Warning: this birth story is totally TMI, so click away if you don’t want the gory details. 🙂
By now you probably know that I had a somewhat challenging pregnancy. Because of that, I had really high hopes for the labor and delivery I had always wanted. I wanted the full experience — being the first to see her face, hold her right out of the womb and, more than anything, do what my body was made to do: deliver her vaginally. I felt like my body had betrayed me during pregnancy by trying to go into labor early, and I wanted to so much to prove to myself that it could do something right by delivering my little girl the way nature intended.
Sadly, things don’t always go according to plan.
Before I get into my saga, let me start by caveating a couple things. First, Lyla is healthy and was not in distress at any point during my labor. For that, I am so incredibly thankful. Second, I’d do it all over again — all of it. Every terrible minute. I am so in love with my daughter and it was all 100% worth it.
Let’s start with another pic of this gorgeous little gal, shall we?
After 16 weeks of near bedrest, I was officially 9 days past my due date. I was swollen, huge and freaking miserable. I walked for miles, did a crazy yoga labor dance on the daily, ate pineapple, spicy foods and more dates than I care to admit, and tried pretty much everything else I read to get my little lady to come out without success. My due date was May 1st, I was set to be induced on May 11th, and I had a doctor appointment on May 9th.
As it turns out, we found out during my May 9th doctor appointment that there was basically no fluid in my uterus, meaning I had to be induced ASAP. This was disappointing because it meant that my doctor couldn’t deliver me due to her schedule, but I was also excited to get the show on the road a couple days early.
On that day, they estimated that Lyla was 9 lbs, 9 oz. WHOA. But my doctor was still encouraging that I could deliver her vaginally, reassuring me that she’s seen many women deliver 10 lb babies. I felt determined.
Long story short, we were admitted into the hospital and the first step in the process was to place a balloon in my cervix to help move my labor along. I was less than 2cm dilated and they wanted to make sure I was ready to go before starting Pitocin. This was at about 5:30 pm.
The cervical balloon was supposed to be in for up to six hours, but after an hour and 45 minutes, my water broke on its own! I was thrilled. I started having contractions naturally and was so happy that my body responded well to the balloon. I felt hopeful that I would have the labor and delivery I wanted after all.
From there, they started Pitocin. Oh man, did those contractions ramp up fast. I set a personal goal to be in labor for four hours before getting an epidural, and I barely made it to two. I was dying. So I got my epidural and catheter (both of which were not nearly as bad as I had feared) and was supposed to be well on my way to taking a much-needed overnight nap.
Except I didn’t really feel numb above my hip bones, so could still feel the contractions in my belly. It wasn’t as bad as it had been, but there was no way I was napping. So I told the nurse. “You should feel totally comfortable,” she said. “Let me get the anesthesiologist.”
The anesthesiologist — the first of nearly 10 I’d meet over the course of my labor — came in and determined that we should do a “re-dose” of the epidural. This is when it started to get crazy. Oh my God, I’ve never been in so much excruciating pain in my life. It was like a rush of burning down my back and legs — it felt like someone had lit my legs on fire. I honestly kind of blacked out, but my husband Dan said I started screaming bloody murder and thrashing in pain uncontrollably for a solid 90 seconds.
After the pain had passed, I immediately started sobbing because I was so scared. I’m not one for dramantics (promise), and that shit was crazy. But it was afterwards that the worst of my labor began: I was left with a dull ache in between my shoulder blades. This ache would only grow over the course of my nearly 20 hours of labor — worsening to the point that my chin was glued to my chest and I could not lift my head because of the pain. So painful that every push of the epidural button put me into tears, and I would eventually end up opting for the pain of the contractions over the pain of the epidural. And so alarming that a barrage of anesthesiologists with fancy titles — senior, director, etc. — would parade into my room over the course of that terrible 20 hours to try to fix the issue without success.
By 2 am, I was 6 cm dilated. I was miserable, but making progress. The nurse said it should go quickly from there, and I should be pushing in a couple hours. I was encouraged and told myself I could power through.
By 4 am, I was still at 6 cm. And the ache in my back was only getting worse. They increased the Pitocin, which only made the whole balance of tolerating my back pain from the epidural + the contractions even more awful. Again, I told myself I could do this.
But by 8 am, I was still at 6 cm. I was starting to emotionally and physically lose steam. The doctor explained that there was a chance my baby was simply too big to drop between my hips. To make sure, we had to really amp up the Pitocin and give it all we had. So they did.
The next four hours were — I’m not exaggerating — the absolute worst of my life. I cannot explain the amount of pain I was in between my back and those contractions. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I couldn’t open my eyes. I just laid there in silence, chin to my chest, gritting my teeth and waiting for it to pass. Dan tried all he could to comfort me but it didn’t matter — it was absolutely awful.
When the doctor came in at noon to check my cervix again, I knew I had to give up. There was no way I could push — I couldn’t even lift my head. I had nothing left. I was on E. I felt defeated, and I knew what the answer was before the doctor even said it.
She checked my cervix, and it was exactly what I had feared: I was still at 6 cm, meaning the baby’s head was too big to drop between my hips. Our only remaining option was a C-section.
I was heartbroken, but at that point, I would’ve done anything to make the pain go away. So I agreed to it.
Everything moved quickly after that. Before I knew it, I was in the OR being prepared for surgery. The anesthesiologist began numbing me up again through — you guessed it — that damn epidural. The back pain was back in full force and I was miserable. But slowly, the more they gave me, the pain eventually subsided. He started to give me “prick” tests on my abdomen to see what I could feel. This is where it went downhill…again.
He kept telling me that I would feel something during the C-section — “pressure” as he described it. He kept checking my tummy to see how numb I was and I kept telling him it still felt like sharp nails pinching me. I was calm as a cucumber as he did this, until he declared, “You’re ready!” and I still felt the sharp nails when he checked me. I tried to tell him I didn’t think I was numb enough, but I was dismissed. “You’ll be fine.”
Finally, before they were about to begin surgery, I called the anesthesiologist over again and firmly told him I was very uncomfortable with how much I could feel. He humored me and said he gave me a bit more of the drug (did he really? I’ll never know.) Dan and I said a prayer together — desperate for the relief of something to go right.
What happened next was just the cherry on top of the freaking cake.
As the surgeon — who, remember, was not my doctor — made her first incision and stuck her hands into my stomach, I felt pulling, tugging and pain. This was not “pressure” — I felt all my shit being moved around and pulled at, and it was awful.
I started to panic, and once again told the anesthesiologist what I could feel (through tears this time). Another female anesthesiologist told me I was “just working myself up” and said she would “give me a drug that made me feel like I had a glass of wine.” That drug went in, and the surgeon went back at it, and once again, I felt everything she was doing. This sent me into a full blown panic attack that ultimately caused Dan to be whisked out of the room and me to be put under completely.
Poor Dan was in a room alone for nearly 30 minutes before they brought the baby in. And then it was another 45 minutes after that until he even had a clue that I was okay. (Needless to say, the hospital will be receiving a not-so-nice letter from me about all of this.)
I ended up missing all of those firsts I had so desperately wanted — being the first to hold her, see her get weighed, see her little feet prints, hear her first cry. I’ll always be terribly sad about this (literally crying as I write this! Ha.)
But when I woke up, Dan was sitting across the room holding her and I just felt a rush of happiness. I was so thankful that we were both okay, regardless of how everything went down. Holding Lyla for the first time was still magical — even as drugged up as I was. I just remember being so relieved she was finally in my arms.
Unfortunately though, the drama with me didn’t end there. It turns out my kidneys were so overloaded with all the drugs I had been given that I wasn’t peeing. So for the next four hours, I stayed on the OR floor and was flooded — seriously, flooded — with fluids. I swelled up like a balloon — to the point that seeing photos of myself now, I look like a different person. This swelling would prove to be the hardest part of my recovery, because it didn’t go away for more than two weeks. I couldn’t even put on my own underwear because I couldn’t bend my knees.
And now, almost six weeks later, the ache in between my shoulder blades still comes and goes throughout the day. Will it ever go away? Who knows.
But honestly? I’m not bitter about misplaced epidural, failed anesthesia or even the terrible swelling. In fact, I can’t help but feel grateful.
The more stories of infertility that I read, the more I realize that maybe those perfect, easy pregnancies — you know, the ones where the mother feels great, only gains 20 pounds and has a beautiful natural birth — are rare. Maybe bringing life into this world isn’t meant to be easy (even though Instagram makes us think it is).
One thing’s for sure: I learned that I’m way tougher than I thought. As much as my labor and delivery experience was personally disappointing, I feel like I earned war stripes that I’ll proudly wear for the rest of my life.
And this little lady’s not a bad souvenir either. 😉