This, Ryker, is the story of your birth.
It was Wednesday, March 26th and lil man was now three days "overdue…"
The day dawned absolutely gorgeous—azure blue skies and sunshine greeting us from every direction as we headed towards our early morning doctor’s appointment, hoping to hear that we had made some "progress" over the weekend. Instead, I remember being told two things: 1.) my cervix was closed and "not favorable" 2.) baby’s amniotic fluid levels were "dangerously low," which put Ryker in jeopardy of a stillbirth.
The doctor left it us to us to decide if I should A.) Wait and pray my fluid levels returned to normal or B.) Induce, all-the-while, warning me that an induction could mean a "2-3 day labor and possible C-section-due to my "unfavorable cervix."
This also happened to be the first doctor's appointment that Matt couldn't make…
I sat in the office, keenly aware that I am obviously NOT wise enough to be a parent, and telephoned Matt. After relaying to him all I could remember from the previous five minutes, he decided upon the "lesser of two evils," and I was scheduled for an induction at 11am at Queens Medical Center. (This was not our first hospital of choice, but I, who up until that exact moment couldn't have cared less which PHD delivered our firstborn son, was suddenly, overwhelmingly convinced that Doctor B, and only Doctor B, would do. And he was at Queens. So we were going to Queens. I’d be there at 11am.)
I was thankful my mom was there with me as I walked out of the doctor's office and headed home to pick up my "go-bag" and meet Matt. I can't remember if we chatted through my fraying nerves or sat in companionable silence, but I remember staring aimlessly out the front window—driving towards those incredible, jungle-green Koolau Mountains and thinking to myself that today had all the makings of a perfect beach day. I remember being grateful my mom was there, sitting beside me in the passenger seat.
Now what does one do when they have precisely one hour to get ready to go to the hospital, to have a baby!!! How can you really prepare for that? You can’t.
Once home and all ready to set off for the hospital, it hit me: I was one thousand percent unsure of whether or not we were doing the right thing. I heated up some organic Pad Thai and choked it down as I tried to stifle back sobs.
Time was passing quickly and it was time to leave. Matt was still M.I.A.
When I called him to get his E.T.A. he was, "just leaving his account."
... ?!? ...
Let's just say I almost drove myself to the hospital... and our 20 minute car ride passed in a blur of tears and loud music (most notably John Legend's "All of You"). The question of our decision simultaneously playing on repeat inside my head.
We arrived at the hospital at 11:10am
Sidenote: If I'd have known then, what I know now (that I would be in active labor for 63 hours and that all 3 epidurals I would be given would fail; that I would be awake for 4 days straight and unable to eat food for 3 days... and that when it came time to break my water--that my fluid levels would be found "normal"... if I'd have known that) then perhaps I should have taken this rocky start as a sign and just turned the car around and tried again tomorrow. But no, I am a terrible at anything that feels like losing.
My arrival was anticlimactic because labor hadn’t started yet. Once at the hospital, it took all of 10 minutes for me to check in, get to my room, unpack, gown up and climb into bed. The room was quiet; I felt a flutter of scared excitement run like goose bumps across my skin and settle a bit like nausea at the back of my throat. This was followed by an extremely painful failed IV attempt in my left arm, which was highly distressing to my extremely needle-phobic self and resulted in lots of whining and requests for warm towels and cold compresses. I know all you mammas out there are thinking, "Just you wait..." and, yes, you would be completely right.
It is also worth mentioning that after this failed first IV attempt, the nurse looked at my husband (who clearly was not allowed even a two minute window of opportunity to change his clothes before his wife announced she was leaving for the hospital with or without him and as such) was still wearing his scrubs (he's a medical rep) and she sincerely asked him if he (who's highest education level is, admirably, a bachelors in communication from ASU) if HE wanted to put my IV in...
!!!!????!!!!! Yes, I start sweating even now as I think about that ever being a possibility....
Oh, Hawaii… mahalar...
But, strangely enough, amid this “most distressing” escapade, my contractions began.
@ 1:53pm Cervidil was administered
Side-note: I was fanatical about all the cords attached to me. Mostly due to my completely rational fear that something would be pulled too tight and items inside my body would be painfully ripped out. As such, I was forever and endlessly organizing all the cords about my person, making sure they laid just so.
@4:30pm my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart
@8:00pm wow, hello contractions!
@10:00pm nurse Karen cleared up some of my misinformed thinking and enlightened me to the fact that epidurals were now given and made to last throughout the entire length of labor. I have no idea where I got the misguided notion that I could only be given ONE epidural and that I needed to save it till we were close to the finale so that it wouldn’t wear off. I’d never been happier to be wrong.
@10:40pm we made the call for my first epidural. I was scared, and the anesthesiologist impatient. Apparently she didn’t understand that the risk of possible paralyzation was kind of a big deal to me.
@11pm I could, blessedly, breathe again. Why didn’t I do this sooner?
I think all the grandparents spent the night in the waiting room.
Thursday, March 27th 2014
@2:00am Ryker's heart rate suddenly dropped, setting off the monitors and causing an army of nurses to barge in to remove the Cervidil.
@4:00am there still hadn't been much change to my cervix, which resulted in the decision to insert a "catheter balloon" into my cervix, an old-school, Neanderthal attempt to get it to open.
@7:23am nurse Millie started me on my first dose of Pitocin
@10:30am my dad came in, wearing his mask upside down and pacing the perimeter of the room like he carried the plague, to say his goodbyes. He was sick and his flight was scheduled to leave that afternoon. If not for the sickness he would have stayed, but instead he surprised me with a bracelet and a parting prayer. He prayed and my faith got brave.
@12:00pm (25 hours in) the "catheter balloon" aka "foley" was pulled out, which meant we were finally dilated to a 3
@1:30 my sister and Heath arrived from Phoenix. Her first order of business, of course, was to braid my hair.
@3:15 that 3 became a 5
I sent all the grandparents’ home to get a good night's sleep.
Friday, Marched 28th 2014 (37 hours in)
@6:00am our birth photographer arrived. I was at a 6. We were just sure that today would be the day. All the nurses agreed, definitely by this afternoon, “at the very latest.”
@7:30am the doctor broke my water
@8:00am believing that things were about to speed up, and in an attempt to prepare for the coming events, Matt ordered me two bowls of miso soup broth off the approved “liquid diet” selection of the menu. I hadn’t eaten in forever, and by that I mean two whole days, but yes, I was “starving.”
@8:10am still no soup, so we ordered two more bowls.
@8:20am all four bowls of my soup (that I was now salivating over) were found, commandeered at the nurses’ station and I was told it was only water for me. Um, for real? Do you not know that I haven’t eaten in two whole days? Can you not see I’m extremely pregnant? Who can I get to sneak me some grub?
@9:00am I had finally dilated to an 8. It also occurred to me that I was no longer epidural happy, but that I was increasingly uncomfortable.
@2:00pm I was miserable. Simultaneously, I realized that I had the full function of my now extremely swollen legs. I remember telling the nurses that it felt like freezing cold liquid was running down my back. Was it simply that I was sweating? Or had my epidural displaced itself? … I’ll never know…
And this, my friends, is where my organized notes, with included time stamps of the day’s events in my notebook end… and a crescendo of chaos ensues. But, not-to-worry, less than a week after we got home, Matt, mom and I wrote out the remainder of this saga to the best of our combined memory…
And so we continue…
A second anesthesiologist is called in. I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t his first choice to have Matt stand in front of me in an attempt to keep me calm and perfectly still as he administered my second epidural, but it was clear that I was unraveling and he allowed it. Before he left, he explained “bolisting” to me, i.e. pumping increased amounts of medicine through my epidural, to counter increasing pain levels.
And so, in an attempt to get my pain under control, I proceeded to push that little red “bolist” button to its maximum capacity, which caused my contractions to slow down. So I stopped bolisting altogether.
And the pain came with a vengeance.
I was now at a 10. Finally.
Wanting things to continue to progress and despite increasing pain, I held off with the bolisting. Matt, Mom, Jean and Mel got me through the next hour and a half of level 10 contractions. There was lots of cheering and fanning and massages. We were a team that rode the storm of labor together. They helped me believe that I could do it—that I could run this merciless marathon up and over the top of Everest one push, one desperate contraction, at a time.
Amidst the chaos, I spiked a significant fever.
Apparently I had an infection in my uterus, Chorioamnionitis, and they began my first of three rounds of antibiotics.
After a strange series of contractions I felt LOTS of pressure.
The nurses told me it was time to push.
After another hour of pushing I had made “some progress,” but I needed a break. I was exhausted. I had been awake continuously for three days now and any adrenaline previously present had worn off.
And when I stopped pushing, with no adrenaline to fall back on, I felt it. Like a brick wall. Correction, like smashing into a brick wall. There was ZERO pain relief. ZERO. I was at a 10. It felt like a 20. The second epidural had failed and the pain hit and sank into my bones. It pervaded my entire body and my every thought.
I was so tired. And so hungry. And so beyond tired.
I suddenly exploded out of the quiet calm of adrenaline and into a wild, raging sea of advanced labor that took my breath away. I held onto the bed rail, looking wild-eyed at Matt and they paged another on-call anesthesiologist. But the waves kept crashing. The epidural wasn’t working and I was alone and adrift on the open ocean. I was terrified. I was disappearing under a heaving sea that I wasn’t mentally prepared for, and I could feel myself drowning. I was certain I couldn’t do it. I wanted out. Out of my body, out of that room, out of the responsibility of wrestling a human being out of my insides. I turned my face into the cold plastic of the delivery bed, my hands gripping that side rail like it was my lifeline while my belly took on a life of its own.
And then there was the exhaustive Hiroshima level panic and declaration of my pain to the world…
I begged Matt to get the doctor in here NOW!
I sent someone for my mom and when she arrived only minutes later, I demanded to know why she didn’t run?
I don’t really remember the next few hours, but I have been told, on good authority that I was strongly demanding that someone “let me go home,” or “unplug me,” or “knock me out,” or “cut the baby out,” or “give me a scalpel so I can cut the baby out,” … because, “I can’t do this… do you hear me, I can’t do this anymore.”
Doctor B arrived.
He said he wanted to try to get me some pain relief and ordered a third epidural, coupled with some Fentanyl.
I agreed. But doubted it would work.
All I could say, over and over again, through clenched teeth was, “please hurry.”
The third anesthesiologist came in and gave me the Fentanyl…
Matt held me down for the 3rd epidural because, for reasons unknown to me, I just wanted to stand.
Amid the craziness we lost Ryker’s heart-beat completely.
But I was too out of my mind, and the procedure to sensitive, for the nurses to intervene in an attempt to find Ryker’s heart-beat. Honestly, I didn’t even know they had lost it.
By the time the epidural was in the Fentanyl had given me some relief, which was relief enough for me, and I began to calm down.
For a moment it was quiet.
And Matt asked the nurse if I was ok?
And then, “Is Ryker ok?”
And the nurses began scrambling, adjusting monitors and forcing me to move.
“Yes. We’ve got him”
And Matt began to cry silent tears. It was his turn to lose it.
My mom was already crying.
I told them they should take a break.
Later I learned that Matt’s break was comprised of him going into the bathroom and screaming hot tears into a towel. And then eating a poisoned ciabatta sandwich, but that set in much later…
My sister came in and I was actually sitting up, semi-comfortable, other than that ridiculous fever. She braided my hair and we talked. Twenty minutes passed and then… OH NO… NOT AGAIN…
It was coming back, fast and strong, that familiar pressing on my right side. I knew the pain would be unbearable again soon. I told my sister to watch as I could move both my legs, quite easily, once again.
I sent her to find my dream team. If I was going to push again, it had to be now.
It was now Saturday, March 29th 2014 around 1am (61 hours in)
I pushed for almost two more hours. All shreds of decency flying out the window. Birth is hard and risky work. It is intimate and exposed at the same time.
It was getting hard to hold my head up.
I demanded to know where the finish line was. The nurses kept saying “almost there.”
But I knew they were lying and I told them as much. “The doctor is not in here, so that means I am NOT close. If I was close he would be here. Stop lying to me!!! If I have two more hours to go tell me. I need to know.”
They immediately started a flurry of activity and began moving stuff in.
My leg muscles were shaking in the hands of my husband and my mom. I can’t do this. This baby isn’t ever coming. I didn’t believe he would ever be delivered and I needed it to be over. I needed it to stop. I needed escape. And when I was giving up and trying to find a way out of myself I will never forget how Doctor B arrived and told me I could do this in four more pushes. Wildly, I believed him.
It was getting harder to not only hold my head up, but keep my eyes open.
And, did I mention that I could now feel absolutely everything. It felt like I was on fire.
It was my second to last push and I screamed in pain, something I had previously refrained from prior to this point.
And then there was the final push.
Everyone was elated. I was too spent to celebrate.
Matt cut the cord.
The nurses held up our perfect baby boy and then rushed him immediately away. They needed to see how he was.
Matt leaned over me, crying happy tears and whispering sweet words into my ear.
And then Matt went to check out his beautiful firstborn son.
And then they brought him to me.
They laid Ryker gently on my chest, and I looked down at the face of the boy who had fought this battle with me. The Creator’s Spirit lingered on his skin, in his hair. There was a reverence in the air; he was still so fresh from the making, from the passing of His hands to mine. There he was, curled up into the crook of my arm with eyes open, taking it all in. The love beat was so loud in those quiet moments in our hospital room that I was certain that he must hear it too.
The grandparents came in and were finally able to meet their grandson.
And then they whisked Ryker off to the nursery.
And I had to pee—I mean I’d been on an IV diet for four days now. I remember having the actual cognitive thought that “there was no more catheter.” And so, with no nurse around, (clearly our handsome Ryker stole the show and in an instant it had gone from all about me to him) rather than call for help, I stood my 30-minute-post-partum-self up and headed for the bathroom.
Standing there, on that cold tile floor, I was struck by the fact that birth costs. The act of giving life bleeds life from the giver. It’s so hard that just standing up again afterward can take one’s breath away. I couldn’t have done it by myself, any of it. And when I couldn’t stand by myself, couldn’t stop my legs from shaking, couldn’t find my center, Matt held me.
Later that same morning, while perusing instagram, I saw Matt had written the world to tell them Ryker had arrived safely, all 7 pounds, 2 ounces of him. His post began with these words, “Today my warrior princess wife…”
And that, Ryker, my darling, is the saga of your birth...
photos by: Mellissa Stanturf of Serendipity Photography