There is a Birth Story Carnival happening over at Lotus' blog and after seeing it at Alex Year One, I decided to join too. I have never shared these stories in print, so it should be fun.
Disclaimer: This post will be super long and be somewhat graphic. And I blame all memory gaps on 13+ years, intense pain and the 4 births I have experienced since. And I tried to add photos, but I can't get my scanner to work, so I will have to add them later.
Picture a very young, short haired girl of 19 and her baby faced husband of 20. Look down, see her enormous belly bulging beneath her ripe melon breasts, now look back up at her face. See the innocent excitement there? The hopeful expectancy? The utter naivety? That girl had no idea what she was in for.
When I was expecting my eldest, The Boy, we lived in a small town, about an hour and a half by mostly dirt road, from the nearest hospital. I was due November 7th, 1994 and winter was already upon us in our northern town. By the middle of October I was so ready to have that baby, I was so big and uncomfortable, and had not learned a lot of patience yet. Time passed excruciatingly slowly. By the time my due date rolled around and I had not one sign that labour was anywhere on the horizon, I thought I would burst if I had to wait much longer.
On Wednesday the 16th, I had an OB appointment in Dawson Creek, the town that had the hospital I would deliver at. The doctors decided that since I was already a week overdue, effacing, and there was a winter storm in the forecast, that it was time to induce me. The storm was as big a factor as anything else because it meant I would have to travel those terrible roads in a storm if I went into labour on my own.
They gave us a time to be at the hospital, I think it was about 3 or 4, so we went to have lunch and do some last minute baby shopping. I remember getting a new, big wallet so that I could take everything out of my purse and put it in my diaper bag. I did this in the hospital parking lot before we went up to labour and delivery. We called my parents back home and told them the doctors would induce me that afternoon. Mom and Dad decided to drive in and see me, they didn't want to miss the big moment.
I got checked in and met the nurses. One of them was a friend from youth group at church. She was 3 years older than me and had been away at nursing school for a couple of years. Joanne was her name, a lovely girl who was so excited that she was working when I was going to have my baby. The doctor was on time and prescribed the prostaglandin vaginal insert to ripen my cervix and get things going. I was so scared and excited.
A nurse came to start my IV. She couldn't get it and another woman had to come and take over. By the time they got an IV in, both of my wrists were bruised and bloody with needle pricks. I felt a bit like crying, all the hormones rushing around and the prodding around with the needles in my skin looking for an elusive vein kinda hurt. The IV ended up being on the back of my hand was was inconvenient for moving my arm at all. At least it was my left hand.
Once the insert was in place the waiting began. I had to lay on my back in bed for an hour and then they told me to walk. Walk we did. I had lots of cramping, almost immediately. But everytime the nurses checked on me, they told me that nothing was happening. I kept staring at the tape on the monitor, trying to convince myself that I could see contractions. No such luck. How could I be in so much pain and not be in labour??
My parents and husband sat in the room, watching me and waiting. I can tell you that it was more than a little disconcerting, knowing they were all waiting for my body to get it together and go into labour already.
After a few hours they gave me another dose. I got to have some broth and jello for dinner. yay. I hate hospital jello, horrid stuff.
At 9pm my parents and husband had to leave, visiting hours were over. I honestly had no idea that they would make my husband leave. I mean, I hadn't been alone in a hospital room since I was 3 years old. I was so frightened of what was going to happen, I was in constant pain and I sure as hell did not want to be alone. It was a pretty old fashioned hospital I guess, they didn't have birthing rooms, you had to deliver in an operating room, they only allowed one person in with you (your husband), they didn't have rooming in and they didn't even allow your dh to stay with you.
So I passed a very long night alone. The constant cramping kept me from sleeping at all, along with the nurses coming in and out all night. They had told my dh to expect a call within a few hours, that I would be in labour.
Well Thursday morning came and still no 'real' contrations. The doctor decided to add oxytocin to my drip. Well, if I thought I had cramping before, I really had no idea what cramping was. The pain was pretty fierce now, but no pattern to it. No contractions. I felt like I was just one giant contraction. Brent and I spent time playing cards and I tried to read and listen to music, but I couldn't concentrate. My parents had driven back in and popped in and out. It was hard for me to have them there all the time, watching me and waiting. I felt all pressured! Silly girl.
I was so sad to have to say goodbye to nurse Joanne, we were both disappointed that she wouldn't be there for the delivery, but her 2 night shifts were over and she was going home for her break.
Every time the nurses came in and checked on me and told me that no, I wasn't in labour yet, I felt more discouraged. They kept turning the drip up, but even at full strength there was nothing more than constant crampiness. I just wanted to hold my precious baby in my arms. Soon!
By that evening I still had not gone into labour. The doctor and nurses wanted me to rest that night so that I would have the strength to go through labour and delivery. They stopped the oxytocin for the night and gave me actual food for dinner. I was so hungry after being on liquids only for 36 hours. I was told they would break my water at 8 the next morning and start the drip back up. So now I had something to hold onto. They told me that no matter what, I would hold my baby tomorrow. Finally.
I don't think I slept much that night, once again alone in the hospital. All I could think of was getting to meet my sweet baby the next day.
Next morning, Brent and Mom and Dad arrived at 8 sharp. I was hooked back up to the oxytocin. The doc was running a bit late, so I think it was almost 9 when they broke my water. ( I could be wrong, this was over 13 years ago!) I started having contractions very soon after. The nurse showed me what they looked like on the monitor, because to me, they felt exactly as I had felt the last few days, just more painful. Like one giant, constant contraction. And in reality it was almost like that. There was almost no time between each contraction. It was not long before the pain was so intense that I was pretty much incoherent. The nurses would encourage me to try a different position to ease the pain, or use the bathroom and I almost could not stand to move.
Within a few hours they moved me to the transition room. A little closet off of the operating room where I had to go through transition listening to another lady 3 feet from my bed screaming her way through hers. (Except when she blessedly went outside for a smoke break) The nurses told my dh that it could still be many hours yet so he and my Dad decided that they would go and grab a sub from Subway to tide them over. My amazing Mom stayed with me and soothed me, talking and praying me through the contractions. They kept turning my oxytocin down and then the labour would stall, but with it on the contractions were too intense.
They lost my baby's heartbeat. The nurse told me to turn over on my side. I didn't want to, it hurt to much. She had to tell me that my baby needed me to turn over so it could get oxygen. I turned fast. One of the nurses had heard my mom praying with me and told her that it was time to pray hard.
I have to say that I was pretty out of it and was not really aware of what was going on. I felt fear, but I instinctively knew that Mom was praying and it would be okay. The doctor reached in and put a monitor right on my baby's head. They got a heartbeat again! Thank you God! Every contraction they would lose the heartbeat though. The intense contractions were stressing my baby, his heart rate was erratic. They turned down my drip again, hoping that it would ease the stress, but they explained that they may have to take him surgically if I couldn't deliver him soon.
Transition hit me like a load of bricks. I remember moaning to my Mom that I couldn't do this anymore, could we just try it again tomorrow? She and the nurse kinda giggled and told me that we were too far along now, pretty soon I would see my baby's lovely face. I felt a bit petulant at their reaction, but I did really want to see him. At this point I could have really used some pain meds, but they told me it was too late! What?! Nothing I learned in childbirth class had prepared me for this, let me tell you.
Well it seemed like moments later that I was fully dilated. They were about to wheel me into delivery! It was 12 noon by now. My husband wasn't back yet, I was aware enough to be angry because I knew they wouldn't allow him in after I started. My mom would be with me though, and her presence was so comforting. She was so strong and confident, she knew just where to rub my back (horrid awful back labour!) or exactly what Bible verse to recite to me.
They were just wheeling me through the door when my husband arrived, panting from running down the hall. They allowed him to come in too. CORRECTION: my hubby just got home from work and told me that in reality, he came sauntering in, sub in hand only to be told that they were taking me into delivery. "What?! I haven't even eaten my sub yet!" my darling husband exclaimed.
Pushing was the most difficult work I have ever done. The doctor thought it would be great if I squatted during my contractions to help things along. So for 2 and one half hours, the nurse and either my mom or husband helped me to my feet for each contraction, holding my arms as I squatted and pushed. The nurses had to keep relieving each other as they tired out hoisting my burgeoning frame up off that bed into the squat every 1 or 2 or 3 minutes. My contractions started to wane a bit so they turned up the drip again and again.
In between contractions Mom and Brent ministered to me and encouraged me. Brent, at one point was using cool cloth to wipe my brow. But in reality he was scrubbing my whole face with it. I was so irritated. Pretty much the only words out of my mouth for those few hours was to tell him to bugger off. Thankfully my mom took over and placed the icy cool cloth on my forehead. Easing the nausea and irritation wonderfully. For about 4 seconds.
It didn't seem long before I could see the top of my baby's head in the mirror as I pushed. But after each push, he would slip back inside. That stubborn baby did not want to leave my body, he seriously crowned for at least an hour if not longer. He stretched my body so much that I didn't even tear when he finally came.
I am sure that my poor body was so tired by this point that I was not pushing as effectively as I should have. But I kept refocusing and finally, at 2:25pm, his teensy body slipped from mine. "A boy!" (2.5 hours of pushing!)
They quickly laid him on my chest and the doctor and nurses busied themselves at my feet. I was completely unaware of them as I gazed upon his beautiful face. My heart could hardly be contained in my chest, I was so overwhelmed with love for this tiny being I was blessed with. How could he possibly be mine? I literally could not see anything beyond his little face, the rest of the world was immediately blurry. It seemed to be a big effort to hold onto him though, my body wasn't cooperating, my arms felt heavy. I also remember my legs shaking uncontrollably and my mom requesting hot blankets for me. I didn't notice the nurses trying desperately to get another IV in my arm as I had pulled the other out during delivery. I kept pulling my arm back to hang onto my baby boy. Finally my Mom touched my face and told me to give the nurse my arm.
My husband helped me with the baby and finally took him and held him. I watched them with incredible, bursting love and joy in my heart as I watched my big, strong husband's eyes fill with tears as he held his firstborn son for the first time. My mom got to hold him too and she just balled, of course I hadn't stopped crying yet, no wonder my vision was a bit blurry.
My poor husband and mother were so frightened at this point. The reason the medical staff was so desperate to get an iv in was because they wanted to start a transfusion. I was hemorrhaging. My uterus was so exhausted that it wouldn't contract properly. They were trying to stop the bleeding and massaging my uterus to get it to contract. That was painful. Brent told me some years later that all the blood scared the hell out of him and he was sure I was dying.
The doctor managed to stem the bleeding and he decided to not give me the transfusion. I hadn't even noticed the blood recipient bracelet on my wrist. I was feeling pretty weak and tired, but I was still focused on my dear child. I got to try to nurse him and the nurses cleaned me all up, which I thought would be more embarrassing, but in reality was wonderful. It is amazing how the ministering, gentle hands of another can make you feel so taken care of. I got more warm blankets and they wheeled me back to my room.
I don't remember when they took my boy and cleaned him up. I do know that he was 8lb 3 oz and almost 21 inches long. He had this super long, skinny body with extra skin that looked like it should be filled with some nice baby fat. And his head was enormous, with big chubby cheeks, so wrapped up he looked much bigger.
I was so shaky and weak that I was not allowed to have by baby by myself. I had to have a family member or nurse present, because they were afraid I would drop him. To go to the bathroom, my hubby lifted me into a wheelchair and then the nurse had to go in with me. That registered on my embarrassment scale. She gave me self-care instructions and then helped me back to my room.
My dad got to come in and see my darling son, he told me that he was proud of me and I could see some of the emotional roller coaster he must have gone through, sitting in the waiting room. Especially after the birth, knowing that I was in pretty serious condition and there was nothing he could do. I can't tell you how it felt to watch my father holding my child, absolutely incredible.
That first night alone in the hospital was pretty intense, in fact the whole couple of days I had to stay there were pretty awful. I cried a lot. The woman who had the bed across from me was so chipper and happy, calling friends and family, chattering away. And I felt like death, slightly warmed over. I remember my mom telling me that I had worked so hard and done so well, she was proud of how strong I was, but I had been through a very rough ordeal. Some women had it much, much easier. Gosh I love my mom, she always knows exactly what to say to me. We both agreed that it was utterly unfair.
My son hated the hospital as much as I do, he cried the entire time. The night nurses kept bringing him to me saying he was hungry. I tried to nurse him for hours and hours, no one ever came back to get him, and he never stopped crying. They ignored the order that I was not to be alone holding him and they didn't want him in the nursery waking the other babes.
Nursing was hard, very hard. Once I could get him latched we did okay though. I think he was about 6 months before I figured out how to nurse him in anything but the football hold.
I remember my mom walking into the hospital in a day or two, looking at me and saying, "OH! Your milk came in!" Had it ever. My breasts were enormous torpedoes standing straight out from my chest. There was no bra within 600 km that would contain those mothers. Yikes!
I definitely had the baby blues right away. I remember my wonderful doctor sitting on the bed beside me, holding my hand with his arm around me as I balled and balled. He was extremely sympathetic, reiterated that what I had gone through was pretty intense and I shouldn't put any pressure on myself to feel any way but how I did. He gave me lots of coping tips and signs to look out for. I adored him and wish he could have delivered all of my children.
Oh, I also got to see my nurse friend again! She came back for the second half of her shift and got to care for me and my baby a bit.
I was so relieved when my doc told me that I could finally go home. No more lonely nights in the hospital room with 3 other women and no hubby. My baby and I were both relieved to be home and he started nursing well and sleeping well as soon as we were home. The crying greatly subsided and the 3 of us spent all of our time getting to know each other, loving on each other. Pure bliss, at last.