Once my blood pressure dropped and my baby’s heart rate dropped again and they started pumping things into my IV, I started getting afraid. At this point, I really relied on Corey and my doula and the midwife to reassure me things were going well. I was trying to visualize myself opening, pushing out my baby, and putting him onto my chest. I tried listening to my VBAC tracks to calm down.
We did get things stabilized, but for the next five hours I really found myself focused on the beeps, trying to gauge if Octagon was having a decel at the beginning of a wave (this is generally ok) or toward the middle or end (more worrisome and indicative of distress). Corey and others offered to turn off the beeping, but once I knew there were problems, I felt like I had to listen to it, had to know when he was in trouble so I could talk to him or try to DO something to help.
I got this sense that the baby wanted me to lift my leg into the air. I was lying on one side and didn’t have tons of control, but made Corey help me hold my leg up in the air. This seemed to help! So my doula and Corey helped hold up my leg until Pam, the midwife who’d come on duty, found a smaller birthing ball to prop my leg on.
This mean, of course, that all my business was just hanging out for all the world to see. Magee is a teaching hospital, so all the world cycled in and out of my room pretty regularly. Another great thing about the epidural is not giving a shit that 74 students are coming in the room to read my strip or check my numbers. I just kept focusing on keeping my leg up in the air. When Octagon had a decel, I decided I needed to point and flex my foot very rapidly, which seemed to coincide with his heart rate recovering to a nice pace. So I kept doing that!
I had requested to meet the OB on duty early on in my hospital stay, so I would know him or her from a hole in the head should something go wrong. I met Dr. B, who seemed interested that I was getting to use the birthing ball despite having an epidural. Around this time, Pam checked me and I was dilated to about 7cm. I felt so, so proud of my body. This was further than I dilated with Miles! Despite the frequent heart decels, I really still believed at this point that I would open up 3 more centimeters. I knew if I could get to ten, I could push that baby out.
Not for nothing do I have thunder thighs from years of rugby and hiking and stair climbing. I just knew if I got to pushing, I could do that part, even if I felt nervous about pooping on the bed. That’s the active part, the part I can control, right? I still believe I could do it. My doula told me she also thought I would be really good at pushing. We just started to focus on that and think about opening up. The next time I got checked, I was at 8.
However, I was also really skirting a line with my baby’s heart decels. There was also meconium, thick meconium, in my amniotic fluid and we confirmed that the baby was posterior and that his head was turned to the side (which is called occiput transverse).
At this point, we got an internal monitor placed on my baby’s scalp, which slipped off a few times and made it seem like he was flat lining. So the room kept filling with people and I kept hearing talk of a scrub team getting ready in an OR. My morale began to slip at this point, despite being at 8. We tried to clear out the room, dim the lights, and help me focus and relax.
By 11:15, I was at 9cm. NINE! NINE! Again, I felt like it would happen. Pam told me she was cautiously optimistic. The OB and his residents started talking about something called an amnio-infusion, where they’d add some fake amniotic fluid into my womb to perhaps take pressure off the umbilical cord and maybe help Octagon’s heart rate. Nobody seemed to have heard of this before. I was game for anything that got me more time to get to 10 and push.
Just as an OB resident (who happens to be married to Corey’s bicycle friend) began to explain procedures and have me sign things, the scalp monitor slipped and/or Octagon had a massive, prolonged decel, and the nurse called in an emergency. Dr. B had a pocket-ultrasound machine checking the baby, but told me at this point he was concerned the baby would not tolerate pushing, which is quite taxing on a standard baby heart rate. His recommendation was a cesarean.
I felt disappointment such as I’ve never experienced. I felt crushing failure mixed with fear that my baby was in danger. And also I realized that I would have to verbally consent to the surgery this time, that nobody was going to yank my bed out of the room and kick open doors while sprinting to the operating room. Dr. B and his team stepped out, leaving just Pam and Corey and my doula. I asked to get checked again, in case I was 10. I asked Pam to stretch me to 10, and she gave it a shot, but there I was.
I remember Corey being angry, worried that false readings or over-reliance on technology was painting a false picture of the danger. But what do you say when several different heart-rate-readers indicate your baby is in trouble?
It was 1pm. I’d been birthing for 13 hours and gotten so. freaking. close, and I had to say yes to a surgical procedure that terrified me, that I’d be awake for and aware of, that manifested all my greatest fears. They wheeled me away, crying and alone, to the last place I wanted to go.