Disclaimer: This blog post is in no way meant to deter other human beings from reproducing. My birth experience is FAR from normal. At least…every doctor, nurse, specialist and facebook friend that has produced a tiny human of his or her own has told me so. This piece of writing is not to scare or scar. It’s only intended to document, inform, and maybe elicit some laughs. I will say some of it may be a little graphic so read at your own risk. Also, I tend to be brutally honest and my insights are not aimed at making light of motherhood nor do I hate my child. I love him dearly…just maybe not some of the things we’ve gone through together. Whelp, enjoy?
My overall pregnancy, the part where you drag a fetus along with you wherever you go and pray not to throw up on your students or their art projects during class, though fraught with issues of high blood pressure, was…endemically normal. High blood pressure for me has been nothing out of the ordinary. It has gone way up and way down since my twenties so while I was classified as “high risk” I managed well on baby safe blood pressure medicine until about eight days prior to my scheduled c-section on May 19th. (The 19th would have been 39 weeks gestation) Docs like to pull that whole, “You have high blood pressure so we’re yanking him out early,” thing. Fine by me! By the time I got to the 36 week I was going to the OBGYN, swimming therapy and a chiropractor three times a week. Apparently, the hips of smaller statured people are more likely to dislocate/come out of alignment during pregnancy. Very painful. Happened very often…as in with just about every step I took…went away immediately after delivery, thank god.
Terrified and elated my husband and I rolled up to the hospital. We piss and moaned a little bit because all of the “expectant mother” spaces right in front of the hospital were already occupied. We had to park in the hospital garage. Oh darn. We should have known that was an omen of things to come.
Now, it should be known that I didn’t want a C-section. When the docs informed me I was more than likely going to have one because of my high blood pressure and my baby being breech, I did what every good mother does and delves the depths of the internet and Youtube for C-section videos so I could be prepared. I just made myself more neurotic. I was horrified by the idea of being awake on a table with doctors opening me up like a can of tuna and yanking my baby out through a four inch incision. “You’ll just feel some pressure“ everyone assured me. Numb or not, my moto was, “it ain’t happening.”
Well, as fate would have it, the stars aligned and upon an ultrasound exam when we arrived, our baby was no longer breech! I could try for a normal induction as long as my blood pressure remained stable. I would have jumped with joy if I didn’t think landing would force my hips out of position and permanently splay my legs like Bambi on an icy pond.
And so the horrors began…What should’ve been a routine induction turned into four days of nightmarish procedures and postpartum drama.
On day one of induction we were excited. Really excited! We went to the hospital in the afternoon and induction began with a simple, although, “uncomfortable” procedure where the midwives shove a shoelace looking thing called Cervidil where the sun don’t shine and leave it in there for twelve hours. “Just relax and go to sleep. We’ll check back every few hours,” they told me. Yeah okay. Sounds good. I’ll go right ahead and relax on this labor and delivery bed that’s nothing more than a tri-sectioned plank of wood with adjustable foot stirrups that rise out of god knows where from beneath like unwanted trolls. The bed like everything else is…uncomfortable. In fact, everything that the doctors and nurses kept telling me they were going to do to get my labor started would be “uncomfortable.”
If someone in the hospital says they are going to do something that will feel “uncomfortable,” just assume you’re going to die. It’s going to hurt. “Uncomfortable” and “pressure” are synonymous with “Holy fuck!! What are you doing down there?” Thank god for husbands who willingly offer their hands to be crushed. I mutilated a few unsuspecting nurses hands too. Sometimes one hand isn’t enough and you have to double fist your way through the pain.
Day one came and went with only one centimeter of dilation. Then the doctors moved on to pills and Pitocin. The pills were not the kind you can swallow. And Pitocin? God almighty kill me now with those freakish manually induced contractions. All this to “ripen” a cervix that, let’s face it, is nearly two full weeks from wanting anything to do with being open. Baby Matthew was completely content and would probably have enjoyed another two weeks of cooking. But we trudged ahead anyway with round after round of Cytotec and Pitocin. Three days worth. You read that right…THREE DAYS. Three days of hospital food. Three days of being strapped into baby monitors and blood pressure cuffs and IV tubing. Three days of nurses, doctors and midwives sticking their hands where the sun don’t shine. OFTEN.
Modesty? All sense of modesty goes right out window after about the 7th or 8th person tries to fit their whole fist into your nether regions and then complains when you attempt to climb the ceiling to escape the pain. Some women must simply realize they have man hands. The kind of hands that give you visions of veterinary medical shows where the docs are up to their elbows in cow vagina is…realistic. Not to mention you’ve got a gajillion nurses and doctors and interns…hey even dietary and housekeeping get a peek at what my husband affectionately calls the “national treasures.” Not one person bats an eye or pauses what they are doing even if the midwives are in the middle of a cervical exam. And they shouldn’t. The doctors wouldn’t be able to get me back in the bed if they did because I’d have managed to disappear into the ventilation ducting in the meantime. Pregnant women are extremely slippery creatures who may have a huge belly but can still turn into slime and seep between door jams and floor tiles to evade, “discomfort.” At least we think we can. Bottom line, the hospital gowns are pointless. You might as well sit buck naked on the bed for all to see.
So anyway, this horror continued for three full days before the midwives suggested they try a procedure called a foley bulb for induction. Quite honestly, they offered the procedure on day one, but it sounded about as barbaric as having a limb hacked from my body so I said no. Basically the procedure is simple enough. Thread a rubber catheter into the cervix and inflate a balloon to about the size of a large cherry tomato. Eventually downward “pressure” of said balloon will “manually” open the cervix and when it “falls out” you will be about 3-5 centimeters dilated. Only when we were finally out of induction options did I consent to that hellish procedure.
Let me just say this, if you are in labor or being induced and a doctor or midwife says they want to use a foley bulb on you. JUST SAY NO. Or run away. Or opt for the C-section. It’s just not worth it. The midwives even had the audacity to tell me that women come in for the procedure all the time and then GO HOME until the damn thing falls out. Supposedly these women are touched by unicorns and then they are magically in labor with the baby’s head practically hanging down the side of their leg. Freaks! It don’t work that way! In my case, the hospital staff did the procedure twice. Once because I about flew out of the bed screaming for them to stop. Seriously, I’ve broken bones that hurt less. Then they offered me an epidural to try it again. Yes please. Kill the pain please. The epidural, which I was also terrified about, was easier than the nurses putting in a damn IV. Do not fear the epidural. Drugs are our friends…I mean don’t do drugs. It’s wrong. But in this case? Do them. Do all of them.
Epidural in. The procedure was…tolerable. I won’t say it was pain free. But then, I later discovered that I’m like that .00000001 percent of people for whom epidurals don’t really work. I was supposed to be numb for…well ever or until the drugs were stopped. I was delightfully numb for all of about twenty minutes. Long enough for them to do the procedure. Not long enough to enjoy the “pain free” contractions I was supposed to have later. The foley was a nightmare. After about six hours of waiting for this sucker to “fall” out, the nurses came in to…help things along. Their solution was to take one of the baby monitor straps and tie it to the end of the foley tube. They then tied a FULL bag of IV fluids to the other end of the monitor strap and hung it off the end of my bed. I don’t know what kind of MacGyver crap they were watching at the nurses station, but Jesus! Pressure? You want to experience pressure? Have a balloon inserted into your cervix and hang weights off the tubing.
A few hours later it did fall out and I was about three centimeters dilated. Though I feel it prudent to point out that the nurse who checked me had hands like the hulk so five centimeters is probably more accurate. The nurse broke my water, upped the Pitocin and I entered the seventh circle of hell. 18 hours of active labor with no progression before I was begging for that C-section I dreaded so much.
Oh but the fun doesn’t stop there. When they finally wheeled me into the operating room and began to get started, you guessed it, they still couldn’t make me numb. At least not numb enough to come after me with a knife and have me lay strapped, crucifixion style on a narrow ass table and take it like a man. They gassed me all of about five minutes into testing to see if my lower abdomen was numb. I could have cried I was so happy when they put the mask over my nose and mouth and put me out of my misery. No more pain. For at least during the procedure and twenty minutes thereafter. We discovered that I also metabolize narcotics at an insane rate. So much so that by the time I was out of surgery I was begging for medicine. They hadn’t even processed my pain medication yet because, HELLO, normal people are still numb for a while afterward. Not me. I got a special medicine with a button I could press every 7 minutes to dump myself into a drug induced stupor. Problem was, that shit lasted for about 6 of the 7 minutes. I pressed that thing every seven minutes for about twelve hours. All while enjoying the comfort of a newborn and a loving, attentive husband. Then I was switched to Oxycodone and got the best sleep of my life.
C-section recovery??? Sweet jesus. No one talks about that. If they do it’s to say, yeah I was sore or “uncomfortable,” there’s that word again, for a few days. I only had one person, a co-worker, give it to me straight. C-section pain is no joke. AGONY is more like it. The nurses were kind enough to come in and point out that two other C-section moms were already on 600 milligrams of motrin while I was begging to have my 5 milligrams of Oxy upped to 10. It later turns out I had a nasty incision infection brewing that no doubt contributed to that pain.
Regardless, I played the tough guy, sucked up the pain, dealt with the adult diapers to soak up an oceans worth of blood hemorrhaging, did the required walking around the hospital to pass the gas and have a bowel movement so I could be discharged. It was horrible. All of it. All except for an amazing husband and a beautiful baby.
Return Home, er, to the Hospital
I went home a few days after the C-section only to come back to the hospital two days later with a fever of 104.7, a raging incision infection and postpartum pre-eclampsia. It seemed like every time I turned around I was picking a new, delicious piece of glass-coated candy from the hospital trick-or-treat bag of post-delivery fun. The good news is the nursing staff was great. Both sets of grandparents, brothers, aunts, extended family…you name it they showed up to help Stephen and I take care of the baby while I was in the hospital and I don’t really remember much of what went on initially. I don’t even remember getting to the hospital or the straight cath or the IV or apparently asking my mom, who was along for the ride, if cats barked. One can’t be held responsible for fever speak. However, with IV fluids, my fever came down and I do remember being wheeled to another room for a Magnesium treatment via the IV to treat the pre-eclampsia. I was very aware of the horrendous hot flashes that treatment brought, the very nice nurses packing me in ice, the anti-seizure bumpers being assembled to my bed and telling the nurses to please god don’t put another catheter in my bladder. You see, you can’t get out of bed during magnesium treatments. I very aggressively informed the nurses that I was perfectly capable of peeing on a bedpan and that another tube inserted in my body was out of the question. Well, that lasted about 15 minutes. Between fluids, Magnesium, antibiotics etc I would over flow the bedpan oh, every three minutes. I changed my mind and demanded the catheter. It sucked, but at least I could have some pain meds and zonk the hell out without peeing myself repeatedly.
How much is the Rent Here?
The pre-eclampsia nightmare ended and you would think, great, nothing else could possibly happen to me. I’ve done it all. LITERALLY. I finally got to go home, AGAIN. I figured that was it. I was feeling better than ever. My C-section incision infection was cleared up and way less painful. Now I could finally focus on being a mom. How hard could that be? I mean, infants basically only pee, poop, sleep and eat. My husband quickly caught me up on diaper changing. Matthew is a champion sleeper and I figured if I could do one thing right in motherhood – breast-feeding – that would be it. Everything else might have been tough but boob juicing? Come on, easy peasy. These double F’s have gotta be good for something. I mean you look up the word “Moo” and there’s my picture right beside it. I got this.
NOPE. Nope, definitely don’t got it. Breast feeding? You have to be a sadist to enjoy it. Breast feeding is supposed to be this magical experience. Great bonding with your baby. Let me tell you, those first few days I was convinced I’d given birth to a vampire, one who instead of fangs had bolt cutters for gums. I was sure that after the tears stopped running down my cheeks and he was finished “feeding” (for the seventh time in an hour) that his head would lull back into the crook of my arm and I’d see the innocent lopsided grin of an infant with crimson dripping down his cheeks. That and a bloody pit where a nipple should be. The bloody pit didn’t happen, but Mastitis did. Two freaking days after being discharged from the whole postpartum pre-eclampsia bull shit.
If you’re a lucky mom that’s never experienced Mastitis, it feels like you’ve been hit by a trucker who then looks in his rear view mirror and decides he sees you still twitching and then proceeds to back over your body. The solution? Antibiotics and MORE Breast feeding! That’s right, the tiny infant ripping your nipples apart is like that guy who sucks venom out of your leg after being bitten by a rattlesnake. It feels like the baby is forcing razor blades and lightning bolts through hair-sized pores in your body. Yep. HELL TO THAT NOPETY NOPE PAIN TRAIN. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I got it in both breasts even after being on antibiotics for the first one. The second dose of Mastitis infection led to a week long stay in the hospital on the strongest antibiotics the doctors could offer.
No Glass of Wine is Tall Enough
I’m finally home again. It’s been a week since my last confession…I mean hospital admittance. I went back for a follow up and it was like a bloody class reunion. When you get to the point where you know every nurse, doctor, specialist, blood draw tech, ultrasound tech and even wound and infectious disease doctor by their first name? Then you know you’re sick. Regardless, I’m happy for the care, them poking their heads in to see me and give me hug and the phone calls at home checking up on me. Even so…I’m ready to just be a mom.
Cheers to good health and 18+ years of new challenges with Matthew that don’t involve glass through breasts, explosive blood pressure, festering C-section wounds, Foley bulb rappelling, IVs, and the last four decades worth of antibiotics. Lord knows I’ll jokingly be holding this experience over Matthew’s head and re-telling it to him every single birthday he has.