As I sit here typing with my 3-week-old daughter sleeping on my lap, our 32-hour struggle to bring her into this world seems so surreal. As if out of a movie, my contractions started around midnight during the only thunder and lightning storm that sunny SoCal has seen in what feels like a year. I was two days late but skeptical because I had experienced my fair share of Braxton Hicks during the previous weeks.
My husband timed the contractions as I squirmed and groaned next to him in bed, just waiting to see if this was finally it. We had no idea what would happen next, or that we’d soon be holding our beautiful baby girl.
As the night went on, the contractions kept a steady pace. The discomfort was enough to keep me from sleeping, but not strong enough to rush to the hospital. An 8 a.m. ultrasound appointment was on the books for the next morning, so I decided to wait it out a bit. By the time we left the house, the contractions were coming every five minutes. It was finally time to call the doctor. She instructed us to skip the ultrasound appointment and head straight to Labor & Delivery instead. This was it; it was actually happening.
Realizing that I was famished and would likely not be able to eat for a while, I insisted my frantic husband stop for food. Blake watched in disbelief as I followed him into the donut shop and ordered a bagel breakfast sandwich in between contractions. I shoved as much of the sandwich down my throat as Blake gripped the steering wheel and yelled at morning rush hour drivers on the way to the hospital. With shot nerves and a full belly, we checked in and headed to Labor & Delivery.
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Shortly after arriving, a nurse came to get my vitals and check our progress. After already laboring through half the previous night, I was disappointed to learn that I was only 2 centimeters dilated. It was time to get as comfortable as possible; it would be a while before our little one graced us with her presence. I took my doctor’s suggestion to rest and forced myself to take a nap. Hours later, another progress check had confirmed that not much had changed. My doctor decided it was time to administer oxytocin to help things along.
Knowing that the oxytocin would most likely intensify the contractions, I decided it was time for my epidural. Here’s where things started getting hairy. I had done plenty of research on epidurals during my pregnancy, so it was very apparent to me that something wasn’t right. It took the anesthesiologist what seemed like forever to place the catheter. Hunched over on the edge of the hospital bed, I squeezed Blake’s hands as she attempted not once, not twice, but three times to insert the catheter. The problem? She kept hitting bone, and it did not feel good. Shortly after, the doctor broke my water.
Worn out and loaded up with drugs, it was time for another nap. Later that evening, Blake and I were awoken by a team of nurses rushing into the room. They ordered me to turn over onto my right side, put an oxygen mask over my face, and administered a shot of something in my arm. Apparently, the baby’s heart rate and movement dropped every time I laid on my left side. The spectacle left us anxious and worried. From that point on, Blake could barely peel his eyes off the fetal monitor, and I constantly asked him if she was doing OK.
On edge and wide awake, I soon realized that I could feel the contractions on one side of my body. I had read about this risk during my epidural research—that with improper placement it could hinder the drug’s effectiveness. The epidural wasn’t working on my right side. When the contractions were keeping me awake and in pain, I asked to see another anesthesiologist. He upped my dosage and the pain subsided, giving me some temporary relief. Unfortunately, that was not the last time the drugs would wear off.
As the night continued on and with nothing to do but wait, we tried to get some rest. At some point in the middle of the night, a nurse came in to check my cervix again. I listened with disappointment as she explained that I was barely at a 3. Discouraged and in pain yet again, I requested the anesthesiologist return for another epidural dosage boost. Blake tried his best to give me a pep talk, and we tried to get a few more hours of sleep in before morning.
A nurse came in and gently woke us up at 5:45 in the morning. I had been in labor for over 30 hours at that point. We listened intently as she told us that my doctor was on her way in, and she wanted to deliver our baby via cesarean at 6 a.m. I barely had time to process this before the nurses began prepping me for surgery.
My doctor arrived and explained her concerns. After laboring for such a long time, my cervix was not even dilated 4 centimeters, and although my contractions were strong, they were coming in clusters instead of the normal rhythm. The failure to progress topped with the baby’s falling heart rate when I turned over was enough to convince me. I agreed to do whatever she thought was necessary to deliver my baby safely, but I freely expressed my fear.
Within minutes, I was being wheeled into the operating room as Blake trailed behind, calling our parents to let them know what was happening. My doctor did her best to calm my nerves, and I will forever be grateful for her compassion. She held my hand as we made our way to the operating room and made sure the nurses covered me with heated blankets to help combat the shakes. As she got to work, I held my husband’s hand and looked in his eyes as he did his best to distract me, reminding me that in just a few minutes we’d be parents.
Almost on cue we heard the doctor say those magical words, “It’s a healthy baby girl.” Seconds later, I heard my baby cry, and my own tears came with full force.
The doctor explained that the umbilical cord had been wrapped around her neck, which was most likely the cause for the heart rate drop during labor. Blake went to go meet our baby and cut the cord while the doctor and her team kept working on me. He came back to my side to lay our beautiful daughter on my chest and give me a kiss. We both cried with relief and an overwhelming sense of love for our baby.
Back in the recovery room, I got to nurse my baby for the first time, and Blake got to help give her first bath. For the next hour it was just the three of us, and we relished in the love that we instantly felt for our new addition. Our long labor was an uphill battle with obstacles and an end game that we never expected, but with that first look at our beautiful Lily, there was no question that it was all well worth it.
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