Ripley Arrives: Part One

It’s been quite a few months since I last posted here. Oops. Sorry, SEO. Second and third trimesters really threw me, and the birth did not go as hoped for at all.

At around 35 weeks, little Ripley still hadn’t turned. She was quite comfortable breech, thank you very much, but she still had space to move around in. During my weekly ultrasounds, we’d see her sometimes lying on her side, once or twice actually head down (aka vertex), but usually her little butt was firmly in my pelvis.

On the bright side, we got cool ultrasounds like this, where you could see head, placenta, and foot all in one shot.

By 38 weeks, it didn’t look like she’d turned at all, so we went in for an ECV (external cephalic version). That’s when an OBGYN or midwife actually turns the baby with their hands by pressing on the belly. Now, they do an ultrasound beforehand to determine positioning, but in the old days, they just felt for head and butt. Before going in, I of course looked online to see what other parents had experienced.

That’s ALWAYS a good idea, right?

Almost every other person I spoke to said it hurt. Badly.

I ended up worried about the pain. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt at all.

The medication they gave to relax my uterus was worse than the actual procedure, which only lasted maybe 10 minutes. The medication is used to stop labor, and it makes you feel like you’ve downed about six pots of coffee in one sitting.

The appointment itself was a couple hours long, but that was so they could monitor me and the baby. It worked! She looked comfortably head down on the follow-up ultrasound.

I got my celebratory nachos and headed home, happy that I could have a normal birth. Ripley had other ideas. That night, it felt like she was attempting to burst out my side.

My sweet little baby had just kept going in the direction the doc had originally turned her. My next ultrasound showed she was once again breech.

Thanks, kid. You weren’t even born, and you already gave your mom a hard time.

A week later, we tried again. Once again, it worked! Since I was almost at 39 weeks at that point, we decided to go in to be induced as soon as possible, since a) my team didn’t want me to go past 40 weeks, and b) we didn’t want her to turn again.

We chose my sister’s birthday to go in, a Tuesday, hoping the birth would be quick.

Pre-labor selfie of MCG and I.

Check in went smoothly, and we settled into the birthing room. The Mother Baby Center I selected had some beautiful rooms. The lighting was adjustable, and we kept it soft. The TV was accessible, and the bed wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. The center’s decorative theme was flowers in full bloom, which seemed fitting for pending parenthood.

My husband, MCG, had a fold out couch for a bed. We’d brought our own pillows and blankets. Hospital blankets are not exactly warm, and the pillows are generally pretty disappointing.

While those things played a role in why I chose the place I did, the real selling points were that it was attached to a hospital my family has already had great experiences with and the Children’s Hospital was one of the best in the city. If something went wrong for either or both of us, I wanted us to have the best care possible. It was the ideal balance of comfort and medicine.

They started me out on a pill to, ripen the cervix, which in turn, brought on contractions. They were minor, just like the Braxton Hicks I’d been dealing with for a couple months already.

They gradually upped my dosage until it became clear that the drug had done all it could for me. They tried a second pill that evening, and the contractions came faster and harder. I could still handle them, but they kept me up that night. They were like period cramps on steroids.

My water broke at around five AM on Wednesday. Oddly enough, it was like something from a movie. I stood up from using the toilet, and GUSH. Soaked pajama bottoms and a puddle on the floor.

Once we finally got a nurse in the room, because apparently the call button had issues, she got me set up with a lovely puppy pad for the bed, and hooked me up to the lowest dose of Pitocin possible. Woof.

I wanted to minimize that drug because I knew how powerful it could be. I had actually wanted a minimally medicalized birth, since I avoid medication and I wasn’t sure of how the drugs would effect my body. However, I also knew my risk of infection went up when my water broke, so if that would shorten the labor, go for it.

I still resisted pain medication throughout the whole time to that point. As contractions got stronger and closer together, I requested our doula join us.

One thing I hadn’t expected about labor was how it can just drag on and on. Knowing intellectually that it can take a while is one thing, but experiencing it is a whole other matter.

I didn’t want a long labor, but who does? That’s what I got, though.

The doula and I spent some time walking the halls as the contractions got harder and closer together, wheeling my bag-o-meds along as we went, pausing as the pain hit and ebbed away. Gravity really is your friend in labor. Leaning forward with my hands braced on something helped immensely.

I don’t know how long we did that for. Time becomes immaterial when you’re in that much pain. I eventually asked for nitrous oxide.

The thing about nitrous is that it won’t take away the pain. I was still in massive pain every time a contraction hit, but I didn’t care anymore. It was pretty great.

My progress was still slow, and eventually, the nitrous didn’t do it anymore. I finally consented to an epidural. I hadn’t wanted to be confined to bed during the birth, but I had hit my limit.

Fourty eight hours of labor pain was enough for me.

That did the trick. My cervix finally opened up the rest of the way. After she was here, my back ached from the epidural for about a week, but dude, it was worth it. Anyway, not long after they stuck the meds in my spine, it was time to push.

And push.

And push some more.

At this point, I was no longer in pain, but I was working, and working hard. I was so focused that I didn’t realize three hours had gone by until the OB said something.

That was devastating. I knew I couldn’t keep pushing. I couldn’t function. The exhaustion was unreal.

I also hadn’t realized it at the time, but I had also spiked a fever. C-section was the safest option.

In all of my childbirth classes, I’d heard that birthing people had a moment where they thought they couldn’t do it. They think they can’t possibly push their baby into the world, when in fact they actually can and do. I never had that moment. I guess the reverse held true in my case. I thought I could, but my body said no, I can’t.

I cried when we made that decision. I still tear up as I write this. I hadn’t realized how badly I wanted a normal birth and that feeling of holding my baby in my arms right after.

Everyone got stylish matching blue hair nets, and everyone but me got sterile blue jumpsuits. It was like the surgical version of team jackets.

I had never had major surgery before, and that’s what a C-section is. Yes, it’s a way of giving birth, but it’s still surgery. It was happening so fast I couldn’t really process anything more than, “Please don’t let me feel anything. PLEASE don’t let me feel anything.”

I have a history of pain medication wearing off during dental surgery. I couldn’t imagine the same thing happening during abdominal surgery.

There was no pain, but I could definitely feel pulling and shifting as they brought my little girl into the world.

Her cry was powerful. She was so strong right away, yelling her little heart out at the indignity of it all. She was probably pretty cold, too. That surgical theater was nowhere near as warm as my innards.

I couldn’t see her over the blue tarp, but they put her on my chest after cleaning up most of the blood and gunk.

Our first family photo. Photo credit goes to Emily Kossila, The Tidal Doula

I couldn’t figure out how to hold her, what with the IV in my arm, oximeter on my finger, and blood pressure cuff. She was six pounds, fourteen ounces, but that still felt huge to me. I wanted to cuddle her, try nursing a little, but that wasn’t possible with how things were set up. They took her away all too soon to do their tests and let the surgeons close me up.

That’s when things went wrong.

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