Four years and three months ago I headed to the hospital to give birth to my son. Three months from now I will be doing the same thing. Knowing I have just another handful of weeks before I get to do that labor and delivery gig all over again has me reminiscing about my first birth experience. This is my story.
Monday, March 19th made Friday the 23rd seem so incredibly far away. Monday was the day we scheduled our appointment to be induced on Friday at 8:30 am. That still left three days for me to go into labor on my own—but if I didn’t the end was in sight. Tuesday…nothing. Wednesday…still waiting. Thursday we went to the hospital to have the cervical gel applied to encourage contractions and dilation that evening.
That procedure took about two hours and when we were done, Josh and I went out for one last meal as just a couple—Applebee’s for burgers. The contractions started a little that evening but they weren’t anything to send us into a frenzy. Our bags were packed and we were so ready to get to Friday morning. To say I didn’t get much sleep that night is an understatement. I was such a ball of emotions—excitement, nervousness, bewilderment—that I barely slept a wink. I got up at 6:30 Friday morning, showered, and had my toast and banana. I was ready to go. That’s when the phone rang.
It was the hospital calling to tell me to not come in. There weren’t any beds available and they were calling all of their scheduled inductions and telling then to hold off for a little while. They said they would call us back when we could come in and hopefully it wouldn’t be that long. They were wrong. The minutes seemed to tick on and on and finally at 4:30 pm they called us back and said they were ready for us. Josh let out a little woo-hoo of joy and we grabbed our bags, about to embark on a journey that neither of us could have ever expected.
We got to the hospital and were once again left to wait. This time in triage while they finished getting our room together. It was only a short wait and within the hour I was in labor and delivery sporting the ever so attractive blue hospital gown. The doctor came in shortly after and by 6 pm my water had been broken. That was such an odd sensation. I could hear her trying to break it with her little crochet-hook like tool and then all of a sudden—gush. It just came pouring out. For hours after each time I had a contraction I would gush again at the onset. It was like constantly peeing without any control. The nurse must have changed the “pink pads” at least ten times by the end of the night.
After the doctor had broken my water, the nurse inserted my IV (which really hurt) and started the fluids bag—one of six I would go through before it was all over—and the Pitocin. The Pitocin line started at a level one and every so often (about every 30 minutes or so) the nurse would come in and pop it up a notch or two. She told us that the highest they usually go is a level 20. By Saturday afternoon I was up to a level 26. The initial contractions started pretty quickly and were entirely manageable by my standards. No need for any sort of narcotics at this point.
My Mom came up for a couple of hours that evening, which gave Josh the opportunity to go down to the cafeteria and get some dinner as well as step outside and regroup for a minute or two. When I got to the hospital I was restricted to a clear liquids diet, so no real food for me. Around 10 pm on Friday my Mom left and said to call her as soon as something happened, even if it was in the middle of the night. She wouldn’t get a call until the next morning—a call to say “No baby yet.”
I was hoping to get a little sleep Friday night and although the contractions were still manageable, they hurt, so I decided to get a dose of Nubain to take the edge off. The Nubain had an interesting effect on me at first. It was a little like being drunk. It helped a little but I really only managed to get two or three minutes of sleep between each contraction. This would go on for hours.
Hours 14 through 20
The doctor came in at 8 o’clock Saturday morning to check my progress. I was now dilated to a 6 which was not a far as I’d hoped to be. The nurse offered me a popsicle and I was so excited to “eat” something—which if you think about it, was just frozen liquid. Through the night Josh had slept briefly and awkwardly in both the uncomfortable chair and on the floor of our room. We were exhausted but hopeful. I was still drug free with the exception of the Nubain—which decreases dramatically in effect with each subsequent dose. The contractions were getting stronger and stronger but I took it like a champ. I never screamed and only doubted my ability to get through it once around 2 o’clock that morning. The nurses had me lay on each side to encourage progression and those contractions were really painful. I also sat on the birthing ball for awhile and I really had to concentrate on my focal points and coping methods to get through those. My coping method would be counting down and back up from 20 or reciting the alphabet in my head—not something I had planned, but effective.
At some point during the morning the charge nurse came in and told me how great I was doing. She said she would have had no idea I was having such a strong contraction had she not seen it on the monitor since I was so quiet and focused. Apparently I was the topic of conversation among the nurses at lunch for the same reason. I’m not sure how most women react, but I didn’t think screaming and carrying on was going to do me any good. Josh was amazingly helpful through the process and if he wasn’t there to help me cope I may not have been so relaxed. My Mom came up again to hang out with us and give Josh a break for lunch. They both reassured me several times throughout the day that I was doing an awesome job. And I really felt like I was despite the incredible pain I was in every couple of minutes.
The Last Few Hours
Early that afternoon the doctor came in and checked me again. Still a six. No progression since 8 o’clock that morning. Crap. At two pm the nurse came in and recommended that I get an epidural. She said the epidural would help me to relax and de-stress a bit which may help me progress those last 4 cm. It was at that point I had a mild break down. An epidural was not what I wanted. I just wanted this baby to be born. I was exhausted and scared and couldn’t stop crying about the decision I needed to make. Just thinking about it now brings me to tears. Josh, my Mom and I talked it over and I had the anesthesiologist come in and talk to me about it too.
I decided it was in my and the baby’s best interest at that point and although I was frightened of the whole procedure I opted for it. The anesthesiologist was great—she talked me through the whole process and told me several times how great I was doing. By 2:30 pm it was in and the pain was quickly subsiding. I could feel pressure for sure but not the excruciating pain that I had been feeling with each contraction. This would continue for the next three and a half hours.
At six o’clock all our expectations about this birth would change. I still hadn’t progressed despite all the Pitiocin and the epidural. My water had now been broken for 24 hours and was approaching the point of being a risk factor for both the baby and myself. I had been at this for 24 hours and was so ready to have the baby that when the nurse came in to say that an emergency cesarean section was now necessary I was all for it. Let’s get this show on the road.
Things moved pretty quickly that last hour. Josh put on his scrubs and I donned the lovely net hat. I drank some disgusting antacid concoction and had the fetal monitor and the internal monitor removed. My Mom called my Step-dad and Brother and went out to the triage area to wait. Several different people came in and out of the room that would be assisting with the surgery and at 7 pm I was being wheeled down to the OR. Josh had to wait outside the OR for several minutes while they got me up on the table and prepped. The whole scene was surreal and reminded me of that scene from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” where they wheel the lady into the OR and have to get out all the expensive machines that go “ping”.
They logged me into the OR at 7:06 pm. A flurry of things were prepped and taken care of over the next several moments. A more powerful anesthesia was administered and at 7:26 pm the first cut was made. Another surreal experience. I was completely awake and although I couldn’t see past the curtain that was just inches from my face, I was very aware of what was happening. It wasn’t painful, but I could feel each snip and slice as they opened me up. At one point Joe, the nurse’s midwife, said “Extreme pressure.” and he wasn’t kidding. I don’t know what was happening at that point—they weren’t pulling the baby out yet—but it was a crazy sensation. Josh told me later that Joe had turned sideways to brace himself and was sort of up on one foot with all his weight shifted to give him leverage. A few more moments and Joe would be saying to Josh, “Do you want to see your baby?” Josh looked over the curtain and Gideon was just halfway out of my body. They pulled him the rest of the way out and exclaimed, “He’s definitely a boy.”—we had been discussing the rate of error when we first got into the OR and had mentioned how we really hoped he was that boy we expected. He was wisked away for his initial tests and what not—scoring an impressive 8,9, and 9 on his APGARs. The doctor from the NICU came out and told me how beautiful he was and how great he was doing. Then they brought him out to me and put him just a few inches from my face so I could say hello and give him a kiss.
The doctors began to massage my uterus to help with the bleeding and what not. Let me tell you that was incredibly painful. It was as painful as some of the worst contractions I had just prior to the epidural. I got an uncontrollable case of the shakes, my bp skyrocketed—which apparently caused a bit of a stir among the doctors—and they sewed me up. When they were all done they wheeled me into OR recovery where I would spend at least the next hour—I think it was much longer. My Mom, Step-dad and Brother came in as soon as they could to see us all and then my Dad, Step-mom, and sister came up. They were all concerned about my well being and so excited about the arrival of Gideon that waiting was never an option for any of them. By 11 pm we were in our post-partum recovery room where I would finally get my first bite to eat of real food since 3 pm the previous day and where we would spend the next few days as a new family.
At 7:33 pm on March 24th we had our baby. After 25 hours of labor—and just 7 minutes after the first incision—he was here. And he would change our lives in an instant.