As I sit here looking at my very happy baby, I can’t believe that just over a week ago Mitchell had still not made his appearance yet. For my own memory, I’ve decided to write the entire birth story here. Times may be incorrect because I was in labor and, surprise surprise, not quite paying attention to the clock.
On Tuesday, Sept. 4th, I had a doctor’s appointment. My midwife, Leslie, tried to strip my membranes and discovered that she couldn’t even reach Mitchell yet. Since I was 5 days past my due date at that point and it looked like he’d dropped a long time ago, she got worried and ordered a quick ultrasound to check on his position. During the ultrasound, the tech may have been looking at his position, but I was more interested in him. He kept covering his face with his arm and it was just so darn cute. Every time she’d move the doppler (or whatever it’s called), he’d move his arm to hide his face. She estimated his weight at 7 lb 9 oz, but warned us that the ultrasound could be off by up to a pound either way (I crossed my fingers for 6 lb 9 oz). The ultrasound showed that he was head down, but slightly cock-eyed with his head near my right hip. Leslie thought a few contractions would move him over to the right position.
My next appointment was on Friday, Sept. 7th, and I had dilated to a 3, which was very exciting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t effaced at all and he still hadn’t shifted position, so they made an appointment for me to be induced at St. Francis at 7:00 AM on Sept. 10th. The nurses said that I would probably go into labor over the weekend because I’d made an inducement appointment. Justin was convinced I’d go into labor on Sept. 8th, his birthday. I did have a couple hours of contractions on Friday afternoon, but they went away by themselves. I was drinking raspberry tea by the gallon, walking miles every day, taking evening primrose oil pills, and generally doing whatever I could to bring on labor.
Alas, nothing happened. On Sept. 10th, I checked into St. Francis at 7:00 AM to be induced. My nurse’s name was Brianne, and she was great. She tried twice to start an IV on me, but gave up quickly. The next nurse tried a couple times, but similarly failed. Justin had to sit down because he was nauseous at this point. I can’t remember if it took one or two more nurses to get the IV going, but after only half an hour, my squiggly veins succumbed. Even though I was dilated to a 3, since I wasn’t effaced at all, Leslie suggested I begin with cytotec. I expected to feel some contractions, but really only felt a little pressure. According to the monitors I was having contractions, though. The cytotec did manage to get me effaced about 1/3, so around noon I began the pitocin.
My dad got there a little before 8, Jamie got there around 9, and my grandma got there sometime later. My mom and sisters got there around 2:30. Absolutely nothing happened in the meantime. I did not progress in any way. The good news was that I couldn’t feel any contraction. According to the monitors, I was having great contractions, but I couldn’t feel them, Mitchell didn’t move, and I didn’t dilate or efface at all. One thing did progress very well, however: my cabin fever. There were so many people in my room with me and I was so frustrated at not making any progress that I got cabin fever/claustrophobic pretty badly. Since I was on the pitocin I had to be monitored constantly, so to leave the room I had to get the nurses to put the wireless monitors on. Needless to say, they didn’t like to very much, so I only got out of the room a few times. Otherwise I just had to sit there. Finally around 7 or 7:30, Leslie checked me once more. She could feel Mitchell’s head and I’d effaced about 2/3! Since it was so late, she suggested we shut off the pitocin, get a good meal and a good night’s sleep, then break my water in the morning.
As soon as my pitocin was shut off, I began having contractions on my own and began to feel them! I was so excited. I thought maybe I would manage to have this baby without pitocin after all. I labored for an hour or so, but just like every other time, the contractions went away. Justin went home to spend some time with the dogs and grab some dinner, and went to bed by 10:30. Amazingly, we were both able to fit in the itty bitty hospital bed. It was only slightly awkward every time the nurses would come in to get my vitals.
At 4:00 AM, my pitocin was started again. Again, I couldn’t feel anything at all. I slept until about 6:00 AM, and then just couldn’t sleep any longer. Around 7:30, Leslie came in and broke my water. That was the weirdest feeling in the entire world. I expected it to all come out at once, but instead, every time I had a contraction (which I felt now!), I either gushed a little amniotic fluid or peed myself. I’m not sure which. The nurse was very nice and assured me it was 100% my water, but honestly, the contractions hurt so badly so quickly that it could’ve been pee and I wouldn’t have cared one bit. I remember very little from 7:30 to 12:00 because I was in so much pain. I know Justin comforted me just by being there. I sat on the birthing ball and leaned on his legs the whole time. He was disappointed because he had memorized all these comforting techniques like rubbing my back certain ways, but my back never hurt. My hips felt like they were exploding, though. I remember that at one point, a TV show came on that showed a comedic birthing video. The lady was screaming at the same time that I was having contractions, and the irony was too much for Justin and he started laughing. He claims he held it all in, but I distinctly remember him shaking very hard from laughing. I’m told that I glared at him, but honestly, I didn’t care one bit that he was laughing. Despite the agonizing pain, I was in a decent mood. I was happy that I was finally contributing to Mitchell’s birth. The prior day I had felt like I was just laying there doing nothing.
As happy as I was about making progress (which, I found out later, was untrue), the pain was getting worse. The nurse kept stepping up the pitocin and I was having more and more trouble coping. I couldn’t stand up because the pain in my hips was too bad. The monitor wasn’t picking up my contractions, so I don’t think the nurse believed me that there was no break between them. I could barely catch my breath. I was trying to relax through the contractions, but when there was no break, I just couldn’t seem to cope. I don’t know what time it was, but I asked the nurse for help. I asked if I could get into the tub, but since I was on pitocin, I couldn’t. I begged for anything, and she just said she’d be back. She never came back. Finally, at about noon, I asked for an epidural. The nurse turned the pitocin down to get ready for the epidural, and even though the contractions were still there, they were bearable again. I immediately regretted asking for the epidural, but I knew she would just be bumping up the pitocin again, so I still got it. And went back to not feeling anything.
Around 1:30, after a short nap, I got checked again. I hadn’t dilated whatsoever. The entire morning had resulted in no progress except a little more effacement. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was at that point. It was terrible. Shortly after that (I have no idea what time), Leslie came in to talk to Justin and I. She confessed that she was worried about my lack of progress. She could feel Mitchell’s head, which was great, but nothing had changed since yesterday despite being on pitocin all day. Very little had changed yesterday. She suspected that Mitchell was way too big and my pelvis was way too small for me to have a natural birth. She said she’d been talking to the Lincoln Center’s on-call doctor, and she would be available to do a c-section at 7:00 PM. Leslie said that if I hadn’t made any progress by then, she suggested we go ahead and do a c-section. Two days was just too long to labor and not make progress. At one point, she looked at Justin and I and said, “I mean, look at you two. Did you really think this was going to work? He’s so big, and you’re so small…” It was pretty funny.
At 4:00, I was checked again. I dilated to a 5, so Justin began to think that I would birth naturally after all. I didn’t get my hopes up. Mitchell’s heart rate had started beating at a baseline rate of 180 bpm, and even though the nurse kept saying it was nothing, I had my own personal 24/7 nurse (Jamie) who said it was a problem.
At 5:00, the nurse was doing a routine check and I said that I was starting to feel like I was running a fever. She took my temperature, and sure enough, my temperature had spiked to 102.7. Needless to say, things started moving very quickly then. She called Leslie, and Leslie began making calls. I think Leslie came back around 5:30, and said I was definitely having a c-section ASAP. I had tested positive for group B strep during my pregnancy, and even though I had been receiving the antibiotics every 4 hours, she suspected that somehow the strep had gotten into the uterus and caused an infection. The doctor, Dr. Dickson, showed up shortly afterward and they started prepping me for a c-section. I held it together very well, but the sight of all those nurses running around is bound to scare anyone. I kept telling myself that 1/3 of all pregnancies end in c-section, so obviously it wasn’t a big deal.
During a check, though, one of the nurses let it slip that Mitchell would probably have to be in the NICU after birth. I lost it. I started crying. A lot. The thought of going through all this and not having my little baby with me was just too much.
My family came to see me at that point. I tried to stop crying, but it didn’t work. I tried explaining that I was crying because he would have to be in NICU, but I could barely even get it out. I started shaking. I realized just how scared I was. My family had to leave at that point, and Justin and I had a few minutes by ourselves. We exchanged our “push presents”. I gave Justin a box of cigars and he gave me a beautiful sapphire ring (his and Mitchell’s birthstone and my favorite gem).
There was a bit of confusion in the maternity ward at this point, because both I and my neighbor had to have an emergency c-section. My neighbor was bleeding very badly, so she won the c-section room. At that point, Dr. Dickson said I couldn’t wait for the c-section room and asked for an operating room to be prepped downstairs. Justin wasn’t allowed in a regular OR, so Leslie found a pair of scrubs and told him to “blend in”. Because Justin has never stood out in his life. My neighbor’s c-section went very quickly, though, and they ended up being able to prep the room for me before the other OR could be prepped. I was wheeled down the hall to the c-section OR.
Justin wasn’t allowed in until I was completely prepped. I’m starting to get teary just thinking about how terrified I was at this point. I’ve never been so scared in my life. At the time, I tried telling myself that it was probably the drugs or whatever that was making me shake. Justin called me out on that later and I have to acknowledge that I was mostly shaking out of fear. I shook so much that my arms became completely numb. Justin came in and sat by my head and tried to make me feel better, but all I could say was how scared I was.
As soon as Justin came in, the process got started. The anesthesiologist was very nice and tried to talk me through the process, but every time he tried to tell me everything was ok and I heard the doctors over the curtain say something different, it kind of lessened his credibility. They had quite a bit of trouble getting Mitchell out, but once they did at 6:43 PM, nearly 36 hours after I checked into the hospital, that’s all I could concentrate on. They took him to the warmer right away, and I began bawling right away. I didn’t stop until they gave him to me afterward. He didn’t cry right away, and I was convinced something was wrong. Of course, nothing was wrong. I overheard the doctors saying I was starting to lose too much blood, but I didn’t care. Justin got to be with Mitchell right away, and he tried taking pictures and coming back to me, but I got angry that he wasn’t spending enough time with Mitchell. I never wanted him to feel alone.
It felt like forever before they finally gave Mitchell to me and wheeled us back to our room. They needed about 30 minutes to get his bed ready in the NICU, so we got to spend some time with him. He immediately started rooting, so they let me feed him. My family got to come in to meet him, and then they had to take him to the NICU.
I was told I couldn’t see Mitchell until my legs started working, so I began trying to move them right away. I kept trying to convince the nurse that I could move them and should be allowed to meet Mitchell. It didn’t work, though. They wouldn’t let me see him until I had moved to my other room around midnight.
As soon as I saw Mitchell hooked up to those monitors and that IV, all of my will power melted away. I had told myself that I would have Mitchell on a feeding and sleeping schedule, that he would sleep in his own bed, all of those great parenting things. But seeing him, I knew I would never manage to do those things. I would give this little boy whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He would never have to cry for anything.
He was beautiful. He was the most perfect, beautiful little being I had ever met. I loved him. It was midnight. I had slept maybe a few hours in the last few days and kept nodding off in the rocking chair, but I wouldn’t let the nurses take me back to my room. I sat there until I could literally not sit any longer. When I got back to my room, every time a nurse came into my room, I bombarded them with questions. Could I go see him again? Was he awake? Did he need me? Did he need fed? Was he crying? Did he look ok? Was he healthy? I think the nurses were annoyed, but I didn’t care. My son was in another room and I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t relax until I saw him again.
Of course, eventually I saw him again. He was in NICU for 48 hours getting antibiotics. They think the placenta got infected somehow and caused the spike in temperature. Both his and my temperature went down immediately after birth. I was on antibiotics for 48 hours also. Mitchell spent Thursday night in the room with Justin and I and slept for periods of about 10-15 minutes. Justin and I took shifts and I loved every minute of it.
The entire time we were in the hospital, Justin slept more soundly than I’ve ever seen. He even sleep-talked with the nurses. He would hold entire gibberish conversations with them. I apologized, but the nurses said it’s very common with new dads in hospitals. The stress of watching someone they love endure so much pain is very tiring, and they don’t have the adrenalin to fight it.
I, however, had an amazing amount of adrenalin built up. I can’t tell you how much I slept the whole time we were in the hospital, but I bet it wouldn’t take both hands to count it up. I grabbed 15 minute power naps when the exhaustion overwhelmed me. I would be sitting there, watching TV or whatever, and just fall asleep where I was. 15 minutes later, I would wake up rejuvenated. It was great. Justin couldn’t believe it. He still says he has no idea how I managed to function on so little sleep. I really don’t know, either. Whenever they took me to see Mitchell, I was instantly wide awake. The poor guy’s IV got more and more painful every hour, so by the end of it he screamed whenever it was touched, and it broke my heart every time. I felt like I was abandoning him every time I went back to my room.
All ended well, though. We came home on Friday, 5 days after check-in, and we’re doing well now. Mitchell sleeps almost all the way through the night. I have to wake him up for his 4 hour feeding. Well, I did, but not anymore. Most babies take two weeks to reach their birth weight, but Mitchell’s now 3 oz past his birth weight. He weighs 7 lb 13 oz now. I am getting to know him and he’s more alert and awake every day. I know not every week will be as amazing as my last week, but I think this is definitely a good start.