Friday, 7 January 2011

Vivian Vendredi - Birth Story

Like I mentioned before, I wasn't sure if I wanted to post Vivian's birth story or not.  I wasn't sure if it was too much to share, but in the end I decided that I always enjoy reading other people's birth stories, so other people might enjoy reading this one.

Leading up to the end of my pregnancy, I had the mindset that I was going to kick labour's ass.  I looked at it like it was a marathon and was prepared to meet it head-on with focus and drive.  I felt confident in my plan, but was prepared to be flexible depending on the situation.

I was not prepared for what ended up happening.

I was overdue, and had been stuck at one centimeter dilated for about a month.  At the doctor's appointment just two days after my due date, I was all chipper about being overdue and didn't insist on being induced, wanting things to progress naturally.  I should have listened to the cues the doctor I saw that week was sending me as she insinuated that if I complained, she would induce me that week.  She was my first choice doctor and I was really hoping that I would go into labour that week while she was on duty.

Didn't happen.

Another week went by and I went for my weekly checkup.  The doctor on shift that week said we could induce me anytime I was ready.  At that point, I was totally ready and told him as much.  We headed upstairs for a non-stress test to check on the kid and wait for me to get some cervidil to get things moving.  (I'll let you go ahead and google cervidil if you don't know what it is).

Unfortunately, because of the wicked winter storm that was hitting nearby London, there was a shortage of OB nurses, so we got sent home and were told to call the next afternoon and see if we could get the cervidil then.  So, on Tuesday, December 7th we got to go back to the hospital for another non-stress test  and to get the cervidil.  Two hours of waiting showed that I was having some contractions, but they weren't bothering me and they weren't consistent at all, so we got sent home for the night and were told to come back at 5:30 the next morning to get things moving unless things happened on their own overnight.

Of course, nothing happened on its own overnight, just the same inconsistent contractions.  Off we went to the hospital the next morning ready to go.

We got set up in a room and waited for the nurse to come back with my IV.  While we waited for her, I suddenly started feeling really hot and faint.  A quick check of my blood pressure showed a major drop for some reason.  I'm not afraid of needles, but for some reason, my body just was not ready for that IV.  They tried to give me oxygen, which just made me gag.  So, things were delayed a little bit longer while I relaxed and got my blood pressure back up before we could get the IV in and get the pitocin going.

Things started slowly.  I got a lot of magazines read while the contractions came and went, but I wasn't really bothered by them.  I kept thinking "I shouldn't complain about things yet, because it's only going to get worse."

Some strange things started happening.  My nurse would check to see how dilated I was and then would go get another nurse to have her check how dilated I was.  At first, this wasn't much of a problem, but as things progressed, it got more and more painful and being checked twice was not fun, or fair.

Around noon, I wanted to get out of the bed and try walking around and using the birthing ball.  I was quite happily working through contractions on the birthing ball when the contractions started to get more regular and more painful.  The monitors on my belly to track how strong my contractions were and the baby's heart rate didn't seem to be working right.  My contractions wouldn't show up on the chart (and I was getting upset that I "wasn't getting credit" for how strong the contractions were) and the baby kept moving off of the monitor so it would pick up my heart rate rather than hers.  They decided to get me back into bed in the hopes that the monitors would work better if I was laying still.

So, there went my plans of happily labouring on a birthing ball or in the jet tub and instead I got stuck in bed again.

The monitors still weren't working right, so I was never left alone.  Someone was constantly moving the monitors around or checking me out in some way.  They were constantly monitoring my blood pressure and kept putting the cuff on my arm with the IV, even though I begged them not to because it hurt so much.

At some point a lab tech came in to take my blood as well.  Apparently because I hadn't had blood taken since I was 37 weeks, it was out of date and they needed a new sample.  Why they couldn't have taken this blood first thing in the morning or the day before when I was at the hospital or the day before that when I was at the hospital is beyond me.  For some reason, they decided it would be more fun to wait until I was in labour and try to take my blood between contractions.  It was awesome.

Around 1:00, my mom and sister showed up to see how I was doing.  It was around this time that things went from being uncomfortable to being really bad.  My sister asked why I wasn't using any of the nitrous oxide gas to help with the contractions, but no one had offered it to me.  The nurses hadn't asked me how my pain levels were, and because the monitors on my belly weren't working right, they didn't have an accurate reading of how strong my contractions were.

So I tried the gas.  I was really excited to try out the gas before labour because I was hoping that I could get by with just using it.  I was handed the gas mask and the nurse told me to breathe in while I was having the contraction until I got to my peak, then to let the mask go.  The problem with this advice is that my contractions were very short, but one on top of another.  So I would take two quick breaths and let it go.  This does nothing.  It just made me nauseous and I cried because it wasn't working.

The contractions started coming faster and faster, and I progressed faster and faster.  They kept the pitocin drip going though, so things just started snowballing.  I wasn't getting any break between contractions, they were coming one on top of another, and there was still no reading of how strong they were.  Jagger told me at one point the nurses were actually consulting a manual to see why it wasn't working.

I was checked (and checked again by the second nurse) and learned I was at 5 centimeters.  It was at this point I asked for the epidural.

Now, let me preface this part by explaining a little bit about this hospital.  I decided to go to the small town hospital rather than going into London.  My original plan was to use a midwife, but they're not allowed to go to my local hospital and with this being my first baby and it being winter, I decided I would rather use the hospital that's 3 kilometers away rather than using a midwife and having to drive 40 minutes to get to a hospital.  (Which ended up being a good thing because of the monster snowstorm that had us stranded for several days.  Had I gone to the hospital in London, I probably would have ended up staying in the hospital for much longer because of the weather).  Now, with the small town hospital they warn you that while they have an anesthetist on staff and on call at all times, it might take up to 45 minutes for them to get to you depending on where they are.  I was assured that this is no different than in a larger hospital where they often have to track them down.  I was comfortable with this risk.  So, when I asked for the epidural, I did it thinking that I could hold out a little longer, but not too much to give them time to get to me.

That apparently was not the situation.

I asked for the epidural.  I was told that the anesthetist was busy in surgery and would be there soon.  "Soon" became longer and longer.  I could hear the nurses getting things ready for the epidural, but no anesthetist showed up.  I think it was around this time that my mom and sister left to wait at our house for the news.  Things get pretty foggy after this point.

Hours passed.  I kept begging and crying for the epidural.  I was told the anesthetist would be there in 15 minutes, then an hour.  I would alternate between crying that I needed the epidural, that I was too exhausted to finish and crying that the anesthetist wasn't going to be there in time, that I had missed my window to have an epidural.  I felt like the nurses were lying to me.  I would have felt much better if they had just said, "You're right, the anesthetist isn't going to be here in time."  Instead, I kept getting false hope.

Jagger kept rubbing my head and putting a cold washcloth on my face while I cried and cried.  I can remember him pacing back and forth swearing about the fact that the anesthetist wasn't there while I was in so much pain.  Like I said, I was kind of in and out of things at this point.

The doctor arrived and said I could have some fentanyl to help with the pain.  I was told it would just take the edge off the contractions, but I found it just gave me a break between contractions.  Not much of a break, but a bit of a break nonetheless.

At some point, they got very concerned with the fact that the baby kept moving off the heart rate monitor.  They attempted to put a monitor on her head to keep track of her heartbeat.  No one told me this was happening.  They tried it twice before it took, and during the second attempt I finally yelled, "What's happening?"  There were so many people touching me and moving me around I had no idea what was going on.  My eyes were closed for hours.

The contractions got stronger, and all of a sudden when I would have a contraction my stomach would almost involuntarily start pushing.  I couldn't help it, it was like with every contraction my stomach would suck in on itself.  The doctor told me to stop trying to push and to focus on my breathing, that I was just going to have to deal with this, the anesthetist wasn't coming.

Next thing I knew, the doctor said it was time to start pushing.  They started to raise the bed up and asked me if I was ready to push.  All I could do was cry and say, "No."  I looked over at Jagger and the look of fear on his face was unmistakable and just about broke my heart.  He stepped out to call my mom and sister to tell them the baby would be here soon.

Like I said, while I was labouring, I lost all track of time.  I couldn't see the clock and I had my eyes closed for most of it.  Now, when they positioned me to push, I was facing a clock.  It was a full hour of pushing.  Between pushes, I was basically blacking out while Jagger wiped my face with a cold cloth and gave me sips of water, like a fighter in the corner.  At one point, the water went down the wrong tube and I started to choke, which I don't recommend during labour.  I kept crying all through the pushing, saying that I didn't have enough energy left to finish.  This was my greatest fear - I'd already been told the anesthetist wasn't coming, so what would happen if I started pushing and couldn't finish on my own?  What would happen if I needed a C-section at that point?

I pushed and pushed for what seemed like an eternity.  It just didn't feel like anything was happening.  They kept telling me how well I was doing, but I didn't feel like anything was happening, or that anything was going to happen.

At one point, I opened my eyes and there was literally about 6 people standing around the delivery room.  It was shift exchange, so I had two sets of nurses there, the doctor and apparently the anesthetist showed up at the 11th hour to announce, "Well, I guess I'm too late!"  Jagger was ready to kill her.  I had no idea who she was or what she was doing there.

Finally, mercifully, the pushing paid off and the head was out.  I was told to push once more to get the shoulders out.  I was so done at that point, I just wanted to keep pushing but was quickly told to stop and to pant with short pushes to get the rest of her out.  Panting quickly turned to hyperventilating as I just wanted to get it over with.

And then - there she was.  She was a whole, real person and she was on my chest.  It's a girl.  She was so quiet, she just laid there and was cooing at us right from the start.  Jagger kept asking if something was wrong because she was so quiet, but she's just that good of a baby.  They asked me what her name was and all I could do was cry and say her name was Vivian.  They whisked her away to clean her up and Jagger went with her for pictures and to share the good news while I got to continue with the fun stuff.

I was prepared to delivery the placenta - I just wanted this whole ordeal to be over and to hold my baby. What I wasn't prepared for was all the stuff that came after.

What no one told me was how they have to check to make sure things contract back down after the birth.  This involves the doctor pressing on your stomach, which basically feels like someone is punching you in the gut.  Of course, you are told to stop resisting and just relax your muscles.  Easier said than done.

It was determined that I wasn't contracting back down like I should be and that I had some major clots that needed to be cleared out.  A nurse handed me the nitrous oxide mask again, but I pushed it away.  "It doesn't work for me," I tried to explain.  The nurse just shoved it back in my hand and insisted "You're going to need it."  This time, the nurse told me to just keep it over my face and keep breathing.

She was so right - where was she all day?

Apparently, my drug-free lifestyle did me no favours in labour.  I had no idea how to inhale the gas until this point.  I kept breathing into the mask and floated away happily.  Finally, some relief.  Jagger came back into the room and I giddily announced, "I like the gas now!"  Turns out I got to use the gas for a bit longer when it was determined I had a second-degree tear and needed some stitches.  I relaxed with my gas while they did what they needed to do to put me back together again.  As I started to become aware that they were done with me, all I could think was one thing - "Where's Vivi?"  I could feel myself swimming to the surface of the gas haze and asked where she was.  They brought her over to me and Jagger and I could finally look at her all cleaned up and happy.  My mom and sister were allowed into the room to see us and to meet little Vivi.

It's strange, but that point was about the time that I started to forget things.  It's amazing how quickly your body and mind starts to shut out everything that you just went through.  This is the reason why people have more than one kid.

Jagger was still super upset about everything that happened with the anesthetist, but I was just happy that Vivian was here.  It was over, what else could we do, there was nothing more to complain about.

In hindsight, I feel like I wasn't given any choices during the labour.  There was a lot of things happening that no one explained to me and I didn't like that.  It was extremely frustrating to think that they knew I was coming that day to be induced and no one told me that there was a chance that the anesthetist wouldn't be available when I needed them.  I feel like that was something I should have been warned about.

Next time, things will be different.  I want to use a midwife next time, that way she's there for me and not anyone else in the hospital.  Hopefully that will give me more control over the situation.

Like I said, in the end, we got Vivian and that was all we wanted.  She was happy and healthy and that's all you can really ask for.


PMAC said...

Wow... that's quite the story! I hope for your sake that you go into labour on your own next time. I've done it both ways now, and I didn't think I was even in labour with Tatum because it was so much easier! I went to the hospital "just in case" and ended up being 7cm. As for the midwife, put your name on a list the day you find out you're pregnant. I went on a wait list with Tatum and they called to tell me I was in a month before she was born! Congrats again Ashlie, it was all worth it! She's perfect!

Leah said...

Ohmigosh ... that sounds like a horrific experience. I'm happy for you and your future children that you are able to see past the birthing experience for the joy that waits beyond!

P.S. You look remarkably well in that photo. I would probably look like a hideous beast.

Eleven's Ink said...

Thanks for making me cry at work Ashlie. lol. What a wonderful story to share! Happy all finished well and wishing you the best with Vivian!! :D

Joan Crawford said...

Aw, sweetheart! This story made me get all teary :( I too had a horrible experience with my first birth and felt very much the same way you do now. Thank you for sharing - you have a right to be upset and it's good to get it out.