Hi there! I'm finally going to fill you in on the rest of Liesl's birth story today! Our life is officially crazy right now (all of our belongings are on a tractor trailer on their way to Lawton, Oklahoma), but we're kind of in a calm moment, as we're staying with my parents for a couple weeks while we give the moving company time to ship our things. And I have time to blog since I have help with the baby during the day and am not as distracted by trying to keep our house semi-clean and our laundry done like I usually am. It's feeling very surreal and bittersweet that our house is not our home anymore (and that technically we don't really have a home right now), but I'm coping better than I thought I'd be at this point. We're excited for our new adventure! And we're keeping our fingers crossed that our house will sell quickly to avoid things being tight financially while we're settling in at Fort Sill. Chris got a good bit of leave for the move, and we're looking forward to taking advantage of the time to be together.
When we last left this story, it was early in the morning on Tuesday, January 26th, and I was dozing sitting up in a rocking chair (due to being given a drug cocktail that included Benadryl to help with my severe headache) with a low dose of Pitocin in my system. The Mister was also getting a little rest on the couch in our labor and delivery room. At our L & D unit, the doctors and nurses work 12 hour shifts with the shift changes taking place at 6 am and 6 pm. Our new nurse who arrived at 6 am was AWESOME. Her name was Marlean, and she was so kind and calm and attentive. My overnight nurse (and then Marlean after she took over) gradually increased my Pitocin dose every hour or two to see if we could get the ball rolling. I was definitely having contractions, but they weren't very intense, and I was too tired and hungry to pay much mind to them. As I talked with Marlean and the Benadryl wore off, I became more alert and Chris started to wake up as well. Marlean told me the next step would be for the doctors to check my cervix and potentially break my water to intensify the contractions, since the Pitocin wasn't having a huge effect.
Between 6 am and 7 am, the team of doctors from both the overnight shift and the new shift came in to assess the situation and so the doctor I'd had overnight could introduce me to who would be taking care of me during the day. He asked me if my headache had cleared up and was genuinely relieved to hear it had. Then they checked my cervix and my dilation hadn't changed much, still 3-4 centimeters. My doctor confirmed what Marlean had said, that in order to move things along we should break my water. But, before doing that, he suggested I go ahead and get an epidural if I wanted one because the pain escalates quickly once the sac is broken. He asked me if I felt like I needed an epidural yet, and I told him that I really wasn't in much pain and that I could wait for the epidural, so he said it was best to stay in a holding pattern and continue with slowly increasing the Pitocin. In hindsight, I wish I'd asked to start the process then. Our doctor introduced us to the new day team and said he'd be back at 6 pm for the next shift and would see us if we hadn't had a baby by then, but that he didn't think that would be the case. We were sad to see him go because we'd been really comfortable with him. The new doctors seemed just fine, though, and we were excited to see what the day would hold.
By mid-morning, our families had been in and out from the waiting room a couple of times to say hello, and we'd filled them in on the situation. When the anesthesiologist came in to give me my epidural, everyone had to clear out of the room, including Chris. The anesthesiologist was great and talked me through the process in a way that made the epidural much less scary than I expected it to be. Once the epidural was in, Marlean inserted my urinary catheter. Although the catheter isn't really supposed to hurt since the epidural "kicks in" pretty quickly, I had some discomfort, so I was pretty nervous about how effective the epidural was going to be when I really needed it later.
Since we had talked about it with the doctor and I had received my epidural, we felt confident at that point that I would have my water broken soon and we would be moving into active labor in the near future. But after an hour or so went by and we hadn't seen a doctor, Marlean came in and told us that the doctor had gotten rushed into an emergency C-section that required all hands on deck, and that she would be by to break my water after she had completed the surgery. The doctor was fine with letting my labor progress since I wasn't very dilated. We were a little disappointed, but we figured a C-section wouldn't take too terribly long. However, a couple hours went by with no sign of a doctor. I was weak from hunger and lack of sleep and becoming more and more apprehensive about going into active labor with so little strength. Finally, shortly after lunch, a midwife came in to see how I was progressing. Unlike the doctors, she wasn't keen on breaking my water and wanted me to continue on "naturally" (as naturally as you can with Pitocin). When she left, I was disheartened. The doctors had been telling us all morning that they were going to break my water, and then this woman came in and told us that she wasn't. After that, the afternoon was kind of a blur. I was frustrated. Marlean was frustrated. She continued to pump up the Pitocin, but my body wasn't responding to it much anymore (according to the contraction monitor - I couldn't feel my contractions, but I could still feel my catheter). Even though I hate to keep repeating this, I was so hungry. The jello and popsicles from the nourishment room were not cutting it, plus I was afraid to eat them because the hospital suggested switching to only water and ice chips once contractions were close together (and my contractions had been close together all morning/afternoon).
As early evening approached, we prepared for the next shift change. We were sad to see Marlean go, but we were happy to find out that Michelle, my triage nurse who we'd liked from the night before, was taking over as our nurse. We were even more relieved that the doctor we'd had 12 hours prior would be returning, as he'd wanted to break my water in the first place, and we knew he'd be wondering why it hadn't been done already when he arrived. Our suspicions were correct, and he broke my water within an hour or two of the shift change. He also asked that I be taken off Pitocin for an hour or so and then for them to start over with a lower dose (apparently the receptors that react to Pitocin in your body can stop responding when they've been saturated with the medicine for too long). I remember being almost terrified of active labor by this point because I felt like I had no strength. I just kept reminding myself that pushing might be hard but that I'd be rewarded at the end with our daughter. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel because even if I was too weak when it was time to push, I knew these capable doctors would be able to perform a C-section, and that come hell or high water Liesl would be here sometime in the next few hours.
When the doctors broke my water, Chris and Caroline were both in the room with me. It was a fast process. I immediately became nauseated and luckily was able to tell Michelle in time for her to grab me a "barf bag." I thought I was throwing up because I'd become so sick from hunger, but Michelle told us that the rush of hormones when the amniotic sac is broken often causes women to become sick. She said in her profession vomit is a very good sign. My mom came in shortly thereafter and hung out with us for a while. As active labor began to draw closer, my contractions started to become painful - not in my uterus/stomach but in my pelvic region. I told Michelle, and she called the anesthesiology team to come increase my medicine in the epidural. She informed us that the pain I was experiencing was due to pressure, and that some women feel that kind of discomfort even with the epidural. She was correct - the increased epidural did nothing for the pain.
Although my contractions were more painful and had picked up speed, labor was still progressing fairly slowly. Michelle brought us a "peanut ball" - a birthing tool that is shaped like a giant peanut. The peanut ball goes between your legs to help position the hips in a way that opens up the birth canal for the baby and helps her settle down further between the hip bones. The peanut ball did seem to help and labor continued to move along. Michelle told us that when I felt the pressure consistently, not just when I was experiencing a contraction, it would be time to push. By this point, we had been at the hospital for over 24 hours. My mom left the room for a bit, and Chris and I sat in the dark as I tried to rest and prepare myself for the work that was ahead. Chris dozed on the couch. I began to feel even more intense pain with each contraction. Around that same time, my dad came in just to say hello. It was perfect timing because he was able to comfort me as the extreme pain started. After five minutes or so of my crying and writhing around with each contraction, Chris jumped up from his sleep. He felt terrible that he'd dozed off right when the tough pain had started, but I had purposefully let him rest since my dad was there. Chris took over and my dad went out to the waiting room to tell my mom to come back and help me cope with the pain. As the pain escalated over the next half hour or so, I began crying out with each contraction. It takes A LOT for me to cry in pain, but I had tears streaming down my face and was on the verge of hyperventilation. Michelle heard me from the hall and could tell something was very different. She reiterated what she said about the pain needing to be constant before we called the doctor; since they had broken my water, I was on the countdown for a C-section and she wanted to let things progress as naturally as possible before involving the doctors.
I couldn't find a way to mentally cope with the extreme pain I was experiencing. I think it was because I'd been led to believe in my childbirth classes and from other mothers that epidurals completely stopped the pain of childbirth. I'd read that in many cases mothers had to be told when and how hard to push because they couldn't even tell when they were having contractions. If I hadn't been able to have an epidural and had been prepared for pain, I think I would have handled it better, but I was completely caught off guard. I felt like my body was being ripped apart. (I'm not trying to over dramatize this or complain, I just think it's only fair to other future moms to share that epidurals really can be only partially effective).
My mom and Chris did their best to comfort me, and they let me squeeze their hands during contractions. Around 1:30 a.m., I became very tired and frustrated and was in the most pain I'd experienced so far - and the contractions were so close together that I didn't have any breaks in the discomfort. Michelle could sense the change in my crying from the hall, and she rushed into the room to check things out. There were no doctors available so she decided to check my cervix herself in case I was ready to push. I don't remember this part very well as I was so focused on the pain, but my mom and Chris said that Michelle asked my mom to step back so she could press the "Help" button on my bed rail as she found Liesl's head was starting to move down the birth canal where she could feel it. She said it was definitely time to push and she got another nurse to come assist her. The plan had been for Chris and I to go through the actual delivery without any help from my mom. However, when Mom asked Chris if she should go, he asked her to stay. I think how upset I was upset him. I've read that many moms feel a sense of relief as they begin to push, but that was not the case for me. The contractions were still very painful as I pushed. First time moms usually push for 1-2 hours. Not me, though! Liesl had worked so far down the birth canal from the contractions and I was so exhausted and tired of being in pain, that we got the pushing done in 12 minutes. I actually had to stop pushing and wait for the doctor at the very end because they prefer for the doctor to be in the room for the actual delivery. Michelle was a great coach.
At 2:05 a.m. on January 27th, 2016, after about 24 hours of labor, our sweet Liesl was born! My mom left the room and let Chris and I have some time with our baby girl on our own. The nurses made sure Liesl and I were okay while we all snuggled, and they helped me figure out the whole breastfeeding thing. After about an hour, a sweet nurse named Joy took Liesl over to the other side of the room to give her a bath and her Vitamin K shot and eye ointment, and our families came in to say hello and take turns holding her after she was all clean. We had a good bit of time to hang out with everyone, then we were whisked away to our Mother Baby room so the delivery room could be prepared for another soon-to-be mom.
I kept saying I was embarrassed by how upset I had gotten during delivery because it's not like me to cry and scream from pain the way I had - I like to think I'm a pretty tough cookie. But my mom reassured me that I had handled things quite well, and Michelle told me that all the nurses were super impressed by how quickly I pushed Miss Liesl out.
Although it was a much tougher, longer process than I had expected, it was definitely beyond worth it to bring our Liesl Bird into the world. We were so thankful she was healthy. And even though most of it felt pretty terrible in the moment, looking back, the whole time in the hospital is surrounded by a beautiful, warm glow. I don't think any mom is prepared for how much she will fall in love with her baby or the enormous but lovely weight that she will feel fall onto her shoulders as she understands that she is responsible for such a precious, perfect being.
Labor and delivery seems like such a short blink in time compared to the 94 days we've had with her so far. And we can't wait to see what the future has to hold for our little Liesl Ann Dixon.