Trigger warning: Benjamin’s birth story is very long and may be uncomfortable to read. It deals with a lot of complications and pain including complications with the baby. It was a traumatic experience for me and took me over 2 months to be able to tell it. Although blurry I tried not to hold back any details. Please keep this in mind before you continue reading.
I went my whole pregnancy excited about the idea of going in to labour naturally. This time I did not have any medical issues that would have required an induction. With my first I was induced after a lengthy battle with hypertension and contractions from 30 weeks until I had him at 40 weeks and 3 days. That labour was intense and had some complications. I was hoping that I would finally get the healing birth I wanted. Little did I know my second birth would be much worse than my first and it brought me on a crazy ride no one expected.
Baby boy had been measuring about 2 weeks ahead the whole second and third trimester so, I was expecting a bit of a bigger sized baby. At my 37-week appointment, the OB measured my stomach and said it was time we get an ultrasound done to see what was going on. I was measuring quite big. Honestly, I was very large. We had tried a sweep to put me into labour but no such luck. So, off I went for the ultrasound at 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant. It turns out the receptionist at my doctor’s office booked me at the wrong ultrasound location but this one called and canceled for me, they allowed us to wait for their last appointment an hour later and let me do it there. Little did I know that was just the beginning of a series of unfortunate events. I knew something wasn’t right during the ultrasound. Aside from not being able to lay down for it (I was having trouble breathing and wasn’t feeling well laying on my back so, I had to keep taking breaks) the tech asked me when the last time I saw my doctor was and when is the next time I would see him. She doesn’t usually ask me anything like that; my heart sank. I didn’t know what I was about to hear but I knew it wasn’t good news. My doctor was on vacation that week, not in the province, and there was no back up for him. He had told me to go to the hospital he works out of if there were any issues. The tech brought my grandma and older son in to see the baby and we were all happy to see him moving around making fishy lips for us and oh, those cheeks on him! They were obviously very chubby.
The ultrasound techs told me they needed to speak to a doctor before I could leave. Knowing my doctor wasn’t in they decided it would be best to call the hospital and speak to the on-call OB there. They told me to come in and they would talk to me but that I might have to be induced that night. It turns out I was very large and unbelievably uncomfortable for good reason; I had too much amniotic fluid and baby boy was measuring over 40 weeks. It is called polyhydramnios. The ultrasound techs gave me my report to hand to the hospital myself to ensure they would get it. I was terrified, we were all shaken up. I called my partner to let him know what was happening and that it was possible I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital without baby and we headed to the hospital. The on-call OB met me right away and apparently happens to be a friend of my doctor, which was comforting. They hooked us up to monitors and checked for dilation while talking to me. I was just about 2 cm dilated and everything looked good with baby and I. The doctor felt comfortable letting me wait until the appointment I had scheduled with my doctor a few days later (on the Monday, this was the Friday before). She asked if I wanted to try another sweep in hopes it would just put me into labour and I agreed. She said that it was likely my doctor would want to induce after my appointment and that my cervix was favourable for that so, it would be an appropriate time. The danger with too much amniotic fluid is the chance of the umbilical cord prolapsing once your water is broken. They like to have it break in a controlled setting to avoid that. If a prolapse happens it is an emergency and surgery is needed right away.
My doctor decided to induce as soon as possible because of how uncomfortable I was; my body just wasn’t handling the stress of this pregnancy well anymore. I had been very done for weeks. I had also been dealing with labour starting and stopping on and off for a week and a half. We did yet another sweep hoping it would help a bit more and set up my induction to start first thing the next morning since it was already late in the afternoon.
The induction started off fine, there was not anything unusual and although I was disappointed and still in shock that it was happening I was optimistic that it would be a fast labour with some aspects of my birth plan still in place. My first labour was only about 10 hours which isn’t bad for a first one. None of the doctors or nurses expected it to be long, I was already just about 3 cm once we started the induction. I was induced using Pitocin, I didn’t need anything else. I was hooked up to the Pitocin, iv fluids, and started the antibiotics right away. Being GBS positive I needed the rounds of antibiotics before they could break my water. As I explained above that was the big event, that was what we were most worried about; breaking my water in case of a cord prolapse. When it came time to break my water I wasn’t expecting much of anything. It was manually broken with my first as well and it was very quick; I hardly noticed. They were both broken at the same dilation; 4 cm. To break your water and attempt to avoid a prolapse the doctor had to hold my son’s head down so the cord wouldn’t slip past him. It sounds all well and good but this was excruciating. I don’t think I have ever felt pain like that before. My poor partners hand had nail indents in it and was red; possibly even slightly bruised by the time that was over. I don’t tend to cry and I certainly don’t tend to scream in pain; I did during this. I don’t think it would have been as bad if it had been as quick as my first one. We had to get out as much fluid as possible while keeping his head down. There was so much fluid the doctor was even shocked. I was soaked, she was soaked, and the bed was a puddle. She’s delivered polyhydramnios patients and she said she’s never seen so much fluid before. That was just the first reason I ended up being the talk of the nurses’ station.
After my water was broken the contractions were unbearable right away; same thing happened with my first labour. I ended up waiting about an hour or so, got them to check dilation and when we realized I hadn’t progressed any more that the epidural was my best bet. The epidural was done with no issues, although very painful for me (not the insertion itself but the bending over and staying still during painful contractions). The epidural took a little bit to kick in and it left me feeling them full force in one area. It went on like this for hours of us turning me and trying to find something to make the epidural work all over. We found one way that worked for a couple of hours. This is when I tried to get some rest. Still, after hours of no progress. After the first epidural, it all becomes a bit of a blur for me, I remember most of it but the timing itself wasn’t something I could pay attention to at this point. Once I got the epidural I shook and shivered uncontrollably the rest of my labour. So, rest or sleep wasn’t possible but I gave it my best shot while the epidural was doing a better job.
Once I had decided rest just wasn’t happening, I tried for a couple hours, and the pain started to pick back up. We had been topping me off with stronger pain medication and no one understood why the epidural just wasn’t working well. Once the nurses and doctor shift changed at about 8 pm (my induction started about 7:30 am) the new doctor checked dilation, I was just about 7 cm. I was progressing very slowly. The new nurse realizing how much pain I was in and concerned that she had to keep topping me off the stronger medication recommended I get the epidural redone. I ended up agreeing in hopes it would help after a good hour of telling her I didn’t want to go through it again. Everyone was tired and seeing me in so much pain wasn’t helping. I was tired, I was done. She was right, another epidural placed higher would be a better bet. So, we went through another epidural. It worked for a while, maybe an hour before she had to start topping me off again. We were pushing the button for a top off as often as we could, I was asking for it long before the time between them was up (and you could push the button every so many minutes). The nurse felt bad, the doctors felt bad. Everyone was just hoping it would be over for me soon. I spent the rest of my labour basically stuck in a bed with an epidural that wasn’t working sounding just like all the other women who were having med free labours. I cried, I screamed, I moaned, I made every ridiculous sound in the book because I was in so much pain. I shouldn’t have been in pain.
Baby boy just would not drop enough to help me dilate, there was still enough fluid for him to bob up and down. He was also facing up towards my stomach instead of down towards my back. They tried to turn him multiple times, he wouldn’t move. I had developed a fever at some point and there was blood coming out of my catheter. There were multiple physical indications what this baby just was not going to fit through my pelvis. The OB was offering a C-section at this point. At first, she was just saying we would have to consider it soon. At about 10 pm my nurse was saying she was going to order stronger medication to just be placed in my epidural. I am not sure if it got done, I still felt everything anyway. Around the same time, they checked dilation again and I was about 9 cm. I was relieved to be so close and hoping this would mean the end very soon. The doctor was very concerned at this point. It was just too much and this baby just wasn’t dropping enough to even come out. She was strongly recommending a C-section now. I really did not want one and since I had, had a vaginal delivery before she didn’t want to put me through a C-section if I could do it. They needed a choice made. The anesthesiologist was being called down for an orthopedic surgery and would be gone for a while but would stay here with me and do the C-section now if I decided when they already thought it was going to be a C-section anyway. I couldn’t decide. The anesthesiologist was awaiting an answer and the doctor was talking to me about it. At one point the doctor had to tell them off because I needed to make this choice and talk it out while in labour. I needed to think, I needed to consent. Basically, my choice was a C-section now in the labour and delivery ward or I would have to go down to a regular OR and be put under later if they weren’t available. I don’t remember all the details as to why but I wanted to wait regardless. I was so close, it could have been any moment now.
The doctor said okay, since I was having so much trouble deciding we would do a test to see if baby was in distress. They lifted the entire bed to the OB’s eye level and took out stirrups. They turned on all the lights, which I was close to now being so high up and kept me up there while they did the test. I don’t entirely understand how it works, I know it was explained to me but I was in so much pain it didn’t matter in the moment. The details are just foggy now. They had to cut the top of his head to do the test. She said if the test came back okay she would be okay with leaving me another half an hour and then they would do it again. The test was okay, he was handling all of this well enough. We waited.
Shortly after I started really feeling the urge to push. I had started feeling like that about the time I hit 9 cm but it progressively got worse. I asked to be checked again. The doctor hadn’t come back to redo the test a half an hour later like she said. The nurse checked me, then the doctor checked me again just after that to make sure. I was 9.5 cm but stuck with a lip around my cervix. The same thing had happened with my first labour but that only took about half an hour – an hour to resolve. This lip, had me wait another few hours. It took me about 4 hours to go from 9 cm to pushing. I got to the point where I told them they had to come and check because I was pushing. They didn’t believe me. Another nurse came in and checked. As soon as she did she said, “Oh yeah!” he was already coming out. She ran out luckily my room was right in front of the nurses’ station to get the resident who was right there and page the OB. I heard cheers from the hallway. The nurse and the resident were helping me push. They were trying to rush around to get things ready because he was coming out so fast no one was making it in time. The resident tried to let go of my leg to help the nurse grab something and I yelled at him to stay where he was. The nurse came back and they both told me to stop pushing. They started calling for pediatrics. They needed me to stop pushing until the NICU team was in the room. I didn’t know what was happening, they weren’t explaining. Probably for good reason. All I could think or do was push. It felt so good to push, it was the only thing I could concentrate on. I knew I had to get him out. They came in quite fast. The OB showed up just after, he was already crowning (this was only minutes later, I didn’t even push for 10 minutes). Once they were all there the OB took over for the nurse, a nurse ended up on top of me at one point for his shoulder (I think) and the OB had to keep telling me to stop pushing and to slowly get him out. He came out and the NICU team were working on him right away. No one said anything to me. I couldn’t see him, I was laying too far back. I couldn’t see anything except my OB and the resident trying to get the placenta out. I kept asking what was wrong, why he wasn’t crying. I looked over and could see my boyfriend and his mom. They were watching them work on him; they were crying. No one would answer me. After what felt like a life time, it was quite a while though. He let out a horse kind of pathetic sound, not even really a cry and they took him out of the room. Shortly after the pediatrician came in to talk to me quickly before going back to him. She told me that he wasn’t breathing that they had to work on him and get fluid out of him. That he was on a machine to help him breathe. She said she was in the NICU and that they expected him to be there for at least a week. She then had to go back to him. My boyfriend went with him. I stayed in the room, my legs frozen from the epidural. I cried, I asked everyone if it was my fault and what it all meant. The OB told me to calm down, so did my nurse. She told me he was in good hands, it would be okay. That I could go and see him as soon as I could walk. I couldn’t walk, even 2 hours later. I finally told her I was going, that I needed to go. She asked if my legs were okay and in the moment, they felt fine. I could move them but they were still a little heavy. She let me try, I pushed myself too hard and almost fell off the bed. I couldn’t walk yet. But I needed to see my baby and I needed to go to the washroom to relieve myself now that the catheter was gone. She got a wheel chair and put it beside the bed. She told me if I could make it to the wheel chair I could use the bathroom and get myself okay in that sense and then my boyfriend could wheel me over. I managed to take the couple steps keeping my knees locked over to the wheel chair. I needed help to use the bathroom and I needed help to get back in to the chair but I was finally going to see my baby.
By the time I got to see him he was in an incubator with heart monitors on. He had his head stretched out, looking around. He looked amazed and he was breath taking. His big beautiful eyes and big chubby cheeks were the first thing I noticed. It was surreal to see him there, like that. None of the past 20 hours had felt real. The NICU nurse came over she said he was doing very well; it was miraculous. They were expecting at least a week extended stay for him but that only after a few hours he could go back to my room with me right then if I agreed to give him formula with his first feeding. His blood sugars were too low and if I wouldn’t agree to the formula he would have to be put on an IV. I agreed to the formula. So, I sat in the wheel chair in the middle of the NICU I held my baby for the first time and I breast fed him for a little then gave him the bottle of formula. He wouldn’t take the bottle for me. The nurse had to take him and feed it to him. He did well. Once he was done she swaddled him and he was into a bassinet and we all rolled down the hall to my delivery room to get my stuff.
Rolling back in I felt numb inside. Looking around the room all I could see were the remnants of a nightmare. My blood smeared on the bed, on the floor under it. Blood on the floor beside the bassinet they had worked on my baby in. My own mess all over the table; I had thrown up multiple times before pushing and during. Bedding tossed about and my stuff neatly in the corner. I was happy to be leaving this room. We grabbed all our stuff and left.
The next day is even more of a blur. With no sleep and a newborn after such an ordeal. I mostly stayed in the bed and breastfed. I managed to get a shower, etc but nothing was making me feel better. I was very swollen and still uncomfortable. Although I didn’t tear or have an episiotomy or anything. So, in that sense I was feeling good. Nothing else did though. My baby had to keep getting his blood sugar checked, he needed a car seat test done in the middle of the night for him to be able to leave the next day, it was a lot. I was overwhelmed and beyond exhausted. He passed everything and was doing well. So, we got to go home. I was so grateful to be home with both of my boys and my boyfriend in our home. I spent the night cuddling my boys. It was lovely.
Benjamin was born March 22nd at 2:13 am weighing in at exactly 4 kilos. He is amazing and cute. Although a bit of a fussy boy he is perfect. He is now 2 months old and doing very well.
I will end this incredibly long story here but it still isn’t over. I wasn’t feeling well, something wasn’t right and that turned in to a whole different story and a whole different hospital stay. Although connected I will put it in a separate blog post. You may read it here.