Okay, here it is! I’ve written this in several different sittings over the past week… hopefully it’s not too choppy or random. I wanted to get everything down in words before I forgot my emotions and thoughts and little details.
Tuesday morning (March 27) I had my 38 week appointment with my OB. The previous Friday I was told that I was 2.5cm dilated, and since it was only a few days between the appointments, I really wasn’t expecting to hear about any changes.
So I was surprised, and freaked out, and excited, and a little scared when the doctor told me I was now 4cm dilated and 80% effaced! She asked if I had been having any contractions that day.. and honestly, I hadn’t noticed anything. I had a tiny bit of cramping when I was putting my shoes on that morning, but that’d been a usual occurrence for weeks- my belly was huge and I couldn’t maneuver much without getting uncomfortable. She said if she didn’t know any better, she’d say I was in labor at that moment! Because of the dilation and the fact that my due date was still almost 2 weeks away, she decided to schedule me for induction on Monday morning (April 2) But she also said she really didn’t think I’d make it until then. She warned me that if I felt regular contractions, even if they were still far apart, to call them right away because things could move quickly once it got started.
I left the office in a total daze. MONDAY. BABY IS COMING. MONDAY. I called Dan at work to tell him and headed home to start packing that bag I had been procrastinating on for so long (packing it just made it all seem SO REAL!) While I was packing things and getting organized, I started feeling crampy again and thought I should probably sit down. Before that, I stopped in the bathroom to pee (as usual!) and noticed some bleeding (TMI? heh.) I hadn’t had any bleeding with the previous 2 exams but I knew that it is typical after cervical exams. But, I thought I’d better keep an eye on it.
I settled on the couch to do some more work for my last 2 clients that have been hanging around, and I started noticing some tightening in my stomach. It was the same thing I’d been feeling for weeks, that I had just brushed off as the baby stretching out or Braxton Hicks, because it had a pain level of nothing- just kind of felt like a balloon stretching my belly for a few seconds, becoming really hard, and then going away. But this time… they kept coming. I started timing them, half-heartedly… my brain just wasn’t ready to admit that this could be it!
After about 2 hours of timing them (in between I was working, canceling my old cell phone plan, blog surfing.. you know, things EVERYONE would do if they thought they were in labor! heh) they became pretty regular, almost predictable, lasting about a minute each and anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes apart. And the bleeding hadn’t stopped either. I still was in a semi-state of denial, but I also remembered the doctor’s warning about waiting too long once I noticed contractions. So I called the doctor’s office and told them what was happening- and of course they said I should go to the hospital.
I immediately called Dan and told him what was happening- he was surprised and said ‘Okay, I guess it’s Go Time!’ He headed home and I finished up packing our bags and getting ready to leave. It was strange because we were SO CALM. It wasn’t at all like in the movies or tv where it’s all a big panic rush around to get into the car and race to the hospital. We were just kind of walking around the house, making sure we had what we needed, feeding the cats, etc.
We arrived at the hospital around 4:30pm and checked into OB Triage. They hooked me up to the monitors for the baby’s heartbeat and the contractions. It was interesting to watch the printout and see the arc of the contractions, which were still only about 5 or 6 minutes apart and not painful at all (yet!) But they were steady for over an hour. When the doctor came to examine me (a different one than that morning) he informed me that I was only 2 cm dilated. STILL. ?? Needless to say, I was a little upset- I explained that in the morning I was told I was 4cm… so what did that mean? He told me that it’s really dependent on who is examining you and there’s no exact science to it (so basically, small hands- more centimeters!) He recommended we walk around a bit in the halls to see if I could move things along in the next few hours. Otherwise, we would be going home.
I was NOT going home. I knew this was real labor… but it was just early. I felt kind of stupid being there so early, and kind of mad because I could have been at home chilling out and relaxing, waiting for things to get further along. Instead, I was in a hospital gown, walking the halls in my underwear trying to encourage more dilation. NICE. The only reason we went so early is because I was afraid to wait based on what I was told at my appointment.
So we walked. And walked. And walked. After about 45 minutes, I needed a break so we went back and I laid down. I wasn’t able to eat anything (another reason why I wished I was at home, because I totally could have had a snack!!!!) The monitors were still showing the contractions, but they were still the same frequency and strength and length. So we walked some more. At about 7:30, the doctor came back to check me and see if I had progressed enough to stay the night.
Thankfully, I was now about 3cm. So I was admitted to the hospital and we were ready to go! That night, neither one of us got much sleep- maybe an hour or so. And it wasn’t really because I was in pain from the contractions- we were just on edge, waiting to see what would happen, wondering how things would be in the morning, anxious to ‘get the show on the road’.
In the morning, after a short nap, my contractions had slowed A LOT- 10 minutes apart, and I could hardly feel them. The only reason I knew I was having them was because the monitor said so. CRAP. I was so disappointed. The doctor came to check my progress and I hadn’t made any all night- I was still at 3cm.
I was given 2 options: we could go home, or they could give me some Pitocin to get things moving again. The doctor explained that if I went home, he couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t be back in 2 hours… or it could be 2 days. Naturally I did not want to go home- I hadn’t been there all night for nothing! And since they were going to induce me on Monday anyway, we made the decision to start Pitocin and see what happened. We were all hopeful that since I was pretty far along already, it might only take a small amount of Pitocin to start things up again. So at about 7am, they started the IV.
Within 5 minutes, I started feeling the tightening contractions again- yay! At this point, the doctors changed shifts, and I have to say- I was glad. The new doctor was one of my favorites :) When he came to check on me about a half an hour after the Pitocin, he suggested breaking my water, explaining that it would help get things moving along as well, and might allow us to use less of the drug for induction (which is always a good thing, in my opinion) Of course, he also reminded me that if we did that, there was no turning back! I agreed to have him break my waters (around 7:30am) and soon we were on our way.
For the first hour or so, things were still pretty mellow. I was chomping away on ice chips, and even got to eat a popsicle (ice with FLAVOR!) when I said I was hungry. Eventually the contractions turned from gentle tightening to deeper pulling with some pain, especially in my lower back, and I kept feeling like I needed to get up off of my back to ease it. So Dan helped me out of bed and I sat on the birthing ball, which felt WONDERFUL.
Slowly, the contractions started turning into what I had imagined in my mind. The early ones were surprising to me, because I really had thought they would feel more like menstrual cramps (with which I am way too familiar!) And of course I did get a little cocky in my head thinking, This is it? These are EASY! heh… fate really has a way of coming back and proving you wrong in situations like that ;)
At around 9am, things started changing for me. The contractions were coming quicker and stronger… it was strange how they would come out of nowhere and as quick as they came, that was how quickly they disappeared. I was doing okay mentally, even having normal conversations in between them and cracking jokes with Dan and the nurse. But soon, each time I would feel one starting in my pelvis, I would lean over the bed, still sitting on the birthing ball, and bury my head in my fists just willing myself to get through it. I just kept telling myself: ONE AT A TIME.
I suppose I should back up here and explain my thinking going into all of this. I was very on the fence about getting an epidural, which apparently surprised some people that I told this to. I guess everyone assumed I would get one without really thinking about it. But (being anal like I am! heh) I did a lot of reading and learning and trying to get as much information as I could so that I would be able to make the right decision when it came time to do so. I wasn’t in this to be a hero by any means- but I worried about a lot of the side effects of the epidural and that it could slow my progress and lead to things like vacuum extraction, or even a C-section. Plus, the idea of a needle going into my back just freaked me the heck out! But I also had no idea how I’d behave or react once the pain got as bad as I’d heard it could get, so I didn’t want to rule it out, either.
So my ‘plan’ was to wait and see. I wanted to make it as far as I possibly could before asking for an epidural. If that was 4 cm, fine. If somehow I’d make it to 9 or 10 cm, fine- then I’d probably just keep going without. Dan knew that this was my thinking, and he was right there with me to help.
And boy did he ever. I really do not think I could have made it through any of it without him. He was AMAZING. Neither of us have ever gone through anything like that before (pretty much because there really isn’t anything else LIKE it) so I really wasn’t sure how it would go. Would I freak out and scream obscenities at him? Would I cry? Would he freak out and need to leave the room?
Instead of all of that, he stuck by me through each contraction. Massaging my back and telling me I was doing great during the pain, asking what else he could do when we were resting in between. I truly felt like he was going through them with me (although he wasn’t really FEELING them like I was, heh) And when I starting thinking in my head ‘I can’t do this anymore’, I stopped myself from saying the words out loud. I knew if I said them, it would make me believe them. And I didn’t want to believe them. And also- did I really have a choice at this point? heh When I started to breathe too quickly and get a little panicky, Dan reminded me to slow down and would breathe with me, which helped to calm me down.
At a certain point, I think around 10am or so, I started to lose touch with things. In between the contractions I was no longer able to have conversations. I found myself staring into space, trying to get my bearings before the next one came. And I felt so BUZZY- my face and hands were tingly, probably from my heavy, quick breathing. Dan fought to keep me focused and remind me I was doing great (which I started to think: How the heck does he know???? heh) I decided that it was time to see how much progress I’d made, after laboring for 3 hours and feeling that I was almost to my breaking point.
I prayed for big numbers!
Thankfully, mercifully, the number? Was 7. I had gone from 3cm to 7cm in less than 3 hours and all on my own (I credit a lot of my progress to sitting on the birthing ball- I highly recommend it!) The doctor told me that this would probably be my last chance to get an epidural, which was pretty much all I needed to hear to make my decision- YES. I would love some, thank you! I had made it much further than I thought I could have, so my reservations about getting an epidural were mostly gone (I think the pain also helped with that a bit too, hehe) I knew I also had a few hours left and the thought of enduring that made me want to cry and give up. I also worried that if I forced myself to go on without it, when it came time to push, I wouldn’t have anything left in me to get this baby out.
So Mr. Epidural Man came and saved the day. They made Dan leave the room (not sure why- ?) which scared me at first because I knew I’d have to go through at least 3 or 4 contractions during the epidural setup and I wasn’t sure I could do it without him. But my nurse was fantastic and she talked me through them. I had to sit cross-legged on the edge of the bed, with my head curved towards my chest, and according to the anesthesiologist: Not make any sudden movements. HA! Great, okay. Sure, buddy! Those few contractions were the worst I had, and I honestly don’t know or even remember how I got through them. But I did, and by the time Dan came back to the room, I felt like a new person!
Now it was time to just wait. I could see the contractions on the monitor, but was no longer feeling them at all (every 3 or 4 I might feel a slight tightening, but that was it!) It was strange and scary to me, because I KNEW how they had been feeling, and I knew what I missing- and I was glad that I was! I was even able to take a nap, which I think was super-valuable for the pushing stage, at least for me. After my nap, my mom and in-laws came in to say hello and see how I was doing. They visited for a while, and then the doctor came back to check to see how much progress I’d made in the 2 hours since the epidural.
The moment was here: it was time to push.
The doctor suggested we try a practice push, so that I could get a feel for the muscles I needed to use (I was numb from the epidural so I really had no idea what to do with my body!) To my surprise, during my practice push, they were able to start seeing her head!! I’ll never forget the look on Dan’s face when he realized just how close she was to us at that point. The doctor and nurse told me to sit tight and wait while they got everything set up for the real pushing to begin.
The pushing lasted about 45 minutes, during most of the time I felt like we were just waiting around for the contractions to come again. It was eerily quiet at times in between, like the calm before the storm. Looking back, I’m not even sure I can remember what was going through my mind… but I felt very calm and relaxed and ready. I even decided to use a mirror to watch the delivery- which I never thought I would want to do. But I was so curious to see my progress, because each time I pushed the doctor and nurse and Dan were all saying how great I was doing- but what did that mean? Was her head almost out? Or did I still have more to go? It was helpful for me to be able to see exactly what was happening.
Finally, after 45 minutes, suddenly- she was out! They placed her on my stomach and we heard her first cry… and Dan and I both started crying along with her. The next thing I did was look at her feet- she has her Daddy’s feet!!! (with a big space between the big toe and the rest of them)
(Yeah, don’t mind me in that bottom photo. I was being pumped with fluids after my bp dropped extremely low.)
The next moments were a blur of course. They whisked her off into a smaller room off of mine where they weighed her, cleaned her up, and did some early tests, etc. Dan followed with the camera and took some great first pictures of her. During this, the doctor tended to me with all of the fun after-delivery stuff (I’ll spare the details!)
Now this is where the story takes a turn for me. The baby of course was healthy and doing great! But as I was laying on the table getting ‘fixed up’, I started feeling very strange, like everything in the room was getting really far away and I was so dizzy. I said this to the nurse and she took one look at me and suddenly there was all kinds of activity. My epidural was turned off, my IV was opened full-blast, and I heard my blood pressure being read: 44/20-something. Did I hear that right??! They checked it again… pretty much the same numbers. They gave me some medication in my IV to raise my pressure, but in the meantime I looked over and saw Dan watching me in a panic next to the baby’s bed, as though he wasn’t sure who to go to. I gave him a few thumbs up to let him know I was okay and hanging in there. They’re still not entirely sure what caused this, because I didn’t lose an unusual amount of blood- probably a bit of everything: the epidural, lack of sleep and food, labor in general.
Eventually (about a half an hour maybe? my sense of time was a little messed up!) my bp came back up to a safer place (though not back to normal) and we were able to have our family come back to meet our little girl :) And- I was able to EAT!!!! I hadn’t had anything to eat since about 3pm the day before, so I was starving. That was the greatest turkey sandwich ever made.
Later that evening we were ready to move to our postpartum room (much nicer!) The nurse came in to help me to the bathroom, now that I was able to feel my legs again from the epidural wearing off. After I sat down on the toilet, I passed out. PASSED OUT! I’ve never passed out before- it was the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced. Apparently I was only out for a minute, but I felt like I had been out for hours- I swear I had a dream while I was out! But I can’t remember what it was, heh. I remember making a face when they got the smelling salts out, Dan said it was a pretty funny face. Apparently I was also shaking a bit while I was out too- which freaked everyone out. I like to cause drama, you see!
So thanks to my flair for fainting, we weren’t allowed to move rooms for another few hours. Finally I was able to make it to the bathroom and into the wheelchair for the move, and we settled into the new room and had the baby brought in from the nursery. In the meantime, Dan helped me to the bathroom again (I had to pee a lot!) and I almost passed out AGAIN! He kept telling me to look at him, look at his eyes, and asked me what his name was, what my name was, and what our daughter’s name was- I of course got annoyed and answered his questions, confident that I was totally fine. He pulled the nurse cord on the wall and three nurses came rushing in (apparently I had a reputation on the floor now!) Because of all of this, I was confined to my bed unless a nurse was there to help until ‘further notice’ :P
The next day is again, a blur- breastfeeding Maggie with the help of lactation consultants, trying to get my strength up, family coming for visits, Dan bringing me dinner from my favorite restaurant. I was still having trouble with dizzy spells and my blood work was coming back with low hemoglobin… the doctor even mentioned ‘transfusion’ but thankfully my major symptoms went away by Thursday night so we didn’t have to worry about that. I did worry they would want to keep me past Friday, but Friday morning came and we were told that we would both be released that day and could bring our baby home!
Coming home was interesting. We got in the door and it was like… now what?!?! What do we DO with her? Should we hold her? Put her in her swing? Lay her in the bassinet? Stare at her? Feed her? Having this kind of freedom with a new human being should be illegal, heh. But at least we were home!
So that’s the story! Overall, my birth experience was great- I wouldn’t change a single decision I made, and I’m happy with how things went. I’m proud of both Dan and me- he didn’t freak out like he was afraid he would (even when I kept passing out!) and I was a lot stronger than I thought I’d be. Dude- I BIRTHED A BABY!
Of course, the after-effects of the blood pressure and anemia have made this first week pretty tough on me, but Maggie is doing wonderfully and eating like a champ, and I’m just trying to rest and feel better each day. Dan has been incredible- I didn’t change my first diaper until late this week, and I think I’ve only changed 3 or 4 of them! I lose Dan when he goes back to work on Monday (NOOOOOOOO!) so next week should be even more interesting when I’m all on my own all day.. anyone wanna come over and help? ;)