Waiting for Labor
I had a very easy pregnancy. At least, that’s what the nurses and doctors kept saying to me. The baby was always healthy, I had no complaints other than some swollen feet and hands…I didn’t even have morning sickness in the first trimester! So naturally, I thought everything would continue progressing perfectly, as it had been.
On October 2nd, I went to my weekly doctor’s appointment. It was the day before the baby’s due date, which coincidentally was my own birthday. The doctor asked if I wanted a membrane sweep, which would likely result in me going into labor within 48 hours. I hesitated. I didn’t really want to share my birthday and chances are she’d be here within the next week anyway, so I declined.
I had a great birthday with my husband, and at the end of the night we ordered some spicy Indian food. We had read it was one of the ways people can naturally induce birth and my own mom swore it was put her into labor with me, so why not try? My birthday was over at this point anyway so there wasn’t any risk in sharing the day.
It didn’t work of course, but I was still convinced our daughter would be here any day now. We packed the final few contents of our hospital bag, I wrapped up the last of my work assignments, and we waited.
By October 6th I was getting really anxious that nothing had happened yet. Occasionally I would get weepy over nothing in particular. At one point I realized that some cream I purchased had gone missing from my perfectly-prepared nursing station and completely lost it. My poor husband ran around the house trying to help me find it, knowing that I was completely overreacting but doing his best to be supportive (I did end up finding it later at the hospital, tucked in my nursing pillow’s pocket). I regretted not getting that membrane sweep.
On October 9th, I had my next doctor’s appointment. I was one day away from being a full week past the due date. The doctor explained my options, and suggested we schedule an induction. It was best to wait until labor came naturally, but after 42 weeks there was risk of the placenta not functioning well. At 40 weeks the survival rate for babies is 1 in 1000, but at 42 weeks it’s 1 in 500. She asked if I wanted to be induced at 41 weeks (the following day), at 42 weeks, or somewhere in between. I wanted this baby out, so I asked for an induction the next day on October 10th.
Getting an Induction
On October 10th my husband and I cleaned up the apartment, double checked that we had everything we needed, made arrangements for a friend to check on and feed our cat, and then watched television until 2:15pm when it was time to go.
I arrived for my appointment 15 minutes early, just like I was asked. My husband went and parked the car while I checked in. Because of COVID precautions, he had to wait outside the hospital until I had gotten into a room, which was about 45 minutes after we had arrived.
Once I was in the room, I was asked to get into a hospital gown and provide a urine test. Then they attached a saline lock, did a blood test, wrapped tape around my finger to monitor my heart, and attached two pads to my stomach that monitored both the baby’s heart and my contractions. Finally, a nurse came in to give me a COVID test.
About 2 hours after my appointment time, they finally checked my cervix to see how to go about inducing this pregnancy. As it turns out, I was already about 1 – 1.5 cm dilated! My cervix was still a bit firm, so they gave me Misprostol (a tiny pill inserted into the vagina), but they started step 2 at the same time: inserting a balloon catheter.
Getting the balloon in there wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t really that bad. The nurses did mention that it’s different for other people and one woman had to get an epidural that morning just for the balloon. To me, other than some pressure, it didn’t seem to much different than the cervical exam. And the actual blowing up of the little balloon? I didn’t even feel it. I did have my husband’s hand ready to squeeze, though.
At that point they just kept an eye on me. After about an hour I started feeling cramps. I wasn’t sure if they were labor pains or constipation pain, but they were pretty mild.
A few hours after the balloon was inserted, they disconnected me and let me walk around for an hour before I was resigned to the hospital bed once again. An hour after that, I was free to roam again for another hour. At this point I was feeling the cramps more and more and decided to start timing them. These were definitely contractions, but they weren’t very regular.
At midnight I went for a pee, and out fell the balloon along with my mucus plug (which was pretty disgusting to be honest). Over the next hour my contractions went from a 3 on the pain scale to a 7, and my dilation had increased to about 4.5cm.
By 2am I had an epidural. I knew it would mean I’d be stuck in bed and couldn’t eat (drink?) anything other than clear liquids, but if it got rid of the horrible contraction cramps then that was good enough for me. The numbing shot was horrible, but getting the actual catheter in wasn’t so bad and it was completely worth the relief I felt once it kicked in. I could still move my legs, though they felt a little fuzzy, and could feel when I had some of the stronger contractions but without any pain.
About an hour after I had the epidural, the nurse came in to flip me over onto one side. They thought the baby didn’t like the side I was lying on, but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I was flipped a few more times after that to see if it made the baby any happier.
Eventually both a doctor and a nurse came in to let me know that there was an issue with the baby’s heartbeat. Every time I had a contraction, especially a strong one, her heart rate would drop. Over the next hour they tried giving me medication to increase my blood pressure (twice) and lowered the amount of epidural I was receiving to see if that helped at all.
At 5:30am, when the baby was seemingly stabilized, they finally started pitocin – the last step of the induction. 30 minutes later they came in a turned it off, as it seemed to make the heartbeat drop even worse as my contractions got stronger.
At 7am the doctor manually broke my water, thinking maybe that would help instead. And at 9:45am, they tried pitocin again. The baby was still not having it, so they lowered the dosage of pitocin to the lowest possible setting. In 10.5 hours, my cervix had not changed at all and remained at 4.5cm. They monitored me for the next 3 hours, but eventually turned the pitocin off completely to give the baby time to recover.
At 1:30pm, almost 24 hours after I arrived at the hospital, a team of people came into the room and I knew immediately that something was up. The first doctor wanted to discuss a c-section and why it might be necessary. She didn’t think the labor would progress without pitocin, but the baby’s heart was not handling it. The second doctor spoke up and made it clear she was recommending a c-section, and better now than when it’s an emergency. She thought it was something to do with the umbilical cord.
I looked at my husband and told him I’m ready to do a c-section since it seems necessary. He agreed. The doctors listed off all the possible complications, including hemorrhaging and losing my uterus (terrifying), asked if I was open to life-saving measures if needed, then told my husband to pack up our things while they wheeled me away.
I had told myself beforehand that I would get a c-section if medically necessary, but never really thought it would happen. It was all happening so fast, I was absolutely exhausted from being awake all night long, and it took everything I had not to burst into tears.
I was moved into the operating room and was shifted onto a very narrow table. They asked me to lay my arms out to the side and keep my legs straight. My entire body was shaking uncontrollably, but then they gave me so much epidural that I could no longer lift my arms. At this point my husband joined us in a gown, hair net and mask, and sat by my side throughout the procedure.
Though I was not meant to feel anything, I did still have a sharp pain in one small spot on the left side of my stomach. It was manageable. Other than that, it was just a lot of strong tugging and pulling. My mouth got extremely dry, and then I was so tired it took everything I had to keep my eyes open. There was an intense pulling pressure, followed by a sudden light feeling as my baby was pulled out of my belly. I was so tired, I didn’t even noticed my baby’s first cry.
My husband’s eyes lit up with excitement at the sound of our daughter’s cries. I could hear the nurses talking about what a cute baby she was, and he was asked to go and cut the cord. I wanted to see her, but I was so tired I also wanted to just close my eyes and go to sleep. Meanwhile, I was still lying splayed open feeling all that tugging, pulling, and the sharp pain on my left side as they began to stitch me back up. It seemed like putting me back together again took even longer than getting her out.
Eventually they brought the baby over to me, once the cord was cut and she was cleaned up. I was still being worked on behind the curtain, but my husband held her up to my face and the nurse started taking pictures. It was barely registering, and I couldn’t really see her face. Then they placed her on my chest, again too close for me to get a good look at her. My hands and arms weren’t strong enough to hold her so my husband had to provide support. Pictures were still being taken by the nurse, and on the other side of the curtain the tugging and pain persisted. I just wanted to down a gallon of water and go to sleep.
I was later told that my daughter would have likely died if we did not go through with the c-section. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck three times, and she was trying to come out sideways. In addition, I lost over a liter of blood during the surgery which was more than typical.
When I was finally stitched up, our new little family was moved to a recovery room where we called our parents and told the rest of our family the good news. I got an hour nap in while my husband did some skin-to-skin contact, and then we switched.
The pain at my incision site was only noticeable when I moved. I was given pain medication every 6 hours (Tylenol and Motrin) to keep it under control, and a stool softener once a day. I’m not into the second week of recovery, and though I do get the occasional stomach cramp I no longer need to take the prescribed pain meds.
Eventually they had me walking around the room. My legs were very weak at first, and I felt a bit dizzy, but I got stronger and stronger. I never did get the nausea that so many people get after a c-section, which was great.
Our daughter is an easy baby, and I consider myself lucky. I can’t imagine caring for a challenging newborn while still recovering from surgery – an easy newborn is difficult enough! I can’t lift anything heavier than her, I have to walk around each day but am also not allowed to walk too much, and the puffiness in my feet and legs has still not completely subsided. I’m so thankful for my husband, who gets up in the night for diaper changes and to help with feedings without any protest.
And of course I’m thankful for the amazing doctors and nurses at Kaiser Permanente’s Sunset Hollywood Hospital who took care of all three of us during our three day stay. Without them, who knows what would have happened to my daughter and I?
And now if you’ll excuse me, my daughter needs to be fed and then I need nap!