Luke's Birth: Pitocin, Forceps, and a Warrior Mother
I was nervous but excited beyond words for both of my babies' births. This is the story about Luke's birth (my first).
With Luke, it was a 1:30am drive to the hospital located 30 minutes away because we weren't sure if my water had broken. I say that, and people are like, "Whaaat? How could you not know??!" My underwear and pajama pants were slightly wet, but not ridiculously so. The sheets weren't even wet. Definitely not what you see in the movies!
We went in to the hospital birth center and the triage nurse did an exam and said she could feel my bag of waters so it probably is a false alarm, but they would do a swab to test for amniotic fluid, just in case. What do you know, it was positive! Apparently, I had a high water break on the top side of my belly, which lead to a slow trickle.
So they hooked my belly up to fetal monitoring and it turns out, I also had no idea that I was having contractions that were regularly a little less than 5 minutes apart, too. I truly did not feel anything - even though the monitor showed the contractions were at 75-90% intensity. The only way I knew I was having a contraction was the skin of my belly got tighter and harder (more than it already was at it's maxed out, 9 months state).
It took a while for them to admit me because they were transitioning to a new electronic medical system but finally, a couple of hours later, I was in my birthing suite.
I know they tell you to rest, but seriously? How is rest anywhere even possible at that point for any soon to be mother? The anticipation, thrill, excitement... they should just give you some sort of hypnosis or something.
When the shifts switched over in the morning, somewhere between 8 and 9am, the new doctor came in, who turned out to be one of my favorites in the practice, which gave me some relief. Also, April, my Labor & Delivery nurse was AMAZING. She kept us laughing the entire day. Even though I was having regular contractions, 3-4 minutes apart and of pretty high intensity, I had not dilated any more than when I arrived. She decided to break the lower side of my bag of waters and that was the ridiculous whoosh! of fluid that I was expecting!
A couple of hours later, she checked me again, still no progression to my labor and they started giving me pitocin to dilate me further. That was when I really started feeling the pain of the contractions - they went from 0-60.
About noontime, I asked for an epidural because it was too much. Still hadn't slept since waking up at midnight, but excited and STARVING. Ice chips and freezer pops just don't do it when you haven't eaten since 6pm the night before. I was fully dilated by early afternoon, but they wanted me to wait a little longer before pushing.
Around 3:30pm, I started pushing. And pushing. And pushing. April was so supportive and such a constant in the marathon day. Even though I had an IV and epidural, I pushed in all different positions to try to get the baby to move down. After 3 hours of pushing, I was completely exhausted and literally practically sleeping between contractions and pushing. They also were giving me oxygen.
The doctor determined that the baby's head was stuck on a protrusion of my pelvis and she was going to try using forceps. The crazy thing is, I asked in my birthing class about the use of forceps because my mom had to have forceps used for all 5 of her babies for the same reason - a weird bony pelvis. The nurse teaching the childbirth class said they don't use forceps anymore because they now use a vacuum suction device that attaches to the baby's head instead. They even passed the vacuum thing around for us to try it out on our hand.
The doctor also said that if they couldn't get the baby out after a two tries with the forceps, they'd have to do an emergency c-section because the baby's heart rate was starting to be affected during contractions.
After I tried to tell the doctor they aren't supposed to use forceps any more (ha!!) and asked about the vacuum, she said that in my case, the vacuum wouldn't be strong enough due to the baby's position.
This also moved me into the category of higher risk so the neonatal team came in, the surgical team, and the anesthesiology team.
To top it off, the shift change happens at 7 so I had double the number of people - the doctors and nurses who had been there all day as well as the ones who were taking over the next shift - there must have been 20 people in there!
I was crying and terrified, but my husband Bryan and April were holding my hands trying to reassure me.
April was such an advocate for me the entire day - I cannot thank her enough for how completely wonderful she was for us. Bryan even made me take off my glasses so I couldn't see. ;) (You should hear his description of this - hilarious.)
The anesthesiologist gave me an extra booster of epidural medicine to help out with the forceps situation and the doctor inserted the forceps. Even with the epidural, I still felt the forceps inside of me. The next contraction came and I pushed and the doctor pulled, but no movement from the baby. She said we'd do one more push and if it didn't work, we'd move on to the c-section.
I did my final push and FINALLY, Luke came out.
As they lifted him up, cut the cord (Bryan had no interest in doing that), and handed him to the neonatologist to be assessed, he started crying and pooped across the floor - way to make an entrance, kid. The rest of the experience was really a blur. I remember delivering the placenta and finally getting to hold Luke. I was so utterly thrilled, happy, exhausted, and yes, STARVING. :) 3 hours of pushing and not eating for over 24 hours does that to you!
They cleaned everything up, cleared out the zillion people, and I was taken to my postpartum suite. Because Luke's delivery time was 6:53pm, I didn't qualify to stay an extra day in the hospital. He was born on Thursday evening and I was out of the hospital by Saturday am.
After the birth
While some people want to be in the hospital for as short as possible, in retrospect, I would have been so much better if I had stayed. By the time Luke had his first pediatrician's appointment on Monday morning, he had lost more than 15% of his birthweight, was jaundiced, and almost readmitted to the hospital immediately. I thought I was nursing him as he'd latch on and suck, but it turns out my milk didn't end up coming in for over a week after his birth. I worked with a lactation consultant and we did intensive nursing/pumping/feeding formula to help him gain weight and get my milk to come in.
Nursing was a constant struggle for me the entire year I breastfed him in combination with him having insane acid reflux. The first month of his life was probably the most stressful, awful month of my life. In addition to all of our problems with Luke's weight and nursing, two weeks after he was born, I contracted a terrible stomach bug and spent a day in the hospital getting iv fluids. Two weeks after that, I suffered a ruptured ovarian cyst.
Another weird complication was that with all of the pushing, I ended up with nerve damage in my left leg from the knee down. I injured the myelin sheath, which, luckily, wasn't permanent. But I lost sensation in the front part of my knee and lower leg for about 15 months. Visiting a neurologist was another fun part of that first month at home! The neurologist said that he was happy to have me come in, because he had only ever read about that happening, never experienced it clinically with a patient. So it is very rare, but I wanted to let you know in case you ever encounter it.
When it rains, it pours!!
In the end, I now have a happy, healthy 4 year old who is off the charts for height. He was worth it!! :)
Reflecting on our breastfeeding struggles
I think after Luke's birth, I felt such a profound sense of failure. I failed at feeding him so much that he was almost readmitted to the hospital, I failed at producing milk... I failed at being a mom and taking care of the little being I brought into the world from the first three days of his life. As I had said before, breastfeeding was a constant struggle. I had to take herbal supplements to boost my supply for 10 months until he was eating solid foods more regularly. And he had terrible acid reflux and puked ALL. THE. TIME. I felt so disheartened that all the hard work I was doing to produce just enough milk to feed him was then getting thrown up all over our floor, clothes, etc... multiple times a day. Even though he was sleeping through the night at 4 months, I was waking up every night at 2 am to pump to keep my supply up, as well as to have enough extra for him the next day at day care.
The same thing happened with Anna, although she didn't gain weight and Luke did. With Anna, I was ready to give up breastfeeding because her acid reflux was even worse - I cut all dairy and soy out of my diet, she was on the highest doses of acid reflux medicine. But when I tried giving her all sorts of different formulas, she threw those up even more so than she was my breastmilk. So that made the decision for me - I had to continue breastfeeding her to get her as many calories as possible. Hoping she would keep something down long enough to get SOME calories before launching it back. We visited all sorts of specialists, they ran all sorts of tests, but the only thing that came back with information was a confirmation she was allergic to dairy and soy. (Which she has thankfully grown out of by now!) She didn't exhibit the usual symptoms of dairy allergies - skin rash, etc..., just GI involvement, which made it harder to confirm diagnosis. I worked with the same lactation consultant at my pediatrician's office, Dawn, as I did with Luke. She is another amazing woman who provided so much support -medical and emotional- throughout both periods of my life.
Amy is an elementary teacher, loving wife, and proud mother of two. She lives with her family in Virginia. I thank her for her courage and willingness to share her story. She really is a warrior mother. Please feel free to drop her a word of encouragement or share similar experiences in the comments below! Love, Anne Kathryn