On the Wednesday of my 37th week, I had a regular doctor's appointment and a final ultrasound. During the ultrasound they checked the amount of amniotic fluid and found that the amount was on the low side.
Normal levels are 10 or higher and I was measured at a 7. The doctor said that it was just an estimate and I shouldn't worry about it, it could just be that the little guy hadn't peed lately. To make certain that the baby was fine they sent me across town to have a non-stress test. They strapped me up to the fetal heartrate monitor and I got to lie on the table and listen to his heartbeat for half an hour until the doctor assured me that that everything was fine.
I spent Thursday afternoon worrying about the amniotic fluid levels—was there something I had done to cause this problem? Was there something I could do to fix it? I wasn't worried about the possibility of being induced the following week if my fluid levels were still low but I was worried about the health of the baby.
Friday morning I went to work determined not to worry too much. I did OK for a while until I noticed that the baby wasn't moving around as much as usual. Now, I knew that towards the end of pregnancy there isn't much room for the baby to move but I didn't think there should be such an obvious change in movement from one day to the next. I drank some juice to see if that got him kicking more. I ate a candy bar to see if the sugar high would jump-start his little legs. I lay down on my office floor, because I could always feel him better lying down, he was still moving around but not with the energy that he had previously. I called my doctors' office and the nurse I spoke with told me to go to the hospital to have the baby checked. She said that everything was probably fine but I should have it checked out anyway because I’d be worrying all weekend if I didn’t. I called my husband and told him I was heading to the hospital. He planned to meet me there.
Once at the hospital, a nurse hooked me up to the fetal heart-rate monitor and the contraction monitor. For the first half hour, my husband and I sat there chatting and listening to the baby's heartbeat while the nurse came in every few minutes to check on things. I was having regular contractions but nothing major, I couldn't even really feel them. The nurse said she was going to have the doctor on duty check in and that they'd send me home after that. We sat there for another hour. My husband was getting impatient and we were both hungry as we'd come straight from work with no dinner. It was now almost 8 p.m. Finally the nurse came in again and said that the doctor wanted to send me down for another ultrasound just to check my fluid levels before they sent me home. Down to ultrasound we went where the technician said that the fluid level was right around 5. We were sent back up to triage and told to wait to see the doctor. The nurse said that they'd be sending me home but that the doctor wanted to check on me one more time.
At this point it was almost 9 p.m. My husband went outside to get his car and while he was gone the doctor came in with another doctor in tow. She wanted him to do another ultrasound on me for one final check. The number he came up with was in the low 4's, and he said that was being generous. The doctor on duty asked him what he thought they should do and he said, “You know what I'd do—I'd induce her.” The decision was made. I called my husband on his cell and he came back upstairs. The doctor and nurse weren't being very clear about what was going to happen next. We kept asking them what we should do—we hadn't had dinner, I didn't have anything with me, I hadn't even packed a bag for the hospital yet! They said, “The baby isn't coming right now, you have plenty of time for your husband to get your things.”
I started panicking a bit at that point. I really wasn't prepared for the baby to come so soon. People who know me know that I like to be prepared for everything, so I was freaked out.
By now it was 10 p.m. We both called our parents. My parents had been out to dinner and were pretty shocked when I called so late in the evening to tell them I was being admitted. My mother was supposed to be there for the birth and wanted to get in the car immediately to drive up but we convinced her that there was plenty of time and that she should wait until the morning to start the 6-hour drive up from Pennsylvania.
I was finally admitted to a room in labor and delivery and my husband stayed with me while they inserted my IV (I'm pretty scared of needles and needed him there to hold my hand). They hooked me up to all the monitors again and told me I could only get out of bed to go the bathroom. My husband left then to get the dogs, my bag, and some dinner for both of us. The doctor came in and gave me a Cervadil. I was 1 centimeter dilated and 50% effaced at that point.
My husband arrived back at the hospital with my things and some peanut butter sandwiches. We ate and then the nurse gave me an Ambien to help me sleep and I sent my husband home to get some rest.
Saturday morning, my husband arrived pretty early and the doctor on duty came in to start me on the Pitocin, which would induce my labor. All morning I had contractions, though I could handle them easily. Having left Pennsylvania at dawn, my mother arrived around lunchtime. In the afternoon the doctor came in and said I was only 1.5 centimeters dilated. I was upset at this point because I’d expected things to move a little faster. Everyone I knew who'd been induced had delivered pretty quickly. Our doctor told us that while most women who are induced after their due date go into labor quickly, in my case my body wasn't ready for labor yet and so it might take a few days.
My mom and my husband took turns staying with me and going home for showers and rest. That evening the doctor on duty came in to give me the Cervadil and to explain again that things sometimes take a long time when you're induced before your due date. I really wish the triage doctor had told me that on Friday night—I would have been much more prepared for the long wait!
Sunday morning we started the whole thing over. Our doctor said that eventually she might break my water for me but that we'd let the Pitocin do its thing for a while. This time around the contractions were stronger and growing more painful, my husband was really great at getting me through them. He watched the monitor carefully to tell me when a contraction was starting and how long it would last. At 3 p.m. the nurse came in to check on me. I told her I was frustrated and she said she'd have the doctor come in to check to see if I'd dilated at all. By now I'd been in labor for almost 30 hours.
After finding that I had barely dilated 3 centimeters, the doctor decided to break my water. Anyone who knows how this is done will understand why I might never look at a crochet hook the same way again! It hurt pretty badly and my contractions immediately became more intense. After about 20 minutes of struggling to “breathe through” them, I asked for an epidural.
The anesthesiologist came in and both my mother and my husband had to leave the room. The nurse held my hand and talked me through it. It wasn't as bad as I'd expected and the relief was immediate. About half an hour after the epidural I began to feel woozy so they turned it off for a while and then started giving me half of the original dosage, which seemed to do the trick. At this point the doctor was growing more concerned about the baby's heart rate—it had been dropping with each contraction. They gave me an oxygen mask and told me not to worry.
Things moved slowly along. The nurse and I watched Extreme Home Makeover; both of us crying while my husband rolled his eyes. I drifted off to sleep until at about 1 a.m. when the nurse came in to flip me to my other side—they were making me turn over every half hour, which did not make for any peaceful sleep! She then checked to see how far I was dilated. I was only about 3 centimeters along. In 48 hours I'd only dilated another 2 centimeters!
Our doctor arrived at about 1:45 a.m. He checked my cervix and said that I was failing to progress with the pregnancy and, because the baby's heart rate kept dipping, he wanted to go ahead and do a C-section. My husband woke up and I started crying. None of this had been anticipated by either of us.
My husband called my mother to let her know what was going on. The next thing I knew I was being wheeled out of my dark room, down the hall, and moved onto an operating table in a very cold and very bright OR. After I was prepped, my husband came in wearing scrubs and sat by my head to hold my hand.
Things are kind of blurry from this point but here’s what I remember:
- A nurse telling me she was taking my toe ring off and would give it to my husband.
– The anesthesiologist asking if we were having a boy or a girl. When I said it was a boy he asked if we'd picked a name. I told him the baby would be named Paul and he said that our doctor’s name was Paul too. I said that my husband was also a Paul and so there'd be three of them in the room. He laughed and told the doctor, who then looked over the curtain, which they had hung so that I couldn't see what was going on, to tell me that we'd chosen a great name.
– During the procedure the doctor told my husband to stand up and watch his son being born. He says that I told him “don't do it,” I thought he’d pass out, but he did and said that it didn’t bother him at all.
– The doctor holding the baby up over the curtain so that I could see him briefly.
Those are the only things I really remember. The next thing I knew I was being wheeled to the recovery room. A nurse met us there and told me that my mother had just arrived. She sent my mom in and then brought little Paul in to be weighed and measured.
At 7 a.m. a nurse opened my door and wheeled little Paul into the room in his bassinet. I was stunned for a few minutes. I didn't have any clue what to do with him and I couldn't even get out of bed yet as I'd just had surgery and an epidural a few hours before. Fortunately, my shift nurse came in a little while later and handed the baby to me. After that, things were busy with doctors visiting, the housekeeping crew coming through, breakfast being delivered. I was overwhelmed and exhausted.
I was up and walking around, as far as the bathroom anyway, by Monday afternoon, a full day earlier than anyone expected. The nurses kept saying that most women who have C-sections don't recover so quickly. I think that because I'd already been strapped to a hospital bed for two and a half days before Paul was born I just couldn't stand lying there any more!
I was expecting to stay in the hospital until Friday, but on Thursday our doctor came in and said he'd be happy to discharge me if I wanted to go home. By mid-afternoon on Thursday, Daddy Paul, Little Paul and I were home, getting used to being a family of three.
Paul Thomas: Born at 2:31 am on Monday, November 17. 18 inches long, 5 lbs, 12 oz. (the same size I was when I was born!)