It was all just too soon. Surreal. Unreal. But definitely way too soon.
I had just lay down to fall asleep, my mind full of all of the must-do’s on a mental checklist I wanted to get done before my maternity leave started on Monday. Then I felt it. I know that in our Birthing Classes, we had learned that when your water breaks it isn’t really like a flood. It was like someone had filled a mega water balloon, put it between my legs, and pricked it with a pushpin so the water would flow out.
“Matt. I think my water broke”
Matt walked around to my side of the bed, where he saw two thin lines of water running down my legs; he pushed the sheet aside and he saw that my underwear and the sheets underneath me were soaked through.
I dialed up the doctor’s office, where the nurse on call told me to come in.
Within minutes, we had kicked our go plan into high gear – my neighbor was called. The hospital bags were stuffed with last-minute items. Cat food was put out for Kernel the Kat. The dogs were sent to go potty.
20 minutes later, we were at Baptist East; carrying all of our bags, Matt helped me waddle through the doors. I felt the water trickle down my legs, soaking my black leggings. Thank goodness they weren’t gray; it’d be too obvious.
Checking in at labor and delivery, I truly believed that I would be sent home; we would be allowed to ride out early labor at home, just like it stated in my birth plan. I wasn’t even having contractions yet.
A nurse walked us to the triage room; looking at me, then at my leggings, she said: “Girl, is that your water?” I nodded. I could barely believe that all of the liquid had come from me. “No sense dirtying a room!” she said. “Let’s just go straight to labor and delivery.”
The walk from the triage section to labor and delivery, I had her words in my mind “wasting a room…”
Once we walked into the labor and delivery room, I was told to change into the hospital gown. I truly did not believe that we were going to be spending the night, so I left my soft gown in my hospital bag and changed into the one given to me.
Sitting in the bed, getting strapped up to the blood pressure monitor, reality still hadn’t set in. Only when the nurse brought over the IV and started to prick me did I start to become concerned.
“Well, let’s start you off on the Pitocin,” she said.
“Pitocin?” I asked.
“Yes, honey. Your water broke. You are leaving the hospital within 48 hours with your baby.” I was shocked. He was here so soon. I didn’t even feel many contractions; they were so faint that they barely counted. What about all the plans Matt and I had to wait out the long early labor at home? What about my plans to stay active? I couldn’t do that on Pitocin! There was really no other option. My water had broken, which meant the risk of infection was high, and my contractions were no way near active labor yet, which meant that the Pitocin would kick everything into high gear.
I felt better knowing that baby had flipped back down into the head-down position, when he had been breech just a mere 5 days before. Head down meant that despite this unplanned way I arrived at the hospital, I could get the natural, unmedicated birth I had always wanted. I could have my baby my way.
Around 4:00 am, I started to feel contractions but they didn’t feel like they were coming from my body; rather, I felt like these contractions were being done to me, before I felt ready. One of the nurses came in and said “I am going to check how much you’ve dilated” and stuck her fingers in me. It was painful. Through my anger and frustration, I heard her say “just 1 cm” In my head, I replayed over and over what we’d learned in our birthing classes – the early labor stage was the longest.
Over the next few hours, my contractions were coming closer, stronger, and faster, but I knew that it wasn’t time just yet. I’d always been told that when it was time, I would know. I questioned whether or not I could make it without medication. I had been contracting for hours and it did not feel any closer to the time when I would meet my baby.
An anesthesiologist came in. A man. He said, “Hey there I’m — the anesthesiologist. I am here to talk about your options for pain medication, including the epidural.” I was rude, and the poor man really didn’t do anything wrong; he’d just walked in at the wrong time (in the middle of a contraction, when all I was focused on was breathing and making it to my next break). “Don’t you see I am busy? I don’t need meds!” I blurted. The man exited my room. When that set of contractions ended and I was on my break, I questioned myself: Could I really do this without medication? I turned to look at Matt and I think he could see the question and desperation in my eyes, because all he said to me was “you are so strong. You can do it.” I really could. Matt was there and my baby was coming. I could do it.
The nurse came in again to check my dilation – 6 cm. I was shocked. I had just dilated 5 cm in a mere 5 hours.
The next hour is a haze. I remember shifting in and out of consciousness – with Matt giving me counter-pressure on my back in slow, steady circles or with repeated rhythmic beats right where I was having the most painful contractions. Between contractions, I was out of my consciousness, taking 1-minute power naps before the next crescendo of contractions came along. A finger was checking for my dilation – 9 cm. “It’s time for you to push now.” ALREADY?! How did I dilate so quickly in that one hour?
A team of medical professionals walked in – I saw one of my obgyn’s face, as a whole bunch of strange nurses surrounded my bed. Before I could protest, my bed was laid horizontally, and my feet were being placed into stirrups. “PUSH!” they said.
I pushed, letting out a scream that felt right. This gruff-looking nurse tapped me and said, “No. Put all the energy you put in that scream into pushing.” What the f does that mean?
My annoyance and frustration must have showed on my face, because another nurse took the place of Nurse McGruffy and said: “You know how you do a curl? With the next contraction, take a deep breath. Curl up, pull on the thighs and push like you are passing the biggest poop.” I could do that. I was inhaling and pushing, when my ob-gyn said: “I think that the baby’s head isn’t low enough yet.” Just as quickly as that medical team had entered my room, they left.
The original nurse who had been with me since the start of labor was the only one left. I felt so delirious because the contractions were just 30 seconds apart now and I barely had time to think. She had me push with the contractions, pushing in sets of 3s, but it didn’t feel like anything was happening. All of a sudden, I found the strength to say “I want to sit up.” The nurse didn’t hear me, or she pretended not to, but Matt did. He said “Do you all have the stirrups for her to sit up when we push?” Despite all my pain, I felt so proud and loved. Matt had paid SO much attention at those birthing classes, and he was my advocate. My champion. I saw her pull out the stirrups and begin to bring them over.
This is when everything changed and my memory becomes fuzzy. All of a sudden, I see the nurse drop the stirrups and race to the monitor. She keeps readjusting the heartbeat monitor on my stomach over and over. Then she tells me to lie down on my left side, then my right. Another nurse comes and the two of them are flipping me over and over. The two of them position me into a doggy stance while they are feeling my stomach. Then I am flat on my back again, oxygen mask over my face while nurses are yelling at me to breathe in and out. The entire blue team rushes in, and my legs are forcibly held out by nurses. Everyone is yelling at me – YOUR BABY NEEDS TO COME OUT NOW. PUSH. I am pushing and pushing but nothing is happening. I feel myself losing consciousness and everything begins to get fuzzy. I feel Matt standing beside the bed and I can hear him say “Push! Push for baby!”
I push and push and push until I can’t push anymore. I hear a vacuuming noise and I still keep pushing. Baby needs me to push. I could feel the urgency of the moment but I didn’t know details. All I knew was I had to push. No matter what happened to me, I had to push for baby. I felt his head come out, then I heard them say “ONE MORE BIG PUSH!” and I felt him slide out. My heart stopped because I didn’t hear crying. Weren’t babies supposed to cry when they came out? “Matt! Is baby okay? Is our baby okay?”
Matt didn’t give me a straight response – just “you’re so strong. You did so great.” I couldn’t see what the team of people were doing with my baby in the corner and no one was telling me a thing. I babbled “my baby. Tell me the baby is okay” It was only a few seconds – 10 at most, looking back – but the lack of response was an eternity. I heard the cry, and I heard Matt say “yes, baby is okay. Can you hear him? He’s coming to us now.”
The neonatologist brought baby to me for skin to skin, and he was genuinely the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Once his skin touched mine, he stopped crying and he cuddled right into me. He looked right up at me, and the snuggles were like nothing I could have ever even imagined. He was warm. He was fine. He was alive.
All around me, the nurses kept saying “great job!” and “such a trooper!” along with “you were so strong!” The rest of what happened in labor and delivery didn’t matter all too much to me. I had baby. I had Matt. And we were all okay. I felt contractions give way to the placenta, and I heard the ob-gyn say that she had to sew up the tear from the necessary episiotomy. I didn’t care at all about any of it – baby was okay. Baby was here. Baby was with his momma and daddy. We were all okay.
So here’s the breakdown of what happened. My water broke. The Pitocin was necessary to get my contractions going. The Pitocin really sped up my delivery – it was just a mere 12.5 hours from when my water broke to when baby came. No, not everything in my birth plan happened – baby was early, I didn’t get to ride out early labor at home, I didn’t get to have intermittent monitoring, I wasn’t really allowed to walk around too much, and yes, I did have to have my baby horizontal, on my back. My contractions were a lot stronger and faster than they would have been, had they occurred naturally. The last 5-10 minutes of my labor: baby’s heart rate dropped to somewhere in the 60s, and the nurse couldn’t find it again on the monitor. The baby had to come out ASAP which meant I had to push like a life depended on it (which it did) and the doctor had to use a vacuum and perform an episiotomy, giving me a tear.
But, I feel good about my delivery. I was able to have my unmedicated vaginal delivery I had wanted from the beginning. I had THE most supportive husband by my side the entire time, giving me counter-pressure, support, and love, in addition to breathing with me the whole time. My baby came out healthy (measuring big for his gestational age), and didn’t have to spend time in the NICU, and passed all of his tests thus far.
Being the planner that I am, I am a bit disappointed in how everything had played out, but I am proud and happy that Matthew and I were able to deliver our healthy baby boy together.