Updated: Jan 4
After a surprise pregnancy and 9 months getting used to the idea of my new role, I had outlined my birth “preferences”. I had always wanted an unmedicated home or water birth, but for some reason I felt the need to be at a bigger hospital. I think being an ICU nurse during Covid had increased my anxiety about all the things that can go wrong. I hoped to go into labor naturally, but was induced early due to low amniotic fluid. The medication they gave me to start labor is the same medication used for medication induced abortions. It doesn’t make sense that some only deem that medication appropriate when it’s for birth.
Contractions started, but I was barely dilated. Because I wasn’t progressing, the interventions increased- balloon catheter, pitocin, forced water breaking- which revealed meconium in my fluid. I’d hoped to labor without pain medication. But pitocin is synthetic oxytocin, and it’s one hell of a drug. I was writhing and shaking in pain, my heart rate had sky-rocketed, and I needed the epidural 24 hrs after initial induction. I am a redhead and require more anesthesia, and the epidural wore off, so I had to get another dose. This dropped my blood pressure, requiring vasopressors to keep my blood pressure up and thus perfusion to the baby.
After 40 hrs of labor in a windowless room I was prepped for a C-section. I was devastated. But the OB came in for test pushes and said we could go for it. I pushed for 4.5 hours, vomiting on myself for the majority of that time. As any laboring woman knows, at some point, you just don’t care anymore. I hated being forced to lay on my back with people holding my legs. I wanted to be on my knees, which felt better to me with pushing. My catheter wasn’t working because his head was occluding my bladder. They had filled me with 7 liters of fluid to try to cushion since they broke my fluid. The pain in my bladder was excruciating. At the end the OB came in and called the NICU to be present at birth. My partner said he will never get the sound of her ripping my vagina open, out of his head. The relief I felt as he came out was indescribable. The OB promised to put a catheter in after she stitched me up. I hadn’t known I had torn.
Baby boy was finally born nearly 45 hours after I was induced. The OB threw him on me and he was gray. I had only a few seconds of him on my chest before he was whisked away. I was yelling at them, “is he ok?”. No one answered. I heard people yelling “staff assist” and the room swarmed. They were calling out time frames without breathing. Finally I heard a cry. Someone said “83% on room air”. They put a mask on him. I yelled at my mom to take pictures. I was sobbing but couldn’t move, couldn’t sit up. The OB was trying to deliver my placenta. It was the wrong color and didn’t look like a normal placenta. The NICU team took my partner and our baby away. Someone came and told me he was breathing and they were taking him for work up and he had a CPAP on. The NICU doctor came back and told me he had multiple pneumothorax (holes popped in his lungs) from taking his first breath. They made it seem ok.
Two hours later the nurses took me to see him. He had a CPAP on and my partner was holding his tiny hand. The other hand was bandaged with an IV, he had monitors and cords all over him. They were on telehealth with Seattle Children’s neurologist. The Dr said “she’s an ICU nurse, you can talk to her”. They told me they didn’t think they needed to cool him. My brain was racing. Cooling is only done in post-cardiac arrest patients. She showed me a paper with his Arterial blood gas numbers. I start hyperventilating and sobbing because I know those numbers aren’t compatible with life. People are trying to calm me down and tell me babies are different and he is self correcting but still grunting when breathing. So he can’t be breast fed yet. He looks so helpless. I can’t calm down. We hadn’t even named him yet. My partner is crying because he didn’t realize how bad it was and neither did I. We were both in shock.
The staff leaves and we look at each other and ask about his name. My partner says “I like Merritt.” I said “I do too”. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him in the 48 hrs before that was the name that I had wanted.
That evening the Dr. came to our room and showed me my son's blood gas numbers. She said to keep them because it was extraordinary how he had corrected in six hrs. She asked if I wanted to try to feed him. Merritt spent the next 36 hrs in the NICU. We went to his room every three hours and I squeezed colostrum from my breasts and fed him with a dropper, determined to avoid donor milk or formula. He latched once he came to our room. We went home on a Monday. The fresh air felt like I had been inside a prison. I sobbed leaving the hospital.
Four weeks later I went under general anesthesia to repair my perineal tear that had re-ruptured at some point, probably due to constipation. I had thought in those weeks in postpartum it was normal to have that much pain.
I’m now eleven weeks postpartum and just got cleared for activity. My anxiety and depression and post trauma stress has been terrible. I finally talked to the OB about getting on medication for postpartum anxiety and depression. I started walking. My body seems foreign but my baby is healthy. He smiles. He moves constantly. He is so alert and active and interested in the world around him. Everyone has a birth story. I just hadn’t imagined mine would be like this. It has made me realize I’m stronger than I thought, and also to trust my gut. I guess there was a reason I wanted to deliver at a bigger hospital.