Just over six weeks ago, I gave birth to my amazing baby girl. I know everybody’s birth experience is different, but I want to share mine–not because something went wrong or I have this horror story to tell, but because it’s my story and it’s something I feel people might want to know.
This pregnancy was challenging. I had pregnancy-aggravated hypertension and borderline glucose levels that almost put me in range of gestational diabetes. I had swelling in my feet, legs, and hands, and I suffered from pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome. I also had severe heartburn/indigestion from the very beginning. While I thankfully never suffered with morning sickness, suffice to say I had my share of issues. Maternity triage is no fun. It’s scary, especially when preeclampsia is still a concern of the medical staff. Add sleepless nights and a full-time job, the need to clean and nest, and all of the projects and tasks I needed to accomplish, and I had a full plate. I was making it, though. We sat in triage for a few hours one evening around week 35 and everything came back normal, so we felt good about how things were progressing. I was on blood pressure medicine to keep my levels normal, as well as a baby aspirin every day and low-sodium and low-carb diets to just make it to the due date, which was May 5th.
On the morning of April 20th, I woke up knowing that I had a doctor’s appointment and that having the baby early was a real option if my levels came back high or abnormal, so I loaded up my hospital bag and made sure I had what I thought I would need just in case.
That day was crazy busy. I had errands to run, a trip to Wal-Mart to make, I cleaned my classroom, I dealt with student irresponsibility and excuses, and I walked waaaaay more than I should have. At my appointment that evening, my blood pressure came back higher than the doctor felt was acceptable, so back to triage I went. Now, last time my husband was with me while we waited, but he had all four wisdom teeth removed a few days prior to that appointment, so he wasn’t quite up to driving on pain medication yet. Fortunately, Mother was already almost to my house with the intention of helping organize baby stuff and get things ready for when the baby finally arrived when I was sent over to be observed. She met me at the hospital and we waited. Every single bed in the entire ward was full. All three triage beds were taken and all 20 labor and delivery beds were occupied, so I waited in the waiting room to be admitted to triage so I could be observed. Thankfully, my doctor is awesome and she checked my blood pressure, told me to take another dose of my medication, and sent me into a larger waiting room to see how I responded. My pressures came down and she released me to go home but I was put on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. We scheduled my induction for the following week, planning on having her arrive the day before my 30th birthday because, well, it was poetic in a way, since my niece was born the day before her mother’s birthday.
You know how we make plans and God just laughs?
Mother and I made plans as we left the hospital to stop by a local restaurant for supper before heading home where I would be banished to my bed or the couch to do a whole lot of nothing while my body finished its work on my sweet baby girl. We pulled into the parking lot (packed, as usual for supper, even though it was a Thursday), and I felt an odd sensation. Almost like I needed to go the bathroom, but I’d made a pit stop before we left the hospital, so it seemed unusual, even for a very pregnant person like me. After determining the 15 minute wait time was acceptable, I left Mother to wait for our table and I went back to the restroom… and there was a gush. Like someone had poured a cup of water into the toilet. I suddenly realized that the unusual sensations and subsequent gush could only mean one thing: my water had broken! Like in the movies! Now, I know we see it on the big screen regularly, but the reality is that only about 10% of women actually experience a rupturing of membranes (water breaking, for those not in the medical field). I was floored! And a little panicked, honestly. I went straight out to Mother and explained the situation, we left the restaurant and called the hospital. Thankfully MY doctor was on-call, so she told me to come back in and prepare to have the baby TODAY. We went home, told my husband what was going on, loaded up in the cars, and off we went.
Now, remember how I said before that the maternity ward was packed? It still was. Thankfully, a bed in triage was available. We got signed in, got settled, and waited. They monitored vitals, got me all hooked up to everything, got me an IV going, started antibiotics (I was strep-B positive, so it’s a normal precaution), and then I started signing stuff. I swear it feels like I signed 50 different pages just to clear them of liability, but we were finally done. They started a low pitocin drip, and we had to sit tight, hoping a room would open up before my body kicked into real labor.
We moved into a different triage bay as the night went by in the hopes of me being able to sleep a little, but I was excited and nervous and too keyed up to do more than doze. My parents and husband were all either at the hospital or a few minutes away at our apartment getting some sleep over the course of the night, and, even though it was slow, the night did pass.
Around 1 PM the next afternoon they finally got us into a labor room, which was a relief. My sister-friend Amy had come to take pictures and be my labor cheerleader, since I knew Mother and Daddy wouldn’t be in the room with me and I wanted Michael to have some help when I inevitably snapped at him during the hard pains of labor. By this point, I was feeling mild contractions from the pitocin, but none so severe that I couldn’t talk through them.
As the afternoon progressed, I experienced harder contractions and an ever-increasing level of pitocin via the IV drip, but I was dilating and effacing slowly. After over 27 hours of letting my body do the work, the doctor came in and delivered the ultimatum: either I dilated past a 4 by the end of the next two hours or we would have to have a cesarean. They were concerned with infection because of the ruptured membranes, and I was honestly getting tired. By this point, I was famished, having eaten nothing for over 24 hours, and subsequently cranky. I caved on the no-meds route and got an IV-fed painkiller some time that evening and slept blissfully for a bit while they cranked up my pitocin drip, then got one more dose around the time the doctor gave me the news of my 2 hour deadline.
My nurses, every one awesome and friendly and so incredibly kind, went above and beyond to make this work for me, especially since I wanted a vaginal birth as natural as possible. The night shift nurse helped me switch positions, move around, and try to really induce dilation, but to no avail. When the time limit was up, around 2 AM Saturday morning, after having been in labor for 30 hours with ever-stronger contractions thanks to the pitocin, I spoke briefly to the anesthesiologist and proceeded into surgery. For the record, I was NOT calm. I was panicking. Where was my natural birth? Why was my body not cooperating? Would I be okay? I hadn’t prepared for a cesarean section birth! How do I cope? How hard will it be to recover from major abdominal surgery? What if I don’t make it?
Thankfully, my amazingly supportive husband, parents, and sister-friend were there to remind me that I wasn’t just giving up, that my body had done its level best and this was what was best not only for me but for my baby girl, too.
They prepped me for surgery, poked me in the back with several needles, and I will admit I was still slightly uneasy as the fiery numbness swept down into my legs, but they finished their preparations and sat my husband by my head with the suction straw ready in case I got sick. Which I did. Three times. Apparently only one produced anything, which made sense because I had consumed nothing but ice chips in 27 hours. I can’t describe the feeling, though. When you normally vomit, there are muscles and spasms and all sorts of icky feelings involved. This was numb, disembodied sensation that I knew was my anesthetized gag reflex. I don’t know if it was from the medicine or them actually moving my stomach around, but it was a very odd experience.
Anyway, after fishing around in my abdominal cavity for a bit, the doctor used the vacuum and got my sweet girl out of her cozy cave and into the world at 3:19 AM on April 22nd. She was cleaned up, suctioned out, and cried the sweetest cry in the world, and then apparently pooped all over the receiving blanket. I was still on the table having my uterus cleaned out (which, according to the doctor, looks great!), so I’m just going by what my husband reported. A few minutes after, he brought her to me and laid her on my upper chest, where I gazed into the sweetest face I’d ever seen.
A little while after, as I was drifting in and out of awareness, they got me all closed up. I was a bit alarmed because I could feel sensations again, meaning the spinal block was wearing off, but they got me all finished before it was pain rather than just pressure and slight pinches. They lifted me on the “hovercraft” and moved me to the recovery bed, which was slightly more comfortable than my original delivery bed had been. To explain, the hovercraft is an inflatable mattress type setup that allows air to lift the patient from the operating table and makes moving an entire body easier than lifting by arms and legs. I rolled from side to side while they removed the air matress, and they covered me in blissfully warm heated blankets for the roll to recovery.
In the recovery room, I learned my parents had seen the baby and headed out when they learned I made it through safely. They hadn’t slept and were mentally and emotionally exhausted, but would be back soon.
You never know how much you rely on your core until it hurts to engage your abdominal muscles. The first couple of days were rough, but I was able to recover relatively quickly and was up and walking as soon as they’d let me. The rest of the hospital stay was uneventful, surrounded by friendly staff, and pleasant because of visitors and wonderful nurses. We worked on breastfeeding, got some help from a few nurses on latching techniques and the best way to hold her for feedings, and generally enjoyed ourselves. My doctor told us the next week when we went in to get the wound-vac and staples out that the nurses were all really impressed with me and my husband. Apparently we were polite and kind and that’s sadly not a common occurrence around there.
While I was confined to my little hospital room, my mother had worked miracles and cleaned and organized my house, which was what we had originally planned on doing before my water broke. I came home to peace and cleanliness. We’re almost finished with the rest of the reorganization, too, and she has been a God-send for the preservation of my sanity.
Now, six weeks and a few days later, I am sitting here in the middle of the night because my husband is back at work and scheduled from 9 PM to 6 AM. Our schedules work, though, since my darling daughter sleeps for good stretches and has stints of wakefulness spaced far enough apart that I can keep up and take a nap when I need to. She’s already grown so much from her original 8 pounds 1 ounce, 20 1/4 inches, and I cried when she made the 1 month mark. I’m already begging time to slow down. She is beautiful, and sweet, and cuddly. I’m enjoying being her mother. We struggled with postpartum depression for a bit, but that’s being treated and I count my blessings daily for this healthy, amazing little angel.