It's important to start with my prenatal exam on Thursday. My doctor was scheduled to return from vacation on my due date, eleven days later so my prenatal appointment was with one of his partners. Let's call him "Dr. Schmuck." Dr. Schmuck told me that I was only 1 cm and totally effaced and since my first baby was born eight days early, I should expect to deliver before Monday.
Sunday morning I woke up with irregular contractions that hovered between five and seven minutes apart. Since my eldest daughter wasn't born until twenty-four hours after my water broke, we weren't in a hurry to get to the hospital. We called my mom and decided to go for breakfast to keep us busy until we were ready to leave.
By late afternoon my contractions were a steady five minutes apart although not getting any closer together or more intense, so my husband and I started walking the neighborhood. Early evening came and the excitement had worn off since I began to feel drained -- the pain kept hitting me in waves. It was just strong enough to be annoying and impossible to ignore.
I decided to take a warm bath to relax a little and asked my hubby to call Dr. Schmuck for me. I was feeling exhausted and hoping for some suggestions to relieve me. The conversation went as follows,
"Have you lost your plug yet?"
"If you are able to talk to me, then you don't need to come to the hospital. Stay off of your feet and the contractions will stop."
After that uplifting pep talk, I crawled into bed (once I stopped sobbing in the bathtub) for a fitful night of not sleeping.
For the record, my contractions continued at the same pace and intensity for the next four days. It would be repetitive for me to keep telling you that, but it's important to remember that they continued this entire time.
Monday hubby went into work and my mom stayed with me since the contractions were strong enough to make caring for my daughter difficult by myself. Late Monday (4/9) afternoon I was standing in the living room when I felt my water break. It was a very small gush but the fluid continued to trickle, so we called a family friend to stay with my daughter and told hubby to meet us at the hospital.
At the hospital the litmus paper faintly changed, so I was put on fetal monitors and had to wait until the on-call doctor could examine me. He decided that I had a slow high leak, which didn't pose a risk for infection and used an ultrasound to determine that I had enough amniotic fluid to be sent home.
Tuesday, I lost my plug while both my husband and Mom were at work. I was so relieved to know that it would only be a couple more days at the most. Not believing me, my mom searched the house for a pregnancy book and then disgustedly told her best friend that it said labor could still be weeks away. Not sure what she was reading, but in hindsight I understand her frustration.
I think that everyone believed I was crying wolf and she was getting tired of being here without any action. It started to feel like this baby was never going to come after all. The pressure to both hurry up and have this baby or stop complaining about it overwhelmed me.
I woke up on Thursday morning with a large gush of fluid. I told hubby that we were going back to the hospital because I had enough, I hadn't slept in days, and my body was worn down from the constant pain. A family friend came (for the third time) to watch my daughter and we took the forty-five minute drive to the hospital.
The nursing staff was unbelievably rude for us "bothering" them (even though all of the other rooms were empty) and dumped us in a room until Dr. Schmuck could arrive. Our litmus paper changed immediately this time.
After watching the fetal monitor for a few minutes, hubby asked the nurse which line showed the intensity of the contractions. She said neither, the only way to know that was with an internal monitor; what he was seeing only measured the duration. Then in charged Dr. Schmuck (we assume mad because he was called away from his office) to tell me that my water was indeed not broken. The litmus had changed because of blood, urine, or semen and the gushing fluid was due to a weepy cervix -- which as a "layperson" (he actually did the quote w/ his hands) I wouldn't know the difference.
An internal exam found that I was still at 1 cm. Previous surgeries had formed a thick layer of scar tissue, which was preventing me from dilating. He informed me that once I broke through the scarring, I would progress rapidly. I was to stop focusing on timing the contractions and come back only if I couldn't walk through them anymore. Dr. Schmuck then tore off the belts and threw them over the monitor before huffing out of the room. The equally disgusted nurse told me to follow-up with my doctor on Monday.
The hour drive home brought the contractions closer together and much stronger. I laid on the couch for back and belly support while breathing deeply through the pain. A desperate phone call to hubby's aunt begging for advice (she works in a labor and delivery ward in another city) prompted us to call Dr. Schmuck's office and ask when we should return to the hospital.
The nurse told us to wait an hour and call her back if the contractions were still as strong. At this point, my mom and her friend decided take my daughter for lunch to get her out of the house. She was getting very upset by my tummy ache and I needed some time to stop trying to smile through the increasingly painful contractions. My comfort was to grab the back of the couch and pant by now.
An hour passed and we called back. The nurse told us to come into Dr. Schmuck's office for an exam instead of going to the hospital. It was a long, painful ride. I waddled through the clinic to his third floor office while my contractions were a steady three minutes apart. I was so embarrassed to be parading around trying to hide my panting from everyone else.
His nurse came to bring me back and insisted that I get on the scale, which is important when you are in labor I guess. I was having a contraction at the time, so I was gripping the wall in order to maintain my balance when she informed me that I had to let go so she could get an accurate weight. The Dr. Schmuck arrived to tell me that I was still 1 cm. I asked him how I would know when to return since the contractions were already so painful and close together.
He answered, "I have no idea." Then I told him that I hadn't slept in 4 days and how worried I was that I wouldn't have enough energy to push if I had to suffer this level of pain for days longer. I tried to explain that I had reached my pain threshold and I couldn't do this anymore. His brilliant idea was to prescribe some sleeping pills and send me home.
During my next contraction he put his hand on my belly, rolled his eyes, and told me that it wasn't strong enough to be real labor (later I was told that doctors are experienced enough to determine contraction intensity with external exams). It was 4:30 pm when we left the clinic. The hour ride home was horrific. I yelled at hubby for every bump that he went over, sure that he was hitting them all on purpose and taking his sweet time getting home to boot.
When I walked in the door, I was shaking and our family friend asked me if I was cold. All I could say was I don't think so (Hindsight observation -- I was in transition). I spent some more time on the couch trying to pretend that I wasn't in pain because my daughter was still watching and getting very scared. She insisted on lying next to me to help. I was squeezing someone's hand very tightly to get through the contractions at this point. I decided that a warm bath would ease the back pain.
My daughter, never one to let a chance for a bath pass her by, decided to get in with me. One of the most outstanding moments in all of this is my daughter and I in the tub together a mere thirty minutes before giving birth.
Exhausted from four days of intense contractions, I began to get incoherent and frantic as I entered the last stages of labor. I had to get out of the tub since my daughter began drinking the bath water and I didn't want her to swallow my amniotic fluid.
I decided to go into our bedroom and shut the door because the pain was so intolerable that I couldn't hide it from my daughter anymore. I remember mumbling and crushing my mom's hand as I worked through the contractions. In between them I would tell her over and over that I couldn't do this anymore. She would answer that I could and I had to. I told her that I couldn't focus anymore, so she asked if I wanted my Grandma to come over.
My mom left the room to call her and hubby came in to sit with me. At one point I told hubby that if he loved me he would kill me to make the pain stop. He didn't find that funny, so he went back in the living room with our daughter.
My mom returned for one last contraction before I asked her to take me somewhere, anywhere as long as they would help me (other hospitals would not admit me unless I was in emanate delivery). In true motherly fashion, she wanted me to go brush my teeth before we left. While brushing my teeth, I told her that I couldn't get back into the car again. She wanted to know if I meant that I wanted an ambulance, and then informed me that I would have to ride whether I was in a car or in an ambulance. I thought at least I could lie down in the ambulance.
She was trying to figure out if I was serious or not when I clutched the wall and groaned, "Mommy, help me." She yelled to my husband to call 911. Hubby walked into the room and said, "It's a federal offense to call 911 unless it's an emergency," to which I answered, "I'm pushing."
That was enough for him. I walked back over to the bed and put both hands out to ease into it. As I lifted my right leg I knew what I didn't want to admit. I heard my husband in the hallway telling the 911 operator, "Yeah. I think my wife is in labor." I shouted again that I was pushing. I didn't want the operator to wait thinking that we were just panicking. It was such a relief to hear the sirens of the ambulance in the background. I really didn't think they were going to make it in time.
From this point until our baby was born lasted an entire twelve minutes, although it seemed like an eternity at the time. I began yelling through the contractions to make sure that I didn't hold my breath and start pushing.
An ambulance, fire truck, and cop car pulled into our driveway. The two paramedics rushed into the bedroom to find me still on all fours while everyone else tried to get a gurney into the house. The first paramedic helped me out of my underwear and told her partner that she didn't see the head.
At this time all I could think was, "Great. All of this and I'm still not in labor."
As soon as her partner went to get some gear leaving the female paramedic all alone, my water broke and the head crowned. When the male paramedic returned I heard the female paramedic tell him that no one else was allowed into the room. I was still on all fours when I heard some type of debate going on over my shoulder.
I asked if there was a problem and was told that they were trying to figure out how to get me onto my back (neither had delivered a full-term baby in the field before, so they weren't sure if they could do it upside down). I answered that I would do whatever they wanted if they made the pain stop. So, they pushed our bedding onto the floor and spread out a sterile sheet.
Finally admitting that the gurney wasn't going to fit down the hall, the other four members of the rescue squad made their way into the bedroom. A police officer came to my head and tried encouraging me to push. I refused and begged everyone and anyone to take me to the hospital. I tried to explain that it wasn't supposed to happen this way; it was supposed to be at the hospital with lots of drugs involved.
The officer answered that it was going to be all right; I was at home with everyone I loved. I remember thinking, "Yeah whatever. Go away. Somebody else will understand and get me out of here."
In between contractions I kept apologizing to the paramedics, telling them that I wasn't normally like this and I was just scared. The male paramedic told me that it was okay and to try and remember my breathing. I thought, "I've been breathing for four days buddy. Where have you been?"
My Grandma finally arrived and ran into the bedroom leaving her car running in the middle of the street and the doors wide open. She clamped her hand over my mouth and told me that it was time to push. I told her that I was so scared and wanted to go to the hospital. Something about having her there made me realize that I had no choice in the matter and I started to push.
At first I only made it to the count of four because the EMT's were holding my legs wrong and not giving me enough resistance to push. I jerked my leg away and pulled them up to my bottom. The female paramedic said, "Right there! Right there!" and I started pushing again.
This time it was to the count of eight and our baby's blissfully small head was out. Another push of six brought the rest of our newest daughter into the world at 6:55 pm. (7 lbs 9 oz, 19.5").
The firefighter waiting in the living room with hubby and my eldest daughter suggested that maybe my husband should get to the bedroom since he heard a baby crying. My husband was able to cut the umbilical cord (they didn't have scissors, so he had to use a scalpel which sprayed blood everywhere) before the female paramedic announced that it was a girl and rushed her to the ambulance. Wrapping me up, the guys had to carry me down the hall to the gurney waiting in the living room. I said a quick goodbye to my daughter and tried to reassure her that I was fine.
My hospital was too far away (and I really didn't want to see Dr. Schmuck anyway), so I was taken to a nearby hospital. Our baby daughter spent her next 12 hours in the NICU due to her respiratory problems, gray skin tone, and unstable body temperature. I can't begin to describe how thankful I am that she was healthy and we made it through this in one piece.
The full impact of her birth didn't hit me until I was standing in my room again 3 days later. Feelings returned to me in waves as I tried to grapple with my conflicting emotions: fear of the unknown and the peace of motherhood collided.
Honestly, it has taken me a long time to be able to share this story without breaking down into tears. What has finally brought me peace is rather odd though. Dr. Schmuck has chosen to tell quite a few blatant lies about his role in this event to his superiors. It proves that he can't defend his actions, and that's as close to an apology as I'll ever get. Besides, if her birth was this interesting, I'm a little scared to see what her teenage years will bring.
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