• Catrina Gardner

Jamie's Birth Story

Almost 3 weeks ago we welcomed my beautiful baby boy into the world. I find that number so hard to wrap my head around. On one hand, it feels like there’s no way it’s been three weeks already. On the other, it feels like I’ve known him forever. James Michael Gardner was born on February 2nd, 2021. I’ll admit, giving birth was not an experience I was prepared for. And I say this as someone who was fully aware that you can never be fully prepared. I didn’t fret much over a birth plan because I knew that they often don’t get followed. The baby comes in his own way! My birth plan was always: deliver a healthy baby. That’s it. Oh, and I wanted an epidural! Those were my two requests. I got both, but it was a journey I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t think I’d get preeclampsia and have to be induced. I didn’t think I’d have trouble laboring. I never thought I’d have a csection. But, all these things happened and it was… an experience. Every scary moment and every minute of pain was completely worth it, of course. I now have a beautiful baby boy sleeping soundly next to me. Still, I wanted to write down my story, as it’s much more involved than I could have imagined and I don’t want to forget any part of this experience.

Below I outline my birthing experience. It’s not my best bit of writing, but instead a stream of consciousness that recounts as much as I can remember.

On February 1st, 2021 I went to my previously scheduled 39-week OBGYN appt. It was a Monday and a wicked snowstorm was starting. My husband took the day off of work to avoid the snow. Because of this, he was able to drive me to my appointment. It later turned out that this was very lucky for us, as the day was about to take a turn that neither of us was expecting!

The appointment was scheduled for 10:30 am however, the clinic was running behind schedule due to the impending storm and additional COVID precautions. I waited for about an hour in the car with my husband before I was called to come into the appointment. Due to COVID, I went in by myself while my husband continued to wait in the car.

As usual, I peed in a cup and had my blood pressure taken. For the first time throughout my entire pregnancy, I had a high blood pressure reading. On top of that, they detected trace amounts of protein in my urine. These results were enough that I was told to drive over to the hospital and head to labor and delivery. I was told it wasn’t urgent enough that we needed to break any speed limits, but I shouldn’t make extra stops (like to go home and get bags). I asked the technician, “Am I going to have a baby today?” and she replied that she wasn’t 100% sure, but it was likely.

I went back to the car and filled my husband in. We began the quick drive to the hospital as snow began to stick to the roads. They brought us to labor and delivery where they ran some tests. At this point, they determined that I had preeclampsia and at 1:00 pm I was admitted as a patient. Because of the preeclampsia and the fact that I was so close to my due date, the safest option for myself and the baby was to induce labor.

At 4:00 pm they inserted a pill into me that was supposed to help dilate my cervix. The initial plan was to administer another pill a few hours later. This plan had to change because, to my surprise, I was having consistent contractions every 2 minutes. I couldn’t feel them at all, but the monitor was picking them up. The pill wasn’t the best option anymore with contractions happening so close together. They instead decided to insert a balloon into me that would help move along the dilation process. This was inserted at 12am. Despite the contractions continuing, I couldn’t feel them and was able to fall asleep easily. I woke up at 5 am to go to the bathroom and a few minutes after I laid back down in bed, my water broke. We were all really excited that it broke on its own, as that was a sign that I might progress more quickly through labor. After my water broke, I began to feel the contractions. At this point, I was 5cm dilated so I got an epidural at 6 am. Though I felt immediate relief, after a few minutes I realized I could still feel the contractions. The anesthesiologist came back at 7 am and they inserted a new epidural. This one worked much better and I was pain-free.

We waited for things to progress, but at 11 am I hadn’t dilated any further so they administered Pitocin. This really helped move the process along and I began dilating further. However, the pain also began to return. At 2 pm they increased my epidural but warned me that the pain wouldn’t go away completely. While I was completely numb in the abdomen, I was feeling pain lower in my pelvis and the epidural doesn’t affect that area. This is so you can push more effectively when the time comes. The epidural increase worked a bit, but the pain continued and intensified. Again, I requested another epidural increase at 7 pm. I was in excruciating pain and 9cm dilated.

The baby wasn’t facing the correct direction and they could tell that he was trying to move, but was having difficulty getting his head in the proper position to move down the birth canal. The Dr. was checking every hour for progress, but we weren’t seeing any. The pain continued and I was becoming extremely exhausted and overwhelmed. The nurse caught me hyperventilating a few times and had to remind me to calm myself. From about 7 pm onward I kept speaking out loud, “relax” and “breath”. I kept repeating these over and over to get through the pain and to try and loosen my body. The contractions felt constant this entire time. At 9 pm my body began pushing on its own, even though I wasn’t fully dilated. I tried not to push, but it was like involuntary convulsions. The Dr suggested a c-section when she came to check on me at 9 pm. It had been mentioned an hour earlier and I was ready to move forward with that step. She didn’t think it would be an easy vaginal birth, as it seemed like his head was too big to push through and it was stuck trying to get past my pelvic bones. If we proceeded with a vaginal birth, we would most likely need to use a vacuum or forceps to assist with the birth.

With that knowledge, along with knowing that pushing would take hours, I agreed to a c-section. The c-section began at 9:30 pm. They administered the numbing meds through my epidural. I was very nervous about feeling pain, as I hadn’t been having a great experience with the epidural so far, so they numbed me up quite a bit. I couldn’t feel or move anything all the way up through my left arm.

At 9:50 pm my son was born. He was 9 lbs, 4 oz, and 20” long. Though I couldn’t hold him, my husband brought him over to me and I was able to meet and kiss my little boy.

Following the c-section, I had an alarmingly high blood pressure reading. I was wheeled into a PACU room where they started a magnesium drip on me and kept a close eye on my vitals. I remember being extremely thirsty but wasn’t able to drink water while on the magnesium. The room also felt very hot and I felt really bad for my husband who was wearing a full plastic suit following the surgery. After some time a nurse finally handed me my son and I was able to hold him for a few minutes. While holding him my pulse shot up and I got nervous so I handed him back to my husband.

Around 1 am we were cleared to leave the PACU and brought to our new recovery room. After a short amount of time with our boy, we let him go to the nursery for a few hours so we could sleep.

We spent the next several days in the hospital with our baby boy. I never left our room due to COVID restrictions. On 2/5, 3 days after delivery and our 5th day in the hospital, our son was cleared for discharge from the hospital. He was in great health! However, I was not cleared due to my blood pressure. We had to stay another night as they determined what type of medication would work to lower my blood pressure.

On 2/6 my blood pressure was back to a passable level and we finally got to bring our sweet baby boy home.

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