It was about 6:30 in the evening on Monday, March 15th, and Vik and I had just gotten home from a long walk outside. Vik was working on a presentation and I was watching some random television show on TLC (probably about little people) when I suddenly began having period-like cramps that wrapped around my lower back and made the top of my uterus really hard. Although they were quite painful, I honestly did not know they were contractions. Vik, however, was able to render an accurate diagnosis thanks to a “What do contractions feel like?” search in Google.
Within half an hour, I found myself alternating between rocking back and forth on the stairs and bending over the back of the recliner in order to cope with my contractions that I was still in denial were contractions (and which were, at that point, coming every four to five minutes). We called our doula, Barb, who confirmed that I was probably in active labor. She suggested I try to eat some food, get some rest, and call her when we started to feel uncomfortable handling the laboring-at-home process on our own.
Vik then fixed me a plate of vegetable lasagna and kept trying to force feed it to me. I kept refusing, insisting that I was too uncomfortable and nauseous to eat. We argued about food, and I finally agreed to drink a peanut butter banana smoothie. Thirty minutes later, as I was projectile vomiting smoothie in between contractions that were coming about four minutes apart, Vik and I agreed that I made the right choice in foregoing the lasagna. We also agreed that it was time to have Barb come over.
Barb arrived at our house around 10:30 pm and spent about two hours rubbing my back and helping Vik keep me comfortable while I bounced/rocked around on a birthing ball. A little after 1:00 am, when it was apparent that my labor was not capable of stalling or slowing down, we left for the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital around 1:30 am, when my contractions were coming around 3 minutes apart and registering around 7 on the pain scale. Once I was done vomiting my recently consumed gatorade, the triage nurse checked me and said I was four centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. This was, apparently, “excellent progress” and I was admitted to the hospital and wheeled upstairs to a labor and delivery suite.
Once upstairs, the L&D nurse made me lie down while she gave me an IV (which I did not want) and hooked me up to the contraction and fetal heartrate monitors (which I also did not want). She told me I would have to labor in bed for the next thirty minutes or so. This news was so upsetting that I threw up yet again, this time all over myself and the bed.
Several minutes into the monitoring process, as my contractions were speeding up and intensifying, alarms started going off on the fetal heartrate monitor. The nurse looked at the monitors, tried repositioning me and the sensors, and then pushed a code button. She looked at me and said, “I don’t want you to panic, but there will be a lot of people in here very soon.”
Less than two minutes later, a team of doctors and nurses came flooding into the room and immediately began examining me and yelling things at each other. At that point I was completely freaking out, and Vik and Barb were trying desperately to keep me calm. A minute later, a doctor was bursting my bag of waters and reaching in to reposition the baby. They also inserted internal fetal monitors.
Only after all of this happened was it explained to me that the strength and frequency of my contractions, combined with the baby’s position, were causing the umbilical cord to get pinched, resulting in a rapid deceleration of his heartrate; his heartrate had dropped from 150 to around 32 beats per minute. I was also told that the baby had “gone” in utero and that a team of neonatologists would need to be at the birth. At this point, I began shaking uncontrollably out of a combination of fear and hormones.
It was about ten minutes before I was calm enough to get out of bed and into a more comfortable laboring position. Unfortunately, the rupturing of my water caused my increasingly intense contractions to come one right after the other with (literally) no rests in between. Vik tried to hold me up and rock me back and forth through the relentless contractions, but I was just too emotionally and physically exhausted to cope. It was at this point that I said to Barb, with defeat, “I need help.”
After going over my pain management options with Barb, the OB came in and checked my progress. Because I was already 6 centimeters dilated, we decided I should get the epidural (it was too late for narcotics and, for a variety of reasons, the birthing tub was not an option). I felt completely weak and defeated, but Barb and Vik kept reassuring me that I was strong and they were proud.
At around 5:30 am, the anesthesiologist administered a combination spinal and epidural. The insertion process itself was completely painless, and I felt immediate relief from the contractions. Unfortunately, my blood pressure also promptly bottomed out, which caused the baby’s heart rate to also bottom out (again). It took two shots of epinephrine to get me stable, and ten minutes later the lights were dimmed and Vik, Barb and I were all resting to the sounds of Coldplay.
Within an hour after receiving my epidural (so, around 6:30 am) I told Vik to awaken Barb because I was feeling my contractions again (the spinal only lasted an hour, and I had not pushed the button for the epidural drugs) and was confused because they were causing me much more pressure than pain. Barb had the OB come in to check my progress.
I was happy to learn that I had progressed from 6 to 10 centimeters in just under an hour and that the baby had dropped to plus one station. I was told that I could begin pushing whenever I was ready. Five minutes later, I was ready.
At 7:33 am, less than forty-five minutes after my first set of pushes and just over thirteen hours after it all began, Oliver entered the world. The OB held him up so that I could see him and he immediately took one look around the room and let out a loud, gurgly scream. That sound was music to my ears!
The neonatologists then came over and took Oliver to a warming bed on the other side of the room where they intubated him in order to clean out any aspirated meconium from his nose and lungs. I told Vik that I would be fine and to stay with Oliver. Vik went over to the warming bed and began telling Oliver that he loved him and, I swear, Oliver stopped crying and turned his head towards his Daddy’s voice.
In the meantime, I was being “worked on” on the other side of the room; minimal reconstruction was required, but it still took about 30 minutes to put everything back together. I spent the entire time desperately trying to catch glimpses of my little angel.
After the doctors finished with me, Vik brought Oliver over and placed him in my arms. My first thought was, “Wow, my baby is beautiful,” and my second thought was, “Holy cow, my baby has a ton of hair.” Vik and I then spent the next ten minutes staring at him in awe and repeating to ourselves that we could not believe we had created something so perfect.
So, there it is, my labor story. And although it was not the unmedicated, intervention-free birth I wanted, and although there were times that I felt terrified, defeated, weak, and exhausted, I know that what matters most, and what I will try my hardest to remember most keenly, are the moments when I felt strong, when Vik was proud, and, most of all, when my perfect baby boy was placed in my arms. After all, in the end those are the only moments that matter.
P.S. Vik did get me a post-partum room with a view: