The last several days in my life felt like it belong in a different life. And I need to write it down before the shock wears off.
At 33 weeks, my blood pressure, which normally averages in the low to average range, jumped up by about 20 points. The midwives were unhappy about it, and I realized they were worried about pre-eclampsia. The levels were measuring in the 130s/80s range. Which is still under the pre-e limit of 140/90 but just barely. We went into pre-e prevention mode: I was supposed to take it easy. We drew blood that tested my kidneys, livers and cbcs. Bloodwork came back clear. Multiple times. We went to acupuncture, I drank weird stuff like daikon radish and carrot water. Took magnesium supplements, tried the brewer's diet. The only cure for pre-e is to deliver the baby, and we wanted to keep the baby inside as close to full term (37 weeks) as possible.
Each week was stressful at the midwife visit. Since we get to find out if we were kicked out of a home birth or not. I started researching our backup hospital (Seton Main) and preparing myself mentally for a hospital induced birth occuring earlier then 40 weeks. (People with pre-e generally do not carry their babies all the way to 40 weeks).
Andy in the meantime ordered a birth pool, his sunny disposition optimistically assuming we'll still have a homebirth as usual.
Each week came and went, and then I was over 40 weeks, and a bit surprised to find myself still pregnant. I noticed that my lower BP number had started to rise about 5 points to 85. I asked the midwife if they would induce in a more natural way. And the midwife said that "it was not the midwifery model. If the BP goes past pre-e levels then we would go to the hospital to induce." Then at the 40 weeks appointment they measured me at 140/90 in the office. But instead they asked me to lie down, and lying down my BP was 108/64 and the midwifes didn't look bothered or panicked.
At 40 weeks, 5 days, Sunday, August 10. My water broke around 11 pm when I was bending down to unplug some eneloop batteries. I was excited, since I was quite uncomfortable and ready to give birth. Also, going past your due date is rather annoying. You have strangers, friends, family asking you: "When are you due?" and strangers making uninvited, non-witty comments about your body.
An hour later, the contractions hit, and they didn't ramp up. They just started strong, and for someone who had never had PMS cramps in her life, it was quite a surprise. The midwife was called, and she arrives. She was happy to see me at 4 cm dilation, and my cervix was ripened. And then she took my blood pressure, and it was 140/90. I saw her frown, and then she said: "How about I go to my car and you relax for an hour, and I'll come back and take your BP." In the meantime, I suffered through the contractions, tried some hypnobabies. And then she came back: it's still 140/90. Andy was optimistically filling up the birth pool, and I told him to stop. I confronted the midwife directly, and she admitted that at 140/90 she couldn't do a home birth and we had to transfer to the hospital.
So I just packed my hospital bag. There is no way my BP was magically going to drop during labor. In fact, BPs tend to rise during labor because: Pain.
And this is what I freaking resent the midwives for. They kind of did a: let's cross your fingers and hope that your BP don't rise, approach to my pregnancy. Andy had his heart set on a homebirth. And me, while pretty hippie, was okay with either, though would prefer a home birth. I definitely did not want to freaking do a transfer to the hospital as my first step during labor. And it was a really big deal to Andy, and I hate the midwives for making him have to go through this without mentally preparing him. He wanted to continue to labor to home, and I just firmly told him we were moving to the hospital. There was no way that my BP was dropping to below 140/90 levels consistently, and it was better we transfer now, then wait till my contractions were even more intense.
So we went to Seton Main. My contractions pain level at this point was a 6. I couldn't really talk through contractions, and it sucked balls. They checked us into a room, and we had multiple nurses and doctors visited. They knew we were a home birth transfer, and we were treated exceedingly well. One of the nurses was a past client of my midwife who came along, and she brought us iced towels with lavender essential oil and told us even though we were at the hospital, we could still have "an empowering birth."
So I spent the next hours laboring. It sucks balls. I learned to manage the pain, and zone out. And soon even managed to get some sleep. The midwife slept on the couch, while Andy slept on the floor in front of the room door, like a guard dog. Trying to prevent people from interrupting me. And there was a lot of people coming in and out. They took my bloodwork. My BP was constantly monitored at borderline pre-e levels. They kept wanting to put me on the magnesium suplhate IV, and I kept refusing.
Bridget Brown's Bradley class really came in useful to both of us. Andy and I knew what to expect in the hospital system. We knew what we could decline, and we knew to do it in a firm but nice manner.
The sun rose, I was still laboring. It sucks balls.
They checked my cervix and I had dilated to 7 cm, everyone was happy with the progress! Then 11 am came around, and I was still at 7 cm. At this point, the hospital started pressuring us to get on pitocin. Pretty much everything I've heard about Pitocin from my experienced mama friends was that it made the contractions far far more painful, and you were more likely to ask for an epidural, and it pretty much is the start of interventions in pregnancy.
I declined. Several hours later, it was 1 pm, I had labored for a while now. And it still sucks balls. But labor has stalled.
They inserted a monitor into my body, between the baby's head and uterus and told me my contractions were just not strong enough. So at this point, I was pretty exhausted. We had done this all night. The photographer has even arrived since we had been optimistic that a dilation of 7 cm means that birth was soon right?
I gave up on the pitocin, and they hooked me up. I posted on my due date club asking for prayers and well wishes at this point, since I knew I just took the first step into intervention city.The hospital started me at the lowest dose: 2 units of pitocin. Not enough contractions. They upped it by 2 units every 10-20 minutes. Still not enough contractions.
In the meantime, it was like I was in a torture chamber. Each time they up the dose, I struggled to manage my pain levels and contractions as they went up. And once I managed to zone out and accept the pain, the nurse would walk in, look at my contractions and decide it wasn't enough, and up the dose. This happened repeatedly. Finally when we got to 14 units of pitocin I broke down and started crying and I told Andy that I just couldn't take the pain anymore. Unbeknownst to me, usually women who successfully deliver vaginally just need a little dose of a pitocin, and by 8 units, it would be enough of an incentive for birth to start. But my contractions just didn't get strong enough to get the baby moving down.
So I took the epidural. Really, I wanted to avoid it for Andy. And I wanted to avoid it because it was a needle stuck in your back. And because I wanted a natural child birth. And it all fled out the window. I did feel like I gave it a good shot though, and don't feel any lesser a woman because of it.
The pain relief was so amazing. And I watched them raise my pitocin levels to 30 units, which was the maximum dose that could safely be administered. And my contractions still wasn't enough. Baby wasn't dropping and moving down the birth canal.
Around 8 pm, the doctors came in, and started talking to me. Again, they were respectful, "We know this isn't the birth you are looking for." And gave me my options: I could keep staying at 30 units of pitocin for a while. They could stop the pitocin, and restart the from dose 2 again. We could have a c-section. Also, around this time, my epidural wore off, because the initial anastheologist fucked up somehow. So I was enjoying 30 units of pitocin contractions without pain management. That really really sucked balls. I was so done.
The doctors informed me that by now, a woman who was going to successfully deliver vaginally, would most likely already have done so by now. And we could keep playing with the pitocin, but it was unlikely that the baby would drop further. The doctor told me that her being at -2 station was being generous. Basically, little Kaya was cosy up in my womb and didn't really want to start the trip down the birth canal. The doctor theorized that the baby was probably too big.
We asked everyone to leave the room, including the midwife, who spent most of her time agreeing with the doctors. She felt that once we moved into the hospital setting, that accepting interventions was okay, and was the point of a hospital transfer. I at this point, was pretty sick of her, and wished she wasn't around and taking up couch space in the labor and delivery room.
Andy and I talked about the c-section. And he broke down and cried. And I realize then what a stressful situation this was for him. For me, it was all about pain and managing the pain and for Andy, it was watching his pregnant wife suffer and not being able to do much about it. And he hated hospitals with a passion. Andy never cries, he just isn't the emotional type. And I felt bad that we had gotten to this point.
We also had 2 things against us: my water had broke, and we were approaching 24 hours. Even though I was GBS negative, there was still a chance of infection when the water is broken too long. And also, my blood pressure was still at pre-eclampsia levels... the top BP number was around 150/160s now.
I told Andy that I wanted the c-section. That I had been laboring for almost a day now, and that I was exhausted. And all we were doing was prolonging the time we're doing the c-section.
So I gave the go ahead, and they prepped me for the operating room. They pumped my epidural with more drugs. Things went into motion, and I was wheeled out of my room into the operating room. I felt like I was in TV show, lying there on the table, watching things from that perspective. The doctors, who were mostly residents and the techs were joking around and talking to each other behind their scrubs. The anesthesiologist started taking my BP, and at one point, they all looked at the numbers and the joking stopped. And I could see the doctors eyes, and I saw their expressions and I thought: I could die tonight. Apparently, my BP numbers were terrible (it turned out afterwards that it had been 250 systolic) and the anesthesiologist said, I think it's the cuff, and she is spasming and shaking. So he retook it and the numbers were apparently not as terrible, because the doctors started chatting again. But I don't ever want to be prepped for surgery and see that expression again on my doctors' faces.
They had to give me a spinal tap, because the epidural wasn't working. Fun fun. Btw, the spinal taps and epidural weren't so bad. And this is probably because I had been doing acupuncture regularly the last several weeks now. So needles. Whatever. They don't suck balls.
Once I was prepped, they let Andy in. My photographer, who is the amazing Cory Ryan, also somehow managed to get herself into the OR room even though it's usually not allowed. She has also been at the hospital all day now, even though she was pregnant herself, and she managed to be discreet and stayed outside my room most of the time. I freaking love her.
I was shaking and spasming a lot, apparently it's normal during labor. Also I had been dosed with quite a bit of pitocin. I remember Andy next to me, in his mask and hair thing and surgical attire. And he was comforting me. I wasn't really feeling a lot. And then someone said: "There's going to be a feeling of pressure." And then I heard a cry. And it was my baby! The baby! That was the whole point of all this bullshit. Andy broke down crying again. I've never seen Andy cry so much. They immediately did skin to skin of the baby to me. Because, these doctors were awesome. They started sewing me up, and I heard them chatter about the baby. "She's gorgeous!" "She's huge!" "She's 10 lbs, 1 oz!" "21 inches!"
The baby came back with us. In fact, throughout the entire hospital stay, the baby was always with us. When they took her for tests, Andy went with her. I was put on magnesium sulphate IV for 24 hours, because I had gone pre-eclamptic in the hospital room, and spent the next day feeling like crap. Andy in the meantime was having the time of his life with Kaya. Who really is quite big, and beautiful, alert, proportional and a chill baby.
Andy went into guard dog mode around the baby whenever the techs wanted to test her for something or the other. I was quite out of it because of the stupid mag-sulphate. I kept being awakened every 30-60 mins to make sure my BP was fine. They wouldn't let me eat for 48 hours (I cheated here and there). Finally 24 hours later, they took me off the IV of mag-sulphate and pitocin, and wheeled me to the mother-baby section. Where nurses and lactation consultants manhandled my boobs to try to get to me to breastfeed. I think 20 different people pushed and pulled my boobs to try to teach me to breast feed, all with different advice. I got pretty grouchy about it.
We spent about 4 days in the hospital. Finally they discharged me and baby and now we're home. She's gorgeous, and we love her already. She is worth all the surrealness of the last few days.
And that is my birth story.