I have hesitated to post this for weeks, unsure if I should share it or not. I am a private person, especially when it comes to certain medical details, but since most of my blog readers are family, and many people already have the summary, I decided to share. I'll be glad to have the detailed record at some point down the line. Without further ado:
On St. Patrick’s Day 2015, I had a routine 38 week doctor appointment. For the first time ever, my blood pressure was elevated (still within the range of “normal” but higher than my previous 15+ prenatal appointments – I was told that the alarming part wasn't the number itself, but the fact that it was significantly different than my previous baseline of readings). In an “abundance of caution”, the doctor requested that I come back 72 hours later to keep an eye on it.
On Friday, March 20th, I went back to the doctor’s office for an 8:30am appointment (photo from 8am that day). During my appointment, my blood pressure remained elevated – only this time, the lower number was also high. (I was told that doctors are less concerned about the systolic – top – number, as that can be significantly impacted by emotions/nerves – the so-called “white coat syndrome”. The lower number has less to do with situational one-offs, so it’s a scarier number). The doctor checked me, and discovered that I remained un-dilated. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my doctor also stripped my membranes during that time (as soon as he’d done it, I definitely knew what he had done as it was quite painful). My doctor requested that I go straight up to Labor & Delivery - I started to get a bit emotional in his office, and he calmed me down by saying “don’t cry – worst case scenario, we’ll just induce you and you’ll be holding your baby today”. (Erm… Little did he know…)
My doctor’s office is in the hospital “campus”, so I was able to go up to L&D without even going outside. On my way there, I frantically called Scott asking him to come. He was 75 minutes away in a far northern suburb with work, so he hurriedly finished up and hopped in the car, heading south. I called my parents, who were both working in Iowa City, and told them they should stay close to their phones - I filled them in on the situation, and told them there was a 50/50 chance that I’d be staying, and that my labor would induced. They decided to wrap up in Iowa City and head home to pack the car and be ready just in case. They offered to get headed our direction – saying that they could simply visit my grandparents in the Quad Cities and turn back around if it was a false alarm. I told them to do whatever, but I still wasn't convinced that I’d be giving birth that day, so I suggested they just stay put and that I’d update them in an hour. They headed back to CR to grab their bags and sit tight.
I arrived at L&D and checked-in. My paperwork was at home (since I wasn't expecting to be admitted) so I rushed-ly re-filled it out, and got an admit “bracelet”. They spelled my first name wrong (Katherine instead of Katharine) so they had to re-print it, a fact that made me laugh and joke around with the admitting nurses. I was brought to L&D room 12 (something I didn't notice at the time, but I’d sure be aware of 36 hours later when I finally left it). I was hooked up to 4 different monitors, and was observed closely for about an hour. At that time, the decision was made that my blood pressure was too high – and the risk to me outweighed the risk of inducing our baby’s birth early (since I was just over 38 weeks, and had been considered full term for over a week). Scott arrived around this time – he magically appeared in my room, and I’d never been so grateful to see him – truly. I called my parents, and they were getting on 380S, having smartly not listened to me – I was so glad to hear that they were en route. My “team” was assembling, and while the circumstances weren't how I had hoped that my labor would start, it was starting… and I was so excited to meet our baby!
Based on my body’s progress, it was suggested by the doctor’s that I get a “Foley Bulb”. (It’s a device that is inserted in to the cervix and then inflated to 3cm. It’s then manually, slowly removed to generate 3cm of dilation. It can take up to 12 hours to work. One of the nurses described it as “slightly barbaric” and well… she’s not wrong). It was placed at 12:15pm, and I told my mom later that it hurt like a “mofo”. :) After it was placed, Scott ran to his office to grab his computer and to our house to grab my hospital bag. I ordered lunch: vegetarian vegetable soup, chicken quesadilla, fruit cup. It was delicious – and I remember thinking that it may be the last meal I eat before becoming a mom. (Yup, wrong again). :)
At 3:10, my parents arrived, and brought with them fresh energy and excitement. I’d long discussed the particulars with my mom of what would happen when they got “THE CALL” and while it was different from what I had expected, calling her to say that baby was on it’s way was even better than I’d imagined. By 5pm, my dad and Scott went to Portillos (walking distance across the street from the hospital) for dinner and a beer. During this time, my pain really increased – I was having trouble focusing on anything but the pain. It’s worth noting that my mom was an angel throughout my entire labor – she brought me 20+ glasses of water (“this one with ice all the way to the top!”), spoon-fed me ice chips, constantly provided me with encouragement and praise, and was just a true cheerleader.
At this point, my pain had really ramped up – and Scott and my mom brought out their bags of tricks: head massage, inhalation beads, foot rubs, etc. There were moments where I liked being touched, and moments when I couldn't handle it. At one point my parents each rubbed one of my feet :)
Eventually, we sent my dad back to our house – saying there wasn't much he could do for us in the hospital, and we knew it could be a long night and figured he should be rested (although, he didn't go straight to bed, and instead spent some time working on our project in the basement). My contractions began – we timed them for a while until we recognized how regular they were, and I began to get frustrated by the pain. It’s worth noting that the Foley Bulb procedure was – by far – the most painful part of my labor. I was frequently offered medication, and regret that I declined. It was much more painful than my contractions.
At 7;30, I ordered dinner - -a chicken Caesar wrap, applesauce and chilled peaches. At 8:30, I asked the nurse for help getting out of bed (I was still hooked up to a bunch of monitors) to use the restroom. After my bathroom break, I wanted to walk around the room a bit – after being in bed for most of the day being monitored, walking around sounded really nice. I spent a half an hour walking the room, and then it got so uncomfortable that I decided to get back in bed. Before getting hooked back up, I decided to use the restroom again – and the Foley bulb fell out! This was thrilling to me – as it was almost three hours early. The doctors came in to help – and one of them said that it was great news – “we have achieved our goal!” I was encouraged, excited and determined.
At 9pm, they checked me again. I was 2-3 cm dilated, 50% effaced and -3 station. The decision was made to start me on Pitocin to get the contractions ramped up (I’d been lightly contracting on my own, but they wanted to kick those up a notch). I continued to decline pain medication during this time – and at 11:35 was so uncomfortable that my mom and I decided to walk the halls. By 1am, we were all extremely tired – Scott was on the couch, my mom was on the spare mattress on the floor, and I was resting in the hospital bed. It wasn't a very fruitful night sleep, with nurses coming in every 15-30 minutes to check my vitals or contraction pattern. My mom was up with me all of the night – I think we each slept about 45 minutes. They upped my Pitocin every hour or so. At this point, it was 10 units/minute (it started at 2/minute). My contractions were spacing out more, and they wanted to pick them back up. This scared me a bit, as I still found them pretty painful. I was frequently offered pain medication, but wanted to hold off until I found the pain unmanageable. My mom and I walked the halls a second time around 5:45am, and my dad arrived back at the hospital around 6am.
At 7:30am, I was checked again (twice) – one reading was 3-4cm, the other was 3. This was frustrating for me, as I’d hardly progressed for 10 hours. The Pitocin was upped to 12.
At 9:25, a new doctor from my physician’s practice was on shift and checked me. Nothing had changed. She definitively said it was time to break my water. She was decisive and confident and I really liked her. My water was manually broken (and it didn't hurt – it kinda just felt like I was peeing my pants). At 9:45a I called my cousin Megan for a pep talk. I was holding off on getting an epidural because of the research indicating that it typically slows the progress of labor (and I’d already been laboring for 24 hours). Megan told me repeatedly to get one (which was a freeing thought). At 10:05 I called my grandma to tell her I was in labor and to pray for us. I thought that we’d be calling her with baby news by her 4:30 Mass, and was confident that she could pray for the baby by name during the service. (Turns out, I was wrong again).
At 1pm, my Pitocin was upped again, and Scott asked if I could have a Popsicle (something we learned about during one of our birthing classes). I got a cherry Popsicle and it was the best thing I had ever tasted – I had been on a clear liquid diet since 9pm and had been awake most of that time.
Just before 4pm, the doctor checked me again and I was dilated to 4cm – and declared in active labor after being at the hospital for over 30 hours. (Hallelujah!) Pitocin was upped to 18.
At this point, I requested an epidural – 30 hours in to my labor. At this point my contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasting 90 seconds each. The anesthesiologist arrived and I LOVED him. (Excellent bedside manner, funny and reassuring – he reminded me of a quintessential dad. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the first of two times I’d be assisted by him this day).
At 6:30, Matt and Kelly arrived – bringing me flowers and fresh energy. Facing a long night ahead- and being over 30 hours in to it – I really needed the boost. (Being a classy lady, I puked while they were with me – shoutout to Kelly for holding my puke bucket for me). They left around 8, and we sent my dad home – telling him that it was going to be a long night, and that we’d call him when we needed him. At 9pm, I told Scott to take out his contacts and put on his PJs.
In the less than five minutes he was gone changing, we were visited by the doctor – who checked me again. There was no change (!!!) from the past five hours, and I’d reached the “magic” 24-hour window on Pitocin (effectiveness is maxed at 24 hours). The doctor said that was “very discouraging” and said it was time to “throw in the towel” and get a C-Section. This terrified me, and I burst in to tears. Scott was out of the room, and I quickly called my mom over (who was respectfully a distance away within the room). The doctor rubbed my foot – and told me that it was something that they do every day, and not to be afraid. Easier said than done - I asked for five minutes to wrap my head around this change. I had spent hundreds of dollars – taking multiple classes at the hospital, reading books cover to cover, all dedicated to decreasing the number of medical interventions that were needed to bring my child in to the world. My dream birth experience was to be un-medicated, calm, and to let my body birth this child…. And that was all gone in a poof. (Well, 37 hours and a poof). I didn’t need the full five minutes though, and I’ll be forever proud of my reaction and composure in the face of news I did not want. I asked my mom for my hairbrush and Scott for my toothbrush – and I said “let’s go meet our baby”.
There was a flurry of activity – I signed a release, the anesthesiologist was called to the OR, Scott was provided scrubs to put over his clothes. I was wheeled in to the OR alone, as they get the patient prepped on the table before bringing in the support person. (Sadly, only one support person is allowed in the OR, so my dream of having both my husband and mom by my side didn't happen). They added the appropriate medication to my epidural, and tested my numbness. I began throwing up (a common side effect of the high dosage of medication). A sweet nurse named Kathy wiped my face and rubbed my forehead. The anesthesiologist put a “puke tray” by my face, and cleaned it up for me repeatedly. The nurses strapped my arms and legs to the table. I began shaking uncontrollably – but I didn't yet cry. I was calm and focused. I said a prayer. Scott was allowed in – and seeing him in head-to-toe scrubs – even one on his head – made it feel very real.
Shortly after Scott was in and seated by my side, the anesthesiologist told me that the procedure had begun – and I was very relieved, as I knew intuitively that the first thing that would happen would be that I would – literally – be cut open, and I was grateful that the medication was working so effectively… I hadn't felt anything. Scott put his head next to mine and we whispered back and forth. He rubbed my forehead and told me that I’d soon be meeting my baby. It really hit me at this point – and I did start crying. I was scared – and felt so helpless. The feeling was short lived though, as soon after the doctor suggested Scott stand up and peek over the curtain – to watch our child take his first breath.
“It’s a boy!” a doctor exclaimed, and Scott relayed to me. I just lost it. I had a son! My child was here! Praise the Lord!
The next 45-60 minutes were spent stitching me back up, and taking care of “Baby Boy Special” – he got 9s on his Apgar test, and screamed the most beautiful screams I had ever heard. He “pinked up” right away, and had 10 blessed fingers and 10 blessed toes. Scott was allowed to bring him to me, and I kissed his forehead and inhaled his scent. I was strapped to an operating table with my organs literally being moved around inside of me... and I have never felt luckier in all of my life. It is an honor and privilege to bring a life in to this world, and one that I feel deeply.