With the expectation of having this little girl in the next few months, it has caused me to rethink everything that happened with my previous delivery. If you want to know all the details of my experience in the birth of Jude; minus the gross, dive right in.
When I think back to the birth of my son I have very few good memories of the experience. Not just because the entire experience was extremely unpleasant, but because the quality of the memories have deteriorated over time. What should have been the most magical moment of my life was over shadowed by a series of poor choices and a veil of self-preservation.
My husband and I lived in Colorado Springs with our beagle, Watson. Due to a slight rise in my blood pressure, it was recommended by my midwife to induce labor and deliver a couple of days before my due date. I was relieved to have the end in sight. I was a miserable pregnant person. Even though the entire pregnancy was fairly easy and my list of symptoms were so short: tired, heartburn, mild back pain and irritability; I hated almost every minute that I served host to my son. I was beyond ready for his arrival.
We had arranged for Watson to stay with a friend of mine until we were settled back in with our new addition. As I was getting him ready, I felt as if I had peed my pants a little. I turned to my husband and told him to go ahead and grab the bags.
“Either I peed myself or my water broke. I’m not sure.” I was pretty sure that I had not peed my pants. It had never happened to me before, but as a precaution I went to the bathroom to empty my bladder. When I was done, I walked out and felt it again. As an adult, I would like to think I would recognize the difference between the movement of liquid from my urethra or otherwise. So I called the triage line and tried my best to explain the situation.
“Are you sure? Was there a big gush of fluid? Is it sweet smelling?” I was sure the nurse assisting me had been through this plenty of times. “If it was your water, you would know.”
“No, it was just a little and I didn’t really sniff it.” What a weirdo asking me what my potential pee smelled like.
He reassured me that there was no rush and to come at my regular time. I grabbed the dog, yelled an “I love you” to the mister and headed out the door. No sooner than Watson jumped into the truck, but I felt a huge gush of water. I took the dog out of the truck and went back inside.
“Honey, you might as well come drop the dog off with me. My water definitely broke and we’re probably not coming home tonight.” I helped the best I could with loading my bag, baby’s bag, and dog into the truck. I sent text messages to close friends and family to let them know what was about to go down. As I stared out the window watching headlights pass in the dark, I wondered how bad contractions were really going to be because I had felt nothing in the way of movement.
Going to the hospital immediately was my first mistake. I might have a completely different story to tell had I stayed home and waited for labor to start, but I was told by the military facility to come in if my water broke. As a soldier, I really did not feel like I had a choice in the matter. Had I disobeyed the doctors, I could have been punished.
We arrived and spent an hour and a half in a triage room waiting for them to test a swab of my water. Upon confirmation we waited another forty-five minutes for shift change to finish before they assigned us a room. I was hooked up to a monitor and IVs and checked for dilation. I was only dilated one centimeter. The decision was made to start a medication to begin contractions that would help progress labor. I endured nine hours of hard contractions that would taper off, while my husband tried to sleep. After the standing dosage of medication was exceeded, the doctor came in to check my progress. I was only 2 centimeters and the medication was not helping at all. The decision was made to up the dosage and continue labor but I could not. I requested an epidural.
The room was so dark. I had no sense of the time. Getting the epidural dropped my blood pressure so dramatically that I nearly passed out. I was exhausted and getting nowhere fast, but I could finally sleep. I do not remember talking to my husband much. I remember that he was always there but he was never at my side as we were just waiting for the party to start. They would check me three more times over five hours with little to report.
After eighteen hours, I developed a fever and started throwing up. My contractions were irregular and I had only progressed to 4 centimeters, not nearly. My husband was watching the second period of a hockey game when the doctor came in. He informed us that I had developed an infection in my amniotic fluid. It was making me sick and my son was having a hard time. I had not progressed despite the aggressive amount of medication and the next step was to conduct an emergency caesarian section and just be done with it. He did not look or sound sorry. He was very matter of fact.
I began to cry. Everything seemed so cold and my body was tired. My husband stood up, smiled at me, clapped his hands and said, “Yeah, let’s do this!” This only made me cry more.
“Can we just talk about this? This is not what I wanted.”
“Hun, the doctor said the baby is getting sick. It’s almost over. That and so is the game. If the Pittsburgh Penguins win, we can name our son Sydney Crosby Arnold.”
I did not want to joke. I wanted everything to be over. Having been in the medical field for a decade, I had assisted in caesarian births. I knew what and how things happened. I knew that I would not feel anything but my body would be jerked and pulled and torn open to make way for this little person into the world. My husband was handed operating room garb, and I was laid flat on my back, and given additional medication and continuous oxygen. I could not control my body. My arms shook and all I could feel was cold. They insisted my husband wait until they got me onto the operating table before he could join me.
They moved me from the portable hospital bed to the operating table. I was not able to assist in moving my own body. They raised a curtain at my chest; this would keep me from seeing the surgery. My arms were spread straight out to either side and restrained to the table. I continued to shake uncontrollably. I remember the anesthesiologist talking to me; maybe about what he was doing or what was going on. All I wanted to do was sleep; only then I could relax enough to stop shaking. My husband entered the room and was directed to sit next to my head, so as to not see over the curtain.
“Pens won, Honey.” His voice smiled but I did not see his face. I might have said something back that was not nice. I knew he was joking but I was more or less angry that he disturbed my rest.
I laid there for what seemed like hours; my body being forcefully pulled this way and that. I envisioned what it looked like, I wish I did not know what was happening. I began to wonder if I would ever hear him cry and was getting anxious.
“Hey, Dad.” The doctor beckoned my husband on the forbidden side of the curtain and then I was alone; waiting.
Finally a screech. A Wail. A CRY! He was here. They bought him over for me to see, but I did not. I could see him but I do not own this memory any more. I cannot remember what it was like to see my very first child for the very first time. And just like that he was whisked away again, because of the infection, he required antibiotics and monitoring.
Alone. My husband had stayed with my son because at the time, this was the most important thing. After more tugging and pulling, they transferred me back to the hospital bed, somehow I was dressed. They must have helped me. I had no feeling in the lower half of my body, and I continued to shake.
They wheeled him in, and huddled over my boy. My husband close behind. He was perfect and healthy, but I could not stop shaking enough to hold him. Another hour would pass as I attempted to hold a drink to my own mouth without spilling. Finally, when I was steady enough to accomplish that task, I asked for him. He had been alive for nearly two hours before I touched him for the first time.
Looking back now, I should have waited until I was in labor to go to the hospital. I should not have had any internal exams until well into having regular contractions as this is what introduced the infection. I should not have been given medications to progress my labor and allowed to labor on my own; this caused me to have severe contractions but nothing more. If I had not been given the medication to progress labor, I would not have required an epidural for the extreme pain which rendered the previous medication useless and stopped all progression. If I had known better, I would not have required a caesarian section surgery to deliver my son. I would have gotten to hold him right away and possibly even remember the first time I ever laid eyes on my perfect boy.
With my daughter due in a couple of months, I realize that this will be the last time I carry and deliver a child. I has become increasingly important to me that I do not relive the vague horror of my son’s birth. Though I am happy that he is here and would go through it again, I have learned far too much to let something so avoidable happen again.
The first time I ever held him.