//Hazel's Birth Story

So, when I found out I was pregnant and I was putting together my "birth plan," there wasn't much I was sure about except that 1) I did not want an episiotomy unless the baby's life was in danger (don't Google that shiz because it will scar you for life) and 2) I did NOT want an epidural. It's not necessarily that I was all about wanting "an experience." It was more that I have a huge phobia of needles going into my spine and the thought gave me more willies than just about anything. Fortunately, I was able to make both of those a reality. The rest of it, however, was totally unexpected.

I had a fairly easy pregnancy. I didn't swell, I didn't gain weight in my face, I didn't have morning sickness in my first trimester. The only things of note were a couple incidents of spotting (each one was harmless) and some insane heartburn that decided to kick in about midway through my second trimester. So when I went in for my 39-week OB visit, I was pretty shocked to learn that my blood pressure was very high--this was the first time I had any issue with my blood pressure whatsoever. My doctor came in and said, "Decided to develop a touch of preeclampsia, did we?" My heart sank. I knew all about preeclampsia and I was trying my best not to freak out. The doctor sent me to Labor & Delivery for monitoring and as I headed straight to the hospital, I texted someone from work to let them know I wouldn't be coming back (I was either getting induced that day or else I would have to take it easy until the baby was born) and I called Josh to let him know the situation. I also called my mom and began to cry, mostly out of shock but also a little out of fear. I had an induction scheduled for several days past my due date, but I never anticipated needing one prior to that.

I pulled up to the hospital, parked my car, and schlepped my giant hospital bag inside. I wanted to make sure that I would be prepared in case they induced me in a few hours. I got admitted and they put in a room and hooked me up to a blood pressure cuff that took my BP every 15 minutes. They were also monitoring the baby's heartbeat. Oh, and the best part was that my urine had to be collected for 24 hours to check for protein, so every time I went to the bathroom I had to call a nurse and have her save it in a special container. Yay! They took my blood and ran some tests. After a few hours, my BP went back to normal and there was nothing from any of the tests to suggest that I needed to be induced that night, so they sent me home.

The next morning in the wee hours, I started to get a headache so I took Tylenol and it eventually went away. Then a few hours later, I got another headache. One of the warning signs of preeclampsia is constant headaches that don't go away, so I got worried and called my OB. They told me to come in and get checked out. At around 2:00 that afternoon, I went in for a checkup and my worries were confirmed--my blood pressure was very high again. The doctor said that since I was so far along in my pregnancy, there was no point in delaying the delivery, so she was sending me to the hospital to get induced.

Josh and I left the doctor's office and I think that we were in a little bit of shock. We went home so that I could shower and make sure everything was packed. I was trying hard not to panic. I let my family know that we were on our way to have our baby!

I was admitted at 4:30 PM and put in a labor and delivery suite. I got undressed and put on my chic hospital gown and grippy socks and got into the bed to be hooked up to two monitors--one to monitor the baby's heartbeat and the other to monitor contractions. They put in my IV and started me on Pitocin at 5:30. At that point, it was a waiting game.

I first started to notice the contractions around 7:00 that night. I was expecting them to feel "crampy," but in truth, they felt more like waves of pressure in my lower abdomen. They began to pick up around 8:30 in that they would come closer together and more frequently. I tried to sleep that night, but it just wasn't happening. Plus, I was starving since I hadn't eaten since 2:00 PM the previous day. So at about 5:00 AM on October 14, the nurse checked my cervix to see whether I had progressed. I was only dilated an additional centimeter but I was much more effaced (i.e., "thinned out") and the baby's head was much lower. So that was something. At that point, I was up to 14 mU/min (for reference, I started at a dosage of 2 mU/min and ultimately, I was up to 16 mU/min).

Somehow, I was able to get about 40 minutes of sleep which ended up getting interrupted by my doctor coming in to break my water at 7:30 AM. The actual "breaking" was painless and I felt a huge gush of wet warmth coupled with a sense of relief. Not too long after this, my contractions became way more intense. They were coming one on top of another and seemed to last forever. The only position that provided any comfort was standing upright with my arms around Josh and moaning through the pain with my face buried in his neck.

At 8:30, the nurse checked me again and found that I was almost fully dilated but not quite fully effaced. She stretched my cervix and if there was any way I could have anticipated that pain far surpassing the pain from the contractions, I wouldn't have been so willing to allow it to happen. At least now I was ready to push, and it was good timing because at about 9:00 I started to push in earnest. I alternated between being on my back to being on my side, holding my knees back in either position. At some point, I even used a bar with a scarf to give me leverage. Pushing was probably the stage that made me feel like nothing was progressing because I would push and push and push and feel like there was something going on, only to be told that she wasn't nearly out yet. Fortunately, Josh and my nurse, Brit, were amazing cheerleaders and gave me the strength to keep going. Josh's emotions were really hitting me because I could hear the awe and disbelief in his voice as she was more and more visible.

FINALLY, after one hour and two minutes of pushing, I was at the point where I had to give a final push. I pushed with every fiber of my being--one of the nurses was even pushing on my uterus to guide her out--and I felt her body leave mine. It was the strangest sensation. Relief but also emptiness. She didn't cry straight away and I was on edge waiting to hear her. She finally gave a wail and I was able to relax a little, albeit while completely and totally out of it. Josh cut her cord (which he said was tougher than he expected) and they placed her crying, shaking little body on my chest after the nurses unsnapped my gown to expose the warm flesh.

I just stared at Hazel, this skinny little thing that I grew and kept warm for over 39 weeks. She was crying but paused at one point to look at me with these huge, gorgeous eyes. I held out my finger and she wrapped her entire little hand around it and it was magical. I inspected her tiny fingernails and her beautiful face with the plump cheeks and lips. I was talking to her, telling her how much I love her and that I'm her mommy and shushing her because that was my first instinct even though the nurses were encouraging her to cry. You see, there was a span of roughly 50 seconds between when her head and her body were delivered because her shoulder got caught a bit. For those 50 seconds, she was without oxygen and that ended up causing a problem. She also had some fluid in her lungs and crying was a way to move that.

After only a few minutes, they moved Hazel into a warmer and gave her oxygen and did whatever it was they had to in order to make her better. But it wasn't really working. So they took her away to the nursery for monitoring and tests. I was heartbroken. And terrified. It was five hours before they finally brought her back to us, and during that time I was unable to visit her even once. My blood pressure tanked and I was a little anemic, so I had to stay in the bed. Josh was able to check in on her several times and even took photos so that I could see her, but it wasn't really the same. It wasn't until they handed her to me, all swaddled and calm, to lie against my chest, that I felt like things were right with the world.

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