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Last May, I got pregnant.
On June 11, 2012, I got a positive pregnancy test. Kevin and I jumped around our astonishingly small bathroom for a bit, and then I proceeded to call my mother and stun her into silence. After a few moments she managed to squeak out The Sentence That Will Haunt Her For The Rest Of Her Life:
“How did THIS happen?!”
Mom! You had a kid! I thought you were aware of the specifics!
Anyway, I then went on to have the world’s most uneventful pregnancy. No morning sickness, lots of naps. I become uncomfortable and whiny towards the end, ready for it to be over and done with, because there was no longer room for both me AND the baby in the same place. All in all, I would say that I did pregnancy pretty well. I patted myself firmly on the back and said, “Self, you are GOOD at this whole procreation thing!”
But this isn’t the story of my pregnancy. Mostly because that story would be boring.
No, this is the story of my labor and delivery, a story that is most definitely NOT boring.
I was due February 17, 2013. A Sunday. I did not go into labor that day. Nor the next day. Nor the day after that! I went into labor on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. It was an uneventful day, at first. I worked on knitting a hat for the baby, to go along with the baby sweater I had started and finished that weekend, a project I had HOPED would send me into labor. I drove to the South Side (and parked! AND WALKED A FEW BLOCKS!) and attended a meeting that, when it was scheduled, elicited chortles and “No way Katrina will be able to attend THEN!” out of my colleagues.
And then I showed up, all round and cranky, which elicited gasps from my colleagues. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!”
“I HAVE NO IDEA.”
I sat through the meeting, grumpily. The young, male pharmacy students in attendance eyed my belly nervously. They got even more nervous when I said I was 3 days overdue. I could practically hear them wishing, “Oh please don’t go into labor here!”
I walked back to my car, drove home. Started contracting in the car, which wasn’t unusual. I had been contracting pretty much every afternoon into the evening for about 10 days. They would even set up a pattern. One night they were so regular and fairly intense that I called the midwives. And then they promptly stopped, and I went to bed. So much for that!
I didn’t think much of these contractions, as a result. I situated myself back on the couch, put on some trash TV, and proceeded to continue knitting the little baby cap, ignoring the contractions. Kevin came home. We decided we were going to run out to Lowe’s and look at…. well I have no idea what we were going to look for at Lowe’s, to be honest. Apparently it wasn’t important. But first! We were going to go to Steak’n’Shake for dinner, because damnit I wanted a milkshake.
The contractions picked up in the car ride. Enough that I had to stop talking. But still, meh, whatever. I was never going to have this baby, I was going to be the first documented case of perpetual pregnancy. Got to Steak’n’Shake, ordered. Had to breathe through some contractions. Started timing them. Well, I’ll be damned. They were between 90 seconds and 2 minutes apart. Psh, MILKSHAKE.
We made an executive decision not to go to Lowe’s, though.
I ordered a milkshake, and a contraction hit so hard that I decided to make it a to go milkshake.
Kevin started suggesting that maybe we should consider calling the midwives? I think it was the groaning during the contractions that gave him this idea.
Eh. Okay, but I was sure they would stop the moment I called.
Long story short: I didn’t finish my milkshake because it became too difficult to suck it up the straw and contract at the same time. So I put it in the fridge? Because I was certain, CERTAIN! that we would be sent home. And I guess, it would happen quickly enough that my milkshake wouldn’t melt in the fridge? I don’t know. Clearly the contractions had gone to my brain, because I stopped thinking clearly.
Minor interjection: Kevin spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy concerned that my water would break, all dramatic like, in an inconvenient place. Like, at a restaurant. Or in the grocery store. Or in the car, all over the upholstery. He would point out places that it would be acceptable for my water to break, like in Costco. Concrete floors! Easy clean up!
We went to the hospital, and by then I was huffing and puffing and holy cow did it hurt. I suppose at some point it dawned on me that I was in labor but I’m not sure when, exactly. Not in the car, because I made Kevin leave his hospital bag in the car (but not mine…?) because I didn’t want us to look ridiculous walking into the hospital. By now, it was after 8 PM. We had called our parents to give them the heads up. We had to argue my mother out of jumping right into the car and driving 4.5 hours across the state in the middle of the night.
We got to triage. I was sent into the bathroom to give a urine sample. Did you know it’s awkward and difficult to do a clean catch when you’re 40+ weeks pregnant and contracting hard every 90 seconds? Me either! And then I came out of the bathroom, and the nurse told me to change into a hospital gown. I took my shoes off. And then I took my pants off.
And then my water broke.
Not quite in the dramatic fashion that Kevin was fearing, but in a definite “Um, did I just pee myself?” sort of way. All I’m saying is, I’m such a wonderful wife that I waited for the absolute MOST convenient time for my water to break: in the hospital, in the triage room, AFTER I removed my pants.
The water breakage was confirmed by the midwife, which earned me a ticket to a labor delivery room. They took some blood to test things, specifically do a platelet count for the epidural I knew I wanted (this will be important shortly), and then I was wheeled off.
At this point, I allowed Kevin to go back to the car and get HIS bag. Aren’t I nice? I thought so too.
We got to the labor delivery room after 9. They hooked me up to various monitors. Kevin was just about bouncing off the wall with excitement. I was excited too, when I wasn’t groaning my way through a contraction. They kept coming and coming, harder and harder. I was about 4 cm dilated at that point, and the nurse said that as soon as they got my platelet count back, anesthesia would come in and administer the epidural. Woo! Okay! Just a little bit longer, I told myself. You can do this for a little bit! Huff, puff.
We waited. I contracted. We waited some more. An hour passed, still no platelet count, still no epidural. Another hour, and then the nurse started getting annoyed, and disappeared for a while. The midwife had me on a birthing ball, leaning over the bed, doing midwifey things. Kevin was squeezing my hips together with every contraction, which made them slightly more bearable. The nurse came back. Small problem! My blood work was stuck in the pneumatic tubes! That’s why the platelet count hadn’t come back! And they had to figure out how to fish it out, or take more blood!
HUFF. PUFF. WHAT. ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
It was at this point that I made some sort of joke about the internet being a series of tubes because it was the only thing I could think to say.
We waited some more to see if they could get the blood out. The nurse then took more blood and walked it up to the lab herself. When she returned she got a phone call from them saying, “success! we got the blood out of the tubes!” GREAT. THANKS.
I didn’t get the epidural until 1:15 AM, about 4 hours later than I would have preferred. Oh, the sweet, sweet relief of the epidural. To the ladies out there who manage to get through labor with no pain relief, I am simultaneously impressed and think you’re crazy. There is no way, NO WAY, I could have done that without an epidural, of that I am certain. Particularly with how it ended up going later. (insert dramatic, foreboding music here.)
They positioned Kevin directly in front of me while inserting the epidural. He held my hand. I was so thrilled to be finally getting it that it didn’t freak me out that they were inserting a needle into my spine. It turns out, it bothered Kevin! When they were done, he stood up, and promptly got lightheaded and tipped over onto the bed. The nurses grabbed him and threw him onto the little bench and made him put his feet over his head. All was well, but boy was he embarrassed. (He gave me permission to tell this particular part of the story!)
We turned off the lights. Kevin tucked himself in on the small bench they provide for the baby daddies. I rolled over and tried to sleep, but of course I was too wound up on adrenaline to fall asleep. And the blood pressure cuff doing its thing every half hour didn’t help matters much. So I didn’t sleep, and this also will matter later. (insert more dramatic foreboding music here.)
At 7am, it was time for the midwife’s shift to end and a new midwife to come on. They did hand off in the room, inspected my undercarriage, declared me 7 cm! and what a roomy pelvis I had! Not much longer to go!
Kevin’s mother stopped by to say hello, then went to our house to let the pups out. My parents had hit the road. Everything was looking good for the baby to be here, maybe early afternoon! Woo! I even twittered a bit! Doop de doo!
By 11:30 AM, I was 10 cm dilated, 100% effaced. The midwife said that when I started feeling the urge to push, to let her know, and we could start any time. No rush. Also, would I be okay with a medical student who is on her OB rotation attend the birth? She really wanted to catch a baby, and I should be done by the time her clinical hours finished. Sure, I said! Why not!
Around noon, I started feeling more of the contractions than I wanted. So I started pushing the little epidural button more. That was a bit concerning.
A little before 1 PM, I started feeling the urge to push.
The midwife, the nurse, the med student, and Kevin crowded around, I Assumed The Position, and started pushing. Great job! Such a strong push! This baby will be out in NO TIME!
Push. Push. Push. Push.
Fast forward 2 hours. I was exhausted. I couldn’t push any more, and the baby wasn’t making the turn around my pelvis. The epidural had pretty much completely worn off, but it didn’t hurt when I was pushing, which made it somewhat more bearable, even though pushing was really hard. But because it had worn off, I couldn’t take a breather and get my energy back because the contractions were extremely painful. I was becoming frantic.
The anesthesiologist came in and gave me an extra jolt of something via the epidural, I think Fentanyl, that basically made me go completely numb. Couldn’t feel anything. No pain, no pressure, couldn’t even move my legs. It was a very bizarre feeling, but also a good one, because I could get a little rest. Turned off the lights, and I passed out completely for about 2 hours.
In 2 hours, they woke me up. The fentanyl wore off, and I could feel all the contractions again. Time to start pushing again. And so I did. I pushed. I pushed. I pushed some more. The med student had to leave because her clinical hours were done, and I had not yet produced a baby. Oddly, I felt guilty because she had asked to be in my room specifically because it was assumed I would have had the baby before she had to leave, and she didn’t get to catch a baby!
It was at this point that I asked the midwife, “How much longer do you think?” and she paused, and then said, “Do you want me to be honest?” and then I started crying.
By this time, it was dawning on every one that this was taking too long, and I was even more exhausted. I was falling asleep between contractions. The OB on call was brought in. He and midwife each inspected what was going on up there. The OB was a giant. Very tall, very large, VERY VERY LARGE HANDS. Which he put in their entirety up into the birth canal. I was sort of stunned that they fit.
It was determined that the baby was not positioned correctly. He had spent the majority of my pregnancy with his torso/back on the left side of my abdomen, his butt in my ribs, and feet in my liver. He had his head turned the wrong way so every push was shoving him sideways into my pelvic bone, instead of going under it (and out! through the ROOMY PELVIS! Remember how I have a roomy pelvis?!) The Large Handed OB repeatedly tried to turn his head, and every time he would get it positioned correctly, I would push, and his head would shift back into the original position. Don’t forget, the epidural had worn off, so I could feel all of this.
Another hour or so of turning his head, pushing, turning his head, pushing, more pushing, and the midwife and OB delicately broached the subject of What To Do Now. The baby wasn’t moving anywhere, although he was still handling labor very well. His heart rate was perfect. I could have kept pushing indefinitely, and the baby would have been fine.
But I was not fine. My first response when they Delicately Broached This Subject was, “But I really really don’t want a c section!” while crying. His response was, “well…”
I was not fine. I couldn’t push any more. I had been awake since about 8AM the previous morning, so about 34 hours. I had been in labor for about 26 hours. I had pushed for 4 hours. I had never been so exhausted, so entirely drained, or in as much pain in my entire life. My epidural hadn’t worked for 6 hours, other than the 2 hour fentanyl break I got. I couldn’t do it any more. As much as I didn’t want a c section, I couldn’t do it anymore.
I cried. A lot. Kevin went out to tell my parents and his mom and sister all of whom had been waiting for a long time. I didn’t want to see any of them. I was in an exhausted haze, and a puddle of self pity and disappointment and pain. While I waited for them to prep the OR and prep me for surgery, I cried a lot.
They moved me into the OR, and gave me more of the fentanyl in the epidural, and that was the last I felt the contractions. The midwife held my hand while they got the drape in place and hooked me up to more fluids. For the record, by now this was my 3rd midwife. That’s how long I had been in labor. She came on duty shortly before the decision was made that I needed a c section. Kevin got into his scrubs, and took her place holding my hand. I was scared and he was scared.
They started the surgery. The whole thing felt like it only took about 20 minutes to me, but in reality it was over 3 hours from start to finish. At some point, my blood pressure dropped very badly and I started dry heaving. They gave me a bunch of shots, and I was in and out of it. Kevin was pretty freaked out when my blood pressure literally disappeared from the monitor for a bit. From this point on, I felt entirely detached from the entire experience.
I didn’t feel any pain, but I did feel all the tugging and pulling that they warn you about. We didn’t know what Lee was in advance, because I really wanted the surprise, the wonderful moment of hearing “It’s a…!” I got that moment, but like I said, I was pretty detached. They pulled him out, and the Very Very Large OB said, “It’s a little guy!” We heard him cry. Kevin cried, I cried. We have a son! But I felt like it was happening to someone else, not to me. I was working very hard at staying awake, because of all the drugs, all the exhaustion, all the blood pressure dropping. They cleaned him up, wrapped him up, and brought him over to us. The midwife took pictures of him when he was first out, right after he was born, when he was being weighed, etc. They held him next to my head and I kissed him. He was born at 7:35 PM, roughly 27 hours after I went into labor on the way home from the meeting in the South Side.
I don’t really remember much after that. I finally gave in to falling asleep. Or maybe it was passing out. I don’t really know. Kevin held the baby next to me while they were working on me. At some point, it was determined that they needed to scope my bladder. They had to wait for the scope to be brought down, and then no one knew how to use it. That freaked Kevin out. All of this I am relaying from him, I wasn’t even aware it happened. That delayed things. Finally they scoped it, decided everything was okay, and moved on. Kevin was asked to leave. They took the baby back from him and sent him outside to hang out with our families. He told them it was a boy. They cried, he cried.
It was about an hour that he waited in the hallway for me, worrying. Eventually he sent the midwife back in, and by then I was pretty much stitched up and ready to go. It was about 10:30 PM.
My parents came in and saw the baby, then his mom and sister. Every one hugged and kissed, while I tried to stay awake. They finally gave me the baby and I tried to nurse him. He latched but wasn’t particularly interested. I was unbelievably thirsty, but they wouldn’t give me anything but ice chips yet. I downed those and snuck water from Kevin’s water bottle. We snoozed. The nurse kept coming in and pushing on my uterus and I came very close to punching her in the face.
Finally, I was allowed to go up to a post partum room. We got there about 1:30 AM. The wonderful nurse there got me snacks and made me a strange but delicious drink of cranberry juice and ginger ale. Nothing has ever tasted so good. We sent the baby to the nursery for the night, and I passed out harder than I ever have.
It was hard. It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. 27 hours of labor, 4 hours of pushing, an epidural that stopped working, a baby that got stuck despite my roomy pelvis, and finally, a c section, which was something I very much wanted to avoid.
I was disappointed. In myself, in the whole experience. I wanted the “Real” birth experience. I wanted it to be easier. I wanted to feel more present, not like it was happening to someone else. I wanted to not feel like I had failed, like I had let myself and everyone else down. What if I hadn’t wimped out and gotten the epidural? Maybe I wouldn’t have had the c section. Maybe I should have done something, anything different.
Who knows if that would be true? It happened the way it happened. I am still disappointed. The recovery was very hard, perhaps even harder than the labor and delivery. C section recoveries are hard enough, let alone a c section after that long labor and pushing.
But, in the end, it was all worth it.
His name is Lee. He was born at 8 lbs, 10 oz, and 22 inches. We love him.
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