Friday, January 20, 2012

A letter to Oliver (The Very Long Birth Story)

Dear Oliver,

Today you are one year old. Despite all the warnings, I can't believe how fast the time really does go by. Before the details of that day start to fade from my memory, I wanted to tell you the story about how I met you. It's a little bit long and detailed, but maybe that's something you'll appreciate when you're older.

Everything I expected to happened with your birth went the total opposite of how I had planned and wanted it to go, but I was so thrilled with the turn of events and have no complaints. Well...maybe one complaint concerning a new anesthesiologist that took an hour to give me two failed epidurals before calling in "the good anesthesiologist" who's first try had me numbed in minutes...but I'll get to that later

I attribute how well everything went to the man who brought you into this world, Dr. E, along with the amazing staff at FL Hospital Altamonte, and a LOT of prayer from our family and friends across the globe.

First I should tell you that my entire view of pregnancy was completely changed in nine months. In my mind, at the start of the pregnancy, the best thing anyone could and SHOULD do, is have a natural home birth with no medical intervention. I didn't want to see doctors, take any prescriptions, or go to a hospital. I definitely did not want to be induced, would not take pain medications during labor, and for heaven's sake, I would never have a c-section!

So what happened? God taught me a lesson in developing expectations, judging others, and trusting in Him.

After I found out I was pregnant, I put off finding a midwife for a long time. I miscarried two years ago and lost your big brother or sister when I was only 6 weeks along, so I was wary of getting excited or invested in this new pregnancy before I was at least 12 weeks along.

At 14 weeks I had my first appointment at a birth center in Winter Garden. With traffic and construction down a dreadful road called Colonial, it was nearly an hour drive each way, but I had heard great things about the midwife and wanted to go somewhere that had been recommended by so many people. I went every two weeks to make sure you were doing ok on your big journey to babyhood, and while the midwife seemed great (the two times I got to see her) and the staff friendly, I had quite a few concerns and disappointments about my experience there and decided to switch to a new birth center less than five minutes from our house.

Everything really started to change from that point on. I was already in my third trimester when I transfered, but I loved it there at Inspiration Birth Center in Winter Park right away. I was a bit crushed when at just my second appointment there, I developed PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension aka high blood pressure) and risked out of being treated there. They sent me to a doctor in Oviedo who was simply horrible and rude the one time I saw him (he read a few lines on a paper, didn't even examine me, then looked down his nose and told me my pregnancy wouldn't even last until the new year and you would most likely die if I didn't take his medication - can you believe the nerve?), so I asked around and ended up going to Dr. E in Altamonte Springs. He won me over immediately with his kindness, humor, and openness to listen to my concerns and accommodate my wishes as much as possible for a natural birth experience.

Despite my hopes for staying away from meds, he immediately put me on a prescription to lower my blood pressure to keep you safe. It helped for awhile, but when I went a week past your due date and my blood pressure continued to climb - despite upping the prescription - I was scheduled to be induced on January 19th.

And in case you were wondering, here's how my day went on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

As was habit for me, the day started off with procrastination. I stayed in bed throughout the afternoon watching the silly court shows that I had become hooked on sometime in my second trimester. Judge Mathis (funny), Judge Judy (harsh), Judge Milian (my favorite), Judge Brown (always seems bored) and Nancy Grace (bleh, just plain mean). I watched them all back then, though I can't stand them at all now.

I was to be at the hospital at 8pm to get the induction started with a cervical ripener (it would hopefully cause me to thin and dilate). Well, around 6pm I decided your father should get a haircut for the pictures we were sure to take soon, and I figured some last minute shopping at Publix was also in order. We didn't get home until after 7pm and after a quick shower and some frantic last minute packing, we were running just a few minutes late. Of course, on the way to the hospital, I declared a mandatory stop at Chick-fil-a for the Chicken Garden Salad and order of fries I was craving, so we ended up running about half an hour late.

No one seemed to mind our lateness when we arrived at labor and delivery. Our doctor just happened to be hanging out behind the counter and chatted about a game on his iPhone he was hooked on (something about collecting golden eggs. I have never owned an iphone, ipad, or ipod, so I know next to nothing about apps). After signing a few papers and getting some ID and allergy bracelets (5 or 6 in all. My "plastic bling" as I would call it) a nurse quickly put me in a labor room that looked more like a hotel room than something in a hospital. Large jacuzzi tub, big flat screen tv, aromatherapy (I opted not to use the scents but the fixture made a great night light), and hardwood floors (faux wood, but still cozy). I realized later that I didn't take any pictures at all of this room, but can you blame me? I was just a tad preoccupied.

Instead, here is a photo of a room like the ones I was in that I took from the hospital website:


Once I was comfortable in the bed, the first thing the nurse did around 9pm was strap two monitors to my belly (just like for an NST) to keep track of your heartbeat and my contractions. It looked kind of like this:


After a quick check, we found out I was 1 cm dilated, 60% effaced, and already contracting every 2-3 minutes. They kept track of my contractions for about and hour, and around 10pm came in to tell us there were "variable decelerations" - a fall in your heart rate below baseline that was happening at the end of each contraction. I started praying for you even more right away.

With the cervical ripener the doctor had ordered earlier (misoprostol), a side effect was more contractions, which would have them coming right on top of each other and put you in even more distress, so they decided to wait and monitor us for awhile.

The next three hours went by quickly. I was given an IV to get me hydrated and try to slow the contractions, nurses came in and out of the room to check on me frequently, your father and I talked about different options and possibilities that might come up during labor, and I made calls to update Mae Mae, Aunt Jessica, and our doula (who I planned to call in the morning once I was in labor, since hanging around all night while nothing was happening wouldn't really serve a purpose).

The doctor came in and brought up the possibility of a c-cestion if things didn't change. For some reason, I didn't totally freak out and just decided to roll with it. Well, shortly after that, things were looking better so he went ahead and decided to give me a different cervical ripener called Cervadil (which is similar to a tampon) instead of Misoprostol (a pill that dissolves) since it could be removed quickly if needed. At this point there was no way I could sleep, and I had no interest in doing anything on the computer, so I think we put Jay Leno on the tv (we tried watching Conan but it was the one station that came is as total fuzziness) and just talked and zoned out for awhile.

(Note: One horrible downside of having the cervadil was having to stay in bed for 2 hours without getting up to use the bathroom. For a woman 41 weeks pregnant and hooked up to a huge IV....that is torture. Just remember all these things mommy went though for you :)

Your father and I spent our time trying to doze, watching animal shows on tv, nurses came to check on me more, and then my contractions slowed waaaay down. About 3:30am, the monitor keeping track of your heart beat showed late decelerations (this meant a fall in your heart rate after the peak of the contraction and returning to baseline only after the contraction had ended. Late decelerations are associated with the placenta not working at 100% so this was a bad sign). Dr. Enayrt (who had just gone home) was called back to the hospital to check on me himself, but if I remember correctly, by the time he got there you were doing a little better and he didn't order a change in medication so we just sat and let the Cervadil (hopefully) do its job..

A cervix check at 6am confirmed there had been absolutely no change in anything so I was finally put on Pitocin to get contractions going so we could get you out to meet you! (I had read up on Pitocin beforehand and heard how painful the contractions can be from it, but really, there is no reading that could have prepared me for it)

Around 6:30am, just thirty minutes after the Pitocin started, my water "broke". Well, it actually started leaking little by little as I lay in bed...It was a weird feeling. Imaging slowly peeing on yourself and having no control over it. Neat, right? No. Not at all.

Around 8am the doctor was back at the hospital and completely broke my water, and that was the point when the contractions started becoming really painful, which quickly turned into horrible, which even more quickly turned into unbearable. I always thought I would be too embarrassed to scream in a hospital, but your momma proudly used her lungs to scream at every. single. contraction. My contractions lasted 60 seconds, then I would get 60 seconds to try and relax before the next one hit. The Pitocin made contractions much different than they should have been naturally. Instead of the pain slowly building, peaking, then descending, they started at the peak and stayed there for a solid minute. Afterward I described it as someone flicking a switch on and off that sent an electric shock deep into my body. It was excruciating.

That's when time started feeling really really really weird. I had no concept of it. I never thought it was going by slowly really, just that the hours either flew by quickly, or time just ceased to exist completely.

At 9am I came to the realization that your entire birth was not going how I had expected. I was in a drug-induced labor, screaming my lungs out, with no progress and a far-off end to it all down a long painful-filled road. I decided I wanted to try and still enjoy your birth as much as I could, and I gladly demanded an epidural.

For someone so opposed to it in the beginning, they couldn't give it to me fast enough. I sent your father to tell anyone and everyone in sight to get the anesthesiologist for me, but of course, all the anesthesiologists were all busy. So I sat, trying not to feel like I was doing something horrible because I had broken down and ordered the painkiller cocktail, and frantic because now that I had made the decision, I was having to WAIT for it!

At last, after many more "electric shocks", an anesthesiologist who had the appearance of someone lost and unsure, let call him "Dr. X", slowly came into the room. Yes, I said slowly, because the man seemed to move in slow motion. Every movement of his was hesitant. It was not reassuring.

Unbeknownst to me, he couldn't just step in and give me the shot. He had to prep his equipment and medications, sit me up, clean the area on my back for the very long needle, and he was doing it all between my contractions. If a contraction hit, he stopped everything and waited. That seemed nice at first, but it made the whole process take even longer.

Finally, as I squeezed nurse B's hands, the doctor put the needle in and I felt an icy cool trickle down my spine. Honestly, the shot felt like nothing compared to the contractions, so I didn't even flinch when it happened. I think it surprised the nurse, but I told her I would take 10 more of those shots over the pain I was already feeling, so bring it on! I would eat my words over the next few hour, because after 15 minutes, when everything should have been numbed and dandy, I could feel every bit as much as I could before the shot.

The anesthesiologist looked a bit sheepish said he would try again. Sadly, the entire process took just as long as the first time, with everything still moving in slow motion. I once again got a shot in my spine, and 15 minutes later....nothing.

I felt like I was about to go out of my mind. I had no idea how long my labor would last, and it appeared I was part of the small percentage that epidurals had no effect on, so I was looking at hours upon hours of these electric shock contractions and I didn't know how I could do it.

That's when my angel, "Dr. M' was called in. He, dear son, was the anesthesiologist of dreams. I don't remember what he looked like, only that he was a bit older and walked in with much more confidence than Dr. X, so he might as well have come wearing armor and riding on a white horse. Instead of taking over half an hour to get another epidural, he worked through my contractions so that within ten minutes I had my third shot (which he gave with total assuredness and precision).

By this time, I was crying quite a bit and I didn't have high hopes, but after a few minutes, Dr. M looked over at me and said.

"So, what are you feeling right now?"

I answered, "Nothing....".

"Oh, good" he replied, "because your having a contractions right now".

I looked up at him, burst into sobs and thanked him over and over and over and over. After deciding to get the epidural, it had taken three hours to be pain-free.

Once I could stop crying, I was all smiles and giggles. I kept laughing because I just couldn't believe how wonderful it felt not to feel anything! Everything from my belly down was completely numb. This meant I couldn't move my legs, roll over, or even sit up, but I didn't care one bit.

It was about 11:30am and I was able to doze just a bit while those Pitocin contractions kept on coming painlessly. A cervix check at 2:30 showed I was only 3cm, which meant I would most likely be in labor many more hours. It was really frustrating to hear that after 8 hours of Pitocin, nothing was happening.

I can't remember exactly when, but at some point between 11am and 2pm, you started having late decelerations again, or "late decels" - where your heartbeat would slow at the end of each contraction. It concerned everyone because it meant you weren't getting enough oxygen during the contractions, so the nurse helped me change position in bed and I put on an oxygen mask.


The late decels, combined with the fact that after hours and hours I was only 3cm, was not good at all. You were not handling labor well, and with no end of labor in sight, so Dr. E came in and explained that I needed an emergency c-section. I was both disappointed and completely relieved. I was so anxious to meet and and make sure you were safe, but I also felt a little like I had failed this whole "real child birth" experience.

I made a quick call to Mae Mae to let her know what was happening, and she did all the freaking out for me after we hung up. Good ol' Dar Dar talked with her though, and many people were praying for us, and I felt strangely calm about everything.

There was a whirl of activity as I was rolled into the OR, prepped for surgery, and given more medication to numb me completely. I kept on telling them - "Just make sure I'm really numb! Like, really really numb!", as if they would try to operate with me flinching and feeling.

Your father put on special scrubs over his outfit and sat down on a stool next to me. They draped a sheet over my chest so I couldn't see what was happening, but my anesthesiologist angel, Dr. M, stood right by me while warmly and calmly explaining every single thing that was happening.

On January 20th, at 3:02pm, you were born. It was only 30 minutes from the time I was told I would have a c-section, to the moment I saw you for the first time. I had been told not to worry if I didn't hear you crying right away because it was normal for babies to be quiet at first, but you entered the world nice and loud and reassuring for me.

When Dr. E pulled you out, the first thing I heard echo across the room from at least three voices, was "He is so HUGE!" "What a giant baby!" and "That is one big boy!". I panicked for a second, wondering if I had just given birth to the next Hagrid, but they brought you around the little curtain and I laid eyes on you for the very first time.

I'm sure by the time you will read this, you will have heard first person from myself and your family, that my very first words when I saw you were

"His balls are huge!"

Yes dear, they were very very huge. It turns out it was a hydrocele. Your inguinal canal hadn't closed completely and fluid was passing into your scrotum and enlarging it. We were afraid you might have a hernia, but in the next few weeks we took you to the pediatrician and then you had an ultrasound at another hospital, and we discovered that you were just fine. Within months everything was normal "down there".

But back to seeing you for the first time.

You were big and purple and puffy and absolutely beautiful. You weighed in at a healthy 10 lbs 3 oz and 21 3/4 inches long.





I couldn't stop myself from crying as they laid you on my chest and I held you for the first time. This is our first picture together.

(Don't worry about that scratch on your cheek. Dr. E accidentally nicked you during the surgery, but he was profusely apologetic and the cut healed within a few weeks.)

After you were born, you also had a large pocket of fluid on your head (it took a few months, but that went back to normal too). Dr. E told us how you had been jammed crooked inside of me, and if I had tried to give birth vaginally, there could have been very serious complications, such as shoulder dystocia (your shoulders getting stuck in the birth canal, which can lead to injury or death) or a broken collarbone.

So you see, despite everything turning out so differently than I had planned, it seems all of my expectations for a natural birth were dashed for a reason and God had me at the right place with the right people to get you safely into this world. I also learned that there is a time and place for medical invention and I have a a much greater appreciation for the work done by doctors during childbirth. Instead of looking down my nose at mothers that choose hospital births and pain killers, I think I'll just be thankful and grateful that there are people capable of keeping mothers and babies healthy and alive through all different child birth experiences.

And that's the story of how I met you.

I love you, Oliver :)

P.S. For anyone that made it through all of that, please forgive any misspellings or medical inaccuracies :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. That brought tears to my eyes.

Vickie said...

Wow! Believe it or not I did not know Oliver was a C-section. Corey was too and Jesse wasn't which is not a good idea. It makes for a very painful delivery with all the scar tissue.
I hope he had a very wonderful birthday!

Mrs. Cheerio said...

What a wonderful story of love for Oliver to have! Happy Birthday (again), Oliver!