#1: Pizza Regrets and Mango Water Ice
Location: Washington, DC
How pregnant: 39 weeks, 3 days
Baby number: 1
Hours in labor: 15
Delivery type: Vaginal with forceps
Did you have a birth plan?
No. I thought I would create one and request less interventions, versus more. But when it was time to put pen to paper, I felt like I didn't see a good enough, scientific reason to not use what my hospital recommended.
When did you know you were in labor? Where were you and what were you feeling physically?
I was convinced I would go into labor for the entire last month of my pregnancy. I had lots of Braxton-Hicks that felt like tightening on the outside of my belly. I thought they might be real contractions. They were not. TLDR: If it feels like things are only happening on the outside of your body, its probably not a contraction.
My water broke at 11 p.m. at night. I had gotten up to go to the bathroom and heard/felt an unmistakable pop. It wasn't a lot of liquid. Contractions hadn't started yet.
What did your doctor/midwife say when you called?
My doctors told me to come on in, since I was Group B Strep positive and needed to get on an IV for antibiotics.
What happened before you went to the hospital?
Frenzied over-packing, even though the bags were already packed. I decided to eat a piece of leftover pizza, a decision I later regretted. I did it because I heard so many stories or women not getting to eat for something like 20 hours of labor.
Oh, and my poor husband had just taken a Benadryl for a cold.
When did you decide to go to the hospital? What was that trip like?
The trip was uneventful. It would've been a nightmare at rush hour, but the roads were empty that late at night.
Contractions started in the car. I have a vivid memory of counting through a contraction on the bridge into D.C. At the time I thought that if that was how bad contractions were, maybe I didn't need an epidural. Ha ha.
Once you got to the hospital, what happened first?
Originally I thought the hospital tour was a waste of time, but my husband insisted on it. Turns out that was a good idea, because we knew the right door to go to, what to do with the car, what floor to head to, etc.
Once in your room, what happened next? Was it what you expected?
I got a room right away and was hooked up to all the machines. I loved being able to hear my baby's heartbeat constantly. It was like a reassuring little wave of noise.
The OB on call checked and I was only 3 cm. dilated. He recommended waiting for the epidural so labor would progress faster. He offered narcotics in the meantime, which he said wouldn't really ease the pain but would essentially distract me. I said I was fine.
An hour later, the vomiting started. I vomited more than I ever have in my life. My husband was carrying buckets of my vomit to the bathroom. This is why I regretted the pizza.
What did contractions feel like?
After the vomiting, contractions started for real. They were a deep, internal, squeezing pain that got worse as the night wore on. It was like riding waves of pain. About two hours in, I was unable to talk or move. I had banished my husband to the couch and was curled up in ball on my bed, gripping the side railing so hard my knuckles were white.
For some reason I tried to make myself wait until 1 am to ask for the epidural. As soon as it hit, I told the nurse it was time. She told me the anesthesiologist was in an emergency C-section and it would be awhile. I told her I wanted the narcotics.
If labor was unmedicated for all or a portion of the time, how did you manage contractions? Was it what you expected?
I got my narcotics, and as the doctor said, it did not ease the pain but essentially made me feel drunk. I drifted in and out of the pain waves. Contractions were far more painful than I thought they would be. I think I have a high tolerance for pain, and I had half expected to think they weren't so bad. I was wrong!
If you got an epidural, how did that work? Was it what you expected?
I labored without an epidural until around 5 am. By that point I was 10 cm. dilated, or very close to it. When the anesthesiologist came in I was still loopy from the narcotics, and I tried to make some joke about how the needle couldn't be worse than a contraction. No one laughed.
The epidural itself was quick and painless. Sat up on the edge of the bed and it was in. It kicked in quickly, and all of my pain went away. I loved that anesthesiologist so much.
My husband got me a mango water ice to eat after my epidural, which was the most delicious thing I had (and possibly still have) ever eaten. I took a deliriously happy selfie with my mango treat and started texting family. Everything was great.
I was 10 cm. and my doctor said the baby could be born in the next hour or two, or it could be several hours. I got excited.
If your labor had an unexpected intervention (i.e. emergency C-section or forceps) how and why did that happen?
Then came my first pushing attempt. I pushed as hard as I could, which was a strange sensation because I couldn't really feel the muscles. I did this for 15 minutes, but nothing was happening. My nurse told my doctor that I was "really trying" to push and wasn't faking it, which made me wonder who would fake pushing?
They determined that my baby was stuck sideways. The nurse heroically moved me around to try pushing in different positions, with my husband assisting (since I couldn't feel my legs). Nothing changed. I got Pitocin, but my baby's heart rate sped up, so that was quickly stopped. This was the first time I felt real fear during labor.
At some point forceps were mentioned. My nurse said she wouldn't trust some of the younger doctors to use them, but that my doctor was the best with them.
By 1pm, after three pushing attempts and hours of waiting, I was desperate to get my baby out and have her be healthy. The forceps team was assembled, including extra nurses and pediatricians. I was given an extra dose of anesthesia because "you really don't want to feel this."
Then it was time to push again. My doctor put the forceps in, twisted them slightly and then pulled them out. My baby girl followed cloesly behind. It was one quick, graceful movement.
What happened immediately after your baby was born?
Because it was a forceps delivery, she had to be examined by pediatricians right away in the room. I could hear her screaming, which was all I wanted. My doctor was stitching me up when the pediatrician came over and said she had "retractions" and they needed to observe her. I asked what that meant. My doctor said he "spoke pediatrician" and explained that some babies' lungs don't have a regular rhythm when they are born. They need a little time to adjust, he said, but it was relatively common and not a big deal.
I panicked and asked to hold her before she left. The pediatrician obliged, but not happily. I held my baby and saw her little lungs moving at an odd pace, so I handed her back right away.
The room got empty quickly. As soon as everyone left, I sent my husband to find our baby. My nurse suggested I order something to eat, presumably as a distraction. I got a quesadilla and waited the longest 15 minutes of my life. My husband came back and said he had found her and she was perfect and had opened her eyes and looked at him and she was coming back soon.
Five minutes later, she was wheeled in in her clear plastic baby jail. We were together again! Soon after my nurse taught me how to breastfeed her. I hadn't expected that to happen right away, for some reason. It was confusing and the positioning felt awkward, but thankfully my baby latched and chugged away.
Anything else you want to add?
I expected to have a smooth delivery since my pregnancy was a fairly easy one, so the forceps and the observation were unexpected. If I had had another doctor, I think its very possible I would've had a C-section. I was extremely grateful for that man! I also loved my nurse, which I think made the experience easier despite challenges.
In the future, I would change only two things, though: 1) Get the epidural sooner rather than later 2) Not eat the pizza :)
Final question: How would you describe this delivery in one sentence?
My delivery was fast (dilation) and slow (actual delivery!), painful (contractions) and joyous (baby!), goofy (mango selfie) and scary (pitocin), and probably every other emotion in between.
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