I apologize in advance for how long this is. My dear husband, Lieutenant Lovemuffin, took notes throughout my labor, as advised to do by our friends Joe and Ellie. I am so thankful that he did because I'm sure I would have forgotten some of the details by now.
WARNING: This post includes words from the female human anatomy. If that makes you uncomfortable, please close this window now. ;-)
Let me give a little back story before I begin... because it's important to note why things got off to a rocky start before the whole labor process even began.
What I wanted out of labor: a natural, unmedicated birth, skin-to-skin contact immediately after, breastfeeding right away... you know, the picture perfect scenario.
Long story short, I got NONE of those things. It is important to note that I DID get a healthy baby out of it, and I am so thankful for my little girl... but I am SO tired of hearing people say, "at least she's healthy"... because yes, I am glad for that, trust me. But I definitely needed time to grieve my birth scenario because it did NOT go at all as I'd planned, and that was a tough pill to swallow.
When I was pregnant, I had several kidney stones. Yes, they were painful. Yes, I stayed in the hospital for several days... a couple times. During this time, I was used like a pin cushion - techs being trained to draw blood tried SEVEN times once to get some of mine. It was a horrible experience, and I started to dread going in for appointments. And then the high blood pressure started. Doctors diagnosed me with chronic hypertension, even though my blood pressure would be back down to normal before I left my appointments (they always took it twice to make sure). I'm sure what I had was simply "white coat syndrome" after dealing with many of the staff members at the hospital on base... but I don't have a medical degree, so I trusted the doctors (somewhat begrudgingly) when they said I needed to be induced to prevent preeclampsia.
I argued with them a couple times, I won't lie. I went in for twice weekly NSTs to check on baby's movement and heart rate; she always sounds great. I went in for weekly fluid checks; that was also always great. I went in for biweekly growth scans, and those were always perfect as well. I had ZERO signs/symptoms of preeclampsia other than the high blood pressure, but they didn't want to risk anything and made me get an induction at 39 weeks 1 day. Yes, I am still a little resentful about that because my body was NOT ready (as evidenced by how my labor progressed), and my baby was absolutely not ready (as evidenced by her size).
I did NOT want Pitocin. I knew that it makes contractions far more painful than if they started normally, and since I didn't want an epidural, I did NOT want that extra pain. "Don't worry," they said. "It will be as natural as possible. We won't even have to turn it up very high," they said. I'm not sure if they really thought that or if they were just trying to make me feel better about the situation.
Fast forward to Thursday, September 3rd. Dan and I were told at my last OB appointment the previous Friday that we'd get labor started on the night of the 3rd and have our baby in our arms by the afternoon of the 4th. (Spoiler alert: she wasn't born until well into the 5th of September...)
We checked our bags time and time again. We bought Gatorade. We made reservations for our dog, Smudge, to be boarded. We filled the cats' food and water bowls to the brim so they would be fine while we were gone. We made dinner plans at a burger joint I'd been wanting to check out - we made it our last dinner out as a childless couple. We kind of came to terms with having the timing planned out for us... but I still feel like I got completely ripped off of having the adrenaline rush of labor starting at home, panicking, and driving to the hospital. I really wanted that experience, but instead, we drove to the hospital cool, calm, and collected because we had an appointment.
We decided to take a picture in front of the hospital before going in. It was already dark out, and the hospital was closed, so we had to make it a selfie. The nerves were finally settling in. I thought I'd have my baby in my arms within 12 hours. Oh, how wrong I was...
We went upstairs and got checked in to Labor and Delivery, a place I'd become familiar with after being monitored several times for kidney stone pain. The nurse came in and told me the process we were going to go by, and she could tell I was nervous. Seriously... thank God for nurses. They always seems to know exactly what you need when doctors just don't get it.
The tech came in and started my IV access line for my antibiotics (another thing I didn't want - but lo and behold, I tested positive for Group B Strep in June, so they made me have IV antibiotics throughout labor despite testing negative for it at the end of August - aggravating). At least I was able to walk around with the IV pole. I was NOT about to stay in bed the entire time.
My induction started off with the Foley Bulb - a catheter with a balloon on the end that inflates to open up your cervix. Since I wasn't dilated at all, it needed to be manually dilated before they could start Pitocin the next day. Everything they told me about this process prior to having it placed was that I wouldn't even notice that it was there and that it would simply fall out when it had done its job and I would magically be 4 centimeters dilated.
Hahaha. They are so funny. I took a movie, a book, Dan's thesis to edit... all because I thought that first night would be all sunshine and rainbows. And sleep. That was not the case, however.
The moment that Foley Bulb was put inside me, I was in excruciating pain. Oh, and by the way, I have a crazy high pain tolerance, especially after all those kidney stones. Dan even joked before we knew I'd be induced that we'd probably have the baby at home just because I wouldn't even know I was in labor until it was too late. This pain was awful, though. It was incredible... so much worse than kidney stone pain. It must have started doing its job quickly because contractions came on suddenly and were paced at every 5 minutes or so... ALL.NIGHT.LONG.
Except that it didn't do its job. The Foley Bulb was put in around 11:00PM on September 3rd, and it had to be forcibly removed by a doctor at 7:00AM on the 4th because baby's heart rate was fluctuating like crazy. I wasn't dilated much at all, but as soon as it was out, I felt so much better - almost normal again. They let me eat breakfast and get a couple hours of sleep (since I was awake in agony all night moaning and trying to find a comfortable position, laying, sitting, standing, squatting, walking, etc... and throwing up... over and over again from the severity of the pain).
At 9:00 AM on September 4th, Pitocin was started in my IV to kick start labor since contractions completely went away when the Foley Bulb was removed. Contractions began again, but the pain was manageable this time, so I was able to sleep on and off for a few hours. They gave me some broth to eat at noon, so I did... and then I threw that up. I decided to walk around to see if the gravity or a different position would get things going a little bit. That didn't work.
I dilated only two more centimeters in all of that time, taking me to four centimeters. Pitocin had been increased from one unit to 12 units by this point. Nurses and doctors said normally women don't go above 8 units before their bodies start cooperating... mine was eventually maxed out - all the way at 24 units. The nurses had to keep getting doctors' orders to increase it because they aren't even allowed to themselves after a certain point.
At 3:00 PM, I was still four centimeters dilated, so the doctor broke my water. Now I was on the clock. I knew one way or another, Baby Annabelle would be in my arms in under 24 hours because they don't let you go past that after water is broken in the hospital I delivered at. There was no gush at all... hardly a trickle. I didn't notice much difference, but the pain did increase at this point. The doctor who broke my water said I should definitely start dilating more quickly now that my water was broken.
The nurses upped my Pitocin again, first to 14 units and then to 16 units. My cervix was checked again three hours later at 6:00 PM, and I was still only four centimeters dilated. No progress. At all. I started crying, and Dan told me this is when I said the most ridiculous thing:
"Why doesn't she want to meet us? I think we're pretty cool."
I mean... it had been nearly 24 hours already, and she just showed no signs of coming out. I was starting to wonder if she actually WANTED to be a part of our family.
I gave in an had some Nubain for pain relief. It didn't do much, but it allowed me about an hour of rest. I could still feel everything, but it made me loopy enough to not care for a little while. I slept for about an hour and then kept throwing up. How fun.
Around 7:30 PM, I decided to take a warm shower... or rather stand in the shower. The warm water helped a lot with pain, but contractions had been coming every 3-5 minutes for over 10 hours, so my body was just done.
After my shower, I was checked again and had made some progress, albeit very little: I was now at 5 centimeters. It seemed like things were taking way longer than expected, and that was confirmed when the doctors and nurses all said most women who are induced have their babies within 12 hours of starting, and I had been going strong for about 24 hours with only five of ten centimeters dilated. I was starting to lose faith in my body, and I was extremely frustrated at this point.
That's when Dan decided to give me my "push present" - even though I was nowhere near pushing. He gave me an awesome shirt that has a T-Rex on it and says Mommysaurus Rex. I've worn it a couple time with Annabelle - I always make sure she's wearing dinosaurs too. He also surprised me with a baby book about the Kansas City Royals that I desperately wanted for Annabelle. So sweet. And he gave me a package from my mom and grandma that they had given him earlier (and I had no idea about) full of hard candies and face wipes. It was so nice getting those from them and definitely a mood booster for a little while.
After this, I went for a walk around L&D several times... trying to move around and get things going. Nothing changed except that I threw up again... so the nurses decided to stop my Pitocin so they could restart it and try to jumpstart my labor. It didn't work... my body did not respond at all. The doctor on call told me that my body was not relaxing... so the nurse (and Dan) did everything they could to talk me into getting an epidural. I did not want one. I cried and cried and cried. I felt like a complete failure (and part of me STILL does). But in the end, it was the best choice for my labor experience. I was able to relax and sleep for the rest of that night after 27 hours of active labor and contractions every 3-5 minutes.
In the morning at 7:00, the doctor who had promised me I'd have a baby before her shift was over ended her shift. The baby was still inside of me... and I was STILL dilated to five centimeters. Overnight, even with relaxing and sleeping and ever increasing doses of Pitocin... I had still not dilated one more centimeter. That doctor told me I needed to seriously consider having a c-section because I would have to before 3:00 PM when it would be 24 hours since my water broke.
At this point, I was bawling. I did NOT want a c-section. Everything about it terrified me, but I mostly just wanted to ensure that I got skin-to-skin time with my baby immediately after she was born, not an hour later. Well, God works in mysterious ways because my favorite nurse from the day before showed up and calmed me down. She told me not to worry because we were going to get that baby out before 3:00, so I didn't need to worry. She felt around my stomach on the outside and noticed that the baby was laying funny, and she immediately knew that was why my body wasn't progressing.
She helped me position into a weird little ball, all while hugging a pillow in a very uncomfortable / awkward way. I was willing to try anything, though, and she told me that this would move the baby, who was lying diagonally inside of me with her head facing forward and into my right hip.
Within one hour of the nurse helping me out, I was already at six centimeters. One more hour passed, and I told them to check me again because I felt like I had to push. No one believed me (and I can understand why), but I was at 9 centimeters! Things were really picking up now. My epidural never took on the right side, but now it was wearing off on the left side as well, just in time for pushing - which I was happy about because I wanted to be able to feel my baby coming out.
Before I knew it, I couldn't hold anything in anymore. I HAD to push. The nurse checked, and sure enough, I was 10 centimeters and ready to go! Poor Dan had JUST walked into the hall to eat, and they had to drag him back in. The doctor on call (it was a holiday weekend, so limited staffing) was busy with an emergency, so I was told not to push yet... and it was SO tough. But soon enough, the doctor was ready, and I was able to start pushing.
I pushed consistently, every contraction, for about an hour. I made great progress with each one, and the baby looked amazing on the monitor... everyone kept telling me what a natural I was at pushing, and before I knew it, I could see her head coming out in the mirror I requested. That was a feeling like I'd never experienced, and it motivated me to keep going. The pushing didn't hurt at all (remember, the epidural had worn off; I could feel my legs completely), and it was hands down the easiest and most natural part of labor. It went by quickly, and at about 11:35 AM, Annabelle head was out... but then the doctor noticed her cord was wrapped around her neck not once but twice! So they all told me to stop pushing while they cut the cord away. I feel bad for Dan since he didn't have the opportunity to cut it himself, but we are thankful the doctor could take care of it so quickly. The two doctors and nurse in the room all said they were shocked that her cord was around her neck because ALWAYS that shows up on the monitor in the form of decreased or increased heart rate, and that almost always leads to a c-section... so I am incredibly thankful that didn't happen.
At 11:38 AM on Saturday, September 5th, 2015, after 37.5 hours of grueling labor, Annabelle Kathryn was born, weighing 6 pounds 3 ounces and measuring 19.5 inches long. She was placed immediately on my chest, and it was pure euphoria. But about 20 seconds later, the three pediatricians in the room noticed she wasn't crying, so they took her to examine her... for 45 minutes. She was in the same room as us the whole time, and I had Dan go watch and give me updates... and he even snapped some photos so I could see what was going on. It turns out that Annabelle's head was severely bruised from laying the way she was inside of me for so long... so what was causing me all the pain and lack of progress actually made her head all bruised inside. She was monitored for lots of jaundice due to the bruising, but she's 100% okay.
Annabelle is still a really chill baby, so that's probably why she didn't cry right away. She was just taking everything in.