Around 31 weeks, I started to experience pregnancy complications from rising blood pressure. All of the sudden, our expectations of a full term pregnancy were quickly fading away. Suddenly, we were making work and school arrangements, I was seeing my doctor once or twice a week, I became very familiar with my couch, and I had to undergo some very painful steroid shots in preparation for an early delivery. (I almost passed out after the first one. Yeah, talk about embarrassing…)
Leading up to my delivery, my blood pressure continued to rise. We had one scare with a nasty headache and high numbers, landing me in my doctor’s office for several hours while they worked to lower my blood pressure. At that point, I was put on medication to help control it all.
Midway through week 35, I developed a mild, persistent headache that could not be relieved from Tylenol. At my weekly appointment the next day, they kept me for observation at the office before admitting me to the hospital. The goal was to monitor the baby and work to make the headache go away by the next morning. The next morning, the headache was still ever-there, officially starting the countdown to my impending induction at 36 weeks. It was all quite an experience, and no matter how well-read I was on the matter, there were still 7 things that caught me off-guard.
1. The induction process can actually start the night before you “officially” begin.
They decided to make it to 36 weeks before inducing me, giving me two more days of bed rest in the hospital. The induction process began with Cervidil placement the night before. Cervidil is like a tampon that sits on the outside of the cervix to “ripen” it for the induction process. I needed this since they were inducing four weeks before my due date.
They told me I might not feel any or much discomfort; if anything, it would be more like period cramps. For a lot of women, it doesn’t seem to have any effect at all. What they didn’t tell me? I wouldn’t get any sleep. The Cervidil worked, alright! Those cramps woke me every time they happened, and I felt I was going to accidentally pull it out whenever I used the restroom. Basically, there was a giant string hanging down and taped to the inside of my leg. Plus, the nurses were continually coming in and out of my room all night. Plus, you know, I was nervous, so yeah, no sleep for me!
2. You don’t get food or water, just ice chips.
Yeah, I should have realized this one beforehand, especially with all the research I had done on giving birth, but it was something that took me by surprise nonetheless. In case of emergency c-section, you can’t eat in order to prevent complications with the surgery. What they also don’t tell you? You won’t notice how hungry you are amid the contractions, especially as they start getting stronger.
Since I was admitted for blood pressure complications, every meal they served me prior to the birth had a little sticky note on the tray that said “No Salt Added.” However, once Landon was born, that sticky note disappeared. It was pretty much the best thing ever…oh, and the bacon. They let me have bacon 🙂 My experience with hospital food was not all that bad, and I’m usually pretty particular about my food. Hopefully you have the same experience!
3. Pitocin, well, sucks.
The next morning, bright and early at 5:00 a.m., they began the Pitocin drip. I had already been having cramping contractions all night from the Cervidil, but I wasn’t prepared for the strength of contractions the Pitocin brought on. Some women don’t respond to Pitocin right away and can go hours without any result. That was not the case with me.
My contractions immediately started getting stronger, coming every few minutes right off the bat. By 9:00 a.m., I had progressed to 3 cm dilated, enough for my doctor to manually break my water. That, in combination with the Pitocin, was awful. Things really sped up from that point on.
As part of my blood pressure complications, I needed to be put on a magnesium sulphate drip to help prevent seizures. This is not typical for induction processes. For any mamas that do suffer from blood pressure complications, know this could be a possibility for you. Once you’re on that, you are unable to leave your bed. The worst part (and seriously, the thing I was most freaked out about going into this entire giving birth process) was that they’d have to insert a catheter. (Insert major, full body shudder here.) I know, I’m about to give birth to a baby and my biggest concern was the catheter. Yes, I had an irrational fear of catheters, one all my nurse friends and nurses on duty thought was really funny. Anyway, the magnesium sulphate made my entire body feel heavy, and I was pretty disoriented after they started it.
Since I was super freaked out about a catheter, my nurse and I decided that once it came time for that, she’d give me the IV pain killer I had requested so I wouldn’t feel any discomfort from the catheter process. That, combined with the magnesium sulphate, completely knocked me out for close to an hour. Thank goodness.
4. You can progress very, very quickly.
Once the IV medication started wearing off, my contractions were hitting me full force and very quickly. My nurse was still in the room at that point. Protocol with administering magnesium sulphate requires a nurse to stay for the first hour to watch for any adverse reactions. I remember asking, in my disoriented state, about an epidural at that point. My original plan had been to just see how well I could take the pain. I wasn’t wanting to get an epidural unless I thought it absolutely necessary. At that point, I thought it was necessary. Definitely necessary.
They checked my cervix, and since I was five cm at that point, they gave the green light and called down for the anesthesiologist.
I kid you not, by the time the anesthesiologist arrived 15-20 minutes later, I was pushing. Yes, you read that correctly. I dilated 5 cm in 20 minutes. No wonder I was asking for the epidural at that point! And, for those wondering, I didn’t end up getting my epidural. It was too late for me.
My parents were on their way down from South Dakota, having left early that morning in preparation for the 14.5 hour drive. They said they had started off leisurely, no hurry at all, since typically labor takes many hours. Needless to say, when they got the text before noon that their new grandson was already here, their pace significantly sped up!
5. The nurses are the real MVPs.
A huge shout out to all the nurses out there! You all rock. Since I had progressed so quickly, they were having a hard time reaching my doctor; they had no idea where he was. Yep, just what every laboring mama wants to hear!
At the hospital I delivered in, the patient room becomes the delivery room. All at once, nurses were whipping in and out of my room, quickly breaking down my bed, prepping the floor, rolling in the baby equipment, and frantically still trying to reach my doctor. My nurse instantly became my coach, guiding me through several rounds of pushing before my doctor even got there.
I think most rational people would expect him to be at least a little frantic at that point, but when he walked in, he nonchalantly checked my progress and then said, “I think I have time to cover my shoes.” I’m birthing a freaking baby and he’s worried about his shoes. Lovely.
With his shoes properly covered, it only took a couple of more pushes before Landon was born at 10:53 a.m., all 5lb 2oz of him. My entire labor and delivery had clocked in at just under six hours.
6. You actually do feel the stitches.
There are some moms who were lucky enough not to tear during delivery. I was not one of them. I had a second degree tear that required several stitches. I had been told and had read everywhere that once your baby is born, the pain just fades away. Unfortunately, that’s only partially true.
Yes, I felt major relief once he was out. Major. Relief. Yes, it was so special to have him placed on my chest immediately after. No, his presence was not enough to keep my from feeling the pain emerging from my nether regions. My beautiful moment kept being interrupted by my saying, “Oww! I can still feel that!” and “Oh, sorry…how about now?” and “Yes, I am still feeling that! Ow….OW….OWW!” Yeah, he never did numb it completely. (Sigh)
7. Induction most likely means epidural.
In the days before I delivered, one nurse had asked if I was planning to get an epidural or not. Telling her my plan, I then asked her if she thought I’d be able to do it.
Her response did make it sound possible, but it was very likely I’d end up with an epidural. Pitocin creates some really strong contractions, usually harder than what your body would naturally do. Because of that, women often need the pain relief an epidural offers.
I’ve had people ask me since his birth if I’m pro-epidural or no-epidural. I never had one, so I don’t know what laboring and delivering with one is like. What I do know? I sure as heck was asking for one, so my stance is definitely pro-epidural!
The rest of my story…
Most women’s stories end after giving birth to a perfectly beautiful little baby and being discharged the next day. Mine does not.
That night, during one of the many check ups my nurses did during the night, my nurse noticed I was shaking. I was slightly responsive and still remember her asking me questions, as well as fading in and out of consciousness to hear the conversation she was having with the other nurses. I was borderline seizing.
On call doctors from other parts of the hospital were immediately paged, as was the on-call OB GYN. My husband, heavily sleeping through the beginning of all of this, woke up to close to 15 people in the room and me shaking in my bed. Talk about scary!
Thanks to the magnesium sulphate, I hadn’t had a seizure, thank goodness. For awhile, they were even thinking I was being poisoned by too much and temporarily stopped the drip and began reversing it.
I came to shortly after, and talks of flying me out to a larger hospital happened. The decision was that if I were to have another episode like that, I’d be on the next helicopter out while they kept my baby there. Fortunately, that never happened. Unfortunately, that episode cost me another 24 hours on the dreadful magnesium sulphate, making it Saturday morning before the magnesium sulphate drip stopped, the catheter removed, and I finally emerged from my bed after being held captive for nearly 5 days while on bed rest and the magnesium sulphate drip.
I was incredibly shaky at first, but finally being rid of my bed was amazing. Most women feel tired after going through the delivery process, and rightfully so. That’s hard work! However, the magnesium sulphate had made me feel so awful that once I was off of it, I felt incredibly refreshed. It also meant I could FINALLY take a shower and put on some different clothes and sit on the couch rather than my incredibly uncomfortable bed.
Most importantly, it also meant that I could finally really begin enjoying my baby. I hadn’t been myself while on that stuff, and for the first two days of his life, Landon was mostly cuddled by his father and grandparents while I suffered in my bed. Saturday afternoon was when I was finally alone with him for the first time and was able to fully enjoy my brand new son.
Isn’t he just so sweet?! This was the first picture of him I took, two days after giving birth. Don’t worry! His father definitely documented the first two days while I tried to recover, so we have those precious pictures as well.
It was also Saturday that my preemie baby was discharged to my room. Yep, my baby born 4 weeks early was ready to go home before me. I was in rough shape.
By Sunday morning, I had all but packed the car while waiting for the doctor to make her rounds and give the glorious order to discharge me from the hospital. I was there for a week and am nowhere near ready to step foot in that hallway again for a long time!
Also, huge shout out to my husband! I’m a very neat person and absolutely hate coming home to a dirty house. Since my hospital stay had caught us off guard, our house was nowhere near ready to bring a newborn home to, plus we hadn’t even packed our hospital bags yet! So, the day before he was born, Aaron went home and thoroughly cleaned the house, mowed the lawn, took care of the dog, bought groceries, etc., making it back in time for when they inserted the Cervidil that evening. He was a rock star during this whole process.
For all the pregnant mamas out there, don’t let this scare you.
For those mamas out there preparing for an induction, please don’t let this scare you! Once you’re through it all, you’ll be glad you did it. You’ll be glad it’s over, but that baby is so, so worth it. And, even though I swore never again would I do this all, he’s only 11 months old and I’m having major baby fever. I’m willing to do it all again for another sweet addition to our family.
So, no matter the circumstances and no matter the method, your birth story is going to be amazing and beautiful. Hang in there, mama!