I’ve decided to do a mini-series on my pregnancy experiences with both of my children. Matthew will be parts 1 & 2 (last week and this week on the blog) and our new baby will be parts 3 & 4. If you missed last week’s post, I recommend you start there to get caught up. (Here’s a handy link to that post if you want to find it fast).
As I do each time I’m pregnant, I re-read a lot of the pregnancy books just to make sure that I’m not forgetting something important (you can find my recommendations here). One of the things that is emphasized over and over in everything I read is that every woman experiences pregnancy differently, and that even within the same woman, her individual pregnancy experience can differ from baby to baby. I was hoping that last part wasn’t true, because I felt like I had a relatively easy first pregnancy experience, but I’ve learned that so far it is unfortunately completely true. My second pregnancy still hasn’t been horrible, but it is way different than my first (and not over yet!). So I figure it may be helpful to other moms to hear about each experience I had, since you never really know what you are going to get!
Part 2: Matthew – Labor & Delivery
There are a few things I can think of which made me grateful that my water broke at 3:30 AM.
First off, I wasn’t at work. I can’t even imagine being in the middle of trying to complete an eye exam and have that happen. I’m sure people would understand, but I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with all the excitement and panic it would have caused for everyone at my job. Not to mention the humiliation on my end. (I really didn’t enjoy the “fluid leaking out of me in gushes” experience).
Secondly, no one else knew. My husband and I are not a “broadcast everything immediately to the world” type of couple. And as counterintuitive as that seems for someone spilling her life on a blog, we like to do things on our own, announcing things to others when we are well and ready to. So it gave us a few hours to digest what was happening before deciding who we chose to share everything with. Pretty much everyone we would be sharing with wasn’t awake yet anyways, so it’d be rude to call them at that hour, right? (I thought it was a good rationalization).
Third, you basically get the hospital and its staff to yourself. We didn’t meet a single soul in the hallways on our way to the unit (other than the security guard who let us in), and were able to be a bit more relaxed about the whole thing. Even though I’m creating a public blog about my experiences as a mother, I’m actually a fairly private person. Perhaps this comes from the fact that I’ve been too trusting in the past, only to be burned later. Or perhaps it comes from my job and the fact that so many people recognize me wherever I go locally. Either way, I was glad to be able to get to the unit, check in, and get changed and settled in the delivery room without having to put on a public appearance. I was too anxious and wanted a moment to be selfish and only worry about myself and my own situation.
So once we were settled in the room, I had to undergo three screening tests to prove that my water had indeed broken. Not surprisingly, they were all positive. Then comes getting hooked up to a ton of different monitors, getting IV lines started in case they need them down the road, etc. And since my Group B test had only been done the day before (and the results were not back yet), I got the preventative antibiotics too as my status was “unknown”.
Thankfully, I had the nicest, most professional, and knowledgeable nurses. I especially remember Kitty, who was with me throughout labor and delivery (more on that later) and Elizabeth who was with us in the recovery unit and really solved a lot of mysteries for us. Without those two ladies, I’m sure I would have been much more of a wreck. However, they were super helpful, kind, informative and always there when you needed them. I will be forever grateful to them for everything they did during our 5 days in the hospital.
So I’m checked in, hooked up, and….waiting.
So far, this is not turning out to be my mother’s experience.
The monitor shows I am experiencing tiny contractions, but I don’t feel anything. I’ve done laps around the unit – as much activity as I can dragging all the monitors behind me and trying not to flash the world in my hospital gown. I met with Dr. Bolander and she assured me that everything with the baby was fine and not to worry. With that knowledge, I was able to convince her to allow me to order breakfast. She said to go easy on it because there was a good chance I was going to see it again later, but I was hungry!! So I went with a hearty omelet, toast and potato and it tasted great (imagine a hospital with good food – crazy – but true in this case!). I was stocking up because I really wasn’t sure when they were going to let me eat again, and I get really ugly when I’m hungry.
After more laps and more waiting, sometime around 10:00 AM Dr. Bolander came back to discuss what’s going on. She does an exam and agrees that nothing is happening. My cervix hasn’t budged, but since my water has indeed broken, the baby will need to be born today. So she presents me with two options – either we wait for things to progress naturally and likely be in labor in the middle of the night when everyone is exhausted, or we use some type of medical stimulant to speed up the process and get things done earlier. I like my sleep, and had already been up since 3:30 AM, so I wasn’t looking forward to unknown hours of waiting for something to happen. I went for option two.
I don’t recall now what the name of the drug was, but I know that it was applied directly to my cervix and was supposed to help soften and dilate it. It wasn’t designed to speed up contractions (I elected not to go with those since my cervix wasn’t close to ready and I didn’t want to be pushing against something that wasn’t ready.) Plus, I’d heard contractions were painful, and who wants to speed up pain? Anyways, they assured me that it would start working in a couple hours and would check back in with me then.
I again requested the option to order food. My nurses looked at me like I was crazy, but Dr. Bolander finally approved lunch and I got a lovely grilled cheese sandwich. I honestly didn’t care if I saw the food again, I just didn’t want to be hungry in the meantime.
Around noon one of the residents checked my cervix and….nothing. I was told they would check again in another two hours. So I forced my poor husband to watch one of the Twilight movies on the hospital TV with me, even though I was much too preoccupied to enjoy it.
Two hours went by and another cervical check. Minimal progress if anything. So a decision was made to give another topical application of the drug. It was applied and then everyone left – after all, the first application did almost nothing to speed up the process.
Turns out that leaving after that second application was a big mistake.
So far labor had been pretty uneventful. My water broke in the early morning hours, I got to the hospital and just sat around eating food and waiting for something to happen. Honestly, I was getting a little bored and was a little surprised by the whole experience. From the stories my mother and father told, I was expecting it all to be over and done with by now. I had also heard stories from other women of hours upon hours of agonizing labor, and that wasn’t my experience so far either. I was happy that it wasn’t, but I was getting apprehensive as to why nothing was happening. I felt stuck in limbo.
The timeline starts to get a little shaky for me after the second cervical application. I know my husband and I sat around for awhile longer, and I know that at some point my in-laws popped in to say hello and see how things were going. (My family all lives in the mid-west, so they were just waiting for news via phone call). Since nothing was happening (and I really didn’t want an audience for when it finally did), my in-laws decided to run some errands and asked us to call as soon as my contractions started.
Then finally, out of nowhere, contractions. Big, painful, take your breath away contractions. It was much more intense than I expected (not like I really knew what to expect anyways!), and I couldn’t find a comfortable position on the bed. I would try laying on one side, then the other, then curl up in the fetal position, then stretch out – no matter what I did the pain was so intense I could barely stand it. Rob just looked at me, helpless to make it go away, and did his best to offer comfort and remind me to breathe. We rang for the nurse and I asked for the nitrous oxide. My husband and I had learned all about the pain relief options available during labor from our Lamaze class, and we talked about how the nitrous oxide seemed the least risky for both baby and myself. I figured I would start with that, but I wasn’t going to rule out more serious pain relief measures if I just couldn’t handle it.
After signing the consent form, my nurse Kitty brought in the nitrous oxide and explained that I was the only person who could control the mask. Breathe in at the first sign of a contraction, let the mask go when I’ve made it through the other side. It wasn’t a perfect pain relief, by far, but it did take the edge off. However, the contractions were coming so quickly and they were so intense, that it really wasn’t enough. After what seemed like only a few minutes with the nitrous oxide, I was still writhing around on the table with each contraction. I gasped out to my husband that I wanted the epidural, and even though I knew Rob was against it, he rang for the nurse. Kitty said she would grab the consent forms. I know it was only minutes (though it seemed like hours), and I had those signed. However, I would have to wait until the anesthesiologist could be located and had a chance to prep for the procedure. My husband later told me that he wasn’t sure how they were going to be able to place it as I couldn’t sit still even for a second with all the pain I was constantly in. Luckily, they didn’t end up having to try.
After only a short while, the pain changed. I was still having contractions, but there was this unbelievably strong, completely irresistible urge to push. I tried as hard as I could to fight it (because at this time I believed I still wasn’t dilated and was going to cause problems if I did push against a nondilated cervix), but it was as if my body was taking over and I had no conscious control over what it did.
So in between gasps of pain, I ripped off my mask, blurred out that the baby was coming, and pressed the mask back to my face while the next wave of pain crashed over me. White faced, my husband rang for the nurse. She ran in, he relayed what I said, and then finally, she took a look down below to see what was happening. The only thing I heard her say was, “Oh my God….crowning. He’s CROWNING!”. There was no one else in the room, no resident, no doctor, and she was trying her best to get some help without leaving me alone.
It was at this moment that everything seemed to slow down. Now, I’ve never had a near death or out-of-body experience, and I’m not even sure how much I believe in all that. But I know that at this point in time my eyes were screwed shut and I was trying my hardest to keep it together and breathe through the pain. I figured my body knew when the right time to push was, even if no one in the hospital had yet told me it was ok. And since it was so difficult to fight against that urge, I just gave in.
Now, this part of the labor is so hard to describe, and I’m not sure I’m going to do it justice, but unlike the intense nonstop contractions which were just one wave of agonizing pain right on the heels of the other, in between each push there was a moment when all the pain stopped. The pushing itself was intense, but then there was this blissful moment of stillness. And during that moment, it was almost as if I could visualize through my closed eyes exactly where in the birth canal my baby was and how much further we had to go. It was the oddest mind-body experience I’ve ever had, but I could feel exactly how much progress he was making each push and how much more was left. And I knew it was going well and that it would be over soon.
And with that, only three pushes in, my nurse caught and delivered my baby boy at 4:43 PM. I later learned that the resident who had been checking in with me all day was walking in the door trying to get his gloves on, and Dr. Bolander was in a different part of the hospital altogether and was unable to get there in time. Kitty was a little shell-shocked that she just delivered the baby (I think it only happened to her once before), but all the remaining staff on the floor came in and mobilized quickly to take care of everything that needed to be done.
Someone gently shook my shoulder and told me to open my eyes. They then placed this tiny, squirming, crying, naked being on my bare chest. I said hello, and he promptly peed on me.
It was love at first sight!
(And thank God the pain was over – at least for a moment. Next up, A Tale of Two Pregnancies Parts 3 & 4 will be released once baby sister arrives – and let’s hope that’s sooner than later!)
All the best,