(Almost) 1 Year Later: My Birth Story

Zoe is 1 year old next week. I know. It's amazing. And I thought it was finally time to write out my thoughts on her birth. Chris wrote about her birth story last year, which I thought was just about one of the most wonderful things I had ever read. And although I wrote about how my first two weeks were hard postpartum, I never wrote about my experience giving birth. I haven't realized how traumatic it really was to me until recently when I was talking about it to someone and I just started bawling my eyes out. So here goes nothing (and it's pretty long, just get ready).

I was incredibly lucky to have an easy, complication free pregnancy. I chalk that up to several things - good genes, eating well and exercising, and luck. I was always afraid of giving birth - that I would completely suck at it - but I knew that DUH! it was coming. We went to birth classes and I started getting ready for how I wanted our birth to go: I wanted to absolutely TRY to do it naturally, but that if I needed to and it was more than I could take, I would get an epidural. I didn't want to feel bad if I needed it, or feel like I was less of a woman for some reason because I couldn't take the pain. Did I want a natural birth? Yes. Did I know that there were things that might happen that would cause that not to happen? Yes. Or at least that's what I told myself to get ready for.

I was pregnant, pregnant, pregnant, pregnant. Zoe just didn't want to come out. I was dilated at 3cm for weeks, Zoe was head down for MONTHS and every appointment I went to doctors and nurses assured me that, "Oh, this baby is coming, this baby is coming." That got my hopes up, and of course it never happened. People told me to take walks - I mulched our front yard by myself. I ate spicey foods. We had sex (yes, gasp!) But nothing worked. Imagine that, Zoe already had a little personality, "Ummmm, I'm not coming out yet."

about to go to the hospital to be induced.

Nowadays induction comes at 41 weeks, and I hate that. I feel like there is WAY TOO MUCH medical intervention. I was very healthy all through pregnancy, so we were able to push induction to 42 weeks, and our doctor was completely fine with it. But he said absolutely at 42 weeks we would need to be induced. Sigh. At our last appointment with him we set up an induction for the next day. We were to call Kaiser an hour before our appointment to make sure everything was still good to go, and then head to the hospital. We had toured and done all of our classes at the Oakland Kaiser (there are several facilities in the Bay Area) and had intended on giving birth there. Well, unfortunately when we called they said they were just about full and could we go to Hayward instead. I freaked out on the phone. I do not deal well with change. I was uncomfortable, upset that I was having to be induced, stressed out, scared and now you were making me change where I was giving birth?! It's actually not a huge deal when I think about it now, but I had everything set up in my head of what was going to happen and this threw a wrench in it to me. I politely got frustrated with the nurse and she said they'd see what they could do and we should call back in another hour. Sigh.

So what did we do? We went to HD to waste time :) An hour later we called and they said they had made room for us, so we made our way over. I was scared, nervous, and just full of question marks.

We arrived at  the hospital at 6pm, bags in hand, ready to have some shit pumped in me to force our baby out. That made me feel like crap. I was already feeling like I had failed because my body naturally did not bring Zoe out. I hated that I had to be induced. I don't know why it was giving such a severe feeling, but I just HATE HATE HATED it. Chris tried to reassure me that I had made such a good home for Zoe in there that she was so happy that she didn't want to leave. That perked me up a bit, but I was still sad

don't I look like I'm having the BEST time?

Most of our family came that first evening to say hello and watch the process get started. We had warned them that this could sometimes take DAYS and there would probably be no "fun" for many hours, if not a day or so. But they insisted :)

I was hooked up to machines and given medicine to try and help me dilate more. I had been having contractions on and off for a couple weeks - I would come in to get check ups because I was past my due date and the nurse would tell me I was having contractions and I wouldn't feel them at all, or I would go to bed having contractions and they would go away while I was sleeping. It was weird. The same thing happened that first night - some contractions, but every time I was able to sleep for a little bit, they would go away. The nurses thought that was kind of strange. Early on into the induction my blood pressure and heart rate were changing significantly enough during contractions that I was already put on watch as a possible c-section candidate, so my food intake was controlled a bit more and I got A LOT of jell-o. You know what sucks? Going through the early stages of labor and not getting a big fat hamburger. In all of the birth videos and classes we went to they never talked about when anyone got to eat. I mentioned that several times to Chris because I LIKE TO EAT and I had no idea why that wasn't a priority to anyone. HELLO, you need food!

After going through the night with the medicine to help me try and dilate (we were really trying to not have to take pitocin), I had not dilated AT ALL. So pitocin it was. Sigh. They started the drip and I started having more contractions, but again, couldn't really feel them. They gave me more little by little to make sure I was still okay. The contractions finally started to a point where it was uncomfortable, so I started walking around our room a little bit to keep my mind off of it. We watched Price is Right and a bunch of other crap on TV while I paced around, butt exposed in those lovely hospital gowns. Family came in periodically to see how we were doing. Slow and steady was the word

Then, Chris' dad came. He had driven up from LA and had just arrived at the hospital and came into our room to say hello. My contractions were getting worse, but it was still just uncomfortable. I was laying in bed on my side and Chris and his dad were talking. All of a sudden my water broke. Or at least, that's what I figured, because I assumed I did not just piss myself. And the SECOND my water broke the contractions got SO MUCH FUCKING MORE PAINFUL. It was amazing. Pre-water break: totally manageable. Post-water break: I thought my insides were being ripped out. I didn't want to start yelling or scream at Chris' dad, but I was all of a sudden completely 100% in a ton of pain and didn't really want anyone in the room, so I tried to catch Chris' eye so that we could be by ourselves. It took a little while, he saw, and Chris' dad headed out (I still feel bad about that, "Oh, hello! You came from LA, please leave, I may have just pissed myself.") My dad and step mom came in a little while later, and I felt much better being rude to them, so I said, "I hurt like a bitch, please leave." :)

After that we really kept the visitors out. I was in a ton of pain trying to manage contractions and the water leaking (oh my god, it was near constant and REALLY annoying). It hurt like a mother fucker. Chris was trying so hard to do anything he could to try and help me, but it had gone from completely manageable to so much pain within a literal 15 second span and I was just completely overwhelmed. I told him I didn't think I could do it naturally and said I wanted to try a narcotic to just stave it off for an hour and be able to regroup. They gave me the narcotic and let me tell you - it did NOTHING. Narcotics are used sometimes now as a temporary pain relief that usually lasts for an hour or so. They only give it in the early stages of labor and absolutely do not give it later when you are anywhere close to pushing because it's not good for the baby to be born with it in your system (it only lasts about an hour). I realized that I really needed the epidural. I told Chris I was so sorry, but that I couldn't do it naturally. I was already feeling like I failed needing to be induced and I HATED that I needed an epidural because I had wanted so bad to do it naturally. But that just wasn't in my cards

Almost 24 hours into induced labor I got my epidural. I felt fine for a bit, and then literally less than 10 minutes after I got it I felt really funny. I don't entirely remember what happened, but I told Chris I didn't feel good and my head started drooping down, like I was losing consciousness. Chris pressed the nurse call button, no one came in the 6 seconds he waited, and then he ran to the door and yelled out into the hall for help. The nurse we LOVED came rushing in and what happened next is a total blur, and actually gets me completely teared up thinking about it. My heart rate had dropped significantly - 65/38 - and I was terrified. I was awake enough to sort of get what was going on. All of a sudden a team of several people rushed into the room - doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists. They gave me medicine through my IV to bring my blood pressure up, tried to manually position monitors on me so that they could track Zoe's heart rate which was now 1/2 of what it was supposed to be. There were a lot of very serious, worried faces in the room.

I forgot how scary this was. I was terrified, and all I remember is just staring at Chris, asking if everything was going to be okay. Of course he had no idea and was terrified as well and alternated between telling me in a completely calm manner that everything would be okay and staring at the nurses and doctors trying to judge their reaction or get some sort of information from them. The frenzy lasted what feels like 2 minutes, though I honestly have no idea. I had an oxygen mask on, tears were falling, I was holding Chris' hand, there were monitors, many people in the room - if you told me everyone was there for 45 minutes I might believe you too

Someone finally said, "I'm going to call it," and within 15 seconds all the monitors, IV's, tubes...all that crapped was flying out of the room with me and down the hall. And Chris wasn't there. I was being wheeled through the hospital into an emergency c-section and the only person I needed wasn't there beside me. I was a wreck. At this point I was pretty aware of what was going on and the fact that Chris wasn't there with me was one of the most terrifying things. Of course he was given scrubs in the room we were just in and was changing into them and waiting for someone to get him, but I had no idea. I was in an operating room with what felt like dozens of people with monitors beeping, words being thrown out that I didn't understand and no partner there with me. I was sobbing, literally sobbing my eyes out asking where Chris was. And bless this doctor's heart - I have no idea who he is - he stood next to my table, holding my hand with both of his hands and just listened to me cry, told me Chris would be right there and that everything would be okay. I still sobbed though, asking where Chris was, if Zoe was okay and was just a MESS.

Then, Chris appeared. Oh my god, thank god he appeared. I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for Chris. He never let the worry come over his face. He never once looked scared, never once looked like everything wouldn't end up okay. I don't know how he did that, maybe he's magical. But if he hadn't been able to do that...man

There was running all around prepping me for emergency surgery, still monitoring of Zoe and making sure I was okay. About 30 seconds after Chris came in (that's my guess, I really have no idea) Zoe and I had stabilized. We were no longer in an emergency situation and we were okay. My blood pressure and her heart rate were back to normal. They asked what we wanted to do. We absolutely didn't want a c-section if we didn't have to, so we asked what our options were. We wanted to be checked to see how much I had dilated - I was only at 4.5cm. 4.5CM! After 24 hours of induced labor I had only dilated 1.5 centimeters. They said that I could continue to wait, but the truth of the matter was that it could be days before I was fully dilated enough to start pushing and the chances of us having a similar situation of my reaction to the epidural were highly likely. They understood that we wanted to have as natural of a childbirth as possible, but that it was probably the best decision for me and Zoe's health to have a c-section. So that's what we did.

Meanwhile, our entire families - all 4 of my parents, Chris' two parents, my brother and his wife and Chris' sister - were out to dinner. They had still thought we were up in our room, waiting through painful contractions and it would be a while till anything exciting like pushing came. We elected not to tell them anything. Looking back on it, I still completely agree with the decision. There were so many question marks and really no time to have texted or called them to tell them what was happening. And we didn't want them to be terrified. So we waited.

There I was, lying on the table, with Chris sitting beside me holding my hand, getting sliced open. It was really weird. And not what I had imagined would happen. But, that's what happens in life. It was a very strange sensation being able to tell that something was going on down there - tugging and pulling - but not being able to feel it. I was still scared that something bad would happen, but I was so happy to have Chris there with me now. The nurse we loved so very much was staying past her shift to stay with us and make sure that everything ended up happily. I loved her even more than that

Then, someone told Chris to stand up and he saw Zoe being born. I heard her cry. I was so fucking happy to hear that cry. And it just felt surreal. We had really wanted immediate skin to skin contact, but that obviously didn't happen. Chris went over to see her and brought her over as soon as she could. I loved her. I couldn't believe we were a family now. She was healthy (apgar of 8 at the first minute and 9 at 5) and just the best baby there ever was. I was scared to hold her though because I was having a reaction to the epidural of convulsions, from all the adrenalin, so I was honestly terrified that I would drop her. Apparently it's very common, but it was still a little scary. Chris held her right next to me, put her against me, and I marveled at how awesome she was.

Getting sewn up took a lot longer than getting sliced open. But once I was put back together and my convulsions stopped, I held her. And it was magical. We got wheeled to recovery with me holding her and Chris let our families know what had happened. Once we were in recovery they came in 2 at a time to see Zoe, and cry and give hugs that we were all okay. It was an enormous surprise to them all --- "Oh hey, let's go out to dinner. Ummm, the baby is born?"

It's amazing to think how long ago that was. In a way it almost feels like it never happened because it feels so long ago. I am incredibly nervous about what would happen if we had a second child - would I need to be induced again, have the same reaction to the epidural, have another c-section? It all makes me very nervous and scared. I'm SO happy that Zoe was born healthy and it was certainly an experience that made Chris and I stronger together. I don't know what I would have done if Chris hadn't been such a rock. He really is amazing that guy :) And we made quite a strong, smart and adorable daughter who I love more than anything

And it's crazy to think she's almost 1. I'm thankful we're all healthy, happy and fabulous :)


Deb said...

You know, you can see Zoe's 1-year-old face in her newborn face... Do you know what I mean?

meryl rose said...

TOTALLY. I completely see parts of her face now in her teeny tiny newborn face, even the one of her on the warming table. Little cutie :)

rosedel said...

I'm so glad you and Zoe are such troopers and came through birth like champs. From what I have read a second birth is easier just because you have a very good idea of what to expect. I hope that is true. :) Zoe was a beautiful newborn but she is gorgeous now. And so much fun!

And Chris is AWESOME!

Eliza said...

I'm 11 weeks post partum, and at 55 hours it's fair to say I had a hard birth as well. I remember feeling frightened that my baby would die since I had mecomium in my waters. When I had to have forceps things suddenly went from a quiet and dark room to bright lights and what felt like hundreds of doctors in the room. So, disquieting and terrifying. I also had those horrible convulsions after I got the spinal block for the forceps. I'm moving past it, and I've found talking about it helps me come to terms with the less than ideal birth experience, and the PPD that followed.

Well done you for talking about your experience, and thanks for talking about baby wearing. I just tried my son it in a wrap, and its way more comfortable than our Ergo or Baby Bjorn.

Erin said...

Amazing. Good for you mama and I know that must have been an impossibly hard decision. You did what was best for Zoe and for yourself and that's the best we can do. Think of it as your earliest parenting lesson! Congrats on one year. :)

meryl rose said...

Thank you everyone! I'm always more than happy to share my experiences. I think all women want a healthy, happy and easy as possibly birth and as much as you think you prepare yourself for the possibility of that not happening, it's still a shock when it doesn't. But we're all strong and can get through anything with support!

Elizabeth Gow said...

I just reread this:) can't wait until you are a strong family of four!!! You guys are amazing!!