Finally, the kid has arrived! A brand new person was born at 9:01am on December 31, 2016 🙂 Now he’s laying beside me, looking around, chewing on his sleeve, occasionally sneezing, at 2:30am. Parenthood!
I’m trying not to do that thing where I tell everyone my harrowing birth story, totally unsolicited. I feel like you should sign a consent form to hear that kind of thing. So, by continuing to read, you indicate that you have read the above information and you voluntarily agree to participate.
After an incredibly healthy pregnancy, at 39 weeks 6 days, I went to the doctor and my blood pressure was suddenly markedly increased compared to all my other visits. I’d also developed some noticeable ankle and wrist swelling that I hadn’t had previously. When I spoke with the doctor, she said that she would be willing to schedule an induction, since I was full term anyway and we could nip this in the bud. At this point, I wanted to meet the kid pretty badly, and also not be nauseous anymore (yes, I had morning sickness the entire time), and my husband and I readily agreed. I was scheduled to come in two days later.
The doctor started vaginal administration of a medication to ripen my cervix (Cytotec) every three hours. The plan was for this to hopefully kick me into labor, but if it didn’t, they would break my water when I was dilated enough, and if that didn’t work, they’d start an IV of Pitocin. But, surely, I would at least end up dilating! I started off one centimeter dilated, same as a month ago.
The second dose did end up causing me to start having contractions. Hooray! We were getting somewhere! They got closer together throughout the night, and by morning, were about 1-3 minutes apart. Late in the morning, I asked to start nitrous oxide. I have a feeling I was the first laboring woman in the hospital to use nitrous for pain control, because they’d only started offering it about a month before, and every time they set up the machine, two or three extra nurses showed up to watch.
The nitrous was actually fairly helpful, although it was a little difficult to use and didn’t make for easy conversation. You self-administer it by placing a mask on your face, breathing in, then breathing out into the mask before removing it. (If you don’t exhale into the mask, everyone in the room gets a nitrous high). It wears off quickly, so you have to learn to anticipate your contractions and take a few hits about thirty seconds before they peak. I got the hang of it, though, and it did help. I was able to read a biography of L. Ron Hubbard while high on nitrous, and someone suggested that this was the way it was meant to be read.
My husband had headed home for a few hours that evening to grab some more clothes, feed pets, take a shower, etc. I let the nurses know a couple hours in advance that I would want an epidural around 10:30pm when my husband returned. They alerted the anesthesiologist, who was apparently watching a football game. The nurse let me know that there weren’t any other laboring women in the hospital at that time, so the trajectory of the football game would be the most likely obstacle to getting the epidural on my timeline. At this point, I’d been in labor for about 18 hours. Again, my cervix was checked. I was still dilated one centimeter. They started oral administration of Cytotec.
The anesthesiologist came in to give me the rundown of the epidural procedure. He first told me that nitrous oxide doesn’t work, and I told him that if it was a placebo effect, that was fine with me, because by definition, placebos work. When I let him know that I was waiting for my husband to get back before I started it, he told me that my husband wasn’t going to be able to do his job for him. Suffice it to say, this guy did not have the best bedside manner. And it turned out to be very fortunate that I insisted on waiting for my husband.
The online videos of people getting epidurals make it look pretty easy, and the epidural placement itself actually doesn’t really hurt at all. But in reality, it is incredibly difficult to sit perfectly still in the position required when you are gigantically pregnant. This is quite painful. It was hard for me in the first place; the anesthesiologist noted that I have scoliosis, and that this could make things more difficult. It took a good 45 minutes and two tries to place the epidural.
Once placed, though, it seemed pretty great for a few minutes. Then I turned to the nurse and said “I feel weird. I feel dizzy.” Suddenly the room was full of people trying to keep me from bottoming out, because despite a bolus of saline, my blood pressure suddenly dropped precariously low. In this situation, they generally administer ephedrine, but since I’m unable to take pseudoephedrine without disastrous effects, they had to find something different. I don’t really recall much beyond being terrified, and my husband being terrified.
Luckily, my blood pressure started to climb back to normal. However, the numbing effects of the epidural also began to climb. Literally, climb up my body. Instead of being numb and immobile from the waist down, soon I was numb up to my neck. Why? Because I have bizarre reactions to medications, I guess. Before the numbness moved any higher, the anesthesiologist ran in and turned off the epidural medication to let it wear off for a while. They sat me up in the bed, and somehow that made the numbness melt back down to my waist, at which point it was turned back on.
I was hoping to get some sleep, because I had been awake since the morning before. I didn’t get any sleep. The monitors began to show that the baby’s heart rate was starting to drop whenever I had a contraction. The nurse had to give me an injection to make my contractions stop. After 24 hours of enduring contractions, I’d now have to start all over.
In the morning, my cervix was checked again. Still, one centimeter dilated. My husband looked very concerned. “Honey,” he said, “It was a really scary night. You’ve been in labor for over 30 hours. You haven’t slept for two nights and I can’t imagine how you’re going to have any energy to give birth, and that’s if you even start to dilate. I really think it’s time to ask your doctor for a c-section.” I agreed; I was tired and stalled out and nothing positive was happening. I asked him if he would pitch it to the doctor when she arrived.
The doctor was very relieved. She told me that if it was really important to me to continue to attempt a vaginal birth, that she would be willing to try for a while longer, but that she agreed a c-section would be the best option. I said that a vaginal birth was not that important to me and that I just wanted to be ok, and for my baby to be ok. She said I would have him in about an hour and a half.
Things kicked into gear. A more pleasant anesthesiologist arrived to give me the more hardcore epidural required for a c-section. I got prepped, my husband put on the bunny suit, and I was wheeled down to the operating room. They made the incision and attempted to pull out the kid, but the darn kid still didn’t want to come out! Every time they tried to grab him, he would scoot back up, or to the side. Even the anesthesiologist, who was sitting at my shoulder behind the drape, tried to help by pushing on the top of my stomach. Eventually, they actually had to use the vacuum on the kid to get him out. During a c-section! The vacuum! Stubborn little guy.
Stubborn, and precious, and generally terrifying. I can’t protect him like I could when I was pregnant, and that’s been a hard thing to accept. But I’m so glad he’s here – he has the sweetest little temperament. And he’s incredibly cute. He’s just about the spitting image of my oldest stepson when he was a baby, except this little guy has cheek dimples and a huge dimple in his chin. We’re thinking those came from somewhere in the donor’s family. Either way, we’re going to have to re-create some family photos: the 1993 version vs. the 2017 version. Oh, and his big sister just adores him. And he is a total daddy’s boy already – his absolute favorite place to sleep is curled up on his dad’s chest (I’m way too restless to make a good sleeping surface).
As for me, I’m recovering remarkably well from the c-section. I even got discharged a day early! The doctors did a really good job with it, and everyone is right that the key to a faster recovery is to walk around frequently, even if it hurts, and even if you have to move slowly. I know a lot of people are very invested in having a vaginal birth, and feel disappointed and ashamed if they end up with a c-section. I asked my Facebook friends to help me understand this, and some suggested that it might have to do with an underlying belief that a woman’s body is made to give birth, and that if you have difficulty with this, you’re somehow less of a woman.
I guess I can see that, but I really don’t feel that way and I’m honestly grateful that I asked for and got the c-section. I think part of it is that I already knew that my body doesn’t work, in a reproductive sense. Given all the artificial measures I had to go through just to get pregnant in the first place, I already had to let go of the dream of creating a baby “naturally” two and a half years ago. Bringing him into this world by a particular method may be what’s natural, but it didn’t come naturally to me. Neither did my son, and he’s exactly what I wanted, and exactly who was meant to be part of our family.