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Growing pains: The birth of Annelise Epidural

Growing pains: The birth of Annelise

"At about midnight we downloaded an app for timing contractions, and about 20 minutes after starting to time them the app alerted us to 'go to the hospital now.'"

I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy—just your run-of-the-mill horrible hip pain at night, occasional leg cramps, nonstop eating and general misery. My first baby is 8 months old now. She is precious, but that last trimester of pregnancy is rough! The weeks leading up to my due date, I kept asking my doctor—at the insistence of my family and friends—if the baby’s size was OK, and he kept saying she measured just fine. I was scared, but I wanted to trust my doctor. I asked about scheduling an induction, so he scheduled one for one week PAST my due date! My belly was huge!

My due date (July 20) came and went without any signs of baby budging. I spent July 21  watching Netflix and replacing some window screens. Weird way to experience nesting, I know. I kept having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions, but looking back I guess they were the real deal. I also had a little bit of bloody show, but I didn’t think it meant much. Everything I’d read said you could have bloody show for weeks before labor starts, and believe me as a first-timer I’d read everything!

We ate supper, and I went upstairs at about 8 p.m. to take a bath, thinking the contractions would probably go away. At 11 p.m. I laid down to sleep, but there was no sleeping. Lying down made them much worse! At about midnight we downloaded an app for timing contractions, and about 20 minutes after starting to time them the app alerted us to “go to the hospital now.” So we did!

We got there at almost 1 a.m. Mentally, I had fully prepared myself to be sent back home. I was dilated to 3 cm, so they kept me for an hour and checked again. Once I was almost to 4 cm, they admitted me. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening! My husband’s sister was working when we got there; she’s a neonatal nurse. She helped us get settled into a room, brought me ice, and made me feel safe and secure. I don’t think I could have gone through pregnancy or labor and delivery without her! Her shift ended shortly after we got there, so she had to leave. It was just us for a while until my mother-in-law and my parents arrived around 4 a.m. That was a special time—the last time it was just the two of us.

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At about 8 a.m. I was dilated to almost 5 cm. I think my nerves kind of stalled my progress. I went ahead and got the epidural even though I wasn’t in much pain yet. Shifts were about to change, and I guess it would have been a while before I could get it so they encouraged me to go ahead. I had questioned getting the epidural at all, but labor was a breeze. The worst part was actually getting the epidural! After that I didn’t really feel anything, which probably turned out to be bad in the long run. At about 9 a.m. the doctor on duty (not my doctor) came in and broke my water and put a monitor on the baby’s head. It upset me because I didn’t know they were putting a monitor on her, and I felt they should have informed me.

From 9 a.m. to about noon I just had to lie there and talk and try to situate myself in the bed without setting off any monitors or ripping out my IV. That was awful! I hated not being able to move. It felt so good to stand up at home and rock back and forth. But they won’t let you stand if you’ve had the epidural. Boo!

Around noon, I was only dilated to a little more than 5 cm. My sister-in-law called to check my progress and said she was going to sleep some more but to call her when I got to 8 or 9 cm. I started having some severe lower back pain. Even with the epidural, it was bad! I had to roll on my side, and my husband rubbed my back (hard!), which brought me minimal relief. My husband was watching the monitor, and he said I had a 10 minute contraction during the time I had the back pain. I didn’t even know they could last that long! They came in to check me around 1 p.m. I was dilated to 9 cm! I texted my sister-in-law, and she rushed back to the hospital. But there was no need to rush.

Finally, I got to 10 cm around 2 p.m., and they started preparing for pushing. My husband and my mom stayed with me—and of course my sister was there, too. There were three nurses, and they were all so sweet and encouraging. I pushed for almost two hours. It took me a while to figure out “how.” I cried and screamed, but it didn’t help. I felt like I had no energy left. The doctor came in (yet another doctor, not mine), and I thought maybe the end was in sight. He gave me an episiotomy, which I had feared greatly.

Eventually, after what felt like forever, I felt her head crowning. I had watched videos, and I knew once the head was out that the body just kind of slipped out. I could feel her head come out (though there was no pain, just sensation) and then I didn’t get any of the relief I was expecting. Her body was still inside of me.

I heard the doctor say in a slightly panicked voice, “watch the time” or “what’s the time”—I can’t remember. He said it twice. I thought maybe it was just for the birth record. Still no relief for me, though. I felt so much pressure. The nurse rushed my mom out of the way and tilted the bed back. Then I realized something was wrong.

I thought maybe the cord was around her neck. I don’t remember much other than seeing the lights on the ceiling and squeezing my husband’s hand so tight. I don’t know how long it was but the doctor managed to get her out. Shoulder dystocia. It took another few seconds for them to get her crying once she was finally out. I remember seeing the doctor hold her up and rub her and I thought, Gosh that baby is huge!
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Once I heard her crying I felt so much better! Her cry sounded just like she was saying “Mom! Mom!” My husband and I laughed through our tears because she was crying for me.

They weighed her at 9 pounds and 11 ounces. I was in shock. I’m only 5’1. How did that come out of me? After doing the initial checks they laid her on my chest. I was too exhausted to think straight. I wanted to do skin-to-skin but the bed was still tilted back, and I was in a gown, I think she was already in a blanket. I was just so relieved that she was alive and well that I didn’t really worry about anything else at the time. I wish I had.

They took her to the nursery, and my husband went with them to show her off to the crowd we had in the waiting room. The doctor stitched me up; it took forever. I still tore even with the episiotomy. They gave me another dose of some pain medicine. It must’ve been strong because it knocked me out. My sister brought her in later and her right arm was limp from the delivery. (It would be almost two weeks before she could move it normally.) I think the doctor had to pull pretty hard to get her out. He came in the next day to check on us and said that it was divine intervention that he got her out because she was STUCK! He told my sister-in-law that my doctor never should’ve allowed me to go that long with such a big baby. Her sugar was low, apparently I had no milk (but that’s another story), and she had to have an IV for about eight hours when formula wouldn’t bring it up. That was discouraging, but at least she survived delivery!

July 22 I became a mommy to a precious girl. We named her Annelise. 

I never felt a rush of emotion or wave of love for my baby in the hospital. I was disappointed that I didn’t. I looked at her and thought she was sweet and squishy and that I wanted to take care of her to the very best of my ability, but there was no instant bond. I was confused as to why there wasn’t … I want to encourage others that it’s OK if you don’t feel anything right away. It took me about six weeks to feel a real connection to her. Then one morning I woke up, and it was like I couldn’t find enough words or actions to express my love for her!

Labor and delivery was the scariest and most wonderful time of my life. I had so much fear being a first-time mother. There are things I wish I would have done differently, but it wouldn’t really matter to stress over it now. There’s no right or wrong way to have a baby. All that matters now is that she is here, and she is the light of our lives!

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!