I apologize for this taking so long. Notes from Shorty are in red.
When we last left off, we were on our way to the hospital after trying, and failing, for our home birth. Going in to the hospital, you would think I would have had mixed emotions… but I really didn’t. Mostly, I felt relief. I felt like I had done everything I could do at home, and since I wasn’t progressing, I was ready for some help. I was no longer concerned about avoiding medical interventions, avoiding pain medicine, or anything else… in fact, as I had contractions in the car on the way there, I kept telling myself “we’ll be there in X amount of minutes, so that’s only a few more contractions to get through on my own, then I can get to the hospital and get that damn epidural!” Yeah. I did. Talk about a one-hundred-eighty degree change in thinking!
Other than the contractions, the ride there wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I sat on a puppy pad so I didn’t get anything on the seat (I was still leaking from my water breaking the day before!), Shorty didn’t drive a million miles an hour and terrify me, (I figured if the kid hadn’t popped out in 60+ hours he wasn’t going to make an appearance in the 30 minutes it took to drive to the hospital. I also knew that once we got there we were going to be in the hospital for a few days, so I enjoyed the quiet, early morning drive to the hospital. No need to rush.) traffic was light, and it seemed like we got there pretty fast. When we got there Shorty offered to drop me off at the ER entrance, but I was being stubborn (I’m glad I got this in writing, stubborn woman!!) and wanted to stay with her- so she drove to the parking garage and parked, and we made our slow and steady way into the hospital from there. The funny part is that I was in flip flops and a light sweater, when it was in the low thirties… I feel like people were giving me strange looks but none of my warm boots fit me anymore and none of my coats did either! (Sorry I did not get a picture of this for you, in my defense it was 5am and I had not had any coffee yet). Oh well though, I was cold for a little bit and then I got over it.
We went into the ER and they registered us downstairs and then directed us upstairs to the labor and delivery unit to check in. I had a few contractions while we were sitting there registering and had to breathe through them while the registrar lady waited for me to be able to speak again. After that, they directed us to a waiting room, but we were only there for a minute before a nurse came to get us. Except, I thought she came to get US, but when Shorty stood up to follow me she said “Oh, are you two sisters? Mother daughter? [pointing at me as the mother and her as the daughter. WTF?]. You’ll have to wait here [pointing at Shorty]” and before I could say much she closed the door between us. (This was really hard for me, I even began to cry a little. My worst fear was being separated from my wife, and that is what happened. I didn’t know what was going on, when I would be able to see her again. I was left in a little waiting room by myself pacing the floors. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life.) This is one of my biggest regrets, that I let her separate us like that- that kind of thing was one of our fears about going to the hospital. I should have protested. I should have done something. Instead, I stood there in the doorway to the exam room, swaying with a contraction, without Shorty to hold on to, worried that coming to the hospital had been a terrible mistake and that they were going to treat us like that the whole time we were there. Luckily, on that last part, I could not have been more wrong. This was the only time the whole hospital stay where I felt like this, and luckily it was short in duration- Shorty was allowed to join me after I had been checked and strapped to monitors. (Thankfully we were not separated again after that.)
When the doctors came in, they did a cervical check and confirmed that I had made basically no progress during the long hard night- I had been a three when the midwife checked me at home the night before and the doctor proclaimed me to be a three, three-and-a-half as of 730am the next morning. Although that news should have been discouraging (and was, a bit), I think it was at this point that I turned to Shorty and said “I’m so glad we came to the hospital.” It was the first of many, many times I would say that… again, ironic, for someone set on a home birth! The baby, however, had other plans and we knew that was a possibility from the very beginning- and to this day I am so, so glad we went in to the hospital!
We were set up in a room and I immediately asked for an epidural- having been in labor for over 50 hours by this point, and having had all our other plans go down the drain, I basically just said what the hell why not get it. I also knew they wanted to put me on pitocin, and while I was okay with that because of my nonprogression, there was no way in hell I was going to go through pitocin contractions without some kind of pain medication.
My epidural came and went- s l o w l y (they had students do it!)- but I felt so.much.better afterwards! I was able to talk, laugh, engage with the world, and fully take in everything that was happening to me… instead of concentrating on not screaming instead. Shortly after the epidural (around 11am by this time) I was on pitocin and ready to have a baby! Except, of course, for the fact that the baby wasn’t ready to be had.
We spent all day sitting around, waiting and hoping things were progressing (I slept a lot of it, thanks epidural!) (I slept a lot, as well, taking the opportunity while I had it).– but when the doctors came back to check me at 4pm, I hadn’t even budged by a full cm. The doctor said I was maybe 4cm. MAYBE. And this was after 5 hours of pitocin and full blown contractions! (We could see the contractions on the monitor, and boy was I glad I couldn’t feel them!). The doctors quickly came up with another game plan- they inserted a pressure catheter to see if the contractions were “adequate” or not. I could have told them they certainly were, but, you know… I guess they have to cover their bases.
One thing Shorty and I were both impressed with is that at this point in time, no one had even whispered the words “c section” to us. This, in spite of the fact that it had been over 24 hours since my water broke and in spite of the fact that things weren’t progressing. It really seemed like they were willing to try all their options before they wanted to consider THAT option. For this, we were grateful- that had been another thing we were worried about going in to the hospital- the so-called “cascade of interventions” and the risk of being pressured into c section. Although we did end up having pretty much every intervention we had been worried about, in the end I felt like they were used appropriately (ie, pitocin because I wasn’t progressing, instead of pitocin as a standard treatment) and so I am ultimately ok with everything that happened.
Back to the birth story- they inserted the pressure catheter, upped the pitocin, and left us to it, with promises to come back in two hours to check. Somewhere in the middle of those two hours, my epidural started to wear off and boy those contractions HURT. We rang frantically for the anesthesiologist, but he was busy in another room so I just had to cope for awhile. I won’t lie- by the time he got there, I was one of those crazy laboring women screaming in pain. The monitor was showing contractions 1 minute apart and peaking literally off the chart- thanks, pitocin!- and I just couldn’t cope with them. Never thought I’d be loud in labor! Always pictured myself as the suffer-in-silence type- ha. To put the icing on the cake, when the anasthesiologist finally arrived, he chose to give me some crazy lecture about the “labor scale of pain” and told me that even if I felt like I was at a 10 on the 1-10 scale, he was sure I was actually only a 5 or so on the labor pain scale. Ass. Shorty had to kind of yell at him and ask him to just give me the medicine, please,before he would stop talking. (Actually is what I kindly said to this MALE anesthesiologist was, “until you have a uterus, that is contracting and trying to push something the size of a watermelon out a space the size of a lemon, do NOT talk to us about pain levels, now kindly give her the medicine.”) Once he gave it to me though, the contractions didn’t completely go away by the decreased back down to manageable levels. Bliss.
The doctors came back in to check me around six pm or so and I had progressed to about 4.5cm. They said that this was encouraging, and also that the contractions I had been having were more than adequate, so they removed the catheter and said they would check again in two hours. They also upped the pitocin to maximum levels.
However, around 830pm when they came back in to check me again, I hadn’t progressed at all from 6pm, and this is when we first heard the word “c section” enter into the conversation. The doctor on call (a resident) said it was a possibility, but also told us she would get her attending to come in and confirm my non-progression and explain to us the options. I’m not really sure how much time went by before the attending returned (enough that I needed another upper on my epidural) but when he came in he basically confirmed that we hadn’t progressed at all and would probably need a c section. By this time, it was 11pm and I looked him in the eye and basically said go for it. I was frustrated at the lack of progress, and because it had been so long since I went into labor (60+ hours), I was pretty sure that nothing was going to happen on its own. The doctors tried to reassure me and explain to me that I could have a VBAC the next time around if I so chose- but I was so okay with the decision to do a c section, I didn’t even need the reassurance. I just wanted to get it over with so I could meet the baby! (I was also just ready for it to be over.)
In no time at all, they had me prepped and whisked away. Shorty was given a set of scrubs (It was really cute when the nurse gave me my scrub pack, she said normally this is a dad pack, but today it is a mamma pack! That made me feel good and smile that she recognized me as a mom.) and she walked with us to the doors of the OR, at which point in time she was asked to wait outside while I was prepped for surgery. I don’t know how she was feeling at that point in time- but I was nervous as hell! I lay on the table listening to all the doctors and nurses chatting around me and it was hard to connect to the reality of the fact that I would be meeting our baby so very soon. The anesthesiologist gave me some medicine and did a bunch of jabs with a knife to be sure I was numb. I didn’t even know he was doing them at the time, but I certainly had the little cuts and scrapes to prove it afterwards!
The only thing I have to say about the surgery itself was that it was WAY more intense than I was expecting! I expected to feel nothing- instead, I felt some big pressure and at one point in time, I felt pressure up in my chest and by my heart- it felt like I was going to have a heart attack! Shorty tells me that this was when the nurse was pushing on my upper torso with literally all of her body strength- go figure. I started panicking and it got harder to breathe, but the anesthesiologist sprang into action and gave me some extra medicine- (She actually was yelling “I”M HAVING A HEARTATTACK” and the anesthesiologist then replied “You’re not having a heart attack, it’s just a lot of pressure,” to which my lovely wife responded “HOW THE FUCK WOULD YOU KNOW!” funniest thing ever!!!) (note from Amazon: I totally do not remember this) I don’t know what he gave me but it definitely helped with the pain. (after the surgery, he told me I was somewhat of a “specialty” case and had had to have more than the usual drugs…. hmmm, interesting?). Because of the extra medicine, the rest of the surgery- including Pax’s birth- is a bit of a blur and fuzzy. I remember Shorty excitedly telling me that they were pulling him out, and I remember anxiously listening for a cry as they brought him over to the warmer and Shorty joined them. I did hear a little cry, (which is about when I started breathing again) and Shorty brought him over so I could see him, all wrapped up and swaddled and newborn. He was born at 119am and weighed 8lbs 8oz, 22inches long. I kissed him on the cheek once, but then Shorty said she was starting to feel dizzy. (Okay so C-Section is no joke to watch, during it all I was on an adreliane rush and did fine. I watched as they pulled him out, I was there while they cleaned him, weighed him, then handed him to me. He was so precious, I took him over for Amazon to see and kiss. I then set down with him and was just looking at him, when I suddenly started my adrenalin crash, that on top of the fact that I was exhausted didn’t help. I started getting dizzy, nauseaus, couldn’t breath. I finally was able to get out the word help, the nurse rushed over and took Pax. I then set there trying not to faint, the nurse helped me out of the room and set me in a chair in the hallway, until I was taken up to our room.) The nurse quickly took the baby from her and Shorty sat down, quickly, and was then escorted out to the recovery room while they stitched me up.
Pax went to the nursery (When the nurse, Pax and I made it to the room to wait on Amazon, the nursed asked if I wanted Pax to stay with me, I felt bad saying this but I told her no to take him to the nursery, I was still feeling shakey and was not sure if I was going to faint or not. After the nurse and Pax left I set in a chair, thats really the last thing I remember until there was a nurse taking my BP and trying to give me an IV which I declined. A few moments later they wheeled Amazon in and we both crashed from exhaustion.) at first to be cleaned and weighed and who knows what else, and this is one of my only true regrets because I never, ever wanted to be separated from him right after he was born. However, I was so loopy on the medicine they had given me that I couldn’t even stay alert while they were stitching me up- I completely passed out and only came back awake when they were wheeling me into the recovery room where Shorty was waiting, where I shortly passed out again.
I woke up at 530am, panicked. I hadn’t even really seen my baby yet, Shorty was asleep on the bed next to me, and Pax was nowhere to be found! Thinking about that moment still makes me want to cry- the fact that he had been on this Earth for 4 whole hours, and been separated from his parents for almost that entire time. I tried really hard to reach for the nurse call button or to wake up Shorty but I couldn’t reach and Shorty is a very sound sleeper. I almost cried when suddenly, the nurse appeared, wheeling Pax in his bassinet. I immediately asked to hold him and the nurse told me no! She said she needed to push on my stomach first as part of my c secion recovery- and holy crap, did that hurt. (Another favorite memory of mine: After the nurse did this Ayslinn then responded with “can you NEVER do that again” hehe!)I was in tears because I was tired and exhausted and I hadn’t even gotten to hold my baby yet, so I asked her to just hurry up and do it, so I could get it over with. She did and then that beautiful baby was placed into my arms, and all I could do was stare and stare and stare. He immediately started rooting around and he latched on easily, with no problems. He was and is a born nurser- the lactation consultant we saw the next day said that he had a great natural latch.
It was so amazing, to be holding that tiny body in my arms and to know that this face was the one I had been seeing on ultrasounds all those months.
The rest of the hospital stay went really well (I was really suprised at how nice our hospital stay was, at no time did they treat me any different then they would of a new father. I had fun with confusing them about which one was the birth mom, all the nurses and doctors were very attentive and supportive.) with various friends stopping by to see us- and recovery from the c section was not as hard as I had expected. I was up walking around the next morning, and feeling 99% like my old self within about three weeks. We asked to be discharged as soon as possible (in spite of the fact that Shorty was sick and it probably would have been easier to stay at the hospital another day) because we were just anxious to be home, to be a family, and to have Thing One and Addie meet the new addition.
During the follow-up visits with the doctors who birthed him, we learned that the reason my labor had not progressed was because Pax was in a brow-presentation during birth. These, apparently, are very rare (when we told our midwife about it later on, she said she’d only seen one other one in all the time she’s been practicing) and can be dangerous, if the fetal neck gets hyperextended. The doctor actually told us that had I progressed and gotten to the pushing stage, there is a possibility that Pax’s neck could have broken during pushing, and that he was so wedged in there, it was actually difficult to get him out during the c section itself. (HOLY CRAP!) I definitely cried when I found that out- from shock, if nothing else. The doctor said that my non-progression was kind of like nature’s safety net, to make sure nothing of that sort could happen.
With this information, and knowing that we absolutely did everything we possibly could to have him naturally, I have zero regrets about the labor process. Would I try for a home birth again? Me, personally, probably not. The hospital was actually a positive experience (something I wasn’t expecting) and I wouldn’t mind having a baby there if we were to do it all again. Would I recommend a home birth still? Absolutely. During the time we were laboring at home, I felt so safe and secure in familiar territory. The intimacy of laboring in the birth pool with my wife was amazing and exactly what I had dreamed of when I pictured a home birth, and I think that it could be a wonderful experience for others to have, too.
Ultimately, I count myself lucky. I had a difficult labor that ended with a c section but Pax is here, happy, and healthy, and I have no regrets about any of it. Maybe this was just how it had to happen all along.