Expect the Unexpected
Warning: This post contains fairly graphic content and may be a bit of a trigger for some individuals. Additionally, I have not gone through this post to edit for grammar, tense, etc… As an editor, I should be ashamed, but reliving this to type it was enough for me. Please pardon the literary faux pas.
I haven’t posted in a while because life became a little hectic in the last month. The world started moving in fast forward and we put a rush on finishing up the necessities. When you get closer to that due date, everything else takes a backseat as you prepare for baby’s arrival.
Brian and my father worked to get the nursery and bathroom construction finished, while I grew a baby and worked on other areas of the house. “Six more weeks” came and we planned out what we could. As any pregnant woman or parent realizes, things don’t always go as planned. Bri and I are huge fans of Big Brother, so their motto seems fitting here:
“Expect the unexpected.” [Click to read more.]
On Friday, August 28th, after a week of warning signs and five weeks prior to my due date, I woke up at 3am with some strange pains. After visiting the bathroom and believing they were Braxton Hicks contractions, I crawled back into bed and slept for another hour or so. Woke up again a little after 4am with more harsh pains. Letting Brian sleep, I went to the bathroom and discovered I was, erm, leaking. Of what? I always assume the most, so I woke Brian up and told him I wasn’t going to be heading into work because I didn’t know where the day would go. They tell you in childbirth classes that there is a path these things travel; you have symptoms, they may or may not grow, if they do you usually have a step-by-step for them. You wait a while for things to become more intense, timed, patterned.
I called the on-call OB and told him all of my symptoms, along with what I’d experienced throughout the prior week. He told me it was my decision to come in or not. He didn’t sound concerned, so I decided to play it by ear. I drank 3/4 of a bottle of water and waited for the BHicks to stop. They didn’t. The next time I used the bathroom, there was a little blood mixed with the water.
Yelling over to Bri across the hall, I told him I should plan on going to the hospital soon. We tried timing the pains and their length, but they were all over the place. Another sign of BHicks.
Now, keep in mind that part of our preparation “plan” was to use the coming weekend (literally the next day) to pack a hospital bag, write up our birth plan, and get all of the necessities from our registry. Well, as the saying goes “The best laid plans…”
My pains became more frequent, almost back-to-back, so we started frantically packing a hodge-podge hospital bag and I wrote a haphazard birthing plan in a yellow notebook (blood type, allergies, due date, my medical phobia, natural birth plan, etc..) This list was far shorter than it should have been, but we were making due with what we had at the time.
I called my mother and the in-laws around 5:00am to let them know we were heading to the hospital as a precaution since I was bleeding and was uncomfortable, to make sure the baby was ok in there. I believe I used the words “false alarm” a few times, too. While I was leaving my MIL a voicemail, I had an episode right in the middle of the message, “ouch ouch ouch” is the filling of my baby update sandwich. I’ve already been informed that she archived the voicemail, as I’m sure it was quite humorous.
Well, we get to the hospital and I insist on walking in after being offered a wheelchair. Sometimes I don’t know when to accept help. Well, another hit as I was deciding to make the trek to the 4th floor L&D floor and I hopped right in the chair. [Advice: Take the chair!] Contractions, in any form, have a funny way of debilitating your sense of balance and cognitive abilities, at least after a certain point. By the time we got upstairs to the maternity ward, I found myself trying to go over everything in my head.
Next came the dilation check… As a reminder, I went into this pregnancy with a pretty severe phobia of anything medically invasive. To clarify – phobias are legitimate, the things I am phobic of cause pure terror in me. I warned them of my vasovagal reaction where my blood pressure goes up and then plummets with my phobia, in addition to my panic attacks. Well, I panicked during my dilation check. As another reminder – this check occurred a mere 2.5ish hours after I started having contractions.
I was 8cm. EIGHT! I jumped right past all of the easing into labor and went right into the active part. The dilation check was terrifying for me and incredibly painful, partially because I had no idea what to expect. It didn’t help that the doctor performing it didn’t seem to take the phobia seriously. From that point, I didn’t let any of the doctors touch me again until BabyJ was nearly ready to come out.
Next phase was pushing. The nurse I had, along with Brian, helped me along through awful back labor. BabyJ was posterior facing, adding to the discomfort in my back and nether regions. (This was the other check the next OB on call had to do that was a whole lot of fun. More panic and pain…) Pushing was really the only way to combat the back pain I was feeling, so push I did. I took some breaks in between and rode out some of the contractions, other times I led myself through pushing instead of having the nurse and Brian assist.
Side note: The nurse I had with me the whole time was incredible. Absolutely amazing. She understood my phobia, talked me through everything she was going to do, and made me feel comfortable. This is a big deal for someone with my type of fear. If I know what’s going to be done to me, it gives me a sense of control over the situation. When I was doing something well, she let me know. When she knew I could give more, she said so. When she saw me start to breathe too fast and lose focus, she slowed me down.
Here’s another note: When you think you’re pushing and giving it your all, there really is so much more to give.
Each time I got to the third push in a set, my body would jump in and I’d back away from what it was trying to do. That pushing felt feral, foreign, and scary. Eventually, I let my body do it’s work. The odd thing is that the entire time I was going through this, all the way up until BabyJ made his debut, my contractions were not evenly spread apart. Some times they were 30 seconds apart, other times they were 5-7 minutes apart. Some contractions lasted longer than others, as well.
11:10am rolled around, after pushing on and off for 4ish hours. Things started to come into focus as I felt the exhaustion all the way down to my toes. I silently told myself that he was going to be out of me by 12:00pm. That I would let my body do what it was supposed to do, what I was built to do.
At 11:41am BabyJ came out. My first words were “Oh man!” as he was plopped down on my chest. The sudden relief I felt below my belly button was fantastic. This tiny little life breathing on my chest was just inside me. I spent 8 months helping him grow. I had just felt him kick inside not even 10 hours prior. And now here he was… sitting right on my chest.
To make an even longer story short, I ended up with a 2nd degree tear down (1.5 inches) that ended up needing 8-10 sutures and a tear somewhere up that I didn’t know existed until I got home. Delivering a placenta is a weird feeling, but luckily very simple and quick for me. The internal check for damage wasn’t much fun. The shock set in sometime between the placenta delivery and the lidocaine shots for the stitches and stayed for at least 24 hours. All the while, I was holding my son and everything became worth it.
I am lucky. 35 weeks, technically premie, and healthy. While my delivery was not ideal and my son came along like a little torpedo in 8 hours instead of the 36 I anticipated, he made it. I made it with some injuries and a bit of PTSD. I’ve read horror stories on the mom boards I’m a part of. If PTSD is all that came out of that labor, I can handle it.
Now, a month later, Brian and I are so smitten with our little torpedo. We’ve almost mastered breastfeeding, sleeping is as expected, and we’re trying to enjoy all of these moments as they come. Brian was absolutely incredible the whole time while I was in labor.. and he’s been the biggest support this past month as we’ve ventured into this world of parenthood. We make a great team.
My due date is 2 days away.. so that’s some odd food for thought.
Here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned from this whole experience so far:
- Women need to be their own advocate. If they feel their bodies aren’t being taken care of or they feel like just another name on the list, speak up. Reassess your decision. Phobias, health concerns, they’re all legitimate. The birth experience is beautiful for many, but traumatic for some due to past experience, health issues, and fear. If there is a next time, I will be sure to be more in control of my own experience.
- Pack the bag way earlier than 5 weeks… inevitably you will go earlier.
- I am stronger than I thought I was. I had my son naturally, no drugs. I got through the pain, just as I thought I would.
- BabyJ made the scary parts worth it. His yawns, his squishy faces, his tiny hands and itty bitty toes… the world makes sense now.
What was your birth experience like? I’ve heard wonderful things and I’ve heard the opposite.