I had no idea how little time I would have for pretty much anything once I had a newborn in my life. No idea. I went from spending hours a day with my laptop on my lap (even after spending 8+ hours a day in front of dual monitors at work) to having only opened it twice since we’ve been home from the hospital. All I could manage to do was post a couple of photos from my phone, just so people knew I was still here and there was a tiny human in my life now.
Baby Nolan departed my womb on August 26, 2012 at 8:46 p.m. and he and I both worked really hard for him to get here. While I was pregnant, I asked a lot of people to tell me their birth stories. I found all of them fascinating, and I’m very excited to put mine into words. There is serious drama and I know it won’t all paint me in a favorable light, but I got him here and that’s what matters.
I’m going to start with sharing a little about what I wanted for my only child’s arrival into this world and I want to make sure it is 100% clear that I do not judge other people’s choices. These are choices I had made for myself and my baby. It has nothing to do with what other people think is perfectly fine or normal or okay. I knew what I wanted. There are things about the current labor and delivery assembly line in this country that really upset me and I wanted no part of it. As you can imagine, and as I was repeatedly warned, almost nothing went according to plan.
We made a birth plan. I wanted minimal medical intervention. I wanted a natural vaginal delivery without drugs. More than anything, I did not want a c-section. I switched hospitals in the beginning because my former hospital system has the highest c-section rate in the state. This was VERY important to me. I’m not going to get into why, but please believe that I understand the necessity of a c-section in certain scenarios and I understand that shit happens, but I think c-sections are grossly overused because doctors are afraid of being sued. It’s a sad reality. As so many people say, all that matters is getting your baby here safe and sound. The second most important thing to me was no Pitocin. For anyone reading this that doesn’t know what Pitocin is, it’s a medicine that is given to women in various stages of labor, typically if it has stalled or just to move it along if the doctor doesn’t feel like waiting. I’d bet money it’s used in like 90% of labors, but I have no idea what the actual statistic is. The normal labor and delivery assembly line has now become induction (with a pill called cytotec), Pitocin (because even though labor was “induced”, the body and baby weren’t ready so things have to artificially be moved along, epidural (what is commonly referred to as “the drugs”), and eventually c-section. Obviously, this does not happen to everyone, but I’d say 8 out of the 10 birth stories I’ve heard went this way. As further example, there were 8 births in the hospital the day I delivered, and I was only one that didn’t have a c-section.
So let’s get to my story. I am not going to tone it down for your benefit. It is totally TMI, so proceed with caution.
Pretty sure that’s a smile.
On Saturday, August 25th, at around 8:00 p.m., my water broke. I had been hardcore nesting that whole day and the night before, putting together a stroller and finishing the nursery so that I’d feel slightly more prepared for his arrival. I finally laid down around 6p or so and didn’t move because I was so exhausted. When I got up to pee at 8p, I thought my biggest fear had come true… I thought I had peed my pants. I quickly realized, after smelling my underwear (yes, smelling my underwear), that there was a good chance my water had broke… two weeks early. I was not ready. Not ready at all. Tony had been getting increasingly anxious for him to get here, but I wanted Nolan to cook until the very end and I was scared as shit to actually go through labor.
After discussing with my doula, Vanessa, and massively being in denial about what was happening, about an hour and a half later… mild contractions started. I knew at this point that my water had broken. I called the hospital and was told to come in by midnight. Again… I felt far from ready, but the clock had started ticking.
We arrived shortly after midnight and I was examined by the midwife. After testing a drop of the fluid she found, she determined that it wasn’t amniotic fluid, but based on my description of events and the fact that I was having some contractions, she said I had a “good story” and she did an ultrasound and confirmed that there were pockets of water, but Nolan wasn’t surrounded by water, and I had likely “sprung a leak” from the top. At that point, they couldn’t let me leave. I was going to have my baby within 24 hours. I was only dilated to 1.5 cm, so she recommended cytotec and Pitocin. I declined both. They took us to our room and I was told to get some rest. LOL. I didn’t sleep at all.
The contractions started to pick up around 5a. I texted Vanessa to be there by 8a, and when she got there I thought I was in the thick of it. Bahahahahaha… I obviously had no idea what was coming. Each contraction was fairly brutal, but short and about 3 minutes apart. I was breathing through them, with the help of some squeezing of Vanessa or Tony’s hand. By 12p, I had gotten in the jacuzzi tub, all modesty completely gone and my potty mouth in full swing. They determined after one of several exams, that Nolan had become posterior and I was having back labor, meaning his spine was on my spine, which was what was making the pain more severe. At this point, I was full blown Hee-Hee-Hee-Hooing through each contraction and I was absolutely horrified at the thought of this continuing. I was yelling things like “I fucking hate this” and “This is awful” and “I’m done”. Vanessa told me I was doing what I had wanted and encouraged me to keep going and told me I was amazing. I did not feel amazing. At around 3p, after an hour of saying I was done, I had them do an exam to see where I was at and I was only at a 5. I knew that meant many hours more of contractions and I asked for the epidural. It had been about 6 hours of the worst pain I’d ever experienced, and I felt insanely guilty for giving into “the drugs”. I should have been able to do it. I could have done it, but I pussed out. The only thing that made me feel justified was that I hadn’t slept in about 30 hours at this point and hadn’t had anything to eat in almost 24 hours. I knew there was no way I was going to have the energy to push him out, and let me remind you that the most important thing to me was delivering my baby vaginally.
My favorite picture so far. He looks like an angry old man!
Every time I made any decision about anything, it took them forever to do anything about it. Once I decided I wanted the epidural, it took them 30 minutes or more to actually get the anesthesiologist to my room to do it. Getting the epidural was a whole other horror story. Tony opted for leaving the room at this point, and I can’t blame him. My contractions were about a minute apart at this point. On the anesthesiologist’s first attempt, he hit something totally wrong and it was insanely uncomfortable. I had become a total bitch at this point and was not taking any shit from anyone. He insisted he had it in right and I insisted he didn’t and made him take it out. Tony was apparently approaching the room right at the moment that I yelled “It fucking hurts!” and various other shouting. While I’m confident that what I was experiencing was far more horrifying, I can only imagine how horrifying it is to hear/see someone you love going through this experience and only being able to offer so much help to them. He was a real trooper throughout the process and by my side through most of it, providing sips of water and a hand to squeeze and counter-pressure on my hips or back. On the anesthesiologist’s second attempt, he kept telling me to stay still… during a contraction. Um… are you fucking kidding me? This is where I decided that only woman who have experienced labor pains should be allowed to be present during labor. Men have no clue what is going on and what they are asking. He got it in right the second time and the nurse put in a catheter since I was now on IV fluids and the goal was to make it so I couldn’t feel my legs. This was also when the blood pressure cuff went on and started taking my blood pressure every two minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes. I hated that blood pressure cuff more than anything and it was on me, squeezing away, until the next morning. It took about 20 minutes for me to feel any relief from the epidural, but it still wasn’t as much as I or they wanted, so they gave me an additional dose of whatever the medicine was. Not long after that, I could still feel the pressure, but not my legs, and was able to sleep for about 20 minutes. When I woke up, about an hour and a half after the epidural was put in, what I feared would happen had, in fact, happened. I had gone back to 4 cm and my contractions were about 4 minutes apart. This started the Pitocin talk.
At this hospital, they do Pitocin “low and slow”, as opposed to loading people up with it like they used to, causing even more intense contractions than regular labor, and sometimes birth defects from the baby being squeezed too hard. The doctor came in to talk to me about it and assured me that we would start at the lowest dose and check in a half hour to see where I was at. I knew I needed to consider it because I was going on 21 hours of labor and although this hospital did not have a hard and fast 24-hours-after-your-water-breaks-this-baby-is-coming-out-one-way-or-another rule (another reason I switched hospitals), I knew I was approaching the point that I’d be taking a risk. I’m not sure what the science is, but you are risking getting an infection at 24 hours after your water breaks. After discussing with Tony and Vanessa, I decided Pitocin was the best course of action and again… compromised my plan. Guilt and fear were weighing on me. It took at least 30 minutes for them to come give me the Pitocin and once it was in, I was scared as shit. Within an hour, they came to do an exam and see how I was progressing and I was at 7 cm. It was certainly doing it’s job and I was starting to feel a pressure that can only be described as needing to take the biggest poop of your life. By now, Tony and Vanessa were at my side for each Hee-Hee-Hee-Hooooo party, and if they tried to leave, I’d whine for them to come back immediately. I think it was around this time that they started to give me ice chips in addition to sips of water. Those ice chips were the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I wanted to start pushing. The doctor came in and his exam revealed I was at 9.5 cm. He left his hand in through that last contraction and pulled something that brought me to “complete”, i.e., 10 cm, 100% effaced and whatever the other thing is that means the baby is low enough that you can start pushing. It was go time. I was terrified. My epidural had worn off.
Transition and Delivery:
I ended up pushing for about 40 minutes, and I was literally screaming with each push. My voice is still hoarse, and I’m slightly concerned that I did some damage. At about 20 minutes in, the evil blood pressure cuff determined that my blood pressure had gone up to 195/110. This is seizure/stroke level and is horrifyingly referred to as a “hypertensive episode”. The doctor was clearly alarmed and kept telling me to stop screaming and to put all of that energy into pushing my baby out. They pushed 3 doses of a blood pressure medication through my IV, but it barely did anything. The lowest it got was 185/95, I think. Tony opted out at this point and was in the corner of the room, facing the wall, drinking juice. I didn’t actually realize it right away because I was so focused on my job. With each contraction, the doctor would tell me “Kate, this has to be the it. He has to come out now.” He grabbed my hand and had me touch Nolan’s head and told me we were past the point of c-section. He was coming out the way he was meant to, the way I wanted him to. It was then that I understood why people opt for c-sections. While they come with their own set of risks and complications, mostly postpartum, the last two hours of my labor (and what followed) were the most horrifying experience of my life. A few pushes before it ended, the doctor did a tiny episiotomy, in spite of it being on my birth plan that I did NOT want an episiotomy. I knew what he’d done immediately and yelled at him, but I realized that in that moment he didn’t have time to talk me into it. Vanessa had been watching and told me later that he was doing a great job of applying counter-pressure and “holding me together”, and helped me believe that if he hadn’t done that tiny little cut, I would have torn much worse than I did. I ultimately ended up with just that little cut and a tiny tear. Quite lucky, or so I’m told. Two contractions and six pushes later, the doctor told me if he didn’t come out on the next push, he was going to have to do a vacuum assist. He was about to explain it to me, but I already knew about it and told him just to do it. Nolan emerged with a little (VERY little) vacuum assist and the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck… twice. My birth plan stated that I wanted skin to skin contact immediately and delayed cord clamping/cutting so that all of the blood from the placenta could run through the cord to my little man and give him as much nutrients/oxygen/life as possible immediately upon entering this world. Well, because it was wrapped around his neck, there was no time for clamping and it had to be cut from around his neck immediately and it was like a splatter film. Blood shot everywhere. That moment right there (and the fact that this doc was determined to let me deliver vaginally since everything else in my birth plan had gone out the window) is where I am most thankful to the doctor. Nolan’s heart rate never decelerated at any point during labor, which is amazing considering what was happening to me, so it must have happened right as he was coming out and turning, and the doctor cut that cord within 4 seconds of him coming out. So thankful.
You can’t tell me you don’t want to bite that little foot!
Nolan was taken over to the warming table to be assessed, weighed, and measured, while the doc waited for the placenta to be delivered and I got sewn up. The shift change was at 9:00 p.m., so the doctor that was taking over assisted my doc in sewing me up, which was weird. It doesn’t seem like a two person job. The doc that took over at 9p already seemed exhausted and put out, which was annoying. I foolishly thought I would be done after he was out, but I so wasn’t. I was so tired and I just wanted to see my baby. The drama had only just begun. Immediately after I delivered, they also started me on a drip of Magnesium Sulfate to lower my blood pressure. Magnesium Sulfate feels like being on fire on the inside. So awful.
Once the placenta was delivered, they showed it to me. Yikes. I love science, and pregnancy and birth are a fucking miracle, but there is also a truly nasty and smelly aspect to it. And, no, I did not poop on the table.
So, again… I thought I was about to finally feel some relief and get to hold (and feed) my baby. No. I couldn’t relax my legs and I had a pain in my right butt cheek that was radiating up my back and down my leg. My abdomen was also VERY sore, but I assumed it was just organs moving back into place. No. They decided to put the catheter back in (why did they take it out?!) and my epidural had long been unplugged. I told them no to the catheter and they told me my abdominal pain was likely because my bladder was distended. Awesome. So, in the catheter went. Fun times. I immediately felt better and Vanessa’s eyeballs nearly exploded when she saw how much came out of me. Thanks for that, nurses. I still don’t understand why they’d take it out. I was still hooked up to an IV for the Magnesium Sulfate and really weak from what I’d just been through, so getting up and going to the bathroom wasn’t really an option. Ugh. Unfortunately, this did not solve my butt cheek pain. When I finally insisted a doctor come in and told him they needed to do something, they re-started my epidural and gave me morphine through my IV. After the first dose, no relief. After the second dose, no relief. I do remember repeatedly saying angrily and whimpery and sometimes crying, “I just want 5 minutes without pain” over and over again, like a delirious person. I do know that Vanessa put the baby on my chest during this time for just a minute or two, but I barely remember it. I really hadn’t seen him yet.
It was probably about 3 hours of me complaining of the pain and rolling around in bed trying to get comfortable before the sleepy doctor came in and actually examined me and said he thought I had a hematoma inside my cervix and that could be putting pressure on something that was causing the pain in my butt/leg/back. The next step would be to do a proper exam with a speculum (keep in mind I had stitches), drain the hematoma, and sew it up and most likely re-do the episiotomy stitches. The doc came in with the anesthesiologist and told me they could give me pain meds through my IV and see if they could get me comfortable enough to do the exam, but they’d prefer to put me under general anesthesia and take me to the operating room. Are you fucking kidding me? I got out of the c-section, only to have to go under general anesthesia and essentially have surgery?! No! No! No! I am absolutely terrified of general anesthesia and told them I definitely did not want that and requested they just give me pain meds through the IV. So they went to town. I was already on the epidural and two huge doses of morphine. They added a huge dose of ibuprofen to that (really? that’s like baby aspirin for me), then 3 doses of fentanyl and 2 doses of lidocaine. I felt awesome now and started going in and out of sleep. Sleepy doctor got called into a delivery and by the time he was done, it had all worn off. Awesome. They pushed two more doses of lidocaine and another dose of fentanyl and around 1:30 a.m. (about 5 hours after I delivered) they came in and said they wanted to do the exam in the OR because it is just a better room and in case something happened, they’d have the tools they needed there. The last thing I remember was being moved from my bed to the operating table and then uncontrollably shaking from fear of them putting me under general anesthesia. The next thing I remember is waking up at 5a in a little recovery area, not knowing where I was or that I had had a baby. When I woke up, it was from a dream that I was watching a surgery from above and it was like a musical number with dancing and stuff. LOL. It only took me a minute or two to come to my senses and I confirmed with the nurse that I had been put under general anesthesia. I don’t remember them attempting the exam at all. I was in that area until around 7 am and then finally taken back to my room, where I could order room service and, more importantly, see my baby. Tony had to give him two bottles of formula overnight, which, again, was not part of the plan. I finally got to hold my baby and have skin to skin contact 11 hours after he arrived.
Because of the Magnesium Sulfate, which I had to be on for 24 hours, I had to stay another night. That first night was nuts. My nurse during the day shift was amazing and taught me how to breast feed and just chatted with me and provided amazing care. She took the blood pressure cuff off, even though she wasn’t supposed to, and instead came in and manually checked my blood pressure every once in a while. They took Nolan to the nurse’s station for a couple of hours so that I could get some sleep and during that time, the doctor that delivered Nolan came in and woke me up (grr) to tell me that he was sorry things didn’t go exactly like I’d planned, but that my BP numbers scared the shit out of him. I groggily told him that I understood. I mean, he helped me get him here and I know he could have easily pushed for and/or scared me into a c-section at any point during that last half hour. That was the last I’d see him. I wish I’d seen him again to thank him more coherently.
The nurse I had that evening was not nearly as warm and attentive as the day time breast feeding guru. She warmed up to me a bit in the end, but definitely not as good of care. She did take my catheter out and took me off the Magnesium Sulfate later that night, so a part of me loved her regardless. She’s also the one that showed me how to care for myself with the glorious peri bottle, Dermaplast and Tucks pads. What a production. Holy crap.
We were discharged early the next afternoon, which was fortunate because Tony was beyond ready to get out of there.
And so our new life began… and we had absolutely no idea what we were in for.
Nolan weighed in at 6 lbs. 3 oz., and 20.3 inches long. He is a particularly sleepy baby, which makes him a lazy eater, so breast feeding has been a challenge, to say the least. We’re working on that.
He is a very serious baby and Tony is having a field day taking pictures of him that we just keep laughing at. Nolan is a side sleeper, like his daddy. He does sleep on his back, but he seems to sleep more soundly when he rolls over on his side.
Nolan’s likes: peeing on everything, sleeping, my boobs, when I sing to him (particularly “The Story of Jack and Jill”), the sound of running water, car rides, and the swing that the Mayners let me borrow.
Nolan’s dislikes: having his diaper changed, being hungry, sponge baths, and the swing that the Mayners let me borrow.
Things I’ve learned so far:
1) I would never attempt labor without an epidural again. Natural childbirth is for superheroes, like my Mom and Tianna.
2) Clothes on a newborn baby boy are pointless. Just keep ’em naked. You’ll still be doing laundry ’round the clock, but you won’t have to bother with undressing and re-dressing him every hour.
3) Just like everyone says, sleep when the baby sleeps. Still working on this one and adjusting to not having time to do anything.
4) Prepare to have little to no control over anything. Just when I think I’ve discovered a pattern, he changes overnight.
5) Breast feeding is much harder than people let on. The biggest challenge so far, for sure.
6) There is absolutely no love like a mother’s love for her baby. Nothing like it.