I can’t believe that my sweet Asa turned one last Thursday! I spent the morning of his birthday looking at photos we took in the hospital a year ago, flooding my mind with memories of his birth.
Although I posted a few newborn photos on the blog when I announced Asa’s name (it took us two days to decide!), I never actually shared his birth story. However, I alluded to the fact that something crazy happened that prevented me from having the epidural I wanted, so here’s the full story (minus most of the gory details) for those who are interested.
And if you’re not interested in a story about platelets and contractions and super-size babies, there are lots of adorable newborn baby hospital pictures for you to enjoy instead.
February 25th: 5 days past my due date
As with my first pregnancy, I was experiencing low platelets and taking a steroid to keep them over 100 (the minimum amount they needed to be if I wanted to have an epidural). For reference, a “normal” low would still be over 150; mine had dipped into the 90s during my pregnancy with Asa.
During my mid-afternoon OB/GYM appointment, I learned that my platelets had jumped to 115. Success! However, I was still only 4cm dilated and 80% effaced. My doctor recommended we induce as soon as possible because my platelet numbers were at the highest they had been in weeks.
It was deja vu all over again. When Levi was born, I left my OB/GYN’s office, picked up my overnight bag, said goodbye to the dog, and returned to the hospital for an induction. This time, however, I didn’t want to feel so rushed, so we scheduled the induction for 7am the next day. My doctor felt confident that my platelet numbers would remain high enough overnight for me to have the epidural the next morning.
7am: I woke up early to shower, wash and dry my hair, and apply a few coats of mascara before heading out to have a baby. Perhaps I thought that my normal getting-ready routine would help lessen my anxiety on such a surreal day. I kissed Levi and Briscoe goodbye with tears in my eyes, leaving them at home with my parents, and drove to the hospital with Jordan.
Immediately, I began having flashbacks to Levi’s birth. The delivery room, slightly smaller than I remembered, had a jacuzzi in the bathroom, but since I didn’t use it during my first delivery, I assumed I wouldn’t need it this time around.
Spoiler Alert: Things are about to get a slightly more graphic. Certain members of my family might want to stop reading now.
As my nurse hooked me up to monitors and inserting my IV, I began getting more nervous about my water breaking. There was so much of it last time that I was practically floating in my hospital bed. I wasn’t even able to walk around because I was basically a leaky faucet.
8:30am: I had my blood drawn and my platelet levels checked again. My doctor arrived just after we learned the disappointing news that my platelets had dropped from 115 to 83.
I tried to summon the strength of all the mothers before me who chose to have a natural birth, reminding myself that if they could it, so could I. However, during Levi’s delivery, I received an epidural before my contractions really started, so I basically had no frame of reference for the pain.
10:15am: About an hour after the doctor broke my water, I was able to get out of bed and do a lap around the labor and delivery floor. (I wasn’t gushing! Hurray!) I began having contractions strong enough to make me stop walking and talking, but not uncomfortable enough to make me cry. They almost felt like intense stomach cramps before–um–a bad bathroom experience.
10:45am: Back in bed and reconnected to various wires and monitors. My contractions were noticeably stronger and I was still able to breathe through them, but I started worrying that I was physically unprepared for a natural birth. I never learned any Lamaze-like breathing techniques or pain management meditations.
11:05am: The contractions were suddenly so intense that I couldn’t lay down anymore. The nurse brought me a birthing ball (basically, an exercise ball), and I sat hunched over the bed, rocking back and forth. The motion helped a little bit — until it didn’t.
11:25am: My contractions were about three minute apart, and the pain was becoming more horrendous. I asked to get into the whirlpool because, I don’t know, I thought it would be relaxing?
By this point, I literally could not get into a comfortable position. The best I could do was sit on my knees, sort of bouncing up and down. I remember leaning over the side of the tub with eyes closed, crying (loudly) that I was going to vomit from the crazy rush of pressure and burning sensation near my, ahem, ass.
11:30am: I was having strong urges to push, which felt a lot like wanting to take the worst shit of my life, and begging the nurse to call for an epidural. She found out that my platelet levels had gone up at my last blood draw, so she put in the request for the anesthesiologist.
11:40am: Back in bed and 9cm dilated. When my doctor arrived just a few minutes later, I was screaming in pain. All I wanted to do was push to make all of the pressure explode out of my body.
11:49am: 10cm dilated. Time to push. The thing about pushing is that you think it will make you feel better, but instead it’s like a firebomb ripping through your lady parts. I thought that burning sensation meant the baby was exiting my body. Nope. That was only him moving down into the birth canal or something.
All I could do is squeeze my eyes closed and scream. I was grunting on the top of my lungs, too. Yes, I had become a stereotypical woman-in-labor from a movie. I was Katherine Heigl from Knocked Up. If I hadn’t been having such a freak out-of-body experience, I would’ve been embarrassed by all of the noises I was making.
My doctor, two nurses, and Jordan kept reminding me to breathe through the active labor contractions, but I couldn’t get my body to relax at all. I was sobbing, “I can’t do this!” and silently wishing that I’d pass out (or be knocked out) and have the baby removed from my body a different way. Every time somebody responded, “But you are doing it!” I wanted to yell a string of curses at them.
12:08pm: There he was. All 9lb 2oz of him. (And he was weighed after he peed on me…twice.) Although I remember looking at him and wondering how the hell something so big came out of me, I wasn’t really there in the moment when he was born. The pain was just too much for me to be truly present.
So what about that epidural? Well, the anesthesiologist was in another patient’s room when my nurse called for him. By the time he showed up to administer mine, it was too late. I was already 10cm dilated and just minutes away from giving birth. I had no choice but to push and feel every single excruciating sensation.
The fucking doctor arrived too late.
Interestingly, by early the next morning, Mother Nature was already hard at work trying to make the previous day’s rapid-fire labor and delivery a blur. A year later, however, I can still recall the pain, if faintly.
After Asa was born, Jordan kept telling me how strong I was, but while I was in labor, I didn’t feel strong. I was sobbing and screaming and wanting to vomit and (for a moment) wishing I were dead.
If we decide to have a third child, there’s no way that I’d choose to have a natural birth again. While I now have an unbelievable amount of respect for women who have multiple natural births, I’m also incredibly thankful that there are pain-minimizing drugs available to help us enjoy the experience more. That is, if the doctor arrives on time to administer them.