I've been back and forth about whether I actually to share this. On one hand, I think that the experience was the pretty personal and a bit traumatic. On the other hand, I don't mind discussing it with friends so there's really no good reason not to type it up for the blog.
Eric and I had just finished watching the season finale of House of Lies when I stood up and felt a little gush. Being that it was my third trimester and Cecilia had dropped at week 34, I wasn't exactly sure it wasn't just a little bit of pee. I didn't give it too much thought in the moment but as we headed upstairs and started to get ready for bed, I began to question whether the fluid was actually my water breaking. I decided I was better off safe than sorry, so I told Eric to start packing up his bag for the hospital while I called the doctor's office. My doctor (she was on-call that night!) quickly returned my call and said to head into the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital around midnight, checked in and headed into the delivery triage. I explained my symptoms to the nurse, resident and then the student on duty. They did a quick check and confirmed that my water had, in fact, broken. The unfortunate part of this was that I hadn't had any accompanying contractions. I was admitted and taken to a room in the delivery ward where I met my first nurse of the day. I discussed my birth preferences (natural and unmedicated) with her but made sure she knew that I was trying to be flexible with my options, because my ultimate goal was to deliver a healthy baby.
She encouraged me to walk around to attempt to start labor before she had to put the saline lock in my arm. Eric and I walked around for about 45 minutes; we skipped through the empty halls, acting a little silly to attempt to distract me from the nervousness I felt about the possibility of induction. We returned to my room and I bounced on my fitness ball until the nurse came back to put the saline lock in. The lock initially went into my left arm and I felt a great deal of discomfort with it in just with her flushing the lock. After the IV was placed, the nurse left me to see if I could get some sleep but unfortunately before she'd even managed to finish updating my digital charts the grumpy resident who had admitted me came in to order a pitocin drip started. I'd be lying if I said that that didn't make me a little nervous; I'd heard so many stories about how pitocin makes contractions much stronger and more difficult to manage. I told myself I didn't have anything with which to compare the experience, so ultimately I'd be fine.
As the nurse started the pitocin and IV fluids, I noticed my left arm starting to swell up. I mentioned it to the nurse and she was promptly apologetic because that meant the IV in my left arm wasn't going to work and we'd have to move it to my right arm. She got it moved but not until after attempting to use one vein that wouldn't work in my right arm. I'd been stuck a grand total of three times with the IV needle at that point, so my arms were going to look like a war zone the next day. The pitocin finally got started at around 3 AM and it wasn't so bad. Again, I attempted to sleep, but unfortunately the anesthesiologist showed up to discuss my pain management options just as I was dozing off. I signed his form and attempted to doze off again, but the nursing shift changed and I had to talk to the new nurse.
My new nurse informed me that she's just gotten over an illness and that the cough is nothing to worry about. I gave her some serious side-eye at this comment but let it go. However, shortly after that she realized that she wasn't up to performing her job that day so she went home sick. I get yet another nurse. I recall liking her, but my memory starts to get hazy at this point. My contractions are coming more and more frequently and breathing through them is nearly impossible. I have little to no water left to pad the contractions, so all I feel is excruciating pain radiating through my leg joints and down into my thighs. Bouncing on the fitness ball did absolutely nothing to help me, so I attempted to find a more comfortable position on the bed.
It didn't work and I was totally daunted by the prospect of having to endure these contractions for who knows how many more hours. For the first time in my entire pregnancy at about 9 AM that day, I requested a cervical check. The new (less grumpy and more smiley) resident did the check and informed me that I was four centimeters dilated. I promptly asked for the epidural because that was six whole more centimeters to go before I could even push and I knew I needed the pain relief to relax enough to make it through to the end.
The epidural man showed up about a half an hour after my check and I was no longer freaked out about the needle near my spine. I just wanted the pain to diminish. He placed the epidural and within moments, the edge was taken off. My nurse asked me if I could still feel any pain and I could in one spot on the left side of my pelvis. She turned me onto my left side to help resolve that and the pain went away.
It must have been around 11 o'clock when I started to feel intense waves of pressure all through the back of my pelvis, intense enough that they hurt through my epidural. The pressure kept building and building, so I requested yet another cervical check. Lo and behold, I was already dilated to nine centimeters and completely effaced and would be fully dilated within the next two contractions. My OB was called in to discuss pushing, after she did a cervical check of her own she recommended that we wait an hour because Cecilia was still at zero station and pushing too early wouldn't be effective.
I guess an hour passes, but I hardly noticed because all I was focusing on is rejecting the urge to push. I have to focus and breathe through each wave. She has descended enough to start pushing, which is exactly what we do. It should be noted that I was absolutely terrible at pushing. Apparently I used my legs too much and my breathing was all wrong. I took too long to breathe in and I kept wanting to breathe out instead of holding my breath in. At some point during all of this, my OB returned and suggested that we use internal monitoring because the external monitoring isn't doing a good job. I agree because my water was already broken and I just want her to be safe.
I push and push but I'm so exhausted towards the end. Mostly because laboring on a jello cup, two popsicles and not enough sleep isn't good for anyone. You know the Hollywood editing style where it shows you a scene of intense action and cuts to black before you get the next scene of action? That's how I remember the end of my labor.
Scene: They're putting the oxygen mask on me because I'm so tired that I'm apparently forgetting to breathe. All I hear in the background is the slowing ping-ponging of Cecilia's heartbeat from the internal monitoring.
Scene: The doctor is saying I've been pushing for too long and either have to have a vacuum assisted delivery or get a c-section. I'm so tired and delirious, I'm more horrified by the suggestion of vacuum because I don't want an episiotomy. My doctor calmly responds that I already have a second degree tear so I wouldn't need one. I turn to Eric for guidance because I'm in so much pain and completely exhausted. We do the vacuum assist. I hardly even notice.
Scene: The final push, I feel her head crown and her tiny body comes flying out on the next wave of the push. I hear her cry, I ask if she's okay; I think I start crying. She is whisked away by the NICU team. I hear something about her pooping already. They remove the oxygen mask and I just lay there while they stitch up my tear. Eric is called away to watch them weigh her and see her on her little warming table.
There are more gory details but once they put her on my chest after ensuring everything was fine, nothing else really mattered.
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