It’s around 2:30 a.m. on January 17, I’m finally in a real L&D room, everyone is in agreement that I actually am going to have a baby pretty soon, and I am delirious with pain. My parents arrived and I had my mom push on my lower back to provide counter pressure and that was the only thing providing any kind of relief. David finally made it there too shortly after, and I was vaguely aware of his presence and comforted by it. Somewhere during this time my water broke, which was a horribly strange feeling and it sent stabbing pains through my groin and abdomen, increasing the pain everywhere. Although I had been begging for an epidural for hours, it was finally agreed to. Unfortunately the anesthesiologist had just been called to do another one about two minutes prior so I had to wait a lot longer…probably close to an hour longer. At this point I was over 7cm dilated and I just can’t express to you the level of pain I was in. Contractions were coming on top of each other. Crying made it worse, so instead I was yelling, “ow ow ow OOOOOWWWW” over and over. I am pretty sure I was also yelling things like, “I can’t do this,” “I want to die,” “I’m going to die,” etc. All I was really aware of at this point was pain.
Eventually the anesthesiologist made it to my room but the process of putting in the epidural was probably the worst part of the entire thing. The position they put you in (sitting up with your back bowed out in a very particular way) feels impossible in itself and then you have to stay still, all the while enduring contractions. Now, I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t able to do the position right (but seriously…if they had given it to me when I had asked earlier it would’ve been MUCH better for everyone), or if the labor was already too advanced, or if the anesthesiologist just wasn’t that good (I actually don’t think he was the greatest because he did my epidural with Meredith as well, and that one failed) but I expected relief pretty quickly and it was still another thirty minutes or so before the pain lessened at all. I was still wailing away when my doctor showed up and I vaguely remember her trying to encourage me by telling me that this is what I wanted. I replied that I was happy that things were progressing, but that I never expected to feel such pain again. Eventually the epidural did kick in most of the way, but I had relief from pain during this entire delivery only for thirty minutes to an hour at most, and the epidural ended up failing early on the next day and instead was just leaking out. So, not great.
Anyway, back to the story. After getting the epidural I was very quickly complete and ready to push. They broke the bed apart and the nurses held my legs and my doctor told me to start pushing. At this point I finally couldn’t feel anything, so it was pretty hard to push effectively. I was also practically asleep and had to force myself to stay awake. Unfortunately the baby’s heart rate started dropping right away. The nurses were pushing around on my belly to get it back up and for several rounds of pushing they were able to. My doctor told me she was going to use a vacuum instrument to try and get him out quickly. On the first try it popped off, and the second try didn’t work either, so she gave up on the vacuum. I am not sure exactly how long I pushed, but my guess is only about ten minutes or so tops. I remember saying that I couldn’t feel anything and I didn’t know if I could push him out, and my doctor telling me that only I could do it. The situation felt very intense and desperate because of baby’s heart rate, and I was aware that he had to come out quickly no matter what. Then on the next round of pushing his heart rate dropped very low and no matter what the doctor or nurses did it would not come back up.
You guys I was so close to getting my VBAC. But instead I got a healthy baby, and he might not be here if it wasn’t for my doctor making the right call. She calmly told me that we would have to go to surgery, and then she announced to the room that it was a STAT situation. I was so out of it that I just nodded and went along for the ride, but David was terrified. Everyone in the room burst into activity. They put the bed back together and threw furniture out of the way. My call light was wrapped around the bed frame and David says it took them an agonizingly long time to disentangle it. On the way to the OR my doctor told David, “This isn’t good,” and that he wouldn’t be able to be there because they didn’t have time to scrub him in. One of the nurses came up to him and said, “We’ll take care of your wife,” but she couldn’t say the same for our baby.
Soon I was in the OR and I remember I had taken off my wedding ring and necklace, and I was very focused on finding someone to give them to. I remember hearing the nurse doing the “time out” (a safety procedure where they double check the patient and procedure and site) and the anesthesiologist saying something to me, and then I was gone. Since it was an emergency there was no time to numb me with the epidural and instead I went under general anesthesia, so I missed the birth of my son, at 4:29 a.m., and his first few hours of life.
But when I woke up (after I had stopped crying, because anesthesia makes me super emotional) my doctor was there assuring me that Liam was safe and healthy. Everything had turned out fine after all. I didn’t get to hear his first cry or see his brand new face or give him his first meal (he had low blood sugar and they had to give him formula) but he was still my baby boy, and he was alive and safe and healthy.
Mostly I am just so thankful that we had a happy ending, but just because it could’ve been much worse doesn’t mean that I’m not still sad about the way things went. It’s a different kind of sadness, of course, but the birth experience is important and special in itself and this was not a pleasant one. Three weeks later and I still get teary thinking about it, and I still have a hard time believing the amount of pain I endured when one of my main goals was to avoid that. I still feel disoriented at how I went to a routine appointment two weeks before my due date after having worked a full day and had a baby by the next morning.
Thankfully I do know from experience that as a child grows the birth becomes less a percentage of his or her life, and so it does decrease in importance. I’ve recovered from Meredith’s birth and I know this will pass too. Liam and I have been bonding wonderfully and although his entrance into the world was exciting, so far his personality hasn’t reflected that and I’m loving my calm little guy. :)
I’m tearing up while reading this even though I know that Liam is okay. This part: “On the way to the OR my doctor told David, “This isn’t good,” and that he wouldn’t be able to be there because they didn’t have time to scrub him in. One of the nurses came up to him and said, “We’ll take care of your wife,” but she couldn’t say the same for our baby.” really got me. I cannot imagine what everyone what going through while waiting to hear the outcome.
From lauren w:
I cried while reading this, even though I’d already heard it. Love you and Liam so much!
From Heidi Huber:
This sounds a lot like my birth with Gustav. May you learn to feel at peace with the experience. I know my experience has framed how I look at life and birth now, but I can’t go back and change anything. A lot of people don’t understand why that vbac experience is so important — all that’s important is the healthy baby, right? Yes, a healthy baby is important. But there is also the emotional health of the mother and how she dreamed/planned for how things would turn out. I know what you’re going through. If you ever need to talk, let me know. -Heidi
Wow. That’s an intense story, Kat. Praying for you all daily. May you be surrounded with love and support and care, my friend. I’m still figuring out a way to get down there to see you!
Oh, friend. Even though I KNEW the outcome I was holding my breath through this entire post. I’m so sorry that your birth story didn’t go as planned for you and Liam but I am so glad that both you and he are ok. Much love to you both.
I’m grateful you and Liam are here and healthy! Thanks for sharing your story. I pray the Lord comforts your heart and helps you process all of this… It’s an incredible thing to go through, your body, your emotions…but He is faithful, and He will get you through these hard days. I cried a lot after both my girls were born, and still do, ha… You are a precious mama, and I love the above picture because it shows just what you’ve gone through to have this little boy, and he looks absolutely comfy and content to be with you. This is motherhood. The hardest thing ever–no one else goes through this for your kids but you. And you are doing a great job.