Warning: This post is VERY long and is about child-birth. If a long post offends you, or worse, if the word vagina, the thought of a vagina, or talk of bodily fluids makes you feel nervous, fills you with uncontrollable rage or anxiety, then please proceed with caution.
As I sit here with my cuddly newborn (nearly seven weeks old) in my arms, cabbage leaves and nursing pads tucked into my bra, and traces of spit up breastmilk on my pants and shirt, I can’t help but feel grateful for this new chapter in my life. It certainly isn’t glamorous. It certainly isn’t easy. And it certainly isn’t without challenges. But somehow, one thing I’m certain of is that it’s worth it.
On Saturday, April 7, 2018 at approximately 6:32 am, I gave birth to a beautiful, 6 lb, 7 oz baby boy – Colby James Danger King. And his birth story, like most birth stories, is full of surprises and adventure.
Is it gas or….?
I woke up on Friday, April 6 at 5:15 am with a start. Our smoke detector was randomly going off and when I sat up to see what was going on, I started having weird, cramp like pains. After Casey (my husband) went to investigate the smoke detector, he found me sitting straight up in bed holding my belly. I told him not to worry and that I was just feeling crampy. I figured that it was probably just gas but in the back of my mind, I wondered if perhaps I was having contractions.
Around 7 am, I started texting with my fellow pregnant friends (Alyse and Tasha) to see what their thoughts were on the gas versus contractions debate. Alyse said she had bad cramps a couple weeks before Mac arrived, and given I was just shy of 38 weeks, I figured my baby boy wasn’t coming quite yet.
Around 7:30 am, the cramping had gotten stronger and I decided it was time to Google my symptoms as I had some decisions to make for the day. Like was I going to Liz’s birthday brunch? Did I have bad gas? Or was I possibly having a baby?
Definitely not gas.
After a quick Google search, I realized I was definitely having contractions. I alerted Casey, texted Liz and Nicci to let them know I wasn’t going to be able to make brunch afterall, and then texted my mom to let her know that she might want to pack her bags.
By 9 am, the contractions were pretty close together, and Casey insisted that we go to the hospital. He was pacing back and forth anxiously while I slowly got my things together. I was stalling and feeling a little resistant about going to the hospital. I was afraid it would be a false alarm and that they would ultimately just send us home, but deep down, I also knew it was the smartest, safest route (as I’m a Strep B carrier and was advised to go in as soon as we started having signs of labor). I finally conceded and we grabbed our hospital bag, and made our way to Kaiser.
The drive to the hospital took us nearly half an hour and I was feeling mostly ok. Just crampy. We were still attempting to time contractions – though as Casey will tell you – I was very bad at remembering to say “start” and “stop” when he had the timer and perhaps even worse when I had it!
When we finally arrived at the hospital and went to check-in, the woman behind the desk had a look that said why are you even here? She asked us whether we had called in advance and almost seemed annoyed by our presence. I asked if I could use the restroom (I really had to go) and she said, I should wait for the nurse to escort me in case they required a urine sample. I assured her I could pee again for a sample; in fact, the contractions were making me want to pee (or at the very least sit on the toilet) every two minutes. I was dancing around, and on the brink of peeing right there on the floor when she finally got us checked in and had a nurse escort us into triage.
Once inside, they checked my vitals, asked about frequency and strength of contractions (aka the pain scale), had me collect a pee sample, and then did a pelvic exam to check dilation (we were less than 1 cm). When they said pelvic exam, I thought no big deal but when they actually did the pelvic exam I yelped like a wild animal. It was seriously uncomfortable which they said was likely because my cervix was so anterior. After that, we sat around in the hospital room awaiting results. Once they had my pee test results back, they basically told us we were free to go home.
Contractions in public restrooms.
On the way home from the hospital, I was stupid hungry. And if you’ve ever been stupid hungry whilst having contractions, then you probably know how extra stupid it feels. We ended up stopping at a Five Guys (which I used to think was a pizza place), and I went straight to the restroom. I wasn’t sure if I even needed to pee, I just knew I needed to sit on a toilet. While sitting on the toilet, I had several more contractions and couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that there I was, big and pregnant in a Five Guys public restroom having contractions and seeking sanctuary on the toilet. When I finally came out, Casey was waiting for me with me a grilled cheese and a soda (which I was craving) and we made the trek home.
Once home, my contractions subsided quite a bit and I was able to eat some of my sandwich (or was it a burger…???). Liz came over to hang out and I got to give her a big birthday squeeze. We hung out on the deck for a few hours, soaking up some sunshine and chatting. I was having periodic contractions but they were slow and spaced enough that I figured the whole day had been a big, fat false alarm.
Around 4 pm my mom arrived, and we all went out for a walk around the track. I didn’t want to admit it to myself or to my mom and Casey but the walk around the track was difficult. The contractions were pretty strong again and I was feeling less and less able to actually walk. Around 6:30 pm, we decided to get some takeout Thai food and Casey and my mom left to pick it up. While they were gone, the contractions got even more intense and I paced back and forth around the house. When they got back, Casey suggested we skip dinner and just go to the hospital but I refused, not wanting to get sent home again. I said, no let’s eat. I attempted to eat dinner but only managed a few bites. Sitting was too hard. I just wanted to pace the room or sit on the toilet. I was pacing back and forth from the living room to the bathroom, and the contractions were getting more intense and closer and closer together. Finally, Casey insisted that we at least call in.
We reached an advice nurse and she suggested we wait an hour before deciding whether or not to head to the hospital, and recommended that I take a warm bath or shower first. Casey thought we should skip the warm bath or shower and frankly, her advice and just go to the hospital. But I was determined to take her advice and opted for a warm shower. While it felt good to be under warm water, it certainly wasn’t slowing anything down and I still wanted a way to pace or wait for it….sit on a toilet. I was a frantic mess of thoughts and strange energy. I felt almost psychotic. Like someone else (ahem, Colby) was in control of my body and mind, and I could no longer think or act rationally. By the time I got out and got dressed, the contractions were even worse, but I still wasn’t convinced we should make the long trek to the hospital. Thankfully, my mom and Casey are much smarter and knew it was time to just go; they loaded up our things in the car, said goodbye to Abbie and we headed out. It was around 8:30 pm at this point.
The half hour drive seemed even longer this time around and I felt angry that there was no toilet for me to periodically retreat to (I still don’t know why sitting on the toilet seemed to offer temporary relief for me…but it did). By the time we parked and made our way to check-in, I could barely stand up anymore. I immediately sat down on a chair across from the check in area, writhing in pain, and when the same woman who had sent us home earlier in the day, asked me to come up to the desk to sign some papers, I firmly said (or, errr, barked) “nooooo.” Casey signed everything on my behalf and then a nurse came to escort us to triage.
Laughing gas…is not that funny.
Once in triage, they checked my vitals and hooked me up to the cool machine that actually allows you to see your contractions in action. And there they were on the monitor – frequent and strong – and looking a lot like labor. After a short time, the midwives came in and started talking about next steps which involved my nemesis, the pelvic exam.
The midwife began the exam and almost immediately I was writhing and crying out in pain. The midwife was having trouble locating my cervix and ultimately had to stop as it was becoming too painful for me. I was crying and contracting. And contracting and crying. It was already proving to be a long night.
Given the position of my cervix and the level of pain, they suggested we try some nitrous. They taught me how to use it – breathing into the little mask as calmly as I could – and they got to work. And it was painful, even more so than it had been earlier in the day. I was trying my best to be brave about the pain, but in reality, I was a crying mess with a gas mask. I heard more comments about the anterior positioning of my cervix, and continued to breathe in the mask for what felt like an eternity. After it was all said and done, they estimated I was about 3.5 cm and said we needed to get to the delivery room.
It’s not at all like the movies…
But before we could go anywhere I insisted that I needed to use the toilet. I made my way into the restroom, still writhing in pain and feeling psychotic, and almost as soon as I sat down, I felt a rush of fluids exit my body. And when I looked down, all I saw was blood. I think I must have yelped because all of a sudden, my nurse was there in the restroom ready to help me. She said, your water broke. And all I could think was this isn’t how it happens in the movies….
Once we got back into the room I was standing and gripping the edge of the bed, trying to steady myself through a strong contraction, and suddenly felt more fluid gushing out of my body straight onto the floor. When I looked down, I realized I was standing in a big puddle of fluid and blood and then promptly threw up all over the place.
It’s more like an exorcism…
I felt like bodily fluids were just leaking out of me from every angle – I was like Regan in The Exorcist, not just another pregnant lady about to have a baby. I was standing in a puddle of my own bodily fluids with the taste of puke in my mouth, a wild look in my eyes, tears streaming down my face, and starting to contemplate how I ever got there in the first place (perhaps even side eyeing my husband).
While going through a few more rounds of painful contractions with my hands still on the edge of the bed, the nurses helped me out of the puddle I was standing in and asked me if I was ready for our walk to the delivery room. I said, but I’m all wet. My feet are all wet? I just stood in a gross puddle. So they put big, yellow hospital socks on my feet and said, let’s go.
But…is Abbie OK?
While walking to the delivery room, with the nurse on my arm, Casey by my side, my mom trailing close behind, and fluid still leaking from my body, I turned to Casey with a wild animal-like look on my face and asked, is Abbie OK? He laughed at the absurdity of the question, gave me a little squeeze and reassured me that yes, Abbie (our dog) was ok.
Once in the delivery room, it was go time. They called for the anesthesiologist and started to ready me for the epidural. They asked my mom to leave the room for the epidural procedure and had Casey move so that he was seated in front of me (apparently they don’t want two patients in the room).
They had me sit up towards the edge of the bed and told me I was going to have to try and be still. I kept wondering how in the hell I was going to remain still , but went ahead, took a deep breath and squeezed Casey’s hands, trying my hardest to stayed focused on his face. I could feel the anesthesiologist working as I cycled through a number of strong contractions, and relied on Casey to keep me as calm and still as humanly possible.
While I couldn’t see what was going on (thankfully), the epidural procedure was so weird. I could feel the insertion for the numbing medication – it stung a little – and then just felt a weird sensation when they actually administered the epidural. When all was said and done, and about fifteen minutes had passed, I started to feel really grateful for the drugs.
The contractions felt more similar to the ones I had felt in the early morning hours – meaning I was no longer writhing in pain – and could finally just lie back and relax for a little while.
While I was certainly more relaxed, there was no possible way I was going to sleep with all the monitors and the constant beeping, not to mention the constant monitoring by the nurses. I felt like I spent the majority of the night pressing my nurse call button to let them know something was beeping loudly or to ask for more water.
Around 4 am, I started to feel pressure – like I needed to poop kind of pressure – and woke Casey up and called for the nurse.
Shit got real.
The nurse called the midwives and they asked me if I was ready to do some practice pushing. I kept thinking, oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. But instead, just said, yeah, let’s do this. To get started, they had me put my legs on a bar and grab onto a sheet and crunch up towards the bar with the start of a contraction, and then use my breath (thank god for yoga!) as I pushed my pelvis down. And then repeat two more times. After just a few cycles, I was already exhausted — not a good sign given this was the practice round.
After a few rounds of practice pushing, they said it was time for the real thing. The baby was coming. There was no more time for practice, and shit was about to get real.
The longest two hours of my life.
Around 5:00 am, the pressure had become so intense that I actually started to feel Colby’s head. We went from legs on a bar with a sheet, to one leg resting in Casey’s hand and the other in my mom’s, and me just crunching and pulling my body up and forward through each contraction. I was sweating, grunting, screaming, and feeling completely and totally drained. In the first half hour or so, I realized that childbirth was about to be the hardest physical thing I had ever done (move over, 100 milers).
At some point, Colby’s heartbeat slowed considerably and they rushed to get me off my back and on to all fours and instructed me stop pushing for a few contractions. And as it turns out not pushing is somehow just as hard (maybe harder) than pushing. I remember being in tabletop position, shaking from head to toe, partially from the contractions, and partially from fear, until his heartbeat steadied again. And then it was back to business.
The midwives asked me if I felt like I could stand on my feet. They had me use the bar to steady myself and had me stand underneath it in a squatted position. I was squatting, crunching, breathing, and contracting. And sweating. And groaning.
And then suddenly I could feel his head starting to poke through. They asked me if I’d like to reach down and feel it. Um, nope. I heard someone ask, are you sure? I was certain. I continued squatting, crunching, pushing and breathing through the contractions, and could feel the head protruding even more. It was so physical, I almost couldn’t believe it. At some point during the push, I said, I think I’m going to be sick and the next thing I knew, I was throwing up again. Only this time, the nurses were on it and held little plastic looking barf catchers underneath me.
After another few pushes in a squat, they said it was happening and didn’t want me to push him out while standing. They helped me get back on my back, had me scoot all the way to the edge of the bed with my legs in the air, supported by my mom and Casey, and told me to push. To really push. To give it everything I had. I felt so depleted. I think I even asked for food. I know I yelled out, I CAN’T DO THIS more than once.
This is mile 75.
I looked from Casey to my mom in between these agonizingly hard pushes and said, this is mile 75 and they both laughed. I repeated it a couple of times and gave the next few rounds of pushing everything I had. From what I could feel and what the nurses were saying, I knew I was in the final few laps, like the last 20-something miles in a 100 mile race – when you’re so exhausted, both mentally and physically and just need to give it one last final push to the finish line – you just have to bear down and do it. No turning back.
Brandy, my delivery nurse gave me an epic pep talk and I pushed, groaned and crunched until I could see Colby’s head sliding out, followed by his little body. It was surreal. Magical. And not at all like anything else I’ve ever experienced. I remember Brandy asking if I cared about the tank top I was wearing. I said, no, and she placed his little tiny, wet body on my chest.
I felt tears streaming down my face and then before I could even see him fully, they whisked him away and I knew something was wrong. He didn’t cry and he had a purple-ish color to him. I watched the nurses working on him – rubbing his little body – and then the midwife was back by my side, instructing me to push the placenta out.
F* you, placenta.
I felt like it was all some big, cruel joke. I felt like I had just finished the race. Like I’d crossed the finish line, received my medal, and then had it abruptly taken away and told that I still had 10 more miles to go. I wasn’t actually done. I still had pushing to do. And I didn’t even get to hold my baby.
Once I delivered the placenta, I thought, ok, now we’re really done. The midwife then proceeded to palpate my tummy and told me she was going to have to do a quick exam to make sure the placenta was entirely out. And after a painful poking and prodding in my tummy and in my vagina, she called the other midwife over to examine me. She said she was concerned that not all the placenta had come out, that she still felt a membrane.
At this point, I was in tears. They were streaming freely down my face. Partially from the exhaustion. Partially from the pain. And partially from the fact that I was just done. And mostly because I wanted to see my baby boy (and let’s be honest…the pain).
The next part was more or less a blur. I remember the midwives telling me they were calling for the doctor. I kept hearing the words placenta, membrane, lodged, manual removal. And then all of a sudden there were more faces surrounding me, all talking and scurrying about around me – doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff – someone was talking to me about getting a dose of Fentanyl for the pain. I shook my head no, and said, I don’t want to take any Fentanyl…In my mind, they were going to remove the piece of the placenta and this would all be over in a matter of minutes. But then the nurse said that she really thought I was going to want it, indicating that what was still coming was going to be painful. And I just cried. My husband and my mom both came to soothe me, and ultimately they persuaded me that it was for the best.
I got the dose of Fentanyl and then everything went dark. I remember coming to and seeing a lot of faces hovering above mine, someone snapping their fingers, and a few people (including my husband) saying my name over and over. I was so confused. And so scared. I wasn’t able to feel my legs anymore and couldn’t really even find my voice.
Casey looked scared and I had to look away. I looked over to where Colby was and saw that my mom was near, watching over him. The next thing I knew, they were lifting me off of the bed and onto another, and were talking about taking me to the OR.
They had been unable to remove the piece of placenta that still remained and I had lost a lot of blood (over 2.5 liters).
Naked in the hallway
As we began to roll out of the delivery room, Casey wondered whether he should come with me or stay behind. I told him to go ahead and stay behind with the baby and the nurses agreed that it would be for the best.
I remember a nurse’s face over mine while they wheeled me out into the hallway. She was saying nice things. She was stroking my face and wiping my tears. I remember how bright the lights were in that hallway. And how I kept trying to bend my knees or move my legs but still couldn’t feel them. I was looking around from one face to another, and trying to make sense of who everyone was and how and why this was all happening. I noticed another group of people (not part of our entourage) in the hallway and thought to myself, I’m naked on this rolling bed. Heyyyy everybody. I’m NAKED. Totally naked here. But words were too hard so I just stayed silent instead.
They rolled me through the doors to the OR and all I remember is bright lights above me, and people all around me. It seemed like they had the entire hospital staff in there. I remember the doctor talking to me briefly. I think I nodded my head. The nurse who had been wiping my tears was now squeezing my hand and telling me everything would be ok. I heard the word, incision. I saw the doctor and nurses readying their tools. And then before anything else could happen, they asked me if I had any religious or cultural objections to a blood transfusion. I said meekly, no, not that I’m aware of. And thought to myself, a blood transfusion?!?!? What is happening?!
The doctor started working. I could see the big metal looking tool and I could hear the vacuum, all of which sent chills throughout my whole body. I was thinking about Colby – was he OK? Where was he? Who had him? When would I see him again? More vacuuming noises, loud voices talking to me, people periodically asking me if I was ok. I think I nodded yes to that question each time, while still sobbing uncontrollably.
The nurse was still holding my hand when the doctor finished. He came to tell me they had been successful in removing the remaining piece of placenta and that they wouldn’t have to operate. He said something to the effect of good job. And then went on to give instructions to the rest of the staff. I heard that I had a very small tear in my left labia, but no tearing in the perineum. He had them stitch me up and check on my catheter.
I’m not crying. You’re crying.
Next thing I knew, they were wheeling me back into the delivery room so that I could finally be with my family. I took one look at Casey’s face and I started crying. I could tell that he had also been crying. He was by my side almost immediately. We hugged, we cried. And then we just looked at each knowingly. Our little guy was finally here and we were just totally and completely in love with him.
And when they finally brought Colby to me, I cried even more. Only this time, happy tears.