I have PCOS, so getting pregnant wasn’t easy. After three years, countless fertility treatments, four miscarriages and one round of IVF, my husband Michael and I learned that a healthy male embryo was sprouting inside of me. I was anxious and worried and scared. But I was also overjoyed and hopeful.
Once I hit the 24-week mark (a point that I had yet to reach with my other pregnancies), I tried to set my mind free from all the worries and had a renewed sense of determination. I wanted to welcome my son into this world with a drug-free vaginal birth.
But I had gestational diabetes. So my doctor scheduled an induction at 39 weeks, right before Memorial Day. The morning of my induction started like any other day, except when I used the bathroom, I felt a huge gush. My water broke, and for once, I thought, my body was cooperating with me and I may avoid induction.
Our doula Laura advised me to get active to help my body get into active labor. For the next several hours, I bounced on my ball, walked around and did nipple stimulation. As the contractions came on, they were only about eight minutes apart. I began doubting myself and decided it was time to go for my induction appointment at 5 p.m.
After we made a pit stop at Shake Shack for my last meal as a mom-to-be, we arrived at the hospital. I checked in, met with the on-call doctor, reviewed my birth plan and was in a gown within 20 minutes. At that point, I was one centimeter dilated. About an hour in, the nurse hooked me up to four different IVs, the last one being Pitocin. It was like an IV web, and I was Spiderwoman.
I’ve heard so many horrors stories about Pitocin, so I expected the reaction to be immediate. But it took two hours to take full effect. I was able to watch a new “Game of Thrones” episode before the pain began to steal my focus. It’s when the doctors turned the Pitocin up to a level eight that the pain kicked in.
These new contractions were fast and intense. By hour three, we needed help to manage the pain. Laura arrived at 2 a.m., and her soothing voice and magic hands went to work right away. She, Michael and I became a well-oiled machine. For the first hour, we talked, cracked jokes and tried not acknowledge the fact that another contraction was on its way. The contractions were now 1-2 minutes apart.
The pain became unbearable, cutting me off mid-sentence and turning me into a howling banshee. Before I could catch my breath, I had to jump back into counting down through the contractions. We moved from leaning on a chair, to squatting on a ball, to laying down. A few hours later, I begged to be examined because in my heart I knew (or at least I prayed) that I had made some significant progress. I was only four centimeters dilated.
My heart sank. I felt defeated. I knew I could push through, but mentally I was nearing a breaking point and needed to get some rest. So I opted for an epidural, if only so I can sleep. Once I got it, around 6 a.m., everything changed. I wondered to myself, “why did I want an epidural-free birth?” and after 15 minutes, I was finally able to sleep.
My unexpected C-section
After about 2 and half hours, my doctor came in with a slew of others and told me that my baby wasn’t doing great. Once you hear those words, nothing else in the world matters. She explained that his heart rate was dropping and recommended a C-section. I tried not to panic, but Laura could tell that I was very overwhelmed and needed a minute to evaluate what was going on. She asked that Michael and I had some alone time to discuss our options.
As my doctor went over the consent form and proceedings, I saw my dreams of having a vaginal birth vanish, but all I could think of was my unborn son. I gave my approval for the operation and signed the paperwork. The doors swung open and a slew of people came in. It was like a TV show.
I was rolled down the hallway and into the OR, strapped down to a table. My anesthesiologist was very good looking, “McDreamy” good looking—a welcome distraction while I waited for Michael to arrive. Once the anesthesia kicked in, he asked what Pandora station we wanted to listen to. We chose the smooth sounds of Maxwell. My doctor then began the procedure. I felt some pressure and tugging, but within minutes, I heard his cry.
Related: What is a ‘gentle’ C-section?
Three years of pain, stress, sadness and anger were all out-weighed by this sweet, sweet sound. Michael and I burst into tears. Minutes later, Michael brought him over to my face. I was in love and so relaxed that I fell asleep with his face still pressed up against mine. I awoke in recovery to Laura, Michael and Miko, my son. Life couldn’t have been any sweeter.
[This story was originally published on April 10, 2019. It has been updated.]