ramona & her mother, part five

(this is essentially ramona’s birth story, but because her birth was so crazy, there’s a lot going into it. this is part five of ten, & all are tagged “birth story,” in order to help you the reader navigate from one part of the story to the next.)

jared came in for dinner on thursday. he brought us leftover lasagna & pie from thanksgiving. we laid in my hospital bed together & watched “project runway”. some scary stuff happened while he was visiting. i started spiking some pretty high blood pressures, like 170/110. even though i was just laying in bed, doing nothing. i even felt downright relaxed because i was with jared. then i started having sharp chest pains & a lot of pressure in my chest. they ordered an echocardiogram, which was perfect; an EEG, which was perfect; & a lung x-ray, which was perfect. i chalked it up to some kind of unresolved anxiety about hospital bed rest. in the absence of obvious diagnostics, the doctors chalked it up to heartburn (or so i thought) & added a heartburn medication to my chart. i also started having sudden & severe swelling in my hands, but it went away when we elevated them on pillows. i figured maybe i was just having weird fluid retention from being on bed rest. they gave me a diuretic to help me get rid of the extra water. jared left pretty late after making a plan to come in for dinner the next night, since that had been a pretty relaxed time for us to see each other.

i woke up bright & early on friday planning to do my best to have a productive day before jared showed up. i was going to finish reading a library book that was almost due, & maybe do a little writing about the hospital stay, & organize all my hospital paperwork. i had toured the NICU the day before & wanted to write up a list of questions to have answered before the baby was born & wound up there (assuming i couldn’t hold it in long enough to avoid the NICU altogether). i started by ordering a nice breakfast.

just as i was polishing off my morning coffee, yet another perinatologist stopped by. i should have known it wasn’t good news when he actually pulled a chair up to my bedside. he said that he didn’t like the looks of the blood pressures from the night before, nor my tales of chest pain & swelling. he said he was inducing me ASAP. i was stunned & started crying. again. i know how ridiculous that sounds. this was like my sixth day in the hospital, knowing that i’m not being released until i have a probably-premature infant, & yet i start crying every time someone hints that i might have to have the baby. like it’s some big shock all over again. i asked how the baby would be coming & he said he wanted to induce labor because i’d been pretty stable in the last few days & he wanted to give my body a chance to have the baby on its own. he thought that was less risky than the risks associated with cesarean. he said he’d order all the paperwork & they’d move me down to labor & delivery lickety split.

as soon as he left, i called jared, who was still asleep, & said, “they’re making me have the baby today!” through sobs.

“oh my god,” he said, “i’ll be right there.” he called stefanie back in & i laid there & cried while i was hooked back up to the fetal monitors, the magnesium IV, general IV fluids, etc etc. i again convinced them not to do a catheter unless they thought it was absolutely necessary. i was loaded into a wheelchair & pushed over to labor & delivery, where i was then loaded into a new hospital bed. jared & stefanie showed up & i was given a cup full of ice chips. the nurse explained that they would be inducing with cytotec, a vaginal suppository. i’d get a fresh dose every three hours until i either went into real labor independently or for 24 hours. if i still wasn’t in labor within 24 hours, they would start me on pitocin. i decided to make it my mission in life to get contractions going just with the cytotec because i was terrified of pitocin. i’ve just heard too many stories about pitocin making contractions unbearably long & powerful & ultimately traumatic, leading to either epidurals or fetal distress signifiers & cesareans.

i started contracting within about two hours. they were pretty minor at first, & maybe seven minutes apart, but as we continued with the cytotec, they gradually got stronger & closer together. my cervix, which started high & closed up super-tight, had started to thin a little by the tenth hour or so. but by that point, i was starting to develop another migraine. within an hour, it had progressed to a full-on migraine accompanied by vomiting every time i moved. & i started spiking major blood pressures again, even on the mag drip. i think the highest was something like 180/130. from the beginning, i was confused about why they were allowing me to do a trial of labor on friday when the perinatologist three days before had ordered a cesarean because he thought i was a seizure risk. by the time i really started to lose it, i’d been on cytotec for twelve hours & contractions were coming every minute or two. i am pretty foggy on what happened at this point. i guess the obstetric surgeon came in & we had a consult. stefanie was involved as well. they wanted to do a therapeutic cesarean to prevent me from seizing (even stefanie recommended it) & i agreed. the next thing i knew, the incision area was being shaved & jared was putting on OR scrubs.

i have no recollection of this photo being taken.

i have no recollection of this photo being taken.

sometimes when i am by myself, like when i am waiting at the hospital entrance for jared to pull the car around so we can go home from visiting the baby, i wonder if maybe i gave up. if maybe i could have done a vaginal birth if i’d just tried harder. maybe i could have asked for my fioricet to power through the headache (though they were again reluctant to medicate it away lest it be a symptom of high blood pressure–which it almost certainly was), i could have laid on my side to bring down the blood pressures a little, & i could have done it. the contractions were strong & pretty close together, but they really weren’t hurting much at all. they just felt like extreme pressure. undoubtedly they would have gotten worse, but i was handling them like a champ even while i was puking. i asked jared about all of this because i remember so little about it. i don’t even remember that meeting with the obstetric surgeon. i didn’t realize she had performed the surgery until several days later when jared told me. he also told me there were about fifteen doctors & nurses in the OR. i only remember like two or three. he told me that both the doctor & stefanie were afraid i was going to start seizing any second, & that my blood pressure was a little higher every time they took it. he told me about how scary it was for him to see me like that & that trying for a vaginal birth at that point would have been against all medical advice, all doula advice, & every instinct in his body. so. yeah.

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