This is a post in a birth story series where our team shares their stories of how their kids made them moms. We are thrilled to bring you this series leading up to our event for new and expecting moms —Bloom, sponsored by Authentic Birth Center in Wauwatosa.
Writing it was one of the first things I did when I got home from the hospital. I’ll be honest; reopening it, in any capacity, brought me a lot of anguish until recently. The sequence of events that took place those couple days, and how sick I got, and how totally out of control I felt during and after his birth made thinking about the whole situation very difficult.
It’s not that I didn’t like Henry’s birth, but it’s not like I loved it either. I’m not exactly sure how to define what emotion I have regarding it. I just know it was a lot. So, maybe I’m sharing my story here to help bring me some closure and, hopefully, bring me some peace.
I had always had an inkling that I would deliver early, but I just thought it would be done naturally. Once I hit 37 weeks I had started on some natural induction methods to hopefully speed things along. I knew the baby needed to keep incubating, but my body was getting really fatigued between the swelling, backaches and in general just feeling pretty exhausted. I just wasn’t feeling 100% and that was hard since my pregnancy had been so easy up until this point.
I had an episode of high blood pressure around my 34th week. We tested for preeclampsia and, fortunately, my tests came back negative. My pressures remained a bit high, but we decided to monitor everything from home (one of the perks of being married to a doctor). On December 30th, my blood pressure surged (systolic in the 150’s) higher than it had ever been, but improved within the hour. We figured we would keep monitoring and hope that the high numbers didn’t return.
We woke the morning of the 31st as if it were just another New Year’s Eve. As usual, the first thing we did was check my blood pressure. Unfortunately, we found that it was, again, very high. The problem was that as we checked it over the next few hours it remained high. I wasn’t sure I should call my Dr. but something inside of me just felt off, so I made sure to call her and let her know. I left a message with the nurse and went about my day. We had an appointment that afternoon for my 38 week check-up, so I figured if anything was really bad we would figure it out when I went in.
We ran errands to pick up a few things since we had planned on making a simple New Year’s dinner. We were standing in line at Pick n’ Save when my doctor called. She asked me to bring a bag to my appointment, in case we decided to be admitted to the hospital for observation. It was very surreal having her say that. And, really, I thought it was more of a precaution than something that would actually happen.
We only had an hour between when she called and the appointment started.. I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t get excited because I would most likely be coming home that afternoon. In all honesty, when I left the house that day, I had no idea that the next time I returned would be with my baby.
My blood pressure at the clinic was continually elevated – 140’s. After a consultation with the OB team over at Aurora Sinai and they recommended admission for monitoring. It was sort of a surreal moment sitting there in the doctor’s office. We were both excited and terrified.
On check-in around 3 p.m., my blood pressure was higher than it had ever been – 160’s and quickly rose to 170. I guess we were staying the night. The OB team also recommended that we initiate induction and start treatment for preeclampsia with magnesium. Even though I had tested negative for preeclampsia before, my symptoms and extremely high blood pressure made them feel as if this was the best course of action. The feared complication with preeclampsia is eclampsia, which as anyone who as seen Downton Abbey knows, can be VERY serious. It’s when a pregnant mother has a seizure, which can cause a coma, putting her life and her baby at risk of death.
When they checked they found that I was already 2cm dilated and over 50% effaced. They inserted a foley catheter to help me continue to dilate. It wasn’t that uncomfortable, but between that and all of the IV medication I was on, there were a lot of tubes and things I was tied up to. Not exactly the natural labor progression I had envisioned. Oh, and did I mention that because of the magnesium (it makes you super loopy and high feeling), I got to use a bedside commode? Lucky me! I tried desperately to keep a bit of dignity throughout the process, but as things progressed it got much harder.
On re-check a couple hours later, I had dilated to 3.5cm. The OB then stripped my membranes, dilating me to 4 cm and started me on Pitocin.
So, here’s where it gets fun. My husband was supposed to work that night at the hospital. So while I was getting admitted and being hooked up to a million machines and being given all sorts of drugs, he was trying to get his shift covered. Despite calling multiple people, nobody could cover the shift. The only option was for him to work the overnight. The baby wouldn’t be born until the following day at the earliest, so technically, this would work.
As he was walking to the car, one of the residents called and agreed to work his shift. I was feeling very unusual from the magnesium, and overall felt very vulnerable, so having my husband there meant a lot to me.
We celebrated New Year’s Eve by Face-Timing family and close friends, which was a much-needed distraction. Soon after midnight, I attempted to get a couple hours of sleep. I couldn’t labor on a ball or standing up because of the magnesium so I used some of the hypnobirthing techniques I had learned.
At 9 a.m. the O.B. checked and I was, sadly, only 5 centimeters dilated. They upped my Pitocin and decided to break my waters to get things moving. To this point, I hadn’t taken anything but a few Tylenol for pain. I had left my options open when it came to a natural childbirth but after my waters broke, I became very uncomfortable with the strength of my contractions. It was the most earth-shuddering pain I’d ever experienced. My contractions quickly went from being 5 minutes apart to around 3-4 minutes apart.
Had I been able to stand up and walk around during the process it may have been easier to labor through the contractions, but since I had to labor in bed, an epidural seemed like the logical choice and the best way I could “enjoy” the rest of my labor. In the 40 minutes between when I requested the epidural, it was administered, and went into effect, it was the most dazed I felt during the entire labor. I struggled to stay present and conscious during this time. After the dosage finally kicked in, I was able to close my eyes and try to rest.
Over the next few hours, the Pitocin dose was increased. At 1:30 p.m., I was 6cm dilated and 90% effaced. The plan was a recheck a few hours later, but by 2:40 p.m., I was starting to feel consistent pelvic pressure. The nurse told me to let her know when I felt like I might “poop the bed” because that meant I was ready to push. It didn’t seem like much time between when they first checked me and when I felt like I couldn’t hold onto the contractions anymore. I told the nurse and she grabbed the doctor. When he came to check me, I could tell he felt like it was too early but when he checked I was completely dilated! Time to get this baby out!
At 3 p.m. I started pushing. We performed a few practice pushes so I could try to coordinate my effort with the numb sensation of the epidural. As soon as I made it through the first contraction, I told everyone that I felt like I was going to faint. During my first major push, the baby had a prolonged heart rate deceleration on the monitor. This is typically a sign of the baby not getting enough oxygen. They quickly placed me on oxygen, which made me feel much better. Then they turned me to my right, followed by my left but there was no change in the baby’s heart rate.
After a few failed attempts at pushing, the doctor quickly checked me and felt like we could deliver the baby with a vacuum assist. They wanted the baby out since the heart rate wasn’t improving. With my next contraction, we were able to deliver the baby in two pushes. It was the most intense 15 minutes of my life but then the baby was here! My husband announced – “It’s a Boy!” We hadn’t decided the baby’s name before that point, but within minutes we agreed on Henry.
After a quick check by the NICU team they placed Henry on my chest fresh and pink. He was just perfect and the only sign of delivery was a little hematoma on the right side of his head. We were in love.
The next 48 hours were not as turbulent as the prior 24 hours but we were still dealing with me feeling poorly, a little confused and intermittently having vision changes. Since they still weren’t certain about what was causing the high blood pressure, I had to stay in labor and delivery and extra 24 hours on magnesium to be sure that postpartum eclampsia didn’t occur.
Even though I had my beautiful baby, I was very exhausted at this point. Magnesium is a crazy drug that didn’t sit well with my body. Having to stay on it after just giving birth and not sleeping was excruciating. The first 24 hours post-delivery was one of my least favorite days ever. The shinning light was that we were finally all together and that Henry was a champion nurser.
After all was said and done, they determined that I did not have any type of eclampsia because I never had protein in my urine but instead had what is called, pregnancy induced hypertension. Because of it, I remained on blood pressure medication for my first month postpartum, but haven’t had any symptoms since.
Henry’s birth was intense and overwhelming to say the least. It was a wild ride and one I am grateful we both survived. I may not have had the birth experience I imagined but strangely enough, I enjoyed it as much as I could have. Even though it’s taken me over a year to completely digest what happened, the best part of all of this is that I got my beautiful, tiny human who made me a mother and changed my world in the best way possible.