September 25, 2019

Eliza Jane Snow: A Birth Story

I had wonderful labors with both Taylor and Olive so I guess it was time that something went a little wrong for me during delivery. If you're about to give birth and are prone to worry, maybe don't read this one. If you want to read a positive birth story, here is Taylor's, and here is Olive's. I mean we did end up with a perfect baby girl... the labor just wasn't as perfect as I hoped for.

I started getting Braxton Hicks contractions from about 22 weeks. I didn't have Braxton Hicks in my previous pregnancies so I was quite annoyed to have them from pretty early on in this pregnancy (and quite frequently). I tried to tell myself this was good because my body was practicing for labor and I'd be ready when it was go time. About two weeks before my due date I started having real contractions. Surely this meant I would have her early since contractions meant your body was prepping - I had to be dilating and my cervix had to be thinning. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. My doctor checked me at one of my appointments and said that I was maybe 1 cm dilated and that my cervix was still super high. This baby didn't look like she was coming anytime soon. I continued having lots of real contractions which now just made me angry. Why did I have to suffer through these contractions when they weren't even doing anything?

My mom came to visit us and be on call to watch the kids if we had to head to the hospital. I almost told her not to come at all because now I was positive the baby was never coming so her trip would be in vain. Again, I was having contractions and even some pretty consistent ones, but they would stop then start up again randomly so I didn't put much stock into them. I went to bed Sunday night then woke up from the contractions around 3 am. I started timing them since I couldn't fall back asleep and noticed that they were getting pretty close together. Around 4:30 am I decided it was time to head into the hospital. With Taylor, my water broke before I ever had contractions so I knew it was time to go. With Olive, I waited a really long time before going to the hospital because I didn't know if my contractions were bad enough and I didn't want to be sent home. By the time I got there with Olive, I was 8cm dilated and I had to be rolled into the labor wing so my water didn't break walking from the triage room to labor & delivery. So this pregnancy, I thought it would be a good idea to head in a tad bit sooner.

Once we were checked in and brought back to triage, the nurse took a peek and said that I was 3 cm dilated and my water was "bulging". We were admitted and taken back to labor & delivery. I thought that we would be there for a while, but the nurse reassured me that it being my third child, it would all happen quickly. I was still skeptical because my contractions didn't seem that close together yet and figured it would be about the same timeline as Taylor and Olive's labor.

Around 8 am, I was checked again and was told I was at 6 cm. I debated getting the epidural, but my contractions still seemed far apart and I didn't want to slow down progress so I decided to wait a little bit. I asked how long it would take to get my epidural so I wouldn't miss my window and was told it only took about 10-15 minutes to get an anesthesiologist to my room. I told the nurse that my biggest fear was finding out that it was too late to get my epidural so I'd probably be asking for it soon. She assured me that it never happens like that and there is always time to get an epidural (this is major foreshadowing).

My doctor popped in to see me at about 9 am. Only an hour had passed, but I was now 9 cm dilated! I told them to order the epidural stat. My doctor decided since he was already there, he would break my water and place an internal heart rate monitor (mind you, this is before my epidural). My doctor is nearing retirement age and is a little old fashion. I don't think many doctors place internal heart rate monitors anymore (it seemed entirely unnecessary at 9cm dilated). He also used his fingers to break my water instead of the usual amniohook. It took him a few tries to get my water to break and he was not gentle. I really would have rather waited for my water to inevitable break once I started pushing instead of experiencing the pain of a hand digging around in my cervix for what seemed like several long minutes. Anyway, once my water was broken and the heart rate monitor placed, my doctor told me that my baby was ready to come. The nurse said that I could still get the epidural, but I might as well go without one since it was time. I had not even considered an unmedicated birth so I still wanted that epidural. The anesthesiologist was called and we were told he'd be to my room in 15 minutes, but he ended up being late. It was time for this baby to come so now was not the time to be late! I mean, hindsight, he probably had other patients he had to attend to and I'm sure he got there as soon as possible, but try to explain that to a laboring woman who has a fear of not getting an epidural in time! The entire time we were waiting for him to arrive, my doctor was telling me I didn't need an epidural. In fact, when the anesthesiologist finally walked into the room, my doctor told him that we had decided to go ahead without the epidural. Being in extreme pain and also being pretty confused at what my doctor was doing, I was grateful my nurse stepped in and said, "Actually, she hasn't decided." and then looking to me for my decision. I was obviously still in favor of an epidural. He got me hooked up to the drugs fairly quickly once he arrived, but the epidural wasn't kicking in. I still felt every contraction at full force. Where were the effects of my magic drugs?!

My doctor told me it was time to push, but I was not ready. I had not prepared myself to give birth while feeling everything. I started pushing and it. was. so. hard. I started crying and just kept saying, "It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!" Now I understand why they portray birth in movies the way they do. You know, with the woman screaming and howling almost in an animalistic way. The pain takes over and you can't really control how you react. You're not even thinking really. There's no space for thinking when every atom of you is screaming in pain and your body is telling you that the pain you are experiencing is physically impossible for you to endure.

When her head emerged I was told to stop pushing. I could not believe they would tell me to stop pushing when all I wanted to do was get that baby out of me. I couldn't take the pain, but somehow managed to withhold from pushing. My doctor kept saying, "Stop pushing, stop pushing, stop pushing!" until I finally yelled back, "I'm not!" Apparently the cord was wrapped around her neck twice, but they were wise not to tell me this information in the state I was in. Finally I was allowed to push again and I told myself to push as hard as I could so the pain would be over. It only took that last contraction and 3 consecutive pushes and she was out at 10:09 am.

She was placed on my chest, a moment I had been looking forward to for so long, but at that second, my blood pressure dropped and I couldn't even pick up my head to look at her or put my arms around her to hold her there. They kept asking me what was wrong, what was I feeling, etc. and all I could do was mumble back, "I don't feel good." over and over again. They suspect this was when the epidural kicked in because a blood pressure drop can be a side effect. Lucky me, the epidural kicked in the second she was out of me. They took her away to be weighed and measured (20.5 inches long and 6lb 10oz, my smallest baby) while I was stitched up. The nurse talked me back into reality as my blood pressure evened out. Andrew had to take a moment and sit down, not from seeing all the blood and gore, but from watching me in such intense pain.

Finally I started to feel okay and Eliza was placed back on my chest for some skin to skin. She almost immediately started nursing and nursed for almost an hour. She looked exactly like Olive, but had dark hair like Taylor. As she's gotten older, I think she looks a little like both of them, but still more of Olive. She also acts a lot like Olive too which means we have another child who feels ALL her emotions intensely (and wants to be held constantly).

I've been working on this post for a really long time. Every few weeks I write a couple more details and save it as a draft. It's been difficult for me to write about my labor and I still haven't been able to work through or elaborate on how I feel about the whole experience. I loved my labor experiences with both Taylor and Olive. I found it so empowering and fulfilling. I tell people that I love labor. I was so excited for Eliza's birth and had been anxiously waiting for that moment she would be placed on my chest, but it turned out entirely different than I imagined. I realize that my experience wasn't even that bad. Many people have terrible, awful, even traumatic things happen to them. It makes me feel a little silly to even complain knowing that. But I keep telling myself that my feelings are valid. I'm allowed to be upset. Especially since this was most likely my last pregnancy/labor. I really wanted a beautiful experience with Eliza that I'd be able to look back on with fondness. Unfortunately that's not the case. But that's okay (or at least I'll come to terms with it eventually). We are in love with Eliza and are so happy she's here with us, regardless of the details of how she got here.

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