Let me just start by saying that I came out of this with a healthy, strong, cuddly, loving, cooing, perfect little baby boy. My experience was not a good one, but I am so very blessed that it was me who suffered, not Toby. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
I had my 39wk appt scheduled for Friday, January 10th. My clinic doesn’t actually do weekly appts at the end – we were supposed to have visits at wk 38 and wk 40 – but I was anxious to see whether my effacememnt had moved along any further.
On Thursday morning (Jan 9th), I wasn’t feeling great. I got to work feeling a little off – just a bit out of it, a bit weak and tired, and ever so slightly lightheaded. I didn’t think much of it, but I called the clinic to see if I could move my appt a day early. I went in around 10am and my historically oh-so-perfect blood pressure (~110/70) was close to 140/100 – absolutely unheard of for me. My urine came back with trace amounts of protein for the first time. I was sent for labs, which came back with elevated uric acid levels. Overnight – yes, OVER-freakin-NIGHT – I had developed pre-pre-eclampsia (pregnancy induced high blood pressure). With all the research I had done, I’d never really paid much attention to pre-eclampsia. I knew my BP was always awesome and I hadn’t realized that your ‘normal’ BP has nothing to do with whether you will develop pre-E.
The nurse didn’t express grave concern of any kind, but said that my results were indications that full-blown pre-E could develop within the next 24 hours or not for another week and that, since I was full-term, my best bet was to be induced that day. Apparently the only cure for pre-E is delivering baby and placenta.
So that was that – we were given a few hours to return to work, eat, and go home to get our hospital bag. Although in a bit of shock, the hubs and I were super excited and couldn’t believe we were about to meet our little guy!
For me, I have so badly wanted a completely natural childbirth. The hubs and I had taken classes and practiced breathing exercises and pain management techniques almost daily to ensure success of a natural labor and delivery. I was disappointed that I’d need to take some medication in order to kick-start induction, but was convinced that that would be the last bit of medication I’d take while at the hospital and it would be my strength and my hubby’s support that would get us through the rest.
Boy was I wrong.
Immediately upon arrival, I was put into bed with a blood pressure cuff attached to my arm that stayed there for the next 50 hours. I was not allowed to get up from bed except for brief bathroom breaks in order to avoid further elevating my BP – a BP that continued to climb once arriving at the hospital, sometimes ringing in around the 170s/110s.
Induction, labor, delivery:
- (Jan 9th, approx. 4pm) A pill was inserted into my cervix 3 times in 4 hour increments to help it soften and thin. Hours later, I was dilated between 1.5-2cm.
- (Jan 10th, appox. 2am) Pitocin begins.
- (Jan 10th, approx 3am) Contractions begin.
- (Jan 10th, approx 10am) Pain was impossible to bear, epidural given.
- (Jan 10th, approx. 1pm) Stopped pitocin b/c Toby wasn’t responding well to higher dose. Dilation at 3cm.
- (Jan 10th, approx. 2pm) Balloon inserted in cervix to help stretch open to 5cm (ouch!). Dilated to 5cm.
- (Jan 10th, approx. 530pm) Water was broken. Dilated 5cm, 90% effaced. Pitcoin restarted.
- (Jan 10th, approx. 730pm) Stopped pitocin b/c Toby wasn’t responding well to higher dose. 7cm dilated.
- (Jan 10th, approx 1030pm) Not dilating without pitocin. Doctor recommends c-section because contractions stopped once pitocin was stopped. Plus, Toby continues to struggle measured by a lack of fluctuation in HR.
- (Jan 10th, 11:30pm) I don’t respond to local anesthesia and must be knocked out.
- (Jan 10th, 11:37pm) TOBY IS BORN!
Having a drug-free labor and delivery went out the door when I had to be induced. But I hoped pitocin would be the only drug that entered my body. However, I soon found that it is impossible – truly impossible – to cope with labor pains from the confines of a bed. I had brought my exercise ball, had practiced slow dancing with my hubby, planned to walk slowly through the halls, or get into the tub to ease my pain. None of these options were available to me. So, I suffered as long as I could from the bed I spent over 48 hours in. Unfortunately, I got to a point where my immobility inhibited me from avoiding the dreaded epidural. I cried and held my hubby’s hand tightly as they put it in.
I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to my husband. He pretty much spent the first 30 hours of Toby’s life as a single parent. And he did so flawlessly. My hubby was in the room when Toby was pulled from my belly. He was there as Toby was cleaned, weighed, tested, foot-printed. He was there to talk to him, calm him, hold and cuddle him. He was the one to bring my sweet Toby to my bedside as I was beginning to wake 45 minutes after his arrival. My eyes fluttered open and all I remember seeing was a proud daddy carrying his son towards me, lowering his face close to mine and letting me kiss his soft cheek. He cheered me on as I sleepily took my first attempt at breastfeeding. And he brought him back to our room and cared for him throughout his first long night in this world. He did all this while I slept. He did this as I failed to be truly present for the first night of my son’s life.
Early the next morning, my BP had not regulated itself, so precautions had to be taken. I was put on a 24 hour dose of magnesium, an anti-seizure drug. And it was meant to do just that – stop my insanely high BP from throwing me into a fit of seizures. Magnesium changed my experience from an incredibly sucky one to one that I feel truly traumatized from. That drug is awful. I spent the next 24 hours slipping in and out of sleep, seeing double, feeling weak, groggy, afraid, scared, and generally outside of myself. Visually, I couldn’t focus on anything and mentally, I couldn’t focus on my son. He was delivered to me every couple hours to feed, but was otherwise cared for exclusively by my hubby. I was pretty much absent. It breaks my heart to utter those words. But it’s true. And it Breaks. My. Heart.
Part of my absence was a product of the effects of the magnesium. But the other, far greater part, was my inability to mentally cope with what was going on. I was terrified. Doctors and nurses kept uttering the word ‘seizure’, the BP machine kept dinging to indicate yet another abnormally high level, nurses shot glances at doctors when another high reading came, and no one was able to tell me exactly what to expect or what my body was supposed to be doing during that time. My anxiety, something I have always struggled with, skyrocketed. I began to shake and convulse at the meer sight of a blood pressure cuff or the mention of my levels. I was constantly asked if I was feeling pain near my liver, seeing double or flashing lights. I was warned that these symptoms would indicate that my condition was getting far worse and further interventions would be required. So of course, I began looking for pain near my liver and spots in my eyes. I spent two more days in the hospital, waiting for my BP to begin to drop. While the effects of the magnesium began to wane, my anxiety did not. And finally on Monday afternoon, I was sent home with blood pressure medication; not because my BP was under control, but because my anxiety in the hospital was out of control and everyone agreed that I needed out.
We bought a blood pressure cuff to take home, and I spent my first 24 hours taking it over and over, willing it to drop. It took another two days until it finally did and I began feeling a bit like myself once again.
So here we are, 11 days after Toby’s birth. I am feeling much stronger, refreshed, and able to care for my little man. I hate how the labor and delivery unfolded. It breaks my heart to see pictures of Toby’s birth and first moments – something that I was not truly present for. But, all that matters now is that I have my son. My perfectly healthy, loving, adorable, sweet son. I know that I am so very lucky for that.