Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sterling Robert's Birth Story

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

The Serenity Prayer became my personal mantra as soon as the hubs and I found out that our son wasn't growing properly in my womb. It became even more important when I was admitted into the hospital. I used to love reading birth stories because they provided a real face to the scientific jargon and processes outlined in birthing books. Even if the stories were deemed "anecdotal" by most medical practitioners, the stories of a women dilating from 1 to 9 cms in 2 hours or less were worth their weight in gold while I was in labor because I kept thinking, "I could go fast any second now."

I didn't.

Here's how our little, 5lbs and 5oz, Sterling Robert came into this world on August 2nd at 12:05pm.

On July 30th another growth test was performed to see how Sterling was growing. The good news - he had continued to grow since his prior growth test three weeks earlier. The bad news - he wasn't growing as scheduled and it was estimated that he weighed a mere 4lbs and 14 ounces. He was officially declared an Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) baby and with that there were additional issues regarding his entrance into this world and long-term health. There were significant concerns that my placenta was failing early and the decision was made to induce labor sooner rather than later.

I was scared out of my mind. Most importantly for Sterling's health, which was the absolute highest priority. Second, I had hoped to have a non-medicated labor and was actually hoping to get through the process without even receiving an IV. That was deemed no longer a realistic possibility.

At 6pm on July 31st I was admitted into the hospital and by 7pm I had received an exam (zero dilated, zero effaced), blood work drawn, vitals taken, and Cervidil was administered to get me ready to be induced.

Since the hubs and I knew that the Cervidil would take 12 hours to get me ready to be induced we decided that he would spend that night at home with our dogs. It meant a decent night of sleep for him and that he would be rested to help me get through labor the next day (ha!). He stayed at the hospital with me until 9pm and then he headed home.

At 6am on Saturday, August 1st the hubs came back to the hospital and brought me breakfast. Looking back I would have eaten three bagels instead of one egg and cheese bagel. I didn't realize that would be the last bite of food I would eat for 50 hours. I was able to shower and eat at 7am.  By 8am I had received another exam, vitals re-taken, and then Pitocin was started at 8am.

My contractions started immediately and for a few hours the hubs and I finished the rest of our baby shower thank you notes (hey, we figured we had some down time to work on them), played cards, and tried to rest up.

At 12pm I asked if I could get out of bed and switch to a medicine ball. Within minutes of getting out of bed an entire team of doctors and nurses rushed into the room because Sterling's heart rate had dropped significantly. I was ordered back into bed and told to lay on my side. At 12:30pm my water broke and I had been told ahead of time that I had a lot of amniotic fluid, but I swear it felt like I was constantly peeing myself with every contraction.

Sterling's heart rate continued to drop after most of my contractions and they were coming steady at 3-5 minute intervals. Sometimes his heart rate would pick up immediately, but sometimes it wouldn't pick up fast enough for the doctor's liking. My Pitocin levels were raised and decreased constantly in rhythm with Sterling's heart rate.  Even when the Pitocin was dropped my contractions stayed consistent.

Somewhere in the mid-afternoon I was dilated to 4 centimeters and it seemed like things were progressing. However, I had to rotate laying on different sides every 45 minutes to keep Sterling's heart rate under control.  Around 5pm I was put on an oxygen mask and the next few hours became a monotonous routine of rotating sides, peeing (I swear I said I needed to pee just to have an excuse to walk the 10 feet to the bathroom), having my blood pressure (every 30 minutes) and blood sugar checked (thank goodness that one was only every 4 hours).

Around 8pm the doctor had a heart-to-heart talk with the hubs and me and stressed that given Sterling's heart rate drops there was a significant chance he was going to come into this world via c-section.  At this point I did not have an epidural and the doctor was outlining what would happen if we needed to have an emergency c-section.  She wasn't trying to scare me into having an epidural, but outlining that if I needed to be put under because I didn't have a line in already it would affect Sterling. That's all I needed to hear. I didn't care about being in pain or not, but I didn't want Sterling to be affected by anything nor did I want to be unconscious for his birth.

Reluctantly I agreed to have an epidural.  I cried a bit because I really had wanted to stay unmediated during the labor process, but I think I cried even more because I was really scared to have a c-section. The epidural was the strangest experience I had ever had up until that point. The team was so helpful and was patient with me as my contractions continued during the process. I'll never forget that icy cold feeling as the epidural traveled down my back. I was able to feel the contractions afterwards, but they just felt like pressure and there was no longer any pain.

About 2 hours after receiving the epidural I was still laying on my side with an oxygen mask on when the doctor came running into the room. She told me Sterling's heart rate had dropped significantly and she was giving him 20 minutes to stabilize and if he didn't she was going to advocate for an immediate c-section. I don't even remember what happened in the next 20 minutes because I was so focused on my breathing and trying to stay as calm as possible in order to somehow affect Sterling's heart rate. Miraculously Sterling's heart rate stabilized and we were allowed to continue with the labor process.

The overnight hours were an absolute blur of rotating sides, struggling to keep my oxygen mask on (I swear it made me feel claustrophobic), and trying to rest as best as I could. My hubs had called my brother, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law when it looked like we were heading to a c-section and they assembled at the hospital like my own Avengers team. They took shifts sleeping and talking to me to keep me calm and engaged. My brother especially was amazing at comedic relief and I think all the nurses fell in love with him. I remember looking over at one point and my sister-in-law had thrown a blanket over my brother-in-law during one of my exams. He was wearing a camo blanket and I said, "Tom looks like he's in a duck blind!"

Apparently the epidural couldn't block my sense of humor.

It was a really long night and I don't remember my stats throughout the night, but at 5am I was 8 centimeters dilated and 90% effaced. Sterling had dropped to plus 1 and the nurse told me that was fantastic and when it came time to push it would hopefully be a short pushing period. I don't think I had ever been so happy. We were ready to hit the transition phase and I jokingly started placing my breakfast order with my siblings.

By 7am I had not progressed any farther. My contractions were still in the 3 minute range and coming strong. I could feel pressure, but not that "crazy pressure like the baby is going to fall out."

By 9am I had progressed to "maybe 8.5cm dilated." My contractions were slowing down to every 5 minutes and we couldn't increase my Pitocin level because every time it was increased Sterling's heart rate plummeted.

The nurses were fantastic and helped moved me into different positions to try to get my labor back on track. One nurse even joked, "are you sure you had an epidural because you shouldn't be able to move like that?" At this point I hadn't even "pushed the little button" to get more relief from my epidural because honestly I was hoping the thing was wearing off.

At 10am my contractions had slowed to every 8 minutes and they were getting weaker. I could barely feel them. After 27 hours of labor my body was just done. I broke down into hysterical tears when the doctor came in and explained we couldn't increase my Pitocin intake because Sterling's heart rate couldn't take it anymore. If my contractions didn't pick up in an hour we had to move to a c-section. I don't think I ever felt so lost in the world as I did in that moment.

At 11am there was no change and my contractions were now barely registering on the monitor. The doctor explained the c-section process again and I didn't even attempt to contain my tears. I felt like I was going to vomit due to sheer nervousness and asked for a bucket. The hubs was informed of his role during the c-section and I was wheeled down to the operating room.

The surgical team was absolutely fantastic. The anesthesiologist told me he had to take my bucket and asked if I was okay. I told him, "this is 100% mental and 0% physical." He laughed and asked if he could use that line on future patients.  One nurse took on the role of joking with me to keep me calm.  After what seemed like an eternity someone exclaimed, "we're bringing in your husband now." I yelled, "WHO HAS THE SMELLING SALTS? HE'S GOING TO PASS OUT!!!!'

The put an immediate stop to things :)  The anesthesiologist placed a low stool next to my shoulder and the hubs was instructed to sit down and "DO NOT LOOK OVER THE CURTAIN."  His immediate response, "buddy, that wasn't even within the realm of possibilities."

I felt an immediate and tremendous amount of pressure and it felt like my body was being pushed and shoved in different directions.  I can't say how long the process took because it felt like forever, but I know it could only have been a few minutes before I heard a baby cry. I'll fully admit that it took me a quick second to make the connection between that sound and realizing that Sterling was here. I was screaming in my head over and over again, "Is he okay? Is he healthy? Is anything wrong?"

He was raised over the curtain for the hubs and I to see him.  Then he was whisked away by the NICU team to check him out. Minutes later the hubs was waved over to be with Sterling and he actually refused to get out of the chair at first because he was terrified of seeing past the curtain.  It didn't help that the hubs was recently told by another husband who looked past the curtain, "whatever you do, do NOT look past the curtain. I still can't look at my wife the same." After some prodding by a nurse he was guided over to be with our son.  I was closed up while Sterling was weighed, measured, and his health assessed.  Our little guy registered a 9 on both his Apgar scores and was released by the NICU staff.

I don't think I'll ever forget that feeling when he was laid on my chest for the first time and he immediately nuzzled me.  I was absolutely freezing cold from surgery and yet there was this glowing warm radiating from Sterling. The hubs and I were taken to a smaller transition room and I don't remember how long we were there, but I know it was just the three of us with a nurse for a decent bit of time. Just us with our little dude.

The pathology report on my placenta clearly showed that we made the right decision to get him out early because my placenta was failing and had massive blood clots. Since having Sterling quite a few people have expressed their sympathies to me that I didn't get to have the birth I imagined. I'm at peace with that because his health was the highest priority. Plus, in the end I got an amazing kid far beyond what I could have ever dreamed.