Disclaimer: Some parts of Violet’s birth didn’t go as I’d planned. Since I hated nothing more than when people felt compelled to share their birth horror stories while I was pregnant, I want to warn any mamas-to-be that my experience wasn’t perfect. We are all great now and have a healthy and happy baby girl, but if you’d rather not hear some of the “what ifs” that can happen in birth don’t read further until after you’ve welcomed your little one.
Continued from Part 1 of Violet’s birth story…
Once at home (and with a couple donuts and an iced latte to tide me over), I continued contracting throughout the day on Tuesday, July 18. Dave stayed home with me and we both tried to sleep off and on, knowing that we’d very likely be going back to the hospital soon. I only had a couple hours in the afternoon that were contraction-free, and they started to pick up more in the evening. They weren’t incredibly painful or long-lasting, but at this point I was physically exhausted from lack of sleep and mentally exhausted from being uncomfortable for so long. The frustration was setting in by the time we went to bed that evening, since I had really hoped things would have picked up more by this point.
Dave luckily got to sleep around 10 p.m., but there was no rest for me as my contractions started coming every 15 minutes, about one minute long each. I continued getting into various positions to ease the pain. Weirdly, sitting on the toilet was one that really seemed to help! It was also convenient since I had to pee after almost every contraction. Around 1:30 a.m. my contractions were stronger but not closer together, so I decided to draw a bath and try to relax. My doctor, yoga instructors and the hospital nurses had all recommended a bath as a good early labor coping strategy. Apparently a bath will often help contractions go away, which is how you know you’re not really in active labor (another strategy is to become active if you’ve been relaxing or relax if you’ve been active to see if your contractions stop). In the bath I was literally praying that they would stop or that my water would break. I was SO ready to get the show on the road or just to rest.
I got out of the bath and dried off, and standing in the bathroom I felt more water running down my legs. I thought I’d missed a spot (easy to do when you can’t see beyond your 40-week belly), but then saw some bloody liquid on the bathroom floor. I thought this might be my water breaking, but I wasn’t expecting it to be bloody so I chalked it up to the bloody show and went back to bed. I laid in bed a few minutes and got up after I had another contraction. When I stood up I felt more of a gush of fluid. It was bloody too, but I was pretty certain this was my water breaking and I could tell that there was more of it to come. FINALLY! I called the doctor and she agreed with my suspicions and told me to head back to the hospital. I woke Dave up, he took Rico out and we were on our way.
This time in triage I knew it was different. The contractions were getting more painful and closer together, and the whole hour we were in the triage room more ‘water’ was trickling out. After an hour of monitoring, I was dilated to a five and fully effaced. The nurse determined my amniotic fluid was leaking and decided to admit me. The first of my complications surfaced when I got up from the triage bed – there was meconium in my amniotic fluid (meaning Violet had decided to take her first poop while still in residence in my uterus). This isn’t uncommon for a past due pregnancy, but was one of many things that led to her needing extra care later on.
I had always planned on an epidural, but knew I didn’t want one as soon as I got to the hospital since I wanted to remain mobile as long as possible. My contractions were a lot more painful at this point but were still tolerable, but I decided to get the epidural ASAP so I could get some rest before pushing. We got settled in our labor and delivery room and the anesthesiologist came in within an hour. In case you’re nervous about getting an epidural, let me just say – it was amazing! The only painful part of the procedure was the slight burning of the lidocaine on my skin before they inserted the needle and catheter. The anesthesiologist and my nurse were so wonderful. They talked Dave and me through every part of the process.
Once it took effect I immediately felt my mood improve and I felt so much relief. Even more amazing – I anticipated being completely immobile but I wasn’t! I could move side to side and even bicycle my legs, and they were probably about 80% numb. I couldn’t feel any contractions (which was fine by me since I’d been feeling them for over 24 hours). I told the anesthesiologist (who Dave pointed out was a total hunk, which didn’t hurt) that I’d been nervous about the epidural because some friends had told me how awful it was, and he said “Well they must not have had it done here.” I thought about it later and he was totally right – so shout out to the Shawnee Mission Medical Center anesthesiology team for being awesome!
The next few hours we just rested. I finally got some sleep! I couldn’t eat but was able to drink water and eat popsicles. Around 11:30 a.m. I was dilated to a nine, so we encouraged Dave to eat some lunch in preparation for pushing. I remember thinking I’d have a baby by 3 p.m. (HA!) and getting really excited. At 1 p.m. I was fully dilated, Dave was fed and we were both rested. Here we were – ready for pushing!
My nurse guided me through pushing effectively. It was hard, but much less difficult because I had some feeling and a lot of motor control over my legs. After an hour or so of pushing, the nurse told us that our baby was not quite positioned right. Instead of being chin tucked down and head centered, her head was a little to the right and her chin was up, rendering my pushes ineffective. Our nurse recommended I take a break and lay on my side with a peanut pillow between my legs to help shift her. I napped this way for about 90 minutes. Around 3:30 p.m. my doctor was there and we were ready to push again.
I pushed and pushed and pushed. I was making progress, but baby girl was still poorly positioned, so things weren’t progressing as much as they should. I was getting very tired and frustrated, so after two hours we decided to take another break. My doctor talked to me about possibly using vacuum extraction to help our baby get in a better position. Although they usually work well for repositioning, she didn’t feel comfortable using forceps on me because baby’s position made it impossible to get them centered on her head. I took my rest knowing that I might need some assistance to get this baby out, but I was determined to push her out! After I rested for 45 minutes I read through some mantras to help motivate me. I paged my nurse and when she came back in I said “Let’s do this!” I was feeling strong and ready to meet my baby.
I started pushing again and I was rocking it! The first few pushes brought her down so much more that my doctor was making a mohawk with baby’s hair. We were so close! But, she was still poorly positioned. It was time for plan B – vacuum extraction. At this point, they paged the team to be ready for delivery. Because of the meconium in my amniotic fluid, the team that would be present for delivery was bigger than normal. It had been just me, Dave, my doctor and our nurse and then suddenly there were 15 women in the room! Most of them were just there as a precaution in case baby girl had inhaled or swallowed any meconium. Having all those people in the room was a little weird, but at this point modesty was out the window. I was motivated by seeing all of them because I knew it meant we were really close to meeting our baby girl. And they were awesome – cheering me on as I pushed!
The vacuum extractor was just a little white disc that was placed on baby’s head with a cord attached to it that my doctor held. I pushed in conjunction with my doctor pulling on the cord. It was working! Every push was bringing her down further, but she was still not straightening out. The vacuum popped off – a little alarming at first but to be expected. Doctor warned that we could only have three pop offs before we were required to stop. And what do you know, an hour or so later and we had the third pop off. No more vacuum.
At this point I was getting disappointed. I was trying so hard – physically it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I still felt determined to birth her vaginally, but I could see in my doctor and nurses’ faces that it wasn’t looking good. They were amazing to still let me try to push, since we were so close and baby was showing no signs of distress. We tried another 30 minutes or so, and used the tug-of-war method (I held one end of a towel, the nurse held the other, and we both pulled with our arms while I was pushing). Baby was crowning, but it just didn’t look like she was going to come out.
It had been five total hours of pushing, even longer with breaks. The large delivery team had been in my room nearly two hours. Our nurse, whose shift ended at 7 p.m., had opted to stay with us since at shift change it looked like we were so close to meeting our baby. My doctor had been with us for five hours (which is unheard of for a lot of docs, further proof that ours is particularly amazing and patient). I could feel that my pushes were no longer doing anything. I was just too tired to be effective. I looked at my doc and said “Is it time for plan B?”
She said “We already tried plan B. I think it’s time for plan C.”
The large team left my room and headed for the operating room, and my doc and nurse began prepping me for a C-section. I was exhausted and honestly devastated. How had I just tried that hard for nothing? I couldn’t help it, the tears just started flowing. I felt like I had failed myself, my baby, my husband, my doctor and my nurses. Everyone around me told me how strong I was and how amazing I had done. Looking back on it I completely agree with them, but in the moment I was just tired, sad and scared of the surgery to come.