I’ve been wanting to share River’s birth story with you for awhile but I needed to hold onto it for a bit because it was so life altering and it shifted my identity so much that I pretty much had to rediscover myself and learn to accept my new role as a mother. This wasn’t easy for me and I really needed time to piece the experience together and make sense of all the changes and emotions. I’m going to get right to it because this is going to be a bit long since my labor was almost 48 hours long.
DECEMBER 27, 2016 (39 weeks & 2 days)
Christopher and I went to my 39 week OB appointment that morning. We figured it would be a typical appointment and we’d be in and out of there in no time. My regular OB was on vacation so we met with his stand-in. Everything looked normal during the ultrasound and River was doing well. I was 2cm dilated and although I lost my mucus plug a week prior and I was experiencing a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions, I didn’t feel like I was going into labor any time soon and my water hadn’t broke yet.
Or so I thought. (More on this later)
At the end of the ultrasound, the OB checked my fluid level. Up until this point we were just chatting about the Holidays, everyone relaxed and ready to wrap up the appointment. When suddenly the doctor grew quiet and had a concerned look on her face as she was looking at the monitor. She turned to me and asked if my water had broke. I shook my head no and she said my amniotic fluid was alarmingly low. She immediately stepped out of the room and when she returned she gave us specific instructions: Go home, grab your hospital bag, and go to labor & delivery (L&D) as soon as possible. They’re waiting for you.
Christopher and I made our way home, both of us freaking out. We had a full day of errands planned — my in-laws were flying in the next day, we still needed last minute baby things, and we were also in the middle of escrow and preparing for our move — and everything went out the window. As soon as we got home, we grabbed our bags, made sure Miles would be taken care of, and rushed to L&D.
Once I checked into L&D, the nurses immediately hooked me up to all the monitors and made sure River was ok. Fortunately our little guy was still doing well. Unfortunately my fluids were dangerously low and posed a serious threat to River’s well being. Maybe it was shock but I was still in denial that this was it. I figured they’d check me out and we’d be on our way back home. I mean, I wasn’t due for another 5 days. It wasn’t until one of the doctors came over and began talking to me about the induction process that it hit me. I was going to have this baby whether I was ready or not.
The first part of my induction was the Foley balloon catheter. The goal was to get me dilated to 4cm with the catheter. I’m not going to lie — this shit HURT. Looking back, this process was the most painful during my labor.
Ok, speaking of pain, remember my birth plan? I was going to try and have a drug-free birth. Despite the pain (excruciating pain) the Foley balloon caused, I decided against pain meds. And I’m not telling you this to get a pat on the back. The reason I refused the epidural was because they told me the balloon would have to be inside of me for at least 12 hours. Yes, TWELVE FRICKIN HOURS. If I got the epidural, I would be stuck in bed for 12 hours and more since who knew when I’d be ready to start pushing. So despite the pain, being able to move and walk about was more important to me at this point. Which is what I did. Christopher and I walked around for the first hour which was the most painful. After the first hour, the pain subsided to a manageable degree and I was just very uncomfortable.
Another aside about the epidural: the nurses at Kaiser on Sunset Blvd. are AMAZING. They were all extremely supportive of my choices and birth preferences and nobody ever pushed anything on me or made me feel uncomfortable about my decisions. They talked me through everything which made the whole experience less scary for this first time mom.
So back to the balloon. After it was inserted, they moved us to our room and for the next 12 hours I was poked and prodded and encouraged to get some rest. Yeah, as if that was possible.
Our sad dinners
DECEMBER 28, 2016 (39 weeks & 3 days)
At about 2am, they finally removed the balloon. Fortunately it got me to where I needed to be — 4cm dilated (if I didn’t reach 4cm, they planned on inserting another Foley balloon for another 12 hours *shudder*). Obviously I wasn’t dilated enough to start pushing so we moved onto the next method of induction.
Here’s the thing with pitocin. During my pregnancy, like all soon to be first time mothers, I spent a lot of time on Google and reading pregnancy boards and the overall consensus was that pitocin was the devil’s drug. I read horror story after horror story about the hell you enter when you’re on the “pit”. Needless to say, I was terrified of it. So when I heard this was the next step for me, I legitimately freaked out.
Another reason why I am so grateful for Kaiser and their nurses: Since I wasn’t on any pain meds and because River was still doing well and we didn’t need to rush him out, they only gave me teeny tiny bits of pitocin so the pain would be manageable for me. Nobody was in a hurry to get me out of the hospital, either. In fact, they told me to prepare to be in labor for at least 72 hours. I’d also like to add there was no mention of c-section, either. Everybody seemed to be happy with the way things were progressing despite it being slow.
So what was my experience with pitocin? Not bad. Not bad at all. It was better than the balloon. The pain was definitely manageable. And because I was only getting little bits at a time, I was dilating sloooooowly.
After several hours of more poking and prodding (and no sleep on my part), I had suddenly developed a fever. This was when things got a bit more intense. Despite my high temperature and my skin feeling hot to the touch, I didn’t feel hot at all. They rushed to give me antibiotics, draped cold towels all over me, and tried their best to get my temperature down. If River was affected by it, he would need to come out immediately with an emergency c-section. Fortunately the antibiotics worked and the fever subsided. River was ok through it all so we continued with the pitocin. By this time I was about 6cm dilated and beginning to feel more pain. I was also exhausted. I asked them to give me a morphine shot so I could relax and try to sleep a little. The morphine only worked for a couple of hours so I was able to squeeze in a short nap.
By evening, I was past the point of exhaustion. Not just from the lack of sleep but from the stress and trying to manage the pain. I wasn’t dilating fast enough and I was just over being in the hospital. It was Wednesday night and they told me the way things were moving, I might deliver on Friday.
Oh no. NO. WAY.
I finally asked them to give me the epidural. I knew once I got the epidural, they would be able to up the pitocin to speed things up and I would be able to get some rest so I would have the energy to push. I knew if I kept going the way I was, I would be too exhausted to push and would end up having a c-section. Just to make things clear, I was always open to having a c-section and aware it would be a possibility but it would have been upsetting to have gone through days of labor and pain to end up there, know what I mean? I was determined to push the baby out after all I had gone through.
If there’s a way to bottle up the epidural in pill form, sign me up for a lifetime supply. Getting the epidural was less painful than the morphine shot and the minute it coursed through my veins, it was magic. I finally felt comfortable even with the higher dose of pitocin. For the first time in almost 2 days, I slept.
DECEMBER 29, 2016 (39 weeks & 4 days)
After several hours of drifting in and out of sleep, a doctor came in to check me at around 6am. I was 9cm dilated and we were getting very close. Nurses came in and out to check all my vitals and prepare the room for delivery. When everyone was done, a nurse sat beside me and told me we were going to practice pushing. It was just the nurse, Christopher, our doula, and myself and there was an air of calmness in the dimly lit room. She gave me instructions and I started pushing. Because the epidural was working so well, I didn’t feel any contractions so she had to tell me when they were coming and when to push. She had me lying on my right side because River seemed to be in distress when I was in any other position. We practiced pushing several times, with her coaching me through each one. After about a half hour (but felt like 5 min to me), she told me the baby had a lot of hair. I was shocked. Not by the amount of hair but because she had tricked me into thinking we were just practicing when in fact I was in the middle of delivering our baby without even realizing it! And thank God for her and her shrewd scheme because it made the delivery stress-free and even relaxing. Up until that point.
It was finally time to call the doctor in. The nurse quietly told me things were going to get chaotic and boy was she right. As soon as she said that, all the lights came on and about 20 people entered the room with more equipment. Due to the fever I had during labor, there were NICU nurses ready to check River as soon as he was born. There was also a 2nd doctor who would perform an emergency c-section if necessary. I continued to push with all these people in the room. Not what I had in mind but at this point I just didn’t care and wanted to meet River.
After several more pushes, I heard the c-section doctor say they were going to go in and get the baby if he didn’t come out in the next couple of pushes. I was infuriated. EFF. THAT. I did not go through all this to have someone rip me open in the last moment. Finally, after almost an hour of pushing, I gave one final push and felt this whoosh. River was born.
Everything was so surreal after that. You know how in movies things slow down and they turn off the sound and you feel like you’re looking out into the world from inside a diving bell and all you can hear is your heart and breath? That’s exactly how I felt. I snapped back into reality when I heard Christopher say, “Omg, it’s really a baby. It’s our baby.” Then the tears started flowing. Tears of relief, exhaustion, happiness, and shock. And the tears washed away our fears and stress of losing this baby in utero, too. Our baby was finally here and he was healthy and beautiful.
Despite my wishes for immediate skin-to-skin, River had to be whisked away by the NICU nurses to be thoroughly examined. Christopher stayed with him while I delivered my placenta and got cleaned and stitched up (I had minor tears). Thanks to the epidural, River’s delivery from start to finish was completely painless and I had such a positive experience. And because I wasn’t concerned about the pain, I was so present and aware and got to really embrace the experience and moment.
So remember my low fluids and my water not breaking? I forgot to mention that they also broke my water after removing the Foley balloon and a small amount of fluid trickled out (btw, the manual water breaking was totally painless in case you ever have to go through that). It so happened that my water did break before my 39 week appointment. The reason why I didn’t know it was because River’s head was acting as a plug. Instead of a flow of amniotic fluid, I had little bits trickling out every time I used the restroom and I had no idea I was leaking. I also only leaked the bottom half of the fluids. When River came out, the remaining fluid in the top portion of my belly gushed out with him.
As for the fever during labor, after having my placenta tested they found it had developed an infection due to the low fluids so my body was trying to fight off the infection.
And you know the nurse who had me “practice push”? Her name was Irever, like Eye-River. When we told her we were going to name our son River, the 3 of us couldn’t believe the coincidence. We definitely will never forget her.
In hindsight, if I had known everything I know now, I would have gotten the epidural right away so I could skip right to the pitocin and have a shorter labor and delivery. Despite the pain in the beginning and the slow process, I really did have a great birth experience which I will be forever grateful for. Every single person at Kaiser who tended to us and cared for us were simply wonderful. We were blown away by how genuinely caring, warm, and positive the staff was. I have so much respect and admiration for the work they do and how they’re able to deal with so many different personalities and emotions with ease and grace.
River will soon be 5 months old. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed since the day he was born. Those 2 days Christopher and I spent in the hospital waiting to meet him were the last days where it was just the 2 of us. It may not have been glamorous or romantic but it was a life changing experience unique to us and only we will remember all the laughs and tears, the stress and fears that we shared in that one hospital room. And we would have no idea that a sweet baby boy would be the tie that binds us closer together and link us eternally — more than a marriage ever could. We would have no idea how much he would complete us.
A day old
Our happy baby today