some people enjoy reading birth stories. i’m one of those people. mostly out of curiosity really. now that i actually have a birth story, i want to make sure i remember it. so i’m putting it here on the blog. if reading other people’s birth stories isn’t your thing, feel free to move along to the next blog post. no worries. i totally get it. if you’re interested, read on…
the weekend prior to going into labor, it really felt like my body had turned a corner. there was a definite shift in how i felt overall – decidedly more tired, more uncomfortable… it really felt like my body was gearing up to have the baby. being my first pregnancy, all of this was totally new so i didn’t know for sure what any of it meant, although i had my suspicions. i also didn’t want to get my hopes up too much… we were all very eager for little Jack to make his appearance, but i kept preparing my heart for the reality that he very well could come late. wednesday morning i had my routine doctor’s visit. aaaand there was no sign of forward momentum at all. i was maybe dilated ½ cm. maybe. but really nothing. bummer. wednesday or thursday were the days that would be ideal for me to go into labor – partially because it would give me plenty of recovery time and allow me to make it to church on the 16th for zach’s first Father’s Day and the baby dedication that was happening that morning (priorities!) and partially because thursday and friday were zach’s days off, and it would be really convenient to NOT have to call him while he was working and say “um, i need to go to the hospital, how quickly can you get off position and get home??”
thursday evening was our date night. as i was finishing up getting ready in the bathroom, i realized that i had started bleeding, and more than just some little spotting. i called the Dr on call with my practice and she said that if the bleeding was more than spotting, that i should definitely go to the hospital and get checked. um ok? wow. was this it?? we tossed the last few items into the hospital bag, loaded up the carseat and headed down to the hospital! on the way, i realized that i was feeling minor contractions – mostly just crampy feelings and some tightening of my belly, but suddenly i realized that this very well could be the start of labor! i was admitted right away and wheeled up to the L&D triage. i got all hooked up to the monitors and the nurse checked what was going on – sure enough, i was leaking amniotic fluid. at that point they considered my water to be “broken” as of 6:30pm (it was now around 8:00pm). i was contracting every 2-3 minutes and dilated to about a 3. i was definitely not going anywhere – we were staying and having a baby!
i was transferred to a labor & delivery room where the waiting basically continued. i was able to eat a sack lunch – hallelujah, because i was STARVING. the contractions continued. they were pretty mild at this point. basically just felt like uncomfortable cramps, especially in my lower back, but very tolerable. however, after several hours with little dilation progress, we decided to move forward with pitocin + epidural.
(let me just say that i had decided very early on that i wanted an epidural birth. i am a huge wimp and nothing about a “natural” labor and delivery appealed to me at all. so at least for this first pregnancy, i knew i wanted to be medicated. i’m very grateful for modern medicine and i do not regret that choice at all.)
the epidural came around midnight (with the pitocin a little after that) and i was pleasantly surprised by how nearly painless the entire thing was. however, the initial surge of the epidural hit my body very oddly. i felt the numbness nearly all the way up the right side of my body – up into my chest and shoulder. the nurse assured me that it would even itself out as the initial dose wore off – and it did. but it was weird. the initial surge also caused me to become very light headed and drowsy and i lost all the contents of my stomach. ugh. i hate throwing up! but thankfully it made me feel much better and within 15-20 minutes, things felt more normal again. we turned on a movie as a distraction and i was able to relax.
once the epidural settled in, i was pleasantly surprised with how “localized” it ended up being. while i basically felt zero contractions, i had a TON of mobility and minor feeling in the lower half of my body. i could wiggle my toes, move my legs around, even prop myself up and roll myself over each time the nurse came in to rotate me. in many ways, it felt like the ideal epidural! i was also able to sleep a LOT. i basically drifted in and out of sleep for the next 12-18 hours. time actually felt like it passed really quickly! i updated facebook, texted friends, watched a movie, slept… eventually Zach got some sleep too…
zach was absolutely amazing through all of this. he was calm and ever present. i felt so secure and stable being able to hold his hand, or have him stroke my hair or just feel his touch. there were times where it felt like my mind was racing and i couldn’t slow down enough to rest, but his touch on my shoulder or head had such a calming effect on me.
thus far i was so very aware of all the little ways that God had kindly answered our prayers – this was the week – even the very day – that we had hoped i would go into labor. i had somewhat hoped that my water would break first, giving me some sort of definitive timeline for labor and delivery and less of a guessing game of if/when we needed to head to the hospital… if i was far enough along to be admitted, etc. i found out once we got to the hospital that pretty much all of our birth “priorities” (that was the closest i got to any sort of birth “plan”) were either already standard procedure at this hospital or were very easily accommodated, therefore eliminating the need for me to get firm or insistent on certain things.
my progression was very slow. i got to 5cm around 6:30am friday morning and stayed there until 11:30am, at which point i had only dilated to 6cm. it took another 6 hours to make it to 8cm. they inserted an intra-uterine monitor to get a better gauge of how strong my contractions were and discovered that although the contractions were consistently coming 2-4 minutes apart (and had since i checked in the night before), they weren’t strong enough to get things moving, despite upping my pitocin doses nearly as much as possible. my body also was starting to acclimate a bit to the epidural and i while feeling some of the contractions was quite tolerable and i didn’t mind that part at all, i began to experience intense back labor pains that did not let up between contractions. yikes, that was awful. so they gave me another epidural boost, which caused me to vomit again, but then settled in and alleviated the pain. after vomiting twice and therefore having literally NOTHING in my stomach, i was really hungry. i could feel my blood sugar levels dropping and i began to worry about pushing a baby out on so little energy. around 7:30pm i had made it to 9cm! i was starting to get excited and hopeful – we were almost there! but then i spiked a fever. nothing crazy high – 100.5 – but high enough for them to at least give me tylenol to try and bring it down. especially because at this point, we had passed the 24hr mark for my water being broken. we needed my fever to come down and my contractions to strengthen and my cervix to make it to 10cm soon.
well, after 2 hours, none of those things had happened. which meant that a c-section was suddenly the main option staring us in the face. at this realization, i completely broke down emotionally. we had talked before about the possibility of a c-section and knew that we were completely ok with it, should it become apparent that one was necessary. the procedure itself didn’t scare me at all. i am so grateful that we live in an age where such an operation is so much more commonplace and not nearly as scary as it was 50-100 years ago. my tears came more just as a flood of disappointment to have gotten *this* far in labor – 27 hours, finally at 9cm – and to still end up needing a c-section?! ugh. plus, i had also heard some stories about Dr’s not wanting to do VBACs, or expecting you to put 2+ years between pregnancies if you have a c-section, etc. so while i had no problem doing what had to be done for THIS baby, i was worried about future pregnancies more than anything else.
i just have to say that the Dr on call that night was nothing short of a gift from God to us. she wasn’t the Dr i had been seeing for the last couple months, but she was exactly the Dr i needed that night. and God knew. she was amazing. she sat down on the side of the bed, rested her hand on my arm and said, “we need to talk about some options here. tell me what you’re feeling. what are you thinking? what are your concerns?” she satisfactorily answered all of my questions (pursuing a VBAC would be totally fine, it was fine that we want 3 more kids – this was not going to jeopardize that in her mind or make us wait years for more, she did double stitching on the incision so as to get the best possible healing, etc.). in fact, she never actually said the words “c-section” until much later in the conversation after i was calmed down. i never felt rushed or pressured into the procedure. i was even impressed that the Dr and the hospital let me labor a good 3hrs beyond the standard “24 hours from water break” before bringing up the c-section option. after talking with her and zach, we confidently decided to move forward with the c-section.
zach suited up while they increased my epidural yet again to make me REALLY numb (more vomiting, ugh – clearly this is my initial reaction to epidural doses, note for next time). the whole procedure is surprisingly quick. the whole team in the OR operated like a well oiled machine – and yet a very gracious one at that. they were assuring and encouraging and talked me through everything they were doing. zach got to watch over the “curtain,” while all i felt was tugging and pressure. seriously, modern medicine is incredible! another kindness from the Lord: the Dr who was on call and did my c-section is apparently known for her excellent surgeon skills. a friend had been “stitched up” by her before and told me she was really good. this was also confirmed by pretty much EVERY post partum nurse who checked my incision and couldn’t resist mentioning how impressive it was! what a blessing that was to know/hear!
earlier in the day, upon hearing that i was in labor and that baby jack was definitely on the way, zach’s parents began trying to figure out how and when they could get to arizona. with only one car for the family, and my mother-in-law not quite able to make the cross-desert drive by herself, i had no idea how or when they would get here. well praise God for amazing-hearted servants in the church. a dear friend in the pasadena church agreed to accompany tami in a rental car – totally last minute – and make the drive with her asap! they hit the road on friday afternoon and arrived at the hospital literally 20 minutes before i was wheeled back into the OR! (and then the friend got up the next morning and drove the rental car back to pasadena!!) some close friends here in the gilbert church had space in their house for tami to stay the weekend AND a car available for her to use to get to/from the hospital! it was so wonderful and special that tami made it in time for the birth and that God so perfectly worked out all the details for her to come right away! (ron came on monday and the girls came later in the week, so eventually we got to have the whole family here)
one of the down sides to a c-section is that you don’t get to hold your baby right away after he comes out. zach brought him close so i could see him, but that was as much as i could get in the first couple minutes.
however, they were pretty quick with all the nursery stuff they did and zach got some awesome father-son time with jack during that first hour or so while they finished stitching me up and getting me into the post-op recovery area. zach got to be right there next to jack for pretty much all the nursery time, talking to him, watching him and eventually holding him up for the family to see through the window. that was pretty special.
i had only been in the recovery area for a few minutes before zach showed up with baby jack and i got to hold him for the first time. aaahhh soooo amazing. we both cried and laughed and cried some more. i didn’t want to put him down or stop kissing him! it was such a surreal couple of hours. to suddenly think back on all the tears and emotions and questions that had raced through our heads and cut through our hearts only 11 months early (after miscarriage #2), it was absolutely mind blowing to be holding our son in our arms. our perfect, beautiful, healthy little son.