Porter’s Birthday 12.28.12
While pregnant I loved reading other people’s birth stories; whether they were written by strangers, acquaintances, or dear friends, I really enjoyed reading about others’ birth experiences. While I knew no one’s birth story was going to prepare me for exactly what I would encounter, I felt a little more prepared nonetheless.
It was pretty early on the morning of Porter’s birth that I suspected it was “the day.” Ironically we were already supposed to head to the hospital for our 7 a.m. non-stress test. We were scheduled for the non-stress test due to him being overdue. When we went to the doctor a few days prior to the non-stress test, we knew that it would be a possibility that the day of the test could be “the day,” but only if something was wrong and I needed to be induced. I was pretty confident that Porter was “A-Okay” in there and that we wouldn’t need to be induced on that day.
During the last several weeks of my pregnancy, I was lucky to get a few hours of sleep each night, if that. I often woke up due to being uncomfortable and I’m not what one would call a “good sleeper,” so it was difficult for me to get to sleep and get back to sleep once woken up. I woke up around 1 a.m. on Friday due to general discomfort. I tossed and turned for a while and finally resolved to going into the living room to lie on the couch. While I didn’t fall back to sleep, around 4 a.m. I had my first contraction. However, this contraction did not cause any sort of alarm, because I had been having contractions (often at night and early morning) for about two weeks and this contraction did not feel any different. I continued to lie on the couch and tossed and turned for a while longer. I had had some more contractions, so I finally decided to start timing them, only to realize that they were consistently 6-7 minutes apart. When I had contractions in the previous days and weeks, they sometimes held a pattern, but not for longer than 45 minutes. There was once a time when I had contractions for 4 hours, but they were irregular and followed no pattern. Thus, when I realized they were consistently 6-7 minutes apart for an hour, it did cross my mind that maybe this was the real thing. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced.
I decided to get up, but I didn’t wake up David because our alarm was set to wake up at 5:30 for the non-stress test anyway. When David woke up, I told him about the contractions. “Any pattern?” He asked. I told him that they had been 6-7 minutes apart for over an hour, but I also confessed that I wasn’t convinced it was the real thing. Since we knew there was a chance of being induced, we had our hospital bags and gear ready to go and we got ready and packed up the car.
We live very close to the hospital—it’s only about a 6 minute drive—but in that short amount of time, my contractions started to intensify. They weren’t closer together, but by the time we pulled into the parking lot and I was getting out of the car, I knew that these contractions were quite unlike the others I had experienced. We did not take our hospital bags into the hospital with us (because I still wasn’t sure).
We walked into the hospital and went up to the 4th floor and checked in for our non-stress test. I handed the woman the paperwork and she said “Honey, you don’t look very good.” David said, “Well, she’s been having contractions all morning.” Instead of giving me the test in triage as they had planned, they ended up putting me in a labor room. I got gowned up and the nurse hooked me up to the belts that detect contractions (I’m sure there is a more technical term for these, but I have no idea what it is.) The belts were picking up the contractions, and they were now about 6 minutes apart. The nurse decided to hook me up for the non-stress test anyway. She came in a few minutes later to tell me that she had called the doctor on call and that she had said to stop the test because I was in labor. When the nurse said these words, it was such a weird thing to hear. By this point it had definitely crossed my mind (especially as my contractions continued to intensify) but I had been imagining this moment for so long that it seemed like it wasn’t actually happening. David and I immediately looked at each other and smiled. In the labor and delivery rooms there are white boards with patient information, the date, etc. I remember looking at the board and seeing the date and thinking to myself “Today is my child’s birthday.” Again, this feeling was so surreal and it didn’t seem like it was actually happening to me.
(before it got too painful)
By now it was probably around 9:00 in the morning. My contractions were now about 5 minutes apart and at this point the nurse came in to check my cervix and I was 4 centimeters dilated. I had been 3 centimeters dilated for almost 2 weeks, but I was excited to hear that there had been additional progress. My nurse then asked me if I had a plan for pain, and I immediately told her that I wanted an epidural. While a lot of women have a plan for pain ahead of time, I really did not. I’ve had friends who have experienced every type of labor: natural with no pain medication, an epidural, and c-section. Even prior to giving birth, I was a firm believer in thinking that this decision is one that is unique to each and every woman. No two labors are the same and each labor requires different interventions. While I was open to natural childbirth with no pain medication, I was also realistic and knew that this would probably not be the best option for me. I know that I don’t have the highest level of pain tolerance, so I was prepared to let my labor determine whether or not I would have an epidural. When my nurse asked me this question, my contractions had gotten close to my “breaking point.” I knew that there was no way that I could deliver without the intervention of any pain medication or an epidural. I felt no shame in asking for the epidural, and if we ever have any other children, I will not hesitate to have another. It was absolutely the best decision for me, and I am so thankful for this advance in medical technology.
Not that any part of labor can be expected, but the next few hours of my labor experience were very unexpected. Despite me asking for the epidural, for whatever reason it did not happen in a timely manner. To say that I was disappointed in my nurse would be an extreme understatement. When she first came into the room earlier in the morning, she was hardly personable. I don’t think she even introduced herself and she rarely checked on me unless David or I hit the call button. About another hour had passed, so by this point it was 10:00 a.m. and I still had not received my epidural (despite asking for it 3 hours ago.) My contractions were beyond anything I could describe and I cried/sobbed through each one. We called the nurse in and she checked my cervix. She said I was about 5-6 centimeters. At this point, David asked about the epidural again. She was very nonchalant and unconcerned and simply replied by saying “Oh, you’ll get it pretty soon. I’m going to hook you up to an IV soon and then the epidural will come soon after that.”
Another half hour or so passed and a different nurse came into the room. She said that the other nurse was assisting in another delivery. She checked my cervix and I was a “solid 6.” We asked her about the epidural, and even though I wasn’t hooked up with an IV yet, I asked if I could get some pain medication through an IV in the meantime. She asked if the epidural had been ordered yet and we told her that we had no clue. At one point I looked at David between contractions and cried, “I don’t want another one.” And he said, “You don’t want another kid?” I said, “No, I don’t want another contraction.” I could see the pain in his eyes; he felt so badly that he couldn’t help me.
At this point, David’s mom was standing outside the labor room. She works as an operating room nurse, and she came to check on me. David went into the hallway and told her that we still didn’t have an epidural. While David was in the hallway, an OB technician came into the room and was talking to the nurse. At the exact same time that I was having a contraction (and squirming and sobbing through it), these women decided it would be a good time to talk to me. They asked me where I taught and what grade levels. How they expected me to respond was beyond me. All I could think at this point was “Are you kidding me?” I wanted to scream at them, but I couldn’t, because I was trying to get through the contraction.
The (new) nurse came in and gave me an IV with numorphan. While it did not take away the pain by any means, this made the contractions so much more manageable, and I immediately felt relief. After hearing that I was past 6 centimeters and I still didn’t have an epidural, David’s mom took it upon herself to personally contact the anesthesiologist (whom she is friends with.) When she contacted him, he told her that the epidural had never been ordered (despite having asked for it almost 4 hours ago.) The anesthesiologist was in my room within minutes and finally I received my epidural around 11 a.m. The relief was immediate. I still have no idea why my first nurse completely ignored our request.
A few minutes after I received the epidural my blood pressure crashed and an alarm on one of the monitors started going off. I don’t remember much, but I do remember David asking me repeatedly, “Baby, are you with me?” Apparently I had a weird reaction and passed out, but it was for only a short amount of time. They gave me something through the IV and my blood pressure returned to normal.
Around 11:30 my doctor arrived to break my water. Since I had the epidural, I didn’t feel much except for a gush of liquid coming out of me. David said it was quite disgusting, but I couldn’t see anything. Upon breaking my water, we learned that Porter had felt some stress and had pooped in the womb. We learned about the acronym C.O.A.T. in our childbirth class. C.O.A.T. stands for color, odor, amount, and time. Amniotic fluid is supposed to be clear, and (according to David) my water was definitely not clear (due to Porter’s poo.) Our doctor assured us that this wasn’t that big of a deal and that it was common with overdue babies. She said that when the baby was born, NICU would be in the room to be able to suction any poo-filled amniotic fluid from this mouth, nose, and lungs.
The next few hours were pretty uneventful. My mom and sister came, and since I had the epidural I could talk and carry on conversations without any pain. My mom, sister, and David all had lunch and we enjoyed these hours and continued to speculate on baby Blythe’s gender.
At 3:00 there was a shift change and I was yet again assigned with another nurse. Her name was Tina and Tina was AMAZING. I do not think I could have done it without her, and I’m so thankful for her! My cervix had not been checked since around noon when I was still a 6. We were told that I would progress about a centimeter every hour or hour and a half, so we were expecting me to be at an 8 at the most. However, when she checked me she said I was 9 and ¾. When she said this, I yelled “Shut up!” Tina gave me a weird look, and I said, “I mean, I’m not trying to be mean, and I don’t really mean to tell you to shut up, but I was not expecting that at all.” She just laughed. She noticed my bladder was full, so she emptied my bladder and checked me again. After emptying my bladder, she said I was closer to 9. She made the prediction that I would have the baby by early evening (5:00-6:00 p.m.)
At 4:00 p.m. she came to check me again and I was at a full 10 centimeters. She said I was good to go and went to call the doctor on call (she had left to go back to the office after breaking my water.) Since we assumed the doctor was on the way, we kicked everyone else out of the room—we wanted it to be just us—and waited. 5:00 came and went and still the doctor hadn’t arrived. At this point the rest of our families had arrived and were waiting in the waiting room. I told David that he better go out there and tell them that nothing had happened yet and that the doctor hadn’t even come. When he walked out, they all stood up expecting to hear news of a baby boy or girl, but he had to disappoint them and say that absolutely nothing had happened and that we were still waiting for the doctor.
My doctor finally arrived around 6:00 p.m. and Tina had done a few practice pushes with me prior to the doctor arriving. Once Dr. Murphy came, we immediately got to work. Even with an epidural, I could still feel the contractions, but they weren’t necessarily painful. It was more of a pressure, but it told me when I needed to push. For some reason the belt wasn’t picking up all my contractions, so there were times when I had to say “Okay, one’s coming!” because Tina and Dr. Murphy were unable to read them on the screen. We took advantage of each contraction and I pushed through each one for almost an hour. While I was making some progress, I still had a long way to go. At one point Tina asked if I wanted a mirror. While I never imagined that I would want to see anything down there, I agreed. While it was still pretty far back in the birth canal, I could see the baby’s head. It was amazing!
Between contractions, I was very concerned about two things: Maggie and our families sitting in the waiting room. Maggie had been alone since 6:45 a.m. and while my sister had let her out mid-day, she was alone and was probably lonely and hungry. I kept telling David that he needed to make sure someone went to go let her out. However, no one wanted to leave in fear of missing the birth. I also kept telling David that I felt bad that our families had been waiting for three hours. I kept saying “They missed dinner time. They’re hungry!” He kept telling me to quit worrying about other things/people and to focus on the baby. After an hour, I still had not made as much progress as my doctor would have liked, so we decided to take a half hour break. I think at this point David’s parents went to go let Maggie out and picked up a pizza, too.
At about 7:40, it was time to start pushing again, and they decided to turn down my epidural so I could feel the pressure of the contractions more. This last hour of pushing was kind of a blur. I remember getting really hot (despite everyone in the room saying the room was freezing.) I was sweating profusely, and at one point my temperature went up to 101.5. Tina put a cold, wet washcloth on my forehead and that cooled me down a bit. I think they also started me on antibiotics in case there was some sort of infection. My oxygen level also got quite low, so I wore an oxygen mask throughout most of this hour. During this hour I started to figure how to push more effectively and was making a lot more progress. Though they kept telling me that I was doing great and that I was getting closer, I kept doubting myself. After every contraction and series of pushes, I would look at David and shake my head. I felt defeated and I thought the baby should have been here by now. I felt like I couldn’t do something that my body was made to do and it was extremely frustrating. They pulled out the mirror again and showed me how much progress I had made; Porter’s head was RIGHT THERE (maybe a few inches away). It was probably about 8:20 at this point, and I was quickly running out of energy—remember, in addition to all the work my body had been doing all day, I had been awake since 1 a.m. My doctor said that we could try to help his head out with the aid of a vacuum. However, she warned that she could only use the vacuum so many times and that if it didn’t work, our only other option would be to have a c-section. She also said that the vacuum could not do all the work, and that I’d still have to push through my contractions. We agreed, because we honestly didn’t see another option, and my doctor was pretty confident that the head was close enough that the vacuum would do the trick.
Since we agreed to the vacuum, the number of people in the room easily tripled. A few NICU nurses came in as well as an OB tech, and everyone got dressed in full out surgical gear. Little did I know that my sister was standing outside the locked double doors and could see all these people rushing into my labor room. Apparently she thought I was dying and then she locked herself in the bathroom.
I don’t really remember seeing the vacuum, so I can’t recall how it worked or exactly what happened, but during the third push of my next contraction at 8:48 p.m., Dr. Murphy was able to get (suck?) Porter’s head out. David said that this process was very violent—he’s even demonstrated it a few times—and he said there was blood EVERYWHERE. They immediately put Porter on my stomach/chest and started cleaning him off with a blanket.
This is the part of the story that everyone is interested in. I can’t tell you how many people have asked “What was it like when you realized it was a boy?” I wish I could explain this moment in words, but it’s utterly impossible to describe. However, without a doubt all the anticipation of waiting was 100% worth it in the end. When the doctor placed him on my stomach, he was covered in blood, and as I said, they were drying him off with a blanket. It seemed like there were limbs everywhere and his umbilical cord was in the way as well. I kept searching and searching, and for a split second I thought he was a girl. Not that I was disappointed by any means, but for that moment, I literally thought to myself, “REALLY? I can’t believe it’s a girl!” Throughout the pregnancy I had such a strong feeling that it was a boy. I won’t claim that I KNEW it was a boy based on instinct alone, but I always said that I would be really surprised if it was a girl, so in that moment, I was kind of mind blown. However, milliseconds later I saw his little manhood and cried out, “It’s a boy!” and I immediately started sobbing uncontrollably. David said he had never seen me this way (I don’t consider myself to be a “crier”). Apparently right before I announced that it was a boy, David had said the same thing, but I truly did not hear him. I was so focused on looking and finding out for myself that I couldn’t hear or focus on anything else in the room. David cut the cord and the NICU nurses whisked Porter away. After few minutes of hard, uncontrollable crying Tina finally asked me, “Are you okay? These are tears of joy, right?” All I could do was nod my head.
David immediately started snapping pictures as they continued to clean him up, check his heartbeat, weigh him, etc. During this process one of the nurses said, “Oh, he has such beautiful eyes!” David said, “He gets that from his mama.” A few minutes later, the nurses kept saying how “pretty” and “cute” he was and how his face was just absolutely perfect (no marks, bruises, etc.) and I said, “He gets that from his daddy.” As if on cue, the nurses all replied with “Awww!”
After Porter was all taken care of, one of the nurses asked David if he wanted to hold him. David said, “No, I want her to hold him first. She’s certainly earned that.” They put him in my arms and I could not stop staring at his little face. Everything about him, all 7 pounds and 10 ounces of him, was absolutely perfect, and I couldn’t believe that he was ours. “How did we make him?” I asked David. He laughed and said, “You know how we made him,” and of course I knew, too, but I couldn’t believe that this beautiful little thing had been in my belly for 9 months and that David and I together had created him.
By now a few minutes had passed and I was starting to realize that the happenings that were going on “down there” were not normal. At first I figured they were just getting out the placenta (which apparently came out right away) and cleaning me up, but when several minutes passed, I knew something else was going on. Since I had the epidural, I couldn’t feel much, but I could feel sensations and knew there was a lot of touching, dabbing, pulling, etc. going on down there. The doctor and nurses didn’t say anything about what they were doing, so I wasn’t sure. I remember lots of things being shoved inside of me and being pulled out again. David later told me these were sponges that were trying to soak up all the blood. I remember Dr. Murphy counting the sponges as she put them in and as she pulled them out (to make sure she got them all.) It took them 45 minutes to get me to stop bleeding as well as stitched up. At one point Dr. Murphy said, “Whoever did your epidural did a damn good job, because this would have been extremely painful otherwise.” It wasn’t until they were done (like I said about 45 minutes later) that Dr. Murphy told us what had happened. Basically, as a result and force of the vacuum, when Porter was pulled (or sucked) out, I had ripped from one “hole” to the other, and this was considered a third degree tear. I couldn’t really feel the ramifications of the tear (this definitely changed later) and it didn’t matter, either. Nothing mattered except for our darling little boy whom we were so thankful to have in our arms. Once I was good to go, I sent David out to tell our families the news. I wish I could have seen their reactions, but I’m glad David was able to experience the joy of telling them.
A few minutes later our families were allowed in the room after waiting for more than 6 hours. They all met Porter and made over at how cute he was. They didn’t stay too long, as it was late, and shortly before 11 p.m. David and I were left alone with our son for the first time, and thus, our journey of parenthood began.