Dr. Stenman left around 9:30 pm.
Other than calling my husband and sister and spinning contractions, I have no concrete memory after Dr. Stenman left until the nurses’ shift change at 11 pm. I helped Cathy fill ________ (she was awesome, and I’m ashamed to say I can no longer remember her name) in on what was going on and what the plan was. She predicted that the baby would be here before her shift ended.
What time does your shift end, I asked.
I laughed at her for thinking the baby would be here that soon.
She, in turn, assured me she had a knack at predicting these things.
I know I told the new nurse that I was having contractions pretty regularly but that I was managing them fine. I also told her that we planned to get an epidural.
Once the preeclampsia thing got real, my husband and I had talked and decided an epidural was the way to go notwithstanding my desires for a “natural” birth. We knew that my high blood pressure would only get higher as the contractions intensified. Higher and higher blood pressure = greater chance for seizures, emergency c-section, stress on baby, and other complications. An epidural would reduce the risks of all that and help to keep things calm and therefore increase the chances for a vaginal delivery.
My new nurse said to let her know when I wanted it and she would make it happen. Then she and Cathy left to meet the other patients she would be responsible for on her shift.
Almost immediately (at least to my impaired awareness), the contractions got serious. They were coming fast and hard. They felt constant. I was no longer able to spin them and keep my breath even and calm.
I feel like I was lying on my left side and kind of curled up. I could not articulate what was happening, but I knew something was changing. I knew it was time for my epidural. I also knew that I needed to poop. I reached for the call button. I looked at the clock and it was 11:45 pm.
A nurse’s aid came in. I told her I needed help getting to the bathroom and that I needed the epidural because I couldn’t deal with the pain of the contractions anymore.
Getting to the bathroom was difficult. My legs didn’t work; my contractions were also debilitating.
I was really wanting that epidural and not able to think straight.
The nurse finally arrived. I asked for the epidural. She called to have someone come down.
I asked if she thought she should check my dilation before the epidural to make sure I wasn’t too far already.
You’re not about to push the baby out, are you?
No, I said. I don’t think so.
Then I don’t need to check you.
I lay in the bed and waited for the anesthesiologist. The contractions continued to pile up and pile it on.
When she arrived to administer the epidural, I was helped into a sitting position with my legs hanging off the side of the bed. I was told to hold very still.
Holding still at all, let alone very, was not possible. I was in pain, and I was in a constant state of contraction. My body was shaking and rolling involuntarily.
Baby girl disappeared from the monitor. The nurse got down on the floor and pressed the monitor into my stomach, trying to find her heartbeat. She finally found it but had to stay there, squatting on the floor, and hold the monitor against me in order to keep track of BGL’s heartbeat.
The anesthesiologist would stick a needle in. Something would go wrong — i.e., I would move at just the wrong moment — and she would have to take it out and try again somewhere else. I could feel sweat running down my back, running down my face.
After several sticks (I believe it was 6 or 7), she finally got the needle in “right” and went about getting the epidural started. I cannot describe the specifics.
Meanwhile, on the monitor, BGL’s heart rate was dropping. It got low. Uncomfortably low. The nurse, while squatting and pressing the monitor into me, was on the phone with the doctor. You need to look at the monitor. Are you seeing the heart rate? I’m trying to wait until the epidural is in place. She’s working on it now. What do you want to do? Yes, I’m trying to wait until the epidural is going. You should probably come.
She threw the phone onto the counter. The unspoken fear was that we needed to get me in for an emergency c-section.
The anesthesiologist said she was almost there. I needed to hold still. The baby’s heart rate was frighteningly low. The pain and discomfort was excruciating. The sweat continued to drip off my face, run down my back.
I know I spoke to the nurse. Asked what was going on.
She needed her phone again. Needed to call for help. But she had thrown it on the counter and couldn’t reach it while still holding the monitor just right to track BGL’s dangerously low heartbeat.
What was I thinking, she said out loud, throwing it onto the counter. She stretched as far as she could and grabbed the phone again.
Several things seemed to happen simultaneously then. (1) Nearly half a dozen nurses came running into the room. (2) My blood pressure dropped through the floor. (3) The anesthesiologist said she had gotten the epidural in and flowing.
Writing about it now makes me realize how terrifying the situation was. Or should have been. I was physically in a bad way. Because of the pain and as far as the monitors and instruments were concerned. The baby was also not doing great. But mentally, I was totally calm. I felt fine. And I was not concerned about BGL. I knew somehow that she was fine.
Dr. Stenman arrived soon after the nurse brigade. As soon as the epidural was in, he told someone to get me horizontal. Suddenly, I was lying on my back and someone was putting an oxygen mask over my face and asking if I was okay and could respond.
I think I’m fine, I said.
I didn’t understand what was going on or why they were suddenly worried about me because I did not yet know how low my blood pressure had gotten.
Baby’s heart rate is back up, someone said. She’s looking good. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. And maybe someone said they knew it would be fine once I wasn’t hunched over hanging off the bed.
I looked around the room. I inhaled deeply. Oxygen masks are my jam.
Well, hello doctor. I had just become aware of his arrival.
I want to say that the nurse brigade departed. But who can be sure. I do know that the room was quiet again. Those who remained looked at each other expectantly.
Well, why don’t we check you? Dr. Stenman spoke first.
Everyone agreed that it was the most reasonable course of action.
I assumed the position, and he checked the status of things.
(Yes, I was still having contractions, and no, the epidural had not taken effect yet. And apparently, my nurse had turned off the pitocin during the excitement of the epidural.)
He looked up and said, You’re complete. Let’s have a baby.
Can I call my husband? I asked.
It was about 1:15 am.
Hello, he said. Obviously, I woke him up.
I gave him a quick summary of all that had happened and told him to come. We had wisely asked his mother to spend the night, so all he had to do was walk across the hall and let her know he was leaving.
Soon after I got off the phone with him, I could feel my toes get tingly. Hallelujah, the epidural was working.
After what seemed like no time to me but a long time to the doctor and nurse, he got there. It was 1:40 am. My husband wasn’t there 90 seconds before we got started with pushing. The NICU team arrived shortly after he did.
I pushed three times during each contraction. BGL was so small that I couldn’t feel much of what was going on.
On the second push of the second round of pushing, I felt and saw an explosion. Fluid was flying in all directions. My water had broken and gotten everywhere. On my husband’s arm. On the medical staff. We heard it hit the floor in numerous plops a second or two after we saw the explosion. It was a thing to behold. An image I won’t soon forget.
On the fourth round of pushing, my baby girl shot out and landed in Dr. Stenman’s arms. Literally.
It was 1:54 am.
She was here. Before I even saw her, the NICU staff was checking her out.
After a few minutes, they placed a swaddled tiny little thing in my arms for long enough to take a picture.
Then she was off to the NICU. Her new home for the next two-and-a-half weeks. My husband went with her, and I stayed behind to get sewn up because, yes, I had torn and to have the pieces of placenta that had been left behind after the explosive delivery removed.
I could say so much more about that day. That it was over 12 hours before I saw her again. That I had no energy or motor skills because I still had 24 hours of mag to live through. That I was crazy hungry. That I learned that the nurse brigade showed up in my room because my nurse had “called a code” (<– that’s not a good thing).
But this is long enough. If you’ve even made it this far. I hope you did because the little girl that showed up that morning is amazing. Her arrival story deserves to be told.