One year ago today, I was 40 weeks and 3 days into my pregnancy.
Levi’s due date was July 9, 2011. Because he had not yet arrived, I attended my weekly OB/GYN appointment on July 12, 2011 with JB and my mom in tow. It was probably 9am or 10am when we met with the doctor. She asked me if I would want to be induced at 41 weeks if I still had not given birth and offered me the choice of doing it on Friday, July 15th or Monday, July 18th. I remember feeling flustered because it seemed so absurd and unnatural to be asked to look at my calendar and pick when my baby would celebrate his birthday.
Unable to decide on a day, we waited for the results of my blood work to check on my platelet levels. I had started taking a low dose steroid at 37 weeks to help keep them above 100,000 because they had been teetering on being too low for me to have an epidural if I wanted one. If they were below 100,00 at the time of delivery, I would have no choice but to delivery naturally. Since I had never given birth before and could not predict whether I would be able handle the pain, I wanted the option of an epidural available to me. Pushing a baby out of my vagina would be an incredible feat in and of itself; I didn’t necessarily need to be a hero and do it drug free.
It turned out that my platelet levels were sitting at exactly 100,000. As soon as my doctor read the results out loud, I began to cry. Since there was no guarantee for how long they would remain at 100,000, I knew that she would recommend I have the induction that day. What I wasn’t expecting her to say was that I should go home to grab my bags and head right back to the hospital. It was go-time.
The emotions behind my tears were fear and relief. I was terribly afraid of the unknown (labor and delivery, becoming a mother, raising boy, etc.) but grateful that I did not have to make the decision about when my baby would be born. Something beyond my control – my dropping platelet levels – made it for me.
We checked into the hospital at noon. It was so bizarre to walk up to the reception desk feeling (relatively) calm and collected and announce that I was there to have a baby. Where was my wheelchair? Wasn’t I supposed to be clutching my belly in agonizing pain? My doctor had called ahead to reserve a room for me, and I double checked to see if it was one with a birthing tub (in case I wanted to go that route). I could have had either a window or a tub, but since I didn’t think I’d really feel like gazing outside, I chose the tub.
As soon as we settled into the largest hospital room I had ever seen, I pulled out my journal and started recording all of the events of the day. When I was unable to write, I had JB log entries for me. I’m so glad that he did and would recommend to any woman in labor that she have her husband or a family member capture all of the details in writing. My mom met us in our room, offering her support when requested but generally staying out of our way. However, at different points during my labor and when it was time to start pushing, we did ask her to leave. JB and I wanted the birth of our son to be a private moment between us (and my doctor and nurses, of course).
Warning: The rest of this post is going to be graphic.
12:45 pm – My OB/GYN ruptured my membranes with what looked and felt like a large crochet hook. Water came rushing out of my body, an amount comparable to 2 2-liter bottles of soda, I was told. The sensation of Niagra Falls happening between my legs felt so unfamiliar that it made me nervous, and when I get nervous I laugh. The laughing made the water spray out and splash my doctor, which JB thought to be hilarious. My sheets were literally soaked; I was sitting in what seemed like several inches of water. After they wiped me down with several towels and changed my bedding, my IV was inserted.
1:45 pm – I was 5-6 cm dilated, same as when I arrived, so my nurse, Kim, asked me if I wanted to try taking a walk. As soon as I stood up, however, more water came gushing out and my oversize, hospital-grade maxi pad was drenched before I could even left the room. The water didn’t show signs of stopping, so back to bed I went. Despite feeling a couple of jabs in my ribs, I wasn’t in too much pain.
2:00 pm – I had one big, painful contraction that produced another rush of water, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe. The blood work I had done when I was first admitted to the hospital came back and indicated that my platelets had jumped up to 112,000. Good news!
2:45 pm – Epidural time. Although I wasn’t in terrible pain, I decided to have one anyway. Perhaps the next time I have a baby I will choose to wait longer before having an epidural–or maybe I will decide to not have one at all. I don’t believe that there is a right way or a wrong way to have a baby. Despite wanting the epidural, I was still very concerned about possible complications and asked the anesthesiologist a ton of questions. He explained that I would feel a popping sensation and a strange feeling similar to hitting your funny bone.
I sat at the edge of the bed facing JB. We held hands and pressed our foreheads together. I remember shaking because I was so nervous and because I was having severe cramp-like contractions. The local anesthetic hurt, as did the insertion of the catheter for the epidural. Big, heavy tears fell from my eyes straight onto the floor. Sure enough, I felt the popping he had described, which caused me to wince and cry out. There was some sort of pain or tingling sensation moving down my back toward my legs that felt liquid-y and cold. At that point, getting the epidural was the scariest part of the whole labor experience.
2:55 pm – JB noted in my journal that my belly button, which had popped out like a turkey timer, looked like a normal “innie” belly button again. He was overjoyed.
3:45 pm – Following another check (and bladder drainage from a catheter), my nurse started me on 1 “click” of Pitocin (I honestly don’t know how to calculate measurements of Pitocin. JB wrote 1 mL/hour, but a website I checked said that Pitocin is given in 1-2 mu/min.). Because I already had the epidural and was still only 5-6 cm dilated, there was really no reason to wait, which is why I agreed to the Pitocin. Kim explained that although I wouldn’t feel much of a difference, the Pitocin would bring on more and stronger contractions that would force the baby’s head down toward the cervix and encourage further dilation.
4:00 pm – Kim administered 2 more clicks (or whatever) of Pitocin.
4:20 pm – I could not feel my vagina. Fucking weird was the only way I was able to describe how I was feeling to JB.
5:00 pm – My cervix was 100% effaced and 10 centimeters dilated. Holy shit, it was time to push…
Levi’s birth story will conclude tomorrow!