On Tuesday, August 2nd, at 40 weeks 1 day, my Midwife wanted me to be monitored for possible induction. We had an agreement that if everything looked good with the baby and me, we would continue to wait and see if she came on her own time. That morning, I was dilated nearly to a 3 and 80% effaced. The baby looked great and my bi-weekly NSTs had looked wonderful, so we rescheduled the induction for Sunday the 7th, and left hoping that Evelyn would come on her own before then.
I had already been losing parts of my mucous plug, and starting on Wednesday the 3rd, I was seeing a lot of bloody show. I know that could also mean nothing, but was hopeful that things would get moving, as I was having random contractions here and there. On Thursday, they started to become more regular, but not painful. I was aware of them, and could even time them, but they weren’t hurting so I knew they were likely unproductive. Chris and I spent the day together just being happy; I did a Miles circuit to hopefully move things along and went to sleep. However, it was difficult to sleep throughout the night, as I noticed the contractions becoming more intense. I got maybe 3 hours of sleep, and at 5, I woke Chris up because he was adamant about being awake if I was feeling anything. We tried timing them, but they were between 4 and 7 minutes apart with no pattern building, but they were starting to hurt more. I also had a stomachache and was using the potty an awful lot. I ate half an organic waffle while trying to prepare final items for the hospital bag and such. I texted Susan at around 7, as it was clear the contractions were increasing, even if a timeable pattern was still not emerging. I got in the shower, which was HEAVENLY. I had tried to take a bath but it didn’t do much (I think my tub was too shallow), and tried to have a milkshake to help with the intense heartburn I had. Susan got to the house around quarter to 9. Chris had been packing the car and eating his breakfast, and he was ready to head to the hospital at any moment. I took one more shower, just because it felt great, and we left for Kaiser at 10. I could no longer talk through the contractions.
We pulled up to the hospital at about 10:20. I was in a lot of pain through the last few minutes parking, so we gave up and did valet. It was a good idea too because I stepped out of the car, grabbed my purse and as we walked in, my water broke. It wasn’t a huge gush onto the floor, but I felt it for sure. I told Chris I needed to go to the bathroom before we went to L and D, and it was a good idea because the pad I had put on was sopppppping wet. Susan met us outside the elevators and we went up to L and D. We picked the worst day ever, apparently, because it was a very busy day there. They set us up in the monitoring room and asked me to lie down, but I really wanted to stand. Laying down hurt at the time. With my water broken, the contractions got more intense, and started erratically coming as quickly as 1 minute apart. Susan did excellent at timing them and rubbing my back, while I hung from Chris and breathed through the more intense ones. They seemed too intense for this stage of labor, and we know why now but didn’t then. We were in the monitoring room for what felt like forever. Finally, they took us over to a birthing room. I was wearing one of the gigantic pads because water was still leaking, so we went to the bathroom to get me undressed. Chris was helping to pull off my undies when I felt the urge to puke. There was a sink right above his head and all I could think was “OMG I hope I do not puke on my husband’s head.” Thankfully, I hit the sink, and puked for a good 4 minutes, which also pushed out a lot more of my water. At this point, I didn’t want to stand anymore, I wanted to lay flat. I also didn’t want to talk to Chris or Susan, who were asking me all the right questions and trying to help all they could. I was checked and was at a 5 and nearly 90% effaced. We were probably having this baby today!
But the contractions hurt. Very bad. And I didn’t feel a lot of relief in between the irregular rushes, either. So at around 2pm, we were discussing possible options with the midwife, and I hadn’t progressed past 5. I still wanted to avoid the epidural, especially only being at a 5, but I needed something. We decided on Nubian, and set me up with an IV. A huge part of our birth plan was the ability for me to move around, but I found that I didn’t want to at ALL. Standing up REALLY really hurt, and it felt like my entire pelvic region was on fire. So I decided the IV wasn’t a big factor. Nubian was nice—it helped me get through the contractions more but it made me loopy and tired. It also didn’t last that long. I got a second dose which didn’t do nearly anything. But there was good news. I was at a 7!
With the Nubian wearing off, and seeing my progression, around 4:30pm, Chris, Susan and I were discussing the epidural. I still found myself unwilling to move. I was sad because the yoga birth classes we had taken were so wonderful, but I just couldn’t find relief in movement. I was very afraid of having an epidural, but I was starting to feel weak and tired, and I worried that if I kept up without it, I wouldn’t have enough gas in the tank to finish. So, I decided to get it. And it was a GREAT decision. I was happy and pain-free, and even better, progressing. Within 2 hours, I was dilated to a 9, and only had a slight ½ inch left of cervix on one side. They flipped me to that side to hopefully get that part to dilate. At 7:30 pm, we sent messages to our family saying that we hoped to be pushing soon.
However, my contractions never really got into a good pattern at all. That last .5 of cervix on one side, instead of dilating, slid over to the other side. We knew we were in for a long haul because the midwife was worried that pushing would damage the cervix at this point still. We watched DVDs, played games and chatted, waiting for that last bit to fix itself. We were checked a few more times, but it still wasn’t doing what they’d like, and with the irregular contractions, the waiting continued. Finally, at around 4 am, the midwife said it was thin enough that she thought we could push through it. So the pushing started.
The first hour of pushing was really just about getting through the last bit of my cervix, which we did. We were all SO excited and thought for sure this was it. Every obstacle was gone and now we could push little Evelyn into the world. So the real pushing began at 5:30.
I know for a fact that I pushed with everything I had every single push. Chris was SUCH a fantastic coach. I get choked up just thinking of it. He was calm but firm, gentle but directing. With each of the 3 pushes per contraction, he would help me get the breathing right. I would look in his eyes and we would breathe in together, then I would close my eyes and push until 10, and do it again. The moment our eyes would meet, I would feel so much power and strength and I just KNEW I could do this. Susan was so supportive and confident, cheering me on, telling me when she could see the top of Evie’s head, affirming everything I was doing. I could not have asked for a more perfect birth team. I am so thankful for the both of them. However, the pushes turned into hours. At around 7, the midwife suggested we add just a little pitocin to my IV to help regulate the contractions. They knew that I was very against pitocin in my birth plan, but my main fear of it was related to induction, and we were well past that point. So we agreed. And it worked. My contractions became very regular for the first time all day/night. So we pushed. We pushed hard and we made progress and everyone could see her head it was right there! But at 8:30, it still hadn’t come out. And no one knew why. So the midwife suggested turning off my epi. She seemed to think I wasn’t pushing with my all. Looking back, this was a bad decision that I made. Chris wasn’t confident in the choice. AS soon as the epi was turned off, he said my pushes got weaker. I was exhausted, hungry, and now in pain and no longer as confident. The midwife gave us an hour. Telling me that was probably the worst idea ever, because after every push that did nothing, I would stare at the clock and knew I only had 50 minutes. Or 45. It was not good.
At 9:30, an OB, midwife, and midwife in training all came in. I knew that was not a good sign. Tears were in my eyes already. It was hard to focus because I was feeling contractions. Everything I wanted was slipping away. Susan and Chris looked emotional too. The OB, Dr. Johns. Was fantastic. I mean, really. He was soft spoken and gentle. He commended me on everything I had done over and over. He explained where we were at—that normally, after 12 hours of labor with broken water, there is a c-section, but they wanted to give me a chance since I had such good progression. Normally, after 2 hours of pushing, they are moving to other options, but they wanted to give me a chance. After 24 hours of broken water and nearly 4 hours of pushing…this wasn’t going anywhere. But, he said, he would not give me a directive. This was my birth and one I had clearly worked so hard at. So he couldn’t tell me to stop pushing and wheel me to OR. But he was a doctor, and had been for 20 years, and he loved natural birth and advocated whenever he could, and he did not see this working out. All of the doctors left and let the three of us talk. Or rather, cry.
All three of us were in tears. No one wanted it to end this way. Chris was devastated for the loss of what I wanted, but he was honest, and told me about the change in my pushes. We were all worried for Evelyn at this point. They both reassured me over and over that it wasn’t my fault, even though I felt otherwise. Susan told me some things about c-sections, and I asked her a few questions about them. She left me and Chris alone for a few minutes. He told me how proud he was of me and that I was his hero and that we all knew this had to be done. He talked to Dr. Johns to make sure to get a VBAC friendly stitch. We talked with the nurses about getting Evelyn skin-to-skin time with Chris instead of me immediately. This meant that he would only be in the OR until she was born, and then I would be alone, so the anesthesiologist would give me some extra meds to sleep through it if I could. But I was feeling contractions still, and was getting weepier, so off we went. The decision was made that I would just keep the epidural and not get a spinal because it had worked pretty well. Bad decision.
This is where the story may not be for the faint of heart. My C-section experience was rare, and few people will have ever felt what I felt. So you may not want to read it and see what I felt. Just understand that it is rare.
They took me into the OR and got me prepped. I had never felt so exposed. The anesthesiologist was fantastic, reassuring me along the way, stroking my hair, everything. I was freezing, and shaking and convulsing. Dr. Johns was telling me what would happen, but it was hard to focus. They hooked my epi back up, and started pinching parts of me. They said I should be entirely numb and just feel pressure like with my contractions. But that wasn’t the case. I felt them poking me, I could feel everything on my right side. Dr. Johns was concerned, so they injected more medication into me. I could still feel things. They did more, and it was mostly numb. Chris came in and the surgery began. I remember telling him I loved him but felt so drugged. I wasn’t aware of things that were happening.
Until they cut.
And I felt it on my right side.
You see, I have scoliosis. It is not severe at all; in fact, quite mild. But, any curve in the spine can cause a patchy block in these things. Throughout the day, I could feel my left leg, so I had to up the epi once or twice. It wasn’t hurting then, but I could feel the contraction on that side more intensely. But I didn’t think anything of it. I also didn’t think to talk about the scoli, because, well, I hadn’t planned on a lot of this anyway. The anesthesiologist would later tell me that even if they had given me a spinal, I probably would have ended up feeling something. It is rare. It happens to few people. It is a trauma that may never leave me.
Regardless, I felt things. I felt them cut me and move things around. I remember shouting, or screaming. Chris swears I wasn’t, so maybe I just felt like I was being louder than I was. I asked what was happening because I could feel it. Everyone rushed to add more medication to my epidural. I remember Dr. Johns saying he was going to get the baby now. It felt like my stomach was as big as a couch. I felt a LOT of tugging, which caused me to scream that they were hurting her. I heard Dr. Johns saying: “OH Alyssa. She’s sunnyside up. You did everything you possibly could have.”(This explained why my pain was SO intense during early labor. I couldn’t identify the back labor she was causing, but that is what happened.) More tugging and pulling. I don’t remember her crying for the first time, which breaks my heart. I don’t remember seeing her for the first time, which smashes the pieces. I have pictures of both instances. Chris tells me I kissed her. He also saw me start to convulse and shake and had his own breakdown and trauma over that. They weighed her, and took her and Chris out of the room to do the skin to skin.
The rest I remember in flashes. More intense pulling and pain. It felt like my skin was in two distinct pieces and were trying to be pulled together to meet like rubber bands. But it wasn’t just pressure, it was pain. I remember begging them to stop. And then it goes blank.
I don’t remember waking up, I just remember being awake. And being confused. And Chris trying to show me our baby girl but I didn’t even know who she was or why I was where I was. I didn’t feel the rush of love that people describe sometimes, because I didn’t know who I was looking at. Chris talked to me gently about what had happened, how big she was, told me about his skin to skin and how much he loved it. He showed me pictures and I started crying, so upset that I had missed seeing the moment he became a daddy. He kept thanking me for giving him that special bonding time with her. He laughed and told me about how she started rooting around on his chest, and felt bad that she probably ended up tasting his chest hair. They brought her to me and put her on my chest, where she immediately started nursing. I was nearly out of the drug stupor, but still didn’t realize everything that was going on. Chris asked me if he could have Susan come in now, and I quickly said yes.
I can’t remember everything Susan said, but I remember her emotion and her tears and her joy. I am so thankful for the pictures we have of her first seeing Evelyn and comforting me. They are great photos. I remember her saying she was proud of me.
When we got to our maternity ward room, we handed Evie to Susan. She said, “I didn’t know it was possible to love someone this much who wasn’t family.” Chris and I both agreed that it was one of the more special moments of our experience, because Susan IS our family now. We settled into the room for the next few days. We stayed until the afternoon of our anniversary. All the nurses and everyone kept saying how great I was doing, but I remained skeptical until a late-night breakdown and a great talking to from Chris. Then, we took our beautiful bird home to her house.
I can’t lie. I read parts of this and I just hate it. I hate that its reality and it’s what I experienced. But it’s so conflicting, because I know that Evelyn is what matters. I am so lucky and blessed to have her. I know that I can’t control how she got here. I was very at peace and Zen in the days I was overdue, accepting that however she had to get here was how she had to get here. But I wish some things were different. I wish I could have seen the joy on my husband’s face as he held my daughter. I wish I would have known who she was when I first saw her. I wish I didn’t see these flashes of myself screaming and begging for the pulling to stop in a scary and cold room where no one was there to hold my hand. I am ok with knowing that I couldn’t have things the way I wanted. I am even ok with accepting it wasn’t my fault and I did everything I could do. But those things left little holes in my heart, and I don’t know if they will ever quite fill in.
When I look at her, I know without a doubt I’d do it a million times again to have her here. I was so lucky to have such an amazingly strong husband by my side. I can’t even begin to describe how thankful I am to have had Susan with us, both for me and for Chris when he needed her. She gave us strength and excitement and courage and I don’t know how things would have been without her. The end result is a beautiful baby girl, with blue eyes that belong to the milkman, strong legs and arms that refused to be swaddled. She hates having her diaper changed but loves to stare at her daddy. She had her days and nights confused, but we are working on it, and she gave us 7 hours of sleep yesterday. She is quite literally perfect, and I thank God and every other entity up there for her, and for my perfect family.