To the faint of heart – this is a birth story. I’ll use icky birth related words and mention things you may not want to know about me. You’ve been warned.
Brad and I made it to the hospital without any crazy antics (no cartoonish grab-the-bag-and-leave-the-wife-behind moments). We were both calm and cheerful, even making jokes during the drive. Even though I was still having contractions every two minutes, I honestly thought that I was going to be sent home. The hospital was quiet when we arrived with just two nurses at the station and no one else around. I was quickly checked into a waiting room. I climbed into a paper dress, and the nurse checked out the situation. I was 2 cm dilated – I was having a baby after all!
They officially admitted me to the hospital right about the time my mom arrived, roughly 2:30AM. As I settled into the hospital bed, Brad pulled up a chair next to me and held my hand. He held my hand for hours – and if he needed a drink or bathroom break, my mom took his spot. I swear, holding their hand got me through the pain and anxiety. I focused on my breathing and on Brad’s (or my mom’s) hand. In fact, the one thing that most prominently sticks out in my mind about the labor was how happy we all were. There were smiles and laughter – honestly, never a terse word spoken – which I still can’t believe. I honestly thought labor would bring out the worst in me, considering the hormones, pain, and lack of sleep. Other than the one incident in the closet at home, my birthing coaches weathered my labor unscathed.
As I had tested positive for group B strep (a bacteria that 25% of healthy women have naturally in their systems), I had to receive antibiotics intravenously during labor and delivery. The antibiotics basically safeguard the baby from a possible infection. This meant, of course, that I had to get an IV. A nurse I didn’t know placed the IV, and it was very uncomfortable from the word go. I swear that thing bothered me the whole delivery, especially when they administered the antibiotics every four hours. It burned! Which leads me to mention . . .
I have a notoriously low pain threshold (I’ve been known to collapse when stumping my toe), so I’d been stressing for weeks about how I would ever get through labor. Here I was, breathing through the pain like a champ with a smile on my face, no less. (To be fair, I mostly smiled between contractions). Don’t get me wrong, it was painful – which was why I was so proud of myself!
One thing I didn’t expect: my body was shaking uncontrollably. I literally couldn’t stop shivering. My nurse Kristen explained that it was the rapidly increasing hormones as my body prepared for labor. I think it was a combination of hormones and nerves. Let me tell you, I definitely felt nervous when I got into the delivery bed! Kristen brought me a heated blanket, and I finally relaxed enough for the shivering to stop.
Around 5:00AM Kristen decided to check my status again; I was 6cm dilated already! Considering how quickly I was progressing, I needed to make a decision: epidural or natural. On one hand, I was getting through the contractions fine, though they were definitely more intense. On the other hand, I kept thinking, “I really need that epidural.” I’m not sure if it was just my fear or if it was intuition talking, but something told me to get the epidural. I talked it over with Brad and my mom, and we all agreed – epidural it is!
The anesthesiologist came in and started prepping me. I sat on the edge of the bed while Brad held my hands. We chatted and laughed – the atmosphere in the room was downright cheerful despite my contractions. The doctor administering my epidural was shocked to hear I was already at a 6; he said most women would be yelling by this point. [Quick aside – one of the things I most dreaded was screaming or grunting during delivery. My mom said I was crazy – there’s nothing lady-like about delivering a baby – but I thought it would be so embarrassing to lose control like that.]
The worst part of getting the epidural was actually the tiny little needle the doctor used to deaden the area. I couldn’t feel the huge needle at all, though I did feel pressure. He taped the tubing on my back, and I made a point to never drag my back across the bed. I had heard that if the epidural placement shifts, your pain relief isn’t as good.
The epidural kicked in within 30 minutes; I didn’t feel any pain at all! My legs were heavy and felt rubbery – such an odd sensation. After about ten minutes I realized that I was feeling dizzy and lightheaded. I mentioned this to Kristen, and she took my blood pressure again. My blood pressure had dropped quite a bit, so they gave me a shot of ephedrine. This is one of my only complaints about my hospital experience. No one explained to me what the ephedrine was or what it would do. Considering I was trying to keep my childbirth a little-to-no-drugs zone, that did bother me a bit. However, the shot of ephedrine into my IV worked great. Within 10 minutes, I felt normal again – and still no pain, only pressure when a contraction occurred.
Kristen’s shift ended at 6:30, and as it was already 6:00, she decided to check me one more time before the next nurse’s shift started. Lo and behold I was already 9.5cm dilated – only 0.5cm to go! We couldn’t believe it! I had gone from a 2 to 9.5 in just four hours. At this rate, baby girl could be born in just an hour or two! We predicted I would have the baby by 8am, and we all started to get more and more excited.
Brad began making some phone calls to get family on the way. We were afraid they might miss the birth, considering how fast it was going. Right about this time, Dr. Orth – my doctor who I love, love, love – dropped by. I was overjoyed that she was the doctor on call. She checked me again. [Side note – I know some women find the cervical check painful but for me it was just a tad uncomfortable.] Dr. Orth confirmed that I was 9.5cm, and I believe at this point they broke my water – though honestly, I didn’t feel it, and I don’t really remember anyone talking about it. During labor, you just sort of get used to things happening downstairs.
Then came the first bump in the road. Dr. Orth noticed that Vivian was no longer facing down, the easiest birthing position. She was “sunny side up”, meaning her face was looking to the ceiling instead of the floor. Sunny side up makes birthing more difficult because the baby can’t lower her chin to get past the pelvic bone.
Apparently, Vivian had decided to turn since my last ultrasound a few weeks before. Because of this I now question my decision to get an epidural. You see, epidurals often relax the pelvic muscles, which in turn gives the baby more room and can allow them to turn. On the other hand, perhaps Vivian was turned the whole time, and the epidural gave me the pain relief I needed to stay calm and persevere. Little did I know, the baby wasn’t coming by 8am as we’d all predicted!