Disclaimer: Much of this has been written off and on for the past few days, often with one hand as the little one napped in the crook of my arm or on my chest. Sleep deprivation has also impaired my ability to communicate effectively in writing, so please forgive spelling, grammatical, and tense errors. This is also very very long, as you would expect when experiencing a complicated and dramatic 36 hour labor. You have been warned. Carry on. Oh, and “Vegas” has also been replaced by “RR.”
I had written a post a while back entitled “Worst Case Scenario” that I never published – it was about my own personal opinion of what what the least ideal labor and delivery experience would be for me. Had I published it, you might have been able to follow along at home starting around 9am on Wednesday June 23rd. Although beforehand I considered what happened to be the worse case scenario, having gone through it all, I wouldn’t go back in time and change anything, really, as I feel like I’ve realized that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was. And that I have the most wonderful and supportive wife ever.
Wednesday, June 23
At our OB check-up (on the due date) that morning at 8:45am, she checked my cervix to find that I was only dilated 1cm and only 50% effaced. We were obviously disappointed, and figured we were in for a one or two week post due date delivery. Sigh. However, for the first time ever, my blood pressure was high (like, 140/80, high – for a 120/80 type of girl), with a bit of protein in my urine. They sent us over to labor and delivery for some “monitoring.” And, jokingly, a “tour of labor and delivery!”
We ran home so that my wife could change clothes (from work clothes, to “monitoring” clothes), and sort of mockingly pick up some extra things to throw in our hospital bags, which we already mockingly threw in the car on the way to the appointment that morning. We headed to the hospital and checked-in at labor and delivery where the nurse pointed out our significant lull in time between when the OB called them to let them know we were heading over. The OB said the monitoring would take 2-4 hours, so why rush my 1cm dilated and 50% effaced self?
“Monitoring” basically meant that they hooked up a fetal monitor and contraction monitor to my belly while I stretched out on the bed in one of the birthing rooms. My wife scoped out the jacuzzi tub and birthing ball while I got to know nurse number one (of how many, you ask? Oh, you just wait.) The room itself was lovely – it had a mural on one wall of ivy and a trellis (future focal point?), a rocking chair, and a recliner. RR’s heart rate was steady at the beginning, and it was confirmed that indeed I was having contractions. Huh. Who knew? I thought it was RR moving? But no… every two minutes, my uterus was contracting. Bam bam.
Every time I moved my position, the monitors would slip and slide around, and sometimes send an alarm to the nurse, who would promptly show up and check in on things. The contractions were steady and predictable, and her heart rate was looking good, with the exception of a few moments where, while I was sitting completely still, it would drop down really low, and then come back up. Male OB (whom we had only met once during the entire term) popped in to see how things were going, and tell us that he was worried about the random drops in the heart rate, and that it wasn’t something they could ignore, even though it may have happened previously. I suppose this is the whole purpose of “monitoring”?
The nurse started an IV in my arm, and made the prediction that we’d be staying overnight and would have a baby either that day or the next. Ha! 1 cm. 50%.
Male OB was soon replaced by Female OB #1, Dr. C., who was equally as worried about the random drops in the heart rate, and wanted to do an ultrasound to check things out on the inside. She jellied and wanded around over my belly, taking notes and measurements on the ultrasound machine’s screen. Her main concern quickly became obvious, as she noted that RR didn’t have very much fluid left in her amniotic sac home. She worried that RR wouldn’t tolerate labor very well, and that a C-Section might be the way to go to get her out safely. They decided to start a very low drip of Pitocin to see how she would tolerate more contractions, and to determine if we needed to go the C-Section route to make sure she comes out safe and sound.
It was late afternoon, and they had increased my Pitocin from 1-5 (I have no idea what the numbers actually mean, aside from the fact that they are related to the dosage amount, and that it goes all the way up to 20 for really kicking in labor.) The noticeable, but painless contractions continued. RR’s heart rate was perfect all across the board. Female OB #2, Dr. W. (who had sent us over that morning) took over in the early evening, and decided that, since RR was being such a trooper, she would do fine during labor. And hey, speaking of labor, let’s get to ripening that cervix! Let’s have ourselves a baby! 1 cm. 50%. Right. Dr. W. didn’t mention anything that sounded like C-Section, and was pretty determined to get us to a vaginal delivery. OK, doc!
With labor/having a baby in the next 24 hours (we wish) becoming an imminent reality, my wife set off to call a co-worker who was on-call for heading over to the house to walk the dog. They increased my Pitocin and early evening started to fall. With the contractions being somewhat reasonable (i.e. noticeable, but not painful), I sent my wife home to check in on the dog and do anything else necessary before we were completely out of control of our schedule and time. I settled into the birthing room bed, and spent most of my time pressing the nurse call button every two minutes when I needed to pee. About 30 minutes later, noticeable became uncomfortable. Uncomfortable became kind of painful. Each contraction came every two minutes and lasted for about 30 seconds. Oh, the joy of cervix ripening.
My wife arrived back to the room in time to find me curled up on my side, riding out each one as they tightened and wrapped around my back. Soon, the contractions became more tolerable, and the pain became an afterthought. It was sort of like walking up a few stairs, then having a straight, flat path in front of you. The initial stairs were painful, but after they were done, the low undercurrent of pain seemed reasonable and like it was there all along.
Dr. W. decided that they would try to continue to ripen my cervix overnight by increasing the Pitocin every 20 minutes until things got moving. Linda, my night shift nurse, started around 11pm and came in to crank up the drip all throughout the night. My wife curled up on the vinyl recliner, and I slept most of the night, despite the terrible labor back ache and constant blood pressure and temperature-taking.
Thursday, June 24
Much to my surprise, when I woke up around 6am, the Pitocin had made it all the way up to 17. Linda said that she expected me to be writhing and howling in pain, screaming for an epidural at 3am. Instead, I was having sleep that was comparable to some nights I had experienced at home during the pregnancy.
Linda speculated that maybe it was a “bad bag of Pit?” and revealed that the people next door were also having a similar labor experience, despite their dose of Pitocin as well. We actually knew the people next door, as they were in redneck childbirthin’ with us – they had checked-in around the same time that we did, and throughout all of this, my wife and the next door husband bonded over the complicated labors we were having. Thanks to the Pitocin, I lost my mucous plug (that I delightfully showed everyone – no shame!) and had out my bloody show. Linda eventually increased it all the way to 20, and Dr. W. arrived around 7:30am to check in on my cervix. My now “loose 1cm” 50% effaced cervix. That’s right. 24 hours later, and I had made maybe a 1/2 cm difference. Plus, RR was only negative 2 station. I think she had also installed a security system, as the OB had to move the ADT sign out of the way every time she checked my cervix. Ow, folks. Ow.
That 1/2 cm, however, made it possible for her to get a little crazy technique-wise, and use a foley balloon catheter to try to get things dilated and start having stronger contractions that would jump-start the dilation and effacement, and also allow her to break my water. Breaking my water would also mean they could insert a fetal heart rate monitor and more accurate contraction monitor up inside of me. This link is the best description I can find of this process, but let’s just say that this technique fucking hurts. Enough said. So the catheter went in, the balloon got inflated to 4cm on the other side of my cervix, and, apparently, once my cervix dilated to 4cm, it should either fall right out or come out easily when tugged. Fancy… and uncomfortable.
So it’s around noon or so when this happened, and I’m there trapped on the bed to labor while the Pitocin drips at 20, and I’m trapped in a sea of monitor cables and now, this catheter taped to my leg. Not really the birthing ball experience we had prepared for. He He He Whoo. A few hours later (yes, a few. yes, hours) my afternoon shift nurse, Johanna, arrived on the scene just as the contractions started gearing up for the next flight of stairs. RR is still tolerating things well. A few hours more, and the catheter fell out when Johanna tugged at it gently. 4cm, baby!
Dr. W checks my cervix – 4cm dilated, 50%, negative 2. Well, some progress at least? At 4cm, it’s water-breaking time! Hooray! Well, kind of. Apparently, if you don’t have much water to break, it’s challenging, since the water bag isn’t taut. First, she tried the barbaric crotchet amnio hook. No dice and OW, mother fucker. Then she tried some finger cot with a hook on the end DURING A CONTRACTION (you know, when it’s taut enough). No dice and double OW. I’m left to continue laboring on in the hopes that my water will break itself. Please, water, break thyself.
“What about pain meds? Epidural?” you ask? I hadn’t craved a natural labor, by any means. But I also knew that the epidural would only slow down the already slow and over 24 hour labor, by that point. Pain meds were only a quick fix. So there I labor. Fortunately, about an hour later, my water broke when I got up to pee for the hundredth time. Hallelujah. Off went the belly monitors, and inside went their internal versions. RR’s heart rate sounds are replaced by an electronic beeping, instead of that familiar doppler sound. By this point, I had also made it all the way to 5cm – still 50% effaced, negative 2.
The internal contraction monitor captured the data about how strong the contractions were, how long they lasted, and how far apart they were. The data was also incredibly accurate since my futzing about on the bed didn’t affect the signal. That data would better detail whether or not I was having strong enough contractions to really make a difference in my cervix, or if my body was just messing around.
Yes, it’s still Thursday.
This is where it gets kind of crunchy, folks. It was late afternoon, and the contractions finally start really kicking in. At 5cm , we’re left to labor for a few hours (yes, a few. yes, hours) to a) get the contraction data, and b) try to get past 5cm. Go team. I labored on my side on the bed for a while, as each contraction came and washed over me. I remember biting my thumbnail so hard each time one came. My wife could see the contraction monitor, and knew that when the numbers started to rise, that one was coming. She’d warn me, and we would labor on through and wait for the next one.
At some point, I overhear my wife and Johanna have a conversation about a thunderstorm happening outside. I hear something about “rain all over the window” and “trees blowing sideways.” The contractions keep coming, and my thumbnail is taking a beating. Then, all of the sudden our dark birthing room (since we had all of the lights off) got even darker, and RR’s electronic beeping heart rate stops (no, not that kind of stopping) and all of the machines go quiet. That’s right – we’ve lost power. In the hospital. At 5cm with no epidural and no pain meds.
At some point, a fleet of nurses come in to make sure all of my monitoring equipment is plugged into the emergency generator power outlets. Someone checks to make sure the super-bright ceiling birthing spotlight still works. Yes, it still works. Please turn it off, you’re burning my eyes.
For the next two hours, we labored in the dark hospital. I moved to the birthing ball at some point when the contractions started up their next flight of stairs. The internal monitors, thankfully, gave me a little more laboring freedom. My wife braced me as the numbers went up. It was dark and quiet, and I just concentrated on finding a place inside of me to get me through the now minute-long contractions, coming every two minutes. I rocked, I bounced, my wife got cold washcloths for my neck.
Around 7pm, Dr. C. was back on-duty and came in to see how we were progressing. She checked my contraction data and I was most certainly having serious cervix-changing transition-like contractions, it was just a matter of whether or not my cervix was actually being affected. I laid back on the bed to have my cervix checked, and you can imagine the horror disappointment to find out we were still 5cm, 60% effaced, negative 2 station. She gave us two options – 1) labor for one and a half more hours (until the power was scheduled to come back on at 8:30pm) and see if we could make more progress, or 2) stop the Pitocin, stop the labor, and have a C-Section when the power is restored. She and the nurse left the room, and my wife and I debated for maybe 30 seconds. RR obviously did not want to come out vaginally, and I didn’t want to force the matter any longer, stressing out her and my body any more than we already had. I raised my white flag. A C-Section never sounded more appealing.
But wait, there’s more. They turned off the Pitocin drip, and I could feel my body start contracting less often and with less intensity. Ahh. But about an hour later, as we waited in the dark for the power, my body geared back up, this time with no Pitocin involved. After everything, the damn thing was laboring itself. I raised my other white flag, hit the nurse button, and asked for some Fentanyl. I know. I labored through 34 hours of monitoring and and contractions, and there in the home stretch, I couldn’t take it any longer, especially staring down the uncertainties of when the power would come back on, and when we could get the delivery underway.
The power restoration which was estimated at 8:30pm turned into 9pm, 10pm, and eventually, around 11pm, the hospital came back to life. Right after the nurse came in and started my IV drip of antibiotics and Zantac, another nurse came in to tell us we had been bumped to accommodate someone else who was worse off than us, prompting a burst of tears of frustration. About 30 minutes later, we were thrown into a flurry of pre-op activity. I was walked down to the operating room, and my wife got suited up in her operating room outfit (camera in tow). Before I knew it, the anesthesiologist had me hunched over so that she could do the spinal block, which was painful, not nearly as painful as the previous 36 hours.
As soon as she finished, I was laid back and couldn’t feel anything from my breasts down. I would have loved to have savored that feeling (or lack thereof), but I was too busy shivering from the spinal block – teeth chattering, arms shaking, shivering. The anesthesiologist did an excellent job of reassuring me that everything was OK. My wife entered the room and showed up by my head – I had never been so happy to see her eyes poking out above her mask. I asked her to take my glasses, since there was a reflective surface above the operating table, allowing me to see everything they were doing. Much like a car wreck, I found it hard to look away as I could recognize my body, having things done to it that I couldn’t feel. Weird. Thank God I can’t see without my glasses.
Friday, June 25
The clock ticked and tocked its way into June 25th, and moments later, (scalpel, check) Dr. C. asked if my wife wanted to be the “it’s a girl/boy!” sayer, but instead, my wife said, “Well, we’ve been calling the baby ‘Vegas.’ If you could say ‘Vegas is a girl/boy!’ that would be good.” A push here, a tug there, some pressure up by my chest, and “Vegas is a girl!” Through my chattering teeth, I smiled at my wife and said, “It’s Ruby Reed!” Which, folks, is her name. And this, oh patient readers, is RR in all of her glory, and her froth of strawberry blonde hair.
Thank you all so much for your congratulatory well wishes. We’re still in the throws of the first couple of weeks of parenthood, but rest assured, this isn’t the last you’ve heard from me.