were painful but nothing unbearable yet, I could talk through them normally. I got even more excited when I saw the contractions spiking on the monitor, It was finally happening, I was really in labor! But as this happened, the baby's heartbeat sped up and slowed down, so they came in and turned down the pitocin and everything went downhill from there. The contractions slowed down to 1 every 30 minutes and then 1 every hour and then nothing at all. I was back to the mini contractions that I couldn't even feel. Disappointing to say the least. As the day drew to a close, the baby's heart rate continute to deccelerate gradually. Then a nurse ran in and turned the pitocin off altogether. She told me the baby's heart rate was still steady but was getting way too slow and they didn't want me on pitocin any longer. She told me they had contacted my doctor but the main doctor in charge was recommending an immediate c-section. Shortly after this I got a call from my doctor. She told me they were officially calling it a failed induction. She informed me her recommendation at this point was for a c-section but it was still my decision and I could try and wait one more day and repeat the entire induction all over again, starting with cervidil, however she did state that the longer we waited around the higher the risks to the baby were. At this point my husband and I agreed to have the c-section.
Lights, camera, action...
The nurse ran into my room again and said she didn't want to worry me but with the way the baby's heart rate was bouncing all over the place they were going to go ahead with the c-section as per my doctors instructions. She called it a semi-emergency c-section. Once I agreed to it and signed the papers all hell broke lose. It was like being backstage of a major theatrical production. Everything was fast paced, everyone was rushing around me and somehow I was the star of the show but didn't know my lines. It felt like so many people were trying to talk to me at the same time; all very overwhelming. An anesthesiologist came and spoke to me about the spinal injection I was about to receive, at the same time a nurse was shaving and prepping my lower abdomen where they would make the incision, a resident doctor was also trying to ask me some questions and a different nurse was telling my husband to change into scrubs. My doctor also stopped by to talk with me... I was overwhelmed and really terrified. For some reason the c-section scared me more than labor or natural birth. I've had surgeries before so I'm not sure why this freaked me out so much.
My husband and I got a brief moment alone. He kept reassuring me that everything would be fine and then they come and asked me to follow them to the operating room. My husband had to stay behind until after I had my spinal injection placed. My legs felt like rubber as I walked towards the surgical theatre, It felt so dramatic as though I was walking to the gallows or something. I nearly burst out laughing hysterically just out of sheer nervous anxiety, but I didn't want them to think I was insane so I bit my lip and prayed to God to give me the strength to get through it all
I walked into the room and looked around at all the bright lights and medical instruments and I thought wow this is it. This is the room thats gonna witness my transition into motherhood. Firstly I had to sit on the bed for the spinal shot. It's similar to an epidural but not the same thing. They tried to explain the difference to me, but I didn't really follow. All I could think of was the fact that I was about to get stabbed in the back with several needles. I'm glad I didn't look at the needles because I later discoverd how huge they are! That would have terrified me even more.
Look at the size of that needle!!
They had me sit on the egde of the bed and then hunch over and cave my back as if I was trying to impersonate the hunchback of Notre Dame so they could give me the spinal shot. They told me to stay really still but it is hard to hunch over like that with a large pregnant belly in the way. I gave it my best shot, but once I felt the first set of needles I instinctively arched my back and everyone yelled "woah woah stay still." I immediately felt a mild burning sensation all over my lower back and it was really hard to cave my back, I just really wanted to arch my back and scratch the burning sensation away. This time a nurse came and stood in front of me and held my shoulders down in the "hunch back of notre dame position." This time I stayed still for the remainder of the shots. Then they had me lie down on my back and I immediately felt exremely nauseaous and light headed. Everything was suddenly moving at a fast pace again, as though it was a race to the finish line. One person was hooking me up to oxygen whilst another was cleaning my belly and a third was placing a catheter. Ugh that catheter. I didn't feel it at first thanks to the spinal but boy oh boy did I hate it later. Another person was putting compression boots on my legs. At this point my head was spinning and I couldn't breathe, my mouth was extremely dry too. I started panicking, I thought I can't do this. I need to get up off this table. I told one nurse that I couldn't breathe and I needed water and wanted to throw up. She smiled and told me I could go ahead an throw up and I wouldn't be the first to do so. She had someone adjust the table a little bit so my head wasn't tipped back so much and they adjusted my oxygen too. Within minutes I felt much better.
Then a different nurse came to do the test to make sure the spinal was really working. They kept assuring me I would feel pressure but no pain. He wiped my chest with an alcohol wipe and asked if it was hot or cold, I responded cold of course. Then he wiped my belly and asked hot or cold. I stared back at him confused because I couldn't tell if it was hot or cold. It was a very odd feeling. I told him I thought it was warm but I couldn't tell for sure. He waited a few minutes and did it again. This time I definitely couldn't tell it if was hot or cold. He smiled and told me thats how it was supposed to work. They then put up these blue drape type sheets so I couldn't see what was going on and they warned me not to try and touch the sheets, or touch my belly. At this point my husband was brought in.
A child is born...
It was great to see him, I'd been wondering when they would let him in. He came and sat behind me and I was happy to see he had the camera ready. My doctor soon walked in with another doctor, they spoke to me briefly and then began the surgery. Just like they promised, I felt a lot of pressure but no pain. After about 15 minutes, they told me they were about to get the baby out so I would feel even more pressure. It felt as though they were all taking turns sitting on my chest or punching me in the gut, to the point that I was gasping for air. I heard them say, "a few more pushes".. and then the next thing I heard my baby crying. It was the most beautiful sound in all the world. Tears poured down my face and I kept saying over and over "my baby" I thought she would be quiet when she was born, but was glad to hear her cry. My doctor later told me that her eyes were wide open as soon as she was born and that she immediately pooped all over my belly
They quickly took her to another room to clean her and told my husband to go with them. He was so excited to go with them. I hated what followed. I had to lie there as they finished the surgery which took atleast another 30 minutes. All I wanted to do was hold my baby in my arms, but I had to lie down and have the placenta removed, get stitched up and then be cleaned up. It felt like an eternity. My husband brought her to me, he had a tag on his wrist and they put one on me too. I couldn't see her properly because of how I was laying down, but I knew she was the most beautiful baby in the world. She had thick curly hair and really long thin wispy nails. She was pretty much dry when she was born, they had been 100% right about the dangerously low fluid.
Stay tuned for part two of my birth story...