As I described in my previous post, most of the afternoon in the hospital passed by in a leisurely manner. I remember lying in bed with the epidural, feeling anticipation, excitement, and also very relaxed. This relaxed and calm atmosphere did not last very long. Below I tell the rest of the story of little Michael’s birth day. Disclaimer: If you prefer not to hear every intimate detail of the birth (I will admit, there are several instances below where I included what some may consider too much information), feel free to skip down to the last two paragraphs.
When the doctor came to check me around 6:00 p.m., I was dilated to 8 cm. She was confident little Michael would be here very soon. She told me if I hadn’t progressed any more by this point, she would have started me on Pitocin. Instead, she said it looked like my body knew what to do and I wouldn’t need it. I was happy to hear this and grateful they had broken my water earlier. I felt like it had done the trick. Our nurse came in and checked me again about an hour or so later. I was dilated to 9 cm. She began prepping the room for delivery. For the second time that day, we believed our son’s arrival would occur within the hour. She set up tables and equipment, transforming the room, and I watched from the bed, filled with excitement. That was the last “I can’t believe how smoothly this is going” moment of little Michael’s birth day.
Shortly after the previous doctor and nurse came in, the day-night shift change occurred, and I had to be checked again by the new nurse and then the new doctor. During my exam and visit with the night doctor, two things became clear. One, according to this doctor, I had not made as much progress as the previous doctor had reported, and it seemed like the dilation of my cervix had decided to kind of stall out. He looked at the monitor and observed that the contractions were basically flatlining as well. They were not increasing in intensity or frequency. I could see on the readout that I would have one or two very strong contractions followed by a series of minor ones. Then there would be long periods without any contractions. Two, I now had a fever and an infection. The doctor explained that my amniotic fluid had become infected after my water was broken. All my excitement and calmness evaporated at the news that my body wasn’t moving in the right direction to deliver our baby. At first, I did not realize exactly what the chorioamnionitis (infected amniotic fluid) diagnosis meant. I heard the doctor order a series of drugs to be added to my IV. Nurses bustled into the room with more bags of antibiotics to hook up to my IV. By this time, I believe I had 4 or 5 tubes attached to it. I remember thinking how convenient it would be if the penicillin for the group B strep would combat the amniotic fluid infection.
Once the new antibiotics were successfully added to my IV, the doctor came back in and bluntly, but politely, explained my predicament. He told us that because of the amniotic fluid infection, little Michael was vulnerable to contracting the bacteria during delivery. He went on to tell us that once he arrived, our little one would have to be taken to the hospital’s Special Care Nursery. This nursery is for newborns that need a little help, but do not require care in the NICU. He would not be able to room-in with me. This night shift doctor was all business, and he made the impending post-birth situation sound extremely dire. Based on the way he explained things, Michael and I were both under the impression that little Michael would basically be quarantined after delivery. The doctor implied that we would not be able to see our son for 48 hours once he left the delivery room. My heart sank and tears streamed down my face. Michael was also taken aback by the news. I felt entirely helpless and couldn’t believe how quickly things had changed.
For months, I had been imagining how things would be in our hospital room after little Michael arrived. We did not make a birth plan, and were always of the mindset to just let things happen. However, I did have some glorious expectations and images built up in my head about how things would go once he was here. I had been looking forward to many special moments: lots of skin-to-skin/ “kangaroo care,” starting to bond with him and breastfeed, sitting with Michael and gazing down at our son together, staring at him as he slept in the plastic bassinet swaddled in the turquoise and pink hospital receiving blanket, and calling our parents to announce his arrival as I held him in my arms. When I heard the doctor describe what was going to happen after delivery, I was heartbroken.
Fortunately, the doctor’s description of little Michael’s postpartum experience was not entirely accurate. After the doctor left the room, Michael could see how upset I was and asked the nurse about the Special Care Nursery. I was relieved to hear what she had to say. It turns out that I would be able to spend as much time with little Michael as my heart desired just as soon as the epidural had worn off and I was able to walk again. Michael would be able to walk with the nurses when it was time to wheel little Michael’s bassinet over to his temporary home. I was still crying and distraught at this point, and Michael calmly talked to me and comforted me. He told me this was how things were playing out, and despite it not being what either one of us had anticipated, it was what was best for little Michael. Our little one would have to go to the nursery to ensure that he was healthy and would remain healthy when it was time to go home. Michael was so patient and sweet to me as he talked me through what was happening.
The doctor gave us some time to absorb the news and then returned to the room to address the stalled out labor situation. He told me he was going to start me on a Pitocin drip, and if this did not get things going, we would discuss other options. He also had the nurses insert an internal uterine monitor because he was worried that the fetal monitor on my stomach was not accurately measuring my contractions. A catheter-like gauge was inserted through my cervix. Now I basically had 2 catheters, my worst nightmare! All through the pregnancy, whenever I thought about getting an epidural, I was more worried about having a catheter than anything else . By this point, I was an emotional mess and was starting to feel pretty physically exhausted as well. I thought, “bring on the Pitocin then, and let’s get this show on the road.” The nurse came in and explained that she would start the Pitocin at a two, but that it could go all the way up to 40. They wanted to use as little as was necessary at first. Every 20 minutes, the nurse would come in and increase the drip.
For the first hour, nothing really seemed to be happening. However, by 9 or 10 o’clock that night, I was feeling the full effects of the Pitocin. I became convinced my epidural was either turned off or had fallen out. I couldn’t feel a contraction coming on, but once they started, I could feel quite a bit! Michael would warn me when he saw the curve starting to rise on the monitor, and I would brace myself. I started trying to breath through the contractions like I had been doing in the morning. Only this time there was no exercise ball to sit on and no moving around. The contractions started out about 2 minutes apart and then increased to every minute. I was shivering uncontrollably and started feeling nauseous. The night nurse brought in what she called a green peanut; it was another large inflatable ball shaped like a peanut in its shell. With the help of another nurse, she turned me on my side and placed it in between my legs. This was to help open up the cervix the remaining 1 cm. I stayed in that position for about an hour, feeling every contraction and at the same time feeling mystified about what had happened to my epidural.
Around 10:30 p.m., it was finally time to push. Michael and I both agree that this part of the birth story felt utterly surreal to us. I never imagined the birth happening the way it did, that is for sure. When the nurse could tell I was ready to push, she called the doctor back in. But it was not just the doctor who came into the room. A team of at least five Special Care Nursery nurses assembled by the bassinet, and they remained present throughout the entire birth, just kind of hanging out. At least 8 labor and delivery nurses joined my nurse. A medical student came and stood by my side. Finally, a resident seated herself on the wheeled stool at the foot of my bed. She would actually be delivering little Michael, and the doctor who had been with us all evening stood behind her. He gave her instructions and helped when necessary. I was in shock at how many people were in my room.
As this entourage of staff watched and waited, Michael stood on my right side and the medical student was on my left, holding my legs. After about 15 minutes of pushing, little Michael’s head was crowning, and they moved me to the foot of the bed. Then things just kind of stalled out again. Every time a contraction started, I would push with all my might three times and then rest. I just could not push hard enough to allow his head to be born. I had mentally prepared myself for crowning and “the ring of fire,” but had never imagined it would last for over an hour. I was trying my hardest, but felt increasingly exhausted after each series of pushes. I could also feel myself zoning out, like I was dozing off, and this felt really strange. I remember glancing around the room a couple of times and seeing the nurses and doctors exchanging glances with each other, almost rolling their eyes it seemed. Later, Michael told me he noticed this as well. Seeing those looks did not help me at all.
Luckily, Michael’s steady voice and encouraging words continued through the entire process and helped tremendously. Both the resident and the doctor began using their fingers to try and make room for the head to pass through. This was excruciatingly painful and did not result in very much movement of the head. However, it did prevent a lot of tearing, for which I am grateful. Around what must have been 11:40 p.m., the doctor told me something had to be done. Little Michael’s heart rate was dropping, I was completely exhausted, and it was time to discuss forceps and vacuum extraction. He recommended using the vacuum extractor and warned us that it could result in a temporary cone head. At this point, Michael and I were not worried about a cone head and gave the go-ahead.
I did not see what was happening as the vacuum extractor was brought out. I was in so much pain and kept focusing on Michael or my nurse. I learned what happened later when Michael and I discussed the birth experience. The first time the doctor placed the vacuum extractor on little Michael’s head and began pulling, it popped off! Then it recoiled in the doctor’s hands like a high powered pistol. Both doctors then used their hands to pull the rest of his head out. The arms, torso, and legs then proceeded without any trouble. He was born at 11:55 p.m., 18 hours after we arrived at the hospital, and 22 hours after I felt the first contractions. Little Michael began to cry moments later, and his father cut the cord. Then he was whisked away to the bassinet to be cleaned up. While the nurses tended to him, they commented on how much hair he had and the fact that it was red hair. I was so happy to hear that he had red hair like his dad! After the nurses finished cleaning him, they brought him to me and placed him on my chest. He was extremely alert! His eyes were open wide, and he snuggled up to me. Michael and I gazed down at him in wonderment. He was finally here! He was a healthy baby boy, and he had been safely delivered! He weighed 8 lbs 12 oz. and measured 21.5 inches.
Little Michael’s nurses allowed him to stay in the delivery room with me for about 45 minutes. Then it was time to take him to the Special Care Nursery. Michael walked to the nursery with the nurses and little Michael, who was wheeled along in his bassinet. When he came back to the room, Michael described the nursery to me. I felt a lot better about him having to be there after hearing Michael describe it and assure me that little Michael was in good hands.