January 26, 2017

Juliette: the birth story

Y'all. This is super long. Read at your own risk.

So! Back when I was still pregnant, the last update I provided was a week out from my due date, when I remained exactly 0cm dilated with what they suspected was a large-ish baby and still an excessive amount of fluid. Turns out not very much changed over the course of that week... or as my due date came and went. I eventually dilated to "maybe 1cm" by a few days after my due date, but stayed stubbornly unprogressed after that, with no indication that my body had any plans to release the baby into the wild any time soon. My doctor decided he couldn't let me go more than 41 weeks with so much fluid kicking around in me, though, so they scheduled an induction for August 19th in case the baby hadn't made an appearance by then.

The baby, of course, did not make anything close to an appearance. I was a giant beached whale of a human by then: it was mid-August, in our disgustingly hot & humid part of the country, I was a week overdue, sore as hell, and still having contractions all the time plus one giant sustained contraction literally any time I was standing up.

I watched a lot of Netflix on the couch that week.

We were instructed to go to the hospital at 9pm the night before, where I would be administered Cervadil. This is basically a very uncomfortable tampon-like device that they jam up into your cervix which contains medication to soften your cervix, if you're one of the lucky ladies whose cervix has not "ripened" on its own and needs medical intervention before it will allow a baby through. For the vast majority of women, the Cervadil just stays in overnight; you don't feel anything (aside from the initial not-super-pleasant insertion, which had me attempting to crab-scuttle my way directly up the wall behind me in what I can only describe as an inadvertent primal fight or flight reflex). Then they pull it out the next morning and start you on pitocin now that your cervix has been brought up to speed. You're encouraged to get a(s) good (a) night's sleep (as possible in a hospital bed) in the meantime since who knows how long labor might last once the pitocin kicks it off? I even initially encouraged Chris to go back home after the Cervadil was administered, since my body was SO far from being ready to let a baby out that it seemed really unlikely that one of the really rare side effects - Cervadil actually kicking off active labor, which happens something like 1-2% of the time - would occur.

I'll give you one guess what happened within 3 hours of getting the Cervadil inserted!

OF COURSE I had the super-rare side effect that practically never happens, because OF COURSE. Luckily, after they jammed the Cervadil in, I told Chris I was maybe kind of sort of having second thoughts about him leaving me all alone in the hospital after all (despite it being my idea in the first place), so he was uncomfortably sprawled on the couch ("couch") next to my bed when, at 1:15am, my contractions had gotten strong enough that I for sure couldn't sleep and started pacing the room to see if that would help make them more manageable.

By 1:30am, I self-evaluated as a 6 on the pain scale... using the hastily modified pain scale in my head that assumed labor was going to be more painful than anything I'd ever experienced. On a pre-labor scale I was probably at an 8. The contractions were coming so quickly that I had no chance to recover between them - as soon as the acute pain of the contraction would start to decrease, super strong pressure would immediately build in my lower pelvis and then ramp up into a new contraction. It was... well, super unpleasant.

The thing is, they had taken the belly monitors off an hour after administering the Cervadil, and then gave me stern warnings that if I put them back on to monitor contractions, I would have to keep them on for the entire rest of labor - so basically, only ask to get the monitors back on if you're SURE something is happening because you're stuck in bed from that point on. And it was only 1:30! Three hours ago they had confirmed that I was still barely 1cm dilated and this baby was pretty much not coming out unless they yanked her out unwillingly... maybe I was just a weakling and these were, like, teensy little baby contractions that were kicking off pre-labor? Maybe they hurt more than I was expecting so I forgot how to tell time and they were actually 10 minutes apart and not two minutes apart, which is what my timing app was clearly telling me? It just didn't seem reasonable that I could be in active labor at this point.

By 2am I gave up though, and asked to be put back on the monitor because I couldn't even stand through the contractions any more, much less walk around. The monitors at least confirmed that I wasn't totally crazy, and my contractions were indeed very strong, and coming every 2 minutes (WTF!). The nurse calmly advised me that if I wanted an epidural any time soon, I should start an IV drip since I'd need to finish a bag before they could even call the anesthesiologist. I was torn - how non-hardy was I, that I was ready for an epidural less than an hour into labor!? On the other hand, GET ME AN EPIDURAL YES PLEASE &^!$^!%@$!&@^%!% OW OW OW OW.

It was around this point that I more or less blacked out from the pain. I don't remember any details of the next two hours, but apparently I spent most of it groaning into Chris's shoulder as the contractions just kept coming, exactly two minutes apart, for TWO HUNDRED YEARS (approx.) until I had finished my IV bag and an anesthesiologist could be located. I got the epidural at 3:45am, and I literally could not tell you if my anesthesiologist was male or female, because I now understood the term "blinded by pain." All I do remember is leaning over so s/he could insert the needle into my spine, and feeling ABSOLUTELY NOTHING because however much it hurts to get a giant needle jammed into your spine is roughly the equivalent of a mosquito bite at that juncture.

By 4am, I was a changed person. I could see! I could use the English language! I could talk! Heck, I could JOKE! EPIDURALS ARE AMAZING EVERYONE IN THE ROOM SHOULD GET ONE YAAAAY I LOVE DRUGS THANK YOU DRUG GOD YOU ARE MY FAVORITE. They suggested I should try to get some sleep now, but while the acute contraction pain was 100% gone (WHAT! HOW! MAGIC! I LOVE YOU DRUGS!) the super intense pressure that built up in my lower pelvis to usher in each contraction was still there, and still happening every 2 minutes like clockwork, so sleep was not exactly in the cards. I actually started to get worried for the baby - like, I know literally every woman who goes into labor has contractions that are specifically designed to push the baby down into the pelvis, but it just felt like I must be CRUSHING her little head against my pelvis. How was this not breaking her??

At 5am I had another cervical check, where I learned I was exactly.... 2cm dilated. Sooo that was kind of a let down. I really am kind of a pansy, it turns out, because I basically blacked out from pain during contractions at only 2cm. I was 90% effaced though, and the contractions were still coming every 2 minutes (I kept getting complimented on how regular they were, as if I had something to do with it) so I was encouraged to sleep again (haha) and they'd check in again later.

By 7:45 I had made it to 5cm and everyone was pleased with my progress - I hadn't been given any pitocin at this point since my contractions certainly didn't need any help, so they were happy to just leave me mostly alone and progress at will. I was on oxygen pretty much full time at this point - the contractions were stressing the baby out just enough that I had to keep an oxygen mask on to keep her calm.

Then, at about 8:45, I felt something... come out.

Now, you may or may not recall that one of the major concerns of polyhydramnios is cord prolapse. This is super super not good and needs to be addressed IMMEDIATELY if it happens - like, with an emergency c-section - because the baby's life is instantly in jeopardy. So when I very distinctly felt something push out of me, and when I reached down (as well as I could around my giant-ass belly) to feel around, and felt.. something... squishy? but firm...? I freaked. the. fuck. out.

I started screaming for Chris to get a nurse because SOMETHING IS COMING OUT OF ME OMG GO GO HELP SOMETHING. IS. COMING. OUT. OMFGGGGGGG

Turns out it was my water breaking. Except! I did not know this: there are actually two amniotic sacs, one inside the other. ONE of mine had broken, and the other one was just sort of hanging around, half in and half out, totally intact and full of fluid. Which is what I had poked when I reached down to investigate.

So, the whole polyhydramnios thing? My OB had warned me several weeks prior that if my water broke, I would not be among the women who weren't sure if that was really what had happened, like perhaps I had just peed a little? - that no, it would be EXTREMELY EVIDENT if it happened. And he was not kidding: only HALF my water broke, and every time a new nurse came in, they did a comical double take at the LAKE OF FLUID surrounding my hospital bed. When the doctor came in to assess the situation and ultimately break the second bag (since it was still there, sticking out of me, super in the way of everything) she warmed everyone to stand back because it was going to be... dramatic.

So! The rest of my bag was broken for me using what seriously looked like a medical-grade crochet hook, and a subsequent cervical check revealed that I was at about 8cm and fully effaced. The contractions had yet to let up the every-two-minute pattern so I was advised to keep on keepin' on at that point.

The crazy intense pressure I'd been feeling (every two minutes) in my lower pelvis ramped WAY down with all that extra fluid out of the way and felt much less like I was slowly crushing my baby's skull into pieces against my pelvic bone, which was nice.

By 11:45am I was fully effaced AND fully dilated, but the baby was still a bit high, so they wanted to let my still incredibly regular and strong contractions do some more work to move her down further before I started pushing. I think my doula had arrived by this point and was helpfully feeding me ice chips and reminding me to keep putting the oxygen mask back on, because by this point Juliette was starting to get a bit agitated, requiring full time oxygen and also only allowing me to be in certain positions (eg, on my left side) or else she'd make alarms go off.

At 1pm, they decided circumstances were favorable, and I should start pushing. The only problem was that I had no idea HOW to push. Everyone had explained to me prior to this point that it was a feeling of "bearing down" (or in plainer speak: pooping) but I couldn't quite figure out how to do the equivalent of pooping but focused on the front side of my pelvis. We'd wait for a contraction to start, then I'd start pushing (maybe?) and then afterwards ask the L&D nurse and my doula, "did I do it? Did that work?" because HOW ON EARTH are you supposed to know what it feels like? Also I couldn't really feel much down in that vicinity anyway (STILL LOVE YOU DRUGS, KISSES) so I couldn't tell if what I was doing was having the desired effect. I mean, a baby didn't pop out within 20 minutes, so was I pushing wrong? Pushing badly? Flexing the wrong parts? Actually pooping? I still have no idea.

By 2pm, pushing had not produced a baby, and for the first time in 12 hours my contractions slowed down, coming only every 5 minutes or so. They decided to give me pitocin because WTF body, this is not the time to take a step back, there is a baby IN YOUR DANG BIRTH CANAL waiting to come out. By 2:30, there was still no baby, although apparently her head was visible to everyone on each push, but she kept slipping back behind my pelvic bone between pushes. After this happened a number of times, the doctor very calmly but firmly told me it was time to try a vacuum assist because the baby needed to come out NOW. And if it didn't work, I would need an emergency c-section.

This is exactly the reason I wanted a doula there. I immediately looked at her, panicked, because vacuum assist? Emergency c-section? Is this what needs to happen now and should I be scared? She squeezed my hand, told me it would be fine and that I could do it. So I nodded at the doctor, and she started gathering the vacuum tools.

The way it actually works it kind of nuts - they literally stick a suction cup up your business and attach it to the baby's skull. It was very good that I had an epidural already.  Then when I pushed, the doctor would pull on the suction cup at the same time. She warned me that if the suction cup popped off, she could only attach it twice more; if it came off a third time, that was when the emergency c-section would come into play. She rammed a hand up my lady bits and attached the cup; we waited for a contraction; I pushed; she pulled. The suction cup popped off.

Take two: attach; contract; push; pull... pop.

Take three, HAHA NO PRESSURE JUST IF THIS DOESN'T WORK YOU GET AN EMERGENCY C-SECTION: attach; contract; push; pull; PUSH PUSH KEEP PUSHING AGAIN AGAIN PUSH PUSH and all of a sudden I understood the pooping analogy because it honestly suddenly felt like the most terrifyingly large and painful poop in the world was stuck halfway out of my body and OW OW GET IT OUT I SWEAR I'M PUSHING AGAIN GET OUT and suddenly we had a baby.

She arrived at 3pm and was 8lb 10oz, 22" inches long, and (I found out later) scored very well on her Apgars. 

She also somehow managed to poop all over me, the bed, my gown, and several pieces of equipment within minutes of her birth. It was kind of impressive.

Day 2

Day 157 (5 months, 4 days)


  1. I had an epidural at 2-3 cm, and people definitely experience pain VERY DIFFERENTLY and ALSO have DIFFERENT AMOUNTS OF IT. My mom has a friend who is, unfortunately for all of her patients, a maternity nurse, and who had each of her three babies in about an hour of labor/delivery each, and also describes the pain of labor as "a little crampy." I PROMISE THAT WAS NOT MY EXPERIENCE, LADY.

  2. OMG I love this story. Also it was just the distraction I needed from the world-ending news of the moment. Also your baby is absolutely the cutest, omg.

  3. I love this! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow! Go, you! Thank heavens for the cute reward at the end of all that.

  5. What a great story! I love the last picture of Juliette- she is super adorable!

  6. HI SQUISH! Isn't it kind of amazing that we were also all able to text each other while going through the labor process with updates? I'm still amazed we were able to do that. THANK YOU EPIDURAL.

  7. This is so well written and entertaining! I am happy the suction worked and you were able to avoid the c-section! And that you felt so much better after all the fluid was out, oh yeah, and that epidural. How did you feel about that again?! LOL! Congrats again!

  8. Beeebeeee!!!!

    She's perfect, and this story, oh my word, I was all heart anxious and fluttery throughout, and I knew the ending was a darling squish of a baby! Dah!


  9. (Also? Yes, in fact, I am a month late in commenting. Part of my charm. Or something.)


  10. AAAAAND somehow I missed this, too! (Which is really odd because I LOVE birth stories!) Oh, yeah, that pelvic pressure... I had something-or-other with my last baby and it took away the pain but the P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E was commented on by me every single contraction.
    Aren't those 2-minute contractions fun? So fun... but in the end, it's all worth it because a beautiful SQUISHIE is your reward. She was beautiful then and now.
    Congrats all over again, mama. ♥