I’ve wanted to share Charlie’s birth story for a while (after some time had passed and it wasn’t so fresh). It only a year and a half 🙂 If you don’t want to hear my birth story, you should skip today’s post. If you think giving birth is as easy as Kourtney Kardashian made it look in that episode where she pulled her baby out of her own vagina while looking pretty darn good (I totally thought if SHE could do that, it would be a breeze for me), skip this post. I mean, our story isn’t that bad. But it did last 26 hours (which means this is going to be a loooong post).
The birth story of my son Charlie starts a week before my due date. Earlier in the evening we had an info meeting with our prospective pediatrician. We show up and I’m the furthest along of all of the mommas (nothing like waiting until the last minute) and the DR joked that a couple once went into labor in the elevator after leaving the meeting. I was feeling weird and a little uncomfortable while I was there, but they always say you don’t go early with your first so I wasn’t worried. Well, later that night, on November 10, 2010 my water broke at 3:29 am while I was in bed asleep. My husband had just come to bed and hadn’t slept at all (which is exactly what I was hoping for in a birth partner!) I sat up really quick because I thought maybe I peed myself and then realized it was not pee. And I ran to the bathroom just to make sure, and yelled to my husband that it was, in fact, NOT pee. Because my water had broken, the on-call doctor told me to come to the hospital right away, rather than laboring at home as I had hoped to do. So, without a shower or breakfast, off we went.
We got to Cedars Sinai (hospital to the stars, which turns out, means nothing to a non-star) at just before 5:00 am and a mean lady at the registration window and a nurse with the worst personality ever (we’ll call her no personality nurse, or NPN for short) “greeted” us with questions like “why are you here”, “do you have a procedure scheduled”, and “so….you brought all of your stuff” (insert an eye roll and a snicker between them) as they saw our bags. They did not believe me when I said my water broke. Well, after NPN (who was being trained on giving a speculum exam…while giving me mine!) confirmed my water had broken, they hooked me up to an IV and some pitocin (because they needed to move my labor along since my water had broken but I wasn’t dilated much) and we were off and running. That was around 5:30 am. I was dilated one centimeter. ONE centimeter. I was in for a very long day. I labored and contracted and tried to rest (while my husband slept face down on a cot) until I couldn’t take the contractions anymore, which was around 11:30 am. Then I asked for the epidural, and got to have an hour or two of relief before things got rough again. Actually, MUCH rougher.
Quick side note about getting the epidural – before I got it the nurses were talking up the epi doctor about how amazing he is and how I would be in great hands. When I asked for the epi, a young female doctor showed up. I knew it wasn’t the “amazing” specialist that I had been told about. It was a resident. One of the things I was most afraid of was the epi and the loooong needle that would go into my spine. The thought of a resident giving it to me almost sent me into panic mode, but I was also afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings. And don’t forget, I had already been given a speculum exam by a “student” that was the pelvic exam from hell, so I was not willing to be a guinea pig again. The nurse was nice enough to tell them I didn’t want a resident, and in fact wanted the “amazing” doctor who was, in fact, amazing. Lesson learned: stand up for yourself when you’re in labor – don’t feel like you have to be nice or can’t speak up.
After a couple of hours of peace (and probably a mini-nap, though I was too excited to get much sleep), Charlie’s heart rate started dipping significantly every time I had a contraction, to the point that the medical staff was concerned (picture bells and whistles going off and 10 people rushing into your room at once). We had to turn off the pitocin, I had to change sides and positions every 20 minutes, I had to put an oxygen mask on, and I was getting really worried. To make matters worse, I was so numb from the drugs that every time I had to roll to the other side I had a really hard time, and eventually the shakiness I was having turned into fits of uncontrollable tremors. They were terrible, maybe even the worst part of my entire labor experience. And there was nothing that could be done to stop them. I would eventually have 3 major episodes of this violent shaking, paired with a horrible itching all over my body, lasting at least an hour at a time. I now think I was going through withdrawal from the pitocin, though no one would tell me that. I really hated that effing pitocin.
The withdrawal from the pitocin also made me very nauseous. I couldn’t have anti-nausea medicine because it can make you more susceptible to an infection (which I already had – more on that later). I asked for a 7-Up, and the staff said I could only have ice chips. When the nurse left the room I turned to my husband and told him to go get me a 7-Up. He looked at me blankly and said “they said you can’t have one.” I looked at him and said, “I said go get me a 7-Up. Don’t be a pu**y.” He overlooked my not-niceness and delivered me a 7-Up, which I drank and immediately felt relief from the nausea. (so, suck on that!)
It took us a really long time to dilate to 4. Once we did, we got moved to our bigger delivery room. I thought this meant things were going to move more quickly. UM, NO. I remember being SO hungry and thinking if I could get the kiddo out before 2 am, Jerry’s Deli across the street would still be open and I could EAT. All I wanted to do was eat. It took a few hours to dilate more, but once I got to 6 cm I dilated one centimeter an hour till we got to 10. But Charlie was still pretty high up and I had to labor down for a few more hours.
During this time a few other unusual things happened: I had to have fluid replaced because I had no more amniotic fluid to protect Charlie (they basically insert yet another tube into your vagina and pump fluid back in). I also developed an infection because so many people had been up in my business during that time (and someone clearly hadn’t washed their hands good enough). So I developed a fever on top of everything else and I worried about it passing to Charlie too.
The laboring continued steadily on until 3:30 am, a full 24 hours after our water broke, when they finally let me start pushing. My epi had been turned down too far, or had worn off, or didn’t matter, because I thought I was feeling everything. Maybe I wasn’t. Maybe it could have felt much worse. But honestly, it hurt sooooo bad. A weird pressure, like the worst urge to poo a dog out of your ass that you’ve ever felt. And I was so tired. I was one of those groaning, begging, half crying, exhausted pushers. I was not the peaceful pusher I had pictured or hoped to be. But I turned out to be an effective pusher because after a few “practice pushes” they had to stop me to make sure my OB (who was not actually at the hospital yet) got there in time. It was almost worse not being able to push than the actual pushing. I was ready to get Charlie out without the doctor. My husband and a wonderful nurse named Jameka got me through those moments when I thought, “There’s NO way I can do this.”
Finally, an hour and a half after I started pushing (and remember they made me stop for almost 30 minutes to wait for the doctor) Charlie was born. The doctor was only there for about 10 minutes before I delivered. He literally came into the room and while he was putting on his scrubs I pretty much pushed Charlie out. The DR was present for about 5 minutes of pushing, where he was very specific about how much to push so that I wouldn’t tear (which I only did internally a little and needed 2 stitches). Side note, you do not want or need an episiotomy. It is better to tear naturally, which you may not even do. Just an FYI.
I just remember feeling so relieved to be done and sort of removed from my body. I wasn’t really emotional, I was just really relieved. Looking back, it makes me sad that I was a bit checked out by the time Charlie was born and couldn’t really experience the emotions I thought I would have at my son’s birth. And it wasn’t because of any drugs – it was because of complete and total exhaustion. And then the shakes came again, with major chills. They covered me in hot towels, all over my head and body. I looked SUPER attractive by this point. Case in point…
Because I had an infection, they took Charlie to check him out, so I only had him on my chest for a minute or two at first. My husband went with Charlie while they checked him out and cleaned him up (and he cut the cord in one snip, which he was very proud of), while I had to deliver the evil placenta and get a couple of internal stitches, which was worse than I expected it to be (they had to give me more drugs). Actually, it was all worse than I expected it to be. That being said, I’d go through it 100 more times to get Charlie. Well, maybe 50 more times…
A day or two afterwards some of the nurses and residents who were working during our first 16 hours of labor came back to visit me, and they all said they thought I was going to have to deliver by C-section. They couldn’t believe after that long labor that I was able to push Charlie out so quickly. I was probably lucky that he was only 6 lbs 11 oz. And I was very grateful that no one ever mentioned it to me at the time, and that everyone supported my desire to deliver vaginally. As hard as it was, I feel very lucky to have gotten to do that. And I’ve finally gotten to the point where I look forward to trying it again and to do it better next time.
Something else I didn’t expect – after 30 hours of IV fluids, I had blown up to the size of a hot air balloon. Seriously, I was HUGE and swollen. For a long time I couldn’t look at photos of myself after I delivered because I hated how I looked. So not like myself. It is just good to know that you won’t look like your old self immediately (or even 6 months for some people) after delivering.
But when it was all said and done, you get to go home to something that looks like this. So totally worth it, and it gets even more worth it every single day. Also, major lesson for YOU from this story – if I could do it, you can do it. It is hard. But it is temporary. You’re an amazing woman with strength you never knew you had and your body can do things that no man can ever do. And it is such a truly awesome experience.