I've been asked a few times to talk about the birth of my baby boy, Liam. Personally, when I was pregnant, I loved reading about other peoples' journeys to motherhood, whether it was their first time or their fifth time. Every pregnancy and birth is so unique, and each is as beautiful as the last. My labor and delivery wasn't particularly eventful, but it was long, exhausting, and an experience I will never forget.
Let me preface by saying this: I absolutely despise the way we talk about labor and childbirth. I think there is a lot of "horror story" telling that happens because we seem to have equated hard pregnancy and labor with being a stronger woman or mother. Let me tell you something, expectant mama - that's absolute horseshit (pardon the strong language, I feel very strongly about that). No matter how your tiny human exits your body, you grew a person, sustained them, and brought them into this world. That is badass and you are a freaking superhero. Period.
I am not telling you this story to scare you, garnish some weird social respect, or to bolster myself as somehow being a stronger mom than someone else because my labor was long and hard. My story simply is what it is, and while I will be straightforward, I refuse to participate in any of the dramatic re-telling that so often happens when women recount their birth stories. This is simply an honest account of my journey into motherhood.
To start, some background knowledge:
During my second trimester, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes that had to be insulin controlled. I did not need very much insulin, but I needed it nonetheless. I also ended up testing positive for Strep B (GBS) which, while not a big deal in fully grown adults, can cause serious problems if passed along to baby. Because of this, moms who test GBS positive will need a dose of Penicillin every four hours while in labor. If you haven't had Penicillin via an IV before, let me just be blunt: it burns. Literally. Penicillin is a harsh antibiotic so receiving it through an IV can be a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately, my L+D nurses were awesome and back-flowed it with saline so the discomfort was incredibly minimal.
Gestational diabetes patients are often induced during their 39th week due to complications that can arise during the late weeks of pregnancy in patients with GD. My induction was scheduled for 39 weeks + 1 day at 10:30 pm on 7/14, (highly recommend not scheduling a night induction if you can avoid it at all) so naturally, I woke up bright and early that day and could not nap to save my life. When we checked into the hospital, Patrick and I were both running on about 5-6 hours of sleep. By 11:30 pm, I was checked in, hooked up to the monitors (they monitor you around the clock when you have complications), and had an IV in my hand.
And then the fun started!
Around midnight, the doctor came to check me and I was 1 cm and 50% effaced. She decided to give me a dose of Misoprostol to kick my body into gear. If you don't know, preparing for induction and induction are two different processes - they cannot just shove you into active labor with Pitocin until your cervix is thin and dilated enough. The process of starting active labor is the actual induction, getting to the point of being ready for active labor is preparing for induction. And honestly, the process kind of sucks.
The Misoprostol caused contractions to start around 1 am. They were hard and painful, but I could ultimately tell that they were ineffective. From 1 am until about 8 am, I got a grand total of 45 minutes of sleep between contractions and was feeling extremely annoyed. Between contractions, the monitors, and nurses checking my vitals once an hour, I was already exhausted. When the doctor came in at 8 am on 7/15 to check me, I was a whopping 1.5 cm and 60% effaced. Talk about feeling discouraged....
At that point, since my body had not responded as intended to the medication and they were unable to give me another dose, the doctor decided to insert a Cook's balloon. If you don't know what a Cook's balloon is, I envy you. Around 9 am, the doctor brought in this ridiculous looking catheter contraption and inserted it into my cervix. One of the balloons goes through your cervix and into your uterus, the other stays inside your vagina just below your cervix. The balloons are then inflated with water and serve the purpose of manually thinning out the cervical tissue - think: kneading dough to make it thinner. Yeah. Super fun, right?
Once the balloon was inserted, every contraction was doubly as painful as they had been before because, ya know, I had a balloon inside my uterus. After a few hours, I asked the nurse how long the balloon needed to be inserted before they would re-check my progress. She looked at me and said, "Until it falls out on it's own or 12 hours."
12 HOURS?! Are you kidding me?! I was on hour 8 of the balloon, had slept a whopping 2 hours since 9 am the day before, and was feeling extremely frustrated.
Shift change came and went (again) and the night shift nurse decided it would be a good idea to check the progress the balloon had made. She tugged on the catheter a few times and the balloon came falling out - HALLELUJAH. Around 7 pm on 7/15, the doctor came in to check my progress post-balloon and said I was at 5 cm and 75% effaced. My cervix was FINALLY ready to start Pitocin. That said, my contractions were doing some wonky things and they were unsure whether or not they could actually give it to me.
If a laboring mom is having more than 4-5 contractions in a 10 minute period of time, they forgo giving her Pitocin and just let her body progress the rest of the way through labor naturally. Well, I was having contractions one right on top of the other for roughly 10-minute periods of time and then I would go 10-15 minutes with no activity at all, so they weren't sure whether or not they wanted to start Pitocin. After a few hours of letting my body do its thing, they decided that they'd start Pitocin during one of the "gaps" in my contractions.
At this point, it was somewhere around midnight on 7/16. We had checked in to start this process 36 hours prior, I had gotten a grand total of 3-4 hours of sleep since 9 am on 7/14, and I was absolutely wiped. So I made the decision to get an epidural when they started the Pitocin drip (an epidural is YOUR decision - do what's best for you and your baby. Screw what anyone else thinks). They contacted the anesthesiologist and let him know about my request. He came in around 1 am after helping a couple other laboring moms who were further along than I was and began the process of inserting the epidural, which was almost complete painless. By 1:30 am, the epidural was inserted and contractions were a breeze, which was a welcome relief after having extremely painful and mostly ineffective contractions for the better part of 36 hours. Once we got re-settled, Patrick and I were both able to fall asleep and get some rest. Well, at least as much rest as possible when you're hooked up to constant monitoring and have a BP cuff taking your blood pressure every 15 minutes...
3:30 am rolled around and suddenly, extremely sharp pains on only the left side of my body woke me up with a jolt. After a few minutes, I realized that I was feeling contractions, but only on the left side. I called the nurse in and she explained to me that epidurals can sometimes concentrate to one side if the patient is laying on that side of their body. I had been sleeping on my right side for two hours which had caused the epidural to work only on that half of my body. FUNNNN. Fortunately, after laying on my back for about 10 minutes, it evened itself out again. The nurse decided it would be a good time to check my progress, since it had been a few hours since they'd hung Pitocin. She looked up at me and said, "You're at 9.5 cm and complete effaced! It's go time, mama!"
Patrick jumped up to get out of the way and hold my hand as they started breaking the bed down and getting ready for Liam's arrival. Holy moly, talk about an adrenaline rush! And I am so grateful for that rush because I truly don't believe I would have had the strength to push without it. I had been awake for most of the last two days and I can remember thinking during the last few pushes, "If these don't get him out, I'm so exhausted that I don't know how much longer I can do this..." At 4 am I started pushing and 90 minutes later, at 5:33 am on 7/16, Liam was earthside, crying, and already rooting around for food (he's been a nursing CHAMP since the moment he made his entrance!). The feeling of instant relief from all the aches and pains of late term pregnancy was worth every one of those 90 minutes.
I did have a grade 2 internal tear that required some stitches and could instantly tell, even with an epidural, that I was going to be quite swollen and sore for a bit of time.
After 4 hours of sleep in 48 hours, lots of emotional ups and downs, and months and months of anticipation, I looked at my sweet little man's face and couldn't help but tear up. After trying for almost a year and growing him for 10 months, it felt surreal to finally be holding him. I looked up at Patrick, who shifted his eyes from Liam to me, kissed my sweaty forehead, and said, "I am so proud of you!"
I'm proud of me too.
I grew a human and the organ that sustained his life. That human then exited my body in a traumatic manner (all birth causes some sort of trauma to the body, make no mistake about that), and I am now responsible for making sure that human doesn't grow up to be a grade A asshole.
I'm pretty proud of that.
And you should be too, mama. No matter how your baby came into this world or what other people have to say about it, you. should. be. proud.
You did the damn thing!