The Birth Story Part 2: Ready or Not, Here comes the Bun
We left the hospital at 10:15. My water broke at 11:00, and we were back in the car at about 11:05.
Dave was very tense as he drove the car. I couldn’t open my eyes, but I could tell we were going very fast. I kept having contractions and I kept feeling liquid running down my legs. I was sitting on a towel so that whatever I felt leaking out during the contractions would not strain the car seats.
Later, Dave and I found out that we were remembering the same part of the childbirth class. I kept repeating in my head “Once they know there’s a problem, they can get the baby out through a 5 minute c-section. 5 minutes. If there’s a problem, the baby’s out in 5 minutes.” Dave’s mantra was “All hands on deck.” It’s the phrase our instructor used for how the medical staff responds to an emergency c-section. Everyone leaves to help get the baby out.
We were both very, very scared in the drive back to the hospital. I still tear up thinking about it. I have honestly never been so frightened for my health in my entire life. We had just been told 45 minutes earlier that nothing was going on, and now I had fresh blood streaming down my legs. It was OK to think that something bad could be happening to me, but I could not let the thought enter my head that anything would be wrong with the baby.
We arrived at the front entrance of the hospital. A security guard came running towards Dave. “Do you need a wheelchair?” she shouted. “Yes, take her to the 8th floor!” Dave responded. She ran to the car with a wheelchair, and helped me in. “Honey,” she told Dave, “You just park the car. We’re going to take good care of her.” Dave later said her reassurance was the first time he felt things were going to be ok. She put me in the wheelchair and ran with me towards the elevators.
We arrived back at the 8th floor. They put me back in the same room. A new nurse took over my care. I immediately took my clothes off as soon as I walked in the room before the door was even shut. I told them my water had broken and that I was bleeding. From all the liquid I felt running down my legs, I was fully expecting to see bright red stains down the legs of my pants. But there wasn’t. What if they didn’t believe me again!?
I told them that I’d had fresh red blood at home. “How much?” they asked. “More than a cup or less than a cup?” I paused for a moment and said, “Definitely less than a cup.” On the one hand, this felt like good news; maybe less than one cup of blood wasn’t a life threatening emergency. But on the other, what if less than one cup of blood meant they didn’t believe me and told me again that nothing was going on?
“It’s running down my legs!” I insisted. “That’s OK, Anita,” she said. “That’s still your water.” Well, that was the first unexpected news that didn’t frighten me. Apparently, when your water breaks it doesn’t all come out. For me, it continued to trickle out at every contraction until we were ready to push.
I got back into the hospital bed and they started to attach me to all the machines. Dave walked into the room and announced that Shelli was coming back and would be there shortly. Someone came in to give me an internal exam.
The checked my cervix and announced that I was dilated 7-8 cms. From the time my water broke 20 minutes earlier until that moment, I had dilated 7 to 8 cms. FINALLY! Finally, I had proof that I was in labor!!!
Now, if I had been in any way similar to my regular self, I would have stood up in bed and commenced to give a two handed bird-flipping salute to every person in that room, and several others in the hall as I loudly shouted “I fucking told you I WAS IN LABOR!!!!!!!!!” Fortunately for whatever dignity I had left, I only moaned.
Contractions were becoming horrendous. I was grabbing Dave’s hands and trying to do my relaxation breaths with very little success. I was so incredibly scared. Despite knowing that I had proof I was in labor and knowing that I wasn’t being rushed in for a c-section, I still had the panic from coming back to the hospital the way we did and I still wasn’t sure what was going on. I really wanted an epidural. My revised goal had been to get to where they would give me an epidural and now I believed it was possible.
The doctor came back in and checked me. I was dilated to 8 cms. She began to question me. Are you sure you don’t have endometriosis? No. Do you have fibroids? No. Have you had dysplasia? Have you had a cryo process? Dave responded No. I responded Yes. Yes, I had had dysplasia 20 years ago. And yes, I had a cryoprocess---essentially freezing my coochie----20 years ago.
Ding ding ding ding ding. I could hear the bells going off over the doctor’s head. I saw the light bulb flashing. I saw the relief on her face as she understood what had happened.
She explained to us that I must have had a good deal of scar tissue left over from that procedure. My cervix had not been dilating because scar tissue is very inflexible. The fresh blood I saw was from blood vessels breaking as the cervix expanded so quickly once all the scar tissue gave way. It was not anything to do with the baby, or my placenta or my uterus. It was not anything harmful to the baby! I immediately asked her how this would affect future pregnancies. (Yes, even at this awful painful point, I wanted to know if I could have more babies.) She said that now that the scar tissue had broken, we would never have this problem again.
So here I was. I had what I thought was a normal beginning to labor only to be told it was not. Then I had an experience that clearly wasn’t normal at all. And now I was finally at a normal stage of labor. Unfortunately, that stage was transition—the one stage of labor I was dreading the most. And I’d started it in a panic and my doula had not yet come back.
They had put an oxygen mask on me to help the baby. During each contraction, I was chewing on it as I grabbed Dave. Our nurse came over to help telling me to relax and breathe through the contractions and that I was in control of this situation. If I’d been able to cuss, I would have had a few choice words for her, but she was foolish enough to let me hold her hand. Her protests that if I broke her hands she couldn’t help me gave me a little bit of comfort.
I really tried to breathe through the contractions, but I was so frightened it was difficult. I’ll be honest and say that when I could relax and breathe through them, it was very doable without drugs. But I was having a really hard time keeping focused at that point. And when I could not get my will around the pain, the pain was truly awful.
By the time they were ready to give me the epidural, I was 9 cm dilated. The doctor, the main nurse and the anesthesiologist all asked if I was sure I didn’t want to go natural all the way. To be honest, my trust was running low and pain was running high. Although things were moving quickly now (it was about an hour after I’d come back to the hospital), I was still in the “it’s going to be 48 hours before I’m in labor” mindset. Shelli had not come back yet due to some unlucky bad Charlotte traffic and Dave and I were struggling together through this bad stage by ourselves.
My labor, at this point, was like a really, really, really bad marathon. I was at mile 24 and only had 2 more miles to go. I was going to finish the race, but I still had the choice to run it in or walk it in. In either case, I’d done a boatload of work and I was going to finish the marathon. So I chose to walk the last 2 miles of this marathon.
Shelli arrived just when they were putting in the epidural. We updated her on what was going on and what we had discovered. She began calming me down and helping me through the contractions explaining what was happening in my body. She also explained why I kept feeling like I had to “poo” at every contraction: The baby was moving down and my body was getting ready to push. This was a good thing. I have to admit though that feeling like you’re peeing yourself (the water still trickling) and feeling like you have to “poo” are not the most glamorous feelings in the world, even if they are helping you give birth.
Here’s the weird thing. I don’t remember any difference in pain from before and after the epidural took effect. I’m not kidding. To be honest, I don’t even remember the pain of the contractions in transition before the epidural. Instead, I just remember that when the epidural took effect, I was getting calmer and more like myself. I knew something was happening because all of a sudden I remembered to tell Dave to get the camera so that we could get pictures of the baby. Before I was just trying to make it through each contraction. After I was more like me.
However, I could still feel when I was having each contraction. And I still felt like I had to poo with each one.
Finally, it was time to push. Apparently, despite being a big woman, I have a narrow-ish pelvis. Who woudda thunk? Pushing was more difficult than I anticipated because I couldn’t feel my muscles. I couldn’t concentrate my efforts on what I was doing. Yes, at some point here I wondered if I would have been better without the epidural, but I’m not going to regret it. They were doing some pretty vigorous perineal massage and I’m not sure I could have stood that without the epidural
I pushed for 30 minutes. The doctor used a mild vacuum to help him out because his cord was wrapped around his neck. As soon as his head popped out, she clamped and cut the cord. And then he was out!!
They placed him right on my belly and he was warm and wet. And then he let out a loud, lusty, full blown squeaky cry! It was the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. Most babies’ cries are irritating, but our little guy has the cutest squeaky cry in the world!! I fell in love with him at first squeak. (He continues to squeak and chirp on a regular basis and I absolutely love it! He cries, too, but even that is a very cute.)
Dave went with them for the cleaning and first weighing. He’s officially 7 lbs 2 oz and 20 ¾ inches long. He has the longest arms and legs I’ve seen on a baby. He gets his feet and hands directly from Dave. His foot is the length of my middle finger: 3 inches. His toes and fingers are sooo long. He certainly lives up to his nickname of little monkey!
He scored 8 and 8 on his 1 and 5 minute APGAR scores. He was counted off 1 point both times because he’s so pale. The nurse explained this saying they were a little concerned because they couldn’t tell if there was a respiratory reason for it or, as she paused and gave a long look at Dave, if it was genetic. A respiratory technicial, a resident pediatrician and a nurse practitioner all checked him out and decided that our son takes after his very pale Irish father.
He was born at 1:30, 2 hours after we returned to the hospital. According to the official records, I was in labor for 2 ½ hours. According to me, I was in labor 20 hours. In either case, the little bun has popped out of the oven.
I was so glad to have him out of me that day. I honestly don’t know how I could have taken the pain for 12 to 48 more hours. I still don’t know if the pain I was feeling was “normal” contraction pains and I’m a big fat wuss or whether the pain I was feeling was due to the scar tissue trying to stretch. I was hurting a lot when they kicked me out of the hospital. But they had no way of ascertaining whether I was a wuss or something was wrong, either.
The frustrating thing about pain is that you are the only one who ever knows what your pain is. No one else can ever “feel your pain” and in this experience, there was no objective way for them to see that my body was trying to progress into labor.
So why wasn’t the dysplasia or my procedure in my chart? That is the question. When my primary doctor came to check on me the next day, he was visibly upset that he did not know about this part of my history. It’s hard to remember back one year to my first OB-GYN visit, but I do believe that what happened is that I downplayed it to my doctor’s nurse (“I had dysplasia 20 years ago and was frozen to fix it and I haven’t had a problem since!”) and she didn’t mark it down on the chart. My impression of the nurse on that first visitwasn’t all that positive, so it makes sense to me. I honestly have no idea if that’s what happened, although it feels like it to me. And I don’t really care. I know the dysplasia and the cryo process are a big deal and I always bring it up. (BTW, both the doctor and my nurse had had dysplasia and the cryo process, I believe. The nurse—Ms. You Can Control This Pain--- even shared that when she gave birth she was begging for an epidural at 4 cms. I did cuss at her in my head, but out loud, I simply said, Ahhhh.) As far as what I’ve thought about my own procedure, I’ve always focused on the dysplasia more than the process, and after 20 years, I’ve had no problems with dysplasia. I am sure I downplayed how much of a problem it is in my life today.
The good news is that I’ve had my son and I shouldn’t ever have this problem again. It was very scary and very painful, but I survived with most of my dignity intact. I’m proud of myself that I didn’t curse during transition. Dave swears that nubain is the anti-swear drug because the worse things I said were “God!”, “Jesus!” and “Poo” and I don’t think I’ve ever said “poo” in my life. I wish I could have handled myself better in the transition phase, but I don’t see how anybody could do well in that stage after starting it as frightened as Dave and I were. Breathing and relaxation did work in reducing the pain. Even in transition, I was able to handle it whenever I could focus enough to breathe and relax.
So yes, we had a labor with a few unexpected twists and turns. I’d really rather have had the textbook labor, but it’s done and we have a baby. And, to be honest, we’ve got a story with a couple of scary twists but a good ending to tell our son about his birth day.