On Friday, February 23, I woke up with contractions. I had been having real contractions all week. That morning they felt stronger but still weren't very frequent. So, I went about my day like any other Friday... took the girls to school and went to work.
As the day progressed, the contractions became consistent. Timing a few of the contractions showed them to be about 20 minutes apart. That afternoon I went to the bathroom and saw my mucus plug. I realized then that I wouldn't be back in the office on Monday as I expected her to be born some time over the weekend. So, I started organizing and cleaning my desk and wrapping up all the loose ends.
John and I were having a double date night that evening with John's brother and his wife. The girls were staying with my parents for the night so we could enjoy one last date night before the baby was born. Apparently, we weren't even going to get a full date.
The plan was to do an escape room. Before we were to meet there, John and I grabbed dinner. The contractions were strong enough at this point that I would have to pause and breathe through them. They also seemed to be coming faster. So, I started timing again. By the time we made it to the escape room, I decided it probably would not be a good idea to be locked in a room for an hour or more in my state. So, we scrapped the escape room and went to a bar to get a drink.
I sipped on my sparkling water and kept timing the contractions often having to check out of the conversation when a contraction hit. When it had been an hour with my contractions averaging about 7 minutes apart, I looked at John, and we decided we needed to go to the hospital. (John is never going to let me live it down that we left a bar to go to the hospital.)
Unfortunately, we didn't have my hospital bag so we ran by the house on the way. At home, I took a quick shower because I wasn't sure when I would next get a chance to do so. Twenty minutes later we were on our way to the hospital, and I called my mom and sister to let them know the time appeared to be imminent but to wait to drive over until we got the official notice from the ER that I would be admitted.
We got to the hospital about 9 p.m. and got to go straight back to a room where the nurse got me hooked up to the monitor and asked about my pain level (8 at that time). "Well, you are having contractions." Oh, really? That's what that is? I had no idea.
When the ER doctor came in at about 9:45 to check my cervix, I was surprised to see it was the same doctor I saw three weeks prior when I went in with a bladder infection. (I was 36 weeks pregnant and while I was 95% sure it wasn't labor, the pain from the infection was so great we decided to be safe. Glad I went too because it could have very easily have turned into a kidney stone.)
He pronounced me 5 cm dilated and with that I was being admitted into labor and delivery. Great! Can you call the anesthesiologist and have him meet us up there?
I called my mom to let her know she should make her way to the hospital. She and my dad had decided to take the girls over to my sister's house (she lives 10 minutes from them) and leave them with her husband. Then, the three of them would come to the hospital.
We had to wait a while in the ER room for someone from labor and delivery to come transport me to my delivery room. While we waited the ER nurse put the IV port in my arm. Can I change my pain rating to a 10?
It was about another 40 minutes or so until the labor and delivery tech arrived to take me upstairs. She helped me put another gown so I wouldn't be exposed in transit. (Given how much of me was about to be exposed, did I really care? The contractions made sure I didn't care about much. But, it was considerate of her.)
We got to my room where I would deliver, and she handed me a different gown that had the snaps along the shoulders (it's easier for labor and delivery) to change into. Once I climbed into the bed, they hooked up the IV and went through the intake process.
The on call doctor stopped by my room to introduce himself. I was incredibly disappointed that my doctor would not be delivering Denna as I knew he was supportive of my desire for another VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). At my prenatal appointment that week, I had asked him if he was on call over the weekend.
So, when I realized Denna would be coming that weekend, I knew he would not be the doctor to deliver her. But, given my successful VBAC with Greta and that I arrived at the hospital already in labor, I was confident I could still have the birth I wanted.
The contractions were coming every three minutes at this point and were so strong that I needed to squeeze John's hand to help me through it. This went on for an hour until I had a full bag of IV fluids in me. Apparently, this was a prerequisite for the epidural. Finally (FINALLY!) about 11:30 p.m., the anesthesiologist came in. He was a no nonsense kind of guy and got it done quickly, which was a huge relief for me.
Finally, I could rest and relax. My family had arrived by this point. After a little while, the nurse came in to check me and broke my water accidentally in the process. I had definitely progressed (I think I was around 8 cm at this point), and things were looking good. This was especially comforting as the on call doctor had told me he was not going to give me any pitocin to help with labor, and my body had to do it all on its own. So, we settled in to wait while my body prepped itself for delivery.
The next several hours passed in nervous anticipation. I knew the pain and pressure that was coming and definitely felt a little anxious about going through it again. I also knew the only way out was through and knew I was able to handle it.
It was probably about 2 a.m. or so when the nurse came in again to check me. I had officially reached 10 cm dilated! Only instead of immediately pushing, she declared she would let me labor down for a bit first. This was a new part of the process for me as I didn't labor down with Greta. Essentially, it is giving your body time to naturally bring the baby further down in the birth canal without having to exert the energy to push.
The next couple hours were peaceful as I knew my body had reached the point of delivery on its own without intervention and preparation for what it still had to do.
About 4:15 a.m. the nurse declared it time to start pushing. Luckily, in addition to John, the nurse said it was okay for my mom and sister to stay with me so I had a ton of love and support as I started pushing with every contraction. Each time I bore down, the nurse would count to 10 while massaging me.
At first, I felt hardly any pressure. But with each push, the pressure grew. After about 30 minutes of pushing, I was breathless after each 10 count, and Denna was getting close to crowning. The nurse thought I would deliver within 30 minutes. So, she called the doctor to tell him to come and deliver the baby.
She brought out a table with what the doctor would need and continued to help me with each contraction. After 10 minutes she decided to call the ER doctor to be on standby in case Denna came and the on call doctor hadn't arrived yet. On the next contraction, she made me stop pushing as that's how close she was and there was still no doctor in the room. I don't want to stop. I can't stop.
Above me was a light that since it was turned off and the bright delivery lights were on, I could see my reflection. So, I knew Denna's head was right there. I could see the top of it. The pressure was so intense, and it took all my concentration, strength and will to not make that final push until the doctor was there.
Finally, the ER doctor, the same one who had evaluated me when I arrived, came in. He took one look at me and said, "Oh, I won't just be standing here." He immediately started pulling on gown, gloves, etc while more nurses came into the room. They helped him and removed the lower part of my bed. After only a few minutes, he was ready, and I got to make that final push that brought Denna into the world.
(The on call doctor arrived only a few minutes after Denna was born. I find it humorous that the doctor on record for delivering her wasn't actually in the room. But, that's the way it works.)
After the immediate screening, they put her on my chest for skin to skin time. She was still covered in vernix, but I didn't care. I thought she was beautiful, and she immediately calmed down listening to my heartbeat and feeling my warmth.
But, that's not the end to the birth story.
While we were skin to skin, the on call doctor gowned up and replaced the ER doctor to finish by delivering the placenta and stitching the minor tear I had. Twenty minutes later we were still waiting on the placenta. The doctor had been massaging my abdomen trying to get it to detach but no luck.
Both doctors started trying to manually remove it by sticking their hand up me like I was a ventriloquist dummy. Unfortunately for me, a nurse had turned off the epidural as soon as Denna was born thinking I wouldn't need it any more. So, I really felt their efforts to remove the placenta. It was not pleasant. After the doctors consulted each other in hushed tones, the on call doctor explained what was happening.
They were going to take me in the back (the operating room) and get me more comfortable (read: sedation). Then, they would try to manually remove the placenta again. If that didn't work, they would try a D&C, though it is riskier on a post partum uterus. If that didn't work, they would have to do a hysterectomy (but would leave the ovaries).
At the mention of a hysterectomy, I was scared and a little pissed that I might have gone through the vaginal birth just to still have to have surgery. Though it would take care of the birth control question for us. By this time, the nurses had taken Denna to finish their work, and they started getting me ready for the OR. It didn't take long before they were wheeling me out of the delivery room. John wasn't allowed to come with me.
In the OR, the moved me onto the table and secured my legs to metal poles with straps. The nurses and doctors were moving around getting ready. A sonographer had come in so they could maybe see where the placenta was attached and also make sure they had gotten it all. Then, the no nonsense anesthesiologist gave me the medication in my epidural that put me out.
When I came to, nurses were pushing on my abdomen and discussing my bleeding. The doctor told me they did the D&C and got the placenta out in three pieces. Grateful, my only concern was whether someone had told my husband. (Later, I would find out I had lost a lot of blood and the operating team was on standby in case they had to quickly do the hysterectomy due to blood loss.)
Soon I was back in the room and nursing my baby girl Denna. So, the delivery was both smooth and scary. Like she had already shown us during the pregnancy, she would insist on her own story to differentiate herself from her sisters.
(Photo credit: Sassypants Photography)