At about 1:30am on Tuesday, 8/9, I woke up when David came to bed. As I lay there, I felt a contraction that seemed stronger and more painful than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d been having for a few weeks. I was somewhat hopeful, but at 41 weeks pregnant a part of me didn’t believe I’d go into labor at all. I had an induction scheduled for Friday morning, which I wasn’t happy about. It had long been my desire to have a completely natural water birth.
After about half an hour and a few more contractions, I wondered if this was the real deal. I began to look at the clock when I had a contraction. They were between 5 and 10 minutes apart. At about 2:30am I got up and bounced on my yoga ball in the living room. At 3:30 I woke up David to give him the heads up that I thought this was it, but that he could sleep a bit more and I would let him know when things really got going. I got my ipod and lay on the couch, listening to some hypnosis for labor tracks that I’d downloaded a few months before. They were helpful, suggesting breathing patterns for the contractions that gave me something to focus on other than the pain. Eventually David got up and began to watch me and time the contractions. They were getting closer together, but slowly. I texted my mom and my doula. I wanted them to be prepared, but I felt that it would be a while before I was ready to head to the hospital. At one point David called the hospital and they told me I could wait and come in when the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. That didn’t happen till around 9am. Still, I was hesitant to go into the hospital. I liked laboring at home.
But after 8 hours or so of labor, I told David I might want to go in to the hospital so they could make sure the baby was still doing okay. We talked to Rene and she suggested that I go in, so that I would have a chance to get settled into my hospital room before things got really intense. She also said that if I hadn’t progressed much, they might send me home.
When we got to the hospital, the contractions slowed a bit. They hooked me up to monitor me and the baby. The nurses suddenly would make me change positions (roll to the other side) during contractions. I wasn’t sure why they were doing this at first. David thought it was for my pain, and asked them if I could walk around or have a birthing ball. They explained that the baby’s monitor was showing “variables” and they were concerned for him. This situation did not improve as they monitored us. They very gently told me that they were worried that the baby was having problems – most likely a cord issue – which was causing his heart rate to drop dramatically during my contractions. And I was only 1cm dilated. A midwife came in, and explained that they would try their best to let me have a vaginal delivery, but they were so concerned for the baby that several things would have to be done to allow me to continue to labor: they would put me on an IV, I had to wear an oxygen mask and a pulse monitor, and they were going to break my water and attach a scalp monitor to the baby’s head.
I was not going to be able to get out of bed until I’d had the baby. There would be no water birth. At the moment, I didn’t care about any of this – I was just worried about the baby. They assured me that it was okay for me to continue to labor naturally as long as we took these steps.
When they broke my water, I didn’t feel the gush of fluid I was expecting. There was no fluid. So they did an amnio-infusion, pumping me full of saline. During this time, the OB came in to introduce herself (I’d only seen midwives throughout my pregnancy), and so did the nurse anesthetist. Once my water had broken, the labor got more intense over the next couple of hours. All of the methods I’d planned to use to deal with the pain were basically no longer an option, since I was confined to the bed. It was difficult. But what made it especially hard was that I was fighting off panic the entire time. I was so, so worried about my baby. I could hear his heartbeat slow on the monitor every time I had a contraction. It was completely nerve-wracking. At times, nurses or the OB or the midwife would come in and stare at the monitor with grave faces. The OB told us that soon we would have to consider “other options” to make the labor progress more quickly, because they just weren’t comfortable letting it go on for too long. Although the contractions felt really intense and close together, I still wasn’t dilating particularly quickly – I don’t think I ever made it past 3cm. I didn’t know how much I could take. I began to shake and even vomited from the pain. My usually squeamish husband held the barf bag for me and didn’t flinch. He and Rene held my hands and talked me through the contractions.
After months of research and discussion about natural birth, David felt skeptical about all of the interventions. He was a bit of a PITA to the hospital staff. But it felt nice that he was trying to stand up for me and my wishes.
As time went on, I reached a point where I wasn’t sure if I could take the mental anguish any more. I told Rene and David that I was beginning to feel selfish. I’d wanted a natural birth because I believe it is (usually) best for mother and baby. But my baby was not doing well – was it right to put him through this? I was feeling like I just wanted him OUT by any means necessary, so he could be okay. It was sad to me that my body was no longer a safe place for him, but that’s how it seemed.
Some nurses came in to check me and I expressed these thoughts to them. They were very gentle and careful with their wording and did not try to pressure me into anything. They did tell me that if I were to make that decision now, it might be a good thing because they would have time to do spinal anesthesia, whereas if I had to be rushed in for an emergency section they would have to put me under general anesthesia, and I would not be able to see the baby when he came out.
This turned out to be a moot point, because just then I had another contraction, and the baby’s heartbeat did not recover when it was over. I heard the nurses say “he’s not coming up,” and then I could hear nothing from his monitor. They began to unhook everything and rush me back to the OR. They were talking to each other and asking me questions about allergies to medications and stuff like that as they wheeled me down the hall. I was in a complete panic because I had heard the baby’s monitor go silent. Later, David explained to me that this was because they’d unhooked it to take me to the OR, but at the time I thought it meant his heart had completely stopped. I was shaking uncontrollably.
The nurse anesthetist was saying there was no time for a spinal and I’d be given general anesthesia. They gave me a few consent forms to sign. But when we got to the OR, the anesthesiologist there said he thought he had time to do a spinal, and asked me if that was what I wanted. I was so panicked by this time that I said “I don’t know!” He said, “Do you want to meet your baby?” I said yes. He began to do the spinal.
One of the nurses was trying to calm me down so I would stop shaking. It was rather scary to be shaking while someone put a needle into my spinal cord. I asked her, “Is my baby alive right now?” And she said “Oh yes! Look, that’s his heartbeat!” And showed me a monitor that said 134. They’d had no idea I thought the baby’s heart had stopped.
The OB came in and they began to prep me for the section. It was all moving very fast. They poked me a bit with the scalpel and the anesthesiologist asked me if I could feel it, if it felt sharp. I could, and it did. He said if the spinal didn’t kick in soon they’d have to put me under general, because they couldn’t wait any more. Thankfully, seconds later it began to work. They asked me if I could feel the scalpel, and I could, but just barely, and it didn’t hurt.
“Look who’s here,” the anesthesiologist said. There was David, in surgical scrubs, holding my hand.
And then someone was telling me the baby was out. I began to hear him cry. “Do you hear that?” David said. “That’s our son. Our son is here.” Anton was born at 2:51pm.
I just kept asking, “Is he okay?” Rene talked me through what was happening – they were suctioning out his nose and mouth. There had been meconium present and they thought he might have inhaled some. He was not taking oxygen quickly enough.
I couldn’t see the baby, he was surrounded by people. They told me he was going to the NICU. They asked if David wanted to go back there with him. I saw David look at me. He didn’t want to leave me, but I really wanted him to be with the baby. Rene offered to stay with me.
Rene held my hand while they stitched me up. I was told that the baby seemed mostly fine, but they wanted to give him some extra oxygen and keep an eye on him for a while. I was relieved.
My mom and my sister had arrived at the hospital just as my section was started. They were in my room when I got back there. They took turns visiting the baby in the NICU. One of the nurses taped a picture of him to my bed.
It was hard to be without him, but what I felt most at that point was overwhelming relief that he was alive.