Malcolm's Birth Story
Updated: Jul 20
Due to COVID-19 all the pre-birth classes we had planned for were cancelled. We were able to take one labor prep class online, which was helpful for knowing more technical things that can happen during labor but outside of that I wanted to absorb every birth story I could. I read blogs and watched dozens of YouTube videos, I wanted to hear as many different scenarios as possible to make myself somehow feel more prepared. I figure if there's anyone out there like me, I'd write out my story to add to the mix. It also gave me a realistic expectation that anything can happen so we didn’t create much of a birth plan, all I knew was that I was planning to get an epidural and I really didn’t want to get a C-section.
Through the beginning of my pregnancy we were convinced this baby was going to come early. We knew he’d be big (we both have had big babies in our families and Travis is 6’5”) so I think it was a lot of wishful thinking on my part hoping he’d come a liiiittle bit early so I didn’t have to birth a giant baby. But during my last few weeks of OB appointments, I started feeling like he wasn’t going to get a move on it. He was head down and really low at my 37-week appointment, but nothing was happening with my cervix and I had zero labor signs. I went in at 40 weeks and I wasn’t dilated at all so we scheduled an induction for that Saturday night, which would put me at basically 41 weeks. It felt frustrating and disappointing to have to schedule an induction, but we had 5 days in between to see if he would come and I knew that by that point I would be more than ready to get this show on the road. No surprise to me, those next few days came and went without any labor symptoms and I just knew he wasn’t coming on his own. Saturday night at 7:00 pm (May 23rd) we checked into the hospital for my induction.
Note about COVID – from what I’ve gathered everywhere has their own set of rules but Travis was able to be with me the whole time and I was able to have one additional support person during labor only (they would have had to leave during postpartum recovery), but we didn't have anyone join us. We had to wear masks until we checked into our room and then we were able to take them off, but anyone that came in wore masks and washed their hands upon entering. I also wasn’t able to leave our room, where normally you can walk around the halls to try and get things moving. Travis could leave to go down and get us snacks, etc but he had to wear his mask anytime he left the room (which he would have done even if it wasn’t a rule). They also screened anyone coming in and out of the building and took their temperature and tested any expectant mothers. Since I was scheduled to come in, I was able to get my test done the day before.
After getting checked into my room, set up with an IV, and hooked up to all the monitors they told me I was having semi-regular contractions, but they were pretty small and I couldn’t feel them at all. Baby was moving around so much they kept losing his heart rate and ended up switching me to a cordless monitoring system for him that got taped to my belly in what felt like a million different ways. Around 8:00 they had me start taking misoprostol which is a medication to help induce labor and you can take it every 4 hours, so I took it again at midnight and 4:00 am. When they checked on me the next morning (Sunday, May 24th) things were starting to progress a bit in terms of my contractions but not with dilating so midday they told me they wanted to put a foley bulb in. They also call a foley bulb a “balloon” because they put it in and then inflate it to put pressure on your cervix and get it to dilate. When they initially tried to put it in they were having a hard time and it was so painful they had to stop. Then my primary doctor came in and told me that it was our next best step so they wanted to give me fentanyl for the pain so they could actually get it in.
Note here – I’m not sure what the standard for pain medication is in these situations but I’m allergic to Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and acetaminophen which basically rules out all over the counter pain medication as well as Vicodin since it generally has Acetaminophen in it as well.
The way you can tell the foley bulb is working is that you can take it out while it’s still inflated, so after a couple hours I was dilated enough that the nurse was able to pull it out and I’ll just say it was one of the most alarming feelings I’ve ever felt (it felt like she yanked a cork out of me). After that I was having some pretty painful contractions and they gave me more pain medicine so I could try to rest for a bit. Around 8:00 pm they told me that they wanted to move forward with breaking my water so I should get my epidural if I was still planning on it. Getting the epidural was a lot smoother than I expected and I really loved the anesthesiologist that did it, but then I started getting body shakes and Travis said I looked completely pale. Apparently it made my blood pressure plummet so they had to give me medicine to get it back to a good level before doing anything else. The epidural totally took the pain of my contractions away and when the doctor broke my water and hooked up the internal monitors to baby, I didn’t feel anything. Having my water broken was definitely weird because after I could visibly see my stomach get smaller. I didn’t see anything happen, but Travis saw the fluid come out and apparently there was a TON. Even the nurse said it was a lot and she had to change the dressing on my bed a couple times and ended up having to change her scrubs too. After my water was broken, they started me on Pitocin (which is a hormone) to try and get my contractions on a regular pattern and to keep me dilating. I tried to get some sleep through the night but they came in to up my Pitocin and check my vitals every half an hour so I would pretty much fall asleep and then immediately have someone come in to check on me.
At about 2:00 am (now Monday morning, May 25th) my epidural stopped working and I could feel all the contractions again and they were much more frequent. An anesthesiologist came in to increase my epidural but it didn’t help and when the nurse checked me I was fully dilated and she told me it was pretty much time to start pushing. I started pushing at about 3:30 and it was AWFUL. Even with the epidural helping with the pain the amount of pressure you feel in your whole pelvic area is terrible. My mom was on facetime with us for the first hour-ish and even she said it was hard to watch. There are also a million instructions they give you while pushing – wait until you’re at the top of your contraction, don’t let out your breath, don’t scrunch up your face, pull your legs back. You push OFTEN and they move you into different positions some of which make it way worse. At 6:00 am the doctor did a check on how he was progressing and she told me that he was in a good position but after almost 3 hours of pushing I hadn’t made any real progress and she was pretty sure his skull was too big to fit through and she recommended a C-section, though I could keep pushing if I wanted to. I asked them to give us a minute alone and as soon as they left I just sobbed to Travis. We had been there for almost 36 hours, I was so exhausted and had so many different things in my system and this was the one thing I was hoping to avoid. But at that point we knew that the doctor was right, and both baby and I were getting worn out from the stress of it all. They came back in and we told them we were ready to move forward with the C-section and then everything moved at lightning speed.
The nurse started making calls, people were coming in and out prepping me for surgery and explaining how things would work to us. They wheeled me into the surgical room and gave Travis scrubs to put on in another room where they would have him wait while I was being prepped. Once I got in the room and they put the curtain up the only person I could see was the anesthesiologist and she was trying to talk to me to make sure that I couldn’t feel anything but with the added pain medication at that point I was falling asleep on the table in between talking to her. At some point the shift changed so the nurse and anesthesiologist that had been with us all night switched out, but honestly at that point I was so exhausted it didn’t quite occur to me how crazy that was. I started having body shakes again but they told me it was normal and okay and not to fight them. The next thing I knew Travis was sitting next to me and they said they were starting. A few minutes later we heard our baby boy and while I sobbed Travis got to go over to see him. When they pulled him out all the nurse and doctors in the room reacted in shock at how big he was, which I guess was reassuring in the fact that getting the C-section was definitely the right call! Travis got to cut the umbilical cord and hold him next to me after he was checked and cleaned up. I was still on the table being stitched up and the only thing that stands out to me during this time is that my mouth and throat were so dry it was painful. My doctor that delivered him got called into an emergency C-section in another room where they had a patient that hadn’t been able to be tested for COVID yet so she, along with other nurses and staff, were getting basically hazmat suited up and she had to leave the room before I was stitched up. I was really in and out of it, but I remember hearing “don’t go in there, we have a COVID unknown patient” and my doctor say she had to leave and hand things over to someone else. Once I was stitched up (by who knows at this point!), they moved us to a recovery room and after they were done hooking me up to everything I asked if I could sit up to hold him. The nurse helped me sit up and Travis handed him to me, but after about 20 seconds I had to give him back because I started to throw up. Something (pain meds, exhaustion, sitting up too fast) made my blood pressure drop again and made me sick. Thankfully that passed pretty quickly and I was able to hold and feed our little Malcolm!
There have been many ups and downs and eventful days since then, but that’s my birth story. Some days I think about it and I can’t believe that I’m actually the one that experienced it because it seems so crazy and long ago, even though it’s barely been 2 months. Recovery has had a lot of physical and emotional challenges and I think I’ll write about that another time when I feel ready to talk about it more in depth, but labor and parenthood has already taught us so much including a level of resilience I didn’t even realize we had.