I was stalled out at 6 cm and my doctor was telling me she needed to do something to help me along. I wanted to keep things natural, but I had been having terrible back labor for over ten hours after a full day of work, no sleep, and nothing to eat. There was only so much I could take. She listed several different things that we could try, including breaking my water, putting in an internal monitor to measure contractions, and giving me Pitocin. But first I knew that if I was going to have any of those interventions I needed to get an epidural.
If I could have pushed anytime soon, I know that I could have given birth without pain medication. But I absolutely couldn’t handle more labor with Pitocin or my water broken, which only makes contractions more painful. Through tears, I asked my doula Kelly if she’d be disappointed in me if I got the epidural. She had been with me all night and reassured me that it was the right thing to do. So that’s what I did. Mercifully, once I asked for it they were ready to put it in right away. But getting it put in was another horror, as I had to sit up straight on the side of the bed and hold completely still, all the while having death contractions. The medicine itself felt very strange going in, but soon enough I couldn’t feel anything. This was at 8:15 a.m.
First smile in twelve hours
I could still move my legs and I felt some pressure, which I thought would be good when it came time to push. What I mainly felt was relief. Now I could finally interact with the people around me, use my phone, and try to rest. I also made everyone else go to sleep for a little while. As for me, I was being turned every ten minutes from side to side in the “runner’s position” where the top knee is brought up to the chest and the upper torso is twisted the opposite way. This was to try and get the baby to rotate, because even my doctor was pretty sure that she was facing up. We were hoping that with the epidural relaxing me and the change of positions, she would turn and engage in the pelvis without further interventions.
Over an hour later, my doctor returned and did an ultrasound. The baby was still facing up, and she estimated her to be close to 8 pounds. She checked me again and I hadn’t made any progress. At this point I had already given up on not having medication, and my primary goal was to avoid a C-section. I had been stalled for many, many hours by this time and my doctor wanted to start being more aggressive.
I told her to go ahead, so first she broke my water and placed an internal monitor. This wasn’t the kind that attaches to the baby’s head, it was just inside to measure the strength of my contractions more accurately. Soon after that I had a catheter placed (I didn’t feel any of this other than pressure because of the epidural) and then Pitocin was turned on. Now we just had to wait for my body to establish a good pattern of contractions and see if I made any progress.
A little while later I started to feel some pain from contractions in my right lower back. I asked the nurse what was going on and she said when they put in the epidural they gave a loading dose to get me comfortable, and I might just be feeling that wearing off and switching to the maintenance dose. I had a button to push to get an extra boost, so I pushed it and decided I’d wait and see if that helped. But ten minutes later and I was writhing and groaning with pain again worse than ever. They called in the anesthesiologist to take a look. He said, “This is really rare, but it seems to be backtracking. For some reason this always seems to happen with people in the medical field.” In other words, instead of the medicine going INTO me, it was going back the other way. Perfect. I was feeling everything full force – with my water broken and Pitocin and everything. This was a low point.
Putting in the second epidural wasn’t quite as bad as the first, but it was still miserable. It worked though, and soon enough I was calm again. After an undetermined amount of time (it’s kind of hazy) my doctor came to check me again. She told me that where before I was 6-7 cm, now I was a solid 7 and perhaps a little bit more effaced. She said, “I want you to know that most doctors would have recommended a C-section a long time ago.” I told her, “Well I like you because you’re not most doctors.” She smiled and said, “Sweet-talking won’t get you everything you want in this situation.” I told her I understood, but I wanted her to know that anyway.
I knew that my doctor was ready to do a C-section, but I wasn’t mentally prepared for that yet. I asked her if we could wait longer, because technically I had made some progress. She agreed and said she was okay with waiting as long as the baby seemed healthy. Inside, though, I felt doomed and was just coming to terms with everything.
My doctor waited there with me for quite awhile watching the monitor. While she was there Meredith’s heart rate started dropping. At first it wasn’t for long, but it kept dropping lower and longer and not recovering. We all got worried. They put an oxygen mask on me but it didn’t help. Eventually my doctor said that she didn’t want to mess around with this and it was time to do surgery. I was bawling, but I talked to David and Kelly and realized that I didn’t want to put Meredith’s safety at risk just for a stubborn preference for an ideal birth experience.
Once I agreed to the C-section they had me in the OR right away. I was extremely anxious. I had started to be able to feel some slight pain again and I was paranoid that they’d start cutting me and I’d be able to feel it. They weighed me down with blankets, and that plus the oxygen mask and the sedation medicine made me feel claustrophobic and short of breath. David came in and sat by me and started talking to distract me, and before they started my doctor came over and asked to pray with us which meant the world to me. My husband said a perfect prayer, and then it was time.
I felt some tugging, but that’s it. And before I knew it, at 3:46 p.m., I heard my doctor say, “Happy birthday Meredith; you’re still a girl!” followed by sweet baby cries. They cleaned her off in my peripheral vision while my husband looked on. He came over to me and said, “She’s not ugly at all!” Soon I got to see her adorable face for myself before they took her to the nursery.
At the time it didn’t even really bother me that I couldn’t hold her or nurse her right away because I was just. so. tired. I had been awake for 36 hours and all I wanted was sleep, so that’s what I did while they finished the surgery. I guess it was about an hour later that my doctor woke me up and told me that everything went fine. Turns out that Meredith’s cord was wrapped around her neck like a noose, so the C-section was probably a good choice.
I was wheeled back to my room in the bed, but on the way there I passed the windows to the nursery where my entire family was gathered looking in on my baby girl. It was a special moment, but the best was when they finally brought her to me to hold for myself. I was so happy to have everything behind me and my daughter safe in my arms.
Obviously nothing about this birth went as I’d hoped, and I still get sad when I hear about other people giving birth naturally or even vaginally. I never got to push, wasn’t the first one to touch her, there was no cutting of the cord, no holding her right away. Although not the most important thing, the birth experience has a tremendous impact on a woman and I feel that I’m scarred from mine, literally and figuratively. I don’t know what I’ll do with my next child, if I’m able to have one. But I know that this time I did everything I could, and so I have no regrets. I have a healthy baby which is an honor and a blessing, and I would go through it all over again in a second to be her mother.