The day my eldest son was born was the worst day of my life. I know what you’re thinking…how can you say that? But it has nothing to do with my love for him and everything to do with the way that he was brought into this world. I know they say that birthing a baby is the most natural thing in the world, but Eli’s birth was about the furthest thing from “natural” as anyone can get.
I was 41 weeks and 5 days along in my pregnancy when I had an OB appointment at Magee (though the OB will argue I was only 40 weeks and 6 days, but that’s another story). Because I was so far along in my pregnancy and because I had limited fetal movement, they decided to do a non-stress test. Eli failed, so they sent me downstairs for an ultrasound where the tech found extremely low amniotic fluid. I was sent back upstairs to my OB’s office to discuss the results. When the nurse invited me back to Dr. A’s office, I knew something was wrong. When Dr. A walked in the room, she exclaimed, “So how does October 2nd sound for a birthday?” My immediate response was, “Today?!?!” She informed me that my placenta was getting “old” and not producing enough amniotic fluid. I was to call my husband and then proceed downstairs to be admitted to Labor and Delivery. Could I stop home and get my bags?, I asked. No. I needed to stay put. My husband was a nervous wreck, sped the whole way from his office in Blawnox to our house, then rushed to Magee.
It turns out there was no need to rush, because when my husband arrived at Magee around 4pm, I was still sitting in the waiting room anxiously waiting to be admitted – all beds were full. After pestering the admission lady (Dr. A said she wanted me on fetal monitors within the hour), I was admitted to triage around 4:30pm where we sat for 3 grueling hours until a bed opened up at 7:30pm.
Upon being admitted, they inserted an IV for fluids and started the pitocin drip. I begged for food since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 8am. The nurses adamantly told me no food, but thankfully Dr. A allowed me to order a full dinner – she said it was going to be a long labor and I would need my energy (and boy oh boy was she right). Since my cervix was completely closed, Dr. A also decided to insert a foley bulb to essentially force my cervix to dilate to 5cm. She tilted my bed back as far as it would go and I started to feel nauseous while at the same time I tried to keep myself from crying because the pain upon insertion was intense.
I labored like that throughout the night – hooked up to fetal monitors, an IV drip, and pitocin. I was allowed to walk around, but all the wires would only allow me to move about 5 feet from the bed. The nurses kept increasing my dose of pitocin, artificially making the contractions stronger and closer together. Every time a nurse came in the room, she asked if I wanted an epidural, but I politely declined. I wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom but instead had to use a bed pan. Around 5am, I needed to relieve myself, but after I was done urinating, fluid still kept coming out and I knew my water had broken. I told the nurse, but she didn’t believe me because she said there wasn’t enough fluid there. I asked to be checked and a resident came in, confirming that my water had broken (and confirming that my amniotic fluid was, indeed, extremely low) and informing me that I had dilated to 5cm. She tugged on the foley bulb and it came out. Did I want an epidural now??? My husband had slept for maybe 45 minutes that night, but I didn’t get a wink. I told them I could make it at least another 2 or 3 hours without pain relief, but they said it would certainly be much longer than that before my baby was born. Considering I had been up for 22 hours at this point, I knew I didn’t have it in me to labor indefinitely, so I asked for the epidural. And that’s when all hell broke loose.
The epidural went in just fine and brought some pain relief at first. But an hour or two later, maybe more, I’m not sure…I started having complications. It was at this point that I lost track of time and couldn’t focus on anything except my own body, so forgive me if the story from here on out seems a bit jumbled. First my blood pressure started dropping, then the baby’s heart rate started dropping. Alarms went off, nurses came running in, they gave me oxygen, they flipped me on my left side but that didn’t help. So they flipped me on my right. Eventually, somehow, they got the baby’s heart rate to come back up. This scenario repeated itself at least 3, maybe 4 or 5 or 6 or more times over the course of the next 12 hours. At some point, they even inserted an internal fetal monitor because it kept happening so often.
Then another complication. I started to feel dizzy, light-headed, like I was going to pass out. I was slurring my speech. I was talking crazy, saying I didn’t want to die. I told my husband something was wrong. Very wrong. My nurse came in, then another nurse, then another…then a resident, then Dr. A, then finally an anesthesiologist. Everyone was dumbfounded. Dr. A held my hand and kept telling me that I was fine, I wasn’t going to die. She also kept telling me I didn’t sound like myself and asked my husband if I had a history of psychiatric issues (ummm…no). The nurses asked for a dose of epinephrine. But that didn’t make sense, the anesthesiologist said…my blood pressure was fine. But they gave me a shot of epi anyway. Did I feel better now? No. Not at all. They waited a bit. Did I feel better now? No. Not all. So they gave me another shot of epi. How about now? Did I feel better now? NO! NOT. AT. ALL. Finally, the anesthesiologist said they should check my sugar. The nurses argued but eventually conceded. When they checked it, it was absurdly low – in the 40’s, I think? I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t remember all the details. But whatever it was, it was so low that they were all shocked I was still conscious. Dr. A gave me a glass of ginger ale. Did I feel better now? Yes, thank goodness! (See…I TOLD YOU I’m not crazy!)
But alas, this was not the end of complications for me. The nurses kept increasing my dose of pitocin – hey, I had an epidural and couldn’t feel the contractions, so why not, right? My contractions were overlapping and I could now feel them in my upper abdomen. They were so intense that I was panting and screaming and holding onto the bedrail. The nurse got excited – maybe it’s time to push? But someone (a resident? Dr. A? Like I said, the details are fuzzy) checked me and it was not even close to pushing time. So they called the anesthesiologist and he gave me another dose of meds, but it didn’t help. So he gave me another dose, but it still hurt. So they finally turned the pitocin down. Ahhh, relief. For now.
Around 5:30pm (it was the next day now, October 3rd), Dr. A came in and checked me. I was 8cm. She said she had to go home – poor girl had been on call since I saw her for my regular OB appointment the day before at 1:30pm! I complained to her that my back was killing me. The pain was excruciating. She said it must have been from lying in the same position for 13 hours – my stubborn child would only allow me to lay on my right side. If I moved at all, boom! His heart rate would drop instantly. So Dr. A, my husband, and I talked at length about a “plan.” As much as I did NOT want a c-section, I was exhausted in every sense of the word. I was going on 34 hours without a wink of sleep. I couldn’t do it much longer. Ultimately, the decision was that Dr. B (they had to switch shifts) would check me in an hour. If I had progressed further, I would continue to labor. If I didn’t progress, I would go in for a c-section.
Well, they switched shifts, Dr. B came in at 6:30pm and checked me. She said I was 6cm dilated. SIX?!?!?! Are you seriously f&*#ing kidding me?!?!?! Wasn’t I just EIGHT an hour ago!?!?!? She looked at me and said, very matter of factly, “It’s time for a c-section.” I was depleted…physically, emotionally. I was done. I didn’t have the energy to argue.
So they wheeled me in for the c-section. It was cold and the lights were bright and I was terrified. Absolutely terrified. They strapped my arms to the table and started prepping my naked body…preparing to cut my baby out of my womb. But once they started cutting, I started screaming. I could feel it. I could feel everything. The anesthesiologist kept asking me, “Pressure or pain? Do you feel pressure or pain?” PAIN, I screamed, PAIN! The anesthesiologist kept saying I shouldn’t feel any pain, just pressure. I kept screaming. Finally, after the anesthesiologist kept insisting that I couldn’t feel anything, Dr. B yelled at him and told him, “Well every time I cut her, she keeps screaming!” A curtain was drawn, so I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t see when they were cutting me. He gave me more drugs, but I still felt the surgery. I felt every minute of it. At some point, I heard Eli cry. But I couldn’t even be happy about that because, in all honestly, I couldn’t focus on anything except my body, the pain, and trying to breathe. As they sewed me up, I asked my husband to stay with me and I didn’t want to see the baby because I still felt like I couldn’t breathe. Eventually, when they were done putting me back together, a nurse brought the baby over and my husband got to hold him. I kept asking my husband to hold the baby up because I couldn’t see his face. When the surgery was over, they put the baby in my arms and wheeled me back to my recovery room. I was so exhausted and doped up on drugs that I remember asking the nurse to make sure the baby wasn’t going to fall. I literally, physically, could not hold my own child.
Shortly after arriving in the recovery room, I started hemorrhaging. A million doctors and nurses came in a flurry. A resident – her name was Helen, I still wish I could meet her one day and thank her for her kindness – took care of me as I hemorrhaged on and off for the next 4 hours until she finally got the bleeding under control (I still, to this day, don’t know where Dr. B was??). First she massaged my uterus (did I mention that was incredibly painful after just having had surgery on it?). Then she gave me some medicine to make my uterus contract. Then she massaged my uterus again. The bleeding would stop for awhile, but then it would start again. She kept saying my uterus was “boggy” and they couldn’t get the bleeding under control. I kept asking what was going to happen – and they said they may have to do a D&C. ANOTHER SURGERY?!?!? Are you kidding me?!?! At this point I was freaking out. She said first she was going to try to remove the blood clots – manually. Wasn’t that going to hurt? Yes. They said they could use my epidural for pain relief. NO!, I barked. That thing gave me nothing but trouble. So they gave me morphine. But the nurse pushed it too fast and it created a terrible pain in my arm (Could I please catch a break here? Even my pain meds were causing me pain!). Then she proceeded to do the most God awful thing I could have ever imagined – before I knew it, she was elbow deep inside my uterus, pulling out clots the size of baseballs. All the while the nurses were trying to tell me to keep my legs open and that if I didn’t, they’d have to do a D&C. I was told that I gave the most blood curdling screams anyone has ever heard – I’m sure I scared every other birthing mother on the floor that night out of their wits. I’m not sure how long it took for her to remove all of the clots, but it felt like an eternity. At one point, I made the mistake of opening my eyes – there was a mirror on the ceiling (intended for birthing mothers) and I saw the entire horrific scene…it looked like a crime scene. I don’t think I’ll ever get that image out of my mind.
Somehow, eventually, Helen stopped the bleeding for good. She brought the baby over to me and let me hold him. And I kept saying, “It’s not fair. It’s just not fair. I’m so tired. I’m soooo tired. I just want to sleep.” But she kept telling me, “You’re right, it’s not fair. But you have a baby. Look at your baby. This is what you’re going through all of this for.” And I started sobbing and kissing him all over his face and his eyes. I had a baby. I had a baby.
Around 2am (it was October 4th now), they finally sent me up to the postpartum unit. I had a baby, but I was exhausted and depleted and doped up on drugs. And though I swore I would never send my baby to the nursery in the hospital…I sent him to the nursery. Because I had been up for 43 hours and I had just endured hell and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. And so I spent the rest of the night in a morphine induced sleep.
And that is how my son was brought into this world. And that is why I say the day my son was born was the worst day of my life. I still can’t remember what he looked like in those first hours. By the time they brought him to me the next morning (October 4th), he was bathed and fed and swaddled and had his hair combed. He wasn’t the same baby that came out of my womb all messy and bloody and screaming the night before…I’ll never remember that baby, for his memory is forever lost on me.