Two Mondays ago my plans for the evening were to watch a little TV and recuperate from a busy day of getting stuff ready for the container we’re shipping to Sierra Leone. Instead, I gave birth. In an effort to remember the details of that day, as well as share the story with a few people who’ve asked, I decided to share it here. Men, (and squeamish women) beware. I’m tired, hormonal and on my best day have a leaky social filter so I’m not sure how graphic this is going to get. Read at your own risk.
Monday was a busy day. My dad and I spent all day packing and organizing things for a container that we were to ship on Saturday. My sister recently found out that her husband got a job in New Mexico and within a week or so, she and her family headed down south. My mom went with them to help them get settled, so Dad, Marie and I were holding down the fort.
Since I found about this little bun in the oven, Mondays have been significant because every Monday marked one more week of pregnancy down. My husband Peter went back to Sierra Leone in April so every Thursday was significant because it meant one week closer to his return. This Monday made 33 weeks of baby cooking and only 1 ½ more weeks until Peter got back. (He was coming back 6 weeks before I was due so….PLENTY of time before baby came.
We got back to the house at about 3:30 and I was pretty beat. I put a movie on for Marie and then went in to my room to watch a little “mommy tv.” (Ok I admit it. I was watching “Married at First Sight.” A train wreck of a show that is about 3 couples who meet for the first time at the alter. Feel free to judge….I judge myself).
I hadn’t been watching the show for more than 10 minutes when I suddenly felt a large gush of fluid. Oh shoot. Did I just wet my pants? But I didn’t have to pee! And I ALWAYS have to pee. I stood up and some more came out. I went into the bathroom to investigate and…..it sure didn’t smell like pee. I went into the living room and told my Dad that I think my water broke and called my doctor’s answering service (it was Memorial Day).
While I waited for the answering service to call me back, I tried to figure out what to do with all this water coming out. I changed my jeans….but they were immediately soaked. I had no idea where any pads were because we’ve moved about 17 times since becoming pregnant and….well, I hadn’t needed them. While this hunt was going on the nurse on call called me back and I explained the situation. As we were talking I broke down and started crying. She told me that I needed to grab my hospital bag and go directly to the hospital. “Hospital bag!!!” I sobbed. “I’m only 33 weeks!! I don’t have one yet!” She told me that if I didn’t have one packed I needed to go straight to the hospital without one. I was in the bathroom at this point, hunting for something to catch all this fluid so I grabbed my toothbrush, glasses and contact case and called it good. I changed my pants again and headed out the door with my dad and my daughter. As we were walking to the car another gush of fluid came and I said forget it. I’ll just look like I wet my pants.
We went to the ER, as I knew this was the drill. This was the third time during my pregnancy that I’d had to be checked out for something. The other two times I had contractions that were about 2 min. apart and didn’t go away with laying down and drinking water. They weren’t painful though, and I never dilated so they gave me some meds to make them stop and they did. This was a whole new ballgame. As we were driving to the hospital, I became very aware that I wasn’t feeling little Ben moving. When I’d been watching TV, he was obviously into it too because he was kicking away in there. Since my water broke, I’d felt him once at the beginning but not since. I lost a baby in Sierra Leone to a prolapsed cord after I broke mom’s water so this was of course what I was envisioning. The baby in Sierra Leone was a twin, so he was very small and that cord just shimmied right down there. Ben was very small so even though I didn’t know if I was dilated, it was running through my head as a possibility.
I got to the hospital and was happy to know that my OB was on call. He came in, did an exam (I wasn’t dilated) and we discussed the options. Basically, my option was that they were going to send me to a different hospital to deliver. Ben was going to need a NICU. Did I want to go North or South? It was all happening so fast! But God was so faithful. Some friends of my parents (shout out Dave and Lois) dropped what they were doing and came to the hospital to get Marie. My dad who, although a nurse himself was probably being stretched outside his comfort zone with all this baby bornin’ business was steady and calm and ready to do whatever needed to be done. I’d been delaying calling Peter until I knew what was going on because it was the middle of the night in Sierra Leone but at this point I decided I should let him know what was going on. He didn’t answer his phone (which I was expecting because that boy is a heave sleeper!) so I sent him a nice little text letting him know that there was a chance we were going to have our baby much sooner than expected. With that, they called for the ambulance and off I went.
The whole “being the patient” thing was just so weird! Signing forms as the “patient” that I’d signed a hundred times as “RN” or “witness.” Listening to the nurse give report about me to the medics, getting loaded up into the stretcher and strapped in. All so weird!
About five minutes after our ride started we made a pit stop at the ambulance quarters to change medics. Apparently the one in the back with me was ready to be sick. The new medic that hopped on was much friendlier (probably because he wasn’t focusing on not vomiting on his patient) and we had a nice little chat. About halfway down to the hospital (the whole trip was about an hour) I noticed that these contractions were changing and starting to become a little…uncomfortable. The medic noticed my discomfort and we started timing them. 2 minutes apart. He told me to let him know if they got to one minute apart. I’d had contractions that were 2 minutes apart (although they hadn’t been this….uncomfortable) so I wasn’t really worried. We only had 30 minutes to go. I assured him we’d be fine. (As much as I didn’t want to deliver in an ambulance, I knew he didn’t want to HELP me deliver in an ambulance either….probably even more!)
I arrived at my new hospital and the nurse got me all admitted. Although it was Memorial Day, the doctor on call was already around for another patient so she came in to see me right away. She did an ultrasound and sure enough, my water was broken. As we were talking she noticed that I was squirming around quite a bit and asked about my contractions. I said that they seemed to be getting more painful but I thought I was just being a wimp because I hadn’t been dilated at all at my home hospital. She explained that the way they do the exam after your water has broken can make it difficult to really tell if you’re dilated so, based on the way I was squirming, she wanted to check me again. I was 3 cm. dilated. Ben was coming sooner rather than later. But I haven’t even had my childbirth classes yet!!! I was waiting for Peter to get home so we were going to do them next week!! She asked if I wanted some pain medication or was interested in an epidural and I said….”epidural please.”
Then I said, “Dangit! I was going to see how long I could go without an epidural and I only made it to 3cm???? Shoot!”
She said, “ Well, I think I could stretch it to 4cm. You were dilated 4cm. Does that make you feel better?”
“Yes! Thank you.”
“If it makes you feel better, I had my daughter in this same room and after 2 real contractions was calling for an epidural.”
I liked her.
At this point I’m pretty….uncomfortable…. and am moving around a lot. As if I could find some kind of position that would make this pain go away. (Hint: no position will make that pain “go away.” Not sure what I was thinking.) I heard the nurse tell someone that the anesthesiologist was in the middle of a case and they’d call him in 10 minutes. Call him in 10 min? And then who knows how long it will take for him to get here? Dang. I’m ready for him……um…..now.
Every time the door opened I was hoping to see a face that I didn’t recognize with a name tag that said “Anesthesia” and a giant needle to put in my back to make me feel better. I heard the nurses murmuring to each other “Did they call him? Where is he?” After what seemed like an eternity (and was probably more like 30 minutes or so) he arrived!!! My first thought was “Praise the Lord!!!” followed quickly by “How the heck am I going to stay still for him to get this into me?” I’d been moving all around in the bed, standing up, sitting down, bending over……etc. How was I going to sit still? Anesthesia got all set up and I just kept thinking “Emily, you have to sit still because the sooner he gets it in, the sooner you’ll feel better.”
And this was where I really saw how those natural childbirth classes probably would have helped. When I was forced to sit down, the nurse sat with me and helped me focus on my breathing and just getting through the contraction. One contraction at a time. Before I’d been a crazy person, moving all around, just trying to get comfortable. Focusing on breathing and just getting through a contraction was actually really helpful.
As helpful as it was, as soon as he was done and had administered the “test dose” I was up again. This time apparently, with some grunting.
I heard one of the nurses say “That moan sounded different. Do you feel like you need to poop?”
Me: “Poop? No.” (I've delivered a baby into a bedpan before when a woman needed to "poop" so I knew where she was going).
Anesthesia: “Should we get the doctor in here?” (Later the nurses were laughing at that because…..he is a doctor!)
Me: One more contraction and…..“Um, ok I think I'm ready to push now.”
My dad walking in the room: “When did all this happen?” (He’d stepped out for the epidural and things had progressed…..quickly.)
They set me back in the bed and I vaguely remember noticing there were quite a few people in there. They told me to push so I did a couple times and then I saw the doc exchange a look with the nurse. Ben’s heartrate was dropping with the contractions which meant we needed to get him out.
So I pushed harder. The thought did cross my mind that as small as this kid must be, he should be sliding right out! And eventually, he did. And he came out screaming!! They let me hold him for a few minutes until the doctor started hearing some grunting noises that he wanted to check out and they whisked him away.
As soon as Ben (and the entourage that had come to take care of him) left the room I started settling down. That’s when it occurred to me. Hey! Does that count as an epidural????? Everyone in the room said No!!! If the anesthesiologist is still in the room, there’s no way it’s had time to work and it doesn’t count! So yeah…..I’m pretty hard core….yeah……
After I was stitched up and cleaned up, I went to go see Ben in the NICU. I was amazed. His oxygen level was 100% and he didn’t need any extra oxygen!! They hadn’t even needed to give him the medicine that they often do when babies are born early to help their lungs develop. And he was just beautiful.
There are a few things that are imprinted in my mind right now that I want to make sure I remember about my “birth story.”
1) The paramedic who was in the back with me telling the driver to “not waste time and get those lights on” as we were pulling away. Then the relief I had when I saw the hospital and knew I wouldn’t be delivering in the ambulance.
2) Marie leaving the hospital with her Auntie Lois and just the feeling of thankfulness I had knowing that she was with someone she loves who loves her and I didn’t have to worry about her.
3) My precious dad standing in the doorway while I was pushing. He told me later that there were so many people in the room that he didn’t want to get in the way, but he didn’t want me to be alone. That’s how he was the whole time. Present. Available if I needed something. Precious.
4) Hearing Ben’s strong cry as soon as he was born. I was expecting him to be lethargic and probably struggling to breathe when he came out so that cry was just wonderful.
5) A dear friend of mine texting me and telling me that she was coming down. Not asking, just telling me that even if she ended up just waiting in the waiting room, she was coming down. After her own difficult labor and extended time in the ICU with her husband, she was a huge and did so many practical things to help and encourage me.
6) Going to visit Ben and having the internet in Sierra Leone work well enough so we could Skype with Peter and he could see his son. He was just sleeping so I tried poking him so he’d wake up and do something but Peter told me to “just let the man sleep.” A picture of our relationship. Me riling things up, Peter calming them down. J
7) The relief I had when my mom arrived. My dad did an incredible job, but I’m 33 and still need my mommy. J
8) The massive amounts of texts and Facebook messages that I received from people who were thinking about and praying for me. I’ve yet to be able to respond to them all but was so thankful during that time for all the people that were praying for me!
9) My dad told me, sometime in the next couple of days, that he counted 11 people in my delivery room. Eleven people, just there for Ben. At least two doctors, specialized nurses, a respiratory therapist and many other people all there to do everything they could to make sure Ben and I were ok. (I do have a fleeting memory of
looking to my right and noticing a strange guy helping me hold my leg up and thinking…..”Hi. Have we met?”) Peter and I were talking about it later and I broke down crying thinking about all the people and resources that we have to help Ben and then thinking about all the babies in Sierra Leone who don’t even have one trained person attend their delivery. We are truly blessed in this country.
P.S. Next will be "What happens when you try to bring someone from an EBOLA COUNTRY into the NICU? Da da da.......