Here is Holly Ann's birth story. Like all the others who have posted, it is long!
Overnight Tuesday-Wednesday June 18-19 I experienced contractions from about 4 am onward. Mike was home that night but I didn’t bother to wake him. The contractions were more intense than the Braxton-Hicks contractions (BHC) I’d been feeling weeks prior so I had assumed these were early labor contractions. We had been told many times not to bother heading to the hospital until “5-1-1.” That is, contractions 5 minutes apart, each one lasting 1 minute in duration, with that pattern continuing for at least 1 hour.
We got up around 6 am to feed the pets and I mentioned to Mike that I thought I had hit 5-1-1. He was a bit concerned and frazzled but didn’t understand why I was so calm. I explained I didn’t want to be one of those “false alarms” that labor & delivery triage turns away. So we waited another hour before I called my OB. The doctor on call told me to head in. We contacted our friends who would take care of Custer (our greyhound) and we headed on our way.
We checked into the triage area and I was hooked up to the monitor. Of course, no sooner was I hooked up that contractions backed way off. Two hours later I was discharged. Talk about the walk of shame. I was so embarrassed. Not only was I not in labor we had troubled our friends with a false alarm regarding Custer care. I spent the rest of the day very emotional and distraught.
Mike had to work that night, though he was unsure if he should go. Contractions had backed off and I told him I was far too stressed for labor to start that night so he went on his way. I went to bed and awoke around midnight to some very different pelvic pressure. I dozed off again and at 1:30 … “BING!” I awoke in an instant to an audible and tactile “snap” followed by a gush of water. I B-lined it for the bathroom and managed to keep most of the mess on the tile floor. I stood there in disbelief for a few minutes. I had read that only ~10% of labors start with spontaneous rupture of waters. I just kept repeating “WOW!” and trying to wrap my head around what happened.
I contacted Mike and told him to come home ASAP. This time labor was real and this time the labor & delivery triage was not going to turn us away! I pulled out a huge maxi-pad figuring there was more water to leak out - this was a wise move! I fed the pets (at 2:00 am, not a normal feeding time) and by 2:30 am we were on the road to the hospital. We figured the cats would be fine based on how labor was advancing and Mike would contact our friends to go get Custer a little later in the morning.
When we got to the hospital Mike wheeled me up to labor & delivery - this also turned out to be a wise move. I was perfectly fine walking, but I felt compelled to take my obligatory wheelchair ride. The nurse checking us in took her sweet time and while we waited, yet another gush of amniotic fluid soaked my pants, shoes, the wheelchair, and the floor all around me. That maxi-pad I put on an hour ago was a good idea, just not enough to contain the mess. It was at that point that my shame was checked at the door.
About 1 hour after my water broke contractions started kicking in. By the time triage hooked me up to the monitors my contractions were quite regular and picking up in intensity, though still manageable. They hooked up my IV and did a few other procedures (I was 2 cm dilated and ~80% effaced) before letting me know that my labor & delivery room was ready. The nurse told me we would walk down to room 209. I told her that was fine except that I was sure to leave a trail of fluid behind me the whole way. So she got one of those monster pads/diapers. We shoved it between my legs; I held up the front and she held up the back and together we waddled to my room!
I spent the next 4-5 hours in that room with Mike and occasional visits by my attending nurse. At 7 am there was a shift change and I was paired with my nurse, Katy, who stuck it out with me through delivery. Labor was really really getting intense at this point and the contractions were like no other pain I’ve ever felt. Holy Cow! Hats off to all the women out there who go through labor without any pain relief. In the midst of one of these mother contractions a strange woman walked in and introduced herself to me as a Johns Hopkins instructor asking me if one of her students could shadow Katy and be present for the labor and birth. I have no idea what I muttered to her but evidently I consented. With that, nursing student Natalie joined the ranks.
By 6 hours in it was plainly clear that I needed an epidural. Mike called the nurse to put in the order. A cervical check was done to be sure I was dilated enough. I was just barely 4 cm. That news was bitter-sweet. 4 cm means I am dilated enough for an epidural - that’s good! But the bitter part was those 6 hours of torturous contractions (I liken it to being run through with a sword) only gained me 2 cm!
After about a 30 minute wait the anesthesiologist stopped by to administer the epidural. Incidentally, her name is Dr. Petite and she is all of 5’ tall and 100 lbs. It was during this procedure, even though I was out of my mind in pain, that I was really glad I had allowed the nursing student to participate in our birthing process. The anesthesiologist made it a point to explain each step of the procedure since Natalie was present. Mike and I both appreciated this, too. Admittedly, prior to labor, the epidural scared me and was a big reason why I had elected to give natural labor a go to see how it felt. Once I got a taste for it, my reservations concerning the epidural went out the window. The procedure for getting the epidural was completely painless (at least relative to labor contractions) and it was a breeze. After the epidural was in the next few contractions were manageable and by 5-10 minutes I didn’t feel anymore contractions even though they were good and strong according to the monitor. The only way I could tell I was having a contraction was because my belly hardened. It almost felt like cheating - like I wasn’t “laboring” through labor, just cruising along blissfully unaware of the “labor” that still awaited me.
Maybe 40 minutes into my epidural cocktail I did not feel right. I was super light headed and just plain woozy and disconnected. Mike checked my heart rate monitor and it was something along the lines of 80/40. Not good. The nurses came in, flattened my bed and rolled me onto my left side. They pumped me full of water and called for the anesthesiologist. She was there quickly and adjusted the drip to an amount that worked better for my chemistry. I was feeling much much better within 10 minutes. Nevertheless, that was a wrench I could have done without.
I spent the next 3-4 hours “laboring” w/ the epidural. In that time I went from 4 cm to 8 cm. I guess the epidural allowed my body to relax a bit and not resist the progress of the contractions. My OB checked me at noon and said I was 8 cm and felt I could probably start pushing around 1 pm or so. She came back and checked me at 1:30 pm, confirmed I was 10 cm, and told me I could start pushing. She was not in her “lets deliver a baby” garb and I heard her say to Natalie, “She’s ready to push but she’s got a lot of work to do yet.”
Katy and Natalie prepped me on how to push with each contraction and we got the show on the road. After 2 big push sessions they enthusiastically cheered me on indicating they could see the head! Wow! I really wanted to see so they wheeled in a mirror. With the next push they told me where to look. All I could see were my lady bits. I was expecting to see a crowing head! Nope, only when I was bearing down, labia parted, way up in the birth canal was the tiniest speck of the start of a head. That vision really put into perspective just what the OB meant when she said I had work to do.
We kept up this game of pushing with each contraction for 3 long and arduous hours. Progress was being made. The head was descending … albeit very slowly. Fortunately, through it all Holly’s vitals were strong. Once we hit the 3 hour mark I asked Katy what we were to do … 3 hours and still no baby. She explained that they would huddle with the OB to consider their options which included 1) if Holly’s head is low enough the OB might do a suction assisted delivery, 2) administer pitocin to speed up my contractions to push her out faster, or 3) have me push some more. My OB entered the room to assess the situation. She took one look at me and said, “Oh, she can push some more!” Even though I was spent and worn out, I guess compared to other laboring women she has worked with I still had a lot of energy left. As disappointing as the verdict was, I was invigorated when I realized she was in her scrubs and was not leaving the room. She stayed right there in the thick of it all urging me on and really upping the intensity and cheering loudly.
After 30 more minutes of pushing Holly’s head was really making progress. The OB positioned herself for delivery. Unfortunately it blocked my view of the mirror. I really wanted to see her head crowning so Mike took a picture (don’t worry, that is not one I will be sharing). Holly’s head was right there. I only needed one more contraction and push to get her out. But my contractions had been slowing. It felt like an eternity while I waited for that final contraction to allow me to push. While the epidural was still working all I felt was intense burning as my tissues stretched. Up until this point all of my skin and tissues were intact and in good shape. Finally the contraction started and I puuuuuuushed! Out she POPPED.
From my perspective the relief was insurmountable. Getting her out of me was the most amazing feeling ever. I was so stuck in that moment I had no idea how things had transpired down below …
From the nurses’ and the OB’s perspective, the mess was incredible! My OB was able to get her hands on Holly’s head. But rather than then gently coax and guide out the shoulders, one at a time, all of Holly came out in one squirty slip-n-slide mess. Head, shoulders, knees, and gobs more amniotic fluid all burst out of me in one big blow. Holly was acting as a plug. When she squirted out she showered everyone in amniotic fluid.
The result of all that force, however, resulted in a 4th degree tear. I tore stem to stern, all the way through the perineum, anus, and rectum! My OB spent the next 45 minutes repairing the rupture. She later told me at my postpartum appointment that it takes longer to repair a 4th degree tear than it does to sew up a c-section incision. A 4th degree tear is bad because its not a superficial skin tear but rather the tear goes deep into the muscle tissue, too. It will take months for the muscles to heal. I should regain normal function for controlling and eliminating waste but should troubles still persist I will need to seek physical therapy.
Holly squirted out healthy and strong at 4:56 pm. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her ankle and her shoulder. She was quickly swabbed off and plonked on my chest right away. She scored 9s on her two apgar tests. But man, was she tiny. We knew she’d be a small baby but we weren’t banking on this small. She weighed in at 5 lbs 7.6 ozs and was a mere 17.75” long. In total labor was about 15 hours, 3.5 of which were active pushing.
At this point the delivery room was grand central station! Extra nurses came onto the scene to attend to Holly. Mike was enlisted to cut the umbilical cord. Then my phone started ringing, then Mike’s phone started ringing. First it was my brother then it was an 800 number. Let’s rewind to those 3+ hours of active labor and pushing. It was getting to be late enough that the cats needed to be fed (we don’t leave food out for them to graze). So Mike called a neighbor to see if they could help. Everything seemed squared away. That is, until the 800 number … it was our home security system company calling us because our alarm had been set off! Yes, folks, I answered it and was talking to ADT while being stitched up on the delivery bed! I didn’t want for ADT to send for the police when we knew the situation was just our neighbor gaining access to feed our cats.
Another fun tidbit, when the extra nurses descended upon us we learned that everyone at the nurses station was rooting us on. Evidently Holly was the 11th birth that day at the hospital. All 10 previous births were c-sections. So they were hopeful that I could get her out vaginally to buck the trend!