Mehregan's Birth Story - Part 1 of 2
Labor and Delivery
This accounting is written for me and only me. I am sharing it because I know when I was waiting to give birth, I loved to read the birth stories of others. Beyond the interest of friends and family, perhaps there is someone out there waiting for their first (or next) birth experience that will enjoy this mini-novel. If anyone chooses to read this, please be forewarned that in typical me style, it is open, honest, and raw; and of course detailed. :-) Giving birth is a beautiful thing where conversations about poop, blood, vomit, and screaming are a given and accepted by both men and women. Those who tend to believe such things should not be discussed should read no further.
Thursday May 31st was a huge disappointment. I really wanted a May baby. I’m not really sure why except that I’ve always loved the month of May. Up North, May signals the end of winter and the beginning of spring; warm breezes, tulips and green grass, and lots of warm sunshine. What a perfect month. Unfortunately I was not experiencing any contractions, and I knew that ‘today was not going to be the day.’ At my OB appointment on Tuesday, I was 0% effaced and 0 dilated. Locked up tight.
Friday June 1st, I woke up in a total funk. This baby was NOT coming! I missed having a May baby, and it didn’t seem like I was going to have a baby that day either. After waking up, I came downstairs as normal to help Jim get the kids ready for school/pre-school. For some reason, I was just dragging. So incredibly tired- a tiredness I hadn’t felt before. As soon as they all left, I skipped taking a shower and brushing my teeth as is part of my normal routine, and just crawled back into bed. The day was cool and rainy so I opened my windows and fell asleep to the pitter patter of rain. I woke up at noon from starvation. After eating and showering, I realized I was pretty crampy in the front and back. It wasn’t coming and going, but more just a constant menstrual-like cramp. By dinner time, it was getting stronger and coming and going. Still no real pain, but just discomfort- the kind that made me rub my back the way I do during those monthly visits. Jim picked up on it, but I didn’t want to get anyone’s hope up. In fact, we had Small Group at our house that evening, and I asked Jim not to mention anything to anyone in case it turned out to be nothing. I was secretly hoping that I was getting close though. I had five bowel movements that day, and I had read that extreme tiredness and excessive bowel movements are signs that the body was getting ready. By 9pm, I was starting to feel actual contractions. At the time, I wasn’t sure it was contractions though because the pain was in my back. I had zero pain in my belly, but my back would start aching.
That night was very restless. The contractions were coming every 15 minutes or so, which meant that I could doze between them, but each time one hit, I would wake up. Some were of enough discomfort that I had to roll, stretch, or massage to get through them, but still not at the painful level.
I woke up on Saturday June 2nd, still not sure if I was in labor. We did get our bags packed and do the practical stuff “just in case,” but I still wasn’t sold that “this was it.” I had some false contractions a few weeks prior, and being naïve at the time, I was all excited and thought for sure that the baby was coming. Jim and I both raced to get packed up. When the contractions died out after a few hours, I was so darn disappointed. I didn’t want to have a repeat of that incident and get my hopes up for nothing again.
By 10am, the contractions were 10 minutes apart and I could still walk and talk through them. I decided to go for a walk to see if that would help. Unfortunately the only thing I got for my efforts was sweaty. The shower afterwards neither helped nor stopped the contractions either.
I had four more bowel movements over the course of the day, and started getting more diligent in timing the contractions. They became defined enough that I could tell exactly when they hit, when the pain would hit next, and when the pain would subside.
By the afternoon of Saturday June 2nd, the contractions were coming at 7 minutes apart. Sitting down while having a contraction was painful, so I had to stand through them. Pretty soon I was having to practice my breathing. They hurt! I tried several different positions- all fours, leaning against a counter, bent at an angle, etc., and it was getting to the point where nothing was helping. None of them helped with the pain. I was starting to tire. I was quickly approaching 24 hours of contractions and little sleep.
We ate dinner at my parent’s house, and I ate a lot just in case we went to the hospital. I hated the no eating rule! By the end of dinner, I had reached my emotional limit. Not proud of that, but I was hurting, all 6 kids (between the ages of 3-5) were screaming, yelling, bickering, and being nuisances, my sister was riding an emotional train wreck, and my mom was not too far behind. My poor Dad! He was the only sane and level headed adult during that time! I knew I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to get out. The only problem was, there was NO WAY I was going to be able to sleep. Instinctively I just knew I was nowhere near ready to push. Even though the contractions were painful enough that I could no longer walk or talk through them, and even though they were coming 3-7 minutes apart, I just knew I had a long way to go. I was at a crossroads. I was quickly running out of steam. I was in enough pain that I couldn’t function or sleep, but I was afraid if I went to the hospital, they would send me home. What to do?
I called my clinic and told them of my progress. The on-call doc confirmed that I shouldn’t come in, and to wait some more. I started crying when she said that. I was so discouraged and drained.
My birth plan was one of extreme flexibility. Having had children by adoption, I knew that for me, the particulars of how I had a child by birth were unimportant. The only thing I truly cared about was getting my child out safely. That was it. I decided that I’d try the med-free path first and see how far I would get. My plan included laboring in the tub. I was not adverse to an epidural at all, and ultimately if I needed a c-section, I didn’t care one bit. In fact, I would prefer a c-sec rather than getting to point of forceps and internal fetal monitors. Bottom line, I was completely flexible, and how she came out was not the important part of labor and delivery to me.
Given the flexibility of my birth plan, I asked the on-call doc about getting some Nubain to get through the night. I knew I didn’t want Nubain close to delivery because it makes the baby sleepy too, and I wanted her to be awake during delivery so that we could try her latch during our skin-to-skin time. However, I knew I had a ways to go, and I either needed to get this labor really going and get this baby out, or I needed something to help me get some rest.
The on-call doc said to come on in, and if there was a bed available for the night, I could have it. I felt relief at that. I can’t really describe why other than to say progress was being made. I was experiencing contractions, and now I was going to the hospital.
Unfortunately, I still wasn’t “sure.” I was bracing myself for being sent back home. It didn’t help that in the 45 minute car ride to the hospital, I only had 3 contractions the whole time. :-( Let me tell you, I was a WRECK! Am I, am I not? Am I, am I not? Add in the pain that had me gripping the car with white knuckles, and I just wasn’t handling much with grace and dignity and patience.
Jim got the closest parking spot to the entry that is humanly possible. In the entire 4 (5?) story parking garage, he got the spot that was closest to the door on the main level. A sign? I waddled in, and we made our way towards labor and delivery. As we were walking, a woman smiled at me and wished me luck. Her smile and words alone lifted my spirits significantly.
I gave them my name at triage and was given a room and told to gown up for my cervix check. They attached the fetal monitors to my abdomen, and we could hear her heartbeat quietly beating while we waited for a nurse. I felt another contraction starting, and as it crested, the heartbeat got louder and louder and faster and faster until the sound filled the entire room. After the contraction was over, the heartbeat slowed back down and was quiet again. Jim and I both laughed about that. The nurse who came in was so friendly. As she was prepping for the insertion, I joked to her, “If you tell me I’m anything less than a 3, I’m going to cry!” She laughed, and did her check. While still feeling around, she smiled big and said, “You’re a 4 and 90% effaced! You’re getting admitted!” Oh my!!! A huge smile spread across my face!! As soon as she left to do the paperwork, I grinned at Jim and said, “Halle-freakin’-lujah!! “
I was being admitted!! It was now 9pm on Saturday the 2nd.
Then reality then hit. It took 24 hours of straight contractions to get to a measly 4 cm dilated. Oh my heavens. Big breath in. Big breath out.
We were taken to our private room, and my second wish came true- my favorite nurse was assigned to me for the night. Yay!! I practically hugged her I was so happy. That was my biggest concern about the entire labor and delivery- that I would get a terrible nurse. Not terrible as in not qualified, but just that our personalities wouldn’t mesh. I knew Julie from our birthing class, and was quite pleased to see her. She got my IV inserted, and that was the most surprisingly painful thing. (Not ‘most painful,’ but the thing that was most unexpectedly painful.) I had never had an IV before, and that is a big needle and even bigger tube! I’m glad she got it on the first round!
We talked about pain management briefly, and I knew my desire for a water labor was not going to happen due to being in back labor. Sitting and lying down were the absolute worst positions. I was on the bed getting monitored and a contraction hit, and I flailed around trying to get my legs out of the sheets so I could stand. I wasn’t able to make it, and had to endure a contraction while sitting, and it was miserable. Sitting in the tub was no longer a good option for me. Julie brought in a couple different sized yoga/birthing balls, and that helped. I would drape myself over the ball for each contraction and just rock back and forth.
The contractions were coming one on top of another and were getting incredibly painful. They would start by a slight tightening in my front, way down low. That part wasn’t painful at all, it was merely the signal that the pain was about to start. Then the pain would hit in my back and spread down to my hips and thighs. It was like a muscle cramp and muscle spasm at the same time while simultaneously, one person was dumping liquid flames on me, and another person was dumping liquid ice on me.
I knew I couldn’t handle it for much longer. In typical martyr fashion, I turned to Jim in tears (mostly from the pain) and blubbered out, “Do you think I’m weak if I ask for an epidural?” Ya, I know- ridiculous now, but did I mention I was an emotional wreck at the time? I think I actually asked that question of him several times. His answer always has been, “Get the meds! If it were me, I would have gotten the meds when I found out I was pregnant.”
I think that was the hardest part of labor- actually getting out the words to Julie, “I want the epidural.” I don’t know why I felt shame. I truly didn’t have any goals of a med-free birth. I think it was a lot more shallow and superficial than anything else in that I wouldn’t be able to get my little self-anointed badge of honor for “toughing it out.” Yeah, I know. Totally ridiculous. Like I said, shallow and superficial. I was a little worried about how effective the epidural would be, and I was also quite concerned about being tied down an unable to walk. That did scare me a bit which did indeed play a large role in trying to make my decision. Ultimately though, the pain and practicality won out. No way could I make it through HOURS more of labor with that kind of pain on no sleep.
Julie had the anesthesiologist paged, and he showed up fairly quickly much to my relief. That had been a secondary concern of mine- that if I did choose to have an epi, the anesthesiologist would be tied up in emergency surgery for several hours, and I wouldn’t get it!
I had to sit on the bed (horror) with my legs spread and the soles of my feet together much like the yoga position (double horror!). I was more afraid of the contractions than the epidural at this point. Jim held one of my hands and Julie held the other, and I was crying through the contractions. The last one, I was not quite yelling, but I was doing a pretty loud, “Owwwwwwww….” through the whole thing. Julie was fantastic though. She just kept encouraging me and telling me I was doing great. It really is amazing how helpful words of encouragement are to a battered emotional psyche. As soon as the contraction was done, I ground out to the anesthesiologist, “Do it now!” He said, “Ok, you’re going to feel a little bee sting.” Great. Now I started to get nervous about the epi being given. I had heard about the big, honkin’ needle that gets jammed in between bones to my spinal cord. And bee stings hurt like a son of a gun! At that point, I felt a little prick. That was it? Then he said, “Ok, one more bee sting.” (The first was the numbing solution, and the second was the epidural.) Another little prick. Seriously? He said it was all done, and I literally laughed and said, “I’ll take 100 of those over one of these contractions!!”
Ok, so getting an epidural doesn’t hurt at all. No big deal.
The anesthesiologist was called off to an emergency before he could turn on the meds, so I had to deal with a few more contractions. Ugh! Thankfully he was back within 30 minutes, and turned on the epi. Sweet relief! I felt zero pain. Ahh…. Bliss!! Julie inserted the catheter and my bodily functions were taken care of.
It was now 11pm, and we were ready to get some rest. Jim converted the chair to a bed, and got himself settled for the night. My hunger kicked in, and since the only thing I was allowed to eat was jello, I went through about 8 little cups of it. Jim fell asleep and was able to get some rest. I rested, but was never able to fall asleep. I don’t know if it was all the dye and sugar in the jello, but I do know that part of it was that I had a blood pressure monitor on that would automatically inflate and beep every 15 minutes. No pain, but no sleep. I watched the clock tick by, and it finally hit me! I was going to have a baby!
I was really going to have a baby!!
There was no getting sent home. No fear of the contractions stopping. I was going to have a baby. Wow. I was going to meet my baby. I was going to hold her. It was really going to happen.
Ok, so maybe part of the reason I couldn’t sleep was because with the pain finally gone, I could be excited!
The clock continued to tick by. Julie checked in every once in awhile to refill my water, check my fluids, empty my bag of pee, and ask how I was doing. I admit that the strangest thing was not having a numb bum, but in being able to lay in bed for so long without having to get up and go pee! After 4 months of having to pee every hour, it was totally strange and felt unnatural in a giddy sort of way.
At 3am, Julie came in to break my water in hopes of speeding things up. I didn’t feel a thing, and my waters were clear- no meconium- so that was fantastic news.
I was starting to be able to feel my contractions through the epidural. They weren’t painful, but it was more like the sensation of getting a tooth pulled using Novocain- no pain, but one can still feel the movement and pressure. I wasn’t feeling pressure in the traditional sense, but it was more like the sensation when a limb “falls asleep” and would get a little prickly. Soon enough though, I was starting to feel discomfort on my right side. Clearly the epidural was solidly taking care of my left side, but not as much my right. As the contractions started getting more severe (I think I was about 8 cm dilated at this time), I was having to massage my right thigh and butt cheek through a contraction.
The contractions started to get really painful, and I had to groan and pant through them again. Around 5:30am, I woke Jim up with my groaning, and he started massaging my right hip/butt through each contraction. Julie came in and saw I was in pain, and called for a cervix check. I was at a 9cm with “a little lip left.” Sigh. Still not ready.
Julie had said earlier to let her know when I felt pressure as that meant I might be ready to push. After watching my latest contractions, she amended that by saying, “You know, you may not ever feel pressure. The way your contractions are hitting, this is probably your signal.” I’m really glad she said that because I could give up on waiting for this elusive ‘pressure’ that never came.
Another hour of painful contractions passed, and finally the pain was unbearable. It HAD to stop. I pressed the call button for the first time, and asked Julie to come in- I couldn’t make it any longer. She brought in a resident who did a cervix check, and I was finally at a 10 and was allowed to push. Hallelujah!!!!
Things really started happening then. The lights were turned on, Jim converted the bed back to a chair and got rid of the bedding, and people started arriving in the room. The resident said she was going to be there for the first part of the pushing, and then when we were able to see the baby’s head, she’d call the OB.
Julie quickly coached Jim and me in our roles in pushing. She grabbed my right foot and knee and he grabbed my left. I grabbed my hamstrings, and while I always thought this would be an uncomfortable position in my very pregnant state, it wasn’t. We waited for a contraction to hit, and then I went to work. Julie counted to 10 while I visualized my vagina opening and my muscles working together to squeeze out my big poop of a baby. It was a very interesting sensation pushing with all my might, and not really feeling anything (except the contraction in my hip and butt), but yet instinctually knowing I was pushing perfectly. And sure enough, there was her head!
The resident called out, “Don’t push, don’t push! I’ll call Dr. Penmetsa!” Another misconception I had was that if I was ever told to not push, I was going to respond with, “Bugger that! Babies have been born for thousands of years without a qualified obstetrician. If I need to push, I’ll push!!!!!” In this case though, it was no big deal to wait. Even the contraction had lessened.
While we waited for the doctor, we were asked if we wanted to feel the baby’s head. Jim was so amazed just in seeing it. I remember him telling me a couple times that her head was right there! He felt, and then I felt, but to be honest, it all just felt like a slimy mess to me. I couldn’t tell what I was touching, and I definitely didn’t want to get out a mirror. I didn’t mind watching other birth videos, but I certainly didn’t want to see my own lady bits get stretched and torn!
Dr. Penmetsa arrived, and she and Julie and the resident were chatting about something related to all of this- not sure what, but I felt a contraction go by. That’s when I realized that I needed to take control of this show! Next time a contraction hit, I called out indicating I was about to push, and everyone rushed to their place.
I visualized and pushed, Jim and Julie pushed back, and out flew my baby! It was the weirdest sensation ever. The only thing I can liken it to is what I imagine pulling a warm and plucked Cornish game hen out of my mouth would feel like. When I made some comment about how weird it felt when they pulled her out, Julie said, “Oh no, they didn’t pull at all- you pushed her all out in that one push!”
I felt like a pushing Rock Star. I might have hated the first 8 months of pregnancy, and 32 hours of labor sucked big time, but I got it right when it came to pushing!
The next few moments were a blur. I remember Jim being asked if he wanted to cut the cord, and I know he did, but I neither remember seeing that nor even remember him doing it. I think it was because so much was going on in my head in that moment. The focus had finally shifted from me to the baby, and I had to know, “Who was she?” I laid there knowing the events of the next few moments were going to change the course of our life forever. We didn’t do any genetic testing. Not even blood work. We had no idea if our daughter would have birth defects or chromosomal differences or anything like that. We knew from the ultrasound that she had 1 head, 2 legs, 2 arms, 10 fingers and 10 toes, and she was a female, but beyond that, we were clueless. No matter what, she was absolutely perfect. We knew that, and that’s why we didn’t do any genetic testing. However, if she had a diagnosis of some sort, it was going to forever change the path of our lives both as parents, and as a family.
Who was she?
I even remember looking up at Julie with a question in my eyes? I may have even voiced it, but I don’t remember. I do remember Julie telling me she was perfect, but she said it in such a distracted way that I dismissed her answer. And my baby still hadn’t cried. What was going on down there that I couldn’t see? (I’m sure all that was over a span of 20 seconds, but it felt like 30 minutes to me.)
Finally I heard a cry. They quickly rubbed her down with receiving blankets and asked me if I wanted her on my chest. Duh!! Of course! It was the moment I had been waiting for!
It’s funny, but I don’t even remember much of that moment. I do remember looking at her and thinking, “She’s perfect!” I also remember thinking, “Bummer, she’s not very cute.” I can laugh at that now! I also remember struggling with my hospital gown to get it off so that she really was lying completely on my skin. Before I knew it, they whisked her away from me.
Her bassinet was only a few feet from my bed, but it felt like forever away. The reason they whisked her from my arms was because she took a big gulp of fluids on the way out, and there was evidence of meconium in the waters. Of course that meant a lot more people in the room.
There were a team of people working on her, and apparently I was bleeding heavily so there was a team working on me. My placenta wasn’t coming out even after several of the dreaded pushes on my belly, and while I’ll never be sure, I’m fairly certain that after several attempts to push it out, my doctor just reached her whole hand up inside of me to retrieve it. The resident set to sewing me up while Julie kept pressing on my belly to push more blood out.
Meanwhile, I was laying there totally unconcerned about what was going on with me (except during the belly pushes- ouch!), and watching what was going on across the room. I remember I kept saying over and over again with awe and pride and laughter, “I made that!” “I made that!” Still makes me laugh. I didn’t really feel connected to the child in the bassinet, and she didn’t feel like Mehregan yet, but I knew she was my daughter, and she was a PERSON. I had a PERSON growing inside of me. I pushed out a PERSON! I just couldn’t get over it. “I made that!” Of course I knew all that while pregnant, but it was so abstract. She wasn’t real to me. Now I could see that there was definitely a real, living, breathing person in that bassinet.
In hindsight, I wish the hospital had allowed videotaping. Not because I wanted a crotch shot or anything, but ideally I would have liked 4 cameras in all 4 corners of the room, capturing everything that was happening. There was so much going on! What was happening to my baby while I was getting stitched up (2nd degree tear)? How did my voice really sound when I was parroting over and over? What was Jim saying? What was the expression on his face? I missed all that, and it makes me a little sad. Speaking of Jim, I do know that he was busy with the camera the whole time, trying to get pictures of Mehergan while not interfering with her care.
The whole scene above took about 45 minutes. I still didn’t know her height or weight or Apgars. There was so much I felt I was just waiting for. It was such a crazy time, but in a good way. I was tired, but euphoric. I was very much in awe, but felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I was also proud of the fact that I neither vomited nor pooped on the bed! Lol!
Finally the medical staff taking care of Mehra started drifting away, and I finally found out her stats: 7lbs 2.4oz, 21.26 inches long, and Apgars of 9/9. She was smaller than I expected and LONG! Wow. They moved her bassinet over to me, and finally Julie asked if I wanted to hold her and see if she would latch. She was swaddled twice, and all I wanted was to get her out of her blankets and me out of my gown, and get us together. I gave her my nipple, and she latched!
We laid there together like that for an hour or so. Breakfast was delivered (hallelujah- food!!), and then the anesthesiologist came to take out my epi tube, and pulled off all the tape. Youch!!!! I was warned that it was considered a free back wax, and man they weren’t kidding.
By about 11am, I had feeling back in my legs and was dying for a shower. The new nurse wrapped up my IV site for me, and into the shower I went. Oh, it felt so good!
I just want to throw a shout out for the beauty of epidurals. My big concerns were the needle, being unable to move, and being unable to get up and clean up after delivery. None of them came to fruition. The flu shot hurt worse than the epi needle, it was wonderful to lay in bed and ‘relax,’ and I was up and walking around exactly when I wanted to do so. My IV site was more of a hindrance to my shower than the epidural was. And while some might argue that it didn’t fully work, given the excruciating amount of pain I was in at the end, I would gladly take a 75% effective epidural than no epidural.
One of the weird side effects of the epidural was bladder sensation. The normal feeling that I have that tells me I need to urinate was numbed. I didn’t realize I had to pee until I started having some weird cramping. I got up to pee just because it was time, and ah, that was sweet relief! I filled up an entire sitz bath though!!! I didn’t realize my bladder was that big! That memory still makes me laugh. Needless to say, I was happy to finally get that sensation back.
The next two days passed fairly normally. Later on Sunday after lunch, we moved rooms. Not really different, but I got the impression that they keep the screaming laboring women in one area and the new mothers in another. :-) My family came to visit that afternoon as did friends of ours. I don’t remember too much because by that point, I’d been awake for 2 days straight plus I was enjoying the lovely effects of high powered ibuprofen (for the first time in 9 months! (no ibuprofen while pregnant)).
Mehra had been having some low temperature issues on Monday, but nothing too significant. At one point they put her under the warming lights when she was napping, but other times I just held her skin to skin on my chest with three blankets over her. No one seemed concerned, and I figured it was just a brand new baby thing getting her temperature stabilized. Jim spent the night on Sunday night, but went home Monday evening to be with the kids who had been staying with my parents. Maria and the kids came by to keep me company that evening. I started packing and was super excited to get my baby home.
Tuesday morning was discharge morning, and I was over the moon! The bags were packed, and I couldn’t wait to make that walk out of the hospital with my newest daughter! I had visions of having small group on Friday and going to church on Sunday all to show her off.
The pediatrician who signs off on all the babies discharge papers stopped by around 9am that morning and gave us a bit of a setback. Mehr’s temperature when she woke was a bit low. Since we had been utilizing the benefits of the nursery during the nights in order to get some sleep, the pediatrician told me, “Her temperature is probably just low because the nursery was cool, but I really want to be conservative about this. I’m going to run some blood tests. Unfortunately that means that you won’t get discharged until around 6pm tonight.” I was really disappointed. It meant another day of sitting around with no visitors and nothing to really do but wait. It also meant we needed more help from my parents in terms of picking up our big two kids and watching them and doing the juggling game.
I called Jim to let him know of the change in plans, and rather than coming right to the hospital as were the plans when we thought I was being discharged at 10am, he ran some errands first. It was during that time before he arrived, when I was all alone, that the pediatrician came back and gave me the news on the blood work up.
Our daughter had Sepsis. She was being admitted to the NICU asap.