Birth Story

Note: Well, this took longer to write than I thought. As E gets older, I find myself with less and less time because he naps less and needs my full attention more.

The baby’s due date came and went and I was officially overdue. I went to the hospital for the usual monitoring on Sept 15th. I was expecting the usual routine where I go, check in, get electrodes placed all over my belly, sit there for a half hour or so, and then go home. I was already schedule to be induced on the 21st if I didn’t spontaneously go into labor. I had a feeling I wouldn’t, so Ben and I had been preparing ourselves mentally that the 21st was when the show was going to start.

Instead the nurse tells me that she needs to speak to a doctor after they finished monitoring. Not unusual, but there was something about her tone of voice that made me slightly nervous. I told myself that I was imagining things and everything was fine. I felt fine. The baby felt fine. Everything was fine.

Then the nurse tells me that I need to go into Labor and Delivery NOW. The doctor looked at the results and I needed to be induced NOW.

I went into full-blown panic mode. I WAS NOT READY! I mean, I know I was going to have a baby “any day now,” but for two weeks Ben and I figured that I was not going to go into labor and I had to be induced on the 21st (family history of late births). We were anticipating our last week of being child-free and now this was being ripped away from us without any warning.

I called Ben telling him that I had to go into Labor and Delivery NOW and I needed him at the hospital NOW, and that he had to do everything (take Bandit to the sitter, bring my suitcase with him) by himself and without the car because I had the car. At this point I like to imagine Ben running around like a chicken with its head cut off because I know he was alarmed at this sudden news and he was getting stressed at the thought of having to do a bunch of stuff all by himself and trying to get to the hospital quickly.

I decided I needed to speak to the doctor and see how much of an emergency this was. If it was an emergency, obviously I would go to Labor and Delivery immediately, but maybe it wasn’t an emergency and I could go home first. The doctor spoke to me in a cheerful tone, which immediately relaxed me because clearly this wasn’t an emergency. She gave me the okay to go home, get dinner and my stuff, and go return to the hospital in the evening. This made me super happy because now we had a few hours to prepare.

I went home. Ben ordered pizza and while we ate, we got things ready. We dropped Bandit off at the sitter’s just before we arrived at the hospital at 9 pm. The idea we had was that I would get checked in, Ben would stay with me to make sure I was settled and comfortable and since I expected the induction to take a while, he could go home to sleep and return in the morning. I saw no reason have him be uncomfortable in the hospital when there wasn’t much going on. They put me in small monitoring room alone and said I would go into labor and delivery room soon. Because of COVID, Ben had to wait outside the area I was in and he sat miserably out in the hallway.

At 11 pm, it didn’t look like I was going to move into a labor and delivery room anytime soon, so I sent Ben home. Finally at around 1 am, I got moved into a labor and delivery room. It was comfortable spacious room with a private bathroom with a shower. I noticed that there wasn’t a couch or a reclining chair that Ben could use for sleeping, so I worried about his comfort if he had to spend the night with me. I don’t know why hospitals don’t have something comfortable for the partners to sleep on when they know partners are likely to be there. It’s not like a reclining chair is expensive to buy.

Finally around 2 am, one of my doctors came in to see me and get the induction started. He inserted Cervidil, a drug that softened the cervix, to start the induction process. It looked like a tiny tampon. He said that he was going to return in about six hours to check my progress. And then I was left alone to sleep. I figured I probably wasn’t going to go into labor in the early hours of the morning, so I texted Ben to not bother coming in until the late morning. Then I slept until morning.

Around 8 am another doctor returned to see if I made any progress. None. So another round of Cervidil it is! I texted Ben to come in around 2 pm and to bring me lunch (the entire time I was in Labor and Delivery, the hospital does not give you food). I secretly ate my snacks that I packed in the hospital bag. Doctors don’t want you eating in case you need to go into emergency C-section, but since they told me that Ben could bring me lunch, I figured I wasn’t going into surgery anytime soon.

I was a little bored since nothing was happening, so I decided that I would try to do a little work while waiting. I didn’t bring my laptop because I thought I wouldn’t use it since I would be in labor, so I did work using my phone. It was laborious (haha), but I didn’t mind since I needed to kill time.

Around 2 pm, the first doctor reappeared to check on me. Still no progress. He said I had a two-hour break and they would use a different drug on me to see if I had better luck with that. Ben showed up afterward with my lunch. I used the break time to walk around the room.

At 4 pm, I told Ben to get my doctor so we could start the third round. The doctors used a different drug that was a pill for the third round, which was only a few hours long instead of six hours long. Ben stayed with me to see me get started on another round and then I sent him home again to sleep because I figured nothing was going to happen anytime soon.

Fortunately this time, there was a small amount of progress made, so the doctor decided to do another round with me in hopes that I would finally be dilated enough for him to break my water. He checked on me around midnight to see if I was dilated enough for him to break my water and I was! Hurrah!

Normally the water isn’t broken by doctors this early in the labor process, but the reason why I needed to have my water broken is because I had too much amniotic fluid. The fear was that if the water broke when I was further dilated, the force of all that water gushing out would push the umbilical cord before the baby exited. If the cord is out, and the baby is coming down the canal, there’s an increased risk of compression of the cord and the baby could suffocate. By breaking the water early, the cord can’t possibly come out.

To break the water, the doctor used what felt like a crochet hook. It was slightly uncomfortable and I felt a bit of tugging. He gave two hard tugs and GUSH!!!!! It felt like a waterfall was coming out of me. I mean, seriously, so much fluid rushing out of me like a dam had broke. My belly visibly went down because of the loss of amniotic fluid.

When the waterfall subsided, a nurse very helpfully cleaned up the mess and dried off the bed I was on. Now, I thought, the serious baby coming out part was starting.

I could immediately feel the contractions starting. In my birthing class, I was told that the early contractions would feel like bad period cramps, but the painful contractions wouldn’t start until I was dilated to 6 or 7 cm. Yes, it was crampy, but I could do this!

An hour later I thought I was going to die of torture. The pain feeling like bad menstrual cramps quickly left me and was replaced by serious pain that was getting worse by the minute. The contractions were coming in every three minutes, lasting for about 30 seconds, and they were immensely painful. It was one of the most painful things I experienced in my life. I don’t want to scare people, but it felt like someone was twisting the lower half of my body while simultaneously stabbing my spine with a huge knife. You’re supposed to relax in between contractions so you don’t get tired before delivery, but I was so scared that I couldn’t relax. When the contraction was over, I stared at the clock with its moving hands in fear and apprehensive of the next contraction. After another half hour, I realized that I didn’t have to torture myself so I asked for an epidural.

It took about another half hour for the anesthesiologist to show up. I was never so happy to see someone in my life. The anesthesiologist had been going over my records to make sure I didn’t have any allergies or reactions that he had to worry about. I heard horror stories about epidurals (they didn’t work, or it hurt going in), but mine was absolutely perfect. He asked me to sit up and then bend over so my spine was curved to create space for the needle. We just had to wait for when I was in between contractions. I didn’t even feel the needle going in. All I knew was that in a few minutes all the pain went away. It was bliss. I got to control how much epidural I got, so whenever I felt the pain creeping back in, I pushed a button and I went back to feeling nothing. Thanks to the epidural, I managed to get some sleep that night.

In the morning (it’s now Thursday) the doctors came in to see how I was progressing. I wasn’t. My cervix hadn’t dilated any more, so they put me on Pitocin. Of course the doctor couldn’t promise me anything, but he thought it was very likely that our beautiful darling son would be born that evening. I was very excited at the prospect of meeting him that day. I had been waiting for so long.

Ben came in the late morning (I told him to take his time because nothing was happening). The doctors came in intermittently to check on me and see if there were any progression. The answer was always none. They decided to increase the dosage of Pitocin to try to hurry things along. The greater dosage of Pitocin worked in that after several hours my cervix dilated another ONE WHOLE centimeter so now I was at three centimeters (keep in mind I have been in the hospital for well over 36 hours now), but it was causing problems because the baby was experiencing distress. Relunctantly the doctors lowered the dosage again and hoped that with more time my cervix would dilate.

Finally in the mid-afternoon, one of the doctors came to talk to me about what our plans were going to be. Basically I wasn’t progressing and I was now what they would call a stalled labor. My choices were (I’m summarizing and editorializing what the doctor said – IRL she was very nice and had good bedside manners): 1) go for a planned C-section where things would be orderly, calm, and relaxed or 2) continue with the Pitocin that clearly was not working, wait for a bacterial infection to set in, and then rush in for an emergency C-section because of the infection. My choice.

Given those options, I went with 1.

It’s kinda funny how once I made that decision, my body went into flight-or-fight mode. All of a sudden I was visibly shivering and shaking, like I was incredibly fearful for my life. If you asked me if I was scared of getting a C-section, the answer was no, or at least no more than would be expected of someone going in for a major surgery. I was concerned, yes, but I wasn’t scared that I was going to die or anything. I knew I was going to be fine and this is what we had to do to have a safe delivery of the baby. The doctor explained that there was a lot of adrenaline going through my body and that the shivering and shaking were quite normal.

What was important to me was explaining to the doctor just how much anesthesia I was going to need. I always need a lot of anesthesia, way more than what one would expect of someone of my body size. I always get a double dose when I go to the dentist and need work done.

Fortunately by the time September rolled around, the hospital relaxed their COVID rules enough that Ben was also able to go in with me to the surgery room. They gave him some scrubs to wear and told him to wait in a room and they would get him when they were ready. They told him to feel like they’ve forgotten about him because it was going to take some time to get everything ready and they were going to bring him in at the last moment before the surgery began.

I was happy when I saw Ben again. I had been lying on the operation table with the doctors and nurses moving around, getting things ready, and seeing Ben comforted me. I wasn’t going to be alone.

The anesthesiologist gave me the first dose of anesthesia, which was going to numb the lower half of my body. To test if my body was properly numbed, they pricked my abdomen asked me if I felt a prick or a pressure.

Prick, I answered. The anesthesiologist gave me another dose. I still felt a prick. So they gave me another dose. I still felt a prick. The anesthesiologist leaned over and asked me very slowly, “Now is that a PRICK or PRESSURE? You’re supposed to feel pressure. Pressure is OKAY.” Because at this point he had given me enough anesthesia to put a drafthorse to sleep or kill an NFL linebacker, so he was sure there was no way I could feel anything. I yelled, “I feel a prick. I NEED MORE!” So they gave me another dose and with that I was finally numb! Now they could start.

In a C-section, the doctors hang a curtain to separate you from the lower half of your body. I know you can request a clear curtain, but I did not want one. I’m squeamish about these things and honestly if I had the choice of being knocked out completely I might have taken it. I felt a lot of pressure on my abdomen and I was just kind of wondering what was going on, but at the same time I didn’t want to know. My arms were still shaking quite a bit and the anesthesiologist said once the baby was out, he could give me another injection to stop the shaking.

You feel quite helpless lying on the operation table. My arms are out. I’m lying on a table. My lower half is completely naked and exposed. I can’t see what’s going on (not that I wanted to see it). After a lot of pressure and some tugging, the doctor announced the baby is out just before 6 pm! I’m so relieved.

I eagerly wait to hear the baby cry. After what felt like several minutes, I desperately asked, “Is the baby okay?” I was getting scared that there was something wrong because I didn’t hear him cry. I thought once I hear him cry, I know he’s all right. Ben soothed me and said everything was fine. Then I heard the baby cry. At that I felt everything was okay.

E had no interest in being born. Although he was head down, at the end of the pregnancy he should have been lower in preparation for labor. He was still fairly high. When I was being induced, my body wasn’t reponding to the lower doses so they increased it. E didn’t tolerate pitocin, so they had to lower the amount. When the doctor finally opened the uterus to reveal E, E was comletely spread out as if he knew what they were up to and he wanted nothing to do with it. His limbs were out as if he was bracing himself (normally the baby’s limbs should be folded tightly around the body for going down the vaginal canal) and he peed all over the doctors when they wrestled him out, as if to attack them for taking him out of his beloved home. He really did everything he could to stay inside him.

The anesthesiologist offered me a different medication to stop the shaking, which I took. The only bad part is that the side effect of nausea. I immediately felt like I was going to throw up, so I spent the rest of time slowly breathing trying to calm the queasiness. After they took out the baby, they then had to stitch me back up, which is the longest part of the C-section. All the various layers need to be closed up. After several long minutes, I could feel the anesthesia wearing off. It’s not that I felt pain. I didn’t, but I could tell that my lower half was no longer was numb as it had been and the doctor was still sewing me back together. I got scared that I was going to feel a LOT of pain soon, so I asked the anesthesiologist for more anesthesia. He looked at me (I don’t blame him because I really did have a lot of anesthesia already) and then asked if I could hold on for 10 more minutes. The doctor would be done by then. Knowing how much longer I had to wait, I knew I could hold on and I continued to concentrate on breathing.

The only part of the birth that I regret is that I didn’t get to hold E right away. I don’t know why they didn’t offer to let me hold E, but it may have been because of how much medication I had in me and I wouldn’t have been able to hold him safely. The nurses had cleaned E and swaddled him. He was resting nearby. While I was being stitched up, I turned my head to look at him. Because of where he was located, I had to twist my head quite a bit and that made my neck hurt. So once in a while, I turned my head the other direction to alleviate the pain. Then I worried that the doctors and nurses would think I didn’t love my baby, so I would quickly turned my head back to look at E. When I told Ben (months later) what I was doing and thinking, he was flabbergasted. Of course, I should do whatever I needed to do to be comfortable and that I shouldn’t have worried about what the doctors and nurses were thinking because there was no way they were thinking that I didn’t love my baby. I know this is true, but your mind goes in crazy directions when you’re feeling so very vulnerable.

I don’t honestly remember all that much after they finished with the C-section. It’s not that my memory feels foggy. What I remember is quite clear, but I know there are huge chunks I don’t remember because Ben had to fill me in on what happened. For example, when I got wheeled into the waiting area after the surgery, I don’t remember holding E in my arms. I don’t remember the conversations I had with the doctors.

After the surgery, I got wheeled into a tiny little waiting area with Ben. Ben and I had talked about whether we should pay extra for a private room (which is VERY EXPENSIVE in NYC), but private rooms are first come first serve and they don’t have many of them. It was never an option because by the time I was out of surgery, there were no private rooms available.

Around midnight, a bed in the postpartum recovery room was available and I was taken there. Unfortunately I was going to have a roommate. This wouldn’t be so bad except I found them to be rather inconsiderate. I was absolutely exhausted and desperately wanted some sleep after I breastfed E. The recovery room was super tiny and the husband of the other mother in the room was also staying. If Ben stayed, that was four people in a room that was meant for two. I sent him home because it was just too uncomfortable having him there with no room and I wanted to rest. I knew I would rest better with more space and having Ben comfortable at home.

I wasn’t able to rest much because the woman and her husband TALKED ALL NIGHT and if they were’t talking, then they were SNORING REALLY LOUDLY. I was so exhausted and worn out, but I couldn’t rest at all. I was so happy when they were sent home the next day.

Because I had a C-section, I had to stay in the hospital for 48 hours. The second night went much better because I had no roommate. I felt that I could go home after 48 hours because I no longer needed the strongest painkiller (I don’t remember what I took at the hospital). I could manage the pain with ibuprofen.

E latched really well and ate like a champ, so I felt I could take care of him, even though I was terrified in some ways of being solely responsible at home. At the hospital, if something was wrong, I would have help in seconds, but if I were home, it would take minutes for us to get to the hospital. But I was looking forward to going home and being in my own space and bed.

This is a super long entry, so I’ll end here, but I was absolutely overjoyed with the birth of my son and I thought he was the most wondrous infant every born. I loved him from the moment I knew he was there inside me and I cried every day with happiness for two weeks straight.

He’s almost 10 months now and every day it’s been an incredible blessing to be his mom.

3 thoughts on “Birth Story

  1. Oh my goodness, what a long journey you went through to finally get to hold your precious little boy. Thank you for sharing your birth story. I’ve been looking forward to reading it ever since E was born! 🙂

    The most surprising part to me was that you had a roommate (and her chatty husband!) on your very first night with E. That seems wild to me. I guess it’s just NYC life, but jeez, especially in COVID times you’d think they’d want to give you some more privacy. In the Philly suburbs we had a private room with bathroom/shower and Matt slept on a couch that turned into a bed with sheets and a pillow provided by the hospital. (That’s why I love the suburbs!!!)

    All of the anesthesia stuff freaks me out a little. Especially reading about how yours was wearing off as they were stitching you up. Ugh. It’s amazing what moms can physically and mentally make it through just to get their wonderful little baby on the outside.

    So glad that everything worked out for you and E even if the labor and delivery process took many more hours than you were expecting!!!

  2. Birth stories are just amazing! I had pitocin with my first and then experienced those horrible contractions. Never was I more relieved than when the anesthesiologist appeared. Rock says I told him I could have married that man! With my second birth, as soon as they mentioned pitocin I asked for an epidural first!

    I always forget about that shaking. Absolutely uncontrollable. Such a strange feeling. Worth every moment to spend time holding your precious baby. I’m loving your journey. You’re an amazing mom and that baby of yours is just perfect!!

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