It is 11:30pm on Saturday night. As usual, I’m up way later than my family. Tonight, I was reading my new favorite blog site – all birth stories from real people, many believers, and a lot are VBACs, something I’m hoping to try for next time. In light of all that I’ve been reading lately and the fact that Elena’s first birthday is coming up soon, I thought I would finally share with you all my birth story. You don’t need to read it if this isn’t your thing; I won’t be offended. It’s just something I think I need to finally write down, now that I’m more distanced, over post-partum, over-joyed with my baby, and not as traumatized. A year ago, I couldn’t get past a certain point. We’ll see how I do tonight.
So here we go. The birth story of Elena Ruth Biegert.
I found out I was pregnant while in the jungle city of Iquitos, Peru. Brian and I had convinced ourselves I was unable to conceive, so this pregnancy was a miracle in our eyes. Of course, the doctor in the clinic in Iquitos told me I was “not quite pregnant yet” but would be “in a few more weeks.” Touching. I wrote a letter to “Baby B” and pinched myself every morning in unbelief.
The pregnancy really wasn’t awful, as far as pregnancies go. I was nauseous at the beginning, for the first solid 3 months, but at night, most of the time. I only threw up once, at that was like the culmination of the nausea because after that, it finally began to subside. I enjoyed being pregnant until August. Of course, by then, I was big and uncomfortable anyway, but I slipped in mud and pulled muscles, then was jumped at by a giant dog and pulled more muscles, and then I got the infamous shingles. And here’s where the birth story kicks in.
Two weeks before Elena was born, I got the shingles. Of course, we didn’t know what they were, but we were scared. I was in mind-numbing pain and couldn’t barely talk in English, let alone Spanish, so a good friend called our doctor to see if she could see me Monday afternoon. Our “wonderful” doctor (who had told me my entire pregnancy that I was gaining too much weight and would have to have a C-section if I gained anymore. You know, 15lbs during 8mos is just absurd.) told her, “I don’t work Mondays.” Pissed off, Brian had our friend call her doctor (she had just given birth to #2 a month before) and her doctor said without hesitation, “I must see her today.”
We went to my new doctor, Dr. M., and she was wonderful. She took one look at me and… whipped out her cellphone to take pictures of the shingles! Flattering. She knew what they were and immediately put me on bedrest. She showed me where Elena was and I got to see my healthy, giant baby and took home a daunting picture of JUST her head. If that doesn’t freak out a first time mom, nothing will.
I laid in bed with shingles for two weeks. I was told to not do much – at all – or I would get Elena to come and she did not, under any circumstances, want Elena born until the shingles were gone. So, no stairs, no walking around campus, no on my feet teaching – nothing. Not that I wanted to; shingles are bad enough as they are. Two weeks went by, and she put me on another five days of bedrest, but assured me, “The baby will be here by the weekend. I will be very surprised if you make it to the Monday appointment.”
Friday morning, I woke up with contractions. They were so different – I knew immediately what they were. It was 6am and Brian was sound asleep. I got up quietly, used the bathroom, laid a towel under me, and laid back down. They lasted for quite a few hours. When Brian got up at 7, I informed him labor had begun, but it would be awhile. I called my mom and we all agreed it was too early to get excited. Contractions ended by noon, but I felt… odd. Slightly sick? Very uncomfortable. Very crampy.
The weekend came and went and Monday night, I had my check-up. Dr. M. and I were disappointed to be meeting in her office! She checked me out and said I was right there, but not close enough. She stripped my membranes (the most painful thing ever – she had kicked Brian out of the room, but he stood in the doorway anyway and said he was impressed with how I handled the pain since he’d read that was more painful than birth itself! I tend to believe him.) and then the bloody show started and contractions kicked in and about took my breath away. She said that would help and she expected a call from me during the night. She told me to call when contractions got down to 15min apart for 2hrs straight.
We live 45min from the clinic, on horrendously bumpy roads. So the question was, do we go home? Do we stay a few more hours? What do we do?! My friend (who shared the doctor) called and she suggested we go to her mother’s house, who lived 10min from the clinic. Her mom said that was fine and they made up a room for us, downstairs, with a private bathroom. The maid made me tea and her mom brought Brian supper – it was really homey and relaxing that night.
I took a nice, long, hot – HOT – shower to relax my nerves and see if the contractions would stop. They did. Grr. I laid on some towels and tried to relax. I remember we watched “Psych” and tried to just relax. Around 11 (?) the contractions kicked in full force. Brian pulled out the phone and we started timing. We didn’t have paper so we used a scrap of something we found to keep track. We got down to a solid 15min apart and Brian started getting excited. An hour went by of 15min and he thought we should call. I said no, we should wait awhile longer. I was nervous – terrified – of checking into the clinic. I didn’t know where to go, who to talk to, what my room would look like, what they would do to me, how long I’d have to wait – I was scared stiff. I cried and told Brian no, I would wait it out as long as possible!
The contractions, during the night, got down to 5min apart for more than half an hour, and I was in a lot of pain. Brian would tell me when another one would be coming and he was always right. I’d grab his hand and breathe slowly through it with his help (I tend to forget to breathe when I’m concentrating and get light-headed very easily so we had practiced this beforehand!). And then… around 3am, everything…. stopped.
I fell asleep, Brian had been asleep for an hour, and we slept until 6:30. I took another hot shower hoping that this time, it would make something start UP again! Nothing. I still felt…sick, though. No other way to describe it. We went out to breakfast and my friend called to see what was up. I told her what happened and she suggested I go ahead and call Dr. M. and describe it to her and see what she said. So I did. Reluctantly. Really the only reason I did was – and this is key – Dr. M. was going on vacation on Friday and I’d have to use my awful doctor (or some random person) if I didn’t deliver by Thursday! This was now Tuesday morning. We had to figure this out NOW.
I called Dr. M. and she said to come to her office ASAP. We went in and contractions kicked in, but not near as strong. She checked me out and I was a 1. woo-pi-dee-doo. She worked again on stripping my membranes and told me that normally, once it starts, it’s an hour a cm, so I should expect another 9hrs of labor before pushing, but should have Elena by midnight. This was 10am. That didn’t sound good. She wanted us to check into the clinic and she’d check on me tonight if nothing happened before then. She called ahead and told them I was coming and what to do when I got there.
We went to Emergency and… waited two full hours. One paper had not been signed by Brian (not our fault) so we weren’t in the system saying we had a room waiting for us, therefore we had to wait like everyone else. Contractions had started back up, I had to pee like every 10min, and I was getting hungry by now. Finally, I was brought back to an “examining room” – a curtained off “room” big enough to hold a bed, a sink (pushed up against the bed), and a trashcan. We waited there for another hour. A nurse came and asked what was wrong. I said, “I’m in labor. I need a room.” Nothing. They finally – FINALLY – pulled Brian out to sign a paper and wheeled me upstairs to my room.
Finally – good news. The room was lovely. Private. My own bathroom, TV, DVD player, refrigerator, safebox – really nice room. I got hooked up to an IV, they did other cosmetic stuff (ugh), and then I got hooked up to machines to monitor my contractions. And I waited. When I wasn’t being monitored (which seemed like constantly), I got up to walk around. Little did I know, being taller than every other woman in the clinic, the nurses hadn’t thought to make my I.V. taller than me so it would continue to drip when I stood up! So all the inducing medication my doctor had prescribed, I wasn’t getting 3/4 of the time while I was walking around! Nothing was fixed until around 8pm when my doctor finally got after them about it.
Dr. M. came to check on me, like I said, around 8pm. I was still at a glorious…. 1. She said they would continue the I.V. drip and then, if nothing happened overnight, at 6am, I would have part of a pill inserted to get the dialation going. All I was allowed to eat was broth and by this time, I was really hungry, but there was nothing I was allowed to do about it. I was also excited – I wanted to get this over with! They offered me an epidural and I said, “Why? Nothing’s happened yet!” When I told them I didn’t want any pain meds, they all looked at me like I was crazy. Oh well.
Wednesday morning, I was woken up by sharp, horrible contractions, around 4am. Brian was sound asleep on the couch and didn’t notice me pacing for over an hour. A nurse came in around 5 and said, “Yup, sounds like you’re right on schedule!” They called my doctor and told her I would be giving, by the looks of it, around 9am. Sweet! The contractions got intense enough that I could barely talk, although I never lost the capacity to talk through them. Walking around helped a lot, so I figured I’d be fine.
Around 6, the nurse came in and insisted she insert 1/4 of the pill and hook me up to the monitors. It didn’t hurt when the pill went in, even though she said it would feel like it does when they checked me for dialating. I found that odd, but wasn’t too worried about it. They hooked me up to the monitors and it all looked really good. They brought me breakfast around 7 and told me to eat all of it for energy, doctor’s orders. So I did. Of course – I was ravished!
Around 8am everything… stopped. OH. MY. WORD. It stopped so much, I thought I’d dreamed everything up to that point. I was so frustrated. Dr. M. came at 9 and said, “What happened?! I thought I’d be delivering Elena right now!” (Yes, she called Elena by name.) She inserted 1/2 of the pill and this time… it KILLED. She said she’d be in touch with my nurses and scooted out of my room. They hooked me up to the monitors and within 10 minutes, I looked at Brian and said, “Something’s wrong.” From here on out, my memory gets a little sketchy.
I felt the contraction building and by this time, I knew what they were supposed to feel like. This one did not come on right. It was too strong, too intense, and there was no level to it – it just. kept. building. And then, I looked at my tummy, and right where my ribs started on the right, it was beginning to bulge. I was having a hard time breathing, I could feel something pushing into my ribs on the right and I was in a lot of pain. We got the nurse immediately and she came in, sat down on my bed, put her hand on my tummy, and pushed the monitor away. Then another nurse came in. Then one left to go call my doctor. And then more people came in. Everyone was very (oddly) quiet. The one nurse just sat there for over a half hour with her hand on my tummy, breathing with me, and watching the monitor. I asked to sit up, to move around, and they said no. So I was on an incline, not able to breathe, in the worst pain of my life, getting more and more scared. And then they told me the bulge I was seeing was my uterus bulging out of my side. Pleasant.
Brian was in and out, calling our parents, talking with nurses, and then standing in front of me, breathing with me. I don’t know what all happened during this time. I know I saw a cardiologist. I know at one point, the entire room, which had seemed large when we checked in, was filled with people and I didn’t know why. All I wanted was to see Dr. M. but she never came. I wasn’t even allowed to unstrap the monitors for two minutes so I could go pee so I got introduced to Ms. Bedpan (so gross) RIGHT when the doctor came in who was sent by Dr. M. to check me! Embarrassing. Got all that out of the way and this doctor confirmed to me what I was afraid of: This 2hr contraction (which I found out later was so intense it hadn’t even registered on the monitor this entire time) had not succeeded in dialating me any further. Elena’s heartrate had shot to 190bpm and she was getting frantic. I was having an allergic reaction to the inducing medication and needed an emergency c-section. I informed them I couldn’t – I’d eaten breakfast! So, they gave me a shot to prevent vomiting and began prepping me anyway.
In Peru, you must pay for procedures before they happen, so Brian was shipped out immediately to pay for the c-section and I found out later he wasn’t even really sure what he was doing or why! He told me at this point, he was shaking, could barely think straight, cried every time he left the room, and could barely hold a conversation with anyone. He didn’t want to scare my mom so he composed himself to talk to her. He didn’t want to call anyone else because he knew he couldn’t hold himself together well enough to do so. So, he felt really alone and really scared. He paid for the C and made it up to my room in time for me to say, “Grab the camera! We’re going!”
I’m still in the throws of this major contraction and now, they make me LIE DOWN on my BACK as we travel down 3 floors and 2 endless hallways. Sheer agony. We got to the door of the operating room and they grabbed Brian from behind and told him no further. I will never in my life forget watching him stand at the door as they wheeled me away, the doors closing in his face. And this is where I used to never be able to continue the story. Even now, that particular memory makes me sick to my stomach.
I was wheeled into the surgery room and I remember it being very sterile, large, and cold. Two (three?) women prepped me while I answered a myriad of questions for my epidural. And all of a sudden – there was Dr. M.! It was like seeing a short, heavily-made-up angel at that moment! She helped hold my shoulders while they did the epidural. The epidural HURT SO BAD. It crunched as it went in and it took 3 women to keep me from jerking or moving. Horrible, excruciating pain on top of the never-ending contraction. And then… relief. Finally, I started going numb and the awful pain of the contraction went away.
I remember when they began the surgery, I could still wiggle my toes and all the horror stories of operations while the people are still awake came to me and I FREAKED. I told Dr. M. and she said that was perfectly normal (did NOT know that) and made sure other areas were totally numb before officially starting. I had been told that getting the baby out would be fairly quick, but getting sewn up would take awhile. I was not prepared for the C…. at…. all.
Elena was out by 12:16pm, Wedneday, September 29, 2010. I remember actually feeling her being pulled out of my body and hearing Dr. M. saying, “Hola Elena! Elena – hola! Ven, Elena! Ven!” She told me later that Elena just blinked up at her and didn’t act like she wanted out at all! 🙂 That’s my girl! I felt her come out and my heart stopped because I didn’t hear her scream for what seemed like an eternity. And then she wailed. Oh, how I wish Brian could’ve heard her cry for the first time! It was the most beautiful noise ever. I can still hear it. Every single person in the operating room said, “Wow, she’s healthy!” They brought her over to me so I could see her, but of course I was strapped down and shaking like a leaf so I couldn’t do any more than look at her and cry (the tears started just as soon as she screamed and I couldn’t make them stop!). Dr. M. gave the nurses her phone to take pictures. I have them printed; I don’t have them on the computer anymore. I don’t post them; they’re too private anyway. Only family has ever seen them.
And then… the sewing up. It felt like they were repositioning my insides. It was horrible. I did not vomit (my worst nightmare), but I was horribly uncomfortable, scared, and counting down to when it would be over. The meds made me loopy enough I couldn’t think straight, but not loopy enough to actually sleep, so it was awful. I remember right at the end, they pulled or did something and it really, honestly HURT and only then did the little man sitting behind me monitoring my vitals (while talking on his cell phone – I kid you not) reach up and brush my hair back and tell me, “Shhh, it’s okay. It’s normal.” I could’ve used that a lot more often and a lot earlier!
Finally, the nightmare ended. Dr. M. came to me and said Elena’s apgars were wonderful, the surgery went good, she’d go talk to Brian, and I would go to recovery for 90min and then be brought up to my room and she’d see me later. Off to recovery I went after the wonderful cleaning up where your whole body gets plopped around like a chunk of meat. That’s fun and wonderfully private. I was brought to a room completely by myself – just one nurse in there “monitoring” me. I tried to doze off and on, all the while thinking, “Did all this really just happen? Where’s my baby? I hope Brian’s okay. I hope Brian knows where I am!”
Unbenounced to me, Brian had been told to wait outside the operating room, but then a nurse told him, “Why don’t you come with me and I’ll show you where they’ll bring out the baby and you can wait there?” So, off he went. He said it was over an hour before they finally wheeled out Elena. He said he just paced here:
Finally, after more than hour, Elena was wheeled by. Brian was told that his daughter and that they needed a whole package of diapers, a whole package of wipes, and all of her clothes immediately. He was not allowed to touch her, hold her, or even spend a minute alone with her. This is all he saw for the next 4 hours:
He then went to our room and waited for me – or any word of me. He waited there another hour and a half. By that time, he had convinced himself I was dead and was trying to figure out how he’d be a single dad. Oh, my heart just breaks for all he went through. When I was finally brought in the room, he wasn’t even there! The TV was on some horror show (he had it on for background and didn’t even know what was on it!). He was out buying more diapers. When we finally saw each other, we cried and cried.
I had been told not to talk because it would increase the gas in my stomach. But, I HAD to talk to my husband. And then I slept. Around 5pm, Elena was brought into our room with strict instructions that we were NOT to pick her up yet. I still don’t get that. So, I still couldn’t even nurse her, much less hold her! I remember seeing her and just thinking, “She’s beautiful. So, so beautiful.”
Finally, I was allowed to nurse. OH the misery. It went so bad. And all the “help” I got contradicted itself so I ended up more confused than helped. She would not latch, it hurt like crazy, my milk took 4 days to come in, they convinced me she wasn’t getting enough food so they gave her 2oz of formula at EVERY feeding even though she was almost 8lbs! Everyone insisted on “helping the ducts open” which included a lot of pinching, pulling, and squeezing until I bled and cried and still had a baby who wouldn’t wake up and wouldn’t nurse and wouldn’t latch… it was awful.
They left the catheter for the epidural in so they could continue to give me strong pain meds on Thursday. But, they wanted me to get up and move around as much as possible. So, I walked and paced around our room until all of a sudden, I had such horrible back pain, I couldn’t move – it was worse than the incision. I called my nurse and she said she could take it out, but it would keep me from having any strong medication so she suggested I wait. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and early afternoon, I had her take it out. Ah – relief! Finally. When she pulled it out, we realized the problem was that it had gone crooked in my back. It was a perfect “L” shape when she pulled it out of my back.
I had a horrible time getting up and moving around. We have finally decided it MUST be because they did the surgery in the middle of the strong contraction, so all my muscles were tight when they slit through them. I just could not recover from this stupid thing! Saturday, I started developing a sore throat, but I did not care – I just wanted to get home! We’d be in the stupid clinic since Tuesday; I was DONE. I wanted to be home. I wanted to take care of my baby the way I wanted to – I wanted my husband to be able to change her diaper without a nurse saying, “You’re going too slow! Move!” I wanted to be able to sleep in between feedings without a nurse coming in to put in a new I.V. and not warning me beforehand, just beginning the process while I’m still asleep!
Saturday, I did get a free manicure (that was nice!), and then we were GONE. Brian stopped at the grocery store to get groceries while I waited in the car with Elena. He bought me my celebratory millkshake from Burger King (the prize I’d told myself I’d get when it was all over!) and then we went home. Some friends were SO NICE in bringing me dinner that first night. By evening, I had a cold and was coughing which KILLED my incision. I coughed for the first two weeks. We think it was the drastic change in temperature. It was about 80 in the clinic and no more than 60 at home those first few nights. Ugh. Anyway – I could barely get around the house, couldn’t get out of bed by myself, couldn’t even shower by myself. Brian had to cook (only one trip up and down stairs a day so I had to choose wisely!), help the baby latch every two hours, change the baby’s diaper during the night, bathe the baby, and do his own job here on campus.
I had a hard time bonding. I have never admitted that publicly before, but it’s true. I had a hard time bonding and I was scared to death of being home alone with her. The first time Brian left me to take someone somewhere, I cried all morning, begging him not to go. He had to show me how to change the baby, assure me I could do it, and he called me every 20 min to make sure I was okay. I was terrified I’d do something wrong. Brian did all the major stuff at the beginning; I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how and I was afraid I’d do something wrong.
Nursing was horrible for the first 2 months. Once I figured out how to get Elena to latch without Brian’s help, the pain about drove me insane. I’d have a meltdown before every nursing session, especially as the days wore on. By nighttime, I would just sit in the rocking chair and cry while Elena screamd in the other room for food. I just couldn’t do it. The pain would shoot down my right arm and make my fingers numb. We think, though we’re not for sure, that it partly had to do with the shingles that were still healing (they were basically gone when Elena was born, but I was still scarred and sensitive. In the clinic, when they helped me shower the next day, the two nurses literally stood there and touched my side really gently and said, “Wow – we’ve never seen someone so scarred before!” Between the incision, the stretch marks the dog gave me, and the shingles – all on my right side – I looked like I’d been through a battle! And lost. Badly.).
And then….. the smoke cleared. And all of a sudden, the nightmare turned into…
… which has grown into this:
Am I healed? Physically, I believe so. Emotionally? Honestly – no. Not yet. Yes, I want another baby. I love being a mommy. But, getting there was rough. I want to try for a VBAC. That’s what I’m praying for. But, Brian’s right (as usual) when he tells me that if a C is God’s will for me, then that is what He deems best. So, we’ll wait. And we’ll see.
It’s now 1am and a giant spider just landed on my leg out of nowhere which means I need to shut off the light before I get freaked out by all the night creatures that I like to pretend don’t actually exist in my house. Thanks for reading this saga. I think I needed to just let it out.