Artemis’s Birth Story: Part One

I always knew that I would want to share my birth story, not just because I think it is an important part of any pregnancy after loss and infertility journey, but also for me. I knew I wouldn’t want to forget a single detail of the day our rainbow finally joined our family.

At my 35 week appointment, my doctor told me that she would like to schedule my induction for sometime in my 39th week of pregnancy. She felt it was medically necessary because of my maternal age, the fact that our baby was conceived via IVF, and the fact that my placenta was a bit on the low side. It was something I had expected, so it didn’t really catch me off guard and we agreed.

I definitely hoped that I would go into labor naturally before that date, but at each appointment, my cervix remained closed tight, firm, and extremely high. I realized pretty quickly that this baby was not coming before our induction.

I went in for the indication at 4pm on Wednesday, February 26th. Because I still had not progressed at all, I knew I would be given a medication to make my cervix more favorable for induction. However, I was worried about taking Cytotec. I knew the medication was not FDA approved for induction, which triggered my anxiety.

I called my doctor’s office the day before the induction, and told them I had a panic attack regarding the use of Cytotec and asked if we could use Cervidil instead. Both drugs do essentially the same thing, but only Cervidil is FDA approved for inductions, and it can also be removed if something goes wrong. Cytotec cannot.

After we arrived at the hospital and got checked in, we were brought to our room. The birthing rooms at our hospital are private and massive, which is great from a comfort and privacy standpoint. We didn’t see the doctor right away, but I was instructed to wipe down my body with special wipes to prevent infection, and then I dressed in my hospital gown.

I had been pretty anxious all day, and only ate a few light snacks, so I was pretty hungry. I was told I would be able to eat soon. The doctor came in and I verified that I would be receiving Cervidil. After that, I was able to eat dinner.

At around 7pm, they inserted the Cervidil. It needed to remain in for 12 hours. When I went to bed Wednesday I was about a finger tip dilated. I had some mild cramping from the medicine throughout the night, but nothing too bad. In fact, thanks to my endometriosis, I didn’t even find the cramps to be as uncomfortable as my period pain generally is. We went to bed on the early side (my husband on the couch beside me) and I went to sleep, excited to know we would be meeting our baby the next day.

Thursday morning at around 7am, my doctor (a different one today) came in to check my cervix. I was only 2 centimeters dilated (and honestly, maybe a little less). I was pretty bummed. I knew they didn’t want to start pitocin until I was 3 centimeters at the minimum. The doctor talked about doing another round of Cervidil, but eventually decided to just go ahead with pitocin.

I was on it all day, and there was no progress. The amount I was given slowly increased from 2 units all the way up to 26 units of pitocin, but I was still only 2 centimeters dilated. The cramps were also really mild. I didn’t even feel most of the contractions.

My cervix was still really high too, which I knew immediately because of how painful the dilation checks were. It was honestly the worst moments of the day.

The doctor we had that day is the youngest in the practice, and therefore the most willing to try newer procedures. He mentioned breaking my water, but I knew that it wasn’t ideal to do that when I wasn’t very dilated. Neither of us didn’t really want to go that route, but we also needed to try something. I asked him if he was willing to try a balloon cathider at around 5pm and he agreed.

However, my cervix was way too high and the baby’s head was in the way. It was excruciating. I was sobbing from the pain, and screaming in agony. Not only could he not do the balloon dilation, he really couldn’t break my water either.

The doctor recommended a break. We stopped the pitocin, I ate dinner, and rested. At 8pm, I agreed let them try Cytotec. I was nervous about using it, but I knew we needed to change things up. I took three doses.

On Friday morning when the doctor came in (a different one again today)….I was two centimeters dilated. My cervix was high, and the dilation check was still incredibly painful.

It was very frustrating. We didn’t want (my doctor included) to break my water until 4 centimeters, but he did consider it. However, he still couldn’t get to the water bag.

We started talking about C-section, but he wanted to give it more time, since the baby was fine in there. We started at a higher dose of pitocin this time. We started at 6 and went up by 6 every 30 minutes. I got out of bed and hopped on the ball. I also tried walking around in the room, since I was wearing a wireless monitor. I couldn’t leave the room however, since we needed to stay close enough to the base station to record the baby’s heartbeat.

During this entire pregnancy, I had been very anti epidural. I don’t like losing control and the idea of something going in my spine and making me paralyzed terrified me. I was told by the hospital and my doctor that this was my decision, but they did recommend I have someone from anesthesia come in and talk to me about it. The discussion definitely left me feeling less scared, and it was nice to talk things out with someone really knowledgeable. Also, since a C-section was on the table, I was told I would need a spinal tap for that anyway. I went ahead and signed the consent for the epidural, but was told I wouldn’t receive one until I asked for it.

A few hours later later…there was still no progress. The doctor said that maybe my cervix was a smidge lower. Maybe.

We couldn’t reach he water bag either. The doctor asked me to consider an epidural, because he thought it might speed things up. In his experience, a lot of inductions that are not progressing, suddenly start moving along once the epidural started. It was also safer to have that in place should we need an emergency C-section. Otherwise, I would need general anesthesia, since there wouldn’t be time for a spinal tap. That’s not ideal, because while I had not been allowed to eat anything since dinner, I had been consuming plenty of fluids. That brought an increased risk to the general aesthetic.

I agreed to the epidural. They sent down the order, and we were told it would be 15 to 20 minutes. I got back on the yoga ball and started bouncing, at this point more for something to do.

While were waiting for the epidural, by some miracle, my water broke on the ball. I was shocked. The nurse told me only about 15% of women have their water break naturally, and given how badly this induction was going, I hadn’t expected it.

Things started progressing and I was suddenly REALLY happy I had that epidural coming. The pain went from a 1 to a 7 in one minute flat. The nurse helped me into the bed just as anesthesia walked in the door. Thank goodness we ordered when we did, because if I had waited for the water to break, I would have been in that intense pain for nearly an hour.

Our amazing labor and delivery nurse literally held me up as I sobbed and held her. My husband wanted to help or hold my hand, but the nurse needed to keep me still. I don’t know if I could have done it without her.

The epidural was inserted within probably ten minutes (though it felt longer) and started working a little within 20 minutes. Once the medicine was fully in effect, I was instructed to try to take a nap. It would be the last one I would have. It wasn’t hard to fall asleep. I was exhausted from the pain.

When I woke up, the nurse checked my progress, and this time, I couldn’t feel the dilation check. I was five centimeters now, and it had been less than two hours. Things were finally moving along.

Two hours later, the doctor came in. He checked my progress as the nurse waited, expectantly. She told him that I had been five centimeters at my last check. He made a face I couldn’t read, and said, “yeah. Five centimeters.”

My heart sank. How was I still only at five two hours later? Then he finished by saying, “and another five.”

The nurse perked up. “What?”

“She is fully dilated.”

I knew the doctor was just bringing in a little levity after the long induction, but I was really worried for a second. My nurse was thrilled. We were going to have a baby. It was time to start pushing.

Of course, thanks to the epidural, I couldn’t feel the bottom half of my body. The nurse helped me hold back one leg while my husband held the other. She told me when to push, based on the contractions on the monitor. I’m not sure when the doctor joined her, but once he came he pretty much stayed for the rest of the labor. I was so ready to meet my baby, and so I pushed as hard as could for as long as I could.

At one point, they started giving me oxygen and I gratefully accepted it. I kept it on for most of the time in between contractions.

For most of the last trimester, our baby was actually really low. At all my cervical checks the doctors had been able to touch the head. Because of this, I knew the baby was already really low when I started pushing. The nurse and doctor could see hair for much of the time I was pushing, but it didn’t seem like the baby was coming down much further. Honestly, it was hard to say. They didn’t tell me too much at this point. It just felt like, even though I had not been pushing too long, that the doctor and nurse felt more should be happening.

I knew my suspensions were correct when I saw the doctor and nurse exchange glances, and then the doctor started to put up a bit of a curtain, to block my view. I looked straight ahead and realized that the TV in my room was pointing directly at me, giving me a clear view of everything that was happening….down there. I frantically signaled to my husband to move the TV screen. He must have then also realized what was about to happen, as he jumped up and pushed the screen back so hard I thought it might break. The doctor and nurse seemed pleased that I realized it needed to be moved when it did.

I obviously couldn’t feel anything, but this is when the doctor performed an episiotomy on me. My cervix just wasn’t opening enough to get the baby’s head out. The nurse suspected that we struggled with the induction because of leftover scar tissue I had from a leap that was done many years ago. She believed this was probably the issue now as well.

Once the doctor was finished (it was very quick), I needed to start pushing again. The nurse crossed the room and made a phone call. She told whoever was on the other line (I think the nurses for the baby) that we were about to have a baby. This was it, I thought. I was about to meet our child.