Lesson Learned: Stand-Up for Myself by Kristin Raimondo

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My labor came on really quickly. I didn’t have any of those nice build-up contractions. The first one I ever had lasted about 3 minutes and it was serious. I was working as a nurse and walked up to the nurses’ station and couldn’t even talk. That was my first one. By the time I got to the hospital for labor and delivery, my contractions had become even more intense and were only 2 minutes apart. When the triage nurse hooked me up to the monitor she said, “Oh my God, those are some strong contractions!” and I was like, “Yeah, thanks a lot. Can we do something about it?” I was already so exhausted by the time I got there from having such intense contractions and I didn’t have time to recover in between them. I was only 2 cm dilated and my water hadn’t broken so they considered whether to admit me or send me home, but since my contractions were so off the charts, they decided I needed “therapeutic rest” where they gave me an injection of morphine.

When they checked me an hour later, I was 8 cm. I went from 2 to 8 in one hour. It was intense to make that big of a jump in an hour. At that point, I’m 8 cm and the morphine was wearing off, so I said I wanted the epidural and they said, “Let’s do it.” They gave me the epidural and at that point I thought, “Ok, this is going to go quick.” But then everything really slowed way down. I don’t know if it was the epidural or what. I mean, I felt better and I was able to rest, I might have even slept for a while. I was in a totally different place, so I don’t even remember.

My husband was oversees and had just stepped foot in Afghanistan the day I went into labor. That is why I wanted a doula, so that I could have someone with me that could support me and knew about the labor and delivery process. But my doula was on vacation that week and the doula on call had a death in the family (her mom) and said she could come in, but that was also about the time I got the morphine shot and the epidural. I started to get more disoriented and felt better, and thought it was going to go pretty quickly, so I didn’t really ask about it again. The nurses never called the doula service back to even tell them I had gone from 2 cm to 8 cm in an hour, and the nurses also were sort of telling me that it was a lost cause, sort of like it would be a lot of trouble to find someone else to that could cover for the doula on-call.

At one point the doctor came in and broke my water for me. After that I started feeling contractions again through the epidural, but when they checked me I was still only 8 cm. I didn’t believe them. Before too long, I got up to 10 cm and then the nurses told me to start pushing. I pushed for well over an hour, almost 2 hours. At a certain point I just couldn’t do it anymore. What irritates me the most about my whole story is that the nurses insisted that I hold my own legs and they wouldn’t let me let go. With the epidural my legs were dead weight and I was focused so hard on holding my legs that I couldn’t put any energy into pushing. And I kept telling them that this wasn’t working for me and I just couldn’t do it anymore, but they never gave me any alternatives. No one ever offered to hold my legs for me and they just kept telling me, “You have to hold your legs.” I don’t know why they were so adamant about it for me and no one ever explained to me why they were telling me to do that.

Anyway, eventually I just completely gave up so they turned off the lights and shot up my epidural again. My doctor finally came in. She had not come around for almost 2 hours when I was pushing with the nurses. When she came in, she said, “Oh, well, the baby wasn’t in the right position,” and she flipped me over. Within a few minutes, all of the sudden I felt intense pressure and I was like, “Get her back in here now!” When my doctor came back in she was setting up at the end of the bed and I told her, “Hurry up because this baby is coming out now! I can’t hold him in anymore. He is coming now!” She said, “Go ahead and push!” But even at that point I had to push for a long time. I don’t know, I think it was like more than 40 minutes. At a certain point, I felt like I couldn’t push anymore. I had no energy left even though I knew I had no choice in the matter.

Finally they said we are going to suction him out. Once she gave me the episiotomy and was able to get the suction in place it moved a lot quicker. He came out quickly after that. I would not suggest to anyone to ask for suction though unless they were in a situation like mine because Wyatt got a hematoma (bleeding under the skin) and when that dissolved it caused jaundice because his liver wasn’t ready to handle that level of red blood cells breaking down. That turned into a big ordeal and he was in the ICU and it worried me a lot. I had a lot of anxiety and guilt that he had that because of me…because they had to suction him.

If there was one thing I could change about my labor it would be to stand up for myself and insist that they get someone because I think my labor would have been a LOT different if I had a doula there.  Maybe the nurses were frustrated with me because I was frantic. I was trying to get my husband on the phone and things were not going well. Maybe they viewed me as difficult. But they weren’t much of an advocate for me. I didn’t even think about putting someone from my family in charge of getting the doula to the hospital, but I would suggest that you do line up something like that just in case. I had expected my doula to be my advocate, but looking back on it, it would be nice to designate someone to make sure that the doula gets there. Although, my situation is very rare and I know from talking to the doula service afterwards that nothing like that had ever really happened before.

As for post-partum advice, if people offer to help you, take them up on it. I was terrified to be home alone with the baby. I don’t know what I would have done on the first night at home with the baby if my older sister hadn’t been there. I remember she was telling me, “Eat now. Drink something. Shower,” because when you have a newborn, those type of things slip your mind. For single mothers out there, you just have to have someone around to help you…you can’t do it alone.

I also remember that the lactation consultants just seemed so swamped. They were very kind and would sit down and talk to me, but they were getting calls every 60 seconds and I could tell that they were so busy. They weren’t as available as I thought they would be. I’m so grateful that I found out about the breastfeeding clinic. Oh my gosh, I don’t think I would have breast fed for over a year…I wouldn’t have made it that long if it wasn’t for the nurse there. I would go there weekly, ask all my questions and she gave me tips, advice not only about breastfeeding, but about him and about how he was doing. Is he pooping ok? Is he sleeping through the night? She covered so many aspects of so many things – it was great. She was kind of like my (post-partum) doula really. She really supported me. And there were days where I would call and she would call me right back and would give me an answer. I know they do have breastfeeding support groups all over the place and they are not really about breastfeeding as much as just a mom’s support group. But I am not really such a social person, so it wasn’t for me, but if you are a social person you should go for it. Any type of support is important.

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