Benjamin’s Birth

I had a lot of mixed feelings coming up to my induction.  I was very excited about the impending birth of my son, but I was a little bit disappointed to have missed out on the experience of going into labor on my own.  Leading up to the night I was to go to the hospital (July 17) I kept hoping I’d go into labor spontaneously, but it didn’t happen.  There was, of course, a lot of anticipation and excitement anyway.  I was honestly a little relieved at not having to worry about my water breaking in public, or going into labor and not being able to reach anyone, or having my baby on the side of the Dulles Toll Road in rush hour traffic.  Once I accepted that I wasn’t going to go into labor on my own, I started to hope that once the induction had been started, the Cervadil alone would be enough to start my contractions, so that I would at least have some of the experience of going into labor spontaneously.

We went to the hospital around 8:30 Thursday evening.  We were shown to our room — lucky number 13.  I’m not a superstitious person, but it actually occurred to me to ask for a different room.  It seems to me that maybe they should skip room 13 on the labor & delivery floor, kind of like skipping floor 13 in hotels.  I decided I was being silly, though, and joked a bit about being in room 13 coupled with the full moon!  I sat around for quite a while, waiting while Dan went and checked us in officially.  Eventually, the nurse came in, hooked me up to a bunch of monitors and got the induction officially underway by inserting the Cervadil, at around 9:00.  (That part wasn’t very exciting, though, because nothing really happens at that point — it’s a bit anticlimactic.)  The nurse took a medical history that took FOREVER.  It wasn’t that big of a deal for me (just kind of boring) but I can imagine it’s not a lot of fun to go through that for someone who already is in active labor.  When the nurse checked me, I was the same 1 cm dilated I had been at the doctor’s office the week before.  I was disappointed — I had been hoping that I would be one of those fortunate people who show up at the hospital halfway to having a baby without even knowing it.  No such luck!

Then I started the very fun process of having an IV inserted.  Apparently, between the extra weight gain and the extra swelling of pregnancy, my veins were hard to find.  The nurse had to try several times, in both my wrist and my hand, to get the IV inserted and it did not go well (there was blood everywhere).  Just having the IV in was very painful.  Believe it or not, this was one of my concerns prior to going in the hospital.  I’ve never been a fan of needles — I have always wondered how painful IVs were, and how much one would bother me.  It turns out it bothers me a lot.  Feeling like a total wuss, I complained to the nurse about the pain of the IV in my hand (I was supposed to, after all, push a baby out of myself in relatively short order, and here I was, complaining about the needle in my hand).  We tried an ice pack to relieve the pain, but I found it really problematic.  After an hour or so of discomfort, I asked her if there was any reason we couldn’t just take it out and put it back in the morning (after all, it wasn’t really needed until the Pitocin was started).  She said that would be fine — I was so glad.  On the advice of a friend of mine who is a labor & delivery nurse, I accepted the sleeping pill I was offered, and I started falling asleep around 12:30 or so.

Just before 3:00 a.m., I woke up.  It actually took me a little bit to wake up (probably from the sleeping pill).  I am usually a very light sleeper, but it took me about 10 minutes or so to get my bearings and figure out what was going on.  I had a pretty persistent pain in my abdomen, but I kept thinking it would go away soon.  I got up & used the bathroom, came back & got into bed, all the while thinking this pain was temporary and that I’d go back to sleep any minute.  Eventually, I came to the groggy realization that I was in labor!  My wish had come true — the Cervadil had been enough to start my labor.  I was pretty happy about it  (as happy as you can be about being in pain, I guess).

Honestly, I was really excited that I had been able to experience some semblance of the normal labor process.  I kind of had the experience of waking up my husband and saying, “Honey, it’s time!”.  Of course, we were already at the hospital.  My official review of labor pains: no fun.  Ouch!  I mean, you know it’s going to hurt.  But there’s no way to really be prepared for how rough it really is to be in labor.  We tried all manner of things to help me feel better.  We walked all around the labor & delivery floor.  I got a heating pad (one with running hot water in it — very strange).  I took a shower (this actually helped a lot).  But I had a really hard time getting over the pain, especially as time went on.  With the exception of the shower, which did feel good, but I didn’t really like being on my feet.  There was very little comfort to be had.

Dan & I entertained ourselves by watching my contractions on the monitor.  We could actually keep track of every patient on the floor, not just me.  There were four of us in for inductions, and I was the only one (so far) to have contractions triggered by the Cervadil..  There was actually only one other patient on the floor in labor, and by the look of it, she was definitely in active labor.  We kept track of her, in room 11 — it looked like she would have the baby any minute.  Sometime early in the morning, we called my mom to tell her that things had gotten started, but that there was no reason to hurry — it would still be quite some time before the baby’s arrival.

By about three hours into the contractions, I was having a really hard time.  It was already the worst pain of my life.  My body was tense during each contraction, and then, between contractions, I couldn’t make myself relax because I was already worried about the next one.  I was pretty miserable.  I asked for drugs.  I got some narcotics to take, and it really did help to take the edge off of the pain.  The contractions were still pretty brutal, but with the drugs I was able to rest between them.  I got very groggy and sleepy during the in between time, and I would actually fall asleep for the minute or two between the contractions, wake up for the contraction, and then go back to sleep.  I could still feel the pain very vividly, but I could sleep between contractions, which helped.

About 7:00 (the timeline gets a bit fuzzy here, thanks to the drugs) the nurse came again to get my IV inserted again in anticipation of the rest of the induction.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure whether they would give me Pitocin, given that my contractions seemed to be going so well from just the Cervadil (about 3 minutes apart for about 1 – 1.5 minutes at a time).  Getting the IV started in my other hand (the left was too beat up from the attempts of the night before) wasn’t much more fun, but at least I had the contractions to keep my mind occupied.  (I’m guessing the narcotics helped, too.)  After another painfully failed attempt, my nurse actually had someone else come in to start my IV.  About halfway through that, a funny bell went off in my room.  The nurse starting my IV calmly asked me to hold onto the needle where she had it, and she hurried from the room, which I thought was very strange.  A few minutes later, she came back and we asked what had happened.  She said that another mother had just had her baby and that the baby had been in trouble, so they had called all the nurses to help.  Room #11 had delivered her baby!  It turned out that everything was ok, but I was both impressed and a little troubled by the calmness with which the nurse had responded to this baby in trouble.

By 7:30 or so, my doctor arrived to break my water and get the Pitocin going.  She checked how dilated I was — just over 1 cm.  I was stunned and disappointed.  4+ hours of labor, the worst pain of my life, and it was worth less than 1 cm?  No way!  I knew then that I was getting Pitocin for sure, and I was glad of it, because I wasn’t looking forward to how long labor might have taken without it.  All throughout the latter part of my pregnancy, I was curious as to whether or not I would recognize the sensation of having my water break if it happened.  Now that I’ve experienced it, I know I would have.  It’s exactly as everyone describes it, and completely unlike any other sensation I’ve ever had.

Now things really got going.  The contractions intensified, and even with the help of the narcotics I was in the most intense pain of my life.  I gave in — I asked for the epidural.  Prior to going in to labor, I didn’t have a firm plan on an epidural either way.  Some women swear they won’t get one, some ask for the anesthesiologist the second they get off the elevator at the labor & delivery floor.  I wasn’t committed either way.  I definitely wanted to experience contractions, and feel what labor was like, but I knew enough to know that I had no idea how I would handle the pain.  Would I crumble at the first contraction?  Would I blithely chat with family & friends throughout the labor process?  Would I tough it out through the intense pain?  In the back of  my mind, I think I wanted to be one of those women who could endure the pain without the drugs.  I was hoping I’d deliver my child and come home with a valiant story of how rewarding it was.  But after about 5 hours of labor, I wanted to be done.  I wasn’t even disappointed at my decision.  I asked for the anesthesiologist and couldn’t wait for his arrival.

I did try to not ask the nurse constantly where he was — I think I only asked a few times.  Luckily, he came quickly.  It was just around 8:00 when he arrived at my room.  The process of getting an epidural is really strange.  You have to lean over (I was completely supported by my husband and my nurse, who was great) while up about 4 feet in the air on your hospital bed.  You lean precariously way over the edge and lean on your support people.  You’re asked to go limp and stay completely still — this is very important or you could end up with leaking spinal fluid.  All of this while having minute or more long contractions every 2-3 minutes.  If you haven’t tried it, you can’t understand how hard it is to do.  But, I will tell you, it was totally worth it.  Much as I was nagged by a bit of worry over leaking spinal fluid, I was much more worried about how quickly I’d be able to feel the relief of the pain.  Once you make the decision to get an epidural, you want it yesterday.  This part of labor also marked the end of my modesty.  I have always been a very modest person — I try to be discreet even when changing my clothes in front of my mother and my sister.  After 5 hours of labor, though, I just didn’t care.  By this point, I was in so much pain that I didn’t care what state I was in by the time the anesthesiologist showed up.  The epidural was successful, and I started to feel it within about 10 minutes.  At first, it was kind of a strange pins & needles feeling in my legs, but eventually, the pain started to subside, and then begin to go away completely.  I started to drift off, and then feel asleep.

Shortly after 9:00 I woke up to find that my mother was just arriving to the hospital.  Dan was on the phone with my father, and my mom came in mentioning to him that she had spilled his coffee on the way to the hospital.  I told her how much she had missed!

Just then, my nurse came in, followed by about 5 others.  One of them introduced herself as the nurse in charge and then proceeded to check how dilated I was.  The nurses were all talking to each other very intently, and no one was talking to me, but the nurse in charge mentioned I was at 4 cm.  I had just enough time to be impressed by my progress in the past hour when they started giving me instructions.  First, my nurse explained they were going to have me lay on my side because the baby’s heart rate had come down a little and they were trying to get it back up.  When I started to turn over (try doing this with no feeling below your belly button when you’re 9 months pregnant) they told me I wasn’t going fast enough.  I made it to my right side, and was there for a moment, when they had me try my left, then all fours.  I heard someone say, “It’s not working”.  It was 9:10 a.m.

By this time, there were more nurses in the room — I have no idea how many.  They started unplugging things from the walls, from the monitors and machines.  Someone gave me a machine to hold and we took off out of the room, pulling plugs out of the wall as we went.  They were running down the hall with me in the hospital bed — there must have been 6 or more nurses pushing the bed.  No one had said anything to me since telling me to get on all fours and then thrusting a machine into my hands.  On the way, someone said we were going to the OR and I heard one of the nurses asking another where my obstetrician was.

No one had to tell me that things were really bad.  Going down the hallway to the operating room, I realized that I might be losing my baby.  After 9 months of carrying him, loving him, anticipating him, after 9 months of things going so smoothly, he might never be born.  He might not make it.  My baby might be dying.  I have never been so afraid in my whole life.

We got to the operating room and there were even more people there.  I was transferred from one bed to another and people started putting up drapes all around me.  I was tied down to the bed, and a bag of air was put across my chest to keep me warm.  Someone asked me a series of questions including my name, the date, my doctors name, where we were and what we were doing.  I couldn’t think of the name of a c-section, so when she asked me what we were doing, I just said, “Something is wrong and you’re taking the baby out.”  I couldn’t really think clearly, and it was hard for me to believe that this was actually happening.  I kept waiting for someone to say that things were ok, or that we could go back to the delivery room.  I couldn’t believe this was actually happening to me and my baby.

At some point, my husband came in, and at some point my doctor came in.  She said the baby seemed to be doing a bit better, but just to be safe, they were going to go ahead with the c-section anyway.  I didn’t feel very comforted.  What seemed like seconds later, my doctor said they had already made the incision and were getting started.  I was shocked, I hadn’t felt anything, not even any pressure.  Moments later she said that the baby was almost out, and then I held my breath.  I just wanted to hear him cry.  At that moment, I didn’t care what else happened, I just wanted him to be alive, to be breathing in and out.  It was such a long moment, and then I heard it.  He cried.

I had no idea whether he was ok, whether I was ok, what was going to happen, and it didn’t matter.  My baby was born.  I have never been so happy in my entire life.  It was 9:21 a.m.

People say that there baby was born and there were 10 fingers and 10 toes so they were happy.  I didn’t care how many fingers and toes he had.  Anything beyond that cry was icing on the cake.  Anything beyond breathing was extra to me.  I cried.

Dan went over to see him in the bassinet.  They wrapped my baby up and brought him over to me.  I was amazed by him.  He wasn’t crying.  His eyes were wide open and he was looking at me.  He looked a little surprised, but so . . . aware.  I knew at that moment that I had been entrusted with a very special soul.

I had been petitioning for the name Lucas, Dan wanted Benjamin.  As soon as he was born, I knew that he was a Benjamin and not a Lucas.  Of course, as soon as he was born, Dan decided I should be able to name him whatever I wanted and switched his vote to Lucas.  So although it took us another day or so to settle the name dispute, Benjamin Quinn was born.

They took him to the nursery (Dan went too) and finished sewing me up.  By the end, there were only two other people in the operating room other than me.  I guess it takes a lot more people to get a baby out than to sew someone up.  I went to the recovery room where I started shaking, and starting caring what happened to me.  The nurse came in and told me to rest, but I coudln’t make myself close my eyes.  I was suddenly afraid that if I fell asleep I might not wake up.  Dan came to visit me, as did my mom, while I waited to go to my room and get to hold my child.

I later found out that this was a very serious emergency c-section.  Emergency c-sections happen all the time, and most of the time, it’s more of a precaution than anything.  In this case, my baby’s heart rate went down and stayed down, which is unusual, and very serious.  I guess that’s why they got him out in 11 minutes.  My doctor ran from her office (in an adjacent building) to get there on time, but they wouldn’t have waited for her if it had taken any longer.  He was in serious trouble.

It’s ironic — my birth story was almost identical to Benjamin’s (except that I was born very prematurely).  But the actual birth was very similar.  I was born by emergency c-section, as well, and under very similar circumstances: my mother was induced, and I reacted badly to it, so I was removed quickly.

You have to be careful what you wish for.  Just a week prior to Ben’s birth, I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning.  I was enjoying the beauty of the morning, and thinking that if I could have my wish, I’d really like to have my baby first thing in the morning.  Well, I did.

I am so grateful for the care that I received, and that my son received.  The doctors and nurses were efficient and skilled.  They took great care of us, and we’re both ok.  I didn’t expect things to go the way that they did, but that’s how a lot of life goes.  He’s here, and he’s well, and we’re happy.  That’s all that matters.

I’m definitely voting that they skip room #13 on the labor & delivery floor — it’s just a good idea.

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