It was Sunday, December 7, 2008. I was 40 weeks and one day pregnant. My due date, December 6, had come and gone and I was getting antsy. My doctor told me that if I was still pregnant at my appointment on the 9th, he was going to schedule an induction. I had the notion that I was going to do the labor and delivery thing as naturally as possible, maybe with a little narcotics if necessary, but I wanted to avoid the epidural, and I knew an induction would make that difficult to achieve.
That was my ideal, anyway. I approached childbirth with the same attitude I approached my wedding five years ago – back then, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter what happened, as long as I was married. Same thing now – I just wanted a healthy baby, and if things didn’t go according to my ideal to accomplish that, well, so be it.
In order to avoid the induction, I’d spent as much time on my feet as possible over the past several days, trying to get gravity to “do its thing”. We’d spent most of the day Saturday shopping, picking up last minute baby supplies and trying to make sure that everything was ready when the time came.
I woke up the morning of the 7th feeling really crampy. Looking back now, it’s funny how my pregnancy ended the same way it started – I only took a pregnancy test because I had cramps for a week and my period never showed up. I had periodic contractions throughout the day, but nothing more than the Braxton-Hicks I’d been having for the past few weeks, but the cramps never let up.
We went to bed at 9:00 that night, as usual (we get up really early). Almost immediately the contractions started. I casually looked at the clock every time, and they were five to eight minutes apart, but still not very strong. At 9:30 I got up to see if they would go away, since I wasn’t going to be able to sleep anyway. Once I was up and about, they were spaced out a little more, five to 12 minutes, so I called the advice nurse to check in and see what was what. She told me to wait till they’d been three to five minutes apart for a couple of hours, then go to the hospital.
They kept coming, getting closer together, so I stayed up. Finished some laundry, watched some television, and timed my contractions. There are still little lists all over the house where I wrote down the times in whatever room I happened to be in. At midnight I accidentally woke up Larry while getting some socks because my feet were cold. I told him not to be surprised if he didn’t go to work the next morning.
By 1:00 they were three to five minutes apart, and I was starting to panic a little, so I got Larry up and we packed up our bags and headed for the hospital. We got there about 2:15, and I was three centimeters dilated so they decided to let me stay. I was quite relieved about that – I was going to be awfully embarrassed if we’d headed out in the middle of the night for nothing!
Once they gave us a room, I got in the Jacuzzi tub down the hall. We spent about two and a half hours there, till I was wrinkled as a prune and decided it was time to walk a little. I was also fortunate that they let me eat some fruit – for some reason I was famished. My contractions were getting stronger, but when they checked me I was only at four centimeters.
Somewhere around 9:30 or so (time is a little fuzzy, you can imagine), they checked me again and I was still at 4 centimeters. The midwife on call decided to break my water, which was a lot more painful than I thought it would be, but luckily it only took a second. Sometime after that, they decided my contractions weren’t productive enough, so they put me on pitocin, and that was when the roller coaster ride started.
I should pause here to tell you a funny thing about my labor experience – I think every piece of equipment in the room had a faulty cord at one point or another. Both the internal and external fetal monitors, the blood pressure cuff, and the contraction monitor.
Once they started the pitocin, the contractions came hard and fast, as I knew they would, which is why I was hoping to avoid the induction in the first place! The monitor showed that they still weren’t strong enough, so they kept upping the dosage throughout the day. It hurt to sit or lie down during the contractions, so I tried to stay standing as much as possible. They put me on a portable monitor, so I could be out of bed and wander the halls some, which helped for a while.
Finally, sometime in the early afternoon, I was tired of being in pain, so they gave me some fentanyl, according to my birth plan. That didn’t do a darn thing for the contractions but it helped me relax during the few seconds in between them (they were just about continuous by this point). Then they checked me again to discover that I was still only at four centimeters. I think that was the point where I began thinking I was never going to have a baby! Also at this point, they were having trouble keeping her on the monitor, and decided to do an internal monitor, which meant that I was stuck in bed for a while. The cord was faulty so they couldn’t get a read on that, either, and had to reinsert it once again.
Finally, around 4:30, the pain was too intense and too constant and I asked for the epidural. That was shortly after I asked Larry if it was too late to adopt, and not long after I started insisting that I was going to die from being turned inside-out by contractions. Randy, my hero, the anesthesiologist, came in to put it in. This was when the blood pressure cuff decided to malfunction and just kept squeezing and squeezing. So there I am, mid-contraction, arm being pinched off, giant needle going in my back. It was a memorable moment, LOL!
I think I instantly fell asleep once the epidural kicked in. It was the first sleep I’d gotten since Saturday night, so I was exhausted. I woke up a little while later as I started feeling contractions again, and pushed the button that was supposed to deliver an extra dose of medication. It didn’t. The nurse had me push it again. We waited again. Still nothing. The contractions were back, as strong as ever. I was starting to panic, and Randy was called in once again. He discovered that the epidural had moved into a blood vessel so it was completely ineffective. He took it out and we started the whole process over again, but this time he gave me a spinal, too, so I would get relief faster. The drugs kicked in, and back to sleep I went.
Somewhere around 10:00, they checked me again. I was 6 centimeters dilated but my cervix was swollen on one side, which meant that Caitlyn wasn’t coming down straight and wasn’t putting enough pressure on to finish the job. At that point, the doctor decided it would be best to do a c-section. Because Caitlyn wasn’t in distress, it wasn’t an emergency, so we had to wait for an operating room to open up. Shortly after midnight (it was now December 9), they took me in and we got started.
It’s a strange feeling, being awake and knowing that someone is cutting you open, but you can’t feel anything. Because of the spinal, I didn’t even feel the pressure they kept talking about, and I spent the whole time trying not to panic because I couldn’t feel my legs. I’m not a claustrophobic person in general, but I was at that point. I just kept focusing on my breathing, which I had been doing all day.
At 1:16 a.m., Caitlyn was born. She came out screaming at the top of her lungs, which was great and scary at the same time, because there was meconium and we didn’t want her to breathe any of it in. They whisked her away to be cleaned up, weighed, and measured. She weighed in at 10 pounds, four ounces, and was 22 ¼ inches long. Her head circumference was 14 ¼ inches. It turned out that she was head down, as she had been for weeks, but facing sideways, and her head was coming down crooked, so she couldn’t make it all the way down.
It was a long, difficult, painful process, but, as they say, it was all worth it in the end. She is a precious, perfect, miracle child, and we are so glad she’s finally here!