It was a Friday morning. We were just over two weeks from our baby's due date. I was getting ready for a get together with a friend and my husband was on his way to do, I can't remember what.
I walked into the kitchen to put my coffee mug in the dishwasher and saw my phone light up on the counter.
"1 Missed Call"
I picked up my phone to check my messages.
"Hello Carly, this is Dr. ******** calling. I've received your ultrasound results and I'd like for you to please give me a call back so that we can make a plan. Talk soon, thank you, bye."
I called to my husband and when he came in the room, I looked at him wide-eyed as I relayed the message to him. I was low-key freaking out, but trying to remain calm until we knew all the details. We sat down together on the couch as the phone rang on speaker. We were put through to my doctor right away.
She informed us that my ultrasound showed that my placenta was aging prematurely and was therefore, no longer supporting or nourishing our baby like it should be.
"He isn't growing anymore. His head is a normal size, but his abdomen is measuring quite small, which means that his body is prioritizing the nutrients that he is receiving to grow his brain, but he isn't going to get bigger on his own in there. We need to get him out, so that you can feed him on the outside."
We were told that they wanted me to head into the hospital at around noon to meet with the maternity doctor on-call and figure out what our next steps would be.
"You're going to have a baby this weekend." she said.
She went on to explain that she guessed that they would induce labour at the hospital and then send us home until I was dilated enough to be admitted.
We agreed, thanked the doctor and got off the phone.
There was a moment of complete silence as we both absorbed what had just happened.
We were going to have a baby. A baby that was struggling. A baby that we immediately started to worry about.
We called our doula and notified her of the change of plans and she instructed us to let her know how things progressed and to keep her in the loop.
Once at the hospital we were led into a sort of waiting area. My husband held my hand and my knee bounced incessantly with my nerves. Every time someone who looked like a doctor walked by or into the room, I held my breath. After about a half-hour of waiting, we were brought into a different room by a nurse. This room was quite large, with a bed, which I was told to lay on while we waited for the doctor on-call to come speak with us. I don't think we waited very much longer but it felt like an eternity.
Eventually, she did arrive, along with the OB on-call. They were both warm and welcoming and excited for us to meet our baby. They explained again that our son had IUGR, an intrauterine growth restriction, and could no longer grow inside the womb. Therefore, they wanted to dilate my cervix using a Foley balloon. This is a device that is inserted into the cervix and opens it gradually....if you're thinking ouch, ouch is right. They also wanted to admit me right away and have us stay overnight so that they could monitor the baby throughout. They guessed that I would be dilated enough to come back to the Labour and Delivery Department sometime the next day, and they would administer oxytocin to help me go into labour, and by sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, I would have a baby!
We were warned that a C-Section could be a possibility, since my placenta was already not functioning properly, if it started to do worse, they would need to get baby out as fast as possible.
My husband asked why we wouldn't just do a C-section from the get-go, because to him, this sounded like it was likely where it was headed anyways. Why put me and the baby through so much, if they are thinking a C-section was a strong possibility?
The answer was more or less that everyone has to try to do it vaginally first.
I was quite overwhelmed at this point. In the span of a couple of hours I had been told that my baby wasn't doing well because my body wasn't supporting him and that I was going to be bringing a tiny baby home, 2 weeks earlier than I had planned and I had to jump through all these hoops at the hospital to do it.
This was not the birthing experience that I had envisioned.
I had imagined labouring at home. Lighting some candles, playing soft, relaxing music, maybe having a warm bath and doing the labour postures that we had practiced during our birthing class. Now none of that was going to happen. I didn't know what was going to happen, and it felt really scary.
I started tear up, and unfortunately, even though I had a mask on, the doctors noticed. The OB, passed me the kleenex, sat on the bed beside me and put her hand on my leg for reassurance. She acknowledged that this was a lot of information and that it was completely okay that I felt overwhelmed, but that there was a plan in place and that everything was going to be okay, and that I would get to meet my beautiful little boy soon.
I was still very scared and anxious, but I felt comforted and appreciated the level of compassion and support that I was receiving from the health professionals around me.
After that, the OB left the room and a nurse came in to administer a Covid-19 test. Luckily it was the gargle. On top of having a literal balloon put inside me, I was thankful to not have a swab stuffed up my nose as well. Then the maternity doctor came back in to insert the Foley balloon into my cervix. She told me that I would experience sensations similar to menstrual cramping while she inserted it, and that I would also likely begin to feel some small contractions throughout the night while my cervix started to dilate. She also said I would probably have a bit of bleeding. This was all true. The insertion was the most painful, it did not feel pleasant at all and I remember squeezing my husband's hand. The balloon had to be connected to a long tube, which had to be taped to the inside of my thigh, so I changed into a pair of my husband's gym shorts instead of the dress I had been wearing. It was very uncomfortable to walk and move around with this thing hanging out of me. Going to the bathroom was very awkward to say the least, which I had to do a lot since I was 38 weeks pregnant.
After the Foley balloon was in place, we were transferred into a room on the outside of Labour and Delivery to stay for the night. While I got settled, my husband ran home to grab our half-packed hospital bag and all the other things we would need. That night, nurses came in every 4 hours to take vitals of both the baby and me.
We watched TV, ate bad thai food and talked non-stop about how crazy it was that our baby was coming two weeks early. Every so often I would have a minor contraction, that did feel like an intense menstruation cramp, but they would come and go quite quickly. That night I didn't get a ton of sleep, since the Foley tube was taped to my leg, anytime I had to shift in bed, I had to be careful not to pull on it. I also had those vital check-ins every 4 hours.
The next morning was Saturday. I was served a hospital breakfast, and then I was visited by the same maternity doctor. She checked on the Foley balloon and actually tugged on it and pulled it right out. Again, this did not feel great, but I imagined that it was nowhere near what I would be feeling when I pushed my baby out. She then informed us that we would be ready to be transferred to L&D shortly to begin inducing labour with oxytocin. This was another surprise to us, since the day before we had been told that labour would be induced sometime in the afternoon, and it was only 10am. Things continued to move quickly and we were just trying to wrap our heads around it and keep up.
At this point, we called our doula and gave her the update. She told us that she would meet us in L&D in awhile, once we were settled and things were a little further along. I was looking forward to having another support person present who had seen many births and had been through this process before. My husband was amazing, but I knew he was just as nervous as I was, so I thought it would be helpful for us to both have someone to guide us through.
When we got to our room in L&D I was instructed to change into the hospital gown. This is where some things begin to get a little bit blurry for me. I remember getting hooked up to the IV for fluids and so that they could start administering oxytocin, the drug that would help kickstart my labour and cause my body to have contractions. At first, I didn't notice much of a difference from the small crampy contractions I had had the previous night with the Foley.
My husband set up our laptop with the movie "Braveheart" and we got about halfway through before my contractions got to the point where I couldn't focus on the movie anymore. By then, the doula had arrived and was ready to jump in with support. Both she and my husband guided me to breathe through each surge that came and went. It was like nothing else I had ever experienced before. I used the birthing ball for awhile, as I sipped a pineapple bubbly. When the wave started to build I would just close my eyes and try to tune into my deep belly breathing, and try to breath loud enough to drown out the pain.
The doula put a TENS machine on my back to help distract my brain from the pain as well. I just remember standing, facing the bed, leaning on it with my forearms, with my head bowed down. My husband stood on the other side of the bed, holding my hands, letting me squeeze them as hard as I could, while the doula was behind me, putting pressure on my hips whenever a contraction came. That felt amazing and was the only thing that got me as far as I did without pain medication. I think I made it from 10:30am until sometime in the evening when I finally asked for an epidural. I was exhausted and the pain was becoming unbearable.
The anesthesiologist came into the room relatively quickly. He explained what he was going to do, though I could barely comprehend what he was saying, I just wanted him to get to it so I could breathe again. I was instructed to sit on the side of the bed, facing away from him. Then I felt an incredibly painful jab in my lower back and I cried out loud and began to sob. I was then placed on my back as he adjusted the tubes and he sent a dose of the medication into my spine, I felt a rush of cold all the way down my back, it was the strangest sensation. It didn't take long for the epidural to kick in, and the pain from my contractions began to subside. Before long, I couldn't feel my legs at all and I was relaxed enough that I could sleep.
I was dozing peacefully. My contractions came and went and I barely noticed them. It was blissful. Every so often I would wake up and ask my husband how things were going and he would tell me that everything was good and to go back to sleep.
Little did I know that things were not going as smoothly as I had been told.
To be continued...