The day started normally. The weather was poor so I went to the mall to walk around and complete my Christmas shopping. After lunch I started feeling pretty crummy- almost flu-like, hot and cold. I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions on and off for several weeks and none were stronger that day. I felt like something was off, and I hadn't felt a lot of movement that day. I laid down to do some kick counts, but any movement I felt was small and I couldn't distinguish between what might be her or just intestinal disturbance. I called my doctor to check in; she said to continue counting, drink something sweet and wait a second hour before coming by the hospital for a nonstress test. Monitoring heart rate and movement, they are fairly common and a good way to evaluate a baby's condition at the end of pregnancy.
By evening when Ray came home, I was still not 100% sure but thought I was probably paranoid- she had been very active a few days before so the change was probably worrying me. We ate dinner and were watching TV, but by 7:30 I decided not to ignore my doubts no matter how silly they seemed. I called Labor & Delivery and we drove to the hospital for the nonstress test. I insisted we take our hospital bags and the carseat just in case.
The nurses hooked me up with a monitor for her heart beat and another for my contractions, then left us in the room for the hour the test would take. Partway through they returned and one of them said "you may have just bought yourself a ticket to Sequoia (Hospital).": I was having 5-6 mild contractions in a row, less than a minute apart. Every time I had one of these very mild, early labor contractions, Lyla's heart rate would drop. Normal contractions at the beginning of labor should have a much longer break in between. Because they were so close together, she wasn't getting enough oxygen and the break she needed in between. They'd spoken to Dr. R (my OB) and she wanted to admit me and induce labor so Lyla's condition could be monitored.
Ray and I were really surprised- we figured we'd just make a silly trip to the hospital and be back home that night. Seeing her heart rate drop made it an easy decision to follow my doctor's orders, despite my fears about induction. At 11:30 pm, they checked me in and took me to a labor and delivery room while Ray went home to collect the rest of our things.
I was 3cm dilated and 50% effaced upon entering the hospital. Dr. R knew my wish to have a natural birth and my fear of the drugs, so we started by giving me the lowest dose of pitocin possible. Two nurses put in an IV as well as the external monitors I had been wearing before.
The IV and monitors made movement very difficult, especially going to the bathroom because they were on opposite sides of the bed. I also had to lay in one particular position so her heart beat would register on the monitor.
I wasn't on the pitocin for very long because Lyla didn't react well to it; the contractions were only a little stronger but her heart rate dropped more. They turned off the pitocin for a few hours, put it back on once more in the middle of the night before turning it off for good.
Saturday, November 20th~
At 8:00am Dr. R arrived and first mentioned the possibility of a C-section. I was distressed by the idea, couldn't believe that I was in the position that I'd feared. I wasn't in active labor yet, and Lyla was already showing stress. Dr. R felt that we could try for a vaginal birth a bit longer, but to be prepared that it might not be possible, for Lyla's sake.
Then she broke my water (very little amniotic fluid left, though no sign of meconium which was good) and inserted internal fetal and contraction monitors for better readings. At this time we also decided that I would get an epidural; with the real possibility of C-section, this was the better option. If I didn't get one, I'd receive general anesthesia at the last minute, which is much worse for Lyla. Plus I'd be out and groggy for her first few hours of life. So hands down, give me the epidural!
~Between the breaking of my water and getting the epidural was horrible- it wasn't more than 90 minutes, but the contractions were much stronger and I was chained to the bed in one position, so all I could do was writhe and howl with the pain. I couldn't relax the tension, which only made it feel worse. I felt weak, that I was barely having active labor and couldn't handle the pain. Maybe it would have been better if I could move.~
The anesthesiologist came in at 9:30am and gave the epidural, which wasn't as bad as I expected. The preparation was worse than the shot itself. When it took effect I felt much better, was able to relax and rest for a while after a sleepless night and painful morning. With the epidural comes a catheter, which on the one hand is gross but on the other- no more peeing a million times an hour, woo hoo!
Ray and I watched TV for a while while they continued to monitor us.
At 11:00am Dr. R returned and said she would like to do a C-section now; Lyla wasn't any better and while she wasn't in danger now, I'd be in labor for a vaginal birth at least another 6 hours and we still might need to do a C-section then- and she may not be in such good condition. I felt sad to lose that whole experience, but it wasn't worth the risk and we agreed. My nurse began prepping me for the surgery. She had to shave a bit down there, a cap for me and a full suit for Ray, removing all the monitors I had. A few other things too that I can't remember, I was feeling anxious and trying my best to remain calm.
Suddenly there were 7 or 8 nurses and doctors around me, pulling me in different directions, lifting me on to another gurney and quickly wheeling me down the hall. None of them addressed me, just lots of hurried commands and checks back and forth to each other.
What Ray knew and I didn't was that her heart rate had plummeted suddenly- very low, scary low. Our procedure had become emergency. In the OR, two unknown doctors told me that she was looking good (she recovered from the drop) and would be out shortly. They said this in a reassuring way I noticed but didn't understand since I didn't know what had happened.
I was scared then, being in the OR was pretty scary- I knew I was about to be cut open. And I was alone, Ray had to stay outside until they were ready to let him in. This all happened in probably 6 or 7 minutes. The whole blue curtain thing was set up, with my arms outstretched and the anesthesiologist behind me, and when Ray came in he held my right hand. I remember feeling no pain, just the pulling and stretching of my tummy as they opened me up.
Ray was amazing and outwardly calm and reassuring; I remained fearful until they got her out. He left me to see and cut the cord, and when he came back he was crying and said over and over how beautiful she was. (I've seen him cry once before so it was powerful to see.) They laid her on my chest wrapped in a blanket and we were nose to nose. I've never been so afraid, then had it melt away so completely.
It was such an amazing moment- nothing like what I imagined, but it was our amazing moment and we weren't robbed of that. I was sad when they had to take her away; she and Ray went to the nursery to be checked out while they stitched me up. It seemed to take forever because I was so anxious to see her again and really hold her. When the doctors were done I was taken to a recovery room where I had to stay for an hour for monitoring. There Ray brought Lyla to me, and the previous events no longer mattered. We were together, as a family, and we were all well.
My recovery surprised the nurses throughout our stay. Lyla was brought to me about 45 minutes after birth and I was able to hold her and attempt nursing. We did pretty well our first try, considering how impaired my movement was. We were finally taken to the postpartum room that was our home for the next 4 1/2 days, and my parents and brother Chris were there to see us. Ray's parents came later in the day.
Lyla stayed in the room with us the entire stay, save for getting tests done and an hour or two sleeping in the nursery so I could nap. Nursing was tough at the beginning because I couldn't move well right after the surgery. The first night was really difficult; my mom stayed with me and her knowledge helped so much, but I couldn't get out of bed or get in the proper position to nurse so it was awkward. But we made it through. The rest of the nights Ray stayed with me, and each day and night we got better and better.
Learning to use a breast pump in the hospital helped a lot with my milk production; it came in pretty quickly and thus far I've had no engorgement. It's funny looking back on the first nights when I was desperately trying to pump 10 mL of breastmilk in 20 minutes. Our first night home I pumped 44 mL in less than 10 minutes- what a difference! My body is adapting to being up several times a night too. The first two nights were painful but I'm getting used to it, and a short nap here and there during the day helps.
Recovering from the C-section is a pain, although I'm healing well. The IV and catheter were removed Monday and I was able to eat solid foods midday Sunday. Slowly I moved more and more during my stay. Now, I'm still on one of my pain medications, Motrin. I've stopped taking the narcotic Percocet because it made me incredibly constipated and I don't desperately need it. I am careful getting up and sitting down because I've strained myself a few times. I can't drive for 2 weeks because of the Percocet, as well as the danger of any quick twisting and turning. That's annoying, I need rides to the doctor and won't be going to the grocery store myself until then. I have my first postpartum check-up tomorrow; I'm hoping I might be given the go ahead to drive earlier since I've stopped taking the narcotic, but we'll see.
So that's it, that's our story! I'm very thankful we listened to my intuition and went to the hospital that night. In the end it doesn't matter what your plan is and how you pictured your labor experience. For us, Lyla's plan was very different from mine. The only thing that matters is a healthy baby.