Friday, November 8, 2013

Birth Story Chapter One: Labor and Delivery

So Forest’s birth story quickly turned from an essay into an epic novel. I’ll probably tell it over a series of posts because I know a lot of you are curious about what having a baby over here in Scotland is like and I want to give you all the nitty gritty details. 

Our story begins on Tuesday, October 29. For a few days my midwife had been coming around the house every other day to monitor my blood pressure. It had started increasing and had officially crossed into the danger zone of hypertension. Pregnancy hypertension is commonly a precursor to a much more serious condition, pre-eclampsia. There are lots of symptoms that can be indicative of pre-eclampsia (pervasive headache, facial swelling, hypertension, general feeling of unwellness) and I had pretty much all of them except for protein in my urine. 

My midwife sent me to the hospital for further monitoring, and she suggested I take my hospital bags, just in case. I thought they might push my induction date up from November 4 or do another membrane sweep, but had no idea that I was walking out of my house and wouldn’t return again until we were bringing Forest home 6 days later. 

I checked into the pre-labor ward for monitoring and it wasn’t long before a Doctor came around to assess me. 
I was shocked when she said they’d do a sweep and then depending on how far I’d progressed, they’d either give me an insertable  prostaglandin  ‘pessary' ( I call it the ‘tea bag’ because that’s essentially what it looks like) to get things moving or if I was already dilating on my own, they would just take me into the labor ward to induce me when there was a room available. 

When they did the exam and sweep, they saw that I was already 3 cm dilated so could just be given a syntocinon drip (similar to Pitocin in the States) to kick start active labor. They told me I’d have to remain overnight in the pre-labor ward in case a spot opened up for me to be taken in, but told me to get comfortable because the wait could take days. 
Puffy face
Jonathan had to leave me at 10 pm which caused me to have a minor freak out. 

I was in a ward with 6 beds, and the girl next to me had been given the ‘tea bag’ to kick start labor and she was moaning and groaning away.  Naturally, she got bumped up ahead of me on the waiting list, which was fine with me because hearing her in pain was not helping my anxiety. 

I decided to take a Benadryl and try to rest as much as possible. I figured best case scenario, they’d take me in sometime the next morning or afternoon.  Well instead, I got a wake up call at 4:35 AM telling me to call my husband, it was time to go! I immediately called Jonathan and…he didn’t answer. And I called him again, and…he didn’t answer. The midwives were coming to wheel me away and I still hadn’t gotten ahold of him. They told me to keep trying to call him and he’d meet me in the labor ward, but I had to go ahead and get started while there was an opening. Talk about panic attack city!

Finally, on my third attempt to call, Jonathan answered and I let him know it was baby time and he arrived at the hospital in record time. I told the midwives to go ahead and get that epidural ready. I had heard of some girls not getting one in time and since the syntocinon can make contractions even more intense, I definitely wanted it to be clear that I wanted the drugs! 

Well never fear, when I got to my delivery room and met my midwife team, the anesthesiologist was also there to greet me. Just in time too, because my very last urine sample showed signs of protein meaning I almost surely had developed pre-eclampsia before going into labor. Not wasting any time, they broke my waters with this chopstick looking thing and started the induction drip. 

Once that process had started, the anesthesiologist began the process of administering the epidural. I thought I would get some push back for wanting the drugs so early, but they were actually commending me saying it makes it so much easier when you aren’t writhing in pain the whole time they are trying to give you the epidural. And I will say that it was the best decision ever! 

The way they administer the epidural is a bit different in Scotland (from what I hear) than in the States. They set it up and then give you a low test dose to make sure everything is working right. Then they give you a full dose which you are allowed to readminister in smaller increments every 15 minutes or so. I would say that I was in full labor for about 40 minutes before the epidural took full effect. I was glad that I got to experience what contractions felt like, but since mine were mainly localized to my lower back, I was super glad that I had some pain management going on. 

In my opinion, the nausea was the worst part, but they rectified that by giving me anti-nausea meds through my drip and giving me an ice pack for my neck. Somehow I managed to get through the whole ordeal without spewing my guts, though I definitely had a few close calls.

The epidural itself wasn’t completely numbing. I was able to lift myself up for exams using my legs, or shift from side to side when instructed to and was able to feel the pressure of contractions without feeling the discomfort. The plan was to let me progress for 6 hours and then see how far I’d dilated at that point. However, the midwives noticed that with every contraction, baby’s heart rate was significantly dropping, which can be a sign of fetal distress. 
At around 5 hours in, they called in the doctor to assess the situation, and when he examined me, we were all shocked to find out that I was fully dilated and just about ready to push. However, at this point, my contractions had nearly stopped altogether and since the doctor couldn’t rule out that there was a cord around baby’s neck, he decided to take action. The plan was to prep me for an emergency c-section, but if in that time the baby was ready to come out, they would deliver with the assistance of forceps. 

Now, in my birth plan I had clearly stated NO FORCEPS!!! But the doctor talked me through it and explained that with me being 10 cm dilated, forceps presented practically no danger and the risk of even having forcep marks on baby’s face was minimal (he skimmed over the part about the episiotomy...). And also, being that far along in labor can make a c-section rather complicated and risky.  If I was ready to push, he would just use the forceps to assist in pulling as I pushed baby out. 

He explained that I may not have a choice. If any part of my cervix was still covering baby’s head, they’d have to do the c-section. If in the 30 minutes of prep time, my body took that final step in preparing for delivery, then forceps might be the easier option. Either way, I was going into the theater and prepping for surgery. They increased my epidural dosage until I was completely numb from my chest to my toes, and once that was complete, they put my feet in stirrups to make a final assessment on what the best action would be to deliver baby safely. 

I was relieved when the doctor said forceps were possible and I wouldn’t have to undergo a c-section, which made me realize in that moment that I wasn’t as opposed to forceps as I originally thought, especially in the hands of a capable doctor who uses the tool on a daily basis. They told me to push which was the most ridiculous feeling because I was totally numb, but my mind told my body to push and apparently it worked because two contractions later, baby boy was born at 10:22, just about 5 hours after being induced. The doctor was surprised to see that baby didn't have a cord around his neck, but suspected his distress was just a natural result of a quick and intense labor.

I was so grateful that my body progressed so quickly and that I was able to deliver vaginally. They let me hold him for a few seconds (long enough to confirm that he was indeed a ‘Forest’ instead of ‘Harris’ or ‘Asher’, our back-up names) before whisking him away for some exams to test his overall health. 
Totally a 'Forest'

Baby scored a 9 on his Apgar exams, but since he didn’t quite meet the 6 lb mark(he was ¼ of an ounce away), they did more extensive testing on his blood sugars, which were fairly low. 

They continued monitoring him for the next few hours while I recovered in the delivery room, but his sugar levels were steadily declining and Forest was quite fussy and jittery (classic symptoms of low blood sugar…aka ‘hungry monster’). The pediatrician decided to feed him high calorie formula on top of my attempts to breast feed but he still couldn’t get his sugar levels into a healthy range. 

At that point, they made the call to send him to the NICU, which is another chapter of this birth story for another day…
 Stay tuned!  


  1. Laine, thank you for sharing your experience! I'm so glad you got to get an epidural! I've got hope!

  2. "tea bag" "chopstick" funny descriptions :-) Jonathan!!? Sleeping like a baby while you're in the hospital! Men! Thrilled to read the whole story!