Well, that wasn’t what I expected. Can you really expect much of anything when it comes to birth and labor though? Especially if you’re a first time mom? If you expect anything more than a baby at the end, which is also not always guaranteed, you’re in for a world of disappointment. Not that I was disappointed in Tucker’s birth, but I was not excited about how it went down – that’s for damn sure. Do I blame my doctor, my doula, myself? If I were to blame anyone, it would likely be me, but I didn’t know any better so that’s a rabbit hole I’m not going to mentally go down. My doctors (I ended up with two…), doula, nurses & everyone involved were empathetic, professional and more than I could’ve asked for – to be clear, I don’t hold blame. Some things are just out of our control.
Man plans, God laughs.
On August 7th at 10am I sent my OBGYN a message, “So I started having contractions last night (1:30 AM). Felt like a knife cutting from my lower back to my pelvis, to my lower stomach. Nothing like my cramps or Braxton Hicks. They were 9 minutes apart, but able to be handled. Fell asleep for an hour at 3:30 AM, still having contractions. When I woke up they were 15 mins apart, but more intense. I’m still having contractions, but they are puny compared to last night and not rhythmic.” So I went to work with my exercise ball (duh).
Why’d I go to work in early labor? I had no clue I was in early labor, I figured I was overreacting. Distraction is good in early labor though, there’s not much you can do except rest and try to gain energy. That’s one thing I may have changed if I knew better, I’d have rested and saved up my energy for the storm that was about to rain down on me and this babe.
Just in case I was in labor, I was going to eat well – I walked 3/4 of a mile to Nourished Food Bar for lunch…by myself, another probable poor decision haha. Husband and wife, good friends of ours, own this Food Bar and I knew I’d feel safe when I got there. The walk was probably not the best idea though because it really kickstarted it all. By the time I was done eating I was having decent contractions every 4-6 minutes, to the point that I swallowed my pride and asked my friend to drive me back to the office. She is also pregnant and was very excited that things may be starting and she’d get to play a part. I’m glad she was there and happy to do so (play a part) – I’m not sure what would have happened if I’d have walked back on the hottest day of the month.
I wrapped up what I could and added an “out-of-office” reply to my email. Walked down the hall and told Dustin it was time to go (we work together). Not to be graphic, but at this point it looked like I was losing my mucous plug every time I peed – a very “bloody show” indeed. Gross.
When we got home we prepped what we could for the hospital and got the truck loaded. I even made the damn bed…why? I wanted to get the show on the road so I walked the stairs a bit…again, why? I could’ve used that energy. By the time I asked my doula out to the house, it was close to 9PM. My contractions were so intense I had trouble talking through them and I just paced the living room while Dustin handed me water. She immediately got to work, putting me in positions to help make the most of my contractions and even laboring some on what she calls “dilation station”, aka the toilet. To be clear, when I asked the doula out – I would’ve gone to the hospital had we not hired her. I’m so glad we had her, we spent too much time in the hospital as it was. I wanted to labor at home as much as I safely could. As bad as I thought these contractions were, they were nothing, I had no clue. At this point I still had a sense of humor….
We got to the hospital at 11:45 PM and spent 1.5 hours in triage because they couldn’t figure out why my maiden name was showing up in all their computers and not my current name. That was probably my least favorite part, I was most uncomfortable there in that tiny room, which is also kind of hilarious because the pain only increased from there.
Let’s fast forward through the back rubbing, hand holding, massaging, various positions, finding out what a peanut ball is – to my shower. At this point I was moaning through my contractions in a way that sounded like this girl >>> click here. Why do I know this? Dustin lovingly told me after we had our son in our arms. All I could think about was this shower. I managed to use the exercise ball and peanut ball with the shower bench, in a way that let me lay down in the shower and literally fall asleep. I was done, energy had been spent. We got to the hospital at 11:45PM and I had my shower at 6:45 AM, so you can probably imagine. We hadn’t slept that night or really the night before. I had eaten hardly anything and barely drank any water. I didn’t want food or water, I thought I’d throw it up. When I sat up in the shower at 8 AM — my water broke.
This was it, it had to be, right?! I was 4.5 cm when we arrived at the hospital and all I’d managed was to get to 6 cm within 2 hours of being there. The issue, I was still at 6 cm hours later in that shower – I had made zero progress. Surely my water breaking meant things were going to pick up! (By the way, that was weird. I was in the shower, but I still knew it broke – there’s a lot of liquid in there folks and even though I’d have sworn no more could come out after my shower, the flood gates were open for a while.) No such luck though, I couldn’t seem to make it past 6 cm and now my contractions were spacing further out, were puny and I couldn’t manage to do much surrendering.
11:28 AM my doctor arrived and was concerned at how little progress we made. She was sure I’d have given birth already with the on-call physician, considering the message I’d sent her earlier the previous morning. She thought it was time to do something more drastic, an epidural and pitocin or at least the epidural to start – so I could rest and get some energy. Here, folks, is another reason we hired the doula. I was way too out of it to make an intelligent decision & Dustin wasn’t well informed. My doctor and doula were both familiar with my preferences and wants for this birth. My doctor with her medical/experienced opinion and my doula with her natural-minded/experienced opinion. I knew if they both agreed, that, that was my path forward. They both thought it was time and so the Anesthesiologist made his way into our L&D room. I wanted that epidural, I was done. I was more done than I thought possible, but I still had pride and would’ve continued if that’s what they thought best.
We went ahead with an epidural and pitocin at the same time. It took a few tries with the epidural for me to feel it evenly on both sides, but I still felt it more on my left than my right. Both were substantially numb though, so no complaints – the epidural was heaven. I laughed a little when I said, “hmm, am I having a contraction right now?” I was questioning why I didn’t just get an epidural to begin with. I bet no one thought they’d ever hear me say that…. However, if I’d have gotten the epidural to begin with – maybe things would’ve gone differently? It’s likely they wouldn’t have, but that’ll make more sense here in a minute. Side note: I was afraid of the catheter, that was one of my biggest fears with an epidural. The catheter actually ended up being a God send because I didn’t have to get out of bed any more hahaha. (You can see, I was much happier after the epidural – see below)
A side effect of Pitocin is low blood pressure. Well, I already have lower blood pressure so when it dropped we were worried. We were noticing that with each contraction the baby’s heart would decel. They gave me Ephedrine to increase my blood pressure and hopefully stop the heart decels. My blood pressure increased, but baby was still in distress. Tucker, was in distress every time I had a contraction. My medical team drew the conclusion that he was cord wrapped and every time I contracted the cord pulled tight around him. So we tried an amnio transfusion. This is basically refilling the amniotic sac in an attempt to float the cord into a more desirable position since my water had broken and the sac had emptied for the most part.
No such luck, his decels were getting worse. I was desperate. I was trying every position I could. The pitocin had been shut off. Every position we were watching his heart rate to see if we could keep it stable so I could continue to dilate because at this point I was only 6-7cm – still not making progress. We had started the epidural journey at 12:30 PM, it was now 9:30 PM and my doctor was back.
“The next step is a C-Section” – panic ensued in every single fiber of my being. I had researched and prepared for an epidural and pitocin – I knew I could handle saying yes to that. I hadn’t given a cesarean a single thought, there was no way that was going to happen to me. I’d decline if it came to that. Of course I would! Here I was though, crying my eyes out in front of everyone having to consider this avenue. Even now as I type this, I’m trying not to cry. This didn’t feel right. I asked every question I could think of like a blubbering idiot. Everyone agreed that it was time for a C-Section and I couldn’t get on board. I was sure if I had a cesarean surgery, I would die. In my delirium I had convinced myself I was going to die. I felt it in my bones. My biggest fear in life has always been death and here I was, sure it was going to happen. Here I was saying, “okay, let’s do this.”
Shaking uncontrollably and crying as nurses and others introduced themselves to me. Things moved fast when I gave consent, so fast. Within minutes scrubs were handed to my Doula and to Dustin. I was putting on a hair net. They were doing things down below, I still couldn’t feel anything. The Anesthesiologist was pumping me with more, making sure I was numb. Everything was happening in a blur. They wheeled me into the OR and it was surreal. The room seemed humongous in my mind, maybe in real life, I’m still not sure. It was bright. So bright. There were 15-20 people in there in scrubs. “Why so many people?” I thought to myself. I closed my eyes, I couldn’t look anymore. I begged them to check me one more time, to be sure I hadn’t miraculously dilated enough to push. I was at 8 cm. It was absolutely happening, I was going to be cut open. Dustin and my Doula were brought in and I asked them each to hold one of my hands. It helped having them there, holding my hands while I kept my eyes clamped shut. I was still shaking like a leaf. So it began. I could feel some really uncomfortable/painful pressure. I risked opening my eyes for a split second to see a sheet up that had a clear plastic window in it. Dustin was looking through that window, he was watching. I couldn’t handle it, I clamped my eyes shut again. The baby was so low in my canal that they informed me someone would have to stick a hand in vaginally to push him out and towards the incision – towards the Doctors. My OBGYN had called in another to assist. She confirmed, he had the cord wrapped around his neck and was sunny side up (not optimal for vaginal birth)
Then there was crying, high pitched crying. They were holding my son up to the plastic window and I was just numb – mentally and physically. I was struggling to keep my eyes open to even look at him. There was no rush of adrenaline, insane feeling of love, there was just the struggle to stay awake – I was completely delirious. I do remember thinking, “oh yes, the cleft, he’s supposed to have a cleft.” I had to remind myself to look at it, it didn’t bother me at all. Other cleft moms weren’t lying when they said I wouldn’t care – I didn’t, not one bit.
They took him away to be rinsed off and put under the warmer for a minute. My OBGYN instructed them to put him on my chest as soon as possible and then, there he was, on my chest. It was the only time he stopped crying. Something in me liked that, that I was his comfort. I had a flicker of realization in that moment and then I was back to the struggle of keeping my eyes open. I was begging Dustin and my Doula to make sure I didn’t drop him.
It seemed like it took hours to stitch me up when in reality it took 30 more minutes. The pain had increased at this point. It was still pressure, but it was not ignorable by any means. I tried to concentrate on Tucker & then I realized I wasn’t smiling. I hadn’t smiled at all and I tried to smile – I don’t think I could. I haven’t brought myself to look at the photos on our personal camera yet, I’m scared. Maybe there is one of me smiling on there though, maybe not? My doula sent us some photos and those are the only photos I’ve looked at as of now. I’m still a little traumatized I think. I pretty much passed out the next day when they asked me to remove my own dressing in the shower… I couldn’t look. Please don’t think I’m traumatized over the cosmetic changes to my body, that’s not it at all – it’s so much more than that. It’s everything really. I thought birth was beautiful, that’s what I was told – I feel/felt lied to. Even if he’d have come out naturally and more easily, it was a lot of pain and a lot of bodily fluids.
What is beautiful? He is. Tucker is beautiful. I may not have had that fluttery, love at first sight feeling, but I have more than I could have ever imagined. A love bigger than anything I could ever explain and it’s constantly blooming and growing. They wheeled me back to our room from the OR and before my doula could finish asking me if we wanted to see if he would latch, he was already latched. It almost frustrated him that it took a whole second to figure it out. That calm he felt when he was placed on my chest for the first time, that was beautiful. The pride I had when my cleft affected son LATCHED in seconds, that was beautiful. That feeling I got when Dustin had his hand on my head and his other hand on Tucker’s, tears in his eyes….
This may not be the beautiful birth story you were hoping for. It was my truth and I’m not going to sugar coat that. I want expecting mothers to be aware that things may not go their way, that it’s okay. That I’m not going to lie to them about it. You may be traumatized in the end. You may suffer from postpartum depression. You may struggle to understand, but you are not alone. You may face your biggest fear in life and put your child first, like I did. Whatever happens, I’m here for you and so are countless others – talk to someone about how you’re feeling.