Disclaimer: Some of this might be TMI. So proceed with caution. Although, if you know me, you know I've seriously toned down the personal details... I'm generally an open book.
Three months removed, I think I can talk about it now.
I mean, I talked about it after it happened and told the story, over and over, to visitors and family and interested parties. But for some reason I kept putting off writing Amelia's birth story in her baby book. I finally realized that I didn't want to write it down because I wasn't really ready to deal with it yet. Everything went almost completely opposite of what we'd hoped, and while I thought I'd prepared myself for that, I had a lot of mixed emotions to sort through afterwards.
So three months later, I have healed. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Birth is a traumatic experience. People told me this - that even if things went perfectly according to plan, it is a major life event and the gravity of it can easily crush you. So here is our story. I've probably forgotten some details at this point, but honestly I think I needed to.
We chose to deliver with the Vanderbilt Nurse Midwives and have an unmedicated birth. We attended Bradley classes and learned everything there was to know about pregnancy, birth, and the post-partum period. It was very important to me that my daughter was born on HER time table and not anyone else's. Not mine, not family's, not anyone's but hers. Unfortunately, at 42 weeks the risk factors go up in a lot of areas, so we gave her as much time as we possibly could. I carried her for fifteen extra days - and I wouldn't change it for anything. Those last two weeks were full of prayer and long conversations with my sweet baby, and ice packs and waddling - but I also love looking back and knowing that she was comfortable, and growing, and developing her brain and taking her time. I also loved being pregnant - even then! Haha. Knowing her now, her extra two weeks are characteristic of her nature: sweet and laid back and content. The last thing I wanted to do was rush her to arrive before she was ready and it was important to me to respect her in that way. So 42 weeks it was!
After I tried everything (literally, EVERYTHING) to go into labor naturally, and nothing worked (even doing that made me feel guilty - but I knew it was better to coax her out than to forcer her out), we were scheduled to be induced at 8am on September 3rd. We woke up, had a hearty breakfast at Fido, prayed, and made our way up to Labor & Delivery. The first 26 hours of our induction were spent trying to get me dilated. Yes, at 42 weeks gestation I was a "tight" 1cm and no where close to labor. Go figure. After three rounds of cytotec, some scary contractions on the second round, and lots of walking up and down the corridors of the fourth floor, I was at a 2. Stubborn, much?! So next we used a foley bulb to manually dilate. I would go into this, but it's pretty horrifying.... I wouldn't even google it if I were you. Just pretend you'd never heard of it and NEVER let them suggest it to you if you're being induced. Ignorance is bliss. In fact, there's a whole other story of how I reacted to this and the complications that arose and I don't hardly remember them because I've blocked them from my memory. Ick.
We started Pitocin while the foley bulb was still in, and I started having mild contractions pretty quickly. Finally! Active labor!! After about an hour, the foley bulb finally fell out which meant I was at 4cm. I loved this part of labor. Logan was an incredible coach, and I reveled in the pain of the contractions. There was some deep satisfaction I found in feeling my body gearing up to birth my sweet child. However, because I was no where close to labor when we came in, Amelia had not dropped. I think if she'd been engaged when we were induced, and maybe if I had gas, I would have lasted at least a bit longer. After four hours of unmedicated labor (we're not sure why I never got the gas... we told them we'd be interested but they never offered it and we totally forgot about it - I think this was the Lord's hand but I'll go into that later), I was no longer reveling in the pain, but absolutely crushed by it. I felt like my bones were being slowly split apart and I could hardly breathe as she dropped lower and lower. Usually people's babies drop over the course of weeks. She was dropping literally in the course of minutes. OUCH. The Pitocin also caused my contractions to be VERY close together, with no more than 5-10 seconds between them for recovery. I finally asked for pain relief. The funny thing is, out of my options (stop Pitocin, get in the shower, but then start it again later on / narcotics for only two hours then back to unmedicated labor / epidural), I chose the narcotics so I could rest a little and then get back at it. Well, when they left to go get the narcotics, I had another contraction and immediately decided we were going for the epidural. Then I
screamed at sweetly asked the anesthesiologist to get the epidural going before my next contraction "or else," so they gave me narcotics while I got my epidural. (So no, since so many people have asked me, the epidural didn't hurt! Haha.. but I guess it wouldn't then, would it?)
I also loved this part of labor. I have absolutely no regrets for getting it, even though in the moment I thought I would. Suddenly our delivery room went from incredibly stressful to incredibly calm and peaceful. Logan and I talked, prayed, cried, slept, and enjoyed the process. I honestly think I may do this with our next child (Lord willing): labor unmedicated, and then get an epidural. Both parts were so wonderful I can't decide which is better! So after a couple of hours (we're at six hours now total of active labor - on the afternoon of September 4th), my midwife checked and I was 10cm and ready to push! However, throughout all of this Amelia had been dropping her heart rate when I was anywhere but on my left side. I still think that's all sort of bogus, especially with what I've read about continuous fetal monitoring, but I wasn't about to argue with the professionals. So because of this, our midwife wanted us to labor down and wait as long as possible before starting to push in hopes that Amelia would cooperate when I got on my back to push.
So after another hour (seven hours now), I started getting these awful body shakes. At first I thought I was cold, but we piled blankets on and nothing helped. They got worse and worse. Finally, I couldn't hardly breathe or talk they were so bad and in the moment I honestly felt like it was the worst part of the labor yet. The nurses kept telling me it was a hormone rush because my body was in transition and knew it was time to push, but I felt like something was wrong.
Because my shaking got so bad, they finally decided we were going to go ahead and start pushing in hopes that they would stop after birth. In a routine check of vitals, they took my temperature and heart rate and realized I had a 103 fever and my heart rate was soaring. Our labor quickly turned into an emergency delivery.
They called in an OB who specialized in forceps delivery who kindly told me, "This baby has to come out NOW." (I foolishly thought this meant that I was going to the OR so I mumbled out "Am I going to keep shaking during surgery?" and he smiled and said, "Oh you're not going to have a c-section. We're doing a forceps delivery RIGHT NOW.") After about five minutes of pushing (and vomiting - ugh), I saw this amazing wet little body being held up at the end of the table. Unfortunately, our birth plan went out the window (as if it hadn't already - ha!), and she was rushed to the NICU doctors in the room who had been urgently called in for her. I just remember looking to my left, straining to see her, while they weighed her and checked her vitals, wanting so badly to hold her. I didn't ask because I knew that the docs knew best and I wanted her to be taken care of. I insisted Logan go over to her and not stay with me. He wouldn't leave my side. While they cleaned me up and.. you know.. finished the birth... they informed me that she would be going to the NICU immediately because she had a high fever as well as an elevated heart rate and was having difficulty breathing. They brushed her by my face so I could kiss her, then whisked her away, and I insisted Logan accompany her to the NICU so he reluctantly left. So much for the golden hour!
This is when things got ugly.
I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out, which I'm sure is probably expected and common after giving birth! Haha. So I didn't think much about it, but the doctors immediately became incredibly concerned when my blood pressure bottomed out and my heart rate still had not come down. I was in and out of feeling light headed and feeling fine, but the doctors remained concerned. They had estimated that I lost an average amount of blood, but later revised that to suggest that I'd lost three times the normal amount. The shaking was determined to have been fever chills, and my fever subsided shortly after I gave birth. At some point during my labor, I developed an infection on the placenta which affected both Amelia and I. Luckily, after only an hour in the NICU her fever had broken, and her breathing and heart rate had normalized. I, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky.
The doctors insisted I be hooked up to the telemetry machines, so they could have all my vitals at all times. This meant I had to stay in Labor & Delivery and wasn't cleared to move to the Post Partum wing. I got to meet Amelia five hours later in the peace and quiet of our room. I will never forget staring at her picture on Logan's phone over and over again while I waited to see her. I still tear up when I see that photo because it was the first time I ever set eyes on her. I remember thinking she looked like she was smiling, as if to say, "Don't worry, Mom! I'm here! We did it!" Words can't describe holding her for the first time. It was incredible, especially after that long wait.
Those first few days are all very fuzzy to me now... I remember continuously saying I felt fine to all the doctors, and I know I did, but looking back I think I was much more incoherent than I realized. I can't quite place what events happened in what order, and who visited when. The story was that my bloodwork was terrible, a transfusion didn't help, antibiotics weren't helping, and I still had the infection according to my labs. My blood pressure didn't come up for several days, and my heart rate took about two days to normalize. I was put on strict bed rest and was closely monitored. They wanted to place me in the ICU, but I insisted repeatedly that I felt fine, so they said "my demeanor" was keeping them from moving me. I remember a nurse telling me that the doctors and residents were puzzling over me in the hall - that I had everyone stumped. Thankfully, Labor & Delivery became very crowded while we were there and after my blood work started looking slightly better after three days, they moved us to a different room (likely to accommodate other patients more so than as a reaction to my improvement). I was SO thankful to be able to breastfeed without having to work around twelve cords all tangling up on my chest and arms. Things continued as before, but I was finally encouraged to stand up for short periods of time, and then after another day, I was told to try walking.
Okay, giving birth in general is pretty hard on the body. But then try chaining your body to a bed for 4+ days, left to swell from the lack of movement, in addition to the swelling that was already happening anyway. I couldn't even straighten my back. It was horrible. Just standing up took me about five minutes, and it took every ounce of my strength. I was desperate to go home with our baby, so I was determined to walk two laps around the floor (they said I could be discharged once I did that). It was miserable, but I somehow managed.
They finally moved us to post partum for our last night. I think they only did it because I felt so defeated and disappointed that we never got to be there with our baby. We never got to have normal visitors - just people who we had to give "visitor passes" to. I had a sweet little banner for our post partum door that I never got to use. I was so defeated by the aftermath of Amelia's birth, that they gave us the "best room on the floor" (it had a wall of windows) for our last night I think just to boost my morale. We had a few friends visit us there, and it meant the world to me to feel NORMAL. Six days in the hospital, and we finally got to go home.
It took me about three weeks to walk normally, but we made it. And she was worth it all. (And I have a new appreciation for chiropractors.)
I am convinced that the Lord guided me to that epidural. Having a forceps delivery with no medication, and the ensuing procedures (catheter, etc.) with no medication would have been agony. I was confined to lay on my left side shortly before the epidural, and laboring in bed would have been much more painful than being able to move about. It's amazing how He works for our benefit, even when it seems like things are completely out of control.
Thank you to the Vanderbilt staff - especially the nurses who took incredible care of me and my OBs who spent hours trying to figure me out after our delivery. I owe our health to Dr. Spetalnick, who delivered Amelia, and Dr. Newton who was my high risk OB after she was born and I was still recovering. Three months removed, we are doing famously. <3