So prepare for a long read! With four days of labor, three days on magnesium, and almost a week on the hospital, Amos’s birth was a long, wild ride!
On the big day, we decided to make sure we had plenty of time. We decided to eat before going to the hospital. So we got up around 3:30 AM, finished loading the car, and went to Waffle House. We ate and shared our excitement and nerves. I couldn’t believe it was really the big day. We arrived for our scheduled induction at 6:30 AM and went up to the second floor and checked in at the nurses’ station. They took my weight and temperature and gave me a gown, then showed us to the L & D suite we’d be calling home. It was the same one we had toured. I got into my own frilly monogrammed gown and tried to get cozy. I got an iv placed in my hand (and my vein rolled, so it was crazy painful – and I momentarily felt like I wasn’t strong enough to do this whole “having a baby” thing). Still, I managed to get it together as they placed the blood pressure monitor and NST monitor on. Dr. K came by and gave us the game plan: Cytotec to ripen my cervix, then Pitocin to amp up contractions, then break my water and hopefully get that boy out. He checked, and I wasn’t dilated at all yet, and so he placed the first dose. Cytotec, by the way, is a tiny pill inserted by hand up against the cervix. It has to dissolve. That means no moving or peeing for at least an hour after it’s inserted, and it’s repeated after 3 hours. He agreed we could come off the monitors after the first hour to walk, pee, stretch, use the birthing ball, etc. plus, he agreed it would be fine for me to eat up until go-time. The irregular contractions I’d been having amped up, and I had fairly strong ones every one to three minutes. This was the gist of our first day and a half there. We passed a lot of this time napping, watching HGTV, talking, and doing a lot of nothing. I’d rock, wince, and breath through each contraction, ready for things to get going.
That night, Dr. K tried to place a Foley bulb in to dilate me, but my cervix broke it! I was barely a cm. By Sunday, I was restless. Dr. S was on, and he felt like we needed longer on the Cytotec, so the day continued like before. Mary, my day time nurse, and Ashley, my night nurse, were both great on those days and got to know us, our story, and our wishes. I was super grateful to be in their hands. That evening, I was close to 2 cm and 50% effaced, so Dr. S decided to try the bulb again. Broke a second one! That’s when he told me out of all the 20 something years and thousands of deliveries he’d done, I had the most stubborn, overly competent cervix he’d seen. By now I’d had ten doses of Cytotec – probably a hospital record for the most doses! Most don’t go more than 6. It was then he decided to go ahead and start Pitocin. It was titrated up all evening, and I tolerated it well, though I got something called the labor shakes that caused me to tremble and shake all over during contractions. This stayed with me for the entire experience, I might add. I would shake hard, and my teeth would rattle during all the contractions. Yes, I shook for days! Overnight, the contractions got tougher, but not too terrible. The shaking was the worst of it at that point. I was finally thinking we were making progress.
I got my cervix checked on Monday morning, but I was still only 2 1/2 to 3 cm at best. Everyone was starting to ask for updates, and I was trying to tell myself it was all okay – we were just going slow and steady. I ate lunch, and not long after, Lauren, our nurse that day and also our friend from church, came and told us the doctor wanted to try the Foley Bulb again. The third time was the charm. But it hurt so bad. I was still on the Pitocin (and at a high dose for that matter), so the cramping from the foley on top of the Pitocin contractions made me sick on my stomach. I just felt like I had to go to the bathroom soooo bad on top of the worst cramps I’ve ever had times a thousand. I sat on the toilet, sobbing and shaking until I vomited like a crazy person. Poor Jake handled it all with so much grace. It was during this time that my blood pressure shot up to dangerous levels. They tried two short doses of pain medication, not because I wanted pain meds, but to see if it would lower my blood pressure by relaxing me. No such luck. They gave me two doses of blood pressure medication, but I was still too high. So Lauren lovingly told me I had to go on magnesium, something I very much did not want to do. Now, I knew magnesium was pretty bad and made you feel icky. Not to mention, it’s administered intravenously, so that means I would be more tethered to the bed, making getting through labor (especially transition) all the more difficult. While I was disappointed, Lauren did such a great job of reminding me that it was for my safety and helped me stay positive.
It wasn’t long after the magnesium was started that my mind gets a lot fuzzier. I almost immediately felt fatigued and achy. They often compare it to having the flu. That’s an understatement! My bones, joints, and muscles ached so bad. It made the contractions seem like nothing. At least with those, there were breaks. This was a feeling like being slowly placed into a coma. Out of control. I literally thought it was breaking my bones. I threw up a lot over the next 24 hours, more times than I can remember. Every limb was increasingly hard to move intentionally. My wrist got too weak to hold my water cup. After the foley was removed, we were disappointed that I was still just 3-4cm. They broke my water with big hopes it would get me going for good, and they upped the Pitocin even more – but still, I wouldn’t budge past 4. My next nurse, Crystal was amazing – she put a blanket under my hips, and my mom and Jake would sway me back and forth to help lower the baby and to help me with the contractions. She even tried the three sisters techniques from Spinning Babies. She could have been a doula, she was so ready to try whatever it took to help me make progress. We tried every new age thing, every old school thing, literally everything. I did the peanut ball for hours. By now, my regular OB was on, and she told me that after almost 4 days of contractions, all of that magnesium, and no sign of progress, it was time to think outside the box. For most folks, an epidural will slow labor, but occasionally in weird cases like mine, it can get things started. So as a last-ditch effort, I agreed to the epidural, plus with the likelihood of a c-section, it seemed wise to go ahead and have it so I could at least avoid general (totally asleep) anesthesia.
The anesthesiologist looked IDENTICAL to my brother in law. He ended up having to place it THREE times due to my insanely boney spine. Who knew my spine is straight bone on bone? It burned like fire. What was most frustrating was that I was so weak from the magnesium that I couldn’t do anything but lean on Jake. I couldn’t brace myself or do anything to cope and work through the pain. So yeah, I yelled and moaned a lot! Once it was in, I expected relief, but now I just felt even more paralyzed. I tried to rest, but the epidural caused me to feel like I couldn’t breathe when I got horizontal, so it really did nothing to help me relax. Some people get a good nap after an epidural – not me! I hated the numbness!
That night, a second Ashley was my nurse. My doctor came in to see if I had dilated anymore, and I was stuck at 4. She gently explained that it was time to talk about a c-section. It was Tuesday evening, and I was so exhausted that even if she’d said I was at 10 cm and it was time to start pushing, I honestly don’t think I would have been able to do it. I was drained to my core. I knew in my heart it was time, and I felt very much at peace that we had exhausted every single option before going for surgery – which was my main request all along. I was grateful for the entire team for honoring that for me. I felt proud of my efforts and knew we were choosing the c-section only because it was actually necessary.
I won’t lie, I was scared as they wheeled me back. I was so afraid of my body doing something surprising or stupid and leaving Jake to raise three kids alone. Amos had been a trooper through everything… he was so strong… it was my body that was acting up – and so I prayed and put all of my mental strength in trusting God to protect us both. My doctor started my Spotify playlist in the operating room, and our Amos song, “When I Meet You” began. After getting me prepped, Jake was by me. The music soothed my heart, and I was determined to make it through safely. I had a cool rag on my head and a vomit bag beside my face. The anesthesiologists assured me I was fine, but I felt like I couldn’t breathe. They had me on oxygen, and he repeatedly showed me my sats to help me not panic. My labor shakes were so intense I had trouble keeping my arms on the table. When I felt like I was passing out, Jake and I sang together along with our playlist, which keeping me taking good breaths to stay alert. There was the smell of cauterized flesh (um, NO ONE told me about that part!) and then a lot of pressure and yanking and pulling. As the song “Gracefully Broken” played, Amos James was born at 10:55 PM. I panicked when I didn’t hear cries. The doctor said the magnesium had made him sleepy, but he was fine, and soon, I heard suctioning and then the softest little cries. Jake went to cut the cord, and I asked the anesthesiologist over and over if everything was okay. He spent the entire operation assuring me! They brought him over, and I kissed him. I was star struck and in disbelief. They quickly sent him off to the nursery to help regulate his breathing, which over and over they reassured me was typical for his gestational age and for being on magnesium. In the recovery area, I was on a rush of adrenaline and endorphins and felt like I could get up and run to see Amos. I was so disheartened to find out for one, I actually couldn’t, and two, I was going to be on the mag for 24 hours after birth. I just wanted to see my baby. I knew it was to prevent postpartum preeclampsia complications, and I remembered what Lauren had said about my safety. My experience with Mira told me it was okay that Amos and I were apart – that our safety, his breathing, and my blood pressure – was the priority over snuggles. There would be plenty of time for that soon. So yet again, I prayed for peace, and peace I was given. It was nearing midnight, and our family was still camped in the waiting area. Once everyone was updated, and the grandparents got to visit the baby, we were moved to our postpartum recovery suite. We met our nurses, Jessica and (another) Lauren. I came down off my emotional high and exhaustion hit. I was so out of it from surgery and magnesium that sweet Jessica hand-expressed my colostrum for Amos for me. Most of Wednesday was spent resting, with Jake making trips back and forth to the nursery. Ashley (another one – our third nurse named Ashley) was our day nurse, and she helped take out my catheter and assisted Jake with getting me a shower and getting clothes on, which was a big deal for my mental health! It took a lot of effort because I couldn’t walk or even use my arms. After getting cleaned up, dressed, and fed, I was able to ride to the nursery to see the baby. I was struggling to see and hold my head up because of the mag. That evening around 8:00 PM, I was able to come back to the nursery, and he had been weened down enough on the high flow to hold him, so we got our first snuggles. I had been on the magnesium for so long now I was like a zombie. Just the vibration of rolling in the wheelchair down the hall had me slumped over throwing up. The nurse in the nursery helped me attempt to breastfeed him though I was struggling with my coordination from the mag. I had to have so much help. My arms were floppy, my eye drooped, and I couldn’t form clear sentences. Every two hours, someone helped me get enough out to feed him. By 10 PM that night – right around 24 hours after delivery, I was allowed to come off the magnesium finally. By 2 AM, I was able to stand up and walk to the nursery to feed him. In just 4 hours, I felt so much better. It was like I was Lazarus. Jake was so happy I was back acting more like myself. Around that same time, Amos came off all oxygen support and was able to come to my room.
We then started the normal bonding and recovery associated with delivery – lactation visits, making sure my blood pressure and sugar were fine, etc. I felt so much relief to finally get to start loving on my little guy, and before long, we were ready to be discharged. It was a wild experience, and I felt so many emotions as our final nurse, Patty, wheeled me to the car. Never did I imagine our birth story would look like this – but I’m so grateful that God had His hand on us through it all and blessed us with the safe delivery of a perfect little miracle boy.