“Did you have a difficult day at work?” not what you want to hear from your nurse after taking your blood pressure. Teaching elementary music is never a breeze however, that day in particular, was fine. (Meaning my blood pressure had no business being 149/99.) She told me to relax, take a couple deep breaths, and she’d try to take it again – of course by then I was freaking out; why was my blood pressure so high?! My doctor came in and told me that they found traces of protein in my urine, I had significant swelling in my legs and ankles, and that I had gained too much weight since my last visit. Preeclampsia. I had heard of it but I never thought that it was something that I would suffer from. So many thoughts were racing around in my head; Isn’t preeclampsia super rare? Don’t you have to be obese to have it? Has anyone in my family ever had preeclampsia? What’s going to happen to my baby? What’s going to happen to me? AH! My head was pounding; yet another symptom of preeclampsia.
The nursery was completed before the end of my first trimester and our hospital bags had been packed by the end of the second. My extreme nesting and “over preparedness” made my friends laugh and annoyed my husband however, it turned out to be a blessing considering we were on our way to the hospital during week 34 of my pregnancy. 160/114 was my blood pressure reading in triage. Those numbers were too high and the doctor was concerned that I would seize. I was admitted into labor and delivery and the high-risk doctor gave the orders; the only way to stop the preeclampsia symptoms was to deliver the baby. The delivery-plan that I took so much time creating was now thrown out the window.
Because the baby was going to be born early, I was given two steroid shots in my theigh to help her lungs develop. The incredibly nice NICU doctor had come in to verbally prepare us for the worst; I was devastated hearing that after delivery, I may have to leave the hospital without my baby. I felt so guilty and defeated; my body was failing her. To keep my blood pressure down, I was given magnesium through my wrist IV. The nurse told me that I would be extremely weak on this medicine and I may experience flu-like symptoms. I had to be catheterized (That wasn’t pleasant.) because I was not able to get out of bed while on the mag. How was I supposed to move through my contractions if I was immobile on this medication? Having the catheter in was awful – I felt like I had to pee constantly; there was no relief. Worser still, the swelling that I experienced was unfathomable. I was scalding hot; I thought my skin was going to burst open like an overcooked hot dog. I had a splitting headache that would not quit. I asked my nurse, “How am I supposed to deliver this baby, the hardest thing that my body has ever experienced, when I am so weak and can’t move?” She simply said, “You’ll do it.”
I was given two rounds of cervidil; a cervix ripening insert. During this time, I was getting checked for dilation frequently – let me tell you, that starts to feel incredibly uncomfortable too; raw, like pulling out a dry tampon. I didn’t dilate on the cervidil however, the doctor wasn’t surprised because here we were, six weeks before the baby was supposed to arrive and my body was not responding. We started miso through the night, another induction insert, which dilated me to 1cm and “a wiggle”. My husband and I prayed with such intensity; we were so conflicted – happy that our baby was coming however, we knew there was a rough road ahead. During another dilation check, my water broke all over the nurse’s arm. The water was warm and there was a lot of it. I was so relieved that it broke on its own; talks of ballooning and other induction mechanisms terrified me. After my water broke, I was given pitocin, level 10 and the real contractions began.
During my pregnancy, My husband and I took a labor course where the midwife explained the pain during active labor. She instructed that if you could power through seven centimeters of dilation, you were two hours away from seeing your baby – no pain medicine needed. I wanted to try to deliver my baby without pain medication. During my contractions I just kept thinking, when the pain gets worse, I will ask for the epidural. I focused “down”; that might not make a lot of sense but visualizing what was happening internally, helped. I reminded myself of positive affirmations; “My body is capable and strong. I’m choosing to be calm and confident during my baby’s birth.” We had a humidifier in the room, releasing essential oils (dōTERRA’s balance). I listened to my birthing playlist, which consisted of instrumental Christian music (After All These Years – Bethel Music). Ice chips. Even though my body was weak from the magnesium, I was still able to move around in the bed to position myself through the contractions; on my side, grabbing the bed frame, leaning over, etc. After two hours of active labor, I felt a burning like I had never felt before. Was I on fire? I began to shake uncontrollably. It felt like my butt cheeks were being ripped apart and I wanted to literally crawl out of my skin. I knew the Lord had not forsaken me however, I knew something was happening and I was terrified. I wanted that epidural – NOW!
The nurse said, “Let’s hope that you’re more than three centimeters dilated.” as she checked my cervix. She turned around and got on the phone; my husband was yelling, “What’s wrong, what’s going on?!” The nurse was calling the doctor as I was more than 9cm dilated and it was time to push. The bed raised up, the catheter came out, and the doctor came in with a shield and goggles on. It became clear that I was not getting any pain medicine. The contractions were so long, I couldn’t possibly push that long! How could I focus on pushing when my body was set on fire?The shaking continued and it’s possible that I blacked out on occasion. My first push wasn’t nearly long enough – I could feel the baby’s body in the birth canal. During my second push, the baby had come down and went back up; I know this not only because the doctor told me, but because when you don’t have any numbing medicine, you feel everything. I just knew that my legs had ripped from my hips. The third push happened in slow motion; baby’s head, shoulders, hips; I felt it all. The doctor placed a wide-eyed, powder-blue baby upon my chest. She started to cry, I told her, “happy birthday”, and my husband cut the umbilical cord. Everything else didn’t matter; the after-birth, the cramping and discomfort, the stitching – Amelia Jane was born and the earth stood still.