A lot of people have asked me about my birth story. I've been trying to work on it, and I just have a really hard time. I haven't really talked about it with many people in real life, either. I just don't have that happy birth story that everyone does. And the fact that it upsets me so much upsets me too. And, I'm honestly so tired that it is hard to spend time typing instead of sleeping when the baby is napping. But there are things I don't want to forget, and it's making me anxious to have much more time go by without getting things down.
I know I made a lot of choices that you all would not have made and some of you probably will think things could have been done differently and some of you will disagree with my doctor. I guess I'd just ask you to refrain from sharing those thoughts with me. The could-have, should-have, would-haves overwhelm me at times. Also, please know that the things I think about *myself* are not things I think about other people who made the same labor/procedural decisions. I wanted and didn't want various things for a lot of reasons, but not because I think the opposite of my choices are wrong. I don't ideologically object to IVs or epidurals or c-sections...I just wanted things differently.
So, with that disclaimer, here we go.
On Thursday I had another OB appointment and he said I was 5cm and 80% effaced. He also confirmed that baby was still face-up. He had been face-up on almost every ultrasound throughout the entire pregnancy. Thursday afternoon, I began having a lot of back pain and labor again. I had been going to the pool every night trying to float, squat, lunge, swim and do other exercises to relax, and to see if he would turn. I desperately wanted some relief from the back issues. It seemed that those weren't working, so I thought I'd try some other things. We went with some friends Thursday night to the mall and I walked up and down the flights of stairs, over and over again. I wasn't trying to bring on labor-I just wanted baby to move!
On Friday, I woke up feeling really pretty normal. Then at 8:50, I had my first contraction (I know because I still have the timer on my ipod). Then I had another about 20 minutes later. Then quickly, they were 5 minutes apart. My doctor said that if they got to 5 minutes apart for 2 minutes, to go to the hospital. In the meantime, I ate, and drank and then we took a 1/2 mile walk--all the things you're supposed to do to determine if contractions are false or real. 3/4 of the way through the walk, I knew that something was definitely different. We got home and I started vomiting pretty violently, and then...um, problems from the other end started too. It had only been an hour and a half, but with the two new symptoms of active labor, as well as the persistence through activity, we decided to call the doctor. He said it did sound like active labor, and to go to the hospital.
We got to the hospital and they put me on the monitor in triage. The contractions were exactly the same. We decided to do a check--no change. They told me to go walk around the hospital for a while and come back. So I went and walked and climbed stairs for 2 hours. We went back and there was still no change, though the contractions were still intense and regular. We walked some more, and eventually I made it to "barely a 6."
My doctor came in and he said that he was concerned that my body was in active labor but not making any progress. He said clearly my body knew what to do, but something was holding up the process. He gave me options--go home and wait, rupture my waters, or start pitocin. He said the concern with going home to wait is that there wasn't a lot to wait ON. Labor HAD started, even if my waters hadn't broken. Contractions were regular and intense. He was concerned that there wouldn't be a good cue for when to come back. And he said that the fact that I'd been laboring that way all day with no movement meant that the only thing more time would do was make me more exhausted. He said that from everything he'd seen over the last 9 months and even at the appointment the day before, he thought that moving labor along was my best chance for a vaginal delivery. He knew how important that was to me. I asked him what he and his wife wanted for their own pregnancy and he said that his wife wanted a natural birth. I asked him that knowing that about her, what would he do if she was in that position. He said he'd break her waters. We talked and cried and prayed for a long time, and ultimately decided to break my waters, mostly for his thought that it would give me the best chance at a vaginal delivery.
So, they checked me in and moved me to my room. They came in to do my IV and I started crying all over again. I still just couldn't feel comfortable with artificially moving things along. All those things I learned in classes about the domino effect of intervention just overwhelmed me. And I was exhausted already so I wasn't feeling confident in my ability to make a decision. My mom and Todd and doctor gave me all the time I needed, and eventually I settled down. I told my doctor that I didn't want to be held to a schedule of progression and he said that I could labor as long as I wanted, so long as mine and baby's vitals looked fine. So, we decided to move forward.
I'll just say right now that you CAN fire your nurse. The first nurse they gave me had checked on me a couple of times during triage and I didn't care for her at all. But when she was assigned to me, I knew that she wasn't going to help me stay calm, or labor the way I wanted/needed to. I won't go into details; I'll just say that if you're in a position in labor where your medical staff isn't meeting your needs, ask for a new assignment. You absolutely have the right. We did, and every single hospital staff member I worked with for the rest of my labor/delivery/post-partum stay was incredible.
Anyway, they got me a new nurse and after many tries (apparently, my veins hate IVs!), we got my hep-lock in for an IV. My doctor came and broke my water and it wasn't long before the contractions picked up in intensity. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself and I told him that I hoped not to need his services. He was very sweet and kind and funny but respected my wishes. They asked me if I wanted to sign the consent papers "just in case" and I said no, because if I did change my mind, I wanted it to be slightly difficult and take a few minutes to do so. They said ok.
I labored for about 4 hours. The contractions quickly became double and then triple contractions. I'd have 1, then a 30 second delay, then another, then another 30 second break, and then a third, and then I'd have a break of 3-5 minutes. The contractions were intense but through them I'd just try to tell myself, "I can do anything for 30 seconds!" I labored mostly in my tub. Let me say this loud and clear--that was the best and most effective solution for pain management. If you can labor that way, absolutely do so! For me the best position was on my hands and knees in the water, doing this sort of hula-hoop swivel with my hips throughout the contraction. Then I'd lie down on my side between them. I did ok like this for a while. But pretty soon, the break between them went from 3-5 minutes to 2-3 minutes. I also started vomiting really violently and convulsing. Then I started hyperventilating. I finally told DH I wanted the epidural. He reminded me that I didn't want it and asked me to wait 15 minutes and see if I still felt the same way. I had 15 more minutes of awful contractions and I asked to be checked again. I was "barely a 7." I told DH at that point that I couldn't go through it for what could conceivably be 12 more hours (if I continued at a rate of 1 cm per 4 hours).
I knew that the anesthesiologist I'd met before was off soon, and I thought I'd be more comfortable with someone I'd met at least once, so I wanted to move forward before he was off. He came in and was very reassuring and kind. I was terrified, and I was sobbing for what I felt was "giving in" but he was patient to work through it with me. It was hard to get to a place where there was a long enough break between my contractions but he was very patient to wait. My nurse had wanted to do another 20 minute session on the monitor before administering it but I couldn't stop hyperventilating, so they let me go ahead with it.
I had printed out all the verses that I posted a couple posts back and my mom and Todd hung them all around the room. I kept looking at them, grieving that things weren't going the way I wanted, but still confident that God would bring us through a vaginal delivery. The verses comforted me. Todd and my mom did virtually anything I needed or wanted-helped me move positions, brought food and drink for me (thankfully, my doctor allowed clear foods and liquids in labor!) and were really just amazing.
Once the epidural kicked in, things were a totally different story. My epidural was pretty incredible. It didn't scare me or hurt to go in. And I couldn't feel pain, but I could still feel pressure and movement and sensation and stimulation. One very special gift God gave me was that occasionally, I could even still feel baby kicks. Oh, how I miss baby kicks! I think that those ones I felt throughout Friday's labor (both before and after the epidural) were God's gift to me because everything was happening so quickly. Those comforted me in a way that still brings me tears to think about. I'll always cherish just sitting there and feeling him.
Anyway, my contractions slowed to a more reasonable pace. The vomiting stopped, my heartrate and breathing slowed down and I overall calmed down. They checked me 2 hours after my epidural, and I'd moved to an 8! Woohoo! 2 hours later, and I'd moved to a 9! It seemed that all my body needed was to be able to relax and calm down for things to move along. We stalled out at 9 for a little while but at 4 hours, I'd hit 10 and full effacement. It was time to push! It was between 5:30 and 6:00 am.
I began pushing. My nurse at this time was pretty traditional in wanting me to push in the semi reclined position, pulling my knees to my chest. It worked for a while but I desperately wanted to try some other things. Shifts changed at 7 anyway, and my new nurse was awesome--we pushed on my side, in squat position, semi-reclined, and on my other side. We constantly alternated. Todd and my mom were amazing to provide whatever support I needed.
I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. Despite the epidural, my back still hurt really badly. At one point, the doctor tried to reach in and turn the baby, but couldn't. We did occasional checks and I wasn't moving stations. The doctor said that really only the head was moving down--almost getting squished and sucked. His whole body wasn't moving. At one point they had me sleep through some of the contractions to try to rebuild my strength to see if more forceful pushing would help. Near the end, I was falling asleep between contractions. They'd stopped letting me eat or drink, and we were now nearing noon the next day.
After about 6 hours of pushing, I started vomiting again, and convulsing. I spiked a fever quickly, and the baby's heart rate started to be erratic. At first, it would only be after the occasional contraction, so the doctor was still willing to let me wait a little longer.
However, he said I should start thinking about a c-section, because I had developed an infection, and the baby had started to show distress. He gave us some time and privacy, and at that point, I really lost my head. I was crying and yelling out to God. I looked at the verses on my wall and felt like I was being mocked. I felt abandoned. I felt like I'd just been through hell for nothing-if I was going to need a C-section anyway, why did I labor so long and hard? Why had every hope I had for labor failed? Did I make the wrong decision at the beginning? I was terrified of surgery.
Several times the doctor held the baby through a few contractions just to ensure that I was pushing properly, with enough force, etc, etc. The baby just wasn't moving.
While we talked and I yelled and cried, Matthew's heart rate spiked and stayed high, even when I was not contracting. We decided it was time to go for the c-section and at that point, I sort of shut down. I remember staring blankly as they talked to me about risks and consents. They tried to comfort me, but I was just numb. I felt like I was outside my body, watching this happen to someone else.
We got to the OR and they got everything ready. I asked them to turn on the Christian radio station and they did. Somehow, as angry as I was at God, that comforted me.
They did the procedure. I remember it feeling very odd. I could feel tugging and pulling. At one point, I think someone even laid across my chest to put some pressure on it. It felt like things were taking forever.
Then the anesthesiologist told Todd to stand up and look over the curtain and have the camera ready. And then it still took a few more minutes. Suddenly, I could feel that he was out. He was delivered at 12:59pm--30 hours of labor including over 6 hours of pushing. But things were silent. There were no cries-just a squeak. The nurses rushed him right past me to a table behind my head. I was screaming for someone to tell me what was happening and was the baby ok and no one would answer me. Finally someone told me that he was "stunned" but they wouldn't tell me what that meant.
Then I laid there thinking, "Oh my God, did I wait to long to consent to the stupid c-section? What did I do to my baby?" I cried and despaired some more.
Then I heard the best sound in the world-Matthew's first cry. They showed him to his daddy
And then they brought him to me. They held him down in front of me and I kissed him and talked to him. The moment he heard my voice, he stopped crying. That was the best moment of my life.
I asked if I could hold him longer but they said he needed to go to the nursery right away for medical assistance. DH went with him and I was alone again. I was being stitched up, and I was just alone with my thoughts. I tried to process everything that had happened, but couldn't. I missed my baby and my husband, and I was completely overwhelmed by what had happened.
They wheeled me to recovery and my doctor came in. He said that the baby was really really stuck and that's why I had so much back pain. He said the baby had a large abrasion on his head from the rubbing. He also said that in that position, they had a hard time even getting him out surgically--I wasn't imagining things when I thought they were taking long. DH told me tonight that he saw that they had to use this "pry-bar-like-tool" to get him out. The doctor also said that I could have pushed forever and Matthew never would have come out. He said that given the size/shape/position of my pelvis, it was unlikely that I will ever be able to give birth vaginally. He had double stitched me and did assure me that he practices VBACs and would let me try, but that's something we'll need to talk/think about in the future--I still really can't think about that right now.
Matthew was gone for what seemed like forever, and when he came in, he had an IV heplock in his hand. He also had a bruise on more than half of his head and a huge abrasion on top of the bruise. At that point, I knew we'd made the right decision in getting the c-section.
The rest of Saturday night and all day Sunday were perfect. We snuggled, enjoyed visits from family and friends, watched the Packer game, and just hung out.
Sunday night, they came to take him for his 30 minute IV infusion, and they came back shortly thereafter and said we had a problem. They said his bilirubin levels were very high risk and we needed to intervene immediately. They said our choices were phototherapy plus either IV hydration or formula supplementation. I really didn't want to do either, so I asked if we could do phototherapy and intense feedings overnight and see if that helped. The doctor consented. In the morning, they retested his levels, and they'd risen considerably. We had another decision to make and I had more tears. I'd wanted to exclusively breastfeed and here I was faced with giving that up, too.
We cried and prayed some more, and I went further into my hole that I was in. We decided to supplement with formula, but asked that we do it with a syringe instead of a bottle. We were told he needed to stay under the bili lights and we could only take him out for 30 minutes every 3 hours to feed him. I couldn't handle leaving him behind in the nursery, lying in a bed all alone, blindfolded, wondering where I was and why he was alone.
Monday was a very dark day for me. I lived for those 30 minutes. I'd sleep, get the call to come feed him, get to the nursery as fast as I could, and bask in my baby for the most precious half hour. A nice nurse figured out how to buy me a full hour each time by letting us wear our sunglasses for the second half hour and hold him under the lights. So I'd feed for 30 minutes and then DH would snuggle him and do the syringe feeding for 30 minutes. Like I said, we lived for those minutes. Matthew loves to snuggle right after his feedings. I hated having to put him down in a bed immediately thereafter. I told him that as soon as his levels came down, I'd snuggle him as long as he wanted.
Meanwhile, I hit a very dark place. I cried and cried and cried. I just couldn't get over feeling like I had failed Matthew in every way. I'd had a rough pregnancy and was unable to nourish him properly. I wasn't able to progress in labor on my own. I wasn't able to get through labor without medication I had wanted to avoid. Then I wasn't able to deliver him the way most of the rest of the world can, and then my nutrition wasn't enough for him either. I really despaired before God, and admittedly, I still really struggle with those things. My doctor came to check on me daily and said I could go home Tuesday or Wednesday. I asked if we could wait til Wednesday because I didn't want to go home without Matthew and waiting as long as possible gave me the greatest chance of getting to take him home. He agreed.
That was the longest day and a half of my life. He had gone in around midnight Sunday. On Tuesday morning, they tested his levels again and they were coming down. The doctor said he'd test again at 2:00 and if they were still down, we could take him back to our room--bust him out of what we called "baby jail." I held my breath almost all day.
In the mean time, my colostrum changed to milk and I produced a LOT. We were able to get in some really good feedings and toward the end, Matthew was refusing the formula because he was full. Around 3:00 we got the call--come and get Matthew out of baby jail! And, we could stop with the formula feeds! After all that agony, he'd only had 3 formula feeds.
Here we are, busting him out:
We took him back to our room, and we fed and we napped and we snuggled for hours. Things were righting with the world again.
I had refused to allow the nursery staff to give him a bath. I had missed out on a lot of his firsts because I was in recovery and he was in the nursery. I said I wanted to give him his first bath. The lady on duty at the time we took him out for the last time said that we could come to the nursery and do the bath there if we wanted, so that we could take advantage of the warmer. We thought that was a great idea. Here we are after his bath, and with him in his first clothes.
We came back to our room and just enjoyed the rest of the night snuggling.
Wednesday morning, they had to repeat his levels--if all were clear, we could go home. The doctor finally came in and said we were free to go! My doctor gave me the clear, too! So we spent the morning resting up, packing up, and finally checking out!
We came home and we've been spending our time sleeping and snuggling. I am in a lot of pain from my c-section. As such, all I'm really able to do is feed the baby and snuggle him. I can't lift him yet because I can't bend down enough. I can't do many things because movement is so hard. Truthfully, that's another part of my struggle. Todd and my mom literally have to do everything else. I just feel so--underqualified--to be his mommy. I still have moments where I lie in bed and cry.
I KNOW that the bottom line is that Matthew is here and that he's healthy. I KNOW that at the end of the day, how he got here doesn't matter. But these feelings of failure just haunt me. I did learn about myself that I need to stay far, far away from the natural birth community for any future births. The "your doctor and the hospital are out to get you" tactics really messed with my head when the rubber met the road. At the end of the day, my doctor of 7 years knows me and cares about me, and knows more about labor and delivery and me and my son than some woman who took a 3 day class and met me 12 weeks ago. I know she doesn't speak for the entire natural birth community, but she does speak for a lot of them. I constantly read the same things in books. But I had to trust that my doctor is a godly, educated, respectful man who truly had my best interests and safety at heart. He wasn't out to trick me or take the easy way out or subject me to unnecessary procedures. But the narrative that he was was (is!) really hard to turn off. So I'm struggling through that. The hard part is that I KNOW my narrative and self-criticism are illogical and unreasonable, so what's hard is knowing that I'm enslaved to these feelings in SPITE of those things. I know that most of it is a combination of pain, fatigue, and hormones, so I'm trying to just take it one step at a time. DH and my mom are both wonderful in helping me.
I know a lot of you have reached out to me. This is why I've not been able to reach back. Please just be patient with me. I do love you and your love means a lot to me but I'm just overwhelmed right now and I need time and space.
The happy part of the story is that Matthew is here. And he's healthy. We have his first post-hospital pediatrician appointment in the morning. We need his bili levels to have stayed down and I'm anxious to see how everything else is going.
Matthew is the sweetest, snuggliest, cutest baby on the planet. I'm just in love with him. Feeding is going WONDERFULLY, which is a huge answer to prayer because PCOS women often have nursing issues. I really do praise God for that. We're trying to figure out how to get on top of rest and still attend to his needs. I'm sure things will iron out soon. In the mean time, we're just enjoying getting to know each other. We snuggle all the time.
DH is incredible with him. He's just so cute! I love seeing this side of him and I'm so joyful that God has finally given me that privilege. He's been holding Matthew while I type this, and I think he's shot like 100 pictures in the past hour. It's so cute!
I need to feed him and we all need to get to bed, so I'll sign off now, and just leave you with the best part--more pictures! Thanks for reading this, for your support through this journey, and for your prayers as I heal, in all senses of the word. I know this will pass. Right now I'm just confused I think. But I know I'll understand it better some day, and I trust there is purpose in it all, despite my confusion. In the meantime, as has been the case with everything along this journey, God continues to use it to change and shape my relationship with Him. I am curious to see how/where this new journey will go.
Doesn't this just scream "kiss me!?" I kiss those cheeks and that nose all the time.
Goodnight! Love to you all!