I never thought much about writing a birth story until I started reading them on other blogs. I've kept a journal since I was 7 and had grown up assuming I'd probably just put all the details of my pregnancy and birth down in my journal, but now that I have a blog I don't mind sharing my story here.
One thing prior to writing my story that I really wanted to include was an accurate depiction of the pain of childbirth. My mother had given me the Lamaze method book from the 70s while I was pregnant which spoke about painless childbirth. I was indeed a bit skeptical and have said it before I was pregnant and now, afterward, I find it true: There is pain and then there is suffering. Yes, childbirth involves pain, but not suffering. I also appreciated the following quote in Ina May's Guide which I kept in mind throughout my experience:
"Believe me: if you are told that some experience is going to hurt, it will hurt. Most pain is in the mind and when a woman absorbs the idea that the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful - when she gets this information from her mother, her sisters, her married friends, and her physician – that ...woman has been mentally prepared to feel great agony." – Stephen King
Finally, in reading my birth story, please keep in mind that besides having a healthy baby as the end result, a vaginal delivery was top priority for me.
So from all the previous updates I had been blogging (including the 4a.m. one from the bathroom), I had a serious debate about deciding to induce. Although my mom said "no pressure" I did feel pressure to produce Nia before my mom and my sister departed for Ohio on the morning of Thursday, August 12.
When I had gone into the hospital on Saturday, August 7 to check my progress the dr. on duty explained that they typically wait until 41 weeks and 3 days to induce which would be Tuesday, August 10. My dr. would have induced immediately, but based on what that dr. said and another I had seen there at the hospital (who looked at my dr. like she was crazy when she said I could induce that day), I decided that it'd be best to wait and allow my body to make natural progress for as long as possible.
I returned on Tuesday August 10 to my dr.'s office with Uka (I had previously gone with my mother on Friday, August 6 to the dr.'s office), and she saw no progress so decided to strip my membranes for the third time (ouch). At that point I told her I wanted to be induced so she sent us to the hospital. We stopped and got Burger King on the way there - I had a BK Big Fish (we decided to walk to the 10 blocks hoping it might get things going). L&D was very busy with two sets of twins so the odds of getting admitted were slim to none. We arrived around 12:15 and were taken back about an hour later for monitoring. Uka had to work so my mom and sister came and traded spots (my neighbors were so kind and drove them and my things to the hospital). I was monitored for about 4 hours and the first nurse I saw told me I wasn't going to get admitted but then the 41 weeks and 3 days dr. arrived and announced I'd be admitted.
I was ecstatic! However, later I found out it was due to the baby's low heartbeat.
Once in the birthing suite we all got settled and Uka returned a bit later. My college roommate visited me which was a welcome distraction! We had some family fun time and even played Wii. I had been at the Harlem Hospital before for a tour and the rooms were very comfortable and spacious. The guest sleeping accommodations weren't great, but we had brought extra blankets, and I'm so glad I brought an extra pillow and my own slippers. It was definitely a bit chilly, as most hospitals are, and later we asked for the AC to be turned down but they said they couldn't and that when I was in labor I'd actually be very hot and thankful that it was so cold (yes, that was true!).
My mom and me
I had been told that I couldn't eat and again, this was one of those "hospital rules" that annoyed me (they treat all admitted women as possible C-sections so they do not allow eating as there is a possibility of surgery). Ina May instructs that it's unrealistic to expect a woman to birth on little to no food when it's one of the most physically grueling task she'll ever have to endure. Regardless, I got by sneaking some Cheez-Itz, Gatorade and Fiber One bars! Throughout I also ate sugar free hard candy.
Uka being silly!
By this point it was about 11p.m. I didn't really know what the timeline would be for induction, but I knew it could be a very long process once started so I wanted to get started ASAP. Unfortunately, it didn't get started until midnight. That's when I was given Cytotec to ripen my cervix by the nurse from hell. Before that I was a little over 1 cm dilated; virtually, no progress was made on my own at the end of my pregnancy.
Anyway, back to this nurse: she was rude, didn't seem to understand English and totally disregarded pretty much anything me or my family said to the point of being dangerous (when my mother comes to visit next weekend I'm going to work with her and Uka to write a formal complaint to the hospital). Besides her everything else at the Harlem Hospital was fine, and I had heard some horror stories but overall it really wasn't bad.
Now back to the induction . . .
It took only about 15 mintues for the Cytotec to kick in. By this time it was Wednesday, August 11 around 12:15a.m. I had read that Cervadil was the preferred induction medicine so I was a bit nervous about having Cytotec as it had worse side effects than Cervadil. Here's the rundown of the rest of the timeline:
-1a.m. my mother came to check on me
-2:40a.m. I had my first "bed pan experience." I was so grossed out but hey, I had to do what I had to do!
-3a.m. I had intense hunger and Uka fed me ice chips.
-4a.m. the dr. came to check my progress which was NONE; I was still having contractions fairly close together but they weren't getting me anywhere. I was frustrated.
-7a.m. the dr. came to check my progress; that's when I was told the heartbeat had dipped the day before and as a result I couldn't be "ambulatory" (walk around)
-7:45a.m. liquid breakfast
-10:45a.m. dr. arrived again; no progress but contracting on my own; membranes stripped for 4th time; dr. confirmed baby's heartbeat was fine; Uka asked if I could walk around (God bless him for pressing the issue!) and I was allowed until 1p.m.
-12:30p.m. liquid lunch
-1:30p.m. checked for progress. . . NONE
Throughout the afternoon of August 11 into August 12 there was a change of staff and the nurses and dr. were FANTASTIC (I will be writing a glowing review). The dr. was Nigerian and chatted a bit with Uka too. I think she was more sensitive to my wishes because of this. The nurses told me they were so surprised at how much I knew (Bishop score, various induction methods etc.). They said they weren't used to moms being so educated.
I was finally given Pitocin, but not for long. By this time I was nervous because of the slippery slope towards the C-section that I had researched about once a course of drugs is started. Fortunately, I didn't have to stay on it for long as my body picked up where Pitocin started but boy was it painful! And the worst part? I still wasn't progressing. ARGHHHH!
So at 3:40a.m. the morning of August 12 I discussed the epidural with my dr. (not the Nigerian dr. but my usual dr.). I had agreed to sign the consent form but right before they called the anesthesiologist to administer it, I asked for one more intervention: the Foley catheter. Later, they admitted that not many women even go that route but in the end (and a few hours later), it had me at a Bishop score of around 7 which was ideal for the epidural. Prior to that it was only 5 which I knew wasn't ideal for a vaginal birth. At this point I was 4 cm dilated and WORE OUT!
I had squeezed Uka's hand all night and had been moaning non-stop. I was tired and hungry from the long induction and knew physically that I could not endure the rest of the birth experience without drugs. I knew I had very little energy left to push so to conserve it I opted for the epidural.
Everyone had to leave the room but the nurse and anesthesiologist, and I was contracting so hard that I thought the needle would slip and I'd be paralyzed. It was so hard to stay still, but I did my best. It really didn't hurt going in but once it was administered . . .
In less than 10 minutes the heavens opened up and angels came down to kiss my face!!!!
I was on another level and yet, I could still feel enough to be able to use the bed pan no problem. I went right to sleep . . .
My progress was checked later after the Pitocin was resumed and at last I was at 7cm. Woohoo!
Now a note about my mom and sister who were visiting from Ohio:
They had extended their stay in anticipation of the birth, however they had to leave on an 11:30a.m. flight back to Ohio. Unfortunately, they had to leave at 9:30a.m. on August 12. Before they left however, my mother gathered us around the bed and prayed the most beautiful, encouraging birth prayer over me. We didn't know it until later, but the staff had patiently waited and honored our privacy behind the screen in the entrance to the birthing room. When my mom finished they came in and said they had never heard anything like that before and exclaimed what a beautiful prayer it was. Although my mom wasn't there for the rest of my birth experience I felt her covering and prayer after she left. I'm truly blessed to come from a family of faith!
After a few more hours the epidural appeared to wear off, and I was jolted awake around some time between 1:30-2p.m. by a sudden urge to poop. Yep, everything they say about childbirth feeling like the urge to have the biggest bowel movement of your life is true.
No one was around. I texted Uka: "Come." That's all I could get out, and I also pressed the call button. Uka came to my bedside first, and I told him if the staff didn't come by the time I got to 60 seconds I was going to unhook myself from the IV, oxygen, epidural and Pitocin and I was going to go to the bathroom to push! He pleaded with me not to do that. Meanwhile I started counting. . . but the staff came before I got to 60!
They checked my progress, and I was barely 9cm. They were surprised by my urge to push and the Nigerian dr. even mentioned a possible C-section. When she said that my eyes locked with hers, and I shot daggers. It reminded me of the scene in Kill Bill when Uma's character hones in on her target, "sees red" and the hazard theme starts playing. Yeah. It was just like that.
Once the dr. understood how serious I was she and the nurse got in gear and started coaching me to push. There wasn't enough time to grab another nurse so they had Uka stand on my left side to help hold up my leg. I honestly didn't want him there and had given him instructions not to go anywhere below my neck during labor but there really wasn't a choice!
I didn't count how many times I pushed, but I do remember the dr. saying long and loud, "PUUUUUUSH" over and over. I really didn't like that style, and I later overheard her using it in the next room so I guess it was just her thing, but the nurse was also encouraging me in a better way telling me how good I was doing. Uka was fantastic too because he had been quoting scripture before and continued telling me that I could do it!
Now there came a point when I started to tire out and Uka later told me he could tell. I got very nervous that they were still going to wheel me into the OR. I know later I must've dug deep into my thighs with my fingertips becuase I was bruised, and still am bruised, pretty badly. The dr. decided to bring out the vacuum to help get Nia out. I was a bit nervous about it and not too happy about having another item inserted (between all the membrane stripping, checking for progress etc. I only wanted a baby coming OUT at that point!). Anyway the vacuum really did help because suddenly Uka's face become really animated and he exclaimed: "I see her hair! She has a lot of hair!"
That's when I knew I was in the final stretch and that I really was going to have a vaginal delivery. I pushed with my might and the nurse even slapped my thigh! I had heard that there'd be a "ring of fire" and honestly I don't know if it was because I was still partially numb but there wasn't much burning. It just felt again, like a large bowl movement and of course the baby's head being the biggest part, I felt an intense stretching without burning.
Later, I found out I had a 4th degree tear. I guess those endorphins had really kicked in because I didn't feel any indication of that immediately. Uka also later told me that it had looked pretty bad and he felt awful for me. I only knew the extent during the 30 minutes it took to stitch me up and to me that hurt worse than pushing Nia out!
The feeling of pushing Nia out - that final push (God bless it!) - was the greatest sense of relief I've ever felt. It was extremely emotional for me too because of my prayer of having a vaginal birth. All I could say was, "Thank you Jesus!" over and over and I started bawling. Just thinking back to that moment almost makes me cry. I felt so blessed that my prayer was answered!
Uka saw Nia's sweet face and with tears in his eyes reported, "She has eyelashes!" To see his emotion made me emotional, and I just cried and cried.
And a few moments later I heard Nia's sweet little cry. It wasn't loud like I thought it'd be. Just precious and beautiful!
I couldn't take her immediately because I had to be stitched up, but Uka cut the cord and held her. He later told me he was surprised at how quickly they just handed him the scissors and had him do it. He said it was tough to cut through and reminded him of calamari's texture (!). The cord was also the only "messy" part that I saw. Uka made me laugh when he told me that my placenta didn't look like the ones we saw on the videos. I had no problem not seeing it all!
After I was stitched up Nia was then brought to me and laid skin to skin and like a good eater I now know she is, she found her way to my breast bobbing her sweet little head! It was so precious!
The nurse congratulated us and by the end of her time with us remarked that it was record timing for having Nia with us post birth - 3 hours! It didn't seem that long. She also commended us for sticking with the birth plan of having a vaginal birth. She said she never saw someone so adamant about it!
They took her to the nursery then got us moved and settled into the recovery room.
I wasn't allowed to go to the recovery room until I relieved myself. They thought I'd have to use a bedpan, but I felt the urge to get up and go. Unfortunately, I "lost it" when I went to get up but the nurse said it was normal and helped me clean up and get into the bathroom. I apologized profusely but by the end of my stay 2 days later I realized the nurses were immune to all bodily functions!
I was very sore from my 4th degree tear and just wanted to sleep constantly but the hospital had a 24hr room-in (Uka had to leave by 11p.m. but sometimes would stretch it a bit to 11:30). Various community visitors came by to check on me and say hello. The cutest were two grandmother-types who brought Goodnight Moon. I was so excited about this because it was a book I really wanted for Nia!
My sister and her boyfriend also visited and my best friend and his boyfriend. It was good not to have too many visitors, but I was still sad that my mom and sister weren't there.
Our friend Patrick sent balloons to the hospital
The nurses weren't happy!
Having Nia in the room with me was a bit tiring considering how sore I was. I tried to get up and walk as much as possible but it was challenging. I really found myself looking forward to Uka's visits so I could sleep a bit. At night I took to holding Nia most of the night. Those were precious first nights.
On Saturday, August 14 I finally checked out. It was a gorgeous day! Not too humid. My sister and her boyfriend came to help me as Uka had to work. We packed everything up, filled out all the papers and headed out to catch a cab. After what I went through I completely understand why new moms have to be wheelchaired out. I definitely hadn't found my legs yet!
My sister Ariane and Nia in the cab
Uka's dad met us at our apartment bearing fruit and flowers. I was so happy as I LOVE flowers and never seem to get them as often as I'd like. The fruit was delicious too.
Uka came home a few hours later and my sister and boyfriend made our first welcome-home meal for us: enchiladas.
I can't believe it's been a little over 3 weeks since we've all been a new family. Nia's getting so big already (she had gained nearly 1/2 pound by her first well-baby appointment 4 days after discharge).
Nia with monkeys!
My BFF Julie visited for 4 days last week
and did a newborn photoshoot
A few biological notes:
- overall I found the waves of pain from the Pitocin and natural contractions painfully worse than actual pushing and delivery; this pain was a throbbing, tiresome pain that wore me down after 20+ hours and I have never experienced anything like this before; I would not have asked for an epidural any earlier than I did (Bishop score was most important factor for getting me to the vaginal birth), but next time I will think more positively of the epidural!
- after 2 weeks I didn't feel further pain from the tear
- the recovery and "snap backness" of my body from breastfeeding has been great although Uka and I are mourning the loss of what little booty I gained during pregnancy
- it seems that I developed PUPPS or something similar as I have a rash on my legs; I've read that it can be due to the epidural, a reaction to my husband's DNA as exposed through birth or from hormones adjusting; from what I've read I can't take anything for it and just have to wait it out
- unlike most of what I read I didn't get hemorrhoids, and I didn't do #2 during delivery (I was so dreading this!)
Overall, I truly feel blessed!