Today we continue with the birth story.
As contractions got longer and closer together, I realized there was something I could do about the pain and told the nurse I was ready for an epidural.
Me: I would like an epidural, please.
Me: How long will it take to kick in?
Nurse: It takes about 5 minutes to place, and 15 minutes for pain relief to start. Our anesthesiologists are really good, we just have to make sure there’s one around. And actually the one on duty now is next door at the moment.
Me: Yessssss. Bring it. Pump me up.
Anesthesiologist: Hello. Ready for an epidural?
Me: Hello. And oh yes.
Anesthesiologist: Ok, swing your feet over the side of the bed, sit up, lean forward, tuck your head down, and curl your back like a cat.
Me: Ok. Now this “curl like a cat” business…I’m only so foldable at the moment.
Anesthesiologist: You’re doing great.
The husband: Are you ok, baby?
The husband: Good.
Anesthesiologist: Epidural placed, 1:18 am. Nurse, please record the time.
The husband helped me curl forward while the nurse held my head down and still and the anesthesiologist placed the epidural. It was news to me until a few days before that an epidural stays put during delivery. What I thought was a shot is actually a tiny little pliable needle that stays in your back and can have extra numbing power added to it as necessary, which would turn out to be absolutely crucial for me in the coming hours.
With the epidural placed and kicking in, I could no longer feel the contractions but could tell I was having one when I was suddenly short of breath. It was an interesting sensation and the husband and I watched the contractions register on the monitor when we weren’t sleeping through them. Shifting around in my bed became increasingly difficult as my entire lower body lost feeling and being checked by a nurse or ob to see how labor was progressing was quite the production. For me, that is.
Me: I’m like a mermaid on land! Heehee! Look, my legs are like a tail and I can’t move them!
The husband: Zzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzz.
With the epidural working, I was able to sleep pretty steadily.
Me: Hey, wake up.
The husband: Are you ok?!
Me: I think my water broke. Or I’m peeing the bed. Either way, I can’t move to find out.
The husband: I’ll call the nurse. <pages nurse desk>
Me: Hi. I think my water broke.
Nurse: Ok, I’ll send your nurse in.
Me: Ok, I’ll be here.
The husband: Are you in pain?
Me: No. It…tickles. It seriously feels like I’m piddling. How come I can feel this but can’t feel my legs enough to move them?
The husband: Good question.
Me: I’m glad they didn’t have to break my water. At least one thing is happening on its own with this labor!
Sure enough, my water had broken. On-duty ob 2 came to check me, a nurse came to change my piddle pad (little known fact: while piddle pads are typically used for house-breaking small dogs, these are also used under the business ends of in-labor women…although they’re probably officially not the same product, the result is the same), and the husband got me some more ice nuggets.
The Pitocin, which was by now cranked up to 18 because not much had happened in the seven hours of inducement, dripped along. The nurse placed a catheter and soon I was resting again.
Before she left, on-duty ob 2 checked me one more time and announced that I was at 8 centimeters and could probably begin pushing in about two hours. A baby by lunchtime, I thought! So I went back to sleep. The husband and his slippers did, too.
On-duty ob 3, a jovial middle-aged man who told me it was my lucky day because I was going to have a baby and his lucky day because he was going to get to deliver her, came to check me. I was still 8 centimeters dilated, but the little oyster was now at 0 station. A little more progress.
On-duty ob 3: Your baby is taking her time. If you start pushing now, you push for many hours. We have you labor down. I come back soon.
Me: Sounds good, thank you.
Nurse: Labor down means we’re going to wait for the baby to move further down the birth canal before we have you push. Otherwise, like he said, you’ll be pushing for hours. We’ll let gravity help. Let’s sit you up straighter.
Me: Excuse me, but I can feel the contractions again. Is my epidural wearing off?
Nurse: Possibly. How much pain are you in, 1-10?
Me: 8. And I don’t feel good.
Nurse: I’ll call the anesthesiologist.
During my entire stay, my temperature and blood pressure, along with the oyster’s heart rate, were monitored constantly.
The anesthesiologist added power to the epidural and the nurse took my temp again. Oddly, it was up. Also oddly, I started shaking uncontrollably. The effectiveness of the epidural came and went, depending on how I was angled. Sitting up straighter to help me labor down seemed to dilute the pain-killing effects so that was a double-edged sword.
Nurse: You’re running a temperature.
Me: Oh. I don’t feel good.
Nurse: I’ll be right back. <returns with another nurse>
Nurse 2: How are you doing?
Me: My body hurts and I can’t stop shaking.
Nurse 2: When did your water break?
Me: 2:30 this morning.
Nurse: The doctor is having her labor down. The anesthesiologist just upped the epidural.
Me: I don’t feel good.
Nurse 2: Are you going to throw up?
Me: No. I ache all over and I’m having really bad heartburn.
Nurse: I’ll get you some Pepcid.
The Pepcid didn’t help, my fever was climbing, the pain was getting worse, I couldn’t stop shaking, and I was still pregnant.
Me: I can feel the contractions again.
Nurse 2: <pages anesthesiologist> How much pain are you in?
Me: 9. And the heartburn is really bad!
Nurse: I think she needs to start pushing.
Nurse 2: On-duty ob 3 is delivering next door. We need to call his back up.
Me: I can’t breathe. I feel like she’s trying to come out of my chest.
Nurse: Her fever is still up. She needs to push.
Anesthesiologist: Hi. The fever is burning off the epidural, that’s why it’s not lasting. I’m going to increase it again.
Nurse 2: I’m going to hold this leg and your husband is going to hold your other leg. When I say push, I’m going to start counting to 10 and you’re going to push as hard as you can until I get to 10.
Anesthesiologist: Why is she shaking?
Nurse: Her water broke at 2:30 this morning, we think there’s a small infection.
Me: I’m infected?
Nurse: It can happen if your water breaks and you go a few hours before pushing.
Anesthesiologist: The pain in her ribs is strange. I don’t think it’s heartburn. Are you sure there’s no rupture?
Nurse 2: Very unlikely.
Anesthesiologist: She shouldn’t be shaking like that. You should check for a rupture.
On-duty ob 4, backup for 3, arrived. She was no-nonsense and I was told to keep pushing, keep pushing, deep breath, keep pushing, push again. I pushed and I pushed and I breathed and I breathed and the “heartburn” got worse and spread to my lower left abdomen. I pushed for an hour. No progress.
Me: If I push again, I’m going to throw up.
On-duty ob 4: We’ll change your position but you have to keep pushing.
Me: I can’t. I can’t! She’s never coming out.
Nurse: Her fever is still up and the baby’s heart rate is increasing.
Me: I really can’t push. I can’t. I just can’t.
Nurse: I think she’s rupturing.
Me: <starts crying>
The husband: Hey baby, you’ll be ok. They’re taking good care of you. I’m right here.
Me: <still crying>
On-duty ob 4: How long has she been complaining of the pain and fever?
Nurse: About two hours. She’s had three rounds with the epidural but the crying is new.
On-duty ob 4: No option then. <to me> You need to have a c-section. This baby needs to come out now.
The husband: I’m right here with you, they’re going to bring our baby out! You’re going to be great!
Me: <still bawling> But I don’t want one!
The husband: Are you scared?
Me: <still bawling> Yes!
The husband: You’re so brave. We need to do what’s best for you and for our little girl. They’re going to take such good care of you and I’ll stay with you. <hugs my head>
Me: <bawling harder> Nothing is going right!
Moving from my rolling hospital bed to the operating table was very hard, physically, since I was weak, numb, tired and no longer feeling like a mermaid. On to the table I went, up went the blue sheet to shield me and the husband from the operation, out went my arms crucifixion-style on side tables, and in came the husband, dressed in what the nurses called a bunny suit–white scrubs and a hat.
I remember the anesthesiologist tinkering with the epidural some more. Nurses wetting cotton balls and running them up my sides and belly, telling me to say when I could feel the cold; when I was sufficiently numb, they applied some disinfectant. The ob asking why they chose the disinfectant that takes three minutes to dry because “we need to get moving on this.” Lots of pressure on my belly. The husband sat by my head. I think he held my hand. The nurse at my head leaning over my face and telling me she had a c-section on this same table 11 months earlier and I’d be fine. She had brown eyes.
The husband: She’s here! Our daughter is here! She’s out, baby!
Me: Why isn’t she crying? Why isn’t she crying? Why isn’t she crying?
<oyster lets out a wail>
The husband: from from me to the warming table, back to me> She’s beautiful! She’s here! Our daughter is here!
Then I passed out. Later in the evening I saw the pictures a nurse and the husband had taken of the little oyster getting all cleaned up and wiped down. She looked so big! At 8 lbs. 12 oz. and 21 3/4 inches long, she was pretty big for a newborn. Her hair was curly (I was so excited she had some!) and she did not look pleased to be out.
Later in the evening the husband also told me that the nurse handed him the baby as soon as all her initial testing was done and they ushered my family out of the operating room. As they left, someone came in to get the anesthesiologist who told that person that they’d have to find someone else, he had a patient hemorrhaging on the table.
The husband said it was one of the scariest hours of his life, alone in the recovery room with his brand new baby, waiting for his wife who, last he heard, was bleeding out on an operating table. A year after a brain surgery that went 100% according to plan, we were having baby with absolutely nothing going right.
It turned out the anesthesiologist was correct a few hours earlier. I had a placental abruption, a complication that, ironically, considering Martha, affects about 1% of pregnancies. I lost 1200 ccs (40 oz.) of blood during delivery and woke up in recovery to a nurse telling me to breathe and breathe again. I just wanted to sleep. When she left, the husband had to stand next to me and remind me to breathe. Our new baby girl was snuggled into his chest, asleep like I wanted to be.