Sadie: A Love/Birth Story, Part 2

Warning: Contains the following terms: Fluid, Bag of Waters, Meconium, Cervix, Pushing, Hell.

Once I’d changed into a gown, our nurse (Amber) had me lie on the bed while she placed my IV port. As she did so, I kept asking insightful questions like “There aren’t any drugs yet, right?” Once that bit of housekeeping was out of the way, it was time to break my water. Or rather, finish breaking my water. The best analogy I’ve heard for the “bag of waters” is to picture it like a container with a cork at the bottom. You can puncture the top of the container and a little fluid will leak out slowly—that’s what was happening to me. In order for the baby’s head to put significant pressure on my cervix (which is typically what triggers active labor), the cork would need to be removed. So Kim produced what can only be described as a plastic crochet hook of some kind, and promised it wouldn’t hurt. It actually didn’t, but oh dear GOD, I could not believe the amount of fluid that followed.  Any previous notions I’d had about not knowing if my water had broken were swiftly corrected, then and there.

Upon viewing the fluid, Kim and Amber both noted the presence of meconium—in other words, our little princess had jumped the gun on her first bowel movement. Perhaps she was nervous about meeting us? Either way, we were told not to be alarmed, but upon delivery, a team from the nursery would have to be present to evaluate our baby. If she came out crying, Kim said, she’d be placed on my chest and all would be well. If not, she would be taken away to have her lungs cleared and some tests performed.

Ugh. Between the IV in my arm and the news that I might not get immediate skin-to-skin time with my new baby girl, I was feeling a bit down at this point. Still, we maintained our attitude that safety was our first priority.

Once I was able to get up from the pond that my bed had become, I was hooked up to wireless monitors that would measure both baby’s heart rate and my uterus’s contractions. Yes, I said “uterus’s”. Almost immediately, the contraction monitor showed some action, and I felt the first light cramping of the day. I tried not to get my hopes up as we chatted with the nurse and called a couple of friends. After about forty minutes, the contractions were still coming, and getting stronger. To my complete delight, Amber called Kim (who had been called away to assist with an emergency Cesarean) and informed her that I was very much in active labor and would not be needing that Pitocin they’d ordered for me.

YESSSSSS.

The celebration was short-lived, however, as active labor became, well, active. My mom and stepdad arrived a little before 7pm (I think?) and brought Ryan a sandwich. Shortly thereafter they left the room for a few minutes. At this point, the contractions were significant and no longer fun and exciting. The temperature in the room was suddenly unbearable to me, and I determined that the gown I was wearing was no longer going to work for me. It was at this point as well that I determined my parents should probably not be returning. At 7:30, I asked Ryan to turn on Jeopardy, as is our nightly ritual. After all, I had pictured my in-labor self as very cheerful and upbeat, so certainly I could answer a few trivia questions, yes?

No.

I answered maybe two clues, and remember thinking that Alex Trebek’s voice sounded really odd, and was everyone sure that was him? I spent the entirety of the episode leaning on the bed facing away from the TV, wondering to myself how it was possible that I’d only been doing this for two hours or so.

After Jeopardy, things started getting kind of awful in terms of pain. There had been a shift change so our new nurse, Erin, was with us now. I liked Erin because she was helpful when needed but generally remained pretty quiet and uninvolved. It was around this point that I told Ryan he needed gum for his sandwich-breath because it was making me feel sick. That was also when Ryan had to put away the 75% of the sandwich remaining away. Poor guy didn’t eat again until well after midnight. The contractions were getting much stronger now, but for the moment, I was still getting 1-2 minute breaks in between.  When Kim returned, it was suggested I get into the tub.

The tub felt good for about 8 seconds. After that I sort of hated it. I remember Ryan crouching down next to me with this look of absolute torment on his face. He would later tell me that for being one of the greatest nights of his life, it was his hardest moment as a husband to see me in that much pain. But he was amazing, even when I screamed and sobbed and begged him, “Please don’t make me do this…I can’t do it, please please please don’t make me.” Everyone in the room, including my husband, knew how much I wanted a med-free birth.  I, however, had sort of forgotten that fact.  I never asked for an epidural, but on some secret level, I think I may have been hoping someone would be like, “You seem REALLY uncomfortable. How about some drugs?” Alas, no one did, so on labor went.

After hoisting me out of that God-awful tub, Kim checked my progress: 8 centimeters dilated. It was at this point that I told myself it was likely too late for that epidural I didn’t want in the first place—a frightening realization, to be sure. Kim had me labor in about a million different positions, all over the room. I hated most of it, and complained heartily. I wish there had been some kind of counter running to clock all of the times I screamed, “I can’t!” and “I don’t want to do that!” and “Please don’t make me!” All of the breathing and relaxation techniques I’d learned seemed ludicrous as the contractions came faster and faster. Only sporadically would I get into a zone in which I felt calm and under control. Most of the time I was a complete disaster. I kept thinking, and therefore yelling, “I just want a break!” I really felt that if I could just take like a 20-minute power nap, all would be well and I could hack it for the rest of delivery.

No.

No naps were to be had. At some point, I looked at the clock and it was after 10pm. For all of its terrible-ness, things were moving along. At 11:00pm, Kim checked me again and pronounced me 9.5cm dilated. We all know that 10 is the magic number, so I was a bit peeved to be a half-centimeter short, but she surprised me when she asked, “So, do you want to start pushing?”

Having no idea what I was in for, I gave her an enthusiastic, “YES!” I assumed that I’d just push for 20 minutes or so, and then this hell would be over.

No.

My naiveté was a blessing in disguise, though, because as far as I knew at 11:00pm, our baby was coming in a matter of minutes! Time to start pushing!

Sadie: A Love/Birth Story: Part 1

In the midst of my many reminders to myself to finish blogging my pregnancy, it seems I’ve had a baby. And now we’re all kind of like, “What pregnancy?” Maybe someday I’ll sit down and write a little about our 20-week ultrasound. The one we found out that our girl was in fact a girl, and I cried because she was so perfectly formed in there. I might write more about the agonizing last weeks and days of pregnancy, where every twinge and tug threw me into high alert. Those days when I’d walk around the block with Ryan three or four times, needing at least one pit stop to pee, hoping the mild contractions walking induced would eventually turn into labor. I tried so hard to remember that I’d miss that time, just the two of us, and should soak it up because it won’t happen again for another 25 years or so.

So, as I went about my day on July 28, I had become somewhat resigned to the fact that our girl was going to take her sweet time. I was slowly growing accustomed to the idea that I could be pregnant through our July 30 due date and well into August.  I spent the morning relaxing at home, trying to squeeze in a little extra sleep. Nighttime sleep had become somewhat impossible for me—my discomfort was always a little more extreme at night, so most mornings I would get up and eat breakfast and drink some water, and then crawl back in bed for a few hours.  That particular day I didn’t sleep much more, so I headed out in the early afternoon for my daily walk in the park. I went to a beach park not far from our house, and walked a few laps around the boardwalk there.  During my bathroom break there, I noticed a few extra, um…drops escaping as I stood up. I assumed it was just another fun side effect of week 39 of pregnancy, and frankly, it wouldn’t have been the first time I’d peed myself just a little. In fact, it had happened the night before as well.  I continued on my walk and headed home around 3:00pm. Once there, I noticed a few more drops.

At this point, I had no thoughts of labor or anything like that. Instead, I went into full hypochondriac mom mode, assuming that fluid was leaking and the baby was going to run out and be stranded in there like a fish out of water.  Or it was just pee. Who knew? Wanting to be sure, I called our midwives office and left a message for the on-call midwife. When Kim called me back, she told me that being so late in the game, it was best for me to come in and check things out. I told her I’d shower and be there at 4:30.

I texted Ryan to let him know what was going on. He was leaving work and planned to stop at Costco. For a minute, I thought that would be no problem, I’d just go to the appointment alone. Then, as I stood in the bathroom with the shower running, I called him and said, “You know…Costco can wait. I think you should come home and go with me.”

As I waited for him to arrive, I made a smoothie. As I surveyed the “hospital snacks” packed and ready on our kitchen counter, I decided I’d go ahead and throw them in the car with our waiting suitcase and diaper bag. Couldn’t hurt, I figured. Ryan pulled in the garage, dropped a couple of things inside, and then climbed into the Highlander, where I was already waiting in the passenger seat. Poor guy didn’t even get past the shoe rack by our door. We spent the drive chatting about our days, and even though I was aware that I could be leaking fluid, I’d become so accustomed to false alarms and bouts of paranoia that deep down I fully assumed that within thirty minutes, we’d be back in the car and on the way home to grill our steaks for dinner.

In the midwives office, Kim handed me a sheet and left the room while I undressed from the waist down (a familiar routine, to be sure.) When she returned, she checked my cervix and pronounced me 5-6cm dilated. Whoo! And within thirty seconds she pronounced, “Oh yeah. You’re ruptured, lady!”

Come again?

You mean I didn’t just pee my pants? Again? I just sat there sort of stupefied that one of my nutty concerns had finally materialized into something legitimate, right there on a Tuesday afternoon.  She then told me the news I really didn’t want to hear. Because I may have experienced leakage the night before, she was concerned about the risk of infection going up. Her recommendation was to be admitted right away and start Pitocin within a couple of hours to get baby out.

This is where I sort of freaked out a bit. Because for one, I had already told myself that today wasn’t the day. Today we were supposed to eat steak and cuddle on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy.  And two, and much more importantly, I had been planning a med-free birth for ten months. I know plenty of women have successful and wonderful experiences with induction, but it was something I’d hoped to avoid. I feared that if my body wasn’t regulating itself in labor, the pain would be harder to take and I’d end up reaching for the epidural. I asked Kim, a little desperate, if there was another option. She kindly explained that if we wanted to be on the side of caution, the best option would be to get me into active labor as soon as possible.

I squeezed Ryan’s hand, a little panicky that not only was this happening really fast, it was also happening MUCH differently than expected. I mentally kissed goodbye my images of laboring at home, bouncing on my exercise ball and relaxing with my husband between contractions. It was an overwhelming adjustment to make in the span of five minutes. Even though there wasn’t much to talk over, I asked Kim if we could have a minute. While she was gone, we agreed that even though it wasn’t our plan, this was the safest option for getting our little one out.  I trust my care providers completely, so we were confident that she wouldn’t have recommended induction if it wasn’t in our best interest.

When Kim returned, I asked her to walk me through what the next few hours would look like. She told me that I would be set up in my room, and the first step would be starting an IV. Then they’d finish breaking my water and see what happened as far as contractions go. Then, by 7:00 or so, they’d start the Pitocin drip. At that point, I asked if it would be possible to break my water and then wait and see if my body would kick start itself into labor. She said that would be highly unlikely, but we would have a small window of time in which it might be possible. Her lack of optimism there told me that I should expect to be getting that low dose of Pitocin, so as we walked from the Midwifery clinic to the Maternity Center, I started preparing myself for a different labor than I’d planned on.  We ultimately felt at peace with whatever had to happen, knowing our sweet girl’s safety was our top priority.

At the registration desk, I received my patient bracelet, and as they settled me into room 2172 Ryan called my parents and his mom to give them the news:

It’s time. We’re having a baby!