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“We want to start a Pitocin drip to get things back on track with the contractions.” We were essentially jumping from one labor crisis to the next and just trying to manage them as best we could. In my sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden state, all I could manage to say was, “Okay.” After stalling at 8cm for about seven hours, it took two separate rounds of Pitocin and another couple of hours before I finally reached the elusive 10cm goal. It was actually time to start pushing! It felt like such a momentous occasion. We'd finally be meeting our baby!
The nurse gave us a few minutes to mentally prepare for what was ahead. At this point, I’d been in labor for over 25 hours. My body was exhausted, my mind was drifting, and I honestly didn’t know if I had it in me to do another few hours of pushing on top of everything else that had happened. To help pep me up, The Husband opened the shades to let some daylight in and turned on a Pandora station for a little musical jolt. I requested Jack Johnson radio knowing the reggae-leaning tendencies of that station would help simultaneously relax and energize me. The midwife came in to check Baby’s position and the nurse brought me a popsicle for a little sugar rush of energy. It was the only food I’d eaten since my Chipotle lunch nearly 30 hours before.
The sonogram confirmed Baby was still turned sunny-side up, which meant pushing was going to be a little more challenging but not necessarily more painful since the epidural was still in full effect. (Well, almost full effect. It never actually took 100% and I could still feel some of the contractions on my right side, but they were manageable.) The midwife suggested I attempt pushing for a bit before bringing in the doctor, an “expert” at flipping babies, to work her magic. “Sometimes babies flip on their own during pushing so let's see what we can do.”
Right after I began pushing, Here Comes The Sun came on our Pandora station. We still didn't know the baby’s gender and I couldn't help but think, "Wouldn't it be funny if it was a boy?" Here comes the son, indeed.
After an hour or so of pushing, we paused for the nurse to check my vitals. The infection we thought I’d defeated earlier was back. I had 100-degree fever and threw up the Tylenol (and red popsicle) they gave me in an attempt to bring it down. Twice. Nothing like trying to push out a kid while nauseous and feverous.
I continued pushing for another half an hour before the midwife decided to bring in the doctor to check on Baby’s status. My fever was now at 102 with no signs of going down. The doctor came in and explained the flipping process to me. She said the nurse & midwife both said I’d been an efficient pusher and felt confident I’d made good progress over the last hour and a half. “You're almost there." Famous last words…
The doctor set to work confirming Baby’s position via sonogram then attempting to right my sunny-side up kid. After a few tries. she simply looked at me and shook her head. I knew instantly by the expression on her face that Baby couldn’t be flipped. "That's okay," I thought. "I can do this." I wasn’t at all prepared for what she was about to say next.
“Unfortunately, your baby is literally stuck in your pelvis.”
She explained that, despite my efforts of the last hour and half, Baby hadn’t budged at all. “Simply put, Baby’s head and your pelvis are not a good fit for each other. You're doing a great job pushing but this baby is just too big to come out the natural way.”
On top of that, my fever wasn’t going down and the infection was progressively getting worse. “The only way to bring down your fever is to separate you & the baby, and the only way to do that is by c-section. I’m so sorry.”
She explained the c-section process then left The Husband & me alone while she went to get the consent forms. Throughout the previous 27 hours of labor, The Husband kept reminding me of our ultimate goal: healthy mom, healthy baby. We’d jumped from one complication to the next, with all my worst labor fears becoming our reality. Knowing Baby was measuring about two weeks ahead in our last few ultrasounds, I’d told The Husband and my doctor in my final weeks of pregnancy that my ultimate fear was that Baby would be too big for me to deliver the old-fashioned way and that I would need to have a c-section instead. Call it "mother's intuition" or "plain irrational fear" but I somehow just knew this exact scenario was a very real possibility. Both reassured me that my baby was the right size for my body and my body would know what to do when the time came. And now, here we were, preparing to have a c-section for exactly the reason I'd feared most. Baby was not the right size for my body and my body did not know what to do. I couldn’t help but feel like a failure in some way.
A short while later, I was wheeled off to the operating room while The Husband was instructed to wash up and dress in head-to-toe scrubs. They’d be back to get him as soon I as I was prepped for surgery. I was nervous. I was scared. I was totally freaked out. I’d never had surgery before and here I was, about to undergo a major abdominal operation while still awake. The doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, everyone was great and tried to reassure me as best they could. Before I knew it, I was numb from the chest down and they were ready to begin. The Husband was ushered in to the operating room and escorted to a spot right beside my head. I heard the doctors go over their pre-operation routine and within minutes, I felt a heavy pressure on my belly. After some pulling and pushing - no pain or sharpness but a definite awareness that my body was being forcefully manipulated - I heard one of the doctors say, “Whoa! That’s a BIG baby!” And another, “10 pounds at least!” “No, I’d say maybe 9.5.” Then finally, “It’s a BOY! You have a son!”
The Husband went over to check him out, our son, and to cut the cord. He weighed in at 10 pounds, 1.6 ounces and measured 21.5 inches long! No wonder my body couldn’t get him out! He was a little on the purple side and his head was misshapen from being lodged in my pelvis for so long but he was otherwise healthy and perfect.
Meanwhile, I heard what seemed like a far off and distant voice say, "She's losing blood, BP is dropping" as I was fighting off drowsiness and struggling to keep my eyes open. "Stay awake, Stephanie. I need you to stay awake. Keep your eyes open,” the anesthesiologist kept repeating. “Tell me what you’re feeling.” I felt some poking. A sharp twinge here and there, almost as if I was starting to feel each stitch the doctor was making. “Okay, I need to increase your anesthesia. You should just be feeling pressure, not sharpness or poking. Stay with me.”
Then a wave a nausea hit. I threw up four times while lying cut open on the operating table as the doctors slowly stitched me up. I can't even explain how bizarre it is to be throwing up while lying flat on your back and not being able to actually feel your stomach heaving and retching the way you normally would when sick. I choked briefly on whatever little contents my stomach was trying to expel and the anesthesiologist lifted my head and turned it sideways for me. I fought as hard as I could to keep my eyes open and not give in to the temptations of sleep. A lot easier said than done. Finally, the blue curtain separating me from the rest of my body was lowered and the doctor leaned over to tell me it was all over.
“Your blood pressure dropped significantly and you lost a lot more blood than we expected but not enough to need a transfusion. Other than that, everything went smoothly. It’s over.”
As I was taken to the post-op recovery room for observation, I slowly started to feel normal again and within minutes of the surgery being over, my fever broke and my temperature returned to normal. After a few minutes in the recovery room, I was finally able to hold my baby, but only briefly. He needed a bath and monitoring as well, so The Husband accompanied him to the nursery while I was left to recover under the observation of the nurse until we were later reunited in our postpartum room.
I couldn’t believe the experience was finally over. I knew I had a few days to recover in the hospital, with lots of pain meds and antibiotics awaiting me followed by a long process of recovery at home, but the worst of it was actually over. It felt like everything that could possibly go wrong, did. Everything I wanted to avoid - Pitocin, early epidural, constant monitoring that limited my mobility, infection, c-section - confronted me with a vengeance and forced us into crisis-management mode and I was relieved to finally be done with it.
At one point during the 27+ hours of labor, The Husband asked, “If you had any advice for someone about to go through labor for the first time, what would it be?” The first thing that came to mind was, be flexible because you never know what could happen. By all accounts, I had a healthy, normal, low-risk pregnancy and no one could've predicted all the complications that arose during my labor & delivery experience. The next bit of advice that quickly followed that was, choose a hospital/medical team that you trust implicitly. I would not wish my labor experience on anyone but I am grateful for the doctors, nurses, midwives, and medical staff that helped us through it. Never once did I question whether they had my and my baby's best interest at heart and never once did I feel pressured to agree to any course of treatment that I wasn't comfortable with. Despite all the challenges thrown at us during that 27+ hours, and despite my worst fear of an emergency c-section becoming our reality, I’m grateful that in the end, our main goal of healthy mom, healthy baby finally came to fruition.