Before we get started, just a few disclaimers. First, Baby K is only a week old so if there are typos and long-winded sentences I apologize ahead of time. Second, this is my story; I’m sharing it because I loved reading birth stories when I was pregnant not because I’m inviting commentary on my medical decisions. Thank you <3
If I’m being honest, my pregnancy was full of anxiety. After experiencing our early loss, I felt very vulnerable in pregnancy like I could lose him at any second. So at my 40-week appointment, my doctor and I decided that it would be best to put me on the elective induction waitlist. If I weren’t called in off the waitlist, then I would go for a medical induction at 41 weeks (which would have been Saturday). This helped to alleviate some of my anxiety, I just wanted the baby safely in my arms.
On Thursday, I got the call from the hospital that I could come in that day. What my doctor didn’t know is that at the hospital I delivered at an elective induction meant that they would only give prostaglandin gel and if that didn’t work they would not do anything else until I came in for a medical induction at 41 weeks. (I didn’t qualify for a medical induction until 41 weeks.) If you are wondering why she didn’t know it’s because my doctor is located on a different campus at a different hospital and only has privileges to deliver at the hospital we went to (the one my husband works at.)
We were supposed to head to OB triage for the first part of the induction, but the nurses found out my husband works at the hospital and put us in a room which was a huge bonus. OB triage doesn’t have chargers or a TV or anything, so that was a huge perk! It turns out we wouldn’t need to worry about getting sent home or being in triage long because within 20 minutes of inserting the first prostaglandin gel my water broke at about 6 pm.
The nurses assumed it was just the gel leaking but checked me anyway and found that my water did in fact break! The nurses said the gel doesn’t typically break your water, so they called it spontaneous labor, and I was admitted. I want to make a note here that I had always thought my water was going to break early in delivery, probably because that happened to my mom with me. However, I did not expect it to be in the hospital nor did I expect it to be so uncomfortable.
Once my water broke I had to wear those big giant pads and every time I moved fluid gushed, sometimes uncontrollably. To me, it was more uncomfortable than the contractions and just added a whole other layer of management having to go to the bathroom and change the pad every 10 minutes (at least that’s what it felt like.) Later, after delivery, I complained to my mom that she did not warn me that it would be so gross and she responded that her water breaking wasn’t like that. That her water breaking was mostly contained and she wasn’t even sure it was her water. That’s when the nurse overheard our conversation and clarified that I was “grossly ruptured,” whatever that means.
For the first hour or so my contractions were very very mild cramping. They kept asking me if I was feeling anything and I said: “ya but no big deal yet.” Around 7:30 pm the contractions picked up, not unbearable but they were coming fast about every 1-2 minutes. Even though I hadn’t been given any additional induction medication, the gel administered at the beginning was causing fast contractions in very early labor. Something I had expected to happen closer to active labor not in early labor. 2 hours later I was checked, and I was barely at 2cm dilated (went in at 1.)
I wanted to get away from the monitor at this point and walk around, and I wanted to remain mobile as long as possible. That’s when they tried to hook me up to the portable monitors, but they weren’t working. So, I had to go back on the regular monitors where I had about 4 feet to pace back in forth.
After the portable monitor failed, my doctor gave the okay for me to walk around for 40 minutes off the monitor and 20 minutes on the monitor. The 20 minutes on the monitor felt like torture. I spent time on the birthing ball which helped a little bit but not much. For being so early in labor the pains felt so much stronger than I anticipated, go figure ha ha. It felt much better to walk, and I was able to power through the next two hours until the back labor started. My contractions were every 1-2 ish minutes and then with the back labor, there was no rest in between them.
My original goal was to wait to 6cm dilated to get an epidural, and my doctor suggested 4cm. The hospital nurses said they would give me one at 3cm. When the back labor hit I totally lost my cool, it felt like someone was stabbing me in the back during the breaks from contractions, there was no relief and no break. When the nurse checked me at 1:30 am she said: “I made you a 3, do you want an epidural?”
I bet you can guess the answer was yes. Mr. Hungry tried to talk me out of it as he was instructed to do, but I wasn’t changing my mind. 6 hours of labor with only 2 cm progression was disheartening, coupled with the back labor and I was done. The hardest part about the epidural was breathing through the placement, but then the relief was almost instantaneous. My biggest fear with the epidural was the feeling of being confined to my bed and not being able to feel my body. That was the exact opposite of how I felt. I was relieved I could still wiggle my legs pretty good and the contraction pain, as well as back pain, disappeared. Sweet, sweet relief.
At this point it was around 2 or 2:30 am, so Mr. Hungry and I settled in to get to some sleep, and they started the Pitocin drip. I fell asleep, but the whole thing was errie. Like I felt calm but then nervous listening to the babies heartbeat on the monitor. He would come on and off the monitor so there would be breaks that scared the crap out of me. Eventually, I must have fallen asleep because they would come in to rotate my position because the baby was having heart rate decelerations.
The third time they came in they sat me straight up with my feet down, and I noticed on the monitor that my heart rate started to climb. It had been hanging out at 90-99 bpm, and it jumped to 130, the nurse (not my nurse another one) said she thought she startled me since I was sleeping and it would come down. When my nurse came back in to check on me, my heart rate was still climbing, and she decided to move me back to lying on my side. She left the room, and two seconds later my heart started to pound out of my chest, I called her back in, and my heart rate was almost 170. I began to dry heave and felt very light headed. She gave me some Zofran for nausea and noticed on the monitor that my heart rate was climbing in between contractions but would go back to baseline during a contraction.
The nurse seemed concerned and explained this is the opposite of what they typically see. Usually, during labor, the heart rate climbs during a contraction and slows down during a break. She brought the anesthesiologist back in to determine if I was reacting the epidural. He did a couple of checks and ran a test using epinephrine that I did not respond to, so because my reaction was happening two hours after the epidural was administered he did not think it was epidural related. I think at some point they checked me and I was at a 4-5cm. Eventually, they put a call into my doctor and kept monitoring me. They asked me if I wanted to turn off the epidural, but since the anesthesiologist seemed confident the events were unrelated, I said no.
My doctor then consulted with the high-risk OB physician on call at the hospital, and they determined that I was probably having tachycardia associated with the vagus nerve reflex. However, they thought it was weird since I have zero medical histories of tachycardia or lightheaded headed episodes. My heart rate continued to fluctuate between 150 (in between a contraction) and 99 (during a contraction).
So at this point, they stopped increasing the Pitocin so they could wait and watch while they administered additional fluids. They also did an EKG which came back normal. My doctor talked to me on the phone explaining that tachycardia isn’t uncommon during delivery HOWEVER it usually isn’t symptomatic. AKA nausea, lightheadedness, and chest pounding that I had at the onset of it. Although I had only had that one episode of symptoms, she explained that if I continued to be symptomatic I would need to have a c section. She told me that I would need to sign consent forms now for a c section in case of emergency. The concern was that if I passed out they would have to perform an emergency c section that is very dangerous. My doctor was still comfortable with going forward with a vaginal delivery but explained that I would have to be prepared for intervention during birth (aka vacuum or episiotomy) because I would not be allowed to push for that long. I was told there would be extra people in the room and I would need an immediate consult with a cardiologist after delivery.
It was an overwhelming amount of information. I felt like I was in a dream. Like what I was watching what was happening as she explained it to me on the phone. I remember back to when I asked for the epidural thinking “I can see why people schedule elective c sections now.” I tried to ready myself; if that’s what was going to happen, then I couldn’t do anything to stop it. After I got off the phone, I decided to distract myself from my anxiety reading and watching TV. I figured anxiety wasn’t helping my heart rate situation, so I just tried to remain calm and remember my doctor still thought the need for a c section was very low.
Around the time the nurses changed shifts at 6 am my heart rate magically stabilized and stayed stable throughout the rest of delivery. My doctor told me later (the day after birth) that she now thinks that I did react the epidural because the episode started the first time they sat me upright in bed. She said low blood pressure is a side effect of epidurals and your heart rate will rise to make up for your low blood pressure. That’s why it stabilized a few hours after pumping me with more fluids. So I didn’t end up with a bunch of extra people in the room or having a consult with a cardiologist.
I spent 4-5 hours stuck at 4-5 centimeters because they could not up my Pitocin do to the heart rate issues. Once I stabilized they began to increase it pretty quick it because at 11:45 am I would be considered to have a prolonged membrane rupture. At some point, on one side of my pelvis, I began to feel strong hard contractions that were difficult to breathe through. I struggled because I was afraid of failure to progress but also really needed relief from the contractions since I couldn’t move around. They gave me a couple of epidural boluses and when that didn’t’ work the anesthesiologist came back in and administered something stronger which again brought sweet sweet, relief.
Around 10 am I started to feel a TON of rectal pressure matching my contractions on the screen. They were spaced farther apart about 4-5 minutes, and I knew from the reading I had done this meant we were close to go time and that I probably had progressed. When the nurse checked me, I was at 9 centimeters, and then things moved very quickly.
In less than an hour, I started to feel like I couldn’t hold in the urge to push anymore and I was VERY uncomfortable. My doctor was stuck at the other hospital in an emergency delivery, so they asked me if I wanted to press the button for the epidural again to add more medicine. I said no I wanted to feel the contractions during delivery; I was ready to give birth whether she made it or not.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I started telling my husband that I had to push. The nurses came in to get set up, introduced me to the hospitalist (the doctor that would take over if my OB couldn’t make it), and coached me through starting to push at 11:15 am. I pushed for 20-25 minutes before my doctor got there and all I can say was her presence was very welcomed. She was surprised to see me so close to delivery, and she immediately commanded the room. She made them turn the TV off and she immediately started to coach me.
I’ll never forget what she said to me. “Kelli, this stage of delivery can take 5 minutes or 30 minutes, it depends on what you decide to do. You have to push into the burn.” I kept thinking of all the birth story forums I read ” 6 pushes and he was out, 3 pushes and she was here” I was thinking WHY THE HELL IS THIS TAKING SO LONG and my determination grew and grew with every contraction.” The more painful the burn got the more determined I got to make that pain end.
She asked me if I wanted to reach down and touch the head, which I said no to. She asked me if I wanted a mirror, and I also said no to that. In my mind, I didn’t need to break for the scenery if you catch my drift, let’s just keep this train moving forward.
All of sudden she stopped me in the middle of a big push and instructed me to do little pushes. I was scared something bad was happening like the cord was around his neck. But, then at 12:01 pm, forty minutes after beginning to push I felt Baby K slide out of my body. I was so glad I was able to feel that sensation, despite the epidural.
When they placed him on my chest, I remember thinking how heavy and warm he felt. I also remember thinking how weirdly natural it all felt that I had this squirming baby on my chest. I looked at Mr. Hungry who I thought might have fainted by now (not someone who does well with blood) but instead, his expression mirrored my feelings. Relief, love, amazement, and appreciation all in one.
I received stitches, I don’t know how many. I think I heard her say second-degree tear? I really don’t know, honestly, I don’t really care. It’s all healing and recovery regardless, right?
The baby had to be cleaned up and suctioned because he was grunting a little bit, so he was away from me while I received the stitches. My doctor tried to get them to bring him back to me, but the baby nurse was firm about doing what she needed to do so the baby didn’t have to go to the NICU.
If you’ve been following along on IG, you know that baby did still have to be sent to the NICU for a couple of days anyway because we both spiked a fever during delivery. I’m going to do part two of this story for the first 48 hours (aka our time in the hospital) explaining how that went.
Until then I’ll leave you with a picture of cute little baby toes!
Thank you everyone for your prayers, comments, and well wishes. We appreciate them all! <3