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Birth Story: Long and Unexpected

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TrishGeels1_thenSpring 2005 – Jon and I were eagerly anticipating the end of the academic year; he recently presented his thesis and I was finishing my first year of graduate school. On Tuesday of finals week, we had a positive pregnancy test in hand. I was so nervous that I sent him to look at the test. Technically, he knew I was pregnant before I did!

For the most part, I had an easy pregnancy. By mid-December, I was 37 weeks and we moved the day after I finished classes. We had amazing help in both cities, but I really don’t recommend a winter move that far along! We met with our new OB/gyn, and celebrated Christmas and the New Year, eagerly anticipating my January 3 due day.

January 3 came and went without even a hint of a contraction. Another week passed without incident. We scheduled what would certainly be my final pre-natal check for January 17. Finally, on the evening January 13, I started having contractions, while at my mom’s house. She pulled out a little notebook, so Jon could track the contractions and taught me how to play Sudoku to pass the time. A few hours passed and I was increasingly uncomfortable. By Saturday morning, the contractions met my OB/gyn’s 5-1-1 rule and we were hospital bound.

My class schedule did not allow for a formal childbirth class, but I had read a fair amount and felt confident we would be meeting our baby that day. When the triage nurse gently told me that I was only fingertip dilated I was so embarrassed to be there that early that I cried. Then I cried again because I was embarrassed that I cried. She hugged me before sending us home.

For the next 24 hours, the contractions came one after the other. Jon rubbed my back and helped me move from the bed to the couch to the bath for hours. Sunday morning Jon again packed our bag in the car and we headed back to the hospital. I was so tired that when the nurse said I was only 1cm dilated, I didn’t even say goodbye as we left. We spent Sunday repeating the same circle as the day before – couch, bed, bath. We walked around our neighborhood, stopping for regular contractions. I couldn’t eat. The time for Sudoku was long gone and we were both so tired. Jon called every grocery store in town to find chicken barley soup when I said I might eat some if we had it. I decided that there was absolutely no way I was going back to the hospital until my OB/gyn saw me in the office.

On Monday morning, I timed my call between contractions as soon as the office opened. The receptionist said that the doctor wouldn’t be in until 12:30 and that I should head to the hospital. After talking to Jon and my mom, we packed up the car again. Triage nurse #3 checked me and said that I was 4cm and all I could ask was, “Can I stay?” She laughed when she said yes. I perked up enough to take a walk around the halls, but the strain of the past 48+ hours was getting to me. Our L&D nurse, Mary Beth, suggested “something to take the edge off,” while I made a final decision about an epidural. I felt better immediately and asked for the anesthesiologist to come.

Things started to move at a much faster pace. My OB/gyn’s partner stopped by and broke my water. She didn’t seem fussed when she said that the baby had passed meconium and might require some attention after the birth. The anesthesiologist placed my epidural. Our families came to see us. Things were finally quieting down when I asked Mary Beth how long it would take for my epidural to take full effect (I wanted a nap!). She looked confused at first and then concerned as she asked me to show her where I felt pain. As soon as I pointed to my lower back she started moving quickly and making phone calls. The anesthesiologist came back, clearly angry with the situation, and quickly pushed a bolus into my IV. When my face went numb I cried, but couldn’t talk well. He yelled at me to stop and moved me into position to replace the epidural. I really commend Jon for his composure during this incident. He told me later how angry and scared he was, but he kept his cool and advocated for me when I needed it most.

The new epidural brought immediate relief; the nurse helped me into the “Texas Roll” position and I took a short nap. As soon as I woke up, she said I was ready to push. The doctor arrived, bringing a resident with him. The NICU team arrived. The back-up nurse arrived. The next shift of nurses arrived, but Mary Beth told me she wanted to stay. There was a team of paramedics in the back of the room, fulfilling their annual birth observation. All told, Jon and I think there were around 20 people in the room. 

At this point, things get fuzzy for me. I remember pushing, but not the actual birth. Jon remembers the doctor said there was no need for an episiotomy, but then quickly performing one. After 45 minutes of pushing, our son was born. Joey’s initial APGAR score was 3, so the NICU team quickly took him for additional assessment and treatment. I started to lose too much blood and Jon thinks I passed out, while the doctor repaired the episiotomy and subsequent 4th degree tear. After 20 minutes of separate treatments, Joey and I were both ready to meet. 

I remember looking at Joey, amazed that he was here; 8 pounds, 3 ounces and 21.5 inches with a smattering of adorable hair. He nursed lazily, preferring to lap up expressed milk like a little kitten. Our families, who had waited so patiently all weekend, came in to meet him. The nurses on the mother-baby unit gave me a room with no neighbors and far away from the nursery. I scarfed down an amazing turkey sandwich. We all slept. We got to know one another.

TrishGeels1_nowMy physical recovery was long and the mental recovery even longer. The long labor and failure to dilate were because Joey was face up. As a first time mom, I had no clue that the intense back pain was not normal. I’m thankful for Mary Beth recognizing what was happening and modifying my position so that Joey moved into the correct position. The doctor later said that after delivering Joey’s head, both shoulders came out simultaneously, hence the painful tear. I thought I knew what to expect, but my experience threw me. I spent a lot of time re-thinking the birth and what I would do differently the next time around. Simply having both friends and medical professionals validate that it wasn’t a good birth experience helped tremendously.

Now? Joey is a bright, happy seven-year-old. He’s introverted like me and has hair like Jon. He knows all sorts of things about sharks and Star Wars. He’s a fantastic big brother and a kind friend. Love this kid!

Many thanks to Trish for sharing her story. Would you like to share your birth story? We’d love to hear it! Take a look at our “What’s Your Story?” post to find inspiration and direction.

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