In an attempt to document the experience for myself, I’ve begun the process of writing my birth story for my second child, Oliver. I can’t promise it will be short, funny, enlightening or engaging, but it is something that I want to remember with as much detail as I possibly can.
Okay, here we go!
(Check out Part I of Oliver’s Birth Story here
Ryan came to bed fairly early with the correct assumption that he would need rest. He asked if I thought tonight would be “the” night and for once in this whole process, I was pretty confident that we were close. I stayed up trying to distract myself with episodes of “House Hunters” and whatever other HGTV shows were on while tracking my contractions on my phone. They were getting to be pretty intense and there were several that took my breath away. Naturally, Ryan happily snoozed through most of them despite me tearing into his hand for support. By midnight, I knew that we had to take some type of action. I woke up Ryan and told him that I was going to take a shower because…well…I didn’t want to be all dirty and grimy in pictures if this was “the” time. Plus, I needed to shave my legs. Priorities.
The shower was incredibly soothing- I can see why people choose to have a water birth. By the time I got out of the shower, the contractions seemed a little more tolerable, but their closeness and length still told me a visit to the hospital was necessary. Ryan got up to get dressed while I called my mom and told her to get a ride over to watch Caroline.
Even though I knew these contractions were the real deal, something told me that the picky medical staff in triage was going to turn me away. By the time my mom arrived, the contractions had seemed to lessen in intensity, but I thought I should still go and get checked anyway.
We arrived at the hospital around 2am and checked into triage to be examined. They hooked me up to a monitor and checked whether my water had broken (it hadn’t). My contractions were far less intense and irregular in the hospital than they were at home so they advised me to walk around the hospital for a hour and they would recheck me.
Ryan and I walked the halls of the hospital and the activity definitely picked up the contractions again. However, when they rechecked me there hadn’t been any progress and I was asked if I wanted to stay there and wait or be sent home with a painkiller to labor at home. I figured that this was going to be a long process and I wasn’t certain that I’d progress as soon as I wanted so I decided to go home.
This was probably a big mistake.
The walk to the car was horrible. One contraction literally brought me to my knees in the hallway and I cried to Ryan that I didn’t think I could do this. I think it took us about 100 years to walk to the car because I kept stopping to contract. However, I figured this was my body just messing with me and I’d be fine once I got home.
Wrong. So wrong.
By the time we got home, the pain was bad. My mom was sleeping in our bed, unaware that we had been sent home so Ryan and I camped out in the living room. I don’t know how to describe the pain other than freaking mind-blowing bad. It felt like my entire body was going to explode or pop open. I had to remind myself to breath because they were making me lightheaded and nauseous. Around 5am, I went to the bathroom and had a nasty round of puke filled fun. Ryan came to the bathroom to find me cleaning the toilet in between contractions. I mean, I can’t vomit in filth so I figured I’d use the 3 minutes between the pain to clean. Don’t ever say that I can’t multitask.
Ryan and I cuddled together on the chair and I gripped his hand every few minutes. The problem with Ryan is that he can sleep through anything which apparently includes his laboring wife. I kept crying that he “needed to be present” which in retrospect makes me laugh because it’s such a weird thing to say in that moment. Ryan turned it up and comforted me through the pain.
I was counting down the hours until the pharmacy opened to get my prescription filled. They didn’t open until 8:30am which seemed forever away.
My mom came down around 8am, surprised to see that I was home. I was in full-blown crying hysteria at that time so I’m sure I wasn’t the ideal image you want to see first thing in the morning. Ryan snuck off to get my medicine and my mom sat with me. The pain was unbearable. Like, no words unbearable. I may have broken every bone in my mom’s hand when I squeezed it, but I was so happy she was there.
Caroline woke up just before 9am and came downstairs in her usual bubbly demeanor. Sadly, the minute she saw me on the chair, her attitude changed. She hopped down from my mom’s arms and came to sit by my side. She kept asking me in her soft, empathetic little voice, “why your body ache, mama?” In between contractions, it was exactly what I needed to hear. She was so sweet and so concerned that I felt bad that she had to witness me like that. She seemed scared, but she never left my side until Ryan got back with my medicine. She just kept patting and rubbing my arm and saying “it’s okay”…I will never forget how big and precious her heart was in that moment.
When Ryan got back, I immediately took one of the pills and started to wait for some type of euphoric relief. Sadly, the medicine didn’t remotely touch the pain. By now, the contractions were a steady six minutes apart and I didn’t know how much more I could realistically take at home. I didn’t want to head back to the hospital only for them to send me home again so I called my doctor’s office looking for some advice. They told me to come in to be checked and the thought of even driving there made me want to cry. I can see why people just pop out their babies at home, who wants to be in a bumpy, uncomfortable car seat when their lady parts are exploding? I mean, really.
I said goodbye to my mom and Caroline fairly confident that the next time I’d be home was with a baby. Saying goodbye to Liney was extremely hard, but she already seemed so thrown off and concerned about me being in pain that I didn’t want to further confuse/upset her so I just told her that mommy was going to the doctor’s.
Sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s was both painful and embarrassing. All around me were pregnant women with their cute little maternity outfits and bubbly personalities, all ready to have their check-up. And then there was me. In some mismatched sweat pants, literally crying through contractions and gripping my husband’s arm with one hand and the chair with another. I probably put fear into every woman in that waiting room. Sorry about that.
They called me back after a few minutes and my doctor popped in to check me. I remember crossing my fingers in hopes that she’d say something promising. Within ten seconds of the exam, she said what I never, ever thought I’d hear…
“Whoa. You’re 4.5 centimeters dilated, 90% effaced and the head is right there. Head on over to the hospital, I’ll meet you there!”
HIGH-freaking-FIVE. So these contractions weren’t all in my head and the pain was actually producing results. I was floored and a little scared. We headed on over to the hospital for the second time in just a few hours and this time we weren’t going home without a baby.
We bypassed triage this time and went straight into a delivery room. Right away, my nurse came in (her name was Michelle and I will love her forever) and hooked me up to the monitors, gave me the flattering gown to change into took down all of my information. I told her that I was hoping to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) and she was extremely supportive. I wouldn’t know how supportive until later that day, but Michelle became one of my biggest advocates to deliver the way I had hoped.
About a half hour later, my doctor came in to approve my epidural and within ten minutes, the anesthesiologists came in to set me up for the magical spinal cocktail of contraction-reducing medicine. Unlike with Caroline, Ryan was able to sit through them putting in the epidural and it was one of the most seamless things ever. I joked with the doctors, we talked about me being a teacher and before I knew it, the epidural was in and the pain was subsiding. Now it was just a waiting game. A painless waiting game which is kind of the best kind…
The next few hours were literally spent doing nothing. Ryan went and got some coffee and a stale ass scone, I surfed on my phone, we fielded texts/calls from friends and family and watched whatever was on TV. My doctor broke my water and shortly after, I was dilated to six centimeters. Things were progressing beautifully and I was on track to have the delivery I had planned for.
But then the baby had a different plan.
You know it’s a bad sign when your team of doctors and nurses come in all at once. Around 2pm or so, they informed me that they were watching the baby’s heart rate and it was dipping dramatically whenever I had a contraction. The normal beats per minute is around 110-160 and during a contraction, the baby’s was falling to around 60 bpm. It would immediately recover when the contraction was over, but the doctor’s were obviously nervous about fetal distress nonetheless.
They came up with a few things to try and help out the baby: Michelle had me moving and changing positions every 15-30 minutes, they attached a monitor to the baby’s head for more accurate results (yes, the baby was that freaking close to coming out) and they actually started pumping water back in after breaking my water. Once again, it was a waiting game.
The doctors and nurses kept coming in and I knew it wasn’t good. Michelle (bless her) kept coming up with new positions for me to lay in with the hope that the baby would come down a bit. But every time, they flooded into my room I knew that my chances of having a c-section were increasing. My doctor wasn’t giving up hope, but she also told me to be realistic and that these dips were not great for the baby. Furthermore, I had stopped progressing. I was at seven centimeters for what felt like forever. They had wanted to start Pitocin that helps bring on stronger contractions in an effort to get me to 10 centimeters, but I couldn’t start that medicine until the baby’s heart rate was fixed. I was stuck.
I knew that I had to do what was best for the baby, but that didn’t mean I was ready to admit defeat and neither were my doctors. We all wanted a healthy baby and a c-section seemed like the only way to get him out safely.
Around 5pm, the teams of doctors that I had spent all day with were leaving and in came the night team of doctors. My doctor introduced me to the attending doctor who was an older man with a heavy accent and minimal bedside manner. Regardless of whether I had a VBAC or c-section, he was going to be delivering my baby. He hadn’t had the experience of being my doctor the past nine months so he didn’t know how important a VBAC was to me or how bad the day team was advocating for me. Thankfully, Michelle was still my nurse until 7pm.
Around 5:45, he checked me and I had barely budged from seven centimeters. He told me in no uncertain terms and with zero empathy that I would need a c-section. He said he’d check me again in a half hour or so and if I wasn’t fully dilated, it was “game over.”
I lost it. Not because I felt like I failed, but because I was going to again lose out on the moment of holding my baby right after. All I wanted was to hold him on my chest in the moments right after delivering, not have him whisked away while they sewed and stitched me up in the OR. Furthermore, I kept thinking of Caroline. How I wouldn’t be able to chase her or actively play with her for weeks because I’d be recovering from surgery. It was déjà vu from when I delivered Caroline. I was so upset that I had to wear an oxygen mask. I was doing so well, was so close and bam…it wasn’t going to happen. I kept thinking of having my baby in my arms, healthy and safe, no matter by what means…but I was too upset. Emotions just got the best of me.
The next check he did would determine whether or not my hopes for a VBAC were done and it was only a few minutes away…