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The Best Laid Plans: My Birth Story

11/04/2011

As you have most likely surmised from reading my blog, I am a planner. I planned my wedding in three weeks 8 months before the event, I planned for my pregnancy in excruciating detail, I plan trips to the store with military precision, and don’t even get me started on the tight ship I run on my work projects. So when my son decided to make his appearance three full weeks early, this came as a huge (and not necessarily welcome) surprise. But let me start this story with the day before he was born in what seems like a different geologic era given how much my life has changed since then.

After months of OBGYN appointments, I was finally going in every two weeks and was about to transition to every week. I was thrilled to be getting close to the end of my pregnancy at 37 weeks and was looking forward to taking two and a half weeks off work to prepare for the baby: buy those last minute things you don’t put on your registry (like lanolin), stock up on about a month’s supply of groceries, make a bunch of meals to freeze, deep clean the house and spend some time resting.

My OBGYN appointments had been discussions not physical exams since I was 7 weeks pregnant, but that particular week I noticed that I lost my mucus plug. You can lose the mucus plug up to about a month before you give birth so I didn’t find this alarming, but I did mention it to the doctor prompting her to perform a physical exam. After a few seconds of what I would characterize as more than the “slight discomfort” she implied I would be feeling, she stepped back and announced that I was 3 centimeters dilated, 75% effaced and that she’d be very surprised if I was still pregnant in a week. To rip off a certain credit card ad, the look on my face must have been “priceless”. My brain screamed, “NO!!! I still have four more days of work and all those plans!” I also had a moment of panic about having a “premie” before the doctor assured me that 37 weeks is considered full term.

So I left the doctor and headed to my dinner plans in a daze. I went home that night and triaged my to do list. The next day I went to work and broke the bad news that it was my last day. I spent the day downloading from my brain the last bits of information to the engineer that had been brought in to fill in during my maternity leave then arranged for my husband to pick me up for a trip to Costco. While trolling the aisles at Costco I began to feel a little strange so we finished up the shopping and I headed to the car to lay down.

We arrived home at 5:50 pm and my husband started dinner. My doctor had told me if I started to have contractions that I couldn’t talk through to go to the hospital so at 6 pm I waddled down to hall to inform my husband (between contractions) that we might consider heading to the hospital after we ate. At 6:45 pm we started the walk to the hospital (we only live 5 blocks away, so yes, I walked), and arrived at 7 pm. The nurses hooked me up to the baby monitor for 20 minutes which required me to lay down – probably the least comfortable position one can be in while in labour. The nurse checked my cervix and informed me that I was still just 3 centimeters dilated – I was crushed. She also told me that because my water hadn’t broken that I could walk around the hospital for a while or go home. I waited through one more contraction before deciding to walk around the hospital when my water broke. Because they had just performed my strep B test the day before and didn’t have the results yet, they had to treat me as positive and admit me.

The nurses took their time getting me into my labour and delivery room at about 8 pm where I reminded them between mind-blowing contractions that I wanted an epidural. The nurse leisurely hooked me up to administer a liter of fluids before they could give me my epidural and assured me I’d be comfortable in “about a half hour”. She’s lucky she was standing out of reach or else I’m fairly certain I would have grabbed her by the scrubs and screamed “A HALF HOUR!!” I have always left my pain-o-meter open by never using the 9 or 10 before to describe the pain I was in, but these contractions had reached a 10.

As the fluids neared completion (20-30 minutes later), I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to push which is a feeling I probably wouldn’t have been able to articulate had they not taught us about it in Lamaze class. I told my husband so that I could focus on not pushing, but luckily the nurse came back into the room as I was repeating it to him. She rolled her eyes and casually put on gloves to examine me, I’m sure having dealt with countless melodramatic women in labour before me. As she examined me, her eyes became very wide and she shot her hand over me to hit the emergency button, and screeched “I need a doctor in here NOW!”

Apparently I had dilated from 3 to 10 centimeters in an hour.

Let it suffice to say that the next hour went very quickly with first the nurses running around turning on the flood lights and setting up then the emergency on-call doctor and my husband coaching me through the pushing which only lasted 20 to 30 minutes (according to my husband who was far more time-aware than I was at that point). A doctor from my practice finally arrived on scene for the last 2 minutes of pushing which I guess gives them credit for delivering the baby! And, of course, with all this there was no time for my epidural…

After the last push they threw my son up on my chest and just let us be a family for 30 to 45 minutes, no tests, no measurements, just the three of us (ok so the doctor was suturing me for a little while, but I only needed 3 sutures so he was out of there in no time). It was the most amazing half hour of my life.

Then things started going wrong. My son’s blood sugar levels were low so my husband gave him one ounce of formula (I had wanted to breast feed immediately, but this was a medical emergency). We had to wait an hour before the next test came back to say he was alright during which time I began to shake violently which is completely normal post-delivery, but my blood pressure began to spike. The highest I saw it go was 168/95 while my normal blood pressure is 100/60. This spike in blood pressure caused the worst migraine of my life. It’s my vague memory that they tried three different narcotics on me trying to get me back to stable. So while my poor husband was standing by they were treating both my son and I as ICU patients… not ideal. But they did finally get my migraine under control and my son was ranked perfectly healthy.

So all is well that ends well and both the baby and I were wheeled to our postpartum room 5.5 hours after I gave birth.

And now for the next “chapter” of this blog….

… An Engineer’s Approach to Parenting!

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