Once upon a time I really hated reading the birth stories: they were full of details that nobody but the mom cared about. When I became pregnant I suddenly thrived off of birth stories and even took to stalking strangers' blogs so I could read about their experiences and learn about the variety of possibilities of what could happen to me. Because of that change of heart I have decided to publicly document C.G.'s (since this blog is public I want to avoid using my baby's actual name as often as possible) birth story in the hopes that it will help prepare or calm someone who is coming up on the birth of their first child. I want to be honest and informative, not glossy and vague. Here is the disclaimer: this will get slightly graphic and will be long - I will not be offended if you choose not to read this post.
On Sunday, September 23 I was feeling weird. There's really no other way to explain it. We stayed at church for only an hour because I was feeling highly irritable, very restless, and extremely uncomfortable. That night I was so disruptive in bed that Mr. Mitchell ended up choosing to sleep on the couch. At about 7 in the morning I started to experience some pelvic discomfort no matter what position I was in. When I finally decided to use the restroom I found bloody show in my underwear - it freaked me out. I immediately texted Mr. Mitchell letting him know that I wasn't feeling so great and that I was going to call the doctor. It didn't appear that I was having contractions, and bloody show apparently can show up weeks before delivery, but my doctor made the call that I should come up to the hospital anyway since I was close to my due date. Mr. Mitchell came home right away and helped me with some domestic duties (i.e. washing dishes, making the bed, etc.) before we took off. Once we had lunches packed we began the three hour drive to the hospital.
As we began the drive it finally dawned on me that I might actually be experiencing contractions, but not as I had anticipated they would feel. I had been expecting extreme abdominal pains, but maybe I was wrong. I also realized that there were moments that were more uncomfortable than others. I started timing these moments and discovered that they were happening about 5-6 minutes apart and lasting for about 45 seconds. I also noticed that if I poked my abdomen during those moments the muscles would be tense beyond my control.
The drive went smoothly and we made it to the hospital in a little less than three hours. The nurses in the family birthing center were expecting us and they took me to the triage room to monitor my contractions and see how far along I was. They were just as surprised as I was that I couldn't feel anything in my abdomen because I was definitely contracting. The doctor that was there at the time came to check my cervix and had a really hard time because apparently my cervix was still really high and pretty thick. It was ridiculously uncomfortable. He asked for another person to come and check, and she couldn't tell what was happening because her hands were too small and I was too high. They then had a third person come and check who was able (after much uncomfortable prodding) to say that I was only at a 'generous 1.' They had me stay for two more hours and made me drink lots of water at the threat of being hooked up to an IV otherwise. At the end of the two hours the same lady that put me at a 'generous 1' said I was only at a 1.5 and should go labor at home for awhile. Well, home was three hours away, so we went to Mr. Mitchell's grandma's house. Before we left, the doctor that was there said I needed to call and schedule an appointment with my doctor for the next morning. One of the nurses, however, said, "You'll be back tonight." I really hoped that she was right.
I labored in the hot shower for about an hour, and then the contractions started to go beyond pelvic discomfort into the realms of considerable pelvic pain. I labored in bed for about another hour and experienced the only contraction where I ever felt anything in my abdomen - the rest was back labor and pelvic pain. Mr. Mitchell suggested that we watch an episode of Heroes to take my mind off of the slow moving clock, and it kind of worked. It's hard to take your mind off the passing time when you have something regularly interrupting you every 5 minutes. We tried to take a little nap, but my body would have none of it. The back labor and pelvic pains were getting painful enough that I couldn't think of anything else and spent the time in between contractions dreading the next one. Mr. Mitchell called the hospital to ask if it would be worth coming back in since we'd been gone for 6 hours, and they said we could give it a try.
When we showed up (at about 10pm) they took one look at my face and admitted me without checking my cervix. As soon as I was in they hooked me up to an IV so that I could get an epidural. The nurse that was trying to hook me up had two failed attempts and asked another nurse to try. The third time was the charm even though she had to let the needle float for a bit. An hour and a half later I was getting really mad at those stupid contractions (still coming every 5 minutes like they had been the entire labor process), and they finally decided I had taken in enough fluid to have my epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and told me that I couldn't move a muscle even if I was having a contraction. This freaked me out a little bit because I was definitely squirming during all of my contractions - I didn't know how I possibly couldn't squirm. It took a little while for him to get all set up and then he had me sit up and wrap my arms around Mr. Mitchell. He told me to round my back and I rounded myself as much as I could...which apparently wasn't good enough. I felt like I had gone into a complete ball but I was informed that my back was straight as a plank. I really struggled with this part, and I don't know if they just gave up and went ahead or if I finally got my back round, but I finally felt the little sting of the shot that would numb my back for the epidural. It really wasn't bad. The weird part was feeling, but not feeling, the little catheter go in place. The worst part was having a contraction while it was going in and knowing that if I moved it would screw everything up. Apparently I held still enough because the anesthesiologist said it was all set and good to go. I figured I was finally all set to have a baby.
The epidural started feeling good after about 15 minutes; my pelvic discomfort was much better, although not entirely eliminated, and I could finally take a nap. Every once in awhile they'd wake me up to check my cervix and they were constantly amazed at my ability to move my own legs. (I still argue that this should have been the first hint of what was to come...) After a few hours that horrible pelvic and lower back pain started to reemerge. I called for the nurse to tell her this and she said it was good to feel some of that. Okay, then. As the hours progressed, the pain, along with the pressure, started to build and I started freaking out. The doctor came in and said that my doctor was watching the baby's vitals from home and didn't like what he was seeing. They tried messing with my body position to get better oxygen flow and then finally settled on an oxygen mask. It was claustrophobic and horrible, but the baby's vitals improved so I had no choice but to leave it. I would try tearing it off during contractions because, ironically, I felt like I couldn't breathe with it on, but that got me in trouble with everybody, including Mr. Mitchell. At one point during a horrible contraction a nurse came in and almost yelled at me to look at her. I didn't dare disobey. She told me I was losing control and that I had to keep it together. Once again, I didn't dare disobey, even though I was positive that my epidural had ceased working.
At this point the doctor came in and checked and said I was almost there, but I had just a tiny amount of thinning left. I went ahead and started pushing during contractions because it felt so much better than just lying there. Then something happened that happens to almost everyone when they start pushing, but they're just too embarrassed to say anything about it: I pooped. There's just nothing to be done about it - especially when they tell you that pushing a baby out is like pushing the biggest bowel movement of your life. I thought for sure that I would be mortified if it happened to me, but once I was in that situation it just didn't matter. All that mattered was that it hurt like hell if I wasn't pushing and it felt a little bit better if I was. At one point while I was pushing, when I wasn't supposed to be, my water broke - it totally freaked me out. I thought maybe my illegal pushing had damaged something, but no, it was just a crazy amount of water splashing out of me like it was supposed to. Once they realized that I was already pushing they went ahead and checked me again and decided it was time. They got the room all set and my doctor came.
He asked how effective my epidural was and gave a little tug on my vagina. He might as well have grabbed it with a hook it hurt so badly. Everybody finally realized that my epidural wasn't working ("That explains why she could move her legs on her own so well." Seriously?!? Why didn't you think of that at the time?) and my doctor went ahead and told them to turn it off because it was too late to fix it now. He then informed me that he was going to have to check the position of the baby and that it was not going to feel good. I watched him put his hand up there and then started to fight because he was right: it did not feel good - in fact, it outright hurt. He finally got a sense of where the baby was, and it was time for me to start pushing through contractions. Seriously, it feels so much better when you can push! Unfortunately, the baby's heart rate was dipping every time I pushed, despite the oxygen mask, and so I was told to sit out two contractions. I have no recollection of this because I was so tired and pissed at my oxygen mask, but apparently I gave the worst stink eye in existence to everyone in the room when I was told that I couldn't push. I'll admit that it was not what I wanted to hear. However, after sitting out a couple of contractions the baby's heart rate came back up and it was go time again.
Even though I could feel everything, I felt as though nothing was happening and I began to get discouraged. It felt as though I had been pushing for an eternity and that I would continue pushing for an eternity. Then I received the delightful news from my doctor that if the baby didn't come out in the next two contractions he was going to have to use the forceps, and he went ahead and sent somebody out to get them. This statement had the strange effect of being both a motivator, and being discouraging. I was so tired at this point that I felt pretty sure he was going to have use the forceps because I had no strength left with which to push. Before he resorted to the forceps, however, he gave me an episiotomy...and from that episiotomy I tore...viciously. And, yes, I felt it. I felt it to the point that I was positive I had also heard it. Because of that though, the doctor was able to get the baby out without the use of forceps. As the baby's head began to truly crown it burned. The nurse warned me that it would, and she wasn't kidding. I mean it. Seriously, folks - it burned. I never thought I'd be a screamer, but apparently I let out a horrible scream as the baby came out. I'm very sorry to everyone that had to hear that. Let's just say that the baby was too big (especially his head) and the mom was too small.
On September 25 at 6:44 am our beautiful baby was born. As soon as C.G. was out my doctor asked Mr. Mitchell to cut the cord and the nurses swept the baby away to get him clean. My doctor then asked me to keep pushing so we could get the placenta out. I was too stinkin' tired and so he ended up just pulling it out. That didn't feel good either. A lot of 'not feeling good' happened that morning. The doctor asked if I wanted to see the placenta... ... ...as if I had been behaving like a patient that was interested in seeing her placenta; I said no. They then began the stitching process. They put some kind of numbing thing directly on the area along with a pain killer in my IV. Did it matter? No. I felt every stitch and tug of the thread. I started crying and my doctor told the nurses to hurry up the baby so I could have him and be distracted. It almost worked.
Finally getting to hold the being that had been kicking me senseless for the past three months was amazing. I could still feel the stitching, and I was still crying, but I got to 'love on my baby' as the nurses said. He was incredibly alert and calm. I instantly fell in love with his head of hair, his big eyes, and his big hands and feet.
About an hour later they were finally done stitching me up and I was let in on my current state. From the episiotomy I had earned a third degree tear. Translation: I ripped from my vagina to my anus. I was to expect life to be rough for the next few weeks. It's been four weeks now and things are still rough. I was also kept an extra day in the hospital because they were worried I had an infection. I ended up being infection free and was finally sent home.
I had no idea how many of my simple, everyday movements require the use of my pelvic floor muscles. I was terrified to move on my own in my hospital bed because even if all I wanted to do was scoot over an inch I could feel an amazing amount of pressure on my stitches. I was assured many times that my stitches wouldn't tear out, but it didn't feel that way. The first time I got out of the bed took me almost 20 minutes; I was sore beyond belief and I hated feeling all of that pressure on those stitches. Peeing required the use of a squirt bottle (which is the case with ALL women who have just experienced childbirth, not just those of us that get ripped up) because otherwise it stings like nothing else. Wiping was turned into dabbing with an antiseptic towelette. That was an incredibly weird experience because I was soooo swollen. It felt as though my entire crotch had dropped two inches. The worst though, truly, was having a bowel movement. I was on stool softeners and they spiked up the fiber in my diet, but that doesn't really make a difference. The first bowel movement for every woman who has experienced childbirth is difficult, but it's still difficult for me four weeks later because I have stitching there. Both of my feet became incredibly swollen (presumably because of the IV) to the point where it was painful to walk on them and the tops of my feet would jiggle with the smallest twitch.
I'm getting much better at getting up and down (you can also read that as: I have graduated from the old lady toilet raiser back to just a regular toilet!!) and I'm off of my pain killers as of a week ago. I still take stool softeners and 800mg of ibuprofen every morning and night, and right now it feels as though I might have to do that for the rest of my life. I'm still bleeding...it's the longest period ever folks. Sneezing, coughing, and blowing my nose makes my stitches feel as though they'll burst in half - hopefully that goes away. Overall I am doing very well, especially when I compare how I feel now to how I felt the first week after delivery. I'm anxious to be feeling 'normal' once more and be able to start an exercise routine. (My stomach jiggles when I walk, and it's a very unpleasant sensation that I have never experienced before.)
My point in sharing all of this, really, is to show that natural childbirth is survivable. To show that less-than-pretty things happen during labor and delivery. To show that things get better. To show that even though I'm exhausted, and still not quite myself, it's worth it.