This is going to be the longest post in the history of It's a Wonderful Life, but definitely the most special. I've been meaning to type out Henry's birth story for sometime now and while he sleeps here soundly in my arms I find myself wondering how time has already gone by so fast. These events are not exact I'm sure, but I have tried my best to remember them all. We are so lucky to have our baby H here, safe and warm in our arms.
The plan was to stay at home as long as possible. Breathe through the contractions in the comfort of our dimly lit bedroom and listen to music on our comfy couch until they became so strong that I decided it was time to head to the hospital. During said contractions I would finish packing our bag, make an awesome playlist to listen to, and bake some cookies for the nursing staff that would be taking care of me. Of course as we all know, things seldom go as planned.
Monday, January 18th: G and I woke up extra early for my 41 week appointment at the OB/GYN. I took an extra long shower and watched my stomach wiggling around under the water. H was already a week overdue and I was convinced that this child had taken the "we'll let you go two weeks over your due date before inducing" comment from my doctor as a generous invitation to stay inside my uterus for as long as possible.
I put Carissa's Wierd on the computer and got dressed, thinking about how much my life has changed in such a short amount of time. Trying so hard to picture what it would be like to have a whole new chapter in our lives beginning in less than a week. One week seemed like not enough time. One week. Seven days. Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap. In seven days we'd have a baby. I was still freaking out about this realization as we climbed into the car for my 9:00 appointment.
My appointment went as usual: pee in a cup, answer questions, weigh in, answer questions, blood pressure, answer questions, cervix check with no dilation or effacement, ask lots of questions. I asked the nurse "How far over is my doctor going to let me go again?" and informed me that since H was still a little on the tiny side and seemed to be doing just fine they'd probably let me go one more week.
"If he's not out by then, we'll talk about inducing or possibly c-section." I silently prayed that it would not come down to either of those...I had heard waaay to many horror stories about Pitocin and we had already decided months ago that cesarean was not what we wanted for our little guy.
"We'll set you up with an appointment for three days from now and see if you've progressed" the nurse told me as she left the room. About five minutes later she popped her head back in and suggested that we run a quick stress test, just to make sure everything was still going alright in there. G and I settled in and I was strapped to the machine. While we listened to baby's rhythmic heart beat and pressed a button every time he'd move around we talked about what we were going to do for the rest of the day. G had the day off because it was MLK day and we were both excited to have at least one more full day together, just the two of us before H arrived. G wanted to get some lunch somewhere fun and play music. I was excited to finish sewing a bunch of baby clothes I had started the night before and to go on another long walk so that H would (hopefully) drop.
About twenty minutes into the test, the nurse came in and looked at the heart rate strip. She smiled pleasantly and left the room again. I wanted to tell her that I thought he hadn't been moving as much as he usually does on these tests but convinced myself that I didn't know how they work and that since she smiled so nicely, everything was going alright. Another twenty minutes later she came back and placed a buzzer on my stomach that was supposed to "scare the baby" so that he'd wake up. She buzzed it and left again. No movement from H. "He's really sleeping hard!!" I joked with G. The third time looking at the strip, the nurse wasn't so cheery anymore. She said that his movement was questionable and suggested that we head over to triage for a "routine" ultrasound and another, more in-depth stress test.
On the way to the main part of the hospital, we looked over the packet of paper work she had sent with us. Many of the papers said, "FAILED stress test" and G and I again joked our way across the parking lot. "Oh man, he's already failing his tests...how will he ever make it into college?" G said with a smile. I laughed really hard and tried not to worry about the papers in my hand.
We checked into triage and I was wheeled up to one of the tiny rooms that had been made by sectioning off parts of a large room with ugly colored cotton curtains. The nurse told me to fully undress and stick all of my belongings in a bag labeled "St. Joe's/Candler Hospital". I really didn't understand why this was necessary, considering I was only having an ultrasound and another stress test. No big whoop, right? Why were they making this such a big production (I mean, a wheelchair and personal escort....seriously?) She entered someone else's information into the computer, which I didn't catch until she told me that my blood type was O something. I'm A positive. This and the fact that they wouldn't let G come in to be with me really had me going. At this point I was not so smiley anymore and baby H got the hiccups in my belly, like he always did whenever I got really nervous about something. Two nurses stood outside my claustrophobic room, whispering things about me (which only made me more nervous). One said, "Well I wouldn't have waited this long. If the charts had been different maybe this wouldn't have happened. I guess everyone just does things differently around here." Finally G came in and I settled into the cold bed, nervous but definitely more at ease with him holding my hand.
Fifteen minutes and three apple juices later I was disconnected from the NST and my WHOLE BED was wheeled down the hall for an ultrasound. As I was leaving, I heard a nurse say, "You can just leave her things there...she's probably going to be staying." (WAIT. WHAT?! Say's who? What's going on?! OMG).
The ultrasound showed baby H to be sunny side up and weighed him in at a whopping 9 lbs, 13 oz. HOLY. How could he have gotten SO BIG!? I was still measuring so small and had only gained 21 lbs the entire pregnancy. What happened to my doctor "knowing that the baby is still so small?" The ultrasound technician printed us off our last picture of baby in utero and we both stared at it in disbelief until they came to wheel my bed back to triage. I laughed the whole way back, we joked about using duct tape instead of stitches after a c-section and made fun of the fact that I was being wheeled around on a bed when I could still walk perfectly fine. I was glad I was getting to see the birthing rooms and see what the hospital was like before my labor (I had convinced myself it was still happening in a week. This was just a practice run).
Back in the triage room the nurse told me that they were going to go ahead and "get things started". I teared up and asked what that meant and they laughed and said, "We're going to induce labor, hun." This is the point in the story where I totally loose it. I'm talking full on wailing, whole body shaking, mascara down my face sobbing. A nurse laughed and said, "Most women this far over due can't wait to have there baby. Hun, he's gotta come out sometime!" I'm not sure if I've ever written about my extreme fear of anything doctor related, which could really be a whole post in itself but "induce labor" are not the best words to spring on a girl who can't even handle getting a finger prick or a routine dental check up. Poor nurses.
At 1:00 pm I was given Cervidil, a drug to soften my cervix and to help me dilate. We hung out with Larisa and watched horrible TV shows. By eight that night I was beginning to have very mild contractions but by two in the morning (January 19th) they were not strong enough so they decided to start me on Pitocin. Once I started contracting an hour or so later I could see why nobody had ever shared a positive Pitocin experience with me. I felt like my stomach was being wrung out like a wet towel and my back ached. Even though I have experienced them now, there is no easy way to describe what a contraction really feels like. You are in so much pain though that it becomes a chore just to breathe through them (each one lasting roughly 30-60 seconds). There's an smoother beginning, super intense peak, and then a slight easing of pain ending each one. Your body gives you a few seconds to catch your breath and regroup your thoughts and then it happens all over again. And again. And again. And again.
I waited until I could no longer handle them on my own before breaking down and asking for some Stadol to ease the pain. They offered me an Ambien for sleep, telling me that I wouldn't be getting much over the next day (again, WHY are you telling me this?) I turned it down but informed them that I was totally counting on an epidural at that point. They said they'd get it ready and I could have it as soon as I asked.
By five in the morning the contractions were almost unbearable. I am truly in awe of women who labor drug free. I tried walking around the room but standing up only made them worse. I spent a long time hunched over, trying to stretch my back in a way that would relieve the pressure. Nothing.
Those contractions began hurting me so much that having a needle stabbed into my spine was finally beginning to sound less horrifying. The anesthesiologist came in and told me that he was on his way to a surgery and so he had to do it quickly. He got frustrated with me when I started freaking out and was probably the most impatient person I had to deal with at the hospital. I was surprised at how little the whole thing actually hurt. I had spent most of my pregnancy convinced it would be incredibly painful and scary. Afterwards I called my mom to brag to her about how I had handled the epidural like a total champ (the finger nail marks on poor G's shoulder told a different story). I told her and G how excited I was to have the next contraction that I wouldn't even feel. I breathed through a few more over the phone and then said goodbye to my mom. Hanging up the phone then was the scariest goodbye I have ever had to say.
Half an hour later my back was still hurting the EXACT same, even though my stomach area was a little numb. I could hardly breathe through the pain. I had been counting on that epidural working and now it wasn't!! My body was aching and I was loosing energy. I told G that I didn't know how I could handle pain this intense for ten more hours. I just wanted to shut down.
A new, much nicer anesthesiologist came in and added more medication to my epidural box (I later found out this was morphine!!) and the pain finally went away. I spent the next hour dozing in and out, seeing weird images on the wall (a light in the window looked like the cover of Being John Malkovich and I felt like he was watching me). I wanted to sleep now that the pain was gone but felt like if I did I wouldn't be able to wake myself up.
An hour or so later (a little foggy at this point) the burning sensation in my lower back returned and woke me up. They came back and put more morphine into my epidural and G and I laid back down to try and rest. A while later we were both woken up by more pain and my OB/GYN staring at the heart rate monitor, asking the nurse how long she had planned on letting the baby's heart rate stay at 90. I looked at the screen and it was flashing red, the lines were choppy and much shorter than they had looked before.
I believe a normal baby heart rate is between 140 and 160, so 90 was not good. In a matter of seconds we had five doctors surrounding us, all yelling at each other and looking confused. They strapped an oxygen mask over my mouth and told me to breathe deeply. They fed me a sour drink that tasted like what I would imagine battery acid tastes like and began wiping my stomach clean. My doctor told me that the baby was probably not going to be birthed normally and as soon as she said "C-Section" I said, " I DON'T CARE! JUST GET HIM OUT!" I remember being relieved that the whole thing would soon be over. I had been in so much pain for so long that a cesarean sounded wonderful.
They threw G a pair of scrubs and told him to quickly get dressed and meet us in the OR. The baby's heart rate was still dropping every time I would contract and they needed to get me in there immediately. In the OR they pinched my stomach and asked me if I could feel it. I asked them where my husband was and they said, "He's coming, okay? He'll be here." I was so scared, all I wanted was G there to hold my hand. I thought I was loosing the baby I had spent the last nine months falling in love with and I was terrified. I just wanted my husband there to comfort me.
The nice anesthesiologist pulled my arms out to my side and again asked me if I could feel him pinching me. The last thing I remember before H being born is looking to the right at my arm stretched out and wondering why they had to do that.
At 10:00 am I woke up. A few nurses said, "Hey hun! Do you remember hearing your baby cry?" I must have looked so confused. "Your baby is okay. He's in the nursery, everything is fine." After a few seconds I was able to put it all together and was instantly overwhelmed with emotions I had never felt before. I was so happy and relieved and excited. I cried (more like SOBBED) until the pillow my head was resting on was soaked. My doctor came in and brushed some hair off of my forehead. She said that everything was okay and that I could see my baby soon. I have never been so happy.
I later learned that they had to get Baby H out so fast that they didn't let G even come in the room. Poor G had to sit outside, terrified and wondering what was going on (they hadn't explained anything to him), while a group of surgeon's operated on his wife in a completely different room. The whole thing had happened so fast that they didn't even have time to count their instruments beforehand. They had to x-ray my body afterwards to make sure they hadn't sewn any of them in.
I spent half an hour recovering in the OR and then I was wheeled off to a much nicer recovery room in the mother/baby unit. Forty minutes after the whole ordeal, they wheeled tiny Henry into our room. The first time I saw him my heart completely melted. All of the pain and worry I had experienced suddenly felt like nothing. I watched him come closer to me and realized that it was all worth it. While he rested peacefully on my chest, I listened to his tiny breaths and felt so proud that I hadn't given up.
Holding baby H for the first time was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I couldn't stop crying and looking at his chubby cheeks. I stared at him through teary eyes thinking how amazing it was to finally meet the little person I been sharing my body with for the past nine months. How just an hour ago I thought I was loosing him and now here he was, breathing on my chest. Everything about him was simply perfect. I kissed G and we both stared at Henry in disbelief, just as we had the ultrasound picture a mere day before. All of my pain melted away and every inch of my body felt completely relaxed.
Our little baby was finally here and he was perfect in every way.
At first part of me was a little disappointed that I hadn't been able to birth him the way I had wanted. I didn't get to hold him right away or even hear his very first cries. The Pitocin ripped through my lower body with a vengeance, making it work harder than it had ever done before. I had been given an epidural that never even worked anyway and pumped full of morphine without my consent.
Now that we've had three weeks with Henry I feel differently about everything. I watch him sleeping at night and realize that I wouldn't change a thing. His story is completely unique and the whole situation was totally out of our hands anyway. All that matters is that we have been given the opportunity to watch him breathe peacefully at night and the chance to spend every moment with our little guy. He is here with us now, safe and sound, and for that I'd easily do the whole thing over again...a million times more.