On Thursday April 18 at 8 am I had an appointment at my maternity clinic to check my blood pressure. I was feeling very uncomfortable and swollen, but when I woke that day my feet were so big I couldn’t even shove my shoes on! Austin sat me down, undid and loosened the laces and gently maneuvered them in. Then my mother drove us to my appointment.
When I arrived I checked my weight and was horrified to learn that I had gained 6 lbs in a matter of days. I didn’t even know that was possible! The nurse who checked my blood pressure was alarmed and got the doctor immediately. They checked Noah’s heart rate and seemed concerned. At this point my resolve to avoid medical intervention was crumbling into sobs, begging for this to be over. My doctor started talking about an induction. I assumed we’d set a date for if I went overdue, but no. She thought I should be induced right away.
I felt guilty for being so relieved to have the pregnancy over with, but in all fairness it was a hard pregnancy following a difficult miscarriage and it had taken it’s toll on me physically and mentally.
We drove home to get my bags, stopping for coffee on the way, talking cheerfully about meeting our new son that day or the next. When we got to the hospital I was put into a room right away, Austin was allowed to join me, but my mother had to wait in a waiting room until I was actually in labor.
The doctor came in and checked me. I was only half a centimeter dilated. She told me they were going to start my induction with a balloon catheter which they would insert and then inflate, sandwiching my cervix and forcing it to dilate. They tried to insert it but it was so painful that they stopped and gave me a shot of morphine so that I would relax, making it easier to put in. I cried the whole time. It hurt so much! Afterwards they told me to get dressed and go home, labor would most likely start later that night. If not, they would call me back at midnight to continue the induction.
So a little after noon I left the hospital in quite a bit of pain and headed home. Every little bump along the way was excruciating. As soon as I got into my house I climbed into a hot bath. Austin sat by the tub and poured water over my massive belly with a container while I breathed through contractions. We were surprised that the contractions became so strong so fast. I cried and yelled and was generally really mean. Within 2 hours they were a minute apart and I was vomiting.
I was taken back to the hospital at 3 pm and they admitted me right away. They temporarily deflated the balloon and checked my cervix. Still only half a centimeter I was shocked. They then decided to keep me there, because my blood pressure was so high. I was just happy to get something for pain. The contractions were close and strong and difficult.
It was a long night and they tried so many different things. They kept trying to break my waters, but my cervix wasn’t ready. Finally they called in another doctor who was able to, but it was extremely painful. Now my labor which had slowed quickly picked up again and they started me on a higher petocin drip. It felt so painful and unnatural and the doctor started pushing an epidural. I had been in labor for almost 24 hours and she insisted it was necessary or I would be far too exhausted to push when it came time.
They inserted a catheter and then the anesthesiologist came in and administered the epidural. It took the edge off, but I was surprised that it didn’t seem to help that much. Now Noah’s heartbeat kept dropping. They adjusted my position and it picked up again, but only briefly. The decided to try putting artificial waters back in. At this point I was frustrated with all of what I felt was unnecessary intervention, but I was too tired to argue. Then they lost his heartbeat altogether for a moment and decided to attach wires to his poor little head. I was now only 1 centimeter dilated.
Nothing seemed to be progressing and I started to feel worried and tired. Then suddenly the baby went into distress. Within seconds his heart rate had dropped from 143 to 50 bpm. The doctor looked at me and said I needed to have an emergency C-section. My mother and Austin smiled encouragingly and told me everything was going to be OK but I couldn’t look at either of them. I felt so hurt and betrayed by my own body and so angry! I really felt that had I been left to go into labor on my own none of this would have happened. I sobbed all the way into the operating room.
The anesthesiologist came in and administered more freezing through the epidural. He did a test with ice to see if I was frozen, and seemed puzzled that I could feel the cold. He then poked me a few times and asked if it hurt. I said no, but I can feel it. They finished prepping me and Austin came in and held my hand. My mother waved and smiled from the viewing window.
Then they started cutting. I just remember looking at Austin and saying, “I feel that.” I tried to stay calm but I just started sobbing. “No it hurts, I can feel it, it hurts so bad!” I think at first they thought I was faking it or something, but then my heart rate went up and I started screaming. Poor Austin, I kept sobbing and looking up at him, begging him to make it stop. Then the baby was out and they brought him over and gave him to Austin. He held him up for me to see but my vision was swimming and I couldn’t see him. Meanwhile the anesthesiologist had been administering more freezing, but I still felt them working and I sobbed more and more. At this point my heart started failing from pain and stress and loss of blood. I went into shock. The baby was snatched away from Austin, the curtain whisked closed on my mother and I mercifully lost consciousness.
I came to in the recovery room, but was still too heavily medicated to see the baby properly and floating in and out of consciousness Austin and the nurse kept shaking me and telling me to wake up and breathe, even though I had an oxygen mask on. I was desperate to gain control over my limbs and mind and hold my son. I was helpless and could only look while his father held him up proudly. I just wanted my baby. They finally gave him to me, supported my arms with pillows and wheeled us into a private hospital room. I was exhausted and traumatized, covered in bruises and still partially disoriented. They wouldn’t let me up until the following morning when they took out my catheter and IV and let me shower.
I made a quick recovery and surprised the nurses by refusing most pain meds. I was there for 3 more days with my little guy, who was a slow starter to breastfeeding because of the drugs and trauma, but soon became a real little pro. They tried to send me home with a prescription for Percocet’s or Tylenol 3 with codeine which I refused. I was even off regular Tylenol and Ibuprofen within 2 days of being at home and being quite active. I am incredibly proud of myself and my little man. We proved that we’re fighters, but the trauma is not soon forgotten. I have nightmares about the surgery without freezing still, but nevertheless it won’t prevent me from trying to conceive again next year, and trying for a VBAC, against doctors advisement. Maybe if I’m feeling daring I may even try a home birth, like my mother did 3 times. I love my son, and I would do it all again, but I am so overjoyed that it’s over.
~ Caitlin Davis