I always think birth stories are fun (here’s the first one), so here we go.
Second pregnancy, second time with gestational diabetes. All sonos and bloodwork had been fine. Every single sonogram tech said the baby was very, very active. “Stop playing soccer, Baby!” “This one’s WILD, Mom.” After the diabetes diagnosis I was monitored closely by the high risk doctors, going twice a week for sonos and NSTs. Through the end of my first pregnancy I had managed the diabetes with diet only. This time, I was put on medication after a few weeks and the dosage was increased a few times.
At 35 weeks, one of the doctors sent me over to the hospital for more extensive fetal heart rate monitoring because they had seen two decelerations.
I stayed on the monitor for hours and hours and hours, draining the battery on my phone and watching a “Sex and the City” marathon. They wouldn’t let me eat in case they needed to do an emergency C-section. The phone in the room only worked for local area codes and I had to borrow a nurse’s phone to tell my husband to leave work early enough to pick up the 2 year old. They finally had a nurse hold the monitor in place and we got a continuous tracing for 20 minutes. She said he was a very happy baby and had a happy heart rate. They sent me home. That was a Monday.
The next day I saw my regular OB and had a cervix check: long and closed. Concerned about having another excruciating induction, I asked her what dosage of Evening Primrose Oil I should try to start softening the cervix. She said there was no proof that stuff worked and that I shouldn’t try anything to encourage labor to start because the baby would definitely be in the NICU if he came before at least 37 weeks.
Two days later I had my Thursday appointment at the high risk place. Everything looked fine but the baby was breech. I worried all weekend about that, (scaring myself with Google: DID YOU KNOW THAT IF BABY IS BREECH BY 36 WEEKS IT IS VERY UNLIKELY HE’LL TURN AND THAT THING THEY DO TO TURN HIM CAN KILL EVERYBODY?). I tried to crawl around on my hands and knees a lot, cleaning up my 2 year old’s crayons and MegaBloks and spot-cleaning my floors with baby wipes.
The following Monday at the high risk office I was 36 weeks and though the baby was head-down again (YES), they saw some more problems: the fluid was on the low side of normal, there were some issues with the blood flow through the placenta, and the baby’s growth rate had dropped from 44th percentile to 19th percentile. They were measuring 5 lbs 4 oz when he was supposed to be around 6 lbs. In my experience (and from everything I’ve heard from lots of people who’ve given birth), they usually overestimate fetal measurements, so I knew that meant the baby was likely not even 5 lbs at all.
They sent me right over to the hospital for extra monitoring again and said I might have to have the baby that day. I waited in the hallway outside labor and delivery, shaking and crying, frantically texting my husband, and went to find a seat. It was busy; there were lots of happy families with balloons, waiting to hear their good news and not offering me a seat. I sat down a few seats away from a grandmother-to-be, who turned to me and snapped “Someone is sitting there.” I replied, shaking and crying, “Well, now I am.” I was called right up to the desk by the very kind lady doing admissions who remembered me from the week before. While I signed a few forms and moved to the admissions door I heard the grandmother-to-be loudly complain about my rudeness, saying I shouldn’t be allowed to have a baby, that I’d be a terrible mother and she felt bad for my kids.
I was hooked up to the monitor again for the rest of the afternoon. They also wanted a sono to check the fluid and blood flow. My husband got ready to leave work early to pick up our 2 year old. He warned our baby-sitter and a good friend that we might need them soon to tag-team babysit. After another afternoon of monitoring, they said I could go home but would have to come back the next day. They didn’t see the same issues with the fluid and blood flow that they’d seen in the office.
Sometime during all this, daycare called to say they thought our 2 year old had pinkeye.
Tuesday morning we all piled into the car with my hospital bag and my husband dropped me off at the hospital before taking the 2 year old to the doctor to be checked for pink eye. It was allergies. My husband dropped him off at daycare, then went to get him Children’s Claritin and eye drops, then groceries, then to get copies of our house keys made. I got hooked up to the monitor again.
I started being monitored at around 9:30a.m. By around 4:00pm they advised me that it would be best to get the baby out right away and we called my OB to discuss the induction plan. We decided to start with Cervidil for a gentle start.* I had very low expectations, but I knew I wanted to avoid Pitocin (or at least get an epidural BEFORE the onslaught of Pitocin contractions). I really wanted to avoid a C-section. I’ve had a lot of people tell me their C-section recoveries weren’t that bad, but I didn’t want to take the chance.
Before they started the induction they did another sono to make sure baby’s head was still down and they did a test to make sure my water hadn’t already broken. I hadn’t had that one done before, and I asked the young woman doing it is it was anything like getting your membranes stripped and she assured me that it was very painless.** She was right. (They take a swab and check for fern-like patterns under a microscope. This was the fun science lesson portion of my birthing experience!)
There was no sign of leaked amniotic fluid, so they inserted the Cervidil at around 5:00pm and my husband and I hung out, watched TV and played with our phones/iPad. By 7:30pm I was definitely having contractions. By 9:30pm they were getting pretty strong, but they said the baby wasn’t reacting well. They removed the Cervidil and I was relieved to feel the the contractions continue. They got more and more intense but they were still pretty short. I wasn’t dealing with them very well, though, and I asked for an epidural. My cervix hadn’t ripened very much, so they said they wanted to start me on Pitocin to try to move things along more. They moved me to a delivery room and I got my epidural, then they started a Pitocin line. One of my favorite episodes of “30 Rock” was on TV while I got my epidural. I totally forget which one, but I was very pleased about the whole thing. This was by around 11:00pm. The epidural started off great. I was completely and totally numb. After awhile I started to get itchy all over and my catheter bothered me, so I didn’t get much rest. The nurses kept coming in to reposition me and adjust the monitor because they said the baby wasn’t happy.
Luckily the epidural and Pitocin worked and things progressed pretty quickly. I quickly dilated to 5cm. The doctor came in to break my water and said she was very happy with the way it was going and that I wasn’t going to need a section. Very soon I was dilated to 8cm. My main nurse started getting everything out and ready for the delivery. So many packages of things ripped open and spread out on the table in front of my bed. The epidural and itching had worn off quite a bit and by 5:00am I was begging to push. Baby #2 came out after only 2 pushes at 5:08am. He screamed before he was even fully out, so we were very relieved about his lungs, but this recounts what happened next.
Compared to the terror of my first birth, I was actually very pleased with this experience. I wanted to avoid a C-section. I wanted to experience “real” contractions (i.e. not Pitocin contractions), and to avoid an episiotomy or tearing. I got all of that and I got a very sweet new baby.
*Cervidil doesn’t appear to have a slogan, but I think “Cervidil: For a gentle start” is a perfectly sound option. Even better: “Cervidil: Ripening cervixes artificially since 1995.”
**I had my membranes stripped at my doctor’s office two days before my last induction and it was so painful I considered posting a Facebook status: “Stripping the membranes: not as fun as it sounds,” but decided that was perhaps a bit too disgusting. Two years later, I still think that’s funny, so here we are.