During both of my pregnancies, I was always intrigued by people’s birth stories. Not in the sense of wanting to freak myself out. But more in the sense of wanting to understand how to advocate for myself and to see how different people approached the birthing process. I read stories of natural births to epidurals; home births to hospital births. None of which prepared me for my own birth stories. But, I did find it helpful leading up so I figured I could share mine in hopes it will do the same for others. This week I’ll be sharing the first part of the story of my son’s birth.
Leading up to my son’s birth, I was definitely naive. I was terrified of having a vaginal delivery due to the recovery and insisted I wanted a c-section. Lucky for my recovery, my doctors office was not one that encouraged elective c-sections for first time mothers. I was working for an agency full-time and in private practice part time, therefore I had a standard maternity leave (approximately 3 months). In the days leading up to my maternity leave, I was nervous and excited. I couldn’t wait for the month I would have prior to my due date to lounge around with my dog, catch up on my TV shows, and eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted without having to worry about anyone else. I had some private practice clients I planned on seeing during this time, but it was limited to about 5 hours a week. I was set!
Saturday morning, May 5, 2020, 3 days after my leave had started. I was getting ready for my 3 private clients. My husband (an avid ultra runner at the time), was running a 20-mile race in a neighboring town. We had an argument the week before about whether or not he should bring his phone on the run, but ultimately the pregnancy card trumped his convenience card. I took my dog on a walk (he’s terribly trained) and he was pulling me and jumping the whole time. We got back to my house (winded) and I sat down to put some decent shoes on. When I sat down, I felt a small gush of water. I was unable to tell if I peed a little or my water broke. It wasn’t what I had imagined from movies or TV shows.
The rational side of me thought, you’ve peed your pants a lot this pregnancy, you’re fine, just go to work. The anxious/emotional side of me started frantically texting my friend forcing her to determine whether or not my water broke (which in hindsight wasn’t my best friendship move). After MUCH encouragement to contact my doctor (I was always so fearful I was bothering her), I called to see what she thought. They told me she was busy, but would call me back as soon as she could. Forty-five minutes later (after calling my husband 5 times with no answer– more on that in a minute), she finally called me back. “Well if you’re not sure, it’s best to just go to the hospital, worst case they will send you home”.
This was both comforting and terrifying all at the same time. She’s right, they’ll just send me home… BUT WHAT IF THEY DON’T SEND ME HOME?! Anyways… I began to run around my house packing our bags. Still trying to contact my husband, I left a message saying “Hey, my water broke, so if you could call me back that would be awesome”. Finally, he calls me back, convinced I was joking (which I would do under normal circumstances). He was then driven out of the race by the Search and Rescue team and started driving home.
On our way to the hospital, we were both trying to talk each other out of what was happening. “They will probably just send us home”, “I’m sure I would know if my water broke”. These little sentiments of denial really helped us not freak out in the moment. Upon our arrival at the hospital, they dressed me in my gown and performed a PH test to confirm whether or not my water had broke.
Welp, there we were. Unprepared to give birth, let alone take care of a baby. Our families came to the hospital as frazzled as we were. He was 4 weeks early and the first grandchild for either side. No one knew what was going on. They gave me Pitocin since I hadn’t had contractions and I wasn’t dilated yet. We all had lunch together (the rooms at this hospital were huge) and laughed and talked as though I wasn’t in labor.
Then it hit… The back contractions.
Look, labor is painful no matter how you slice it. But back contractions are next level pain. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t bend over. It was all terrible. I opted for the meds first, as I didn’t want to get my epidural too soon and stall my labor. The nurse warned me “these don’t help with pain they just take the edge off”. In the most excruciating pain of my life, I didn’t care. Just give me anything that will help. WRONG. This made it worse. The room began spinning and I couldn’t be upright anymore. I had to lay down. But that didn’t help either. I laid there with my eyes closed hoping this feeling would go away soon. (this doesn’t happen to everyone by the way, this was just my reaction to them).
The nurse came back probably 5 minutes later, but it felt like an eternity. She asked if I still wanted to wait on the epidural. I said no. I needed it yesterday. I was 5 cm dilated and I couldn’t take it anymore. The Anesthesiologist came into the room and started asking me all sorts of questions and he could tell I was annoyed. He did an amazing job and I was finally pain free. Now all I had to do was the song and dance of alternating sides every 15 minutes to ensure one side of my body wasn’t more numb than the other. However, every time I turned on my right side, my son’s heart rate would drop. Now I had to wear an Oxygen mask. All in all, it wasn’t too bad though.
A nurse came in around 7:30PM (we got to the hospital around 10:30AM) and said it was time to push. My husband and I had an agreement he would stay by my head and not look. Well, the nurse had other plans. He was right in the thick of things. I pushed for 45 minutes (which I know is ridiculously short, especially for a first time mother) and there he was. It was a surreal moment to see the kid I had been cooking for 9 months, in person. The nurses took him to clean him off. The one nurse started flicking his foot saying “come on, come on” and right then I knew something was wrong.
To be continued…
photo: my son at 3 1/2 weeks old