It is absolutely surreal to me that, at this time 5 weeks+3 days ago, I had just given birth.
First of all, thank you for receiving my last blog post so graciously. I was a little unhinged, so y’all have earned my birth story now.
I’ll let you decide by the end whether you think you deserved it – this is my only and final warning!
On September 15th, I heard those magical words, “It’s time for you to be induced,” followed by, “because your uterus is coming apart.”
Come again for Big Mama?
I’m not a doctor, and I don’t quite remember what they said, but apparently my ol’ womb had had quite enough with the 3 decompression drains and the carrying of the child, so its linings were separating. Also the umbilical cord’s attachment to my placenta was wonky, and things could get gnarly for my son as soon as my water broke. Like a bathtoy being too close when the drain is pulled. Or something.
I was already 2cms dilated, so they didn’t want to wait for me to go into labor naturally anymore. It was go time.
They sent us home to pack and prepare and wait for the phone call, which came at 1pm the following day.
“We have an induction spot open for you. Can you be here at 2pm?”
We were so ready.
I don’t know how we made it to Vancouver from Langley in less than an hour, but we did. My mind was whirling. I’m having a baby today. Maybe. And we’re not traveling by ambulance; this is like a planned event. Oh God, is this like that thing where you’re supposed to be careful what you wish for? What’s Steve thinking about? What if I can’t do this?
Laurie kept sending me texts and pictures to reassure me that I could indeed do this.
By 3pm, I was gowned like a queen, sitting atop my button controlled throne, ready to receive my Cervedil tampon.
This was step one. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, remember where tampons go. And then imagine that it’s covered with this sticky gel called prostoglandin that makes dilation continue slowly, sometimes over a period of 24 hours – to be followed by a fresh tampon if necessary. If things are really taking their sweet time, an IV of oxytocin to simulate contractions would be step two. (Typically, once one receives the tampon, they go home to wait it out and come back. But since we weren’t local, we were admitted to stay until the sweet, sweet end.)
We prepared to sit there for a long time. I tried to think big, billowy, open-y thoughts while eating a chicken Caesar salad. From 3pm to about 7:30, I experienced normal mild cramping, which made me excited and also a bit self-satisfied that I could totally handle this.
And then? Nothing. Not a peep or a twinge for hours. We got bored. We marveled at what people did before hospitals got free WiFi. We prepared to try and sleep.
Just before 11pm, something happened that I can only describe as being headbutted in the bladder, followed by an immense relief of pressure and the unpleasantness of water gushing out of me to cover the entire bed.
Not exaggerating. The entire bed. I’m the girl that had to have fluid removed 3 times, remember?
I whispered to Steve very calmly that I believed my water had broken, before I doubled over in the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life. Why was my baby stabbing me with a shiv?!
We pressed the magic button, the nurse came in, saw the bed …her eyes widened and she said, “Okay, so I’ll be your nurse from now on, and we’re going to gently move you to another room. You are having a baby before my shift is over, my dear.”
I did the math…it was 11pm…shifts change over at 7am…WTF?!
“But this is my first baby! I’m supposed to have another Cervedil tomorrow, maybe an oxytocin IV!” Why is my voice getting squeakier with each word?
“Your baby is ready to come without any of that, sweetie. It’s a good thing you were already here.”
For the next hour, everything was a series of: do something productive, like remove Cervedil tampon-have a backstabbing contraction-start a conversation-have a backstabbing contraction-move out the door and into the hallway-have a backstabbing contraction.
Surely it would be over soon.
At 1am, in my new room, a doctor checked my cervix.
“4cms dilated! Coming along nicely.”
I nearly started crying. All that time, all that pain, and I still had 6cms to go. Oh, OH, and THEN I still had to PUSH the baby out!
I had a quick little talk with myself.
Every day, for the past 38 weeks and 4 days, you have vomited. You have been in the emergency room twice, for bleeding and dehydration. You’ve been drained of amniotic fluid 3 times, injected with steroids 4 times, and stayed 3 nights in hospital. You’ve been poked and prodded and worried and afraid and bored out of your mind on bedrest, away from the home and community you love – surrounded by healthcare professionals you have never met. And now, for better or for worse, it’s almost over.
Girl. Treat yo-self.
I smiled, made my decision and opened my mouth:
“I’d like an epidural as soon as possible, please.”
The next few hours were pretty blissful. I mean, sure, I couldn’t use my legs and I was peeing into a bag, but the pain was gone. We were by ourselves, the lights were dim, the machines were quiet. We passed the time talking in half-asleep tones. My ability to cope was slowly returning.
At 4am, everything changed. Much to everyone’s surprise, I had gone from 4cms dilated to 10 in 3 hours, despite an epidural’s tendency to slow things down.
All of a sudden, the lights got a little brighter. Machinery and doctors started materializing until the room was packed.
Ready or not, it was time for me to start pushing.
I recall what happened in the next 42 minutes with a dreamlike quality, almost as if it happened to someone else.
I have no way of accurately explaining to you what it’s like to push a baby out of your body when you a.) Can’t see anything (thank you, belly) and b.) Can’t feel anything (thank you, epidural.).
Mostly, it felt like I was trying to take a giant poo in front of everyone. (Which I totally did at the same time, by the way. Curse you, Caesar salad of unpreparedness. Isn’t giving birth just precious, guys?! *skips away into the sunset*)
I do know that I had my useless legs propped up by a nurse and my anything-but-useless husband, and that they helped squeeze-fold me in half every time I contracted.
Steve was my superhero. I had been a little worried about him, but he stepped up majorly, even looking *down there* to see baby’s head and tell me there was dark hair, when he’d said multiple times beforehand that he’d keep his eyes on my face the whole time for both our sakes.
The tone of the room changed. Instead of hearing “you’re doing an amazing job, Carly!” like I had been, I heard, “Vitals are dipping…something’s not right…possible c-section…can we get forceps in here?”
A few moments later, a new doctor appeared, checked me, said, “Yep, let’s go get him – forceps!”
“Okay, Carly, we’re gonna make a little slice here to help assist the forceps…and then you push as hard as you can on your next contraction.”
Too hopped up on adrenaline to worry or realize I’d just received an episiotomy, I did just that. My belly tightened, I strained, and then…”Stop pushing! The cord’s wrapped around his neck.”
I saw scissors, I heard a snip and them telling me to push one more time…but I didn’t hear any crying.
My heart stopped as they placed a gooey, slightly blue little boy on my chest.
Less than 15 seconds later, they took him away to a table surrounded by NICU staff to stabilize him.
The only thought in my head was, He’s perfect. From his dark curly head down to his ten little toes, he’s absolutely perfect. And they were so worried.
Steve stood near the NICU table, trying to take in what was happening. I was receiving stitches and waiting for my placenta to come out.
When it did, it was in pieces. I’m not sure why. Apparently my body had been just as done being pregnant as I was. As soon as my water broke, the self-destruct button had been pushed.
Over and over again, we thanked God we had already been at the hospital. Over and over I thanked myself for getting that epidural. Nothing else could have helped me get through the war zone my flesh and blood was going to become.
6 hours later, we saw our son again, this time in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nursery.
12 hours later, he was off the oxygen, and we were able to hold him for the first time.
We didn’t know it then, but we had just completed day 1 of 23.
23 days of blood tests, xrays, ultrasounds, an MRI, machines and babies that never stop screaming.
23 days of taking in the other families around us, worn with the battles of fighting for lives that were too fragile to fight for themselves.
23 days of doctors and nurses that truly cared, almost to the point of making us crazy at how long everything seemed to be taking.
But in the end, it was another blessing in disguise. Because our “Power From Home”, our “Crowned One”, our little Harrison Steven will be able to live as well as he can with a diagnosis called Noonan’s syndrome.
It seems to be manifesting itself mostly in a few unique physical features (which we find adorable) and one extra-thick heart muscle. Of course, that could change over time. But ultimately, it’s the answer to all our questions, and we’ll take each challenge as it comes.
Since it was caught so early, we can now make a treatment plan and take him back home to the Great White North very soon.
We are so ready.