It's a long one, but I loved reading birth stories when I was pregnant with my first, so I finally decided to write out my own story.
I was close to 39 weeks pregnant and had been having painful, but non productive, contractions for weeks. They were at the point that I had to leave work for maternity leave early because I was in too much pain to function. I went to my OB appointment and was in tears as there was not much they could do and it was still just a waiting game. The next day I woke up at 2am with the worst contractions yet and after an hour of them not getting better I woke my husband up and off to L&D we went. At L&D triage they checked me and I was having contractions but was only 1cm and the contractions were not regular. They said I was in labor but it was very early and were planning to send me home but my BP was up so they checked my urine. I had just been to the OB the day before so thought this was overkill.
The resident came back and told me the good news was that I’d have my baby today, the bad news was that I had preeclampsia and they were going to induce me immediately. I was told later that I’d developed severe preeclampsia, basically overnight. Looking back I’d had terrible swelling in my legs, but it being my first pregnancy, I thought this was normal. My OB also mentioned that my blood pressure had been creeping up, but he hadn’t mentioned it to me at the appointment because I was already so upset.
I was immediately put on magnesium and told that I could not get out of bed or eat or drink anything. The magnesium was awful and made me feel very hot and loopy. They also put a balloon catheter in to dilate my cervix, and this was one of the most painful parts of the experience. I also needed a catheter in my bladder since I wasn’t allowed out of bed, but compared to the other catheter, this was no big deal. At 7am they started pitocin and I was in active labor. I was told the balloon catheter could take a long time, but when they checked me an hour later and I was already dilated to 4cm and the balloon came out.
I’d been having regular, strong contractions for hours and terrible back labor. Since I was confined to the bed, there was not much I could do to manage the pain so my OB encouraged me to go ahead and get the epidural. It was amazing, immediate relief, and I wanted to kiss the anesthesiologist on the mouth! After the epidural they broke my water to hopefully move things along. After a few hours I had not made any more progress and they could tell from checking me that the baby’s head was turned at an angle, it was not a good presentation for birth but I can’t remember the term they used. They started discussing c-section, but my OB was okay with me waiting a few more hours to see if I’d progress some more. A few hours later I was feeling a lot of pressure and they checked me and I was 90% effaced and at 7cm. They brought in the birth cart with all of the equipment and we felt that things were moving in a good direction. Around 5pm my OB had to leave to catch a flight for an out of town conference. He felt bad leaving me, but also felt that I was making good progress and was in good hands.
Sometime after 6pm a doctor I’d never met barged into the room and blurted out “so your baby’s in distress and you’re going to need a c-section”. We were shocked and she would not give us much information. My sweet nurse who had been with me all day explained that they’d been monitoring the baby from the hall and her heart rate had been decreasing during each contraction (I was unaware of this) and now was abnormally high and had been high for several minutes. They were afraid she was in too much distress. The nurse also gently said that this OB doesn’t have the best bedside manner, but that she was a very capable doctor. I also had still not progressed past 8cm, where I had been for the past three hours.
We agreed to the c-section and had to wait forever because the OB went to do another C-section while we were speaking to the nurse. They brought me in for surgery and my husband had to wait while they prepped me. I remember the same anesthesiologist I’d seen earlier standing over me and stroking my face, telling me everything was going to be okay, he was so kind. They let my husband in and we waited what seemed like forever for the OB and finally got started. At 7:19pm we heard my daughter cry and my husband and I were both in tears, it was the most beautiful sound. My husband could see them cleaning her and kept telling me how strong she looked. He brought her over close to my face and we got to finally meet.
During the rest of the surgery I started to feel a lot of pain and the anesthesiologist realized that the meds had started to wear off since we’d waited so long. It took a while for my pain to be under control. I was told before surgery that she’d go with me to recovery but after surgery I was told they were under staffed and would have to send her to the nursery. I sent my husband with her to do skin to skin and I had to go to recovery alone, which was really difficult for me. The recovery nurse was very kind and told me that her head was trying to come out sideways and there was no way she would have come out vaginally, so the c-section was the right call. After 2 hours in recovery I was finally able to go to the hospital room to see my daughter and hold her for the first time. I have pictures of the moment but it’s a little foggy due to all of the medications, mainly the magnesium. I know I was able to nurse her but don’t remember much of this.
Sometime after midnight we were all trying to get some rest, my husband was asleep on the couch and our daughter was sleeping next to me in her little bed. I turned the light off to get some sleep and remember feeling the sheet was wet. When I looked it was soaked with blood and I thought I’d pulled it out from under me. I almost just went to sleep anyways because I was so exhausted but called the nurse to bring a clean sheet. When the nurse came they could see I was bleeding from my incision. The nurse called another nurse who put a towel over the incision told her “don’t touch it” and immediately ran for the OB. When the OB came to the room the second nurse showed her the towel which was completely soaked with blood. The OB, who had showed no emotion earlier, looked very concerned which freaked me out. I remember the OB asking for the staple remover and then asking if I’d recently had anything from pain. At that point I was so groggy it was almost like an out of body experience. They decided it was too extensive and rushed me back to the OR and put me under general anesthesia.
I woke up in recovery and was so confused. I wasn’t sure if I’d really had a baby or if it had just been a dream. I must have asked the recovery nurse 5 times to tell me what had happened. I also remember thinking, “my baby must be hungry” and begging them to bring me to her. After another few hours in recovery I was finally able to go back to my room to my husband and daughter. My husband had been sitting up all night with our daughter tucked in his shirt to keep her warm. He told me later how scared he was when they took me away. The nurses came in at some point and had him give the baby some formula since I was obviously out of commission for a while. The next day was a blur until 24hours after birth I was able to get off of the magnesium and things started to make sense again. Less than 12 hours after the second surgery I was off of narcotic pain meds and just taking ibuprofen because even with IV Benadryl the itching for the narcotics was so intense I couldn’t rest or sleep at all. Getting off of the mag was wonderful and I was immediately able to get up and get cleaned up. We were also moved to a normal room and I could finally eat and drink after more than 48 hours.
I was in the hospital several more days and the staff were all amazed at my physical recovery. I would hear them talking about my case in the halls and they referred to me as “C-section times two”. It was a little rough emotionally though. A day or two afterwards everything sunk in and I was pretty overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts of what could have happened if I’d just gone to sleep and not called the nurse (and hormone changes didn’t help either I assume). Once I got home my recovery was surprisingly easy. We had significant struggles with breastfeeding and poor supply, but overall my daughter thrived and is now a happy and active 14 month old.
I am now 12 weeks pregnant with our second child. This time around I am being watched very closely for preeclampsia and pray that I will be able to avoid a lot of the complications I faced last time. Congratulations if you made it this far in my story! I know I wrote a novel, but feel that writing it out was the last step in my healing experience, and to prepare me for my next birth experience.