Prior to going into labor most of the labor stories I read were wonderful and dreamy. And while the YouTube birth giving videos did scare me, overall, I was pretty excited about my own experience. I thought much like these other women I too was going to have the most magical experience. I was especially looking forward to the ‘oh my water broke’ or ‘I think it’s time honey.’
My due date was September 15th. My pregnancy had been fairly smooth with few aches and pains here and there. But as I reached week 34, I was starting to feel the heaviness, tiredness and my feet had become the size of two big balloons. A week later I found out I had gestational diabetes, which basically put me on a no carb, no sugar diet which as a vegetarian is hard. Thank god for no pregnancy cravings. Also on a small tangent here, gestational diabetes is very common in pregnant women, which I found out after crying for half a day. The scariest thing about being pregnant is thinking your choices might have messed up your child. And it didn’t matter how much re-assurance you get your mind psychs you out.
Anyways, as we reached week 36, and the weekly appointments started, I got very excited about my labor. I told my doctor, I wanted to go all natural, no induction, no epidural, I was going to do this. She, although supportive, kept reminding me I should keep an open mind. In my head, I kept thinking my mom did it, millions of other women now and before the discovery of anesthesia did it, so why couldn’t I? I was more worried about all the hospital changes that happened as a result of Covid. My doctor was only allowed at the hospital once a week, which meant more than likely I was going to have a total stranger do my delivery, and it could also be a man. I have nothing against male doctors, but I felt uncomfortable with a male OB. Looking back now, boy were my priorities in the wrong place.
Each week my doctor checked how dilated I was and to my dismay I continued at 1 cm. I did what any eager mom to be would do, googled how I could be more dilated. So, I did a ton of nipple stimulation, walking and sex. Did any of it work? Well not exactly.
At week 39, at 5pm on a Wednesday evening, I started to have intense contractions followed by vomiting. My doctor said its time you better go to the hospital. I had my moment I was so excited, even though I was feeling pretty crap at that point. My mom hugged me goodbye and off my husband and I went into the NYC traffic to have a baby. We get there and as they examined me, we find out I just had a scare. I was still only 3cm dilated. They offered to induce me and get the process going but I had a birth plan and I was going to follow it. For those of you who don’t know me. I am a planner so going off plan, especially with giving birth was not ideal. We went back home, no baby.
The following day I had my appointment with my OB and we understood that unless this baby comes before its due date, which was at this point only 5 days away, I would have to get induced to prevent any complications due to my gestational diabetes. I started to get nervous, it was looking like we were going to have to go off plan. My friends had warned me that contractions when you get induced are much harder to deal with than when its natural. Needless to say, I was nervous and trying to accept the fact this may not go the way I was hoping. My doctor swept me, which for those who have not been pregnant is when the doctor inserts a gloved finger through the cervical canal and uses a sweeping motion, much like you do on tinder, to separate the membrane from the cervix. This supposedly speeds up the process of going into labor.
By Friday, basically the next day, I accepted that I was most likely getting induced. I was only now four days away from my due date, and my contractions had become even less despite the nipple stimulation and constant sex. I kept telling my husband, this is your job in the pregnancy to get me unpregnant. We got pregnant by sex; we will get unpregnant by it too. It seemed very logical to me.
I was also at this point quite fed up of my vegetable only diet so my mom, my husband and I decided to go to my favorite place in Brooklyn, Paulie Gee’s for pizza. We leave the house at 5pm. I don’t take my purse thinking, we will be back in a few hours, what could happen.
What did happen was NYC traffic, and NYC bumps leading to my water breaking. Didn’t exactly happen in that order, but as we reached the restaurant, I started to feel contractions and the urge to pee was very high. What they say about pregnant women and needing to constantly pee is definitely true. As soon as we pull up to the restaurant I rush to the restroom, and as I wash my hands, I felt I was leaking. I kept trying to stop it, I was oh man this is weird I can’t control it. I remember my doctor saying you know your water has broken when you can’t control the liquid. I thought this can’t be it, can it?! It was! My water broke in Paulie Gee’s restaurant! Also, the movies have it totally wrong, it isn’t a big gush it’s a few small drips. I speedily walk to my mom while my husband is parking and tell her my water broke. My husband comes running and we are figuring out what to do. I ring my doctor and she says to relax, I don’t need to rush to the hospital but instead enjoy my pizza and head over. This was going to be my last meal, before the whole thing started. My mom worried that our desire to eat pizza resulted in my water breaking, me reassuring her, this was not the case.
Tip here for those pregnant: keep towels in your car makes a huge difference!
Anyways, back to the story, we finally reach the hospital and after they confirm my water had actually broken, I got admitted. Thank god for the scare earlier in the week, because I had no ID, nothing on me, I thought I was just going out for pizza not pizza and a baby!
Although my water had broken, I was still only 3cm dilated, the doctors wanted to started a drug called Pitocin to speed it along, because once the water breaks you really only have 24 hours to give birth as the chances of infection goes up dramatically. I insisted that I wanted to get more dilated naturally and so the doctors agreed to wait a few hours before they administered the drug. This time, we just continued with nipple stimulation, but it was too much for the baby, and after a few hours still staying at 3cm, at 2am I was put on the Pitocin.
Every 15 minutes the quantity administered went up. The pain started to rise. I had planned to walk, breath and bounce on my ball through the pain. But with the Pitocin IV in me, it cancelled out two of those three plans, I could only breathe through the pain and have my husband give me back massages. By 9am I was in extreme agony. I called and cried to my mom, my dad, my sister, my friend. My husband with tears in his eyes, struggling to see me in this kind of pain kept checking with me if I was sure I didn’t want to get the epidural. Even the nurses said, ‘you are tired, you need to keep your energy,’ reminding me I wouldn’t be a failure for choosing to eliminate the pain. That it would be ok. But I truly wanted to do this the natural way. I mean it was my path as a woman, right? As I continued to scream in pain, I thought at least I’m more dilated, sadly I was still only at 3cm dilated, so with 7cm more to go I gave in and got the epidural. I know everyone kept telling me that I wasn’t a failure, but I felt deeply disappointed in myself.
For a bit of background, I wasn’t against the epidural not just because I prefer all-natural things, but also because I hate needles and it’s a shot in your spine. Plus I had heard many horror stories from friends who had something go wrong with an epidural.
The anesthesiologist came in and explained the process to me. I am dead scared of needles as I mentioned, I mean dead scared. She says ‘oh it won’t be that bad it’ll be a pinch.’ It is not. She poked me in a few spots, with each wrong prick was pain in my left leg and then right leg. Finally she gets it right and the drug is administered. But the pain didn’t go away, and my screaming was so loud that the whole floor heard me and nurses came running in thinking something was terribly wrong. I promise I am not exaggerating. The anesthesiologist has to come back and double my dosage and finally I am no longer in pain.
I have a catheter attached to me so I can pee into a bag, which I didn’t feel. I also obviously lost all feeling in my lower body, it was weird. Very strange feeling, very uncomfortable. I knew what it meant to have an epidural, but now looking back it was super scary to not be able to feel your toes or feet or anything. It was psychologically hard to understand. The nurses then upped my Pitocin dosage so I could go into labor that afternoon. But when 3pm came I was feeling a chill. My heart-rate was rising. My baby’s heart-rate was rising. I had a fever. I had an infection.
I couldn’t understand. How could I get an infection when I had been in this bed, hadn’t moved?! The nurses reminded me that the chances of an infection goes up if your water breaks and you aren’t in active labor. But I still kept asking how, how how?! I was administered antibiotics, and two hours later, 5pm, nothing had changed. My heart-rate was still high, the baby’s heart-rate was still high, and even though I tried to talk myself down, tried to stay calm it wasn’t working. The doctor came in saying we had to do a c-section. I was still only 5cm dilated and it would get too risky to wait longer. There was no way I could push it off. I cried and cried. My whole birth plan was out the window. My natural way was out the window. I was trying to console myself but it wasn’t working. Even my mom who had encouraged my natural route said, its fine, its ok that you are having a c-section. She herself had three 100% natural babies; she was in labor for 10 hours with me.
The nurses to give me some perspective and reality and even share with me how that day two women who were at full-term lost their babies. That saddened me beyond anything, but I needed to hear that. I signed the waiver and 24 hours after my water broke, I was rolled into the operating room.
As I stared the hospital ceiling lights, I kept thinking, I got induced, I got the epidural and now I got the c-section, none of this was in the stories I read. The nurses put me on the operating table and my husband came in and sat next to me, and more anesthesia was administered, my vision got hazier and hazier. I ask the doctor if I can still have skin to skin as soon as baby is born. I cannot. It is not allowed with c-sections. I cried. I told my husband, we had to see the baby together for the first time. That when I got moved into the temporary recovery room, we would see him and hold him together. My husband without disagreement agreed. The nurses and doctor thought that was weird, but I wanted something to go the way I had hoped. That I would have some magic. To clarify, in c-sections sometimes the husband can see the baby before the mom does.
Finally, at 6:34pm on September 12th, I hear a cry. He is here. My husband and I both cry in joy, asking if he is ok. The nurses ask again if the father wants to see the baby, we say no. We hear the nurses say ‘aww he’s sucking his thumb; he is a cute healthy baby.’ And that he pooped in my amniotic sac (ah the reason for the infection). It is over. My labor is over. As I finally get stitched up, rolled down towards postpartum, I stare at the hospital ceiling lights, I am eager to meet my little one.
I have to say many people say you forget the pain, but it has been a little over a month and I have definitely not forgotten the pain. I don’t think I ever will, but it hasn’t derailed me from wanting another child.
And that is my labor story. A bit out there. Not dreamy. Not normal. Definitely not magical. Definitely not how I imagined it. The experience was surreal and one of a kind. But I wanted to share it because movies, and other stories out there make it seem so perfect and wonderful but it is not always like that. My story isn’t meant to scare or say that others might not have a wonderful labor, but more a reassurance that if you didn’t have it perfect you aren’t alone. What is perfect and wonderful is having the baby in your arms.
Lastly, my drama did not end at my labor, my postpartum was equally nuts. It continues next week.