Labor and Delivery
‘Twas an early Tuesday morning around midnight and I was 39 weeks 1 day. Excited for Kade’s arrival, I began feeling contractions that started small and were becoming closer together in time. They would go from 10 minutes apart to nearly 5 minutes apart over the course of 2 hours. Along with contractions, I was experiencing what felt like a terrible stomach flu or food poisoning. Shaking uncontrollably, I couldn’t seem to get myself off the toilet. With the garbage pail in my lap, I was vomiting all the water I drank while waiting for these contractions to get close together.
Previously, I read that some women experience flu-like symptoms as labor begins or as labor is right around the corner. This was definitely it! The contractions were about 5 minutes apart and this is when my doctor said I should give them a call.
I called the doc’s office around 3 that morning and it went to an automated voice message system where I then pressed 1 to be transferred to the hospital’s triage desk. The on-call doctor wasn’t my doctor that morning. The doc who called me back after 1 minute had a male voice and seemed laid back. He told me to “come on in” so I could get checked out. You bet I’m coming in! This experience wasn’t fun and I was so hopeful we’d get to meet Kade soon.
As we shove ourselves and our belongings into the Focus, I’m groaning in pain and agitated we still have an hour drive to the hospital. I had plastic bags shoved in the cubby of the door next to me and one in my lap in case my stomach had more to give. Of course, I was drinking more water because I had to stay hydrated, but I knew I was dehydrated by now. I was losing fluids from all ends and I couldn’t keep them down. I was good for about an hour without puking, so I figured I would try to eat some trail mix to give myself some energy. Luckily, I didn’t throw-up until we were a mile or two away from the hospital… mmm watery peanuts.
We start walking to the Family Birthing Center and I don’t feel the contractions as much—as if they were dissipating. The administration checked us in to the triage room where we waited for the nurse. I immediately changed into the hospital gown because I knew they would be checking my cervix. I was ready to get this baby out!
Unfortunately, the contractions were going away and I was actually frustrated at this point.
The nurse comes in and hooks me up to the fetal monitor where they would watch the baby’s heart rate and watch my contractions to time them. Since I wasn’t feeling the contractions anymore, nothing showed on the monitor other than one decent contraction after 20 minutes or so.
After monitoring me for quite some time (maybe like 30 minutes), they had me pee in a cup to check some numbers. I forget what the order is called but they practically check for proteins and different bacteria. I peed in the cup and went back to lay down where I could relax after practically having the flu for the last handful of hours alongside contractions.
Let me remind you that I was 3 cm dilated at my 36 week check-up (3 weeks prior). The nurse gels up her gloved fingers and finds my cervix. She says I’m 1.5. Chris piped up and asked the gal if that was in inches and she said that was centimeters. So, I asked the gal if it was possible for the cervix to start closing after it had been dilated so far. She said “no” bluntly and that was all.
“Well, at my last check, which was a few weeks ago, my doctor measured me at 3 cm.” I said with a matter-of-fact tone.
“That was an incorrect assessment.” She was awfully curt.
Seriously?! I didn’t know whether my doctor was wrong or this lady was wrong. I decided not to focus on this because the only thing that mattered was whether or not my cervix would dilate more after I walked around the unit for the next hour.
The nurse went to get me water before the walk because she said my urine was too concentrated, meaning I was dehydrated. No way! Not a big deal because I wasn’t throwing up anymore anyway, so I knew I’d be able to keep the water down. She proceeded to mention with a confused and baffled tone in her voice that there was excess protein in my urine. She looked at me with confusion and I told her that was odd—questioning what it meant for me. This nurse explained “typically you’ll see elevated levels of protein in pregnant women just because the kidneys don’t function as well. But yours is even higher than that normal.” She left the room.
Setting my water on the table next to me, she told us to start walking for the next hour and to come back by 5:40 am, so she can check my cervix again. Irritated, I grabbed both cups of ice water and we went on our merry way to walk around the tiny hallways. We were able to leave the unit and walk around the rest of the hospital. We even went up and down the stairs a couple times.
I was already upset that my contractions went away after they were coming closer together in time over the course of 4 hours AND the nurse says I’m only 1.5 centimeters. I didn’t know what to think because I was already so irritable from being pregnant for 1,468 days! Okay, maybe not. But when you’re 40 pounds heavier than normal and all your joints hurt and you can’t even tie your shoes without pain, let alone pick something up off the floor at 9 months pregnant—it feels like thousands of days. I wanted this baby out to the point where I needed this baby out and I was almost certain it wasn’t happening this morning.
While walking the halls, I found myself having to stop to breathe and brace myself against the wall during contractions. They were still coming but they were infrequent and I only had a couple within the hour of walking.
5:40 rolls around so we go back to the triage room to meet with our lovely nurse. After still not having looked into my high protein levels, she was ready to measure my cervix again. She’s feeling around inside me, really trying to focus on what she’s feeling. She says I feel softer than before (more effaced) and that I’m still 1.5 centimeters dilated.
Of course! Ugh.
We talked for a few minutes about nothing of importance from what I remember. Then, she told us to sit tight while she ran to do something. I have no clue what she was doing at this point but we waited for another hour in that dimly lit room. Finally, the nurse comes back and says she will be sending us home since I wasn’t progressing. Surprise!
We went back home and went to sleep.
Two days pass and it’s now Thursday morning around 1:30. Contractions are starting again just like before but they’re even more painful than the ones two days ago. I go through the same thing—flu-like symptoms and the shakes and I can’t seem to get myself away from the bathroom. I start timing the contractions and they appear to be about 8 – 10 minutes apart each lasting for about 90 seconds.
Honestly, I was second guessing myself the entire time because I wasn’t sure if I was timing these correctly since some of the contractions were nearly 2 minutes long. After timing them for about 2 hours, they ended up being within 2 – 4 minutes of each other and still roughly 90 – 120 seconds long. As much as I wanted to believe this was it, I was hesitant in going back to the hospital just to be sent back home. Even though these contractions felt much worse and were closer together than 2 days ago, I was unsure.
I stay laying on the couch with plastic grocery bags all around me. I lay there texting my mother because I was keeping her informed and she was asking all kinds of questions about contractions and how I was feeling. Her impatient self called me instead even though I couldn’t really talk with all the pain. She practically told me to call and they were NOT going to send me home this time. So I called.
The same thing went on, we got in the Focus with plastic bags all around but this time was so much more painful. I couldn’t move and I was incredibly nauseous. The contractions had been going on for a few hours and we arrived at the hospital around 5 that morning. I puked a few times on the way.
I was going to be really pissed if we had the same nurse assessing me in triage this time! Luckily, we had a beautiful young nurse who actually seemed very credible as an RN and she was so helpful! The same things happened. She hooked me up to the monitor, took blood pressure and temperature, and I peed in the cup again. With concentrated urine (again), she brought in some ice water. I knew I’d be dehydrated because how can I stay hydrated if I’m losing fluid over the course of 4 hours?
My blood pressure was slightly elevated in the 130s over 84 or something. Technically, these numbers are in the normal range nowadays (according to textbooks), but I say these numbers are elevated especially for me because I’ve typically been about 100 over 60 throughout my entire pregnancy. Then, to all of a sudden see these numbers climbing… I was kind of concerned. My systolic blood pressure was climbing into the 120s after I hit 34 weeks and this was odd for me.
The nurse brought up my excess protein just like the other nurse had but this nurse was going to check in with the doctor to see what she wanted to do about it. Cool!
The contractions were somewhat minimal again just like the first time we came in and they were starting to go away once we got to the hospital. Yeah, I wasn’t happy about it. So, the nurse measures my cervix and says I’m 3 cm dilated. Hah! The other nurse was wrong and she was trying to override my doctor’s assessment. Boy, was I glad not to have her again!
Since the contractions weren’t what they were supposed to be in order to be admitted to the hospital, we were sent on another journey to walk around the unit for an hour. As we walked, I could feel contractions coming and going but they weren’t near as strong as 2 hours ago. The time was nearing 9 am and we were supposed to meet with the nurse again at 9:35.
It was Thursday, and I was supposed to have my doc appointment at 9 this morning for my 39 week check-up. Looks like I wasn’t going to make it.
We walk around the hall and see my doctor sitting at the computer right when I was supposed to be sitting in the office with her. Chris and I approached her and we were all shocked to run into one another given the circumstances. I explained the pain I was in and that we came into labor and delivery just 2 days prior and they sent me home. She knew I wanted this baby out and she was always willing to do whatever it took to get exactly what I wanted (given they weren’t idiotic). We practically had our appointment right there in the hallway minus the physical assessment. I mentioned the nurse measuring my cervix at 1.5 centimeters and my doctor was adamant that I was definitely 3 cm the last time she measured me. Knowing how frustrated and miserable I was, she looked to see who the on-call doctor was that day to see who would be potentially delivering my baby. Excitement in her tone, she was thrilled to see who the doc was and told me that she would message the doc to try and keep me there in the hospital. Great! Hallelujah!
It’s time to be reassessed to see what my cervix is doing. I didn’t make much progress but the nurse found that my cervix was a tad more dilated, so she called it 3.5 cm, although this was probably part of the trick for them to keep me in the hospital. Maybe they were just saying I was slightly more dilated to show that I was progressing.
The nurse could see I was miserable and we briefly talked about induction for the time being. This came about because they were concerned about my high protein levels that I could be experiencing mild preeclampsia. She left the room so Chris and I could talk it over. I was hesitant about it because I originally didn’t want to be induced but I really wanted to be done with pregnancy and I wanted to see my baby Kade. It would also be nice to get it done and over with, so we wouldn’t have to be apprehensive about running to the hospital over the next week or so. With only one car and Chris working, it was becoming a little complicated.
The nurse came back after a few moments and said that the doctor won’t be in until noon (it’s almost 10) and they only had one nurse staffed to take in any urgent deliveries and there was another woman being examined in the room next door. She said we wouldn’t be able to do the induction that day anyway.
I was so bummed! And so sick of being pulled back and forth with this false labor along with being given incorrect information from poor assessments. When would this ever end?!
She checked my blood pressure again and it had risen to the 140s over 90. The nurse seemed shocked but waited a few minutes to measure me again before she left the room. Again, the numbers were slowly rising. This time closer to 150. She left the room to notify the doctor.
After coming back, she informed us that they will be inducing me because they are afraid I could become sicker if I don’t get this baby out. They explained that I didn’t quite have preeclampsia yet but my body was gearing up toward that direction. So, what they really meant was that I had begun mild preeclampsia but it wasn’t classified as severe since I wasn’t experiencing headaches or vision changes. She was going to get us admitted and the other nurse was going to setup the room.
How great was this?! We’d finally get to meet our baby boy soon.
We were in our room by about noon or so and they wanted to get an IV established, so they could administer fluids and Pitocin. Two different nurses attempted to get an IV in my forearm (2 stabs on either side) and finally by the 5th poke, they were able to get it in my left hand. It was absolutely gorgeous.
They were originally trying to put it in a more comfortable spot so it would be easier while breastfeeding. Oh well. I didn’t care at this point.
Right around 1:40 pm, the Pitocin was started. My blood pressure was taken again to see where I was before the induction began. It was 170s over something (I can’t remember) but the nurse was nervous and took it manually because she wanted to make sure the automated machine wasn’t kidding her. It was right. Now, I was getting nervous because I knew this was the start of intense labor. I braced myself, knowing everything would work out perfectly.
To my surprise, the doc was going to let me eat something since I hadn’t eaten for about 16 hours and labor was just beginning. I was starving! I decided to go for something easy like vegetables, so I ordered a salad. I chose a fattening dressing for at least some calories, so I chose ranch. The food arrived and I was excited to eat, so I put the ranch over the bowl of salad and grabbed the bowl off the table with my left hand.
Forgetting to be cautious with the IV in that hand, the tubing caught on the bed rail, which made me turn my hand and dump half the salad on my bed… I ate what was left.
Over the next several hours, I was having small contractions. Smaller than the ones I was experiencing when I originally came in to triage that morning. They weren’t a big deal. It was actually a lot nicer than being at home because I wasn’t throwing up and I wasn’t nauseous either. The contractions were still far apart at like 5 minutes, so the doc didn’t come in to check my cervix again until around 6 pm. 5 centimeters dilated now and they decided to break my water in this hour.
Once they informed me of this, I was ready to feel some water trickle out of me and I figured the contractions would become a little more intense once this happened. Nope! The water rushed out of me like a dam opening up except the water was about as hot as a hot tub or freshly brewed tea and it wouldn’t stop flowing! I would move a tiny bit and tons more water would pour out. How much more could possibly be in there?! Doc said the amniotic fluid was tinged with meconium, so they informed the NICU team to be there for delivery just in case.
Already, my belly became a lot smaller and I could see Kade’s body molded beneath my skin.
Man, were the contractions strong! They cleaned me up as much as they could and had me use the bathroom afterward. I’m not entirely sure why but I have some guesses. As I was walking out of the bathroom the nurse asked if she should call the anesthesiologist for the epidural. I laid back down on the bed and asked if it was one of those hospitals where you page the person and it takes them an hour to arrive. I wasn’t asking to be rude but I wanted to know how instant he would come to my room since I wanted to wait it out a little longer for the experience. She told me he would get there instantly. After waiting just a few minutes, I gave her the okay to call.
In the midst of waiting for him to arrive, she gave me the lowdown of how the procedure was supposed to go and what I needed to do. My main take away note was that the numbing shots hurt worse than the epidural itself and I only needed to hold extremely still when he was putting the needle in my spine. Got it.
I had to sit on the side of the bed and put my head on the table just like a grade-schooler trying to take a nap. This position would open the vertebrae enough to make an easy insertion point for the epidural catheter. The first shot was painful but tolerable. The next shot was way more painful than the first! I couldn’t breathe but at least they waited in between contractions to do these.
By now, the epidural didn’t hurt one bit. But the contractions were getting worse and that was all I could feel as I was hunched over the little table. The anesthesiologist informed me of the meds he was injecting through the catheter and I was prepared to feel some relief. Within seconds my toes were tingling with numbness and it crawled all the way up to my nipples. It was paradise! The pain was gone and it was completely euphoric. Actually, I started laughing because it felt so funny but so amazing. My body was incredibly itchy. I could probably scratch myself all over until there wasn’t any skin left.
To finish off, he practically super-glued the line to the catheter all the way up my back and it felt like a cold, wet gel. Then, he taped over the sucker. It wasn’t going anywhere!
The nurse asked me what my pain level was as I was laying back in the bed. What was previously a strong 10 became a complete 0. I felt amazing. I thanked the “hospital hero” and he left the room.
The epidural was so great and I kept a smile on my face throughout the rest of labor and even delivery. The doctor and the nurses loved it since I was so easy going. I could just lay in bed and relax until it was time to start pushing. Although I could still feel the contractions, they were no longer painful. They were more like feelings of pressure.
Throughout the next handful of hours, the doc was coming in to see how much farther my cervix had opened. I can’t remember the sequence of numbers but it seemed close to dilating 1 cm every hour or hour and a half.
I had finally hit 10 centimeters after midnight and I caught a glimpse of the doc’s gloved hand after she checked me. Her hand was balled up in a fist like she was holding something and all I could see was slimy blood hanging out of the side of her hand. Seriously, it looked like she just gutted a trout by the way the blood was hanging off and how her hand was covered. Wow!
It was time to start pushing (1:40 am) but the doctor wasn’t going to be in the room until the baby was crowning. Yes, she came into the room off and on to see how things were progressing and she was really great at encouraging the strength of my pushes. They all said I was a really good pusher for a first-time-mom and having an epidural. Thank you?
During the pushing, I was laying on my back with Chris on my left side holding my left leg up to my chest and the nurse on my right side doing the same. I had to grab behind my knees and pull my legs in toward my chest while I pushed as hard as I could for ten straight seconds. Then, I would take a breath and push for ten more seconds. Not realizing how firmly I was squeezing my legs with my hands during the pushing, I left finger-print bruises on myself. This went on for awhile as my contractions were still about 3 minutes apart. It’s as if the Pitocin wasn’t quite enough to bring the contractions closer together. So there was a bit of wait-time between pushing.
Even though I had the epidural, the nurses were impressed because I could still use my legs. Part of the pushing entailed me squatting on the bed and holding handles to help keep myself up. This was a nice change.
Poor Kade was just hanging out in the birth canal, sliding up and down in there with each push and pause. He spent 4 entire hours in the birth canal while I was pushing my guts out.
At one point they asked if they should bring the mirror in so I could see what was happening. I said yes. Although I felt kind of weird about it, why should I? Everyone else was seeing what’s going on between my legs, so I wanted to see too. I mean this is my body and I was curious. Sure enough, I could see the top of Kade’s head trying to protrude out from my body along with a trickle of blood. His head would slowly disappear when I stopped pushing. We were just watching his head being squeezed and rubbed to death. He had very little hair on his head and it was a golden brown like his dad’s.
I also saw a hemorrhoid in that mirror. This may sound like a lot of gruesome and personal information but I’m putting forth the cold, hard truth of my experience. It’s not to be embarrassed about but it’s to share my story with others who relate or are curious about what their experience might be like. I’ve heard hemorrhoids are super painful and awful to have, but when your vagina has been ripped open, you don’t even know the hemorrhoid is there. It’s nothing at all in comparison.
Overall, it was a terrible image of myself. Not because I had a baby trying to rip me apart, but because my legs and lady parts were extremely swollen. I knew this is not what my body looked like. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t there to win a beauty pageant. I was there to bring a handsome baby boy into this world and that thought was empowering enough for me to not be concerned about my vulnerable, struggling little body.
Eventually they took the mirror away. There wasn’t any use for it anymore since the doc had to be hands-on with me. She was trying to stretch me open more alongside the nurse. The stretching of my perineum wasn’t pleasant and I knew it was only going to be worse once Kade had actually crowned. I was so nervous of how the tearing would feel, so I hit my epidural pain-button just in case.
Since he was stuck for so long, the doc was going to vacuum him out of there. I didn’t really want that to happen but I was ready for him to come out already! I kept pushing and pushing as hard as I could.
After several more minutes Kade had finally crowned and the NICU team was coming into the room shortly after. I felt a lot of pressure in my perineum and then it gave-way. None of it was truly painful but my mind made it painful because I was only imagining what was really happening down there. The thought was awful. I never actually felt Kade come out. I just felt all of the pressure from crowning and then there wasn’t any. Chris wasn’t able to cut the cord because it was wrapped around Kade’s neck once and the doc wasn’t going to waste any time.
Kade was born September 22, 2017 at 5:41 am. He was nearly 21 inches long and 1 ounce shy of weighing 7 pounds. He was absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, he was born with an abrasion on the back of his head about the size of a quarter. This was due to his head being rubbed up and down so tightly in the birth canal for so long. Poor Kade—but poor me also! The abrasion is now completely healed and the scab disappeared by week 3. No scarring and he still has hair there.
Everything happened so quickly. The next thing I know, the nurse is ripping the buttons off my gown to expose the skin on my chest and a bluish baby was set on top of me. Covered in white gunk, I was relieved. I didn’t want any of that goo on me but I held him anyway because you really can’t help yourself. You don’t care.
Seconds later, Kade was taken off me and my hands were being scrubbed to death with a wet wipe (or something similar). The nurse was on top of things! Things were happening before I could even think. The Respiratory Therapist suctioned Kade’s lungs twice for meconium and I was hearing him cry here and there.
Chris was watching all that was happening with Kade and I was stuck laying there in exhaustion. All of a sudden, I feel pain worse than what the contractions felt like before the epidural! Doc was pushing on my stomach with what felt like all her might. That was probably the worst pain of it all. She kept doing it and doing it. Then, she did it some more. The nurse even had a turn. I thought they were trying to kill me. I asked what they were doing (thinking they were trying to push the placenta out or something) and they said it was to stop the bleeding. I kept bleeding for a little while longer but eventually it stopped. The medication they wanted to give me was contraindicated for people who have any severity of asthma. Luckily, everything went well.
The doc stitched me up and I didn’t feel any pain with it—just the tugging of pulling the threads through my flesh. I felt like a stitched doll. Most of my tearing was upward with very slight tearing to the left side and below. Sometimes I swear the doc sewed my vagina shut because there doesn’t seem to be an opening down there anymore but somehow blood finds its way out. (TMI? Meh, it’s all fun.)
I was able to hold Kade for a little while before they made me do anything else. He was so sweet and innocent. He took to breastfeeding without a problem and I wasn’t even sure if I had anything to give. The nurse was open enough to squeeze some colostrum from my left breast, which amazed me that I even had anything in there.
Once everything was said and done, I was able to have the epidural removed and I was finally unleashed from the hoses hooked to the IV pole. I was all suited up with a giant hospital-sized pad that was big enough to extend from my belly button to my lower back. This was crazy and it felt awful with those lovely hospital mesh underwear. Plus, they put a foot-long perineal ice pack in it along with witch hazel pads. I’d never had so much stuff in my groin region before. It was all a lot to change each time I went to the restroom.
My legs were so weak from the medication in the epidural and my body ached from so much pushing along with being awake for like 50 hours. That’s no exaggeration.
Not long after delivery and settling down, the new day shift nurse comes in and says we are going to be doing some walking and other things. I said “What?!” and she left to get something. I have no clue what it was because I passed out! I was not going to be doing anything until I could rest for at least an hour or two. I was dog-tired.
In the end, I was given all the shots I needed in my pin-cushion body before we left the hospital. I can’t remember the count but I know I was poked with needles at least 16 times during my 2-day stay.
People aren’t fooling around when they say there’s some sort of amnesia that comes with birth. Maybe part of it has to do with the complete exhaustion and being awake for so long. But maybe there really are hormones that make us forget the terror and agony we go through during this time. Although my experience was 1 month ago, a lot of it is foggy already. Even pregnancy is foggy and I swear I was just pregnant. I remember hating it but I almost can’t remember the misery and physical feeling. It’s baffling but the body works in magical ways.
*My blood pressure remained in the 140s throughout the labor and by the time Kade was out and we were settled down, it was back to normal. *
Was labor and delivery the most painful thing I’ve experienced?
Would I do it again?
Meeting my baby was truly a blessing and time stopped for a minute when I was actually able to look at him and hold him. Plus, seeing Chris fall in love with his son the moment he was able to hold Kade for the first time was so meaningful and joyful that I would do it all over again. Falling in love is one thing, but becoming a family is a whole new kind of love. Maybe that’s the magic which takes all of the thought of misery out of the equation.
Was this the most vulnerable I have ever felt?
Yes, because having an extremely swollen body with my legs open for hours for anyone to see was rather embarrassing. I felt vulnerable for a short while, but once I realized how amazing it is to be delivering a child, all vulnerabilities disappeared. Everyone in the room was there to help me with every need and most of the people there have been in my position as well. I may say I felt so vulnerable (because I was in the beginning for a minute) but when you deliver that baby, you walk away from the room saying “I dominated that delivery! I feel amazing to be small again and I performed a miracle!” Nothing about it is shameful. Nothing. I don’t care what size or shape you are or which way you delivered (epidural, no epidural, c-section, etc.), but you did it! And you are incredible. Nothing is more empowering.
My Take Aways
Pregnancy and L&D is tough work, but it’s life-changing in so many good ways.
L&D is only scary if you let it be.
Getting an epidural does not make you less of a woman. Your body still goes through the same series of events but you probably have the ability to enjoy it a little more than not having the epidural. I would get it again. I was able to smile and laugh the entire time, which made the atmosphere fun. We had some great and fun conversations with the nurse that night and she even admitted that it was entertaining and didn’t want to leave.
False labor is miserable but I might experience this in the future as well.
Expect immediate contractions once your water breaks.
Just like the cliché says, it’s all worth it.