*Gabby’s Story, Washington

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My doctor was out of town for my 39-week appointment, which when I first found out she’d be away I thought “yeah, the baby is going to come that week.” Instead of waiting to see her until the following Monday when she was back in the office, I decided to keep on schedule with my appointments and see a different doctor (Dr. B, who is my mom’s doctor). My appointments were always pretty routine, blood pressure check, weight check, listen to the heart. For whatever reason, my daughter’s heartrate had gone up over 190, and my blood pressure was very high. I sat and rested for a few minutes, which helped some, but both were still unusually high. To make sure everything was okay, Dr. B sent me to OB triage at the hospital. I texted my mom and husband to let them know that it was probably fine, but that I was going to be checked out. I thought about stopping at Starbucks for breakfast and maybe stopping at home to get my bag *just in case*, but ended up doing neither and just going straight to the hospital. I had my car valeted, met my mom, and went up to triage.

This was my second time in triage – I had gone in about a week and a half prior due to an irritable uterus a.k.a. basically a neverending contraction. They got me hooked up to the contraction monitor, the heartrate monitor, and the blood pressure machine, which at this point were all fine (of course). They did some blood work which suggested the possibility that I was in the early stages of pre-eclampsia, so I had an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay with the baby. There were 4 things that they looked for, for a possible score of 8. I got a 2, because someone decided not to do what they were looking for. I went back to the triage room and mentioned to the OB on call that I was feeling the baby move. She did another ultrasound and confirmed that yes things seemed to be just fine. However, this was just the determining factor between an emergency c-section and being induced. After a conversation with Dr. B, they decided it would be best for me to be induced that day and not risk anything happening to me or the baby.

Being induced sucks.

I have always heard horror stories about being induced and how awful it makes labor, and yeah, it’s true. The first few dosages of medication have to go up near the cervix, and when you have a nurse who doesn’t exactly have a gentle touch (we’ll call her nurse knife hands), it made that experience 10,000 times worse. Like, worse than some of my contractions. I also hadn’t eaten since breakfast that morning. So I was hungry, tired, and sore. After about 4 dosages the not-so-fun way, my water broke at midnight on April 21st, which meant the subsequent dosages until I started pitocin could be taken orally (hooray!). Nurse knife hands was on call until 6, and then the day shift nurse took over. I think this was the point when I started the pitocin drip, which started off slowly and ramped up.

Contractions. suck.

I walked around, bounced on a ball, and tried to help move things along. I figured by the time they checked me in the afternoon I’d be further along.

To quote friends:

Rachel: How many centimeters am I dilated?    Eight? Nine?

Dr. Long: Three.

Ross: Just three? I’m dilated three!

Except I was only two.

I had planned to have a natural (drug-free) pregnancy, but after 27 hours of labor and no sleep I decided to have an epidural. I had heard some scary stories about things going wrong with the epidural, but I had an amazing anesthesiologist and the day nurse was fantastic as well. I asked them when it would start working. They told me that I had already had two contractions since they put it in. So, it kicks in fast. This was about 6 pm, so the day nurse switched off with the night nurse, J.

Since I was still at 2 cm and because I finally was comfortable enough to take a nap, my mom and sister went home figuring nothing would be happening until the next day.

I was able to sleep until about 11, when I woke up and asked if the nurse could see how things were going. My regular doctor had told me that some women get an epidural and are able to relax enough that they finally progress in their labor. Lucky for me, this was my experience. In 5 hours, I had gone from a 2 to an 8. I texted my mom and sister to say guess what! I might actually get to push soon! I am a little foggy on the timing but I think they were both about to go to sleep when I texted them so they came back to the hospital. I still had a ways to go, so they napped in the waiting room and I rested a bit more.

To stay comfortable I was laying on my side, and with the epidural if you lay on one side too long it sort of wears off on the other side, so I had to use the peanut ball for a while to try to get things to even out. My nurse J knew all of the tips and tricks for getting things going and getting comfortable. She was amazing. I think it was 3 amwhen I was finally at 10 and ready to start pushing. By this point, the epidural wasn’t strong enough to help with the pain. They gave me a few boosters and I could still feel a lot of pain.

I pushed. And pushed and pushed. And for some reason, my contractions were slowing down to a point where it was basically cancelling out all of the pushing that I was trying to do. This went on for 2 hours, and Dr. B finally realized that she was stuck.

Shoulder dystocia occurs in 0.3 – 1% of births. Basically her shoulders got stuck on my pelvis, so no amount of pushing was going to get her out. My doctor used the McRoberts maneuver, which meant that I had to push (while not having a contraction) while a nurse pushed down (in the direction of my feet) on my stomach and Dr. B vacuumed the baby out. She was sideways instead of face down, which would also explain why I had so much trouble pushing. In hindsight, I think a c-section would have been better than going through all of that.

So after a lot of hours of labor and pushing, at 5:31 am on April 22nd the light of my life came in to the world.

It’s a good thing I didn’t read about shoulder dystocia until about a month after she was born, because there are a lot of scary things that can go wrong with it (broken arm, broken collarbone, death) but she came out perfect.

The baby classes talked about episiotomies and tearing, but did you know there is a 4th degree tear? I didn’t, until I had one. It took an hour for the OB surgeon to sew me back together. They had to give me even more pitocin because I was hemorrhaging, increase my epidural, plus pump me full of a bunch of other pain killers because I kept flinching. Here I had imagined having a relatively easy, drug-free birth, and I experienced the complete opposite. I didn’t get to have my daughter put on my chest when she came out because the NICU team had to make sure that she was okay. I was flat on my back for an hour being put back together, so I didn’t get to try breastfeeding right away. I had been pumped full of so many drugs I threw up a couple of times. I had slept maybe 5 hours in 3 days, so I was exhausted. The day nurse from the day before switched with J, and took care of  footprints, and got her length and weight. 9 pounds at 39 weeks, I can’t imagine what she would have been on time or late.

Those first few days are a fog at this point, which is probably for the best. Postpartum depression hit me hard, along with anxiety and PTSD of the delivery. I lost all 50 pounds and then some within 3 weeks of giving birth. I sobbed any time I thought about her birth. Or any time I thought about the idea of doing that all again someday. My anxiety was so bad that I didn’t want anyone to hold her. I didn’t want anyone to come over. I didn’t want to sleep because I thought something was going to happen to her while we slept. Now at almost 14 months later, my anxiety is well-managed with medication, but I still can’t think about or read about my labor and delivery (or anyone else’s for that matter) without having awful flashbacks. I love my daughter more than I can express in words, but I don’t know if pregnancy is something I’ll ever do again.

*Gabby ~ Washington USA

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