**Warning: This is very long and detailed.**
My induction was scheduled for 1 AM on June 8, 2009. I was ten days overdue. The plan was to call the hospital an hour ahead of time to see if a bed was available. We found out that there was indeed a bed for us, and so we got our things together and headed out to the hospital.
On the way I noted how nothing about our drive to the hospital was how I imagined it to be. I think I originally thought I’d be writhing in pain while Roy manuevered the car through 5:00 traffic. As it turned out, our ride to the hospital was only one thing that didn’t turn out the way I expected. There were still many more unexpected things to come.
We made it to the hospital and were checked in right away. Once escorted to our room, I stripped down into only a hospital gown and was hooked up for continuous fetal monitoring (Charlie’s heartbeat and my contractions). My first dose of Cytotec was administered at 1:50 AM.
The nurse examined me at 2:30 AM and informed me that doctors and nurses measure cervix progress differently. So where my OB had me down as 1.5 cm dilated and 60% effaced, the nurse said I was “one cm and a wiggle” dilated and definitely not 60% effaced. I asked when I could get the epidural and was informed that I had to be four cm dilated. This was kind of a shock to me since in our childbirth classes, we were told that epidurals were not administered based on cervical progress but on the need for pain relief.
I knew that inducing labor could take a lot of time, so at this point I decided to get some rest. Roy and I slept off and on for as long as we could. I had another internal exam at 6 AM and there was no change. However, at 6:30 AM, the nurse noted that my contractions were already two to three minutes apart. She thought that maybe we could skip the second dose of Cytotec and go straight to the Pitocin instead. In the end, she decided to go with the original plan and give me the second dose of Cytotec at 6:45 AM. I also had yet another internal exam, and I was two cm dilated.
My contractions became more intense but still manageable around 7 AM. I was pretty uncomfortable at this point, and I recognized that I was in a small amount of pain, but I was still able to answer emails and watch some TV. I had no idea about the level of pain I would end up experiencing. Looking back on it, I think my approach to labor and delivery was a bit naive. I always told myself that childbirth was something that had been done for thousands of years by billions of women and that one way or another, the baby would come out. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about pain management or anything. I always figured that I would just get the epidural and that I’d be fine - of course, I’d also been relying on misinformation about when epidurals could be administered. That really came back to haunt me later.
At 9:30 AM, the on-call OB came in and introduced himself. He gave me another internal, and I was still at two cm and 60% effaced.
Once the Pitocin was hung and began dripping at 9:45 AM, it didn’t take very long for me to begin experiencing some awfully painful contractions. I tried really hard to be brave at first, but as the hours wore on and I progressed really slowly, I began to not hold back. The pain was awful. It was, hands down, the worst physical pain I have ever experienced. I yelled. I screamed. I cried. I begged for help. Even though I was given IV meds, I was still in horrible pain. Roy and my nurse tried desperately to calm me with every contraction. Roy held my hand through every single one of those awful things. It didn’t matter if he needed to go to the bathroom or eat or just have a moment to himself. Once he heard me whimpering and reaching out for him, he would quickly make his way to my side and hold my hand. He quickly proved himself to be an amazing labor coach, and he only got better the uglier things got.
At 12:30 PM I had another exam and was three cm dilated. At this point I was nearly out of my mind because of the pain. I never thought I would get to four cm so I could have the epidural. I was crying or screaming (or both) through every contraction. It was awful. I watched the clock a lot, although at this point time began to be irrelevant: each contraction felt like a miserable eternity.
Finally, at 2:00 PM I was examined and told that I was four, almost five, cm dilated and could now have an epidural. There was some waiting involved, but I have to credit the hospital staff for not making me wait too long. I was completely out of my head with pain at this point. It was around this time that my mom and mother-in-law walked into the room and I told them they just could not be in there right then. (I was really disappointed that they were not the anesthesiologist coming to give me my miracle stab in the back.) They went out to the waiting room, and once the anesthesiologist came in, Roy was sent out of the room. The anesthesiologist expressed some concern about giving me an epidural since I have scoliosis, but at 2:45 PM I got my epi.
Unfortunately, there was trouble in paradise. The epidural only took on my right side, and so I could still feel everything on my left side. The pain was much more manageable, though. The nurse had me lay on my left side with the hopes that the epidural would flow over to that side and help ease the pain. And she was right. It worked! I was very encouraged. My mom and mother-in-law and her partner were able to come in and spend some time with us.
At 4:15 PM my catheter was inserted. I was examined and discovered to be five to six cm dilated. The doctor came in and broke my water at 4:25. Things went downhill very quickly after this.
I rolled back over onto my side, and in no time at all, I began to feel the contractions again. I knew that breaking my water could make the contractions much more intense, so I chalked my pain up to that. I felt pretty confident that the pain would become more manageable again in time and with more of the epidural coursing through my system. But after a couple of contractions, I found myself at the point where I was calling for Roy to coach me through the pain. I started crying and saying that I couldn’t go through all that pain again. Roy alerted the nurse about my pain, and she couldn’t figure out why I was still feeling everything. She had the anesthesiologist come in, and he discovered that the epidural IV became detached and had leaked all over my hospital bed (this probably happened when I turned over to have the catheter inserted.). He reattached it and said it should be working again in five minutes and that he’d come back to check.
I don’t know the exact times all that happened, but I do know that it was still light out. At 6 PM, a new nurse took over. She, along with Roy, held my hand through each contraction. Both of them urged me to relax, pick a focal point, and breathe. Sometimes I was partially successful in doing this, but I almost always ended up screaming, crying, or cursing (or all three). The pain was worse than I could have ever imagined. It was so bad that I began to beg to be put out of my misery. I couldn’t even think about Charlie and focus on him as my inspiration. The pain was just that bad. I felt certain that I was going to die.
With the pain eventually came intense pressure. With each contraction, I felt like I had to take the world’s biggest crap. My nurse kept telling me to fight the urge, but after awhile I stopped fighting it and just starting pushing. It was the only thing that brought me any kind of relief whatsoever. I kept asking for the doctor, and the nurse told me that he was performing a C-section and would come by once he was done. When he finally did come by, he noted my pain and said he’d have the anesthesiologist come by.
The anesthesiologist did come by and tried a different kind of epidural. It didn’t work. The nurse gave me some more IV meds. They didn’t work. She checked me and I was seven to eight cm dilated and 100% effaced. I felt a shred of hope at this point, because I only had two cm left until I was fully dilated and would be ready to push (even though I was already pushing). I had a glimmer of “I can do this,” but it ended up fading away as the pain and pressure intensified. I was checked a couple more times and my progress had stopped. I was beside myself.
I kept asking for the doctor and was told that both he and the anesthesiologist had gone home. So we waited. And I screamed and cried and begged for relief. And finally, after what seemed like forever, the doctor came in and talked to me about how I hadn’t progressed in awhile. He said that that my cervix was swollen and I probably wouldn’t progress any more. He also said that we could wait it out and see what happened or we could throw in the towel and do a C-section. Without a moment’s thought, I opted for a C-section. It was explained to me that the best thing would be to put me under general anesthesia for the surgery rather than try to place another epidural.
For the first time all day, things moved very quickly. My mom, mother-in-law, and her partner came into the room to gather our stuff and hold it for us in the waiting room. While they were in our room, they reached out to me and were extremely supportive. (Meanwhile, I was still crying and screaming.) Their presence, though brief, made a huge difference; it reinforced the notion that there were people on our side.
The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled out of the room and down the hall. It was very alienating and scary, because at one moment Roy was by my side and the next I was screaming through a contraction on my own in the hall of the L&D ward. They wheeled me into the OR and began doing all kinds of things to prep me for the C-section. I was still contracting like crazy and still begging for reprieve. Finally, a mask was placed over my face, and one of the nurses put a couple of her fingers at the base of my throat. I was staring at the ceiling, wondering what the hell was going on.
There was no fade out and fade in here. It was like a jump cut in a movie. I came to and found myself staring blearily at a man holding a baby about fifteen feet away from me. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was Roy and that he was holding Charlie. This was, without a doubt, the most surreal moment of my life.
Roy walked over to me and showed me Charlie. I think that I was crying a bit. Even though I was in a lot of pain from the procedure, I asked if Charlie could be placed on my chest. He was. And mother met baby at last.
I honestly don’t clearly remember those moments when I first held Charlie. I do remember thinking how beautiful he was and how I just couldn’t believe that he had finally made his way to the outside world. It’s one of those moments that I just will never be able to put into words. It was extremely emotional but also clouded by the entire day’s events.
We spent a little more time in the recovery room and then were taken up to the postpartum ward. Right when we got there, the phone started ringing. It was my friend Jessica wondering what the hell was going on. (At this point, it was after 11 PM, and I hadn’t updated anyone in hours.) We spoke briefly, and then I was put in a new bed and Charlie was given to me. I nursed him a little, and my mother-in-law came in to see him.
Needless to say, Roy and I were exhausted. I asked the nurse to take Charlie for the night because we were just so out of it. I thought I would fall right to sleep, but instead I was up for most of the night. I think I was just wired. I rang the nurse around 4:30 AM and asked her to bring Charlie back. I was missing him. He roomed in with us for the rest of our hospital stay.
We were in the hospital until Thursday (Charlie was born on Monday night). I had to stay in bed for 24 hours after the C-section. They removed my catheter on Tuesday night, and I managed to make it to the bathroom on my own with Roy’s help. On Wednesday morning, also with Roy’s help, I was able to take a shower. I was shocked at the state of my body. I had adhesive, not to mention betadine, all over my stomach and upper thighs. My stomach was kind of saggy, but I still looked about four months pregnant. I had marks everywhere that I wasn’t sure about. It was all very strange.
After the best shower ever, I felt almost human again. I also put on makeup that day and it made me feel a million times better. Roy and I decided to walk the halls that afternoon, and once we did that, I was completely over being in the hospital and was ready to go home. That night, we left Charlie with our nurse for a bit and walked to the bottom floor of the hospital. (We were both going stir crazy being in our room, and taking Charlie out of the ward was not an option.) It was slow going, as I had to kind of shuffle along all hunched over, but it was progress.
On Thursday, both Charlie and I were examined and discharged from the hospital. We drove home and began our new life as a family of three. My mom had been there the entire time we were gone and stayed for a few more days helping us get adjusted. I got to rest a lot, which I really needed.
My body is slowly returning to its pre-pregnancy state. I am still bruised from the IV I had during labor and the first day afterward. I still have some betadine and adhesive on me. I still have stitches, and my incision is still painful sometimes. But I have no more heartburn, swelling, or excessive thirst and appetite. My hands and feet are no longer in constant pain. I have lost 25 of the 30 pounds I put on while I was pregnant. My stomach is very soft and flabby, and I have to wear granny panties because of my incision, but overall, I am really happy to have my body back.
So that, my friends, is my very long birth story - with some general recovery details thrown in. I have deliberately left out how I feel about everything that came to pass to bring Charlie into the world, but that is definitely something I will explore in a later post.
If you got this far, thanks for hanging in there. More to come later!