Birth Story

I’d like to rewind to April 6th at 11:30 pm. That’s when it all started.

Kyle came to bed and woke me up. I didn’t mind because, you may remember, I had declared myself officially on maternity leave earlier that day, and I had no plans the next day. It was time to just enjoy the anticipation of the baby’s arrival. 

Before going to sleep, Kyle decided to give the baby a pep talk – he leaned in close to my belly and I think he said something along the lines of “Alright baby, you can come out whenever you want. We’re really eager to meet you. Anytime now works fine.” And then we went to sleep.

An hour and a half later, at 12:57 am, I woke up again. Something had happened “down there”. Pregnancy is full of things happening “down there”, and I thought to myself, “oh, it’s nothing. Just some discharge.” But then I realized that regular discharge doesn’t normally wake you up… So perhaps I should go to the bathroom and check what was going on. But I was very skeptical.

Turns out Kyle’s pep talk had worked, and Baby was ready to make his debut. As soon as I stood up, the gushing began. The waterfall just wouldn’t stop. I made it to the bathroom, and started screaming for Kyle. He is a very deep sleeper, so it took quite a while for him to hear me. Once he did wake up, I had to confirm several times that my water had indeed broken before he was awake and convinced. Then he jumped into action.

I got myself as cleaned up as I could while instructing Kyle where the last minute items for the hospital bag were. Once we were packed and about to leave, Kyle realized he was feeling very ill. I was just excited, so when he asked if he could take a minute, I didn’t feel panicked and let him run off to the bathroom to collect himself.

Then we were on the road, towel under my bum.

I called my mom and his mom, since they were supposed to join us at the hospital. Then I sent out an email to work and text messages to family and friends. Go time!

We were at the hospital by 1:30 am. Because it was so late, we had to go in through the emergency department entrance. I thought we could just waltz in and walk to the elevators up to maternity, but we were stopped and informed that they would wheel us up. Pretty cool. As soon as we were inside hospital walls, Kyle was visibly improved. We had made it!

My contractions hadn’t started at this point, so I was in good spirits. We were triaged, and they confirmed that my water had broken (duh), and transferred us to a labor room. My mother had asked me to call when we were admitted and she’d head over. So I called her… and she said she was already in the elevator up. I guess she was a little excited and couldn’t wait!

After arriving in the labor room, we decided it would be a good time to rest. Kyle fell asleep immediately. My contractions started – no sleep for me.

Mom and I ended up heading to the jacuzzi tub as the pain increased. I enjoyed being in the tub, and it helped with the pain. But at one point I needed to use the restroom, and getting out of the tub with the contractions was so hard that I couldn’t imagine getting back in only to have to get out again later. So I gave up and we ventured back to the labor room.

As the contractions increased and a couple hours passed, I was sure that we were making good progress. But there was no checking my cervix at first, because my water had broken and I was group B strep positive – they didn’t want to risk infection in the baby by checking too often. But I knew I’d been at 1 cm for weeks, so I figured I was moving forward from there.

I was. But not very quickly. Eventually, they did check me, and I was only at 2 cm. After hours of contractions. At that point, I was in so much pain that I was feeling nauseous. I was sure I was going to throw up. I was in misery. If I had been at 5 cm, maybe I would have been able to continue without pain medication, because the progress was so promising. But only reaching 2 cm after so much pain, and what felt like forever, was completely discouraging. I immediately knew that I wanted an epidural after all.

Kyle was still sleeping, but with my cries of agony at realizing that I wasn’t going to be tough enough to go without the epidural, he woke up. He held my hand and told me how much he supported me in my decision, and we waited for the anesthesiologist to show up.

She did, and it turned out that my mom knew her from when she used to do labor and delivery here in Portland. That was pretty cool. They caught up, and I got drugged up. The relief was earth shaking. I knew without a doubt that I had made the right decision, and calm was restored. Kyle went back to sleep, and I was encouraged to do the same.

I think Kyle’s mother appeared at some time shortly thereafter. No sleep happened for me, partly due to the number of people in the room, but mostly because I had visions of babies dancing on my eyelids whenever I closed my eyes.

Hours and hours passed with little excitement. We watched HGTV, chatted, I got checked out now and again, the nurse and my mom flipped me over like a pancake every hour, since I had no feeling in/control of my legs with the epidural.

At some point the nurse/doctor decided I had “dysfunctional” and “insufficient” contractions. I was offended (har har), but it turns out that that just means that my contractions were supposedly too irregular and too weak to change my cervix. They still weren’t frequently checking my cervix, so they seemed to be basing that mostly off of the monitoring strip, from what I could tell.

Anyway… whatever data they used, I ended up with Pitocin to make my contractions more regular and stronger, and an internal monitor to more accurately measure the strength of my contractions. Along with the epidural, both of those things were interventions I hadn’t really wanted going into the birth process, but actually being in labor (especially for a long time) does something to open your mind up to methods that might move things along quicker.

Even with the Pitocin, my contractions didn’t seem to become more regular or stronger. But when they did check my cervix, progress was being made. I was dilating quite nicely! I felt like saying “ha! that’ll teach you to call me dysfunctional and insufficient!”. As a matter of fact, I might have even actually said that. Spirits were generally high, since the pain level was generally low. So I might have made some jokes. I loved my epidural.

But despite the good progress, they upped my Pitocin. Apparently they took it too far. My epidural wasn’t working great on my left side, so when they upped the Pitocin, I started to feel a lot of pain again. They decided to flip me to my left side to let gravity bring the epidural medicine to that side. But as soon as they did, the baby’s heart rate dropped, and I can’t describe to you what I felt. It was something like pain, combined with total panic. I had no idea what was happening with the baby’s heart rate until after everything had stabilized – all I knew was that something was wrong and I did NOT want to be flipped to my left side.

That whole experience led to a lowered dose of Pitocin, and a booster for my epidural. The booster was rather unpleasant – It took away the pain, but I also couldn’t feel or move my legs at all. Without the booster, my legs had just felt heavy and tingly, but with the booster I might as well not even have had legs. For the next few hours, mom and Kyle took turns rubbing my right foot to remind me that it was still there. It really helped me to feel calm and connected to the process.

My contractions were still “sad”. Or so they thought. I got a new internal monitor after suspicions that the first one wasn’t working right. Sure enough, the new one showed that I was having some pretty kickass contractions after all.

My sense of time was gone. Everything in this birth story could be 100% out of order. But eventually, I reached 10 cm. I want to say it was around 7pm, because there was a shift change before I started pushing. The new nurse came in (our third! We were there for so long!), and we got down to business. Kyle’s mom left (at my request), and my mom and Kyle each took a leg. They lowered my epidural, and I was ready.

Pushing was, at first, pretty pleasant. That was surprising to me. I was excited to finally be getting to the end after laboring for so long, so pushing felt amazing. But I was very tired.

Pushing was hard, and with the epidural I really had to think about what I was doing, as opposed to feeling compelled naturally to do it. But with some coaching from the nurse and my mom, I eventually figured out how to push properly. And they could see the baby’s head!

Fast forward an hour and a half – they could still see the baby’s head. That’s it. He hadn’t moved an inch. And now I was really tired. And completely discouraged. Pushing didn’t feel amazing anymore. It felt pointless. I felt like I was bad at it because nothing was changing.

The nurse (or was it the doctor? He kept coming in randomly. And there was an ultrasound at some stage) had mentioned at some point that some intervention might be necessary to get the baby out. They had determined that baby was “posterior”, which means that he was facing up towards the sky instead of down towards the floor. That is not good news for vaginal childbirth, and the reason Lewis wasn’t coming out.

But they let me try to push him out as long as I wanted to, because Lewis was doing great on the monitor – no signs of distress at all. And because I had written in our “birth notes” that I was terrified of vacuum deliveries, c-sections, and episiotomies/tears. And those were exactly the types of interventions we’d be facing if I couldn’t get him out myself.

Then I had an epiphany: I couldn’t do it by myself. He wasn’t coming out. I was exhausted after 20 hours of labor on no sleep. It was over – I had no more gas in the tank.

I was so disappointed in myself. But I managed to say it out loud – I needed help. And as soon as I said that, the doctor was summoned, and he talked me through the two options I had. I had to choose between vacuum and c-section. We talked about the risks of both, and made our decision. Vacuum time. Kyle and I quickly made peace with our new reality.

A million people came into the room. I was told that this was “just in case”. There were people there “just in case” for me, and “just in case” for baby. It was a zoo.

I got another booster so I wouldn’t feel the episiotomy (sigh) that automatically comes with a vacuum delivery. The millions of people in the room stared at my lady bits while the doctor pinched me at regular intervals to see if I was numb yet. I remember it taking about 20 minutes to fully take effect. That’s a long time to have a strange man sitting a foot away from your lady bits pinching you while a million people stare. But whatever. There was one male nurse who at least tried to look away… so polite.

Eventually, the vacuum was placed on Lewis’ head, and I was told to push. Two or three pushes later, out he came. The millions of people left, because he came out screaming and pooping just like he was supposed to. They put him on my chest and started wiping him down. I don’t remember much, but I know I cried, and I think I kept screaming at Kyle, “I can’t believe we made him!” on repeat. I’m pretty sure mom and Kyle cried too. I definitely remember both Kyle and mom declining to cut the cord.

I was pretty consumed with having my baby on my chest, but I have vague memories of the nurse pushing down on my belly (so unpleasant. Can’t remember why she did that), and the doctor staying down south for about an hour stitching things up.

I was informed that I had a 3rd degree tear, and some internal tearing from the vacuum as well. That was pretty upsetting to find out about. And it has been a pain to deal with for my recovery. But it turns out it isn’t the end of the world, and you just get through it since there isn’t anything you can do to change it…

Unexpectedly, Kyle had stayed the whole time. He had even watched as Lewis came out. I was so surprised, and so impressed, that he had been able to get outside himself enough to stay. I loved having him there, and I don’t think he’ll ever regret being there for every moment. But the aftermath was a little much for him, so he did step out for a bit afterwards while they cleaned up the war zone.

At some point his mom came in and met the baby, and his measurements were taken. They had me breastfeed too. Everything at this part of the story is so hazy. Then both Kyle’s and my mom left us and we were on our own, just our little family.

We were transferred to a recovery room eventually, where I had to have a catheter inserted because I couldn’t urinate after having had the epidural. I also had a special cushion to sit on because of all the damage. And our sweet nurse even had to help me change my underwear. Like I said, recovery hasn’t been a lot of fun for me. I have never felt so helpless or tired.

We spent the whole next day in the recovery room, with visitors galore. Between family and friends and various hospital staff, it was all a little much. I was hooked up to my catheter bag, so Kyle was on diaper duty the entire time. But we made it through the day (and I got to have eggs with runny yolks!), and headed home the following morning. I was terrified to go home, mostly because I wasn’t sure how I’d care for myself, but Kyle was decidedly happier the moment we left the hospital. And, of course, we have since settled into our new life at ho me.

In the end, we had every intervention I knew of to get Lewis out, with the exception of a c-section. It felt like we had had the exact opposite birth experience of what we wanted, and we could have so easily been disappointed. But you know what? I am still so happy with how things went. 

I think we were able to have a positive experience despite the deviations from the “plan” because the hospital staff had taken our “birth notes” (a summary of our feelings/fears/desires for the birth process) seriously. They ensured that our “birth notes” had been passed along at each shift change. And because they did that, each nurse and doctor was prepared to help us through each unwanted intervention as they came up. They were able to approach each decision gently and patiently, with tons of information, and made us very comfortable making the unwanted decisions.

Also, choosing the interventions happened in intervals – we didn’t have to choose them all at once. When you think about things beforehand, you think about it all at once, and imagining everything going opposite of how you envision it is very overwhelming. But you don’t do it all at once in real life, which made it so much easier to swallow – we got to digest the information just one problem at a time, not everything in bulk. 

It felt like we really got to think things through and take our time coming to terms with each decision, so by the time we came to the next crossroads, we were already completely at peace with the previous decision. I don’t even think we realized how many things had gone “wrong” until afterwards, because we were made so comfortable with each step we took.

I just wish we could write Yelp reviews for the care providers we had. They deserve all the praise in the world. Without their patience, expertise, and kindness, it would have been so easy to have the exact same series of events, but end up with a much less positive experience.

But still… here’s to hoping it is a little less dramatic with the next kid!

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