22 Mar Peyton’s Birth Story
As I sit here holding my sleeping angel baby on the eve of her first birthday, I am feeling compelled to finally write about her birth story, as to not forget. I do not imagine I ever could forget, and after reading this some may wonder why I want to remember all the details, but time goes by so quickly and it is important to me to not let all the details become blurry. The good. The bad. And the ugly. They are all what gave me my precious girl.
There were endless moments that I wanted to write down the experience, but you blink one time then all of a sudden they are running, literally and figuratively, into their second year! In addition, for the longest time I did not publicly tell details about the birth experience because I did not want to seem like I was having a pity party. I know it can always be worse and I did not want to be insensitive to others who may have had it worse. On the other hand, maybe part of me also did not want to relive the experience because it was not the best.
I often tell people that I cannot say it was the best day of my life because it was not. It was hell! Don’t get me wrong, the best thing in the entire universe emerged that day. That day produced the best thing ever. But it was not the best day ever. I wish I had a super amazing, bubbly, magical story to tell but this is not quite one of them.
It was 365 days ago, Tuesday, March 21, 2017 that I woke up at 4am with a new sensation of “cramping.” Contractions were not a novelty. At this point I’d been having braxton hicks for a couple weeks on and off through every day. I was still working with dogs up until the week of her birth so the more active days brought on more cramping. But this morning was different. I just knew I was going into labor. And I had a feeling I would because the day before that my dogs were acting very strange.
As a matter of fact, the whole week prior to going into labor Jax was extra clingy. He had been showing signs he knew of my pregnancy since before I even knew, but that’s a different story. The week before Peyton was born, however, he really would not let me out of his sight. He was a Velcro dog to the maximum extent. Then the day before the “Labor Day,” if you will, he was extremely erratic. Anyone who knows my dog knows he is anything but a neurotic mess. He is a very well balanced dog so his behavior was extra peculiar. He would pace constantly. He would pace back and forth on the couch, or back and forth between the door and me. I thought he had to go potty 567,855 times but every time I let him outside he would immediately turn back around eto come back inside. I went out with him one time to see if he would potty but he just started running in very spastic random directions, a major case of the “zoomies,” which is not normal for him. Back inside, he would constantly be watching me with a concerned look in his eye and always stayed close enough to touch.
Rosie, my fiancé’ dog, knew something was up as well but she took the opposite approach. She stayed as far away from me as she could all day long and any time I came near, her whole body would start to tremble. Whatever she sensed going on inside my body was scaring her. Seeing the two of them freak out was most definitely freaking me out!
So that night, Monday, March 20, 2017 I told Chad, my lovely fiancé and baby-daddy, that I think we had better get everything ready for the hospital. “The dogs know something we don’t,” I said even though I was feeling totally fine at the time! Well, I was feeling like a miserable beached whale ready to explode, more accurately, but I did not feel anything different than I had been feeling all month much less like I was going into labor! I still took the dogs warning signals seriously, though, and we finally finished packing our hospital bags and got everything in order at the house for people to check in our pups while we were away. Then we just went to bed like any other night, wondering if it would be our last as a two human household.
Fast forward again to the next morning, lo and behold that 4am wake up call when I got up for the upteenth time to pee. I woke up Chad and I said, “I think this is it, but I’m going to get back in bed and wait a while to be sure.” The contractions were light and still spread out with ten minutes or so in between each one. So I got back in bed and tried to go back to sleep, without succeeding.
At around 6:30am the contractions were not yet subsiding, if anything they were slightly increasing so I decided to get up, call my family to let them know I think it’s time and we will be going to the hospital. Then I took a shower. I had to. I could not go to the hospital willing to be probed for who knows how long without feeling clean. And good thing I did because I certainly did not anticipate how long the labor road was ahead of me….
After a 40 minute drive, we checked into St. Jude Medical Center at around 8:30am. Contractions were still bearable, but I did NOT want to risk waiting too long and having the baby in the car since we had a thirty-mile drive to the hospital.
I was wheeled into our beautiful private labor and delivery suite with a small living room area and giant window overlooking Fullerton, California. I changed into my gown with an optimistic attitude while Chad helped me go to the bathroom. On the short walk back to the bed was when I had my first crippling surge of pain through my abdomen and back. I froze and hunched over until it subsided then I made the rest of the way to the bed and climbed in and would not touch the floor again for another 36 hours.
The nurse (for the life of me I wish I could remember all of their names), was so kind and helpful. I just remember her positivity was so infectious. She said, “My shift ends at 7pm and we’ll definitely have a baby by then!” so excitedly. We most certainly did NOT have a have by then but that’s still to come.
This middle-aged, blonde nurse determined I was only dilated to a 2, so we still had 8 more to go. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered that the baby was “sunny-side up,” meaning she was turned around so the back of her head was against my spine when it should actually be her face facing my spine for proper delivery position. This meant I was going to ensue back labor, which is supposedly much more painful than regular labor somehow.
It was very evident early on that back labor SUCKED. I literally must have said “THIS SUCKS!” about a hundred times. Every contraction felt like my spine was going to shatter. Yes, I felt the pain and extreme tightening in the abdomen as well but the piercing pain in the lower back overshadowed it by far. Suddenly, all the hours of childbirth classes and breathing exercises went out the window. I tried to focus on breathing but it was difficult. Chad and my mom did a wonderful job at helping me. The nurse kept reminding me to keep my eyes open. It is a natural response to pain for me to shut my eyes but it actually helps if you keep them open and try to focus on something else other than the pain. Easier said than done. Another contraction. My eyes closed tight.
There was definite relief in between each contraction but those moments were becoming shorter and shorter. The kind nurse quickly ordered me an epidural, which I readily requested from the beginning. I was not trying to be a hero so I was not opposed to the drugs! They had to test my blood sugar often as well, since I had gestational diabetes. Every time my blood sugar dropped too low, they put sugar water in my IV. I was able to have spoonfuls of some chicken broth at times and it tasted like the most heavenly delicacy! Ice chips were needed sometimes too to help the major dry mouth I had.
It had been a several hours now since we arrived, i was dilated to a 6 and in came the anesthesiologist. At this point I thought he was going to be my savior! My knight in shining armor here to bring relief! Well the exact moment that ridiculously long needle entered my spine is when my brain felt like it was slammed into a brick wall. In an instant, I had the worst pain in my head that I ever thought possible. My mind immediately resorted back to one of our pre-natal birthing classes where we learned that a very small percentage of women experience something called a spinal headache. It is a result of the epidural needle going too far and puncturing a hole through the tough membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. The consequence is a leakage of spinal fluid and major off balance of pressure on your spinal cord and brain stem leading to a headache worse than the worst possible migraine. Leave it to me to be in that small percentage.
The pain in my head suddenly distracted from all the contraction pain! It was so bad that I could not even open my eyes and became very nautious. They leaned me back and the anesthesiologist was about to inject the medicine that was supposed to make me feel better into the catheter going into my spine when he said there was bad news. Great. The catheter had a blockage and the medicine could not travel through. Which, by the way, also only happens less than 3% of the time. Double great! He goes to get another catheter.
As I am laying in the bed, riding the waves of intense back labor while enduring this immobilizing spinal headache, Dr. I Forgot His Name Too came back, took the catheter out of my spine and did the whole way-too-long-of-a-needle-in-
After a few more hours my body was so tired and so in pain that I was shaking uncontrollably like a fish out of water. I could not even help it. It was more annoying than anything. By this point they started a pitocin drip to try to help the labor move along quicker. It had been over fifteen hours so far. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Evil (how quickly he turned from knight in shining armor to arch enemy), came back with some insane cocktail of drugs injected in my IV. I do not remember what it was but I just remember that it was intense and that it did provide some relief. So much so that I actually knocked out for a good thirty minutes or so.
The crazy intense mystery drugs quickly wore off and all of the misery and pain in my abdomen, back and head were back. By this time, 7pm had come and gone and long since in place of my super kind, blonde, middle-aged nurse was a young, arrogant, nurse with zero bedside manner. I asked her for another pillow and she said, “No.” Just like that. Just “no.” Like what?? She ended up switching herself out with another nurse thank goodness because I may have bit her if she stayed much longer.
Luckily, I had an army of people there to support me. I have brief, cloudy memories of my daddy, grammie, grampie, auntie, and best friend all being there at various times. I remember trying to wear I brave face for them and act normal in between the misery. My Grammie fed me more heavenly chicken broth. My younger teenage sister was there from the beginning as well but she was smart enough to wait in the waiting room when things started getting bad. Side note, I am hoping seeing me like that detours her from having kids for a very long time! But the real heroes were Chad and my mom. They never left my side up to this point and would remain til the end. Chad would count breaths with me or rub my back or whisper encouraging words and play music while me mom would rub my feet and feed me ice chips. And vice versa. They would tag each other in but both were always there and I am so thankful. Well I do remember Chad exiting a couple times which I later found out was because he needed to go cry. I was experiencing physical hell but they were in it deep with me as well in an emotional hell. At this point it had been about I could not have lasted this long without them.
Tuesday suddenly turned into Wednesday and I was stuck at 9 centimeters for hours. The doctor already manually broke my water with her little hook tool and it did not help the process move along like we had hoped. My body was shutting down. The uncontrollable shakes were horrible. The pain was more than I could handle after a good 24 hours. The good-for-nothing anesthesiologist injected another intense cocktail and it knocked me out again. Okay so maybe he was good for giving me periodic induced naps. I woke up and my mom was sitting by my side with her face down in the bed. Chad was sleeping on the couch. We were all over it. I did not think I could handle the pain anymore and they were suffering helpless watching me and all my complications.
I suddenly realized I could not feel my legs or even move them at all. I had to lift the blankets up to make sure they were even still there. I panicked for a split second and asked the nurse if it was normal. Apparently it happens sometimes as a side effect of the injection they gave me. Honest to God I replied, “It’s okay. I’d rather be paralyzed than go back to feeling what I was feeling.” It sounds so sad and pathetic looking back on it now but that is how much I just could not take it anymore. We were approaching the 30-hour mark and all of the feeling was coming back.
I felt so weak and tired. And right on cue to add to the nightmare, the machine started beeping rapidly. The baby’s heart rate was out of control. I developed a major fever and my baby was stressed. They had to place ice packs all around me and they actually injected cool water up into my uterus to help cool the baby down and stabilize her heart. I understood my body was burning up but I felt freezingggg! This certainly did not help the uncontrollable shakes I already had as well. I was still dilated to a 9, my body could not get that last centimeter to dilate. She was stuck. I FELT like she was stuck. The pressure was so immense I could not think of anything else. It literally felt like a bowling ball was stuck in my butt hole. Sorry for the graphic language. I had an overwhelming urge to push but I was not allowed. She was stuck. I wanted to be done. I repeated multiple times that I just could not do it anymore.
The doctor and nurses must have felt the same way because around the same time they came in to tell me we needed to do a c-section. Baby was in distress, it had been too long and I was still not able to dilate to a 10. Even after feeling like I wanted it to be over in any way possible, I still could not help but feel disappointed with this news. I really did not want a cesarean but it was not in my hands anymore. I quickly accepted that we needed to do whatever it takes to keep the baby safe and I also just wanted it to be over. I was ready.
“Not Quite the Moment I Pictured”
My mom gave me a last kiss before they wheeled me away. Chad and I had our last moment together too and he went to put on scrubs and prep for the operation room. They wheeled me into the OR and the lights were so bright. I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy right then and there after how dramatic the last 30-plus hours had been.
Once on the table, my spinal headache was raging harder than ever and I was just praying to God everything would be over soon. I quickly recanted after I started feeling myself pass out. Just kidding God I didn’t mean over like that! Oh God please no oh please no. These were the thoughts going through my head. I suddenly had a flash of the Jersey Girl movie where J-lo dies after childbirth and the dad is left to raise the daughter alone. Dramatic, maybe, but after the last day and a half of trying to get this baby out I learned it can keep getting worse.
While I was fighting to stay conscious I realized I was still able to move my feet. I asked the surgeon if it was okay, because I most certainly did not want to feel them slicing me after everything else I felt up to that point. They waived it as fine and continued their conversations about vacation and families at home like no big deal small talk. HELLLOOOOO! FREAKING OUT DOWN HERE BEHIND THE FACE CURTAIN AS YOU ARE ABOUT TO CUT ME OPEN!!!
Just in time, like a real knight in shining armor, Chad came in and kept whispering in my ear. If he had not been there to talk me through it in time I would have hands down passed out.
After some very strong tugging and pulling sensations on the right side of my lower abdomen, the anesthesiologist behind my head (who had just been looking up current news on his computer) pulled Chad up and said, “You want to see this.” And a moment later I heard my baby’s first cry. And as I write that I am crying.
It seemed like forever before they brought her to my face on the other side of the curtain. It was not the moment I had always pictured, since I was not able to hold her and I was still concentrating very hard on not passing out. But I was able to see how beautiful she was in that moment.
Peyton Elisabeth Gabriel was here. Finally. At 10:22am on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. Weighing a whopping 9.2 pounds and stretching to 21 inches long. My girl was here.
Baby and daddy were escorted to the recovery room while I was being sewn back together. I do not even know how long it took but it seemed like an eternity before I was wheeled in bed to join them.
I was insanely exhausted but I could not wait to finally hold my baby. When she was placed in my arms I cried. What a journey. The first words I said were, “Dang it, they were right. It was all worth it.”
She had so much hair I could not believe it. It would fall out over the next few months but still! It was a beautiful head of super dark hair! She had the prettiest full lips that we knew she would have from the ultrasounds. Her kissable little button nose and such beautiful grey-hazel eyes that still have never changed. She did have a nice dent in her head from where she was stuck in my pelvis, poor thing. It went away quickly though. She was just incredible.
We had a great hour just the three of us as a new little family. My pain was not even on my mind I was just so enthralled with her. She had a perfect latch on the very first try and nursed for 45 minutes.
We were moved to our room where we would be for the next five days. Family started coming in, a couple at a time, to meet the new angel. I fell asleep a couple times while we had visitors despite my every effort not to. Everything was catching up to me and I was so tired. But so happy and felt like after all the hell, that night was perfect. Peyton was perfect.
“It’s Not Over”
I wish the story ended there but we still had a couple more hurdles before all was said and done.
I still had spinal fluid leak and my spinal headache came back with a vengeance that night. I could not even open my eyes to see my new baby much less get up and hold her or anything. The c-section recovery was no walk in the park but the soreness and incision was nothing compared to the pain in my head. It. Was. That. Bad. No medication or anything they tried that night or the next day helped so only one option was left. I needed a blood patch to have any chance of fixing this. It is basically the same process as an epidural but at the same time as sticking the tube into your spine they draw a bunch of blood out of your arm and inject it into your spine so it can clog the hole essentially. I would have done anything to make it better!
The same Dr. Super Sucky Anesthesiologist came and did the procedure. It did not feel good at all but, again, I was willing to do anything. It provided relief! Until the next day. Unfortunately, the blood clot came loose and the spinal headache was back. Impossible immobilizing pain in my head was not something I thought I would have to deal with while trying to acclimate to new motherhood especially with an unplanned c-section recovery. I seriously thought my head was going to implode.
That same night they informed me Peyton was loosing too much weight and I needed to supplement with formula in addition to my breast milk. I felt so beyond defeated and completely broke down. I was so angry and frustrated that my body just could not do what it was supposed to in any way through all of this. And now my baby was paying for it too. She was so hungry because she was not getting enough from me. It was a really terrible night.
The nurse that was working our floor that night was a God-send. She made me feel so much better and could not have been more encouraging and helpful. I really do wish I remembered her name. She held Peyton for two hours so that I could try to get some rest.
The next day, a different anesthesiologist came in for a consult and convinced me to try one more blood patch procedure. My spine had already been proved three times in the last couple days so what’s once more right? Let’s just say I wish he was my anesthesiologist from the very beginning. He did the procedure so much less painfully and it worked. IT WORKED!! The first thing to have gone right and the headache never came back. It was a major win.
I had to lay flat for three hours without moving after he pulled the needle out of my spine. The super sweet nurse wrapped Peyton tight and placed her propped up in my little arm pocket secured by my body on the other side. We both slept the best three hours ever slept!! It was the first time I got to sleep more than an hour since arriving at the hospital five days prior. I felt so amazing that I even put on makeup for visitors the next day!
Peyton had to be tested multiple times over those few days to make sure her blood sugar was okay from my gestational diabetes. The numbers were always perfect. Her hearing test was perfect. Everything about her was perfect.
Chad had to go back and forth between our house and the hospital the whole week to take care of the pups. It allowed for some real mommy-daughter bonding time and I am so thankful we had that. Her birth story is not at all what I imagined it would be so I needed those moments.
As I said, I often tell people that I cannot say it was the best day of my life. It was horrible and I wanted to die a little bit BUT… the very best thing in the world came from that day. And I cherish the memories because of that.
I am so lucky to be her mama. She is just such a perfect baby that it blesses my heart to no end. It most was definitely worth it!
My spine was extremely sore and sensitive for the next couple of weeks after it being penetrated four times. The incision pretty much sucks for a while too. Every laugh, cough or sneeze was like death all over again. But time passes and eventually it all heals. I am actually still dealing with multiple medical issues because of the pregnancy, labor and delivery experience but no need to discuss that because it is all about my sweet girl now; she is all that matters! And it REALLY is all worth it!
We love our little angel; she is the best! Oh and I did not give up with the nursing, by the way. We had that single, very defeating night in the hospital where I had an extreme pity party for feeling like a failure. Then it was a long week afterward trying to supplement her with formula through a small tube while she was breastfeeding, as I was couch ridden. However, it paid off and she has not had a drop of formula since that first week of her life! I have been fortunate enough to exclusively breastfeed her for an entire year so far and I am very proud of that accomplishment!
Baby girl has never been sick, knock on wood, aside from one fever from teething four teeth at once. Overall she is the healthiest, smartest, sweetest, prettiest one-year-old in the whole wide universe! 🙂
Our birth story is not at all unicorns and rainbows but it is still special because it brought us her. It made me appreciate her so much more somehow. Mama would suffer for her all over again if she had to.
We love you Peyton Elisabeth! Happy first birthday!