Well, here it is–I finally got around to writing my birth story. It’s not a pretty one, so feel free to skip it if you get traumatized easily. But I want to write it down for posterity, and to remember just how strong I can be.
On Monday, November 21st at 7:30pm we checked into the hospital for the induction. Earlier that day, I had had my final OB appointment was was told I was 1cm dilated and 60% effaced. My BP was still having issues, so at 40 weeks 2 days it was time for Thumper to join us so I could get better. Check-in went smoothly and soon they were placing the Cytotec to soften my cervix. The plan was to have up to 3 doses of Cytotec during the night and then start Pitocin in the morning. Hubby went home to try to catch a few hours of sleep before the show started, and my mom stayed behind for moral support. But at midnight I went into labor on my own and started having contractions 2 minutes apart. It was slow going and my cervix wasn’t changing very quickly, so I wasn’t able to get an epidural for 6 hours. During that time, my contractions went from manageable to very painful, and my mom had to start coaching me through them. At one point in time I got some Nubain, but it didn’t touch the contraction pain. It did help me rest between contractions, however.
At 5:15am, right after a contraction ended, my water broke. We knew then that we’d be having a baby that day. We called Hubby, who raced back to the hospital. Finally at 6:15am I was 4cm and able to get the epidural. Sweet relief! I was a human being again and able to rest and enjoy labor.
The next few hours went by uneventfully. Pitocin was started because the epidural made my natural contractions slow down. The hours get all mixed up for me, so my timeframe might be off, but I think I was at 6cm by lunchtime. My in-laws, dad and sister showed up to visit. Then things stalled. I was having lots of contractions but things weren’t moving, so an internal monitor was placed to see how strong the contractions were. After that, my pitocin was increased. We labored longer, and still nothing was happening. I started showing signs of a fever, and my heart rate increased. At the same time, baby started having some decels, and there was worry of an infection. I was given tylenol and this helped my fever and was put on oxygen which helped Thumper’s decels.
Around 4pm my actual doctor showed up and checked me. I knew when the nurses told me she was coming that there would be talk of a c-section. And there was. I was still 6cm and hadn’t changed in hours. Thumper was having decels, and my blood pressure and heart rate were getting high. Any of these things in isolation wouldn’t be a big deal, but they were starting to add up. I had two options–wait another couple of hours and see if things would get moving now that the pitocin had been increased, or go directly for c-section. The doctor had a frank talk with me and said we were most likely headed for a section, but that she wanted me to be able to feel like I’d done everything I could for a vaginal birth. She also had hope that the increased pitocin might work some magic, so we chose to wait another couple of hours. I asked everyone but Hubby to leave the room and then he and I had a very long cry. It was heartbreaking to have started the induction so well and labor for so long only to end up with a section. But we just wanted me and Thumper to be safe.
Two hours later, the nurse came in to check me. We had resigned ourselves to hear the worst, so we were flabbergasted when she said I was a 9 and just had a lip of cervix left before I could push! We got cautiously excited, and the nurse flipped me over to one side to get that lip to dilate. It was around then that my epidural started wearing off. I could feel contractions again. The anesthesiologist was called up to administer a bolus, but even that didn’t work. I was only in mild pain, though, so I figured I could get through it.
An hour later, the doctor (the on-call one since mine had left for the day) came in to check if I was complete. We were devastated to hear that my cervix had thickened and swollen and I was back down to a 6 or 7. This made up our minds for us–by this time I had been in labor close to 20 hours and was exhausted. We knew there was little chance of a vaginal birth, so we went for the c-section.
I was prepped for the section and Hubby and I went down to the OR. We kissed goodbye and I was wheeled into the room. The anesthesiologist was there and decided my epidural wasn’t working correctly, so he decided to do a spinal block. He had to try 3 times before he got the spinal in place. I was laid down and then the sheet came up. People were all over prepping me.
This is when it gets scary. I could feel the spinal taking over my legs and abdomen. But then it started creeping up higher. I asked if my arms were supposed to feel numb. The anesthesiologist paused and then said that sometimes happens. Then my lungs started feeling numb. I felt like they were being squeezed from the bottom up. I told them I was having some trouble breathing and they said it’s okay and that I just needed to relax. I tried to relax, but the numbness kept creeping up. Pretty soon I couldn’t feel anything from the neck down. I started panicking. I told them I couldn’t breathe and they kept saying it was okay and that my O-sat was at 100%. But I couldn’t feel anything. They put an oxygen mask on me to help me calm down, but it wasn’t working. Eventually I couldn’t get any breaths in or out and my throat completely closed up. I couldn’t even talk to ask for help. That’s when I heard the anesthesiologist say, “bag her.” They put a bag on me and told me to relax my throat and they started breathing for me.
I could hear people debating on whether to bring my husband in, and eventually the anesthesiologist went out to talk to him. He came in and I was in tears. He told me it was okay and that I would be okay. Then I heard them say look over here, and on November 22nd at 8:05pm I heard a huge scream. The baby was out. I motioned for Hubby to go to the baby, and what helped me through the next few minutes was listening to his exclamations of delight and amazement at his newborn son.
They must have turned off my spinal pretty quickly, because as the baby was being looked over, I started regaining some feeling in my throat. I was still bagged, though, so I didn’t have to breathe on my own yet. Then a few more minutes passed, and I was able to take shallow breaths again. Hubby brought the baby over to me and I started crying. They unstrapped one of my hands and I was able to touch and look at him. We named him together. Then I started crying more and told Hubby in broken sentences what I experienced. He was horrified and didn’t know what to do. It was time for them to stitch me up, so Hubby left with the baby and the doctor got to work.
While it was nice to breathe again, turning off/down the spinal meant that I was feeling everything that the doctor was doing while she sewed me up. I could feel her putting my guts back in place, pushing into my abdomen (which had way too much gas in it from being bagged). Then I could feel her stapling my abdomen closed. I told them a couple times that I was feeling a lot of pain. I think they gave me something for it, but I’m not sure. I do know that I cried a lot and was a hot mess by the time they took me upstairs. The doctor said she had to cut my uterus a bit more than usual because Thumper was positioned strangely (which most likely explains why my cervixed swelled) and that it took her longer to sew me back up because of that and all the gas in my abdomen. My belly was huge and rock hard from all the gas.
I was wheeled upstairs in an enormous amount of pain. I was begging for painkillers and it felt like a million years before I was able to get something. Hubby brought the baby in to see me and we finally got some time together, but it was hard because I was so upset from the surgery and in so much pain. Eventually the painkillers started kicking in and I started feeling better.
The anesthesiologist came in to talk to me about the surgery. Unfortunately I was pretty drugged up at this point, but I do know that he said my reaction to the drug was “rare” and that I shouldn’t get a spinal again in the future. And he basically admitted that it was a total fuck up, but of course he didn’t apologize or anything.
The next couple of days were spent recovering from the trauma of the surgery and the actual surgery itself. We were told we’d be able to leave on Friday as long as things went well. But I was feeling off and my blood pressures kept going up. Eventually on Thursday night I started seeing visual disturbances. Some labs were drawn and my liver enzymes were way off. My hemoglobin was 7.9. And my blood pressure skyrocketed. It turns out I’m one of those lucky people who developed HELLP syndrome after delivery.
I was immediately put on magnesium sulfate for 24 hours to prevent a stroke or seizure. Let me tell you, mag is a shitty, shitty drug and I felt awful. I was completely out of it and could barely even hold the baby. I needed help standing up to use the bathroom because my knees were jello. But by Friday night my labs stabilized and my blood pressure wasn’t getting any higher, so I was able to come off of the mag.
Saturday was spent recovering. My doctor came in and talked to me more about HELLP and told me she’d like to put me on blood pressure meds for the next few weeks. I was more than willing to do this since it was still safe to breastfeed. My milk still hadn’t come in and we were having to supplement Thumper with formula because he was losing too much weight, so I wanted to build up my supply and make sure the meds wouldn’t compromise this. So I started those on Saturday.
On Sunday, my blood pressure finally stabilized enough that we were able to be discharged. I cried the entire way home from the hospital as I sat in the backseat next to Thumper. I felt like I was never going to leave the hospital, and that drive home was a rebith of sorts for me. Once home, I was finally able to get some sleep. My blood pressure was still too high, so I ended up having to go on a higher dose of the meds. But slowly and surely I started feeling more like a human being again.
Looking back, it’s amazing I was able to make it through the first few weeks of Thumper’s life. I was so incredibly sick, and I think if I had realized just how seriously ill I was, I never would have made it. It took until the 6 week mark before I really started feeling more normal.
And I’ll let you in on a secret–I didn’t bond with Thumper right away. Hubby did–it was love at first sight for him, and his life changed the moment he laid eyes on his son. But I was so traumatized by my birth experience and postpartum health issues that it was nearly impossible for me to bond. I could barely hold my baby, let alone develop strong emotions about him. There are many things that happened in the hospital that I simply don’t remember. Hubby has told me about conversations we’ve had, but I have no recollection of them. And there were gifts given that I don’t remember opening. It’s frightening to think about.
But I distinctly remember being out of bed at 3am in the hospital, against doctor’s orders, and going to the bathroom without waking Hubby up. While in there, Thumper woke up crying. I dragged myself off the toilet, and on shakey legs made my way over to his bassinet. Then, for the first time since he was born, I lifted him into my arms completely by myself. I looked down at him and he was looking up at me with big blue eyes, and in that moment I realized I was holding my son. My son! It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but it was a beautiful moment, and it kept me going the next week or so as I struggled to produce enough milk for him and tried to recover from HELLP.
Now, things are incredibly different, and I can’t imagine my life without my little boy. He has grown and changed so much since I first saw his little face in the operating room. I feel so incredibly lucky that both he and are are home together, healthy and strong. Things could have gone so differently for both of us, and it’s too scary for me to think about.
So there you have it. My birth experience was absolutely nothing like what I wanted or planned for, but in the end, we’re all home safe and sound. And I got the best prize of all: a beautiful baby boy. My son.