I felt like I was going to be pregnant forever. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, pregnancy is not a wonderful time for everyone. At 40 weeks I was so ready to have my daughter arrive. Many of my momma friends had given birth between 37 and 39 weeks. Of these moms, most of them had a vaginal birth or a scheduled c-section. Throughout my pregnancy, I had a few bumps in the road. The first 18 weeks I dealt with bleeding from a random, benign cervical polyp (which I had removed). I had every pregnancy symptom in the book. You name it, I had it (minus "the mask of pregnancy"). In my 3rd trimester, my baby was measuring, what my midwife calls, “size greater than dates” so I was sent to get the baby measured. Thankfully she was in the 62nd percentile (which meant she wasn’t so big that I would need a c-section. Yay!). My belly dropped around week 35. At this time I started to become very swollen on my hands and feet. This led me to believe that I might give birth sooner rather than later. I had been on maternity leave since week 38 and in and out of OB triage for other symptoms (right upper quadrant pain, swelling, and “seeing stars”). My mom flew up from Los Angeles to be with me and arrived on August 11th in my 40th week. Fortunately, she didn't miss the birth like she thought she might. Over the past week I had walked for miles, rotating different malls in the area to encourage labor. I walked up and down many flights of stairs. I drank raspberry tea, ate tons of pineapple and kiwi, and bounced the days away on my exercise ball. Then this is what happened:
August 17, 2016 - 40 weeks 4 days
This was my last prenatal visit. My midwife, who I’ll call Jake* could see that I was ready to pop. After measuring me for the last time, he knew that my baby had grown a lot over the past week. At this point my cervix was completely closed, but I was swollen all over and getting Braxton Hicks contractions, but no other signs of labor. He asked me, “What do you think about having your baby this weekend?” Finally there was light at the end of the tunnel! Right then and there he went ahead and scheduled me to be induced on Sunday, August 21st. He chose this day so that he could deliver my baby. This was the night he would be working. Jake then encouraged me to have an acupuncture treatment leading up to my induction day in hopes that it would help ripen my cervix.
*I have changed the names of all medical personnel to protect their privacy
August 18, 2016 - 40 weeks 5 days
I had an acupuncture treatment to ripen my cervix and encourage labor. My treatment was done by my fertility acupuncturist. She was the practitioner who helped regulate my menstrual cycle when Leejay and I decided to start trying to conceive.
August 19, 2016 - 40 weeks 6 days
I’m not sure if it was the acupuncture that did it or if it was coincidental, but on this day I had been getting irregular contractions all day, anywhere from every 5 to 20 minutes apart. They weren't very painful, but they were there. I would rate the pain a 3 out of 10. To ease the discomfort throughout the day, it helped to walk around. We walked at, yet again, another mall. We frequented the mall because it felt like the safest place to walk with labor just around the corner.
August 20, 2016 - 41 weeks
THE PART WHERE MY WATER BREAKS
My sleep had been interrupted by some contractions in the middle of the night. I was tossing and turning in bed because I was so uncomfortable. I was laying on my left side when suddenly I felt a weird, almost painful kind of a pop in my lower belly. My first thought was that my water broke (since I had been waiting for this moment for so long). In these few seconds I tried to recall all I had read about bag of waters rupturing and how women have described the sensation when it happened to them. I read that if I was in bed, I would feel a big flow of water, but if I was standing up I'd only feel a trickle. I didn't feel a flow in bed, so it couldn't have been my bag of waters. Right? I glanced over at the clock just in case this was it. It was 6:21AM. I waited a bit longer but started to feel a little wetness, so I jumped out of bed as fast as a pregnant woman could and ran to the toilet. The fluid flowed down uncontrollably. I yelled out to Leejay (who was sleeping) and told him that I think my water broke. He said, “While you’re peeing?” I yelled back, “I’m not peeing!” He could hear the flow of waters from where he lay. He knew it was really happening because he said it was really loud as it gushed out. He immediately called the hospital to let them know. We got ready quickly and made our way to the hospital.
THE LAST SUPPER
Unsurprisingly, I was only 1 centimeter dilated. My contractions at this point were about 4-5 minutes apart. They let me walk around for an hour to see if it would progress the dilation. We walked to Starbucks, had a bite to eat and made our way back. I took my bites between the contractions. When we got back I was still 1 centimeter. They decided to send me home to labor and to call back when my contractions were “stop-me-in-my-tracks-type-of-painful.” They told me to try to nap if possible because it could be a long night. That didn’t happen. The pain became progressively worse over the next 8 hours. I sat on my birthing ball to help ease the contractions and breathed through them. I would close my eyes and pray that everything would happen smoothly and that the baby would come soon. I had a snack while I labored at home around 3pm. It was two slices of avocado toast. I felt this was important to mention, because it was my last meal for the next 5 days.
Around 5pm the pain was too much. We went back to the hospital and they admitted me right away since I was already scheduled for an induction for the next day. I was in the labor and delivery unit by 6ish and was 4 centimeters dilated at this point and the plan to induce was scratched since I had already progressed on my own. The pain was continuing to progress. They offered me an epidural to be done at anytime once the anesthesiologist became available. They warned me that I wouldn’t be able to eat once I got it. Since we were waiting I ordered a sandwich. There was only one anesthesiologist that was working this night and she was pulled into a c-section before she could do my epidural. When she was finally available, she had realized that the nurse hadn’t infused any IV fluids in me yet. Whoops! The nurse got to it right away, but the anesthesiologist had to do another c-section and then come back when all the fluid had been infused. The nurse ended up giving me a couple of doses of Fentanyl (a narcotic pain medication) to take the edge off. It did the job but wore off quickly. This medication made me feel like I was floating, but I do remember still feeling the pain. I was just in a weird, silly state. Leejay thought it was hilarious.
GIMME THAT EPIDURAL
Finally at around 10pm I got my epidural! My pain was at an all time high, so I was extremely relieved to finally get it going. My sandwich also arrived, but it was too late. They told me that I could save it for after the baby was delivered, so they put it in the fridge for me. We had a couple of problems with the epidural at first. Most of the numbness was felt on my right side only. The anesthesiologist had to come back and readjust it to ensure that both my left and right side were equally numb. After the adjustment I started to get numb on my left side but there was still one problem. The only part that was stubborn and would not get numb was my perineum and pelvis area. Crazy, right? The parts that I actually need numb. I was ready to just power through it. After a couple hours and one more adjustment, it finally began to work. There's a chance that sandwich is still in that fridge.
August 21, 2016 - 41 weeks 1 day
PUSH IT REAL GOOD
At 2am the nurse checked me and I was finally complete at 10 centimeters. It was time to push! She told me that she and Leejay would be the ones to coach me while I push and that the doctor on call, Dr. Bee, would come in once the baby’s head was crowning. Like I said earlier, my midwife, Jake wasn’t scheduled to work until 6pm Sunday night. Before we started the nurse gave us the option to take a power nap. We took it since we hadn’t slept all day. We set an alarm for 20 minutes and when we woke up it was time.
Pushing was a marathon! Props to my husband for being such a great coach and counting me through each push and feeding me ice chips. Pushing is nothing like I imagined or what I had seen on TV. It was extremely hard. All 4 hours of it. Leejay had our GoPro set up thinking I’d push and she’d pop on out. Luckily the nurse let us know that it could go on for hours. We turned the camera off.
What was most uncomfortable about the pushing for me was the pain in my back and in my shoulders because of the position you need to be in for pushing. My neck felt like it was cramping. Pulling your thighs up in a curl is not an easy task. Especially when your legs are huge, swollen, and numb. After the 2nd hour I was exhausted. I tried pushing in all kinds of different positions too. I requested a mirror to help motivate me to keep going. I thought that if I could see what was going on down there, I would push even harder and get her out. It was working and I could see a little progress. It was around this time that the nurse noted meconium (yup, the baby pooped in me!) and the baby’s heart rate was decelerating during my contractions. They saw that I was getting very tired and I was not progressing any further and it was taking too much time considering the decels and the meconium.
They decided to go forward with inducing me with Pitocin. They felt it would aid me in my pushing so I wouldn’t have to work so hard by contracting my uterus for me. This went on for a couple hours but the nurse noticed that the baby was still having decels with the contractions. Dr. Bee was there for the last hour to assess what was going on. She decided to do an internal assessment while I was being induced and could feel that I was no longer contracting and the baby was not descending. In the nicest way possible she let me know that I needed to get this baby out and have a c-section. She said that she is the “Queen of vaginal births”, and would not even mention a c-section if she didn’t think I needed one. She had read my birth plan and knew that I wanted a vaginal birth, but of course I wanted to do whatever was best for the health of my baby. I asked when the c-section was going to happen. She replied, “In 15 minutes.” It was 6:30am. She also mentioned that she had been updating Jake for the past few hours on my progress. Like the amazing midwife he is, even though his shift didn’t start until 6pm that night, he decided to come in earlier to assist with my surgery.
They had Leejay change into scrubs while they rolled my bed into the operating room. When I got there, they told me that he would come into the room a little later because he was looking a little pale. They had him drink some juice to perk him up a little. Apparently he had no idea that looking pale was the reason why he got the juice. He thought they were just being nice. Haha.
The surgery started late for two reasons. One, we were waiting for Jake to get there. Two, anesthesia was still in another surgery. As they set me up on the table I felt I was getting anxious (because that’s what happens when you tell someone we have to wait while they are laying in a cold room anticipating the birth of their child). I began to pray silently for everyone in the room. I prayed that everyone would do a great job, the health of my baby, and a quick recovery. Time was moving s-l-o-w.
Finally, when everyone who needed to be there was present, they prepped me, pumped up my meds to ensure I was numb, and began. Leejay was to the left side of my head as I lay flat looking up to the ceiling with a giant blue drape covering me from the chest up. It’s such a strange feeling, the pulling and tugging, when your body is feeling the way your lips and gums feel after getting a cavity filled at the dentist. I don’t recall Leejay and I talking too much. Those performing my surgery were not talking to me either. My body kept rocking back in forth for some time until we heard a cry. It was 7:29am. Zachary Jean was born and she wasn’t the only one crying. I heard Jake say, “She is beautiful. She’s perfect.” Leejay held my hand as we both had tears running down our faces. I didn’t get to see here right away. They had Leejay come and see her over the blue drape (I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was cutting the cord). He came back to my side and I asked him what she looked and he said, as if in a state of shock, “She looks like me. And she has a cone head.” That made sense since I had attempted to push her out for 4 hours. They took her away and had Leejay follow and I sensed that the energy in the room started to change.
The tugging and pulling started to feel more like aggressive pushing. I felt more pressure at this time than I had felt earlier. It was actually starting to hurt, like someone extremely heavy was sitting on me. Things started to get all hazy, so I only remember bits and pieces. I do remember calling over the drape asking if we were closing up now. No one responded to me. I could hear them talking but I couldn’t make out what it was they were all talking about. It sounded serious. The one thing they kept doing was counting. They were counting “laps”. First Dr. Bee would count. She would get to 25. Then Jake would count and get to 31. Then Dr. Bee would count and get to 35. A million things were running through my head. Maybe because I watch Grey’s Anatomy? All I could think was that they were counting laps because they might have accidentally left one inside my body. I was freaking out. I came to find out why they were counting later. At one point Jake asked me if I was okay, and I said,”Yes, but are we done?” He responded with, "I’m going to press down here and you might hate me for this.” The pushing was getting more intense and I started to get extremely nauseous. I told the anesthesiologist who was standing near my head that I needed something for nausea or I would throw up. I was repeatedly saying that I needed to throw up and he said, “Go ahead,” and placed an emesis basin next to my head. I tried to hold it because I was too afraid to aspirate since I couldn’t turn my body over to the side. After saying that I needed to throw up one more time, I turned my head over as much as I could to the right and vomited whatever I had (mostly spit and bile). I remember yelling over the drape again several times, “Are we closing up?!” No one responded except for the anesthesiologist. “You’re doing great, just try not to move,” he said. I’m not sure how much time went by at this point.
After what seemed like forever, a man with a beard and a blue surgeons hat showed up to the left of my head. I wasn’t sure if he was a doctor, a male nurse, or a surgery tech. He was holding a baby and said the words, “Would you like to meet your daughter now?” This was the moment I saw Zachary for the first time. With eyes full of tears I said, “Yes.” She was swaddled up with a hat on. Her eyes were closed and her face looked swollen. She was gorgeous. She was my baby. I didn’t get to touch her. This man told me that I would get to see her again in the recovery room. I later found out that he was the pediatrician.
When the drapes finally came down, I was relieved that it was over. One thing that I recall is Dr. Bee saying that I lost a lot of blood and she would give me a detailed explanation later. She also mentioned that if I plan on having another child, my only option would be another c-section. I thought that that was a weird thing to say to someone who literally just finished one, but I didn’t question it.
In the recovery room I opted to breastfeed Zachary. Maybe it’s adrenaline, but somehow I thought I had the strength to try it. It didn’t last very long because they wanted to take her back to the nursery before Jake came in to tell me and my family a few details from my c-section. He said that before I started my hemoglobin (red blood cell count) was 13 (normal) and now it was 6 (very low). He let us know that I had lost approximately 2 liters of blood during the c-section. I mentioned the doctors counting “laps” earlier. Jake explained that lap sponges are used to soak up blood during surgery. They have to count them to see how much blood was lost. At the end there were 35 soaked laps. Jake went on to say, “ Typical blood loss in ac-section is anywhere from 500ml to 1 liter. You lost 2 liters and that is a lot.” He continued saying that Zachary’s head and shoulder got lodged in my pelvis from the pushing so they had to make another incision. It was at this time that I hemorrhaged. This is why the surgery took longer than expected, to try and stop the bleeding. Jake said that I would now need a blood transfusion and I had to sign a consent. He also showed me my foley catheter bag that was filled with bright red blood. He explained that there is a chance that my bladder or ureters may have been nicked accidentally causing another bleed which might warrant another surgery. To be certain, they wanted to send me to Radiology to do a test (a cystogram) and make sure that wasn’t the case. Apparently they ended up doing the test but I don’t remember any of it. I do remember being told later that the result was negative and that my bladder was bleeding due to trauma from the in-and-out catheters in addition to pushing for several hours and that it would likely stop bleeding on it’s own.
August 22, 2016 - Present
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
To make this long story a little less long, I ended up receiving a transfusion of 3 units of blood over the next few days. This helped tremendously because I hardly recall the rest of August 21st. I was delirious for the most part from severe blood loss and the rest of this day feels like a hazy dream. Thank God for blood transfusions and more importantly, blood donors. The next few days I felt better and stronger. I didn’t get to hold my baby as much as I had wanted to, but I was doing all that I could to get better faster. I was blessed with amazing postpartum nurses. Although each of them tried to avoid getting me as a patient (because who wants a patient with complications?), they really made me feel taken care of.
There was only one nurse on the unit who had given a blood transfusion to a postpartum patient before. She spoke with a British accent and her name was Lee. She was our favorite. She did need assistance from another nurse from a different unit since blood is not typically given in postpartum. Lee became my day nurse for the remainder of my stay. Jake really trusted her as they had worked together for many years. This put my trust in her as well. The hospital I was in did not have a critical care unit, and everyone did their best to care for me.
On my 3rd day at the hospital, Zachary was starting to get really fussy. She was hungry. She had an amazing latch, but again due to blood loss, I was not producing any milk. Zac ended up with a bilirubin of 19.2 because she was not pooping or peeing. She had lost 11% of her birth weight and they decided to put her under the lights. Her first tanning bed experience! She only had to do this for 24 hours. The lights paired with supplemental feeding helped her a ton. Leejay and I had to get trained on what they call SNS (Supplemental Nursing System), where we fed Zac through a tube. Leejay would have to hold the tube up to my breast and into the corner of her mouth while I nursed her. We did this up until the first 2 days home.
We spent a total 7 days in the hospital. By the 5th day Zachary and I were doing great. I was so ready to go home. I was able to walk further than just to the bathroom, I was tolerating solid food, and I was overall feeling much better. There was only one more thing holding me back from leaving- my blood pressure. For some reason it just decided to continue to climb with each passing day. One of the doctors, Dr. Carson, thought it might be fluid overload. She started me on Lasix (a diuretic) to get rid of the extra fluid. My swelling went down but my blood pressure didn't budge. It was still high so she decided to put me on blood pressure medication but it didn’t do much. Pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy my blood pressure was typically in the low range. Dr. Carson made a decision to go ahead and discharge me on blood pressure medication as long as I followed up with her that week.
Unfortunately, my blood pressure continued to spike with each passing day that I was at home. On my 3rd day home, I ended up going to the emergency room for a blood pressure reading of 173/110. Normal is 120/80, so this was no bueno. When I arrived in the ER my blood pressure was now up to 180/111. They observed me and increased my medication dose and frequency. I was then referred to Maternal-Fetal Medicine for high risk pregnancies. It turned out I had preeclampsia. Dr. Arthur the specialist I was referred to (and who I am still being followed by) said that I may have already developed it antenatally since I was overdue.
I’m currently still on medication to control my blood pressure. Dr. Arthur says she’s seen treatments work in as little as 6-8 weeks. It’s been almost 5 weeks now but my blood pressures are slowly coming down. Yay! I’m hoping I’ll be off medications completely in the next few weeks.
Recovering from the c-section is one thing. Dealing with all this preeclampsia business is definitely a thorn in my side. Not to mention having a newborn who feeds on demand. We are no strangers to sleep deprivation. However, there is one thing that keeps me positive- Zachary Jean. She is completely worth it. My heart bursts with so much love for my daughter that I can’t even contain it! There is nothing better than staring at her little face and thanking God for such a beautiful gift. All the anxiety, fears and worry disappear when I think of her. My cup overflows! I’m so excited for Leejay and I to watch her learn and grow.
I wanted to document this story for her. This is not meant to scare anyone who is planning to have children or deter anyone from pregnancy at all. This is my experience. Everyone will have a different story to tell. This one is mine. It reminds me that I have been truly, truly blessed. I’m so grateful to have been able to get through it all, to be alive, and be able to share this story with her someday. <3