It all began at 12:24 a.m., Friday, March 13. I had not been able to fall asleep yet and I had gone to the bathroom several times. Johnny and I had been up talking ’till about 10 p.m. He had fallen asleep and I was still stirring trying to get comfortable. As I lie there peacefully, I felt a small trickle to which I quickly tightened up and thought to myself, “Oh wow, here I had been so proud that I had never peed myself during pregnancy and now it’s happening.” I quickly hopped out of bed and within two steps my water broke all over the carpet in front of the mirror. I froze. A million things ran through my mind. My eyes rigid on the clock on the dresser—12:24. Some of the many thoughts I had were: I’m going to have a baby within 24 hours, my life is about to change forever, and GREAT I’m getting a labor that starts in the middle of the night, haha.
I let myself process a few things before I realized I was still standing on carpet, and with water gushing out of me I quickly made my way down the hall to the bathroom, where I turned on the light, looked down and clear water was still streaming out of me. It was then that I made the grand announcement to Johnny.
“Yeah?” He said from our room.
“My water just broke.”
“Are you serious?” And within a second, adrenaline filled him and he was ready. He came running to me, realizing my water was all over the ground in the hallway.
He grabbed a pad of paper and started walking through the acronym we had learned in birth class. COAT. C-Color: Clear. O-Odor: None. A-Amount: A LOT. T-Time: 12:24. He was so excited thinking we were gonna have a baby within 24 hours. (if we only knew…) I sat on the toilet as if it was going to stop, rambling to Johnny what we needed to start doing. Hormones started surging through my body and I got the shakes. In the moment I thought it was just nerves and I kept telling myself I needed to calm down. Within a few minutes, we paged the midwife. Linda Park answered and I explained what was going on. She said to put a big pad on and try to get some sleep. I knew she was right and went through the motions. We cleaned up all the water, put a pad on, and jumped back into bed. My body was still super tense but my mindset was calm. I laid there for a few minutes thinking, “How in the world am I supposed to just fall asleep now?” I knew that I needed to get some rest so I forced myself to try. What started out as just pregnancy backaches quickly became what I had heard so much about—contractions. I remember holding my breath for the first few as that is what I had always done in the past when trying to grit some pain. I quickly knew I needed to breathe. I looked up at the clock again and realized they were coming every 8-10 minutes, just lasting maybe 30 seconds.
Some details are scarce in my story from here on out as things are now a distant blur at the beginning of a very, very long 2 days.
After only maybe an hour in bed, it quickly became obvious we weren’t going to be able to sleep. We prayed together and started getting comfortable with Johnny helping me through each contraction. They weren’t painful yet, but not comfortable enough to sleep. Johnny started slowly getting some things together.
At around 3 a.m., they started to pick up and we decided to start timing them. I knelt in front of the mirror and started doing my hair into two Dutch braids. After going through a few contractions, I decided I should pack everything up for the hospital and have it ready to go. As I busied myself doing that, I stopped and realized I hadn’t had a contraction for awhile. Looking back, this was the first sign that my labor was stalling. It was all bearable, through the wee hours of the morning I showered, had some contractions in the tub. We noticed that they went away when I was in the tub, so as much as I wanted to stay in there, I quickly got out. I wondered why they were spacing out but just thought maybe it had to do with early labor kick starting. My contractions had been 3 minutes apart, 1 minute in length, for a whole hour when we decided to call the midwife for an assessment at home. It was around 7 a.m. when I called. She arrived at 8 a.m. In that hour of waiting for her, again my contractions got father apart. Maybe it was that I was getting excited? I thought.
When the midwife arrived, we went into our bedroom where I laid on the bed and she measured me: 2 cm dilated. I wasn’t disappointed at all, just gearing myself up for what I guessed was going to be a long labor. She left, and we continued doing what we had been doing. I took hot showers, massage and back pressure helping, back labor was increasing and the contractions on the app kept reading every 3 minutes. At around 2 p.m., another midwife came to assess me, Tina. She came in and we gave her information, while talking to her I realized I again had not had a contraction while talking to her. She checked my cervix, after what now had been 14 hours of labor, I was just barely at a 3. My heart sank. I knew there were protocols for once my water was broken. And at the rate I was going, I wouldn’t get to 10 cm in time.
Tina recommended we stop timing contractions, and go for a walk and try and rest in between each contraction. We did all of those things all day. Leaning over the kitchen table, listening to music, our landlord made us Indian food, which of course I didn’t eat. But Johnny was able to enjoy some. Finally I walked into the baby room and my body just clicked into more of an intense labor. Our bags were packed and we were ready. I started getting contractions one right after the other, never really getting a break. We contacted the midwife for another examination. Tina arrived back at 6:40 p.m. She said she could tell I was definitely starting active labor by how I was breathing and because I was not as talkative as before. She offered me to go to the hospital and get assessed there, but I wanted to stay home as long as possible. I laid down on the couch in the baby room and she assessed me: 4 cm. So we were getting somewhere.
But at this point, now almost 8 p.m., she asked us if we would like to go to hospital. We would have access to unlimited hot water and possibly some laughing gas. We said yes. We all got in our cars and we followed Tina to the hospital. I only had one painful contraction on the way to the hospital. The hospital was made aware of me coming. I thought for sure I would be having a baby that night. Honestly, I was in a lot of pain and getting to the hospital made it seem more real. However, after settling into our room and walking around a bit, once again we realized I hadn’t had consistent contractions for awhile. I was just breathing through contractions now, with Johnny helping me. I had placed myself over the area where our precious baby was going to lay. It seemed to help me visualize all of it.
At 11:45 p.m., I was getting intense pressure in my butt, it was exactly what everyone had described as the urge to push. Thinking I needed to poop, I went and sat there through a few contractions. It felt like a major poop, so I called out to the nurse and explained how I felt. She told me to quickly get on the bed and she would check me. Looking back at this feeling, it was a very similar feeling to the one I eventually did have when I was pushing for real. She measured me again, this time: 5 cm. Wow, I thought, there’s got to be some way to get this to go faster. I was managing well and while they were painful, I wanted the process to speed up. After the disheartening news, however, my contractions spaced out again, becoming super irregular. This was when the midwife started putting the puzzle together for me and recommended oxytocin (similar to pitocin) a drug hormone that helps contractions pick up. I really didn’t want it but time was starting to run out. I had been in labor now for 23 hours. They were allowing me to go beyond the 24-hour mark considering I started contractions on my own and that his heart rate was doing so good. The midwife, nurse, and OB (Kim Suvajdzic) stepped out of the room for Johnny and I to discuss it privately. We decided it would be best, but I was slightly worried now that the pain would be even greater and my goal of not having an epidural would be even that much harder to obtain.
Before they started the process of getting oxytocin, Dr.Suvajdzic decided to have me checked one more time. There was minimal change, even possibly less opening now. It was then that I got an IV put into my wrist and two monitors placed around my belly. One to continually monitor his heart rate and the other to monitor my contractions. Next the oxytocin began. It started out slow but was increased every 10 minutes or so. My contractions started to become VERY intense, I went into the bath for about an hour, experiencing contractions every few minutes. Johnny placed the shower head on my back when a contraction would come. I moaned and breathed through each one. When I needed a change of scenery, we decided to move back to the bed where we tried laughing gas.
The next few hours of my labor I remember vividly. With every contraction, I would breathe in laughing gas, in a lot of pain I gritted it because I just figured the oxytocin was doing what it needed to do and I was finally in the last stages of my labor. Two hours later I was reassessed by the midwife. I was barely at 6 cm. This was the first time I got very discouraged. My midwife sat near the edge of my bed and looked at me squarely in the face and said, “I know you wanted this without any intervention or pain meds, but I would consider/recommend an epidural.” I had heard before how women would get an epidural and it would cause their bodies to relax enough to dilate quickly. Johnny and I had a moment together and we decided we should do it. I did feel defeated to be honest, but knew that I was getting exhausted and Johnny and I both should get some rest. While we waited for the anesthesiologist to come, I received 2 doses of fentanyl—I can honestly say they did nothing to help even take the edge off.
Dr.Abrahams, the anesthesiologist, finally came into the room, at 6:30 a.m., and I signed some papers and the epidural was given. It was not as bad as i thought it was going to be. I was still experiencing some pressure but nothing I couldn’t handle. Later, we realized it was because I was still getting back labor and while the epidural started out numbing the front of me great, it eventually wore off. For the first 30 minutes, I was feeling more relaxed. The nurse had elevated my bed a little, telling me something about not wanting the numbing to go to places it wasn’t supposed to. An epidural works with gravity. Therefore, I could not rest because I had this weird fear of falling asleep and the epidural numbing my heart, haha.
An hour and a half later, the OB came into the room. It was time to reassess me. For the past hour, my contractions had started to be more intense and I thought to myself, “If this is what an epidural can do, it sucks!” I thought positively and thought maybe it just meant I was fully dilated and ready to push. Johnny had been able to get some rest but woke up when the OB came in. She measured me at 7 cm. I was so annoyed. Here I had thought I would have dilated. I had been awake for almost 30 hours now, not including the whole day before that I was awake before going into labor. My contractions were also slowing down according to the monitor. The next 2 hours were purely just labor. I was introduced to my day nurse, Melanie. I started experiencing strong rectal pressure. The OB that was now working was Dr. Christopher Ng. He measured me at 6 cm. He encouraged me to keep going but was curious as to why my epidural was not affecting me. After another hour, another anesthesiologist Dr.Barden, who in my opinion was quite the joke, came to check my epidural. He made funny comments about how pressure isn’t pain and was confident my epidural was doing just what it should. My midwife, now Linda, rolled her eyes and Melanie just sighed, later telling me men anesthesiologists just don’t understand, haha.
By 1 p.m. I had another vaginal exam done by the OB: 8-9 cm. I was encouraged. Only a little bit to go. An hour and a half later, I was found to be fully dilated. To which I gladly started to push. New strength was in me now and I pushed with a lot of determination. She said she could see bulging, his head was right there. Johnny did such a good job of encouraging me the whole time. I could tell he was starting to get really excited. After one hour of pushing, there was what they called “limited descent,” they then consulted Dr.Ng again and baby was found to be OP presentation. In other words, his head was looking up at the stars, not down like he should have been. With my permission, Dr.Ng asked if he could manually turn baby’s head. I agreed. So, during a contraction, he had both his hands in trying to turn his head, while I was still trying to push. I have to say, this was the peak of pain for me. But mentally, the peak came when after another 2 hours of me being really stubborn and wanting to push anyway, they told me there was still no change in descent and now his perfect heart rate was starting to slow some.
The words C-section became my only option. My midwife even writes in her encounter notes with me that I was “very upset at the mention of cesarean.” I had researched so much about vaginal births and had all of the postpartum things ready for a vaginal birth. Mostly, I felt like a failure. At the time I was overwhelmed with knowing all the things people thought about C-sections. It also frightened me because I was about to have major surgery. My thoughts included things about a long recovery ahead, was all the labor a wasted effort, was their ANYTHING I could do to get him to change position? Throughout this all, I did not cry even once. By the time, the C-Section team was ready, I was in a dull trance of acceptance.
Looking back, I do feel like I lost support from my midwife and nurse but there was really nothing they could do. Johnny was with me and I still labored on, pushing even as they busied themselves around me. It was a very dark place for me mentally, physically exhausting and just a glimmer of expectation to meet my little boy. The next hour was a blur, everyone was getting blue suits on, we were wheeled to the elevator, down to the operating room, and into what felt like the basement of the hospital. Johnny had to wait about 20 minutes while they gave me my spinal. In this time, I was still pushing. I started to just let out all the frustration and anger that my body was holding in. He recalls sitting in the waiting area being able to hear me screaming and groaning in pain. The spinal anesthetic that was given to me worked VERY good. I did not feel anything. Dr.Barden, the same anesthesiologist from earlier, started to test that I was numb with an ice pack. He placed it on my arm and asked me if I could feel it. I said no. He then announced to the C-section room to stop. He slowly moved the block up to my neck. It was all numb. Great, I thought, here’s the part where I die. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath properly, I told my midwife and the anesthesiologist but they reassured me my diaphragm was moving and it was normal to feel this way. Johnny finally came into the room, he said hi to me and I told him, “I can’t breathe, I tried to tell them but they wont listen.”
He told them again and they reassured him all was well. He also asked if I was on drugs as I seemed very relaxed. I was probably just so exhausted.
Moments later, the greatest thing happened to me: 5:30 p.m. March 15, 2020.
I become a mom.
Johnny got his phone out and peeked over the curtain to see and to video. The doctor had Johnny announce the gender as a boy.
It was then that I heard his first little cry. That cry was so sweet, something I can hear still to this day. From that moment, I burst into tears. (Well the best of kind you can when your whole body is numb except your face.)
All the tears came, the sadness of not getting what I wanted, the feeling of failing, the exhaustion, but most importantly the overwhelming feeling of becoming what I had always dreamed of being: a mother to a little boy. He was placed on my chest, looking exactly how I had imagined. Dark hair, big eyes and even a cone head from all my pushing. Johnny knew I couldn’t actually feel him so he put his little hand up on my face. My first touch of him. A moment I will never forget.
He was then taken away where Johnny cut the umbilical cord, and Stephen got weighed and measured. He was perfectly healthy. At this time, I was all alone on the table. Overwhelmed with love.
A few things made me feel better about getting the C-section: I heard them say when they got to him, “Oh wow, yes he is definitely posterior presentation, there’s no way he could have come out.” It makes me know that there truly was nothing I could do and that I did do EVERYTHING in my power to change the circumstances.
While there are many things I could write about my postpartum experience, the pandemic that started right as he was born, not allowed any visitors at the hospital, how he nursed so good, and all the other things surrounding his birth story, I want to give God all the glory for getting me through the 42 hours safely, with strength, and for giving us the answer to our prayers.
To my little Stephen Cyrus, you were worth it ALL.
Written by Victoria Waldner