Little miss Hazel Ivy made her way into this world at 3:28 PM on June 16th 2017. She weighed 7 lbs 15 oz, was 20 inches long and was beautiful beyond description. We could not be more in love or obsessed with our little girl.
My labor with Hazel started (more like refused to start…I had dysfunctional labor) early morning the 15th. Brian and I had stayed up late watching Treme till about 5 AM, and at somewhere around 5:45 (right after going to bed) I felt a sharp pain and a warm trickle of fluid. Seconds later I felt a gush, tapped Brian on the shoulder and told him my waters had broken. I got up from bed and headed to the bathroom to make sure my water had broken and cleaned up. Fluid kept gushing every few seconds and I called my midwives after hours service. They told me that because I wasn’t having contractions, I could either labor at home till they picked up, or go to the hospital. Brian and I chose to go for a short walk to try and get things going. I then bounced on a birth ball for a while before deciding to eat and go in.
To prevent infection, doctors like babies to be born within 24 hours of your waters breaking. We knew the clock was ticking, I hadn’t felt Hazel move a ton, and we wanted to get things going. I labored naturally for 12 hours with no progression. Baby stayed in a high position and I remained dilated at a 1 with really no effacement. At that point the doctors wanted to start pitocin to try and make some progress. After hours more of back labor (baby was sunnyside up), no sleep in over 24 hours, and having only dilated to a 2, I decided with much self-imposed guilt and shame to get an epidural. An anesthesiologist came into my room, had me sit pushing out my spine, and got to work. The first insertion attempt, she hit a blood vessel. That triggered uncontrollable full-body teeth-chattering shakes, which lasted till I went home. The first epidural thread had to be removed. The second attempt all seemed to be going well (I didn’t know how they should work and feel). Below the waist everything was numb 100% like can’t feel or move anything numb, I mean my midwife shoved her hand in my vagina to feel my cervix and I felt literally nothing, not even pressure. To get me in different positions the nurses had to move my floppy fish legs with zero help from me. It turned out that the anesthesiologist had gone too deep and given me a spinal tap rather than an epidural. My nurse had previously warned me that spinal headaches could happen when you get an epidural. I asked how likely that was, and she told me it depends which of the 2 anesthesiologists worked on me. Guess I got the bad one.
I labored all through the night trying to get sleep along the way since I was numb, unfortunately that wasn’t possible. My blood pressure had to be monitored every 5 minutes and it kept dropping too low and setting off alarms (a result of the epidural). I also had to have my blood sugars monitored every hour because of my gestational diabetes. They also kept coming in and moving my legs over this peanut shaped ball that was supposed to help my labor progress, and with cervical dilation.
After a full night with blood pressure that wouldn’t rise to safe levels (even after repeated doses of medication), the anesthesiologist and my midwife decided to shut off my epidural. They planned on having the next shift’s anesthesiologist come up with a lower dose plan for my epidural, when he looked things over he let me know that it was incorrectly placed, had gone too deep, and I’d need a new one. The current epidural was actually a spinal tap (they do spinal taps for c-sections). He attempted a new placement but didn’t like the way it threaded, removed it and tried again, this time liking the placement.
A few hours later, when my labor had really progressed, I started to feel all my contractions in my vaginal area. I still didn’t feel my back labor but did feel everything below the waist. I told my nurses and they told me I would feel pressure. I let them know it was more than pressure and I could even feel my catheter.
Eventually they could see I was in pain, even the back labor returned (I was gripping the bed and breathing heavy through each one), and they grabbed the anesthesiologist. He decided the last epidural was placed too high and tried again. This was now my 5th epidural attempt. This one went really badly. It almost immediately migrated all numbness from below the waist to above the waist. I could no longer feel or move my arms, my chest, everything up to my neck was numb, but I could feel everything below the ribcage. My anesthesiologist, in order to avoid a crisis situation, decided any epidural was no longer an option. I was now at an 8, and natural labor was the only option.
I had originally wanted a natural birth, with a playlist playing birthing songs I’d selected, dim lights, minimal noise and interruptions. I’d even brought and had been using my essential oil diffuser. Because of baby’s sunny side up position, the immense back pain that goes along with that, and the fact that I hadn’t slept in nearly 2 days, I definitely wasn’t in the mood anymore. I didn’t have the peaceful vibes I’d wanted. I just wanted to get my baby out safely, end my pain, and sleep.
My midwife and 2 birthing nurses came in the room once I let them know the urge to push was becoming unbearable. They checked me (yes it does feel like you really really have to poo when you’re ready to push), I was still at an 8 and not ready, but they worked to get me to a 10. My pitocin levels were constantly increased while I went to the hands and knees position to try to get baby to turn. Brian and or a nurse would help me dramatically swirl my hips around through contractions while I made sounds I didn’t actively choose to make (dying cow sounds), and was sweating profusely from every pore. They also periodically applied cold washcloths to my forehead and I’d wipe the sweat from my eyes, I felt like I was on fire.
At some point it was time to push (I pushed for over 3 hours), I got on my back where I felt I could get the most momentum (we tried hands and knees and I hated it), and pushed through each contraction 3 – 4 times using every ounce of strength I had. When the strength I had wasn’t enough, my amazing nurse grabbed a sheet, knotted it, and had me pull on the knot while she held it steady. I also grabbed my legs and pushed while they held my feet, pushed while holding onto the bed’s handles, and pushed on my side with me legs held back (by far the most intense position, and the one I remember the most pain from). In case you were wondering yes, I did pee, poo, and vomit all over myself multiple times throughout this process. It was a gorgeous sight to behold. I also had to be placed on oxygen between vomit sessions.
The entire process was incredibly painful, moreso than I ever imagined. I was tired, sometimes passing out between contractions. I thought more than once I might not make it to meet and raise my little girl. My midwife occassionally broke bands in my vagina with her fingers to try to make room for baby. And near the end I was told baby wasn’t doing well and I’d either have to have baby extracted by vacuum (which could cause her to have a brain bleed) or I’d need to be cut (risking a 4th degree tear). Neither option felt viable and while they were asking me to decide I gathered all the strength I could and pushed Hazel out in one push. I tore, my midwife thought it was 4th degree but it was actually a large second degree with bilateral sulcus tears (Google it, it’s a nightmare). I also had horrific hemorrhoids. I could feel that things weren’t right down there and wasn’t even 100% sure baby had come out till they brought her to my chest.
The feelings I had when I saw and felt my beautiful daughter for the first time are indescribable. It was her and I knew her from the second our eyes met, she was her daddy’s twin, gorgeous, tiny, perfect. We looked into each other’s eyes and snuggled close while a surgeon stitched me up. Her name was instantly obvious, it wasn’t even a choice it was just hers. I couldn’t love my baby Hazel more, and Brian is the best father in the entire world. Seeing my husband and my daughter bond was transcendent.
Shortly after birth developed a spinal headache, making even looking at my daughter excruciatingly painful. Standing, laying or sitting at anything more than a 25 degree angle, using the restroom, they were all unbearable. Brian and I still hadn’t slept, and I was unable to care much for Hazel, which was beyond devastating.
During our first day post-birth, my second anesthesiologist came in to let me know he thought I’d need a blood patch to correct my spinal headache, but that he wanted people with higher skills and better technology to handle it. He referred me to a pain center in Charlotte but let me know I’d have to wait till Monday. It was Saturday at that time and the wait felt impossible and cruel. I had to miss Hazel’s first diaper change, swaddle, etc. It felt like she wasn’t even mine, like I was an outsider watching people raise my baby. Thankfully after Monday, my blood patch, and 24 hours of lying flat, things got so much better!
My birth definitely didn’t go as planned, and it wasn’t the most beautiful thing in the world to witness I’m sure, but I wouldn’t change a second. Everything led to meeting the most magical child in the world and falling into the deepest levels of love imaginable with both Hazel and my husband. The more time passes the more I’m able to appreciate everything and look back on it with happiness and love rather than fear and sadness.
If you’re considering a natural birth, you CAN do it. You are so much stronger than you think you are. I don’t however recommend it, based off my own experience (albeit a dramatic nontypical one), and there’s no shame in getting pain relief if you can. I was so sad and ashamed when I asked for an epidural because I wanted baby to be safe and have the purest experience bonding with me. Who knows, maybe I’ll do it naturally again one day, when the trauma of this birth has worn off.
I’m so so thankful for my midwife and my 2 birthing nurses who were no nonsense and let me know sternly but kindly the reality of my situation and how we could best get out of it. I will never ever forget them and the work they put in that led to meeting my beautiful baby. Brian is an unbelievable husband who is still handling the bulk of the work while I recover. He is the light of my life and Hazel and I’s hero and best friend. Family has been everything, and those of them that dropped everything to come help us in a hard and hopeless time are angels. I’m so forever grateful. Today is Hazel’s one week birthday, it’s taken me a while to write this, but I never wanted to forget a second.