Birth Story – Baby #1, unprepared, nothing went according to plan, except the part about getting the most beautiful baby in the world…
My first Birth Story. Young and unprepared, it didn’t go according to plan, from the emergency c-section to the formula supplementation… but in the end I got my baby and it’s all good…
This birth story was written a little over 10 years ago when my first son was born. It was before I turned into a crunchy mom and long before I ever considered blogging. And even though it didn’t turn out like I had hoped, it is still a precious story to me, since it resulted in the birth of my precious eldest son. I knew nothing about natural childbirth and did not prepare for it at all. Life has a beautiful way of teaching you as you go along. Since then I have had 3 all natural births, which you can read about here and here.
Ever since my son’s birth, I have wanted to sit and write down all the details I can remember, because as painful as labour was, it was the most incredible experience of my life.
Monday, December 22, 2003, I was scheduled to go to the hospital at 8am for an induction, since I was 12 days overdue. I was really nervous and overwhelmed. Justin and I went to the 7:15 mass before walking up to the hospital from the church. We carried our hospital and labour bags with us, because we had no idea if we would be coming home or staying there until the baby was born. We went straight up to Labour and Delivery and the nurse took us into a room with two beds, sectioned off by curtains. She told me to change into a hospital gown and then she put two monitors on my belly. One monitored the baby’s heart rate and the other my uterus. Doctor Del Begio arrived shortly thereafter and applied prostin gel to my cervix, which is supposed to help it ripen. Then they had me lie in the bed for an hour while they checked the monitors regularly to see if anything was happening. The gel didn’t really hurt, but it felt warm and uncomfortable. Justin sat by me and we browsed through magazines and eavesdropped on the couple who had been put in the curtained off section next to us. Justin had a good time making me laugh, because every time I laughed the uterine monitor readings would jump around. Anyhow, after an hour, they told me to get up and walk around the hospital for an hour and then they would check me again. So we got up and walked around. I started to get cramps, like a period in my lower back, but they were constant and didn’t come and go, so I knew they weren’t contractions. We went up and down the stairs and explored some hallways, although I didn’t want to go too far into the unknown, because I didn’t want to run into diseased people.
After an hour was up, we went back and they checked me out. My cervix was one centimeter dilated which was what it had been at my last exam the Thursday before. So we were sent home with instructions to return at four o’clock to repeat the procedure if I hadn’t gone into labour by then. We went home. It felt like an anticlimax, because I somehow thought we wouldn’t come home until we had the baby and I was just as huge and pregnant as ever. We watched a movie and I started to have mild contractions at noon. They didn’t feel much different from braxton hicks contractions which I had been having for the last 2 months. But the pain in my lower back was quite uncomfortable and I had to move around a lot to ease it. The contractions started coming every six minutes and although they weren’t very painful yet, I was getting excited. I took a short nap before we went back to the hospital, but when I woke up the contractions had started to taper off. Sigh.
We returned to the hospital and they checked on me. I had only progressed to one and a half centimeter dilation. So we repeated the procedure we had gone through that morning. Towards the end of our one-hour walk around the hospital I started to feel weird. Right before we went back in to see the nurse, I went to the bathroom and had a contraction that definitely felt different and scarier than the others, but I couldn’t pinpoint the change. We walked back in and the nurse directed us back to the room and said she would come in a minute to check me one last time before sending me home again. We had barely stepped into the room when my whole body was taken over by panic. I couldn’t move or breathe and all I could feel was pain and fear. I think I let out a little cry and I tried to make it over to the bed. When it stopped I wasn’t sure what had happened.
The nurse came back in and asked if I wanted a little bit of pain medication to go home with. At first I didn’t want to, because I was planning on going as natural as possible through labour. Then another wave of pain and panic rolled over my body. It made me want to grab something or push hard on something or run away, but I couldn’t move and couldn’t breathe. She asked if I was sure if I wanted to go back home and asked if I was ready for some painkiller. I agreed to the painkiller and she went to get it. As she left the room I was swept away by another contraction. I was sure by that point that I was not up to the job of having a baby and I wanted OUT. But there was no way out. She came back and I managed to tell her I didn’t think I should go home. She kind of laughed and said she wasn’t about to send me home. She wanted to do an internal exam and when she did, she found that I was 4 centimeters dilated. I was pleased with this news (for those that don’t know, you progress from 0 to 10 centimeters dilation during labour and the baby is born at 10), but quickly forgot as the next contraction filled me.
She moved us to a birthing room across the hall that was actually really nice. The space had a hotel room feel to it that almost read like a sign on the door, “your comfort in mind.” There was a bed in the middle and a comfy armchair in one corner. It was roomy, so I could walk around if I wanted. Off to one side was a private bathroom with a big shower in it. She got us set up in there and then introduced the new nurse that was coming on shift. By this time it was 7:30pm and I don’t know exactly how far apart my contractions were. Justin guesses 3 to 5 minutes. Each one came on harder than the last. I felt really nauseous and then I puked for the first time. I continued to puke every hour or half hour for the rest of my labour. At first they hooked me up to the fetal heart monitor and uterine monitor and checked on the baby, but then they let me get up. I paced the room a bit. I tried sitting and bouncing on a giant exercise ball that some women find relief from. I found the best place for me was sitting in the armchair with a stool in front of me that I could put pressure on with my feet when a contraction came. Each contraction made me want to put deep pressure on something with my feet, maybe an attempt to push my body up and out of the pain, I don’t know.
They hooked me up to an I.V. with antibiotics, because I had Strep B positive (40% of women are positive and they get antibiotics during labour as a precaution to protect the baby). They also put painkiller in the I.V. at my request. I vaguely remember telling Justin that it was easy to be drug free when you weren’t in labour. Justin was amazing the whole time. He stayed right by me and held my hand. He said I was very vocal the whole time, yelling and moaning and making all sorts of pained noises. He was so encouraging. I remember being terrified of him leaving my side, even to get a drink of water on the other side of the room. I literally couldn’t handle the contractions without him. At one point I decided to take a shower to try and relieve the pain in my back from the contractions. The warm water right on my lower back felt good and I managed to stay in for two contractions, but it was too hard to handle alone, so I got out in order to be near Justin again. I paced some some and returned to the armchair. The hours seemed to go by quickly, but each contraction lasted a lifetime. I could feel them coming before they started and I would brace myself for the wave of pain I anticipated. Justin reminded me to loosen my shoulders and breathe. It wasn’t certain breathing patterns, but simply breathing at all. I wanted someone to put pressure on my lower back, but it was too much effort to ask. The drugs made me drowsy, so in between contractions I sometimes drifted to sleep for that minute or two, only to be awakened again.
This went on until sometime after midnight when I started having the urge to push. I thought maybe it was too soon, but I asked the nurse if I was allowed to push. She said it was okay and then with each contraction I pushed. Not because I wanted to, but because my body would allow nothing else. Sometime after I started pushing, she asked me to get back on the bed and she did an internal check. I don’t remember the results, but she thought it was time to call the doctor and de showed up soon after that. I kept pushing and the pain got more and more intense. I thought I was dying and wanted to die at some moments. It hurt so badly. In a way, pushing provided some relief from the contractions, but it also brought incredible pain of its own. I felt like all the muscles that I normally use for pooping and peeing were being strained and pushed beyond repair and I was pushing my insides out. I literally screamed at the top of my lungs each time. Dr. Del Begio wanted to break my waters, because he thought that might help the baby progress down the birth canal. This terrified me, because I had read somewhere that once your waters break that contractions get stronger and labour harder. Labour was already as hard as I could handle, so I begged him not to break them. But he thought it was necessary and went ahead with it. I didn’t really feel him doing it, but I did feel a small gush of fluid. Not as much as I expected though. Justin said there was a lot of blood. I kept pushing and pushing, but it was strange, because it was like I expected with everyone cheering you on and telling you the baby would come soon. They made comments like, “good push” and “you’re doing good”, but something was missing. The excitement you would expect the air to be filled with was missing.
The contraction were coming so often I didn’t get a break in between. I don’t remember when exactly but at one point I asked the nurse when the ‘be thankful and rest’ period would come. They had talked about this in our childbirth as a point somewhere around the pushing stage where contractions might stop for ten minutes or so and let your body rest before the final pushing. She got a funny look on her face and said, “Oh. You took childbirth classes, didn’t you? Sorry, dear, but there isn’t any such thing.” My disappointment was profound. More time passed and I couldn’t keep track of it anymore. I asked for more painkiller, but the nurse said she shouldn’t give me anymore, because they didn’t want the baby to come out drugged. I was pretty upset about that. At about 2:30 Dr. Del Begio asked another doctor to come in and give a second opinion on my labour. Dr. Treison, a mild-mannered and soft-voiced gynecologist came in and introduced himself… right in the middle of a slam banging contraction. I was screaming the whole time and don’t remember what he said. He checked me out and then quietly explained that in my situation they should really do a C-section, because of the baby’s position, because the baby wasn’t progressing down the birth canal. Of course, I was disappointed, but at that point I almost didn’t care anymore.
The next half hour was the hardest of my life. They couldn’t give me the spinal block (it freezes you from the waist down when you have a C-section) until the anesthesiologist got there and the contractions were more terrible than ever. But the worst thing was that I was pushing so hard and KNEW that it was pointless. I felt that since I was going to have a C-section anyway, all the pain and pushing from that point on was a complete waste. I begged and screamed for them to hurry up. They gave me an oxygen mask to breathe from, because the baby’s heart rate was dipping dangerously low. I didn’t understand that at the time. Finally, after an eternity they brought a bed up and wheeled me to the operating room, which was on an entirely different floor of the hospital. I screamed through the ever stronger contractions, all the way up the hall, into the elevator and finally into the operating room. As we came through the door, I had a killer contraction and I hoped and prayed that it would be the last one before they gave me the spinal block. They readied the syringe and got me in the position, but not soon enough and the last contraction hit me hard. I knew it was the last one and I cried and cried through it. They they gave me the injection into my spine, which didn’t bother me like I thought it would. Compared to labour it was nothing. I felt my toes start to tingle and just as I felt another contraction coming on, they numbness swept over me. They laid me back on the operating table and tied my hands down. They put up a little curtain below my face, so I couldn’t see the operation. I was fully awake and aware of what was going on. I was so incredibly happy not to be in pain any more. I wanted to laugh and dance and shout. Justin came in at that point and he was dressed in a doctor’s operating suit thingy. He sat on a steel near me and I was so happy to see him. He gave me an encouraging smile. I looked up at him and said, “It’s my birthday! I’m having a baby on my birthday.” He smiled.
It took a little while for them to get the freezing right, because I could feel them cutting my belly at first. Eventually it worked and they got the operation started. It only took 15 or 20 minutes. It felt really strange. I didn’t feel any pain, but lots of tugging and pulling of my guts. Very weird. I was more alert than I had been for the rest of my labour. They got to the final stage and asked Justin if he wanted to watch the baby come out. He stood up and looked over the curtain. I felt them pull the baby out of my belly and moments later I heard his strong little cry. All of the sudden the world didn’t seem real anymore. Within a few moments they told me it was a boy and once the cord was cut and he was wrapped in a blanket they laid him on my chest. Justin supported his little body, because my hands were still tied up. My sweet baby looked into my eyes and I looked back. His perfect, tiny little face stared at me and I was speechless. Was this really my baby? The moment ended all too soon, as they whisked him off to be weighed, checked, and cleaned. Justin went with him and I was wheeled to they recovery room. He weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces and he was twenty-one and three quarters inches long.
I spent the next few hours there waiting for the feeling to return to my legs, while the nurses monitored me every few minutes. All I wanted was to see my baby and hold him and love him. Finally, when I was able to wiggle my toes and bend my knees they took me to my room. Justin was waiting there and as soon as they had me settled in my bed Justin brought Nathaniel to me. He was eager to nurse for the first time and I awkwardly positioned him at my breast. Magically, it seemed, he knew just what to do. He was still alert and he looked up at me with his big baby eyes and my heart overflowed.
The rest of the week in the hospital was such a huge learning experience. I wasn’t able to get out of bed all day and my meals consisted of jello and juice. Justin changed the baby’s diapers. He was really nervous at first, but learned quickly. My mother in law came to see him and fell in love with him at first sight. Justin brought my gifts to the hospital and I opened them there. But our baby was the best gift of all. That’s what the baby’s name means, you know. Gift of God. That evening, the nurses helped me sit up at the edge of my bed and later they helped me walk to the restroom for the first time. It felt so strange. I was on lots of painkillers, so it didn’t hurt too much. Instead of being huge and hard, my belly was soft and mushy. I still looked 6 months pregnant, because of all the skin and my uterus having yet to contract, but I felt light at the same time.
The baby was very drowsy all day and we had to work hard to wake him up and make him nurse. Sometimes it took over an hour to wake him up for a feeding tat only lasted a few minutes. That changed the next day however, when he was more alert and wanted to eat constantly. Christmas Eve morning the nurse asked if I had passed gas yet. When I said I had, she allowed me to eat a regular meal. Apparently after a C-section they make you pass gas before you eta solid food in case your bowels were put back wrong… or something… Anyhow, I was very glad to eat solid food, even if it was gross hospital food. At lunch however the serving lady brought jello and juice again, much to my dismay. I told her I wanted real food, but she said she was just serving what was on my chart. She left and I rang the nurse. A different nurse than I had seen that morning came in and I explained that I wanted real food and she said I couldn’t possibly have real food yet. I argued that the morning nurse had brought me solid food. She seemed a bit disgruntled and she said she would check on it. Fourty-five minutes later she was still gone and I was still hungry. Justin came in (he had gone home briefly to shower) and I told him what was wrong. He heroically went to the nursing station and sorted out the problem and soon I had a proper lunch. I had a few visitors that afternoon from work and the church.
Christmas day came and the doctor told me that I could go home if I wanted. We were waiting for a doctor to come and discharge the baby. I was getting more and more stressed out about the idea of leaving. Stupid as it may seem, I wasn’t ready to go home. I didn’t think I could handle it. The baby was really fussy and I was unsure about everything. When the doctor finally came around, I told him I didn’t want to leave yet. He said that was fine and we let the nurses know we would be staying another day. That night I regretted my decision. The baby had fussed all day and I was really frustrated, because nothing seemed to make him happy. I tried nursing him, but after a few sucks he would pull away, crying and frustrated himself. It seemed liked he wasn’t getting enough. When the night nurse came on and checked his vitals, he had a low-grade fever and she said he was a little bit dehydrated. She checked his chart and saw that his weight had dropped. He had lost 12% of his birth weight and normally they don’t like babies to lose more than 10%. She insisted that we supplement him with formula. This infuriated me, because all the books I had read say that new mothers always have enough milk and they describe these situations where new mothers are pressured into bottle-feeding their infants. But there wasn’t really anything I could do. So all night long at regular intervals she came in and we used an electric breast pump to extract what colostrums we could from me and then added it to a cup of formula which she cup fed him with. At least she didn’t give him a bottle, which was a small consolation to me, since nipple confusion is a big cause of babies rejecting their mother’s breasts. Another thing that annoyed me was how she handled him. She was so business like. No gentle cuddles or soft words. Just stiffly fed him, burped him and moved on. I felt like a failure.
The next morning I was so excited to leave. When the doctor came in to discharge us I was glowing. He said I was fine, but then he said, “Do you think the baby is ready to go home?” I nodded happily and his face turned stern and he said, “I don’t think so.” He explained that with the fever last night, his weight loss and dehydration, he really felt the baby should stay and maybe he could go home the next day if his weight had gone up. He explained everything in a lot more detail than the nurse the night before had and frankly, it scared the bejeebers out of me. He said that we should continue supplementing him until my milk came in because the baby was really hungry and my colostrum wasn’t enough. Now that I understood the gravity of the situation I was really worried and overwhelmed. We stayed and the day nurse set us up with a much nicer way to supplement him. They put some formula in a container attached to a very thin tube. You can put this tiny tube on your finger or breast and as he sucks he gets supplemented. I felt much more comfortable with this, because I could put it at my breast and he could suck, which encouraged my milk to come in and didn’t confuse him about where he was supposed to find food. Everything worked out fine. By late afternoon my milk came in with a fury and he was able to get all he needed from me, which was a wonderful feeling.
When the night nurse came on (the same one who had started us supplementing him the night before), I apologized if I had been rude at all and explained that I didn’t understand how serious the situation was. The next day his weight had gone up and we were able to go home. An amusing think happened before we left though. I was on the phone with my mom while Justin was changing the baby’s diaper. Apparently he wasn’t quite finished filling his diaper before his dad decided to remove it. This didn’t bother our little man. He simply let loose and baby poopy shot across the room like a rocket. Justin cried out and desperately asked me to get him some wet cloths. I told my mom I would be right back and hurried to the bathroom to get the cloths Justin needed. I gave them to him and then proceeded to use one to clean up the poop all over the floor. All of the sudden, the baby let loose again, spraying poop across the room and this time, across his mama, who was kneeling on the floor cleaning up the previous mess. Justin and I both yelled in dismay. Justin frantically asked for more cloths. I wanted to go back and tell my mom that I would call her back, because the phone was sitting off the hook with my mom on the other end. Just said, “Kirsten! I need you right now! This is no time to call you mom!” (He didn’t realize she was still on the line). So I reached for more cloths, but there weren’t any. He told me to go out and look in the bin in the hallway. I refused, because I had poop all over my hair and neck. Finally he insisted on it, so I timidly ventured out, hoping nobody would notice me. That was pointless, because the bin didn’t have the cloths I needed, so I had to ask a nurse anyway. She helped me, and I hoped she didn’t notice my poopy hair. I returned to the room, the baby was screaming his little heart out and Justin panicked, because right at that moment a fountain of baby pee shot towards the ceiling and all over my husband. I started laughing hysterically. Finally we got it cleaned up and I went back to the phone, which I had left for all that time. My mom laughed at our misfortune and I told her we would call her back. That was a first big diapering adventure. Now Justin is much more cautious with changing his little boy… Anyhow…
Leaving the hospital was such a strange and exhilarating feeling. We just walked out with our baby. Nobody stopped us, or asked us what we were doing. It also felt strange for me to walk that far, since my exercise the last four days had been confined to walking from the bed to the bathroom. When we arrived home, John and Debbie greeted us; we had a nice Christmas meal and our little family found peace.
Thank you for reading my birth story and post birth experience. I would love to read your if you would like to share it or a link to it in the comments!
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