Fair warning: this is a long, probably boring post if you’re not a labor nurse. Maybe gross too, I’m not sure what gross is to normal people anymore.
Somehow, life got in the way these past nine months, and I realized that I hadn’t posted even once about this pregnancy! In August, I found out I was pregnant, and in December we found out it was a beautiful baby girl! We were overjoyed.
After many months of vomiting and not being able to see my feet, I was completely over being pregnant. As soon as I hit 37 weeks, I was ready to get her out. I was exercising, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and whatever else I could think of to get things moving. At 39 weeks after a particularly trying day, a doctor I used to work with offered to “sweep me”, a technique where the provider reaches through your cervix and separates the bag of water from the side of the uterus. Ideally, this releases prostaglandins and if your body is ready, this can nudge you into labor. She mentioned that she had been pretty aggressive and wouldn’t be surprised if my water broke soon. As she was talking, I sat up and felt fluid–we both agreed that it was probably gel from the exam. I walked out to the car to meet Carl, and it kept running down my leg. I told him that we should go home and get everything ready just in case this was the real deal.
We headed home, did a few loads of laundry and when the fluid didn’t stop, I decided to return to the MICC to see if my water had indeed broken. Not knowing if this would be our last day as just a family of two, we went out for ramen and made our way into the MICC right after change of shift.
I was so excited to see so many of my favorite people working. We decided that my water had broken, and because it had now been about 7 hours without contractions, we had to augment labor to avoid infection. This was it! We were staying on the MICC until we had a baby in our arms. Poor Carl hadn’t quite grasped the situation–I had been throwing out various false alarms for weeks. He sat down in the designated “dad chair” and blew some deep breaths out through his mouth.
They let me shower and get settled, then placed what is called a foley bulb–basically an inflated balloon to sit against your cervix and simulate the pressure of a baby’s head, releasing prostaglandins and helping to dilate your cervix. To get contractions going, they also gave me a medication called Cytotec.
The combination was almost instantly horrible. I went from “Oh, that doesn’t feel great.” to quite literally jumping on and off the bed trying to get comfortable. Carl reminded me that this was labor, this was normal and it was just the beginning. It sounded like he was talking to me from another planet, he sounded so far away. My nurse was my friend Michele, and she offered me an IV pain medication which I gladly accepted. I’ve told patients so many times about this medication making them feel a little bit drunk, it was crazy to feel it myself! I remember facing the wall and telling Carl how excited I was to put tiny pants on the baby, only to turn around and realize nobody else was in the room.
I also tell patients that Fentanyl is short acting, so I knew that I was only getting a quick break. Sure enough, within a half hour I was back to losing my mind. I was shaking, throwing up, all signs of active labor and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just the miracle patient who flew into labor with just a nudge of medication. I definitely wasn’t. With things getting so intense, I knew it was time to call the doula. When another dose of Fentanyl and an anti-nausea medication were offered, I was ready for it.
Jen (the doula) showed up just as the second dose of Fentanyl hit my bloodstream. I was completely high on the drugs, and felt awful that she’d had to come in the middle of the night when I was feeling fine. She offered to stay with me so that Carl could go home and get his things. She set up a diffuser of lavender oil and settled in for a long night.
The foley bulb finally came out!!! Michele had been pulling on it, keeping tension and pressure of the balloon against my cervix. We were so excited that we all clapped. I was still having contractions, but the Fentanyl had made them bearable and I was able to pretend to sleep.
The doctor came in to “check me”, and announced that I was 5 cm. She completely broke my water, which before had just been leaking. Happy day! Things were finally moving along, all of this pain was for a reason. Things were getting intense again, and I told Michele I thought I’d be ready for an epidural soon. I had it in my head that Carl should be there when they placed an epidural, but Carl was still on his mission of collecting DVDs and snacks from home.
New nurses, Shauna and Cassi. I should mention here that I had the A-team for this entire labor. Every staff member I’ve mentioned is someone I have learned a ton from, and they are all the kind of nurse who does the right thing every single time. They care about their patients so much.
By this point, I was more than ready for the epidural and thought that Carl was on his way. Shauna offered me one last dose of Fentanyl to tide me over until he got there but before long I was ready to just get the damn epidural, with or without Carl there. Shauna sat in the “Dad spot”, supporting my legs while the anesthesiologist worked on my back. Carl burst in with a huge smile on his face, taking his assigned role. I can’t explain how grumpy I was, and he knew that smile would instantly disarm me.
The epidural was working beautifully, and a repeat check told me that I hadn’t changed at all. None of us were surprised, I was a first time mom not yet in active labor. I think at some point here they started Pitocin to create contractions, but my epidural was beautiful and I began a long day of blissed out naps.
I was still unchanged at 5cm, and we were starting to use high doses of Pitocin. After 20mu, they require internal monitoring of the contractions to ensure that your contractions are not becoming too strong and risk a uterine rupture. Dr. Turner came in and offered to check me and possibly place an IUPC. I was still 5cm, and when she attempted to check baby’s position, I heard her heartbeat slow on the monitor. Instead of the galloping hoofbeats we had heard all day, it was a slow thump in the 60s. We turned into a hands and knees position, oxygen was placed on my face, and the Pitocin was turned off. It seemed like forever, but her heartbeat was only down for two minutes before she came back up and we were able to lay back down.
At some point around here, we were getting concerned at the high doses of Pitocin and baby not tolerating the contractions. She was starting to get stressed by labor, and was slowly not able to recover after each contraction. We had to at least talk about the possibility of a C-section, and I was totally discouraged. Dr. Turner told me that I had an adequate pelvis, and not an overly large baby, which should have calmed my mind but instead made me even more frustrated. How was it possible that I had carried wide hips my whole life entirely for this, and today was the day they would fail me?? I had exercised, I had gone to chiropractors, I had done yoga. I was wrapping my head around the fact that this might not go according to my plan, the same thing I tell moms all the time. Dr. Turner told me that if I hadn’t made any change and baby wasn’t tolerating labor on the next check, it may be time to talk about a C-section. I grudgingly agreed, trying my hardest to think logically and not let my emotions get the best of me.
I was 6 cm–active labor! I was a little skeptical–5cm and 6 cm feel so similar that I didn’t know if Dr. Turner was being generous with her exam, but I was willing to take it. I had been so shaken by the possibility of surgery that Carl and I broke out the baby name book. We made a list of possibilities and left the final decision for later, just as we had throughout the entire pregnancy.
Through trial and error, we’d figured out that baby only liked when I was sitting straight up in a “throne position”, which with an epidural is not optimal. The viscous medication slides down to your legs and is no longer able to reach your belly, so you feel contractions again. I would sit up as long as I could stand it, and lay down just long enough to recover. While I was sitting up, I did my hair and makeup–if I was going to the OR, I was going to look my best.
Change of shift again–Michele was back! Angie, another good friend had been texting me all day instead of sleeping.. everyone was so invested in this labor, and I started to believe that my body could do this. I took yet another nap and tried to open my mind to whatever would happen. Carl suggested watching Nacho Libre, a movie which I HATE and he loves, and I just couldn’t get myself to care either way so we put it on.
Something definitely felt weird. This was another weird moment as a patient–I’ve told people so many times what to expect: if you feel pelvic pressure, or the sensation of having to poop, please call me! It’s probably a baby’s head.
This was not like that AT ALL. It just felt weirdly really uncomfortable, like my pants were bunched up or something. I told Michele that it felt like someone had put the foley bulb back in there–we should have known by that description that things were finally happening. She checked me, and I was still six so we chalked it up to miscellaneous weirdness. Within a half hour or so, I was really uncomfortable and asked them if they could manipulate something–I was thinking the IUPC was kinked or something.
Angie checked me, and immediately smiled over to Michele. I’ve seen her do that SO many times, and it can mean anything! She smiles when someone makes change, she smiles when the baby wiggles around, and I was half holding my breath to see what was so exciting. She announced that I was anterior lip.. aka 9.5cm. Everyone cheered! Carl pointed to Nacho Libre as the reason for the big change, saying that his girl was coming out to see such a great movie. During the whole pregnancy, we’d joked that she was a daddy’s girl–dancing at WWII battle sites and making me throw up veggies. She was proving already whose team she’d be on.
Because the baby was still relatively high in my pelvis, everyone left me to labor on and even though I knew why they’d left, half of my brain was bewildered. The weird feeling was so strong that I called them back in the room shortly after and asked them to “reduce the lip”, aka push the last little bit of cervix behind the baby’s head. Angie came back, did her signature cryptic smile and told me that I was completely dilated and that baby had come down. Time to push!
With the first set of pushes, I saw her head!! My epidural was amazing, and I had to ask if I was doing anything. When Jen set up the mirror (previously used for my hair and makeup session), I could see exactly what was happening. 25 minutes of pushing, and my baby girl was here! She was so pink that she was almost red, and was screaming before she was all the way out. The A-team got to work, and Carl and I stared at this crazy little baby. She was up on my belly, giving me the evil eye and chomping down looking for food. Carl cut the cord with a Ka-bar, which made us all laugh. I couldn’t believe it, everything had gone so beautifully. I may be biased, but I think she’s pretty perfect.
We chose the name Teagan after many suggestions and vetoes by each of us. I wanted a name that was a little spunky just like her.
Big thanks to all of the wonderful nurses, doctors, and corpsmen who helped me to have such a wonderful delivery. I know how hard they worked to keep us both safe and still give us what I wanted, and I am infinitely grateful.
Happy Birthday, Teagan!