I woke up on the morning of March 11th feeling good. I got a decent night's rest (by pregnancy standards), and I was trying to remain as calm as possible. I showered, dried my hair, and even put a little make-up on. I remember being much more of a basket case on the morning of our wedding! L busied himself with making sure we had everything packed in the car. We got a little giddy over taking the car seat with us. The empty car seat was sitting in our living room for weeks. The empty crib was assembled and waiting in our room. The changing table was all organized and filled with various baby-related items. I had been staring longingly at all of these unused items and furniture for a long time, and couldn't believe that the next time we came home, we would be a family of three. We took a few last photos of my pregnant belly and our dogs, and then we were out the door.
The car ride there went smoothly. I got annoyed at L because he was SO chatty. For the first time all morning it dawned on me that he was nervous. His incessant talking was infringing on my zen mood! We got in a minor tiff about it, which is so typical of us. My zen mood wasn't even ruined by the fact that we were running almost an hour late for our 10 a.m. hospital check in. We got to the hospital, and I remember texting my mom that we were there. She planned to meet us there later once we were settled in our room. It didn't feel real. Was I really having a baby?!
We checked in at the front desk, and they took us right back to the labor/delivery room that would be ours for the next several hours. It was a beautiful room that overlooked the Hollywood sign. The view was calming to me, and I recall looking out the window a lot throughout the course of the morning. It was a good reminder that it was just a normal day for most people, but for us, it would be life changing.
Our nurse, Ashley, checked us in, and together we discussed every detail of the labor and delivery process. Ashley was such a huge help! I was so thankful that we had scored such an amazing labor nurse. She told us her shift was ending at 7 p.m. that evening, so it was unlikely that she would be around for the birth of our baby. (Spoiler alert: the baby arrived well before 7 p.m.) But, she reassured us that we were in good hands no matter what.
By the time Ashley finished asking me a million and one questions, placing my IV, and getting me all comfy in my hospital bed, it was noon. My doctor had already called into the hospital, and was wondering what was taking so long. His original plan was to start me on Pitocin, and break my water on his lunch break. We hadn't even started the Pitocin and it was lunch time! At that point, I felt a little bad for being almost an hour late for our check-in. Oops. During this time, my mom arrived, and it was so nice to see her face. I had my husband and my mom there, and I was ready.
Nurse Ashley brought in the bag of Pitocin and started her up. She quickly explained about the monitors, and showed us how we could watch my contractions on the screen. She told us that the machines would sometimes beep, but not to get too alarmed by the beeping. Usually it meant that one of the transducers she had placed on my belly had shifted or fallen off. Then she introduced us to a new nurse who would watch me while she went on her lunch break.
I was only on Pitocin for what felt like a few minutes, before a super friendly doctor waltzed in the door. He introduced himself as Dr. F and said he was sent there by my doctor to break my water. I was so nervous throughout the entire process. It ended up not being too painful; just uncomfortable. Once my water broke, we discovered there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. This was the first time all day that I began to feel anxious. Dr. F reassured me that it was okay, and that everything would be fine. I was still worried, but couldn't dwell on it for long, because the painful contractions took over.
When the contractions first started they felt like a small wave of menstrual cramps. I could talk through them, and they were popping up every ten minutes or so. I knew that it was only going to get worse, but I tried not to focus too much on how bad it might get. From Day 1, I was fine with getting an epidural, so for me it was just a matter of figuring out when I wanted the epidural. In birth class, we talked a lot about how getting an epidural could stall labor and possibly lead to needing a C-section. I was trying to avoid a C-section, so I became fixated on the idea that getting an epidural "too early"= C-section.
After my water broke, everything started moving very quickly. They upped my Pitocin one notch, and the contractions were becoming painful. I couldn't talk through them, and I was laying there like a beached whale, sweating, and holding onto the bed railing. Nurse Ashley wasn't even back from her lunch break yet. At some point, the charge nurse came in, took one look at me, and asked if I wanted my epidural. I looked up at her and remember blurting out that I didn't want the epidural to slow down labor. She responded that she didn't think there was any reason I should be in this much pain, unless, of course, I wanted the pain. I quickly consulted with my "team" (L and my mom), and agreed that I wanted the drugs.
Side note: I liked that the nurses, doctors, and hospital staff never made me feel bad or weak for getting an epidural. In fact, they encouraged me to do whatever I felt I needed to do. I appreciated the lack of judgment regardless of my stance on pain medication.
The charge nurse called the anesthesiologist, and he and his team were in my room in a matter of minutes. I was off on another planet trying to breathe through contractions while some doctor that must have been part of the anesthesiology team asked me a bunch of questions. The charge nurse was like, "She's in pain. She can't really answer your questions." Did I mention that I loved the charge nurse? I wish I got her name. She held my hands while they administered the epidural. It wasn't painful at all (from what I can remember), and soon after, I was feeling much better...on one side.
One side of my body was completely numb, and the other side was feeling full on contractions. I started panicking because I had read birth stories where the epidural didn't work for some reason or another. I really didn't want to be one of those stories. Also, I hadn't mentally prepared myself for the scenario of "What if the pain meds don't work?" But before I had a full on panic attack, Nurse Ashley was back and she upped my epidural and then turned me on my other side. She explained that when they go in to place the epidural, they go in blindly. Sometimes it goes off to one side or another. The medicine was likely pooled on one side of my body, so I needed to roll over so it could work on my other side. I have no idea if I described that correctly. All I know is that I was overjoyed to get some relief from the pain.
I remember rolling over, and feeling a little light headed and strange. However, I just chalked it up to the epidural taking effect. Nurse Ashley left the room, and I tried to relax and get some rest. I didn't get much rest before one of the machines I was hooked up to began beeping. We didn't freak out because Ashley had told us earlier about the transducers acting up. So we calmly called her, and she was at our door right away. She took a look at the baby's heartbeat, and started moving the transducer thing around on my belly. Apparently, the baby's heart rate had either sped up or slowed down significantly. I can't remember clearly, because Ashley had me rolling all around on the bed in different directions. She decided she was going to check me vaginally, and it was then that all hell broke loose. Apparently, I was one sneeze, cough, or fart away from having my baby.
I was told to close my legs, and Ashley had her phone out and was calling my doctor. He was in the office treating patients. When he got the call, he apparently dropped everything he was doing, jumped in his car, and flew over to the hospital. They wheeled in all of this birthing equipment, and everyone was getting dressed in their bio-hazard looking suits. I was given oxygen, which Ashley told me was for the baby, and not for me. She said the baby was stressed out from all the contractions. She was actually in the birth canal and about to shoot out of me. A nurse who I will refer to as Nurse Bertha (because she looked stern and like she doesn't fuck around) was brought in to deliver the baby if my doctor couldn't make it on time. I briefly recall her reading a book in the corner, and then talking to the other nurses about her upcoming vacation to Disneyland. She was an old pro and none of this phased her one bit.
This entire time, I hadn't felt anything. Ashley explained that when I felt light headed and woozy before, it wasn't the epidural taking effect. I was actually in transition, and the baby was descending. Luckily, my doctor made it to the hospital quickly and sprinted in just in time. I was trying my best to stay calm. It was all very surreal. Before I knew it they were hoisting me up, and coaching me on how to push. All I can remember is that I was supposed to push as if I was trying to take a huge dump. Well, okay. This simple task became disproportionately difficult, because I couldn't feel my ass. I couldn't feel anything below my waist, and I was getting frustrated. Everyone kept saying, "PUSH", and I kept yelling back, "I can't feel anything!"
At one point, my doctor looked me in the eyes, and said, "You're doing just fine. You're fine." After that, I gave one final push, and the baby was born. I felt her slide out, and watched them put her on my chest. She was screaming. I stared at this beautiful creature that had just popped out of me. I had no idea what to do. I was frozen. But, before I could actually say or do anything, they whisked her away. She had inhaled some meconium. At the same time, I was laying on the bed, spread eagle, and my doctor was repairing what I would learn much later was a third degree perineal tear.
I kept asking L and my mom, "Is she okay? Is the baby okay?" And they kept saying she was doing okay, but it was still a very scary few minutes. I remember glancing over at the other end of the room where they were "working" on my little baby. There were probably ten people surrounding the warmer, so I couldn't see any part of her. I couldn't hear her. I felt like I was free falling. L was by the baby's side the entire time. We didn't have that whole husband/wife coach/player connection that likely occurs when you have a much longer laboring experience. L was by my side, but everything happened so fast, that we were both a little in shock. From start to finish, I checked into the hospital around 10:45-ish and the baby was born at 4:28p.m. Nobody expected this. Since this was my first baby, I was told repeatedly that I could be in labor for a really long time. Nurse Ashley exclaimed, "You were made to have babies!" I chuckled to myself given how insane that sentiment sounded to me.
After what seemed like forever, I finally got to hold my baby. The pediatric specialist that was working on her explained that it was taking extra effort for her to breathe, and they needed to make sure that everything was cleared out of her lungs before they let me hold her again. She scored 8's on her APGAR tests at both one and five minutes. I was a little bothered and concerned by that, being the nerdy ass student I am, but she was perfectly healthy.
She had one eye open, and she was staring directly at me. This was my baby. Two surgeries, one round of IUI, two rounds of IVF, four and a half years of wondering, questioning, and agonizing over whether we would ever have a child. Countless months of bleeding, cramping, negative pregnancy tests, painful fertility testing, depression, anxiety, and total and complete loss of self.
She was finally here, and our lives just got a hell of a lot more awesome.