I’ve been working on this post for a week. It just seems stupid to use my free time to blog when I haven’t gotten four consecutive hours of sleep in two weeks. I’ll say it again: I don’t know how you mom bloggers do it. Anyway, this was supposed to be a relatively brief and light-hearted “birth story digest,” but it somehow turned into the Moby Dick of birth stories. So I did some trimming. I didn’t think you guys would mind.
Midnight, December 11. After watching a dismal 30 minutes of SNL (Dear Katy Perry: just…no), we turned out the lights and went to sleep. I dreamed my water was breaking and I woke up at 12:30, soaking wet. (waterproof mattress pad = success!) My husband called our doctor’s after-hours line and he told us to head to the hospital. When I got there, they confirmed the rupture, “checked” me (a procedure that sounds simple but actually hurts like bloody hell), did some monitoring and put me in a totally dope LDRP room that would be our home for the next three and a half days. I still hadn’t had any contractions so they induced labor around 2 a.m. (Sidenote: If you ever have kids, you should really try to go into labor after a solid night’s sleep. Losing a whole night before we even got started ended up sucking balls, but I’ll get to that.)
Contractions started quickly and forcefully. I’m told pitocin makes them harsher, as did the lack of amniotic fluid, which would have provided some cushioning. This is the part where I try to convince you that my contractions were worse than anyone else’s in the history of childbirth. I KNEW labor was going to be unpleasant, but nothing could have prepared me for this special kind of agony. My friend Jill said it’s like your worst period cramps ever, times 10, with knives. It felt like a red hot ball of pain radiating out from my gut. The next seven hours is a blur. I mostly spent the time doubled over the bed, a chair or a birthing ball, breathing out curses in a tight whisper. The contractions quickly went from 2-3 minutes apart to what seemed like one long, endless contraction with barely a pause in between. I’d start to stand up, and be racked with another one almost instantly. My husband, just as sleep-deprived, rubbed my shoulders, pushed on my back, held my hand, breathed with me. My parents were at the hospital too but made themselves scarce: my mom checked in every once in a while, cringed and fled the room; my dad wisely stayed in the waiting room and read a book. (I think he read about 11 during the course of their visit.)
9 a.m. This is the part where I tell you how I finally couldn’t take it anymore and conceded to the epidural. If there was any hope the contractions weren’t going to get worse, I might have hung in there a while longer, but it was still early. I was in tears and nearly passing out from exhaustion despite the pain. When I came into the hospital, I was at 1 cm and 0% effaced; after seven hours of contractions I was at 4 and 90%, which they said was fantastic progress. When my nurse went over the options with me, she said I could have narcotics by IV, which would last anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours OR might not work at all; or an epidural, which would last indefinitely and totally eliminate all the pain. I decided not to fuck around: I went for the epidural, and let me tell you, it was fanfuckingtastic. They warned me it would hurt, and it was definitely hard to sit still during the procedure while I was still in agony, but the sting of the needle was a walk in the park compared to the contractions. Thirty minutes later, I was in bed, blissfully unaware of my ever-stronger contractions and clapping myself on the back for making such a wise move.
This is the part where everything started to go downhill. I couldn’t feel the contractions anymore, but the monitor showed every time I had one, the baby’s heart rate dropped. After a couple of alerts, they gave me oxygen and stopped the pitocin drip. I also got an amnio-infusion to replenish the fluid I’d lost when my water broke. The nurse gave me a pep talk that began, “I’m going to be honest with you…”
3:30 p.m. A major blow to my fragile, sleep-deprived psyche when my doctor tells me I have made virtually NO progress since the epidural (seven hours earlier) and I’m still at 4 cm. He believes her head is tilted, and the contractions aren’t pushing her down in the way that promotes dilation/effacement. Since we’re going on 16 hours from the water breaking, there’s a risk of infection and he recommends a c-section. The upside: labor is over. The downside: I’m about to have a big hole cut in me. I realize at some point in this monologue I’ve slipped into the present tense….
This is the part where I try to forget I am utterly fucking terrified. They wheel me into the OR and start prepping me for surgery. A Brazilian wax joke gets me a few laughs. They pump me up with another epidural that paralyzes me from the chest down. (Sidenote: my anesthesiologist was this loudmouth Kathy Bates type and I absolutely adored her.) It’s sort of funny to watch my legs flop around like they belong to someone else.
I stare at the ceiling while my doctor cuts me open. My husband watches over the dividing sheet in rapt fascination. Every few seconds he tears his gaze away from the carnage and gives me an encouraging nod. It only takes a few minutes, and doesn’t hurt in the least, but I feel tremendous pressure as my innards are not very delicately shoved around and they pull out my kid. They whisk her across the room where a gaggle of nurses is waiting. Ten long seconds go by before we hear her start to cry. The whole day suddenly catches up with me and I begin to sob uncontrollably. My doctor tells me to hold still because he’s still all up in my junk.
This is the part where I tell you how it took them 20 goddamn minutes to stitch me up and my husband is the first one to hold the baby. When they’re done toweling her off or whatever it is they do after a baby is born, he is allowed to bring her over and hold her near my head so I can see her. I sort of kiss/slobber all over her face, still blubbering and sobbing, and now shivering uncontrollably from the anesthesia.
Freshly injected with morphine for the pain that will come when the epidural wears off, I am wheeled back to my room with my freshly extracted kid tucked into my arms. (Don’t worry, they made her a little nest by cramming a couple of pillows between her and the edge because, safety first!) Someone forgets to tell me I’ve just had major surgery and I try to go traipsing around like I haven’t just had major surgery.
Sixteen hours later, the morphine wears off and I am in a world of hurt. Whoever said a c-section is “easier” than traditional childbirth can smile and blow me. (“Smile and blow me” is still a thing, right?) On top of that, I’m still having pretty fierce contractions every time I breastfeed, something else nobody told me. They’re almost as bad as the contractions I had during labor, and I let the nurses feed me Percocet and Naproxen after confirming half a dozen times that it won’t hurt the baby.
This is the part where I reflect. It seems to me that in my case, pitocin –> epidural –> c-section. I’m told the epidural is not what halted my progress, but it seems an incredible coincidence given the timing. That said, do I regret having it? Fuck no. I was in agony and would have agreed to birth the baby rectally if that’s what it took to ease the pain. I think what really screwed me was the water breaking so early and the contractions not starting on their own. I could have refused to go to the hospital until contractions started, assuming they would have started eventually (thus perhaps avoiding pitocin and perhaps avoiding the epidural), but I’m not a doctor and I have no business playing those odds. Yeah, it would have been neat to watch her come out, but in the end, we got our baby friend, so I’m happy, and I think she’s happy too. Or sharting. It’s hard to tell.